Every so often, an idea rises out of the ether (or puddle of spilled beer) that hits home in an incomparable way. Heartstrings are plucked and the ghost of Chris Farley sings from on high. Fish Need Water was such an idea.
Returning home from Argentina last winter, Tim was troubled. He had seen friends – all experienced, talented anglers – handle a fish intended for release like its bucket had already been kicked. Passed between anglers for the “obligatory” hero shot, the spring creek brown was clearly in distress before being returned to its natal stream. Nobody knows if the fish survived the ordeal, but the experience spawned something much larger: Fish Need Water.
In its infancy, the initiative is a pledge to handle caught fish with respect and educate anglers about proper handling techniques. Short fights, wet hands, wet gills – always. For the past several months, we’ve only been posting and publicizing photos of fish in the water regardless of species, location, or angler. Photos of fish above water posted in the past remain because we’re far from perfect. This is our way of showing our commitment to sport fish health while acknowledging that questionable fish handling practices aren’t usually used out of malice. We’re human. We’re fickle. We love fishing and photos of the fish we catch. The goal of FNW isn’t to further divide fishing culture into bleeding hearts and careless monsters – fishing is divisive enough. We just want to spread the word that caring for the fish we catch is both simple and impactful, especially in times of lean, warm water.
As water temperatures increase, available dissolved oxygen levels decrease, making it harder for caught fish to recover. Combine that with prolonged air exposure and the odds of survival drop dramatically. In an oft-cited study, rainbow trout post-catch survival rates dropped from 88% for fish allowed to remain subsurface to 62% for fish exposed to air for 30 seconds. Sixty seconds of exposure saw survival rates plummet to 28%. Air exposure effects each species in a different way and the impact can be variable depending on environmental conditions, but every person can agree that fish do much better in the water.
We’re asking that everybody with skin in the game – that means you – to take a second and consider how fishing impacts their life. We’d be willing to bet that the impact is pretty significant. As we see it, the best way to keep catching fish is to take care of the fish we catch. Whether you’re from the granola set or side more with Lee Wulff (“A good game fish is too valuable to be caught only once”), we all want to see fish prosper. Help us keep sport fishing strong by pledging to keep those gills wet and tagging your photos with #fishneedwater. A photo of a fish in the water is something to be proud of! Together, we can shift fishing culture and support the real heroes: fish.
Fish Need Water apparel will be available through H&H Outfitters, the proceeds of which will be donated to a rotating fisheries conservation organization. We’re not doing this to make money, we’re doing it for the future of our fisheries. If you have any questions about the initiative, please contact our Conservation Program Manager, Tyler Allen (Tyler@RajeffSports.com).