Poll: Is Taking a “Hero Shot” of a Fish You Caught Unethical If You Are Alone?

Will Long poses with a brown he caught on Colorado’s Lake Fork Gunnison River.
Photo by Will Long

After I posted Will Long’s how-to article on taking your own “grip-and-grin” shots when you’re fishing alone, I got a pretty forceful message from a good friend and hardcore angler who was upset by the very notion of someone taking his or her own photo. In his mind, taking the time to get yourself set up doesn’t take into account what’s best for the fish:

I don’t have any issue at all with fish pics – as you probably know, I take a bunch – but I never, ever leave a fish in a net to beat itself up while I’m setting up a shot. That’s incredibly disrespectful to the fish, and shows a lack of regard for the resource.

A couple commenters on Facebook shared my friend’s view, although many others clearly appreciated Long’s advice. So I figured it was worth taking the pulse of the Orvis News audience on this issue.

Let’s start with the premise that, obviously, the best thing for the fish is to be caught and released as quickly as possible. I think we can all agree on that. A second proposition is that anglers like photos as mementos of their time on the river and, yes, of their proud moments of achievement.

With those two givens in mind, what do you think of Long’s technique for self-photography? Give your answer in the poll below, and I’ll reveal the results next Tuesday.

Those who wish to post more detailed opinions on the issue can do so in the comments, and each commenter will be eligible to win one of five prizes:

1. A copy of Great Fishing Lodges of North America (2);

2. 16-inch Orvis Trout Sticker (2); or

3. an official 2014 Down the Hatch Chum eyeglass retainer.

So tell us what you think.

110 thoughts on “Poll: Is Taking a “Hero Shot” of a Fish You Caught Unethical If You Are Alone?”

  1. I voted No, but it’s not a black and white issue.

    There are certainly times, say fishing a healthy trout stream, when I do the same thing as Will; contain the fish carefully in the water with a knotless net, and then lift it out for less than 5 seconds for a quick photo before release.

    However, for some species and runs (say threatened wild steelhead and salmon in the Northwest) a much lower acceptable risk threshold is ethical, including not taking them out of the water at all and releasing them immediately they thrash in the net or your hands. If you’re fishing alone, a quick macro picture of these fish in the water or being revived in the flow is all that’s needed before they should be released to continue their upstream journey to the spawning beds.

    1. one could argue that fishing an in danger resource to begin with is unethical, and that you should stick with stocked fisheries and let the wild ones be until they are once again self sufficient.

    2. Not unethical but not necessary either. If you need to take a picture leave the fish in the water….no bank side shots please.

    3. I also voted no, & also w/ some reservation. Like anything else, there are gray areas, & those exist regardless of whether the shot is a “selfie” or shot by someone else. I’ve taken fish shots w/ the fish in the net, in the water w/ no additional stress to the fish, & I’ve seen shots taken by another individual of a successful angler where the fish was out of the water for what I felt was too long. When I’m river or stream fishing, unless I’m in a drift boat it’s unusual for a fishing partner to be close enough to take a shot unless it’s a protracted fight.

    4. I don’t have a problem with a her shot as long as the top priority is not harming the fish after it’s caught. With a head mounted camera or just good preparation a pic can be taken quickly.

    5. Thanks Chase for mentioning salmon and steelhead in the the NW. It’s not just the threatened fish we need to be concerned with. The reasons are many and varied on salmon and steelhead declines. Handling salmon isn’t good for the fish and it adds to the overall mortality.
      I’m a commercial troller who has refined my harvest techniques . Mainly because of the great respect I have for salmon.
      That said perhaps salmon are different then say trout? Over handling salmon stresses them, descales them and removes the film on there skin. It also opens the door for predators to pick off those catch and release( sometimes pulled out of the water picture fish).

  2. If I were to use my cell phone on the tri-pod as the post suggested, then I would have the phone set up before the fish is caught. Then all I’d have to do is push a button, wait 5-10 seconds, then let the fish go. I figure when considering everything that goes into catching the fish, a few more seconds out of the water won’t hurt.

    My two cents…

  3. With the beneficial switch in the angling culture to catch and release fishing, I think we need to be willing to accept some risk for the sake of remembering and sharing some great fish. It beats the alternative of taking the fish home for a wall mount.

  4. My opinion is yes, keep the fish out of the water as little as possible, but if you’re setup for a quick snap shot then why not take a picture?

    Long’s technique supports my opinion because he appears to have the tripod/camera setup before he begins to fish a run. Calling it a “hero shot” isn’t right in my mind either, some of us like taking pictures for other reasons than to brag.

    I take fish pictures for 2 reasons: One being that someday my children will look back at the good times I had in the outdoors and will possibly get excited about fishing/hunting opportunities. The other reason being that I like looking at a fishing picture because it takes me back to that exact moment and reminds me of the sights, smells, and the exhiliration I experienced when the fish sipped that dry fly and my line went tight. That’s just my 2 cents, cheers!

    1. There’s a reason that “hero shot” is in quotation marks. It’s a common phrase, but it’s not really about heroism.

      1. The ethics aspect applies generally . One person with preparation might take a quicker pic and subject a fish to less stress than someone with help from a friend. It’s not about numbers but about respecting a beautiful natural resource.

  5. I am 6’5″. I am able to catch fish and then with the camera I keep in my pocket I am able to take a photo with camera in left hand and fish in right hand. These are actually some of my favorite shots. I always put the fish back and it only takes a few seconds. When doing this you have to take several rapid shots and usually only a photo or two is good. I voted no on poll.

  6. The main goal should be to catch and release the fish as humanly and fast as possible. Taking a picture of your fish can add just a few seconds to this process. If you need to take more than a few seconds to take a picture then it is unnecessary. If you already have a tripod set up that would allow you to snap the shot quickly, then go right ahead. However, If your fishing alone you shouldn’t expect to take award winning photos of your catches. Proving you caught your trophy fish doesn’t have to be the prettiest picture, a small sacrifice to insure the healthy release of the fish.

