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Fish Friendly Photos

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GoPro cameras are fantastic when it comes to documenting the fish you catch as they're capable of shooting really high quality video, both above and below the surface of the water. With some careful editing, you can even use them to put together short video stories.

But, many people who get GoPros quickly realize that storing and editing video is not quite as easy as it looks and abandon their GoPros in favor of shooting stills with a point-n-shoot or a smart phone. What they fail to realize is even older GoPro models are able to shoot high quality stills and can be set up to do so in a very fish-friendly manner.

Here, I’m going to change the settings on my GoPro Hero 3 White, so rather than shooting video, it will shoot still photos automatically at a given time interval, in “interval record” mode. It’s the icon with the clock and the camera. The interval can be set over a wide range of times, but I’ve found a 1/2 second or a 1 second interval between shots works best. I also like the camera to turn on and start recording with a single button push. So, I’ll set the “one button recording” feature to “on”. It also stops recording and powers down the camera when the button is pushed a second time. And that’s all the camera set-up you need to do.

The mounting options for GoPros are staggering. But here’s a simple solution that’s really cheap and works exceptionally well for fly fishing. All of my GoPros came with a plate and a mount that looks like this, as part of their packaging. If you drill 1/4” holes in each of its 4 corners, you can then use cable ties to connect the plate to a fly fishing lanyard. Then you use a GoPro “J” shaped mount to attach the camera to the plate. Once together, the camera is held very securely, is easy to operate and provides a great angle from which to shoot still photos of your quarry. Most lanyards have a clip at the bottom allowing you to secure it to your waders to stabilize the rig.

For you Confluence pack owners, the top loop on the front pocket does a remarkable job of holding a GoPro in a very similar manner but with a straight clip mount, the J shaped won’t work. The camera will point down a little bit but that’s what you want anyway. These are the kind of shots you can get with the camera mounted on your chest using either the lanyard or the Confluence pack.

My favorite way to mount a GoPro, however, is on my landing net. Adhere one of the adhesive backed flat mounts to the throat of the net and then slip a J mount and the attached GoPro into position so the camera points to the net’s opening. I made a short, little tether for mine so even if one of the mounts breaks or comes unglued, I won’t lose the camera. On the stream, the set-up looks like this.

Just prior to landing a fish, use the one-button push to power on the camera and start it recording stills at the given time interval. Flip it up so it points roughly to the front rim of the net. Then, land the fish as you normally would. While keeping the net low, and the fish submerged, aim the camera down into the net to get a few shots. This is also the time when you want to remove the hook from the fish’s mouth. As always, do it as gently and as expeditiously as possible. When you’re ready to release the fish, tilt the camera back to about 45 degrees and, while lightly cradling the fish in your hand, raise it up as you lower the net beneath it. The camera will be taking shots throughout the process. You can then drop the camera and net down into the water and get a few more shots as the fish is released.

All this is done within the normal process of landing, unhooking and releasing the fish and the shots you can get along the way are pretty unique. This, is right after the fish has been landed and this, is when the fish has been raised out of the water for a scant second or two. Some of my favorite shots come when the fish is just being lowered into the water, kind of half in, half out. I also really like the underwater shots just prior to the fish swimming away. In reality, the whole procedure happens rather quickly. You just press one button to turn the camera on, point it roughly in the right direction, then let it do all the work. No focusing, no framing, no trying to hold the camera steady. Once the fish has been released, make sure to hit the button one more time to stop recording and power down the camera.

When you get home and look at what’s on the memory card, you’ll be amazed at how many images were shot, even if you’re using 1 second intervals. It does take some time to go through all the images and pick out the ones that look interesting. But you’ll find, with just a little bit of cropping and photo processing, you can end up with some really nice and unique photos of your catch. You can also sleep well knowing the fish you caught have been handled gently, kept out of water for a minimum amount of time and have been released as quickly as possible.

Believe it or not, with the GoPro and net rig you can even get some selfie type, grip and grin shots if that’s what you’re into. Just start the camera recording, squat down in the water, grip the hoop of the net between your knees and direct the camera at an upwards angle towards the fish and your face. Lift the fish up out of the water while the GoPro automatically takes shots. If the fish decides to squirm away, often times it will land right back into the net. This is not a high percentage shot and stands a good chance of being ruined because of the subject, in other words you.

One little thing you may notice is fish have a nasty habit of splashing water onto camera lenses so it’s a good idea to carry a lens cloth to wipe off droplets which can really mess up an image.

So, if you’re tired of the iFish shot and, like me, can’t stand anything that looks like this, maybe it’s time to give your GoPro another shot.