Is Facebook Killing Trout?

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Dave B.
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Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by Dave B. » Mon Mar 30, 2020 11:43 pm

Here's an article written by a young woman named Shannon White. She's a grad student at Penn State majoring in freshwater biology and specifically focusing on wild/native brook trout. She has led and/or participated in some major studies on Pa's native brookie waters with a strong focus on the Loyalsock watershed. You can find her blogs along with some very interesting articles and studies at 'www.thetroutlook.com' website. BTW, the photo she mentions at the outset didn't transfer over to this posting, sorry. The article...

Is Facebook Killing Trout?

2/20/2020

3 Comments

Picturing a case of "do as I say, not as I do," here I am taking a photo of a memorable-sized brown trout. Notably, that bucket is full of water, though.
We’re all guilty. Maybe you’ve just caught a huge fish, are fishing a new spot and catching a cool new species, or perhaps your son or daughter just caught the first fish of their life. Regardless of the occasion, what’s one of the first things a lot of us do? We reach into our wader pockets and grab our phones to document the occasion with a few well-staged photos and share them to Facebook, Twitter, etc.
It seems innocent enough. After all, you probably used the best barbless tackle, took all the proper handling precautions, and snapped the photo as fast as possible. And, you watched as the fish swam off. No harm done, right?

Actually, you might be surprised to learn that a recent study found that up to a 1/3 of all fish photographed by anglers died within the next day.

I personally found that number a little startling but, let’s take a deep breath before we jump to conclusions. We have to recognize that the mortality rate is obviously going to depend a lot on angling method, photography method, time of year, etc. So, let me set the stage a little. The researchers were targeting a lake-dwelling population of bull trout, where water temperatures were about 56°F. So, not overly warm, and surely not as thermally stressful as a lot of trout streams we fish in summer. Tackle included barbless hooks, and fish were landed as soon as possible. In other words, the angling conditions were basically ideal.

On one day all fish that were caught and were of “memorable” size were photographed twice, measured for length, and then photographed twice again (more on what I mean by “memorable” below). This behavior sounds a bit bizarre, but other studies have shown it’s typical angler behavior after catching a big fish- they call their buddy over to snap a photo, measure the fish’s length, and then usually take photos of the fish being held by their fishing partner. All in all, the time from the fish being caught to released was less than two minutes. Two minutes sounds like a long time but, again, studies have shown that it’s generally about the length of time most people hold a fish before its released, and I guarantee you the clock ticks a little faster with your adrenaline rushing. And, if you really want to argue, other studies have shown negative effects of air exposure after only 10 seconds. Good luck fumbling to get your $800 phone in the middle of the stream in less than 10 seconds.

So, that was day one. On day two the researchers did the same procedure. Only this time any memorable-sized fish were immediately released. Importantly, in both instances fish were released into a holding pen. Then, 24 hours later, the number of dead fish in each pen was counted.

The result? In the group of photographed fish 10 of 30 (33%) died. In the fish that were immediately released, 3 of 20 (15%) died. What this tells us is that, even for the most experienced anglers working in some of the best fishing conditions, there is mortality associated with catch-and-release fishing. This is important because we assume that catch-and-release protects a fishery, and it does to a large extent. But, there is a category of mortality, known as cryptic mortality, that is difficult to account for and includes things like death from injury, illegal harvest, and prolonged handling. While mortality from harvest and injury is near 100%, it’s not a common outcome for most fish. However, many fish experience prolonged air exposure and, though mortality from air exposure is not 100%, it adds up to eventually account for a significant proportion of deaths in a fishery. And, access to more portable cameras (i.e., smartphones) and increased social medial influence may increase the likelihood that fish are exposed to air for longer durations.

Of course, we have to consider these numbers with a bit of caution. Fish weren’t released back into the lake, but rather into confined pens. This could have increased stress, and thus artificially increased mortality rates. But, the researchers noted that most deaths occurred almost immediately upon release. And, the pens had pretty nice accommodations. If anything the physiological responses to prolonged air exposure (reduced swimming ability, increased thermal stress, etc.) may actually have less effect for fish that are released into a protective pen, in which case the study may underestimate mortality associated with photography. In fact, after the study was over, the researchers released the fish back into the lake and found that two fish that were technically alive sat next to the pen for over four hours, appearing to be weak and near death. So, arguably, you could say that 40% of photographed fish died during this study.
Another important point is that this study was conducted on a fairly remote lake, and so the fish had only been caught the one time. In reality, fish that survive one landing are likely to be repetitively caught in a catch-and-release fishery. Every time that fish is caught and handled there, the probability of it later dying is going to increase. And, potentially, the effect of previous handling could make a fish more susceptible to prolonged air exposure in a later catch.