  7. Murphy, B., and D. Willis, editors. 1996. Fisheries techniques, 2nd edition. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.

    pg. 125. Care and Handling of Organisms – Handling

    “The time spent handling live fish should be kept to an absolute minimum. Studies have shown that all aspects of handling… are highly stressful (Merrrick 1990; Thomas and Robertson 1991) and can lead to immediate or delayed mortality (Piper et al. 1982; Stickney and Kohler 1990).”

    It goes on to describe how the mucous coating and physiology of the fish can be damaged by sustained time in a net thrashing around. As a fisheries professional, I’m exposed to an additional bevy of literature that all points to one inescapable conclusion: The sooner a fish is released, the better, provided it has been properly resuscitated.

  8. Should take a look at Erin Block’s “What Price Glory” from a recent “Trout=” magazine (see https://online.qmags.com/TU0913S#pg3&mode2).

    IMO, there are many. many factors in fish mortality. I take lots of precautions, but won’t rule out taking a photo. If I’m alone, I usually settle for a shot of the fish in net in or the water without my “mug” added to the photo. But, there are too many factors involved for me to judge someone else based on their photo.

  9. IMHO, being sporting today should mean tipping the odds towards the fish and trying to release unharmed fish with good post release survival. This has become the standard in the angling publications, the considered opinion of scientists, conservation groups, and guides. By yourself you may not really have time to set up a camera while the fish thrashes around in a net losing its protective slime. The frigid air of winter is deadly to trout’s gills after 20 seconds. If you have to take a picture of a fish that is important to you (to me that would be a big fish, an unusual fish, or a locale that warrants one photo to capture a trip photographically) I suggest the following:
    You could take a picture with the camera held to the eye with the fish still half in the water.
    If you take the time to set up a tripod you should consider that you might kill the fish and should decide if its worth it. There are plenty of opportunities when you have another person to take a photo of a dripping wet fish.
    I admire my friend who just caught a 36″ bonefish in the Bahamas on a 12 lb tippet. That translates to 18 lbs and the world record on the fly is around 15 lbs! He was so concerned about the survival of her fish, he and his friend let it go without a photo. Believe it or not! I would have taken the time to keep it in the water, gripped at the tail and supported gently in he underbelly. You should have a camera that can be accessed in seconds. BTW, he said it didn’t put up a big fight since they figured it was pretty old!

  10. I have taken pictures in my measure net of fish when by myself. I have also placed my camera on the bank and taken a picture with voice control on my phone. Wet your hands and keep it short. I don’t have a picture of the largest trout I caught at Rocky Ford Creek in Washington because I wanted to get it back in the water as soon as possible. Go Pros and other technology can help capture the moment and preserve fish. A personal call to others.

  11. I fish wearing a “chest mounted video camera” not saying the brand but I capture all my fish on film hold it in front of myself then and then release them. It’s quick and almost as if your camera isn’t there. I do believe that some people are reading entirely too much into this issue. I wasn’t born nor am I old enough to be a hippie but I do catch and release and in my short experience the special regulation streams where I fish still hold trout. More trout than what they used too. Or so I’ve been told. Yes there are less intelligent people fishing out there but survival of the fittest and do your part. Dictators tell people what they can and can’t do. Telling someone that it is or is not ethical doing what they are doing will sure to have a stronger adverse affect

  12. Personal ethics will always be a private matter, settled in each person’s own way…While I have my own preferences on how long I will wait to take a picture (alone or with a photographer) I think that many people forget that catch and release is not the law (except, of course on those rivers where it actually IS the law). It isn’t fair to penalize people (socially, or otherwise) for doing that which is legal. Living in Montana and fishing what are arguably the best trout fisheries anywhere on the planet, I still from time to time like to take fish home and enjoy them with butter and some veggies. There is a great satisfaction in that. Still, I greatly respect the fish that I angle after and those I don’t keep, I wish to do all that is possible to return them safely. If I am able to take a selfie in that amount of time, then I might. But personally I can’t. Anyways, my wife is along often enough with her camera, so I just holler for her and there we go. My hero shots only come from new places I fish now, mementos of new memories. I don’t take any pictures of me and cutts on Rock Creek anymore…maybe because I don’t want people knowing where I’m at.

    1. So we now should only socially penalize people for doing things that are illegal? I can’t agree. There are countless legal things that are questionable, and many illegal things that are not.

  13. Taking a self-timed photo in and of itself is not necessarily bad – as long as you think about what you are doing and, as many have mentioned above, are prepared ahead of time for such an effort. If you have a camera ready to where all you have to do is hit a button to start a 10 second countdown, you can reasonably retain the fish in the water safely for that long to get your picture (lifting it out of the water in time for the shot). How is that different to holding on to a fish for a few extra seconds after catching it to admire the spots and beauty of it? Now, if you have to fumble around to get the camera out of a pocket, set the fish down on the bank, etc. in order to set up your shot, you should probably rethink your approach.

    We all love to fish for a multitude of reasons, but one of which is to catch these amazing creatures. We also love to capture these great moments and feelings while we are experiencing them – photos and video are the best ways to do this for just about all of us. Today’s technology makes this a double edged sword – first, the digital format of these cameras/phones/apps makes it much easier to get a quick quality shot. At the same time, the available technology is more accessible to more people, so there are more photos of fish being taken than ever before.

    While we should encourage everyone to practice safe fish handling skills, I think it is incredibly selfish for one angler to look down upon another angler because the one thinks the other has no business reveling in a moment and wanting to capture it. The fish has already been hooked, played, and landed. We all do this time and time again – photo or not. If it is handled CAREFULLY, then it is no no worse shape than it was before the photo was shot.

