We have written many articles about fishing the Kenai River, how to catch Rainbow Trout, and the why’s and where’s. The one thing we haven’t covered, and equally as important as catching fish, is how to properly photo and release the fish.
Getting a great photo of that beautiful Kenai River Rainbow starts with a good net. Most serious Trout anglers use a rubber net, the thick rubber holds it’s shape while the fish is in it, doesn’t rip the slime off the fish, and allows for easy working with the fish. The mesh, or rubber coated mesh nets do a great job of scaring the Trout, and rip the slime off, this is bad, the slime on a fish protects the fish from infections.
Now that you have successfully put a beautiful Rainbow Trout in rubber net, what next? A round of high fives is in order, then its decision making time. Do you want to go to shore with the fish? Do you want to measure the fish? How is the fish doing?
The easiest place to work with a photo fish is from the shore in slow to stagnant water. If you are on the Middle Kenai odds are you caught the fish from a boat in some form of moving water. Getting the fish safely to shore for that photo can be tricky.
1. Once the fish is in the net see how the fish is doing. If it was a long fight the fish is probably tired, let the fish hangout in the net for a bit before you handle it or head for the shore.
2. Figure out a good shore spot to work on the fish. Slower the water the better. If at any time you see the fish is pinned to a side of the net due to water current or moving the fish from main river to shore, stop! This is causing harm to the fish. Find slower water and or move to shore at a slower speed.
3. Plan where you want to go to shore, and take your time getting there. We have seen people net fish, then lift the net out of the water and quickly run to a shore spot – not cool. If the fish is not in the water it cannot breathe if the fish is pinned to the side of the net, it cannot breathe.
Here are a few tips for those that photo from the boat:
1. Always be aware of your surroundings and where your boat is floating. Photoing a fish from a moving boat can be dangerous if someone is not watching where the boat is drifting at all times.
2. Never bring a fish into the boat for photos or measuring ever. We have a rule for our boats that no Rainbow Trout or any fish that is going to be released cannot come across the gunnel.
Ok, now you have the fish in a safe, controlled environment the next move is to get an awesome photo and some measurements for accurate bragging rights. The school of hard knocks taught us that it is better to get a photo than a measurement first. Sometimes fish find their way back into the water sooner than we would like.
When preparing to get a photo orientate yourself so the sun or best light source is on you, not behind you. Now grab a hold of the fish, with the fish still in the water communicate with the cameraperson to make sure they are ready. If all parties are ready do a three count, 1,2,3 lift the fish get a quick photo then put the fish back in the net in the water. While the fish is resting check to see how good the photo is. Repeat this process for every photo.
Remember that you put a lot of time and effort into catching a great fish; make sure you put the same effort into keeping the fish safe and healthy while you get your photos and measurements.
Once you get your photos its time to get a length and a girth. The girth can be done with a soft tape with the fish in the net, in the water. For the length we recommend getting a dun rite fish measuring board or something equivalent. Put the dun rite in the water and carefully slide the fish on the board for the measurement.
Now that the fish is in the water on the board releasing is easy. Hold the fish by the tail and help it to get reoriented. Soon as the fish is ready it should take off.
Catching a “photo” fish is an addictive thrill, there is nothing better than getting a great photo to capture the moment and share the memory. But it is our responsibly to take as much time and care to release the fish and preserve the resource as necessary. Be a role model on the water.