Now, I want to return to the fact that this study also focused only on memorable-sized fish. In fisheries science, “memorable” is a technical definition that means exactly what you would think- a fish that is large enough to be remembered. But, for the purposes of this study, memorable also means a fish that is larger than you would normally catch, and so the chances of dropping the fish or awkwardly handling it are higher. Subsequent review of the photographs showed that most fish were covered in mud, indicating they were either dropped in the process of taking the photo or there was increased struggle trying to land the fish. The focus on large fish may seem a bit biased but, think about it, do you bother taking a photo of many of the smaller fish you catch? Probably not. Plus, understanding delayed mortality of larger fish is potentially more important as the larger fish are likely those that will produce the most offspring, may have different movement behavior than smaller individuals, or may have unique genetic diversity.

So, how do we possibly prevent photograph-induced mortality. Some states, such as Washington, have made it illegal to totally remove some species from the water if you are going to release it back into the stream/lake. So, basically, the only way to take a photograph with a salmon, steelhead, or bull trout in Washington is if you are also taking it home to fry. Is this a reasonable practice? Maybe, but it’s difficult to enforce. Ultimately the best way to decrease mortality from prolonged air exposure is by influencing individual angler conduct. In other words, we need to self-enforce best angling practices that minimize fish air exposure. This is particularly critical in summer, and in streams/rivers with flow, as these conditions are going to maximize post-release mortality.

So, maybe think twice before you click the “Like” button on a picture of your friend standing on a boat or streamside with their prized catch.

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Twism86
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Re: Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by Twism86 » Tue Mar 31, 2020 9:04 am

Interesting read but its the same one I have read dozens of times over from different authors and researchers. People have been taking pictures of their fish and boasting about it long before Facebook had an impact. Forums like this used to be flooded with topics and pictures during prime trout season! Much of that activity has moved to Facebook now but existed just as much before it.

Fishing kills trout. Catch and release fishing kills trout.

Its a plain and simple fact. Even the most cautious and careful handling when releasing a fish will induce some chance of mortality. If that bothers you, dont fish. I think we can all do a better job handling fish and taking a few less pictures but I dont think it ever needs to stop. The truth is, we all like seeing pictures a nice or hard earned catch. That trophy picture you post or show your friends might just convince a few others to go fishing, and then get involved with TU, etc. We all like to look back on great fish we have caught and we all know the risk of mortality is there and need to accept it. Do what you can minimize it but never stop making memories.

Tom
"Stupidity is scary but genius can be frightening.
Genius built the atom bomb. Genius topples nations."

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Rusty Spinner
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Re: Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by Rusty Spinner » Wed Apr 01, 2020 8:45 am

If a full 1/3 of trout photographed died, private water clubs like Shannon's would see all their fish lost in a week's time. The members are required strictly C&R, but many members stop briefly to take a photo. And all the fish are caught multiple times, so this study doesn't in any way demonstrate what I have seen with my own eyes. Think of all the big, wild browns in the upper D and what would happen if a third of them died after a photograph. You'd be watching dead fish float past every few minutes on good hatch days. And that just isn't happening.
"A sinking fly is closer to Hell" - Unknown

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BiggerThomas
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Re: Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by BiggerThomas » Wed Apr 01, 2020 10:03 am

Is there a saying that "Sensationalism is the mother of Activism"? If not, there should be.
Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
___________________________
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Fishybig
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Re: Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by Fishybig » Thu Apr 02, 2020 8:37 am

It sounds like the study is based on still water trout mortality, which means absolutely nothing when compared to moving water situations....I guess the best that can be takin from that article is, less fish handling and keep em wet....the only way to drop mortality to 0 is to stop fishing and that just ain't happening

garden hackle
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Re: Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by garden hackle » Thu Apr 02, 2020 9:25 am

I long distance release most of my trout

Dave B.
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Re: Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by Dave B. » Fri Apr 03, 2020 1:17 am

First off let me clear up that I had nothing to do with the article, just thought it and some of the other pieces on the included website would be interesting.