    In a bigger picture perspective – getting great shots of these fish that we chase and sharing these moments does great things for our sport. They not only share excitement, but increase the awareness of the existence of these special creatures to a wider audience. More people become interested in experiencing these moments, they start following the sport more closely, gain experience, join clubs and groups like TU (where additional education takes place), buy more gear from manufacturers, retailers and local shops, and gain a better understanding of their local fisheries and natural environment.

    I go back to my opening – just use your head and think about what you are doing. Anticipate first, understand your camera settings ahead of time, be prepared to get your shot, take care when handling the fish, and do your best to return it safely to the water.

    And that’s my $.02

  14. A person defines their own ethics, a group defines morals. So by definition, each person’s answer is going to be different. I encountered this same situation the other day, and opted to not take a photo and put the fish back (and had to defend the fact that it was a 25-inch trout, mind you). So each person will have a different personal ethic — mine is to not take the time.

  15. In general, I’m not crazy with grip and grins. Most all want to snap a photo of the fish, but why photobomb it with your face. I realize it’s important to some to show their great angling prowess to others by snapping a pic holding your trophy, but I feel its unnecessary.

    Respect the resource unless you plan to keep it legally. In that case, a pic of you holding the fish by its gills or any other way is fine.

    The whole idea of selfies, with or without fish, is a selfish act of egotism. Opinionated, yes, but that’s how I see it.

  16. How can you make a blanket statement that it is unethical? If done in a way that minimizes risk to the fish I see nothing wrong

  17. I think that the majority of fly fishers are practicing catch and release fishing, and hopefully doing everything they can to protect the resource. Therefore, if cone correctly, I see nothing wrong with getting a memory that can last a lifetime. I personally go to extremes to make sure the fish I catch, are treated with respect and returned as fast as possible to the water.

  18. I don’t think it’s unethical; as a couple of the comments above have stated, it beats taking the fish home. As long as your setup is ready to go and you can return the fish to the water quickly and safely, I don’t think its a problem at all. Who knows – maybe the photo of your monster will inspire someone else to start fishing!

  19. I am not crazy about the selfie pic myself, but I’ll admit I’ve never had to think about it when holding a 20″+ fish. The ethics of taking a photo are only one part. If that fish was played and quickly landed and handled safely, and your all set up….then fine snap away a quick photo. If you caught that monster on a 3 wt with 6x tippet and had to take time to play and land him, I say let him go.

  20. I was listening to older podcasts from Tom Rosenbauer, and a guest made the comment; to paraphrase “Facebook is the biggest killer of fish per year”. Really got me thinking about my own photos of fish. Taking a picture of a fish before releasing it, never takes less time than just releasing it. If the end goal is to preserve the life of the fish/fishery, should we not immediately return fish to the water? Even if possible, remove the hook while the fish is in the water and release it without taking it out of it’s domain. I made a pact with myself to not take any pictures of fish caught this year, based on the podcast comment and reading some of Nick Lyons’ thoughts on conservation. To wit: “Stewardship demands restriction, limitation; protected , a resource could maintain what it is and what it ought to be indefinitely, and not suffer that niggling, inchmeal deterioration that is everywhere a disaster.” I’m not saying my view is the ethical or correct route, just one angler’s thoughts on how I will conduct myself on the stream this season. Obviously from reading the comments this is an issue many of us care about and more dialogue on the subject can only help our beloved fisheries.

  21. As has already been mentioned it just depends on the situation. I might lean towards yes if someone is going for the true selfie shot with themselves and the fish in it or if they are completely unprepared since these situations rarely end well. However if someone takes a closeup in the net or holds the fish with one hand over the water while shooting the picture with their free hand I see nothing wrong with this. This is what I usually do and if done in a prepared and quick manner shouldn’t be hurting the fish any.

  22. Taking any picture at all takes extra time. His method may or not be ethical and until someone comes up with an objective timeframe, I think all anyone can say is that the ethical impact increases with time out of water/struggling. Where’s the line then?

  23. I had the same reaction to Tom’s podcast when I heard “Facebook is the biggest killer of fish per year”. It made me reevaluate how I handle fish. When I first started out I want to capture every fish I caught, and probably did some harm. As I’ve gotten older, I care less about only hero shot, and more about photos that tell the story of the trip. My car, the path to the water, a mayfly on a stick, etc. Using a GoPro that is constantly filming has also lead to some great still shots without me having to alter my normal catch and release behavior.

  24. My vote is no. The reason I say that is if you have the setting on the camera all set and you have a small tripod like the gorilla tripod it only takes a few seconds to get the picture. I fish alone a lot and like to have photos of my days on the water. It can be done quickly and respectfully of the fish.

  25. A couple quick thoughts on this particular subject …

    First, the fish always comes first. Every out-of-the-water fish photo is a balancing act between the health of the fish and the angler’s ego. Ideally, the fish is only out of the water for a few seconds, the photographer is ready to roll, and things are wrapped up almost immediately. There are going to be times when the light isn’t quite right, or the angler’s hands obscure the fish more than necessary, or something else goes wrong, but it’s the angler’s responsibility to make sure that the act of taking photographs doesn’t endanger a fish that he (or she) would otherwise release quickly and safely.

    Second, technology and technique matter. Setting up your camera and tripod beforehand, or using a GoPro camera on your chest or hat, would obviously make selfies far easier and less problematic. If anglers are drawn to selfie hero shots – and it looks like that’s the case – then they should do everything possible to make the procedure as easy on the fish as possible.

    Third – and this is on a personal level – I really don’t understand why anyone would feel the need to go all Anthony Weiner on the water. I recognize that we live in a culture where people feel like they have to draw attention to themselves, but I honestly have no clue why someone would go to all the time and trouble to set up a selfie hero shot. If the fish is memorable, take its photo. But why take the “Look at me!” route? Do other anglers really find that kind of thing impressive?

