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Ask a conservation officer: Photos allowed for fish caught out of season

Q: When I catch a fish for which there’s no current open season, is it OK to take a photo of it before I release it?

 A: Yes. State statute requires a fish that cannot be legally taken to be “immediately returned to the water.” However, in recent years, the legislature changed the definition of “immediately returned” to allow for a quick photo before release. This does not mean that the fish can be placed in a live well or on a stringer for a later photo, but can be held out of the water for a reasonable amount of time, immediately after being landed, to get a photo or measure the fish before releasing it.

In the interest of the health of the fish, follow these practices. Wet your hands before handling the fish to help protect its layer of “fish slime.” Hold large or heavy fish horizontally and support their midsection to protect their internal organs. Don’t over-extend the jaw on largemouth or smallmouth bass if holding them by the lower lip, and hold a fish upright in the water before releasing it to make sure it is reoriented to its position.

Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota Conservation Officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit.

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