Proper fish handling; show me yours
Laura and I were watching a program on television the other night about the 80s, during which I remarked the 80s were awesome. She agreed and said it was such a simple time.
Now keep in mind, both of us were just wee little kids at that time, so our opinion is a bit jaded, and I know it. But I think we can all agree that it was a simpler time. No cell phones, no mass internet, and no social media. Laura says I am an 80 year old man trapped in a 39 year old body, and as I get started with this months From the Crow’s Nest piece I can kind of agree, but I am noticing a trend and I have a strong suspicion of the cause and that’s this month’s topic of discussion.
This got me thinking about stuff and, you know, who else probably misses those simpler days? The fish we chase and hunt on the water. Modern electronics like cell phones with cameras, social media and that kind of stuff are wonderful tools that are here to stay and do make our lives easier. But I have no doubt that now each and every fish is subject to a photo shoot for the sake of social media or a snapchat message.
In the olden days pictures were of course taken as well, but it was the wind up camera…turn the little dial…crank crank crank….When it stopped we looked thru the viewfinder and clicked. Back to the winding. Film was limited and there was no mass photo shoot so I would guess the fish was released or put in the box in short order. To be honest, I don’t remember really taking many pictures of fish back then. Maybe the big ones my folks would snap a picture of, but the majority were simply caught and released or put in the box for dinner.
In today’s modern age each and every fish that comes aboard is apt to have its picture taken multiple times, be handled by multiple people for extended periods and stressed much more than in past years. All this for the sake of a social media post, a text message or cool new profile picture. This year alone I have received reports from multiple members who are concerned with what they are seeing on the water each day with the way fish are handled.
Our founder Capt. Scott Moore has noticed a trend in his area of tarpon being handled incorrectly and in ways that could actually be harming the fish, all over social media in his area. On the East Coast I just got a report from one of our members who is very concerned with the way the big trophy snook are being handled, photographed and then simply dumped overboard with no care or time being given to make sure the fish is revived and ready to be released. This is not surprising to me but is deeply disturbing to hear.
As professional guides we have a duty to treat each and every fish that comes over our rail with the respect it deserves. There is a balancing act that we must walk, to satisfy the customers who pay our bills while ensuring we do what’s right for the fish that bring the customers in the first place.
If the fish is going in the box, then it takes the pressure off a bit. We are going to harvest the fish so if my guest want a few pictures then I am much more relaxed about the process. I still want to get it in my ice slush as quick as I can, but I have no worries on reviving so it’s a moot point.
On the other hand, if we are catch and release, or if it is a species that allows no harvest, as the captain I must do all I can to first and foremost ensure the fishes survivability. It is up to me to make the call on when it must be released, how it is to be handled and to ensure the fish is revived enough to swim away. As captains we do it typically over and over each and every day, so to be honest it’s not something I even think about anymore. Kind of second nature stuff, but I do take it seriously.
I never miss an opportunity to educate my guest on the importance of ensuring the survivability of the fish we are targeting. I teach them how to properly hold the fish, to be ready with their camera before the fish comes out of the water, how to safely release the fish and then have the pleasure of watching them swim away with that strong kick as they leave the boat.
I teach them that certain fish have certain rules and why those are in place and why that must be followed if we want to ensure their kids and their kid’s kids still have the opportunities we are enjoying today. I never allow a fish to be abused or needlessly killed simply for the sake of a picture.
Almost every year, we take a trip to Costa Rica to do some offshore fishing, and one of the things that impressed me from my initial trip to now is the respect and care and love the captains and mates on these boats have for the fish they catch. Each fish is treated with great respect, is caught, a picture or two taken (mostly in the water) and the fish properly revived and quickly released. These guys get it, they know that the reason I am on that boat is in pursuit of that fish. They do all they can to keep the stock up which keeps me coming back and spending my money in their country.
We are no different and if they can do that in Central America, we should be able to do it in the most modern country of the world. In that spirit I want to invite every FGA Guide member to send me a 30 second video or picture showing one tip on proper handling, reviving, netting or releasing of a fish you have caught. Let’s make August our proper fish handling PSA month and share all this to the Facebook page and website.
As professionals, you are the expert in the eyes of the recreational sector, so be just that and teach the proper way of doing things while ensuring the fish you catch get the best chance for survival so I can try to put my guest on them tomorrow. I look forward to your tips and of course I always invite and encourage any comments or feedback on my editorials each month.
Y’all have a great August and we will see you next month.
Capt. Charlie Phillips.