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Smile, Fins up, Click

My buddy Greg Wagner blogged last week about taking good deer photos after a successful deer hunt.  That got me thinking:  Most of Greg’s tips are excellent for taking good fish photos too!

You know the shots I am talking about, the “hero” shots.  You caught a big fish and want a good picture of it.  Many of us have albums full of such photos.  So, take the time to read Greg’s blog, and then you know I have another tip or three. . . .

First of all, remember that the real “hero” in the hero shots is the fish!  Oh sure, someone is usually holding the fish, and that gives some perspective, and adds to the memory, but what I really want to remember is the fish!  So, what are the best ways to present that fish?

This may seem obvious, but the best way is alive!  That goes without saying when I am releasing pretty much all of the big fish I catch.  The best way to keep any fish alive is to keep it in the water.  I hardly ever fish any more without having some sort of landing net with me.  The net aids in landing, but where it really comes in handy is putting the fish in the net, and then leaving the net in the water.   Then I can quickly remove hooks and ready camera gear while the fish waits in the water.

Sure, fish can be placed in a boat livewell before a photo session.  However, even then leaving them in a net, in the water, may be best because less handling is better.

Certainly, you do NOT want fish to flop on the bottom of the boat, or even worse, on the bank.  Fish should not look like they have been rolled in “shake and bake”.


Handle live fish carefully, but firmly.  You have to be able to safely hold the fish without dropping it.  Best grips and holds can differ from one species to another, but vital organs especially gills and eyes must be avoided .  Holding fish horizontal, with two hands, as much as possible, is best.

I would suggest that a pair of neoprene or fish handling gloves are a great aid to holding fish safely, firmly.  Just make sure to wet the gloves!

OK, take pictures of live fish right where they were caught.  Got it.  Now let me offer an old tip from a previous blog years ago. . . .Those fish will look better if they have their fins up.  This looks better. . .

DSCN2027 A

than this. . . .

26in walleye A

If the fish is alive and healthy, then you can trick it into raising its fins.

In the water, fish maintain equilibrium in an upright position.  If something moves them from that upright position, they sense they are off-balance and raise their fins to correct.

To get them to raise their fins for pictures, briefly turn them on their side.  Even out of the water, they will feel off-balance, and will raise their fins.  Then pose ’em for the picture, “click”.

Daniel Bauer photo. Thanks Daniel, nice fish, beautiful photo!

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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