[by Joshua Bergan]
In 2010, Boise angler, photographer, and videographer Bryan Huskey found himself dismayed by social media pictures depicting an angler’s quarry lying on dry grass or the floor of a boat, despite the threats to the animal’s health and survival. He wanted to find a way to encourage fishermen to quickly capture, handle, and recover released fish safely, so he started hashtagging his social media photos with #keepemwet to promote best handling practices when catch-and-release fishing.
The now ubiquitous hashtag has become a movement that’s inspiring masses to treat fish with more care. It was a true grassroots campaign, started by an angler, that spread through his friends, and ultimately dispersed into mainstream fishing culture. Find out more about the movement at www.keepemwetfishing.org.
Does the “keep ’em wet” idea extend to all fish species, including saltwater and warmwater fish?
Our message is simple: “If you’re gonna let ’em go, might as well keep ’em wet!” There’s no reason this would not apply to fish of any kind, given they’re not targeted for harvest or removal. That said, research confirms that many variables like water temperature and fish species also play roles in a fish’s chances for survival after being caught, as many coldwater species face an elevated risk of mortality. It’s also worth noting that in no way do we oppose catch-and-keep fishing.
Does Keepemwet Fishing identify specific guidelines for anglers to follow?
Yes, we try to reinforce three basic principles:
1. Eliminate a fish’s exposure to dry surfaces.
2. Reduce the amount of time a fish is exposed to air.
3. Reduce the amount of time and extent to which you handle a fish.
Did you predict #keepemwet would become so popular?
No way! It’s incredible to realize the attention that has come from a simple effort to come up with a hashtag that promoted stewardship. I think there was fertile ground within the sport of fly fishing for a movement like this. There are so many other anglers out there experiencing some level of frustration with the abundance of camera phones photographing fish to fuel online content—at times it feels like some anglers feel an obligation to photograph every fish they catch to gain attention in their social media circles. I’m not trying to argue that the practice as a whole is wrong, but if we can address the impact that it’s having on struggling fisheries, I think we can reduce the number of preventable misfortunes.
Grassroots is a recurring column that profiles small, localized efforts to protect or rehabilitate clean water and fisheries. If you’d like us to consider your organization for a future issue, email the editor at email@example.com.