Editor’s Log: Striper Shots - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Striper Shots

In light of the recent emergency change to the striper regs instated by ASMFC on May 2, The Fisherman would like to ask you, our readers, to hold yourselves to a higher standard with your photos of striped bass that will be released. Stripers are one of the most popular species we cover and most of our readers target striped bass at least a few times per year, while others may target them almost exclusively. Stripers also comprise a large percentage of the photos we receive from readers and fans and it’s important to us that we are setting the best example during this rebuilding period.

With just 3 inches to work with, as far as a legal ‘keeper’ striped bass is concerned, a very high percentage of the striped bass caught in 2023 will fall outside the 28- to 31-inch slot limit and will have to be released. This includes schoolies and heavyweight trophies, including your personal best, if you’re lucky enough to land it.

But, we live in a time when everyone carries a sophisticated camera in his or her pocket, in the form of a smart phone. Several of the covers you have seen on this magazine were taken with an iPhone or Android, these phones provide opportunity that wasn’t possible just 10 years ago, high resolution, high definition photos that very often are, magazine quality, shot with something that lives in your pocket, nearly all the time.

A big buzzword in the wild world of striped bass regulation is “release mortality” and the more we can do to ensure quick and safe release, the lower this number will be and the better off the striper stocks will be as a result. There are lots of things we can do to reduce release mortality and our own personal toll on the biomass, but with regard to taking photos, there are a few things that I’m sure we can all do better.

For starters, you should be ready to shoot your photos before making your first cast. This means knowing where your phone or camera is, making sure it’s set up properly so you’re not having to futz with the settings while your subject holds his/her fish up out of the water and also taking the time to ‘pre-compose’ your shot, thinking about where the sun is, what your background will be and purposely not capturing a bloody bait station or cooler full of half-eaten sandwiches behind your subject.

All this leads directly to doing things swiftly. If you already know where you want to take the shot and your equipment is ready to go, it shaves precious seconds or even minutes off your time score. Have the angler keep the fish in the water until you’re ready to shoot. Try taking a shot of the angler lifting the fish out of the water. All fish look best when they’re lit up and glistening wet, so take your photos quickly after removing the fish from the water. Release shots are some of our favorite photos to publish and having the fish in the water affords you a little more time to get creative.

Release shots tend to look best when they feature fish instead of the angler, so get your camera close to the fish and try to capture that moment right before the release. Photos that convey action are also engaging to look at, capturing that exact moment when the fish kicks out of the angler’s grasp can make for spectacular photo when everything goes right. (A word to the wise, adding a wrist strap to your phone case is a smart idea that might save you from a slippery-fingers moment and bidding farewell to years of family memories—trust me I lost all my daughters 0 to 2 year old photos while shooting a release shot in the Canal).

The last, and perhaps most important thing to consider, is your fish handling. Science has proven that hanging striped bass, especially large striped bass vertically can cause irreparable internal damage. These fish spend their entire lives swimming in a horizontal position in the water where the effects of gravity are drastically reduced. When taken out of the water, gravity can put a ton of pressure on these fish in places and ways that their bodies just aren’t equipped to withstand. Hold the fish horizontal with one wet hand on the jaw and the other supporting the belly of the fish to limit accidental internal damage. If we do all these things and hold ourselves to a standard of performing the act of recording our fishing memories swiftly it will go a long way toward helping reduce release mortality and the recovery of the striper stocks.

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