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Grip and Kill: Are You Killing Trout for a Photo?

Graham Owen Gallery

Many of us may be seriously injuring or even killing trout when we pose for photos. 

Tony Bishop, a Kiwi known as Bish, has a pretty cool website called Bish & Fish. One of his recent articles has information all trout anglers should take to heart.

Most of us practice catch and release, and we know the rules about landing a fish quickly, keeping it in the water as long as we can, wetting our hands before touching the fish, etc. And we all want a photo of the nice fish we catch.

The good old "grip and grin" is the standard pose. One hand on the tail, the other gripping the fish by the belly. But, that might be a grip and kill pose.

Check out this anatomical diagram of a trout to show what that front hand can damage.

Bish & Fish


The heart, liver and gills are all in danger if the grip and grin isn't done right. It isn't so much the location as the gripping that can cause damage. Squeezing a trout, and really any fish, in the area just behind the pectoral fin can damage those organs. All are very susceptible to damage from inward force. Additionally, gills can be damaged by direct contact if a finger gets under the operculum - the gill cover - while holding the fish.

Here's the really bad thing - any damage done to those internal organs probably isn't instantly apparent. The fish may swim away as if uninjured, but may die later.

Bish suggests that a cradle with a loose front hand, fingers parallel to the fish's sides, but not pinching or applying any pressure, is the best grip. The other hand is wrapped around the peduncle - the thin spot at the base of the tail. That is the key to a safe photo grip; a good tail hold allows a safe and gentle pectoral fin grip.

Fighting and landing a fish is stressful enough. Why add more stress, possible injury, and even death for the sake of a photo?

Learn to hold a fish properly so you get your photo, and you ensure someone else will have a shot at getting one, too.

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Grip and Kill: Are You Killing Trout for a Photo?