    Twenty years ago, when I was guiding on the Henry’s Fork, I took a couple days off from work to float a well-known angling photographer and two out-of-state guides down the river. (If memory serves, it was for an Orvis photo shoot.) During the course of the day, the photographer and I got talking about the very best fishermen we knew. Turns out we both agreed on the prettiest caster we’d ever seen; a mutual friend from Jackson Hole. I asked the photographer if he’d ever photographed the guy from Jackson. He said something along the lines of, “I don’t think I have a single photo of his face, but I’ll bet I have a thousand images of his hands.”

    It used to be about the fish. Now it’s about the guy smiling for the camera. As Dylan sang all those years ago, “The times they are a changin.”

  26. Its better than taking the fish home. As long as your careful and try to be as quick as possible I dont see it being too bad of a thing. Fish are not super fragile creatures. I have done a lot of electroshocking in college for surveys and only a very very small percent of fish perished. And of those only very small fish. Anything over two inches was always unharmed. If they can take a current like that and be okay, they can handle being out of water for long enough to take a photo.

  27. Taking a picture when by yourself depends on the time it takes. Reading the posts above shows that many have the foresight to take the fish health into account. What matters is that the fish is handled safely and returned as quick as possible. I notice the cold climate and most fish are stressed and try to conserve energy. How do we actually know, what damage we do to get a photo that we think takes seconds, that actually may take over a minute. In the end, its better to have a picture of the trophy fish, than it is to mount it, denying someone else to share the experience on a later day.

  28. I voted No but it all depends on how its done. Personally I use my iphone, which I keep in my pocket. No tripod and its normally just a quick snap. That means I dont get any of these wonderful glossy, postcard quality shots but its enough for me to remember the fish.

    The other thing to consider is the solo vs friend. Consider you’re fishing with a friend and you land a trophy fish. Is your friend standing ready with the camera as soon as the fish hits the net? How long does it take you to get the fish out of the net and prepare for the shot? Are you swimming the fish in the meantime to ensure its getting enough water through its gills?

    For me the most important thing is ensuring that if the fish is going back that it goes back in a healthy condition and if that means I have to sacrifice the quality of my photo then so be it. I would much rather the memory of a hastily taken photo than a dead fish!

  29. Simply stated it depends on how it’s done and how long it takes. ! For example fish in the net in the water quick tripod setup and shot probably not a problem . Every situation is different and it’s up to the angler to determine if it’s right or not and of its worth the additional stress to the fish!

  30. Wow! I am really surprised by all of this controversy…I was the original guy who asked Will how he took such wonderful photos of himself since I fish alone all the time and I was interested in capturing better fish moments. I don’t have Facebook and like having a few photos of some of my larger catches to share with friends and look back on someday when I won’t be able to enjoy this great sport. So learning additional photo techniques is just like learning another fly fishing technique which was my intent. Thank you for that, Will. As far as the handling of the fish, I agree, getting the fish back in the water as soon as possible is good. However, most fish can handle some amount of air time without damage and I have personally released hundreds of fish over my life time with, I’m sure, a very low mortality rate if in fact any. If trout are too fragile to hold out of the water for the 10 – 15 seconds to take a photo, then they are probably too fragile to fish for at all. Is that the extreme we want to carry this too??? Will’s technique as presented is a great way for those of us who don’t have the luxury to fish with buddies or from a boat all the time. So I congratulate Will for his thoughtful way to capture the moment and preserve the resource.

  31. I don’t see the big issue here. Even in a boat with the best guide at the oars you’re not going to be guaranteed to take a quick picture due to the myriad of distractions and issues that come with typical life on the water. So by the reasoning expressed above would taking a picture of a trout after you dropped your camera accidentally and then dried it off be unethical because you’ve kept it in the net too long? The solo hero-shot technique talked about by Will Long, when well rehearsed, can’t take significantly longer than any two-person shot.

    All I’m trying to say is that we can’t fairly make this an issue of solo vs buddy-assisted hero shots, it has to be a question of whether we should “disrespect the resource” at all by taking photos or that we should just get the fish in and back in the water as fast as humanly possible.

  32. Like others have said, if done quickly and properly, I don’t see an issue with it. All too often, I see people, whether in pairs or groups, taking way too much time getting the perfect shot anyway, so I certainly don’t see a selfie being any worse.

    For me the grip-n-grin selfie would interrupt the flow of fishing too much, setting up each time you move. I fish alone about 98% of the time, so I go the route of fish in one hand, camera in the other. It’s quick, yet you still get an idea of the surroundings, unlike fish-in-net pictures. (Check my blog [click my name] for examples.)

  33. The best thing for a fish it to never catch them at all. I have a lot of personally tied flies that can accomplish this ethically clean method of outdoor recreation. Message me and I can let you in on where to go and what to use in the great falls MT area. Another bonus of this method of fishing is you can save some cheddar by not buying a fish friendly ghost net or 250$ Abel hemostats. Sometimes I use only a bare hook if the fishing gets too good for the fear of actually hooking and hurting a fish.

  34. Obviously a touchy subject, I voted no, as long as circumstances are right. Fish health being kept in mind. That said, I find it a very interesting conversation, thanks for the poll vote.

  35. I voted yes given the explanation in the post of the many steps it takes before you can shot the selfie. I believe that the act of catching the fish and bringing it to the net itself has enough impact on the fish, and that we should not prolong it, with unknown impacts on the fish. I certainly would not judge someone who wants a picture of a once in a lifetime fish, but it should be a rare occasion. In most cases a quick shot in the net should be enough. Or, simply save a mental picture that will last you a lifetime.

