Catch, shoot and release is a great way to enjoy the beach and bring memories home. But what may be more important is the information captured by an image and how it can help make you a better surf fisherman.

Every year, at least a month in advance, I review my photographs for the upcoming “fishing month”. Examining photographs from previous years gives me a good idea of ​​what’s to come this month. I can see what date fish were caught, weather conditions, tides, moon phase, best baits, crowds and much more… right from a photo!

I can guarantee you that by reviewing the catches of the previous year, you will be able to employ the techniques that worked then, to be a more successful angler now. Here are some tips for shooting and releasing your catch.

The camera

Phone camera technology has improved exponentially over the past decade. With high-resolution sensors, multiple lenses to choose from, and an impressive amount of customization and controls, almost any modern smartphone can take great photos. Every photographer will tell you that it’s not the equipment that makes a great shot, it’s the person behind the camera. However, if you want to upgrade your camera gear from a smartphone, that’s what I would look for. If a smartphone works for you, skip the next three paragraphs and start again. Tips and tricks.

It’s not the equipment that makes a great photo, it’s the person behind the camera.

The best value for money will be an APS-C (Advanced Photo System Type-C) camera. This type of sensor allows for high-quality images with plenty of detail without the intimidating price of a full-frame camera. The following options will determine the price and capabilities of your potential camera. The cheapest will likely be a “point and shoot” DSLR starting at ~$300 and the most expensive will be a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera over $1000.

Nikon Z50 APS-C Mirrorless Camera (MSRP: from $859.95)

APS-C cameras are available in both DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) and mirrorless (more modern and more expensive) configurations. Another distinction will be made between a “point and shoot” type camera (the lens is not removable) and an interchangeable lens camera. Your choices between these options depend on budget and desired capabilities. If you want a cheap camera that you don’t have to worry about and don’t want to learn the ins and outs of lenses and settings, consider a “point and shoot” DSLR. On the other hand, if you want to learn how to use different lenses and understand how different focal lengths and apertures influence a photo, look at a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera or DSLR.

When it comes to brands and recommendations, Nikon, Sony, and Canon all make great products that won’t disappoint. Nikon has long been considered the leader in very high quality lenses for film and DSLRs. However, now in the world of mirrorless cameras, Sony is the new forerunner. The camera I started with was a Nikon D7000 (passed down to me from my dad). After that, I left with a Nikon Z50 and now I shoot with a Sony A7 IV.

Tips and tricks

Here are some tips that will apply to everything from a basic smartphone to a pro-grade camera that will dramatically improve your fishing photos.

Make sure your camera is ready the day before you use it. It seems almost too simple to even mention…but it’s so important. Make sure your batteries are charged and ready for multiple uses. Take the time to carefully wipe down your lens and make sure every smudge has been removed from the lens glass. Test your camera to make sure it takes pictures and exposure etc. is correctly set.

Understand the subject of your photo. In almost all cases, the fish will be the main subject of your photo. With that in mind, make sure all the fish are in the picture with room around them so they aren’t close to the edge. One of the fastest ways to ruin a fishing photo is to have half of the fish’s tail out of frame.

One of the fastest ways to ruin a fishing photo is to have half of the fish’s tail out of frame.

Composition is the key to success in photography. So, let’s talk about secret spots first. If you take a picture of your friend with a nice fish, you know that if you point out where the spot where you caught the fish was, when you come back the next day, the beach will be full of internet poachers. To avoid this, try these two techniques: First, as the photographer, kneel down and take your shot towards your subject. This will ensure that your background is the sky. A second technique for keeping your location a secret is to bring your subjects back to the rising sand of the water and use the sand as a background. These techniques work great for masking your stain and don’t require photo software that makes your photo look like a Salvador Dali painting.

So now that we know how to keep your “secret place” a secret, let’s work on making your subject stand out to your viewers. Fish that are sandy or covered in blood make for poor photos. Not so long ago, a friend sent a Christmas card with a picture of a huge, very bloody salmon they had caught. A non-fisherman who saw the card mentioned, “Who wants to look at a dead fish!” And they were right. Keep your fish clean and alive and you’ll have a lot more people enjoying the picture.

Enhance your subject with a few essential techniques. Make sure the fish is clean. Smartphones and cameras have software to ensure that human faces in photos are in focus. Replace this with a simple tap of the screen on the fish or by selecting the appropriate focus area in the camera. Always make sure you have the sun in your subject’s face with the photographer’s back to the sunlight. However, be aware of your shadow as a photographer and be sure not to cast a shadow on the fish or angler. Use your flash to enhance the subject and bring out the colors of the fish, even during the day. This technique is especially important in low light situations (sunrise and sunset) and will enhance the soft light that makes many photographs memorable.

Finally, present your catch (unless it’s a huge fish you can’t lift) horizontally. In other words, hold the fish in front of you using both hands so that the fish is horizontal rather than vertical in the image.

Catch and release

With great photography also comes great responsibility. Wouldn’t you like to catch more and more fish every time you go to the beach? Well, the best way to ensure that is to practice catch and release. Now don’t get me wrong…feel free to keep fish to make these delicious tacos, but be sure to release the ones you don’t keep so they can spawn and become your next big catch.

To release fish safely, here are some tips:

• Wet your hands before touching the fish.

• Avoid grabbing and handling the body of the fish.

• Do not handle your fish by wrapping them in a towel.

• Avoid dropping fish on the ground, on rocks or on a dock.

• If possible, keep the fish in the water while you remove the hook.

• Carefully return the fish to the water.

• Move the fish forward and backward through the water to force water through its gills.

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