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Get a Grip on Your Fish

Photo of fisherman demonstrating proper fish handling
Photo by Shawn Good

Are you holding your fish correctly?

While some anglers prefer to harvest and eat their catch, others opt to practice catch and release. Vermont Fish & Wildlife has developed a series of tips that provide guidance on landing and safely releasing fish to ensure they will survive to be caught another day.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife views thousands of fish photographs each year showing some of the best fish catches annually from across the state. According to department fisheries biologists, one commonly seen mistake is how fish are held for a photograph before being released.

“Holding a fish horizontally, not vertically, is the best if you must hold a fish up for a photo,” said Shawn Good, fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “There’s a lot of pressure on a fish’s internal organs when held out of the water, especially when held vertically. Fish live in a neutrally buoyant environment — the water helps support their internal organs. Holding a big fish vertically could cause internal damage.”

Good pointed out a couple of other key tips for holding fish.

“Using two hands to support the fish horizontally is the best way to lift a fish for a photo,” said Good. “A good way is to place one hand just under or behind the head and the other under the belly or around the narrow part just ahead of the tail.”

Additionally, Good cautions not to squeeze a fish’s side too hard, or bend its jaw down at an extreme angle as often seen when anglers hold bass.

“Also, keep your fingers out of the fish’s gills as they’re very sensitive and can cause the fish to bleed if damaged,” concluded Good.