  36. I have no problem with the self shot fish pictures. During the past year I’ve switched over to more video and fewer still photos during my fishing trips. Most of my videos are self shot, I enjoy being by myself when I put these together. I think that it helps to me focus and makes the overall experience even more relaxing. Two of my videos were played during this past year on the Friday Film Festival and all of the fish shots in those videos were self shot. I don’t see these as “hero” shot but instead as visual reminders of great days on the water that I can look back on to help get me through the long cold Wyoming winters. The majority of times the tripod is already setup and the camera is already rolling. If I want a still photo it takes about 5 seconds worth of button pushing to get there. All my dip nets are smooth rubber ghost nests that greatly minimize wear and tear on the fish. The total time for these shots is minimal and not more than if I had a buddy or my wife fishing with me. Continue to capture those great memories while treating the fish well.
    Bob Reece

  37. I voted “no”, but agree with many of you that it’s very grey. Personally, I keep the camera around my neck and snap a quick photo of the fish without myself in the picture. It’s easy on the fist because you don’t have to hassle with “setting up the shot” and, in my opinion, pictures of fish look better when they are the focus of the shot (instead of the angler) anyway.

  38. I voted no. But only because I think it can be done right. Like say you’re kinda working one area, like a pool or something. Get your camera set up nice and close if you can, and make it ready to go. Then when you land your fish of a lifetime it’ll be a matter of pushing two buttons. Bam, hero shot.

    Personally I’ve never taken a selfie hero shot. I usually get the fish just before I’ve landed it, or while I’m tailing it, but I don’t see any issue with it if it’s done properly.
    I’ve always been told to hold your breath when you take the fish out of the water, then when you need to breathe the fish probably does too. Just don’t pass out. That’d be a zero shot.

  39. If people are worried about fish surviving a quick photo, then they probably shouldn’t fish at all as there are a lot other reasons for fish mortality while fishing. Do you think bass fisherman or deep sea fisherman are worried about getting their catch back in the water quickly and safely when they have the fish on board their boats to take a photo or decide whether the fish is big enough to keep? If anything, we as fly fishermen do a great job making sure that we doing our best to let these fish live to see another day. Taking photos is a part of the fishing and outdoor culture. We all get some enjoyment out of someone displaying their catch regardless of the size or species. I enjoyed the post and want to thank Will for the tips.

  40. No, IF he made the process as quick as he could. For starters, lets remember that this sport is about capturing the moment and inspiring others to join in. I could be very confident in saying we all want what’s best for the trout to see another day. As long as the fish wasn’t played out for 5 minutes and thrashing in a net for too long, then have at it. I would like to add, there are a lot of sensitive-trout-men out there. Relax guys, lets not split hairs and remember how unaware past generations were compared to us now. I’d say we have it under control in regards to a quick picture!

    Take a deep breath, and now get back out there!!


  41. As a newbie in fly fishing, I love seeing photos of your catch, big or small. They are motivating others to join this fun sport. Get a GoPro camera and get the vest to mount it on so you can catch everything when you’re on solo trips.

  42. I voted NO, but it is not an emphatic one as it is all relative. I am a catch and release angler but I am also relatively new to fly fishing and catch and release. I have made all the fish handling mistakes for the solo photos(fish on ground, grass, taking too much time out of water etc.) Through learning more about improving the odds for the fish, I seldom remove the fish from the water now if possible and no longer take the time for the shot. Each fish is too valuable to only catch once. I have to fish pressured waters that are inhabited by bait fisherman working to limit out, I have seen fish left forgotten on a rope stringer to die. I am horrified that some fish would expire due to my poor handling when the goal was release. If they are coming home for dinner, get the shot and then whack em on the head and clean em. If the goal is to release, then the highest glory is to forgo the selfie glory shot and do what is best for the fish to have a speedy recovery.

  43. I will often take out my point and shoot on small tripod and set it to record video while still fighting a fish. Once the fish is netted/tailed, I pose for a second in front of the camera and release the fish. When I get home, I use editing software to choose a frame with a good hero shot. This method typically yields a pretty solid photo and minimizes fish handling.

  44. Obviously, what is best for the fish is to not catch them at all. The question is tainted by calling them “Hero Shots”. No one likes the person who would take a picture of himself holding a fish just to brag about it. On the other hand, I love that I have pictures of my kids holding their catch, both large and small fish. One major consideration for me is the venue. When fishing in a heavily populated watershed or in a “put-and-take” fishery, the impact to the fishery is arguably nonexistent. In areas where fish populations are fragile or maintained by natural reproduction, it might be better not to handle the fish at all. Since we have already accepted the risk of catching these treasures, pulling them away from the safety and sanctity of their stations at the bottom of a river or lake, the increased risk of snapping a quick photo should be rather negligible. The matter of ethics is a personal choice. We all need to educate ourselves to use our best judgment, to protect. and to preserve our natural resources, even if that means occasionally letting our fish go without taking pictures.

  45. Voted no….
    Catching a fish will always do more harm to one that is not caught at all, regardless of how it is handled.
    We live in a age where it simply not possible ( for a variety of reasons ) to keep every fish caught or even any at all depending on the circumstance, although i do like the odd smoked trout i have caught.. providing its from a sustainable fishery.
    I have a head / shoulder mount GoPro with a remote on my wrist so shots can be taken quickly, a iPhone on a light telescopic stick takes great instant selfies.. Its about being prepared beforehand, catch and release net and so on.. If the fish looks lively and ready to go.. a quick shot don’t hurt..
    If the fish looks exhausted or unwell / stressed…concentrate on getting it going and back in safely and forget about the shot.
    If you don’t want to hurt a fish… don’t fish..
    Like most problems it all gets back to the amount of people on the planet and the resources we all have to share and manage.
    Thank God we have water with Trout.

  46. Depends on conditions. If the fish is resilient, then take your selfie. A bass or sunfish or gar can take a beating and still bounce back. But if it’s a hot day with low warm water and you fought the trout for 20 minutes to net it, let the poor thing go straight away.

  47. I said “No”, but like most it comes with some stipulations. I always try my best to release all fish quickly, it really bothers me to see people handle any fish for long periods of time. If I am not in a good position to take a quick picture of the fish while it’s in the net/water, then I take a good look at the fish and send it on its way. I haven’t tried the tripod selfie yet, but I am willing to give it a go as long as I am close to the shore and can set it up while keeping the fish in the water.

