Editor’s Log: The Instagram Factor - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: The Instagram Factor

Swimming back to shore from a favorite rock, I was already reflecting on a very good night of striper fishing. Seven fish landed between 20 and 30 pounds with a few more dropped; catching them all on plugs that I designed and built, made it even sweeter. But as happy as I was, I also couldn’t help thinking about one particular incident. I landed a low 20-pound class fish and it took maybe an extra 30 seconds to unhook; I knelt on the rock and held her in the water until she kicked off. While replacing my leader, I caught a glint of white in the water. Switching to my bright light, I saw the fish I had just released, hanging belly up, about 5 feet down.

Luckily, she was slowly floating toward the surface and I was able to retrieve the fish and spend more time reviving her, she swam off again, but I will never know if she made a full recovery. The following morning, as I was scrolling through Instagram, it seemed that every pic I saw was a striped bass. In my head I found myself counting the hypothetical seconds it would take to, get the camera out, get a friend to stop fishing and walk over to take the photo, get into position, shoot the photo, etc. And I knew it was definitely more than an extra 30 seconds. We’re living in a time when it’s an accepted norm that nothing is more important than getting the shot, and that burden of “postable” proof even supersedes the fact that the fish needs dissolved oxygen to recover and survive.

I realize that I am just as guilty as the next person. My job requires that I have photos to accompany my writing. I will say that I pass over way more photo opportunities than the ones I take, but I won’t lie and say it’s because I’m always putting the release ahead of the photo, it’s usually because my fishing counterpart is too far away.

When I think about it, I often find myself wondering if the ‘Instagram Factor’ has played a part in the new release mortality calculations for striped bass. And those thoughts are only reinforced by what I see regarding how these photo-centric fishermen seem to have no inner clock when it’s time to prove that they caught something.

We are also at an interesting juncture in striper fishing, some might even call it a crucial moment. With several consecutive years of meager spawning results stacked behind us, the robust year classes we’re fishing on now should be very important to anyone that loves to fish for stripers. I’m not just saying this because these fish are of prime breeding ages. They also represent what could be some of the best fishing for trophy class linesiders that we’re likely to see in our lifetimes.

For example, the 2011 year class was one of the highest on record and we’re enjoying their presence now in the form of the 39- to 42-inch fish we’re seeing this year that weigh somewhere between 20 and 30 pounds. These fish are 13 years old and, if they are allowed to thrive, in just 2 to 3 years we’ll have a strong class of 45- to 47-inch stripers to fish for and photograph. We’re also seeing a good run of very large fish this year, presumably from the strong run of year classes between 2003 and 2005 and maybe a few surviving dinosaurs from the towering 2001 class. For the next seven-plus seasons, your chances of hooking a 50-pounder will only get better. But during that same spell, schoolies and fish up to 35 inches will become harder to catch, unless we see a sharp turnaround in the spawning results.

With these larger fish being barred from harvest, I feel like there’s a high probability that we will see these amazing opportunities for giant striped bass continuing and getting better through the end of the 2020’s. But, it will only happen if recreational anglers can get their priorities straight and put the survival of the fish ahead of their glory scroll aspirations. A caught fish is only ‘yours’ for a few minutes and the odds are high that the only reason you caught that fish in the first place is because someone else prioritized it’s safe release. Unless you plan to harvest that fish for the table, it’s your responsibility as an angler to do the same.

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