Predator anglers, do you kill the fish you catch?……. Are you sure? Lets have a chat about fish handling.
Undoubtedly the way we anglers care for our catch has improved tremendously in the last couple of decades. In the last few years the Carp boys have been leading the way with their supersized, fish friendly landing nets, unhooking mats and cradles and the Carp care kits to apply any first aid as required so a big kudos to them. Although the way they pose for photos does make me smile at times.“Why?”….. Well it’s all that ‘arms out hide your fingers and gaze in awe and teary eyed wonderment at your elbows’ stuff trying to make the fish appear larger than it actually is. If you want a picture of a bigger fish go catch a bigger fish! And don’t get me started on the up to the waist in the water with the your trophy fish held aloft, just ridiculous if you ask me. But I digress somewhat, lets get back to Predator fishing. Like most branches of our sport fish handling has improved greatly. When I was a lad the rule of thumb was when you had a Pike take was to wait ages to ensure the fish was ‘Well hooked’ by reciting the lords prayer or the national anthem before striking. This indeed did ensure that the Pike was indeed well hooked, but often right down in its guts. Thankfully this has been replaced with an almost immediate strike which is much more acceptable. The barbaric Gaff has been confined to history and the Pike Gag likewise. Unhooking mats are almost the norm and we are starting to see that treble hooks are being replaced by single hooks. “So all is good then?”…. not quite. We are back to holding the fish for pictures as this aspect of how we treat our catch needs addressing.
Let’s start with Perch.
I like many remember catching these wonderful little fish in abundance, indeed they were the staple fish for kids like me back in the 60s/70s while fishing at the end of our short rods, while our parents targeted the Roach and Bream way, way out in the pond, far beyond our limited casting range. Back then a 4oz fish was a ‘big un’ and anything larger was a fish of dreams. However these days things are somewhat different. The number of ‘big’ Perch being caught recently is truly astounding. with a 1lb fish being unremarkable and a 2lb specimen being just fairly good. Unfortunately an unpleasant trend has made its way across the Atlantic and it’s driving me nuts! Yup you guessed it, THE LIP GRIP !!
In the US the majority of Bass anglers seem to be convinced that the most harmful thing you can do to a fish is hold it like we do and damage the “precious layer of protective slime” so they grip the fish by the lower lip. Now this in itself is not a problem as the jaws on the Bass are fairly robust and holding a fish in this fashion makes for easy unhooking.
The problem arises when the lip grip is used in this fashion.
The full weight of the fish is now put on the lower jaw, this will potentialy strain the muscle tissue etc that operates the complex jaw mechanism and may in some instanced dislocate or break the delicate bones. This resulte in a fish that, although you return it looking fit and healthy, is unable to feed. If it fails to recover from whatever injuries you have unwittingly inflicted upon it will die. “What’s this got to do with Perch fishing?”…… Well the rise in popularity of Drop-Shotting over here has lead to some fishermen watching videos of the US bass anglers on you tube and it really has become a case of “Monkey see, Monkey do”
If you must use the “Lip Grip on Perch please suppoet the weight of its body like this.
Or if you want to see a master at work have a look at Ash Costa Angling on Facebook. Not only is he one of the finest Perch anglers in the country but his pictures are top class.
Ash kindly sent me this picture where you can see how the fish is held to make your hand ‘vanish’
So lets now have a look at our top predator, The Pike
I used to lip grip pike, we all did back in the day, but I can count the number of pike anglers that still ‘Lip Grip’ on the fingers on one hand…. Oh hang on!…………………….
On the whole Pike anglers are pretty good at fish handling, we have to be or things can get nasty pretty quickly. Though I do think we could be better. Firstly we have to remember that the shape of a pike, being long and thin makes then somewhat awkward to get and keep a good hold on.
If you are unsure about unhooking Pike this video explains very well the correct way to handle your fish. https://youtu.be/sS7XBbF4Cf8
However once unhooked you may wish to hold your fish up for a picture. Please be aware that although your fish may be large Pike are quite fragile and are easily damaged. The anatomy of a fish is such that their internal organs are always suported by the water. If they are held roughly the internals can be easily damaged and result in a slow lingering death for the fish despite it swimming away strongly. Tope and Shark anglers realised that once boated and held for pictures these Sharks were less likley to survive once returned so now most are never brought onboard as they are unhooked at the side of the boat. If you hold a Pike in the same way as you might hold a carp, thrusted out infront of you, the hand under the fishes belly will squash and crush the delicate internal organs of the fish.
Squashing and squeezing a fishes belly like thish should be avoided at all costs, as should folding the fish in half like this.
Pike are not designed to bend in this direction and this can’t be doing them any good whatsoever.
“So how should I hold a Pike?”…. Well there are a few ways. By using one hand to ‘Chin’ the fish and support the weight of the fish allong you other forearm, close to your body. But the key thing is keeping the head well above the body. My favorite way hold a big pike for a picture is by far this way.
If you are unsure or dont yet have the confidence to handle a really big specimen do as this young chap has done.
So there you have it, my own personal thoughts on displaying your fish for a picture.
One last thing, there are many ways to hold your fish, some better than others. But my beloved Sheena says if she ever sees anyone using this Eye Grip she will seriously give them a good ‘re-educating’, and I would advise anyone to do the same.
We hold a licence to Fish, not a License to Kill.