That aside, I agree that most members on here would cause far less post angling mortality than this piece would indicate, based mainly on how well we all know how to handle the fish. However I'm sure we've all seen countless acts of gross mishandling, whether caused by a lack of knowledge or caring, the root cause varies.

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the royal coachman
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Re: Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by the royal coachman » Mon Apr 06, 2020 6:56 am

It amazes me that with all the information available to the angler I still see regularly on social media pictures of fish I know have a very slim chance of survival. I used to try and politely comment on it but it is almost always taken the wrong way. Thankfully, most of the Trout pics we see around here are stocked fish so who cares? Hardly any of those stocked fish will last a year. Don't believe me? Ask yourself, once the state started stocking only Rainbows, how man Brookies or Browns did you catch? That being said if you want to practice catch and release and give the fish the best chance of survival, check out this site https://www.keepemwet.org/
I fish because the voices in my head tell me to.

garden hackle
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Re: Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by garden hackle » Mon Apr 06, 2020 9:06 am

The average angler will kill a lot of trout, if not destined for the freezer, then sometime after their hero shot. Most people do not know and as some polite comments are taken the wrong way, maybe it is best to invite them to forums like GST or ask them to join a TU chapter. Through indirect learning about how to release a trout from regular members, they themselves will become a better angler and conservationist.

Thanks for the link, Tim

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Twism86
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Re: Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by Twism86 » Tue Apr 07, 2020 9:43 am

the royal coachman wrote:
Mon Apr 06, 2020 6:56 am
It amazes me that with all the information available to the angler I still see regularly on social media pictures of fish I know have a very slim chance of survival. I used to try and politely comment on it but it is almost always taken the wrong way. Thankfully, most of the Trout pics we see around here are stocked fish so who cares? Hardly any of those stocked fish will last a year. Don't believe me? Ask yourself, once the state started stocking only Rainbows, how man Brookies or Browns did you catch? That being said if you want to practice catch and release and give the fish the best chance of survival, check out this site https://www.keepemwet.org/
"Stockies are like Doritos, they will always make more!"

I dont cry over dead stockies, especially in water they cant hold over in.
"Stupidity is scary but genius can be frightening.
Genius built the atom bomb. Genius topples nations."

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lightenup
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Re: Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by lightenup » Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:35 pm

Twism86 wrote:
Tue Mar 31, 2020 9:04 am
Interesting read but its the same one I have read dozens of times over from different authors and researchers. People have been taking pictures of their fish and boasting about it long before Facebook had an impact. Forums like this used to be flooded with topics and pictures during prime trout season! Much of that activity has moved to Facebook now but existed just as much before it.

Fishing kills trout. Catch and release fishing kills trout.

Its a plain and simple fact. Even the most cautious and careful handling when releasing a fish will induce some chance of mortality. If that bothers you, dont fish. I think we can all do a better job handling fish and taking a few less pictures but I dont think it ever needs to stop. The truth is, we all like seeing pictures a nice or hard earned catch. That trophy picture you post or show your friends might just convince a few others to go fishing, and then get involved with TU, etc. We all like to look back on great fish we have caught and we all know the risk of mortality is there and need to accept it. Do what you can minimize it but never stop making memories.

Tom
I don't think they flattened the barbs properly. :roll: ;)

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Twism86
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Re: Is Facebook Killing Trout?

Post by Twism86 » Tue Jun 09, 2020 2:11 pm

lightenup wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:35 pm
Twism86 wrote:
Tue Mar 31, 2020 9:04 am
Interesting read but its the same one I have read dozens of times over from different authors and researchers. People have been taking pictures of their fish and boasting about it long before Facebook had an impact. Forums like this used to be flooded with topics and pictures during prime trout season! Much of that activity has moved to Facebook now but existed just as much before it.

Fishing kills trout. Catch and release fishing kills trout.

Its a plain and simple fact. Even the most cautious and careful handling when releasing a fish will induce some chance of mortality. If that bothers you, dont fish. I think we can all do a better job handling fish and taking a few less pictures but I dont think it ever needs to stop. The truth is, we all like seeing pictures a nice or hard earned catch. That trophy picture you post or show your friends might just convince a few others to go fishing, and then get involved with TU, etc. We all like to look back on great fish we have caught and we all know the risk of mortality is there and need to accept it. Do what you can minimize it but never stop making memories.

Tom
I don't think they flattened the barbs properly. :roll: ;)
Jeez I cant catch a break! LOL
"Stupidity is scary but genius can be frightening.
Genius built the atom bomb. Genius topples nations."

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