What does the average fish photo look like? As you scroll down your digital feed, what do you see as representations of fishing in your angling community? How about #catchandrelease, what does that look like? Does it even matter? Ever consider these things when a fish at the end of your line?
Social media and its representations of who we are seems to gain influence by the day. How catch-and-release is presented in media sets a standard that viewers will see, judge, and inevitably imitate. So what if more anglers considered that their pictures contributed to this standard, to this public vision of normal? A founding pillar of the #keepemwet movement is rooted in this very question.
It’s not difficult to keep fish wet. For the most part, it requires minimal effort to take a knee at the water’s edge, to keep a netted fish in the water, or lean over the side of a boat. These are incredibly simple actions that everyone can choose to do and are easy ways to put conservation into action.
Next time you bring a fish to hand, consider a few questions: Is it going back to the water or headed to the BBQ? Do I really need a photo of every fish I catch? If photographing this catch, how can I set a good example? What if every person duplicated my exact behavior with this fish — how would that impact this fishery?
Anglers are not part of the problem, they are part of the solution. Anglers — as stewards of our river, lakes, streams, and oceans — have the power, through their photos, to influence how others perceive these ecosystems and conservation efforts. After all, few others have a finger on the pulse of fish populations the way anglers do. As a community, anglers can “move the needle” on what #catchandrelease looks like and improve the outcomes for every fish they encounter.
This article by from a decade ago outlines the role of fish photos and norms of media beautifully, and it’s closing sentences are worth considering. “The freshwater community possesses both the knowledge and passion to rouse the future stewards of these vital ecosystems. In crafting our educational and conservation messages, we should choose images as carefully as we choose words.”
Here’s to your next 1,000 casts, and great photos of the fish that follows!
CalTrout: to learn more about California winter run steelhead
Keepemwet Fishing: to learn more about Keepemwet principles
Lost Coast Outfitters: blog on many things fly fishing related