This month I have been inspired to return to my previous HookPoint article, Perception Of Angling. 

Over recent weeks I’ve become increasingly aware of just how important a wholesome portrayal of sea angling is to our cause and how an unwholesome image could literally sign our death warrant. Good old social media is once again at the forefront of things and it certainly seems to be the place where any given message, good or bad, is likely to reach the general public. And it seems we are still getting it very wrong at times.

My biggest issue is that those anglers using platforms such as Facebook to promote their fishing related activities often seem totally unaware of the potential fall out off the back of their postings.

There’s nothing whatsoever wrong about wanting to post catches and discuss different aspects of the sport we love, but I just wish that those who choose to do so would have a little foresight at times. 

With a smart phone equipped with a camera, it goes without saying that it’s a natural reaction when landing a special fish to want to get a picture and show it off. But what exactly does that picture say to those who view it? As anglers I feel we have a certain responsibility to capture that moment in a way that portrays us in a good light and some of the images I have seen across social media in recent times are questionable at best. And this is even before we consider the ‘writing’ placed alongside the image. It’s probably not for me to preach and in years gone by I was a willing participant in some not so great photos, but I would like to think that in 2019 we are all that little bit sharper when it comes to considering the impact of what we choose to post. 

Entirely from an image perspective, I would make the following suggestions-

  1. If a fish is bleeding badly (it happens from time to time, we all recognise this) try and clean it before taking a picture. A fish dripping with blood looks awful and gives the impression that it could have been badly handled and shown little respect. The same goes for mud, grit or anything else it may have come in to contact with. A clean, shiny fresh looking fish is a good looking one.
  2. Consider how the fish is being held. It amazes me when so many fish are pictured online how a captor can still get this so horrifically wrong. If the fish is supported correctly and looks healthy, there’s nothing to suggest that it has been kept for the table or subjected to any undue stress prior to it’s release. Hanging fish such as smoothounds from the hook of a set of scales looks simply barbaric and suggests that the fish could have met a sorry end.
  3.  Look at your surroundings prior to snapping away. If there is litter around your location, pick it up and place it in a bag to take away with you. Even if it’s not yours, empty beer cans and crisp packets randomly scattered in your ‘swim’ could suggest that you have littered the area or are equally happy to fish in amongst it all. Either way, not a good backdrop to a catch shot and not a good image for angling and anglers.
  4.  You may have landed a dozen sizeable codling and have decided to keep each one for the pot. That’s entirely up to you as the captor, but is it really necessary to post a picture of each one lined up on the rocks? Those looking in with an agenda could deem this to be excessive, or even regard such a sight as a massacre. Definitely not a great image for us, I’m sure you will agree. Equally, is there really any need for kitchen and back garden shots? In the past I have been guilty, but with modern cameras in our pockets, an image captured on the shore is a far more appealing one and doesn’t immediately point to the fish being retained in the same way that the kitchen or garden shot does. 

As I say, it’s not for me to dictate to anyone how they should conducts themselves, but choosing to follow these pointers should be in the interests of each and every angler who wants to be able to continue to fish from the coast without interference from an increasing number of conservation groups and possibly even one day, the authorities. 

If that is images covered, the next thing to consider is what to actually say about your capture. 

Everyone is different and I’m not for one second implying that one size fits all, but if there’s any chance that those words could be misconstrued or send out a negative impression on a catch or its circumstances, we really need to consider this too. 

One of the biggest recurring themes seems to be the importance of whether or not a fish was retained. Take for example the capture of a double figure bass. If the picture is clean and the fish looks in good shape, theres little reason for anyone to suggest that it was not returned to the sea. In this instance, less is probably more and a few lines mentioning its weight and perhaps the bait that it took, would suffice. There’s little need to say whether it was retained or released – let the viewer draw their own conclusion. If the fish looks in poor health, is bleeding heavily or generally not looking in great shape, to then post that it was released is bound to raise a few questions. 

But it’s not just catch report photo’s that can stir the pot, any controversial subjects that come to the fore should be handled with care when it comes to a response. We all have an opinion on different subjects and we’ve all seen things that make our blood pressure rise. But what is the likely outcome of letting rip and becoming argumentative in a debate? It’s highly probable that such a debacle will attract attention from those outside of the angling circle who don’t have our best interests at heart and for them to see in-house bickering makes the suggestion that we may not have our house in order. Healthy debate is a fine thing, but always consider exactly how your opinion might be perceived by those reading it. If in any doubt, it’s probably better not to post at all.

Likewise, reckless comments along the lines of putting a lead through the hull of a commercial vessel working closely to the shore (perfectly legally, frustrating though it is) are a big no, as are those regarding dogs let off their leads that then become nuisances to anglers. 

Above all else, think smart, post smarter and consider the implications of what you wish to say, how it might be perceived and ultimately, how it portrays you as a representative of anglers everywhere. 

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