  48. I voted yes because of the word selfie. I keep my camera/phone easily accessible in my sling pack. Usually I am lucky enough to capture a photo of the fish while landing/releasing it. Taking the fish out of the water long enough to line up a selfie is a bit too much ego. I assume the majority of people would rather see a solo shot of the fish and not your grinning mug.

  49. The issue isn’t taking the picture — it’s how you handle the fish. This should also be an extension of how you play the fish and the other stress factors that occur before you release. We have all made mistakes releasing fish and I’m sure I will continue to make them in the coming years. But by learning from the mistakes we become better anglers and stewards of the fishery.

  50. We all see a lot of nice hero shots on the web. Shots that have very clear water in the background, great scenery, and cool angles. How long does it take for an angler and photographer team to set up a great shot like this and execute. Waiting for the water to clear or moving to an area the angler was not wading takes time, moving to get the best background takes time, getting the angle just right takes time, waiting for you fishing partner to scramble over a boulder strewn riverbank to take the shot takes time. Meanwhile the fish is in the net. I think someone could set up a camera a shoot a quick “hero shot” in the same amount of time that it takes angler and photographer team to get a great shot.

    I have never set up and taken a “hero shot” of myself, but I don’t see how it is more harmful to the fish than two people working to get a great “hero shot.” The total time the fish is in the net is probably the same for either method.

  51. Your friend’s disagreement hinges on the assumption that taking a self photo is a longer process than someone else doing it. If I’m with my buddy, I’ve got to interrupt him and he’s got to walk from wherever he is to take the picture. This is no quick task. However, if my camera is set up on the bank, the process of turning it on and posing is much quicker than the aforementioned alternative.

  52. If you use the right line strength so that you don’t have to wear the fish out before landing it, a few seconds to take a picture will not do any harm. Using light tackle that needs the fish to be exhausted before you land it would be a different matter all together.

  53. I voted no, but there are some situations where i do not believe extra stress should be put on the fish. If a fish was taken to net after a long and tiresome fight, if a picture cannot be quickly taken, I believe it should not be done. most of my “trophy shots” are quick snaps of mt releasing the fish, tail in my left hand, camera in the other.

  54. If you truly want to do what’s best for the fish, you shouldn’t be fishing at all. Now obviously that’s not an option for me, so now it comes down to what is my overall fishing/conservation philosophy. I happen to feel is okay to harvest a fish on occasion but my respect for the resource could not be greater. If someone wants to take a picture on occasion but otherwise shows respect and cares for the resource, so be it. A “holier than thou” rather than a “respect a difference of opinion” attitude is the cause of many of today’s problems. Take a chill, do what you think is best, and always respect all aspects of what we love… Fly Fishing!

  55. Anglers spend considerable, time, effort, and money in a constant search for the most effective presentation for more and bigger fish. Similar (More?) time and consideration should be used to determine the best way to increase survival rate for our slippery friends. The prudent angler must also consider fight time, hook type/location, landing net, depth of capture, temperature, size, bleeding, recovery time, It should should be our goal to ensure future generations a better angling experience and not just the pictures and stories of the past.


    “According to research by Ferguson and Tufts (1992) there are direct effects of air exposure duration on the motility of rainbow trout. Rainbow trout that were chased for approximately 10 min had a survival rate of 88%, however this fell to 62% for fish that were subsequently exposed to air for 30 s and survival was only 28% for fish exposed to air for 60 s (Ferguson and Tufts, 1992).”

  56. This discussion seems similar to the left hand/right hand retrieve discussion–everyone’s got a different opinion and no one is all right or all wrong. In short, it’s a grey area. I think the point to make is that while immediate release is never wrong, depending on the situation taking a picture could be a really bad decision for the fish. It all depends on the type of fish, how hard was the fight, how exhausted does the fish look, is it thrashing in the net or sitting still and upright fully submerged while in the net? How long does it take you to take the picture, 5-8 seconds or 30 seconds? Clearly, a quickly landed fish that isn’t thrashing around in the net and stays submersged until a 5 second picture is taken will be just fine barring any other factors. However, a picture done at the other end of the spectrum will likely harm the fish. This all comes down to anglers being wise and using common sense. People like pictures of themselves when they’re doing fun things. It’s a memento, a memory that can last forever and be passed on to our future generations. Sometimes, pictures are the only evidence that exist that something ever happened. So, saying its completely wrong to take a “selfie” shot is not judicious. As a good lawyer always says, it depends.

  57. I agree with the idea that there are no absolutes here and that ethics are a personal matter. I don’t do selfies of any type for reasons I’ll explain in a second, but I know they are a common part of how we experience life. The cow’s left that barn already, so like it or not, it’s going to keep happening. I also know I’m in a pretty small minority on issues like this, which I am cool with.

    My problem is not so much with the effects of these photos on the fish—I suppose if they’re done quickly, the fish will recover from the stress—but with our current obsession with photographing everything we experience, thanks to phones and social media. I have two issues with this. Maybe I fish for different reasons than most people, but I find photographing fish gets in the way of simply experiencing these rare moments of outdoor bliss. Fumbling for a phone or setting up a tripod introduces a culture to those outdoor moments that I am fishing partly to escape. It’s sort of like introducing momentary speaker feedback in a church. Your ears will recover, but a spell’s been broken.

    My second issue is kind of a bias, I guess. As longtime writer, editor, and diary/journal keeper, I long ago learned that to really observe something, to really test how well I’ve seen something, nothing beats describing it in words. When I go back and read these descriptions of fish once caught, memory kicks in and I see the object in my mind’s eye, less perfectly and literally than it would appear in a photo, surely, but somehow more evocatively, denser with my own associations, personality, and self. A camera sees everything; a written description is shaped by what we remember and what our personalities have chosen to see. I think we’ve lost a lot of that. And if truth be told, a lot of hero fish pictures look an awful lot alike to me. Give me two descriptions of a caught fish written by two average anglers, and I’ll be they’ll be very different.

