This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

May 10th, 2004

As a Rule, 3 Seconds is Good

We received some really nice photos from folks who attended the Central Washington Fish-In last weekend. The advent of cheaper digital cameras has allowed more folks to carry a camera easily - and send them to friends (or websites) where they can be shared.

Looking at some of the photos, I realized we have not spent much time in explaining how fish photos should be taken. We have a very good section, Photography for Fly Fishing as well as Al Campbells series on Digital Photography. Both will really help you take better photos - but we really didn't cover what our friend, Dr. Fish, (Jeff Pierce), calls the 3-Second Rule.

This quote is from Dr. Fish's article, Fly-fishing for Atlantic Salmon, Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec, Canada.

* PLEASE NOTE - Great care was taken in photographing the fish you see in this story. I have a very strict three-second rule when removing any fish from the water that is to be released. The photo is set up and everything is ready so that when the fish is removed from the water the picture can be taken and the fish put back in three seconds or less. When taking your own fish photos please keep this in mind so the fish is released in the best possible shape. ~ Jeff Pierce

I do want to mention here that Catch and Release is the law on Rocky Ford Creek where we fished last weekend. But the State of Washington has a new law, covering steelhead and salmon, which mandates those fish, in C&R situations, CAN NOT be taken out of the water. Period. Nada. Ziltch. If you fish in Washington state, the steelhead and salmon you photograph better be IN the water. What is the law where you fish?

While we weren't under state law at Rocky Ford, we did notice some fish were out of the water far too long, and unfortunately, we felt it best not to use photos sent to us which plainly showed the fish were also far from the water.

I can surely understand the pride in wanting a photo of what may be a 'lifetime' fish, but it can be done without overly stressing the fish.

Take a good look at the photo here:

The tail of the fish is still in the water, there is moss and crud on my hand and on the fish. I could have taken a little more time and cleaned it off - or could I? I was careful to support the fish with both hands, my fingers are not in/near the gills, and I WAS actually counting, one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi - and the fish was back in the water. I stooped over the water with the fish, closer to the water than I would have been standing up. It may seem like a small picky thing, but it really is important to have the fish out of water the least amount of time. Had my husband, JC, been able to get closer that would have helped, but in any fishing situation it isn't always possible to get everything you want in a photo - and not stress or kill the fish.

You may have noticed too, the fish is not in a net. I hand-landed it. That is, played the fish in close, reached down and slid my wet hand under it. It's sort of like handling a bar of soap - if you don't squeeze it doesn't squirt away. Gentle is the key. You can turn a trout on it's side (I know a lot of folks who turn them upside down) but with either method the fish will be nice and calm. Then point the nose upstream and gently support it until it swims off. This fish did not need resuscitating, but if it had, slowly and gently move the fish, in the water, back and forth so the water can go over it's gills. It will let you know when it's ready to swim off.

Before you ask about which net to use, there are differences of opinion, but if you feel you need to use a net, I would recommend one with the softest mesh you can find, and the bag part of the net should be deep enough not to force the fish into a tight bend would could break its back. There are some special C&R nets which look neat, but I really don't know which is best. Since there seem to be so many available, I suggest you do some research and see what really is best for your particular fishery.

The same is true for handling fish other than trout. I've seen too many big bass held sideways by the lip...and I've read that on a big fish you can hold them vertically to remove the hook just fine, but holding them out horizontally to show the fish off can break their jaw. Not nice to release a big fish only to have it die of starvation.

I'm told panfish can stay out of the water longer than trout. I do not know that to be a fact. Do you? How long is too long? Probably a good idea to find out.

We all want memories of our fishing trips - some we carry around in our heads to keep us from going nuts when life's smatterings of dung hit the fan - and some we carry in our wallets. Make sure the ones in your wallet didn't cost the fish it's life. Remember the 3 Second Rule. ~ The LadyFisher

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