Is Instagram Killing Big Trout?

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Most of you reading this, including myself, have taken a few hero shots with trout over the years. Since the dawn of the smartphone, it has increasingly become part of the routine in fishing culture to get that grip n' grin photo for social media. Our sport is growing rapidly, and I'd venture a guess that most of those new folks to fly fishing are coming equipped with a smart phone and an Instagram account who would love an opportunity to have a big brown trout be the star of their next hashtag show. Even most new waders are designed with cell phones in mind. They've all got those easily accessible phone compartments that are waterproof. Fly fishing apps are being created with technology allowing anglers to get measurements on fish using their phones.

A quick glance at Instagram and you'll see an almost hourly barrage of new fish pics from across the globe. We’ve all contributed. And boy, we've come a long way in our style too. No more pictures holding fish by the gills. The guys over at Huge Fly Fisherman did an epic parody on the rise in popularity of stylish fish holding photos (the "tea kettle pose" gaze towards fish, fish head down, tail up, index finger delicately wrapped around caudal majestic). Check out the hilarious video HERE. Trophy shots have become so pervasive in social media, biologists have begun to notice.

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I recently came across a relatively new study investigating the potential post-release mortality of "memorable sized" (average length 24") bull trout after simulating prolonged handling with the purpose of getting a few photographs. HERE is the article. They, like us all, noticed the intensely rising popularity of fish photos on places like Instagram, and asked the question, does this process affect big sensitive fish, like bull trout? So, they went to a remote Albertan lake and studied it.

What they found was pretty stunning. Handling time and air exposure of large bull trout subjected to photography and measurement was long (112s) and associated post-release mortality was high (10 dead/30 fish; 33% after 24h observation). Immediate release mortality was also high (3 dead/20 fish; 15%).