    1. I definitely don’t disagree. Leaving my cell phone and the rest of life behind while I’m on the water is definitely one of the perks. However, I also like taking pictures of the river, the mountains and other wildlife so having a camera and being able to look back at those pictures brings back some great memories. To each his own.

  58. This January in Patagonia I brought a nice brown to the boat but the guide bungled the net and I lost the opportunity for a nice photo. I was disappointed and probably showed it. The angler sharing the boat with me asked, ‘Did you really need another picture?” with something in his voice that made me think again, hard. I realized when I put together one of those Shutterfly albums of the trip that only a few of the fish pictures were truly meaningful to me. Indeed, the best memories I have of fish in the last year are without photos – that huge steelhead that practically jumped out of the river onto the bank, that enormous muskie mouth that came suddenly out of water behind my fly, and that fish I never saw that felt like an old tractor tire on my line in a mountain lake. Yeah, I caught a lot of nice fish last year, with a lot of nice photos. Now, I keep a journal instead, and write down those moments that I want to remember. The picture of a fish of a lifetime is NEVER worth the life of a fish of a life time.

  59. I am so torn on this issue- I practice catch and release but I really like to photograph fish for lot of different reasons. Adding the factor of putting my face in the picture has never really been something I felt I needed to do but after reading the posts I was very interested in the tri-pod he uses and how he set up the shot. I even looked up the App he talked about. I take pictures for lots of reasons but is it unethical- sure but there are a lot of things I do that might seem unethical to someone else…but I still do them. I voted YES but I still do it.

  60. It depends on the situation. If the fish required a long period of time to land. He’s probably exhausted and should go back quick. In that case, get him out if the net and back in the drink. Snap a quick pic or two while bringing him back. If he’s looking healthy and you landed him as quick as possible, I don’t see anything wrong with setting up. It takes 15 seconds. I have a similar setup. I think more attention should be paid to how people handle fish and where they hold them. People don’t know where the heart/ lungs of a fish are and majority squeeze fish to death. As long as you give em a “drink” they will be fine.

  61. Voted no. Typically I don’t take loner shots…but every case should be judged on it’s own circumstances. For example, what is the state of the fish when you land it? You can usually tell a spent fish, and if water is warm…one more reason to forgo the shot. Should be case by case.

  62. Well no one really answered properly… a “hero Shot” is a full bodied photo, taking a snap shot with one hand is not a hero shot. That said the worst thing I have ever seen is when these bastards lay the fish on a the ground/sand and take a photo of the fish completely out of the water. One can’t take a hero shot on their own without some harm being done to the fish. What is it like 70% of released fish die within a couple hours… if your alone the just fish. If your buddy is there with a camera..grab that hero shot!

  63. If you are fly fishing I would assume you are like me and are not fishing to fill your belly but your soul. If you take a photo it is almost always quick with little handling to the fish. Sharing fishing photos with buddies and with those who do not fish makes the experience deeper and leads not to more ‘hero shots’ but to more fishermen and fisherwomen who care about the great resource that fly fishing is. This in turn leads to conservation of those places where one can feed their soul


  64. If taking a picture of a fish that only takes maybe 10 seconds to do is unethical then the whole act of fishing should be considered unethical. Which a lot of people consider it to be.
    The stress from being out of the water I would think is less then the stress and anxiety caused from being hooked. The thought of my food being a booby trap would be more stressful then being manhandled for a few seconds.

    Its a personal question that everyone has to answer for themselves but discussion is always good. We just have to accept peoples personal decisions and be open to discussion as long as it is within the bounds of the law and if you have a problem with the laws work to get them changed.

  65. I fish alone quite a bit but I don’t normally take many pictures. They have been a time or two I felt I needed to if I caught a larger brown on a tailwater that has mostly rainbows and I wanted proof to show my buddies. I use a waterproof camera though. I have an Olympus Tough I use on the river so while I am fighting or getting close to netting the fish then I will throw the lanyard on and go ahead and turn the camera on before I net it. This takes most of the time away and it works pretty well. It just depends on how much time you take I guess.

  66. I say release as quick as possible. If it an exceptional fish then snap a quick picture of it next to your fly rod and let it go.

  67. I think if you’re set up already, take the photo. But if it’s gonna take you a few minutes to setup and take the photo, don’t bother and just let it go and enjoy the moment.

  68. No doubt you’re going to hurt the fish setting up a selfie in this manner. Get a go pro camera and set it to take still photos at 5 second increments along with the video. You will get a great fish shot with only having the fish out of water for a few seconds.

  69. I don’t think the photos in themselves are unethical – but the manner in which they are taken and for what purpose may be. As Dr. Sylvia Earle said, “You can’t save it until you love it.” While she was referring to the ocean biome, I believe it holds true to many aspects of nature and wildlife. If the photos help instill a love for our nation’s watersheds, perhaps the trauma experienced by some fish is a palatable trade off.

  70. Short answer is “no”.
    As long as you respect the sport and the fish; taking the occasional picture is fine. It sure is better than killing the fish to mount it.

    Fishermen from different era’s would laugh at our concern – as would any fisherman now who eats his catch.

  71. Take a self portrait with a fish is ok as long as the fish isn’t out of the water long. As we think of how to fish a section of the stream so we should think of where to land and set up our camera.

  72. I say no. If the fish is handelled carefully and the picture is taken quickly, I say no harm. Great brown trout in the pic!

  73. From the looks of this my sense is this isn’t this guys first rodeo. Over time I think one develops a feel for what a fish will and won’t tolerate. I get the purist will likely disagree, but as I face getting too old to walk in fast water, having a selfie, posed or not, might help the aging memory a bit.

  74. I don’t get the whole hero shot mentality. Who are you trying to impress and why? I’d say “to each their own”, except it is harming the resource. I believe in catch and release, not catch, take a photo and release.

