Handling fish appropriately to ensure the best chance of survival is important when releasing fish. In fact, we’ll be the first to agree that there’s no better practice for the well being of a released fish than never being taken out of the water in the first place.
However, we also understand that fish are going to be taken out of the water from time to time to snap a quick photograph (hopefully for only a few seconds, please). Therefore, whether you’re keeping ’em wet, or hoisting a quick grip and grin, we think its responsible to stay educated on the best practices for handling fish, you know, for the fish’s sake!
We were recently sent an extremely interesting article from one of our readers suggesting that more fish than people might realize may be becoming mortally wounded, not only by over exhaustion or air exposure, but by actually being squeezed too tightly while being held.
The thought process is simple. A fish’s heart, liver, and gills are all situated near the pectoral (front) fins – The same area where a fish is typically held with the forward hand in the classic ‘grip and grin’ pose. These organs are extremely vulnerable to damage, and thus, squeezing too tightly in that area could potentially cause damage to the fish well after released!
Do we know this for sure? Unfortunately, no. Is there scientific evidence suggesting that post-release mortality is in part due to being squeezed to death? Not that we’re aware of. But here’s the beauty of it..
There’s no advantage to squeezing a fish tightly under the pectoral fins while taking a photo!
Many anglers squeeze tightly in attempts subdue a wriggly fish while taking a photo. However, the irony of the matter is, the tighter you squeeze, the more they tend to move! Instead, holding a fish firmly by the base of the tail, while supporting the weight of the fish by ‘cradling’ (not squeezing) just behind the pectoral fins, typically allows the fish to relax long enough to be revived, or to take a brief a photo.
So, the next time you hoist a fish, cradle, don’t squeeze. Not only will it be easier to hold, but there’s a good chance its better for the fish as well. That’s a win, win.