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Holding fish for photo is a delicate endeavor

Darrylinn Cummings may not seem excited to hold this Long Lake walleye that she caught last week, but judging by her screaming, her son and boyfriend agreed that she was truly joyful. Appropriately holding fish can sometimes become a daunting task, just ask Darrylinn. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Years ago, it was common for people to bring their fish into local bait shops to have it weighed and have a picture taken.

Often times those fish were on stringers and releasing them after such a journey was unmanageable.

Today it's fairly rare to see many fish photos hanging in the bait shops from people who brought their fish in for a picture.

One reason is because of the advent of digital cameras, especially on cell phones. Now anglers snap a quick photo immediately once the fish is caught. Sometimes the fish is released; sometimes it is kept for dinner.

However, if the fish is going to be kept alive either for release or until you arrive back to the landing, the "hold" is very important.

Holding your catch correctly for your photo or even while removing a hook is the difference between life or death for the fish.

If you plan to release the fish, don't use rags, towels or gloves to hold it unless they're soaking wet. Even so, you have to be very careful to not remove the protective slime from the fish. This protective coating helps them fend off disease and parasites.

If going at it bare-handed, support the fish with both hands beneath the belly. Holding the fish vertically by a gill is alright so long as the fish isn't monstrous and that you only grasp the gill-plate; no fingers in the actual gills themselves. Never grab the fish so forcefully by pinching the two exterior gill plates together that they smash and create an issue for the fish to breathe on its own. Never let the fish go until it swims out of your hands.

Some people think that grabbing a fish by sticking their thumb and index finger in the eyes of a fish and squeezing works well to ensure the fish doesn't "flop". Contrarily, the fish typically will squirm and additionally could affect their future vision. This is definitely not advised.

To get your perfect fish photo in the boat, first understand that the fish does not intentionally want to hurt you. For instance, a pike will not purposely turn to bite you.

Speaking of pike, those teeth can definitely do some damage to your fingers, but only if you put your fingers in its mouth. Don't stick your finger in the mouth of any northern pike, muskie or walleye no matter their size. Every other species of fish in the Park Rapids area could be handled by placing your thumb inside the fish's mouth and grabbing it by the lower lip. Well, almost any fish. A bullhead has strong jaws, though their teeth are so tiny you'll only receive momentary discomfort as you wonder if the fish will ever let go of your digit.

Finally, take a quick photo and get the fish back into the water if you're planning to release it. They can only stay out of water about as long as you hold your breath.