  75. Hate hero shots. Love pictures of the fish. You can snap a pic of just the fish real quick without any necessary set up.

  76. I voted no. Have we really gone this crazy where you can’t have a fish sitting in a net for 30 seconds while you set up a shot? If am fishing solo and am expecting to take a picture, I can be ready in 15 seconds for a photo. In most instances I can be ready the shot, set the timer, take a picture, and release a fish quicker than if I was waiting on a buddy to take the picture. The fish would be in the net for a lesser amount of time, and back swimming freely quicker. That being said, most of my “selfie” shots come out of still I grab out of video footage. The scene is already set and the camera is already rolling at that point, and all I do is lift the fish out of the water for the camera to see, then let her swim. Done properly, it is completely ethical

  77. It’s not black and white, but the rule is very simple. Keep the well-being of the fish foremost in your mind. Remember, the fish was minding its own business when we intruded on it with a fly. Keep the fight short, take the picture if it flows quickly and smoothly; if things aren’t flowing, release it or break it off quickly. Catch-release-and die later seems less ethical than catching one modest fish, killing it quickly, and cooking it.

    Just be honest with yourself you work with that fish. That holds true when fishing or when I was an active fishery scientist for 30+ years.

  78. If you feel “hero shots” are unethical, then you might want to quit fishing all together and join PETA. Catching a fish is traumatic to the fish in general, hero shot or no hero shot. Yes, making the fish wait longer for you to set up is probably adding to the trauma. How much less trauma than if someone else was taking the picture? A couple of seconds … minutes? What’s the comparison? In either case there is set up time & wait time involved. The people who are against it assume your partner is all set up and ready to go with a hero shot lickety split. Not the case. Typically, your partner will also be fishing and will have to come in and set up a shot … waiting much longer than if you were to do it yourself. Go ahead and take the hero shot and forgo the PC BS. Or, if you feel that strongly, put the fish back and forgo the hero shot all together and come home with a helluva fish story!

  79. In these times we always have to think of the fish first and foremost if we are to leave anything for future generations. I cannot think of any circumstance where leaving a fish in a net for the 2-3 minutes it takes to set camera gear up is better for the fish than an immediate catch and release. Hero shots with a friend taking the picture can be in poor taste at the best of times, but causing unnecessary suffering can never be justified. Ask yourself why you fish – if it for the sheer enjoyment and memories or for a picture on the wall as a conversation point? I have a picture of each and every exceptional fish I’ve ever caught , but only in my head where they will remain till the day I die…. even if they do grow larger every day 🙂

  80. Just use common sense, if the fish is going to be overly stressed by your technique, don’t do it. No one wants to kill fish, that’s why we release them. But we all like our picture taken with a nice trout !

  81. While I never have taken a “selfie” (I have had to make sure I never fish alone….my health depends on it), I see no reason for others to learn how to quickly take a pic of themselves holding a terrific fish.

  82. While photos are great, if you can’t remember the fish without a photo you weren’t present enough in the moment. If you need to prove to someone else that you caught a beautiful fish, and words won’t suffice, you need better friends or to consider what your friends think of your credibility. Even “tough” fish should be handled as gently as possible, even if you ultimately harvest the fish. It shows the appropriate respect.

  83. I voted no and agree with a lot of the comments about taking a reasonably short amount of time to set up and take the shot.

  84. I said no because as long as it is done quickly and it won’t harm the fish it is okay. Have your stuff set up before you even start fishing. It will save time for you and the fish. Another thing I would suggest is getting an underwater camera such as a GoPro. These make so you don’t even have to take the fish out of the water!

    Just some thoughts,

  85. Although I’ve never done a selfie hero shot I have done my share of leftie shots. I suppose I would or wouldn’t agree with it depending on the conditions of both the environment and the fish itself. What is the water temperature, the air temperature, how well is the water running, does it look to be running well enough to provide oxygenated water for the fish’s revival, etc? How hard did the fish fight, how long did the fish fight, does the fish look healthy or emaciated, you know, the general condition of the fish? Then you’ve got to consider, has the shot been planned well enough in advance, have you got the right net to hold the fish to keep it healthy, how easily can your camera be set up to get the shot, how well are you acquainted with the camera to get a quick shot? Before I even attempted such a shot I would have rehearsed it over and over in my mind just like an accomplished athlete does before a competition, then I would ask myself, is the life of this fish really worth the shot?

  86. Voted no. I have a fishing log for my iPhone that includes two pics per entry. I only log the big catches individually, if I happen to pull 20 panfish I will log the 20 under a single catch with maybe one picture taken to be a visual aid when scrolling thru my log.

    If I land a nice steelie I will quickly put a tape to it and snap a pic of the fish and rod/reel for scale and a record of what gear I’m using. No selfies here, not an ethical issue though. I do enjoy the occasional pic of me and a great catch but I only take a pic if I have a fishing buddy with me.

    I do not believe this is unethical in any way. Now if it takes more than thirty seconds to document the fish you begin to enter the grey areas. If two minutes go by you’re definitely in the unethical zone.

  87. It’s one thing to have a discussion on fish handling ethics, but I don’t understand how some folks are so indignant in their comments. If it was really so black and white, I’m pretty sure stabbing a fish in the mouth with a hook would fall on the taboo side of the line.

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  89. I believe it is 100% okay to take a picture of a nice fish you just caught, so long as it is done quickly without harming the fish. In my opinion, there is nothing unethical about this practice.

  90. There are some of us that fish alone most of the time. Even if I have somebody with me they usually don’t know their way around the camera. And I am not talking those point and shot cameras that most people have. So the only way to take a picture is by myself. So me being a photographer I am always set up for the picture before I even catch a fish. And it’s quite easy. Camera is set up on the tripod with a composition that I like and only thing that I have to do is walk into the frame with the fish and press the wireless shuter release few times and then release the fish. 99% of the time I get great pictures. It’s all about being prepeared.

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