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Observation / Question

1491 Views 10 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  RayStachelek
I have just finished looking over some very fine photos posted here. I happened to notice that some of the fish have the dorsal fin vertical while others it is laying down flat.

I don't want this thread to be a C&R discussion, to each his own. But my experience leads me to believe that the fish displaying the dorsal fin laid down are either played out or dead. While the opposite is true of the proud vertical display. Opinions? Comments? Flames...
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My experiences would not support the observation but it is a very interesting one just the same. In my opinion, the raised hackles are just a sign that the fish is very uncomfortable with what you're doing to it. I have pictures of fish laying in the shore weeds next to my rod that look perfectly comfortable, fin at rest, just before rocketing off leaving a rooster tail. Since I am working on scanning photos as I look thru the pile I can't say I can make a correlation between the fin position and the state of the fish, I think it's more an indication of the fish's demeanor during the photo session and although there can be a direct link between a dead fish and a raised fin, I don't think a relaxed fin indicates a "dead" fish. In other words, a fish whose fin is at rest would instantly raise the hackles if you started to iritate it or hold it like a sausage in the middle for instance... hence the nice punctures we get if we were dumb enough to try that.

My pet theory is that I think stripers loose their sheen and look pale around the head (not blonde but a color inconsistent with their body) when they are not well. The only bass I retained all season (and many seasons before) was a 36" that was looking real pale after a long fight with multiple screaming runs. I can honestly say it was the only one that raised concern all season, in fact I don't remember feeling like I needed to keep a fish since my bait fishing days almost 20 years ago (swallowed hooks).

All that being said the 36" fish in the 'dreamin' picture took off like a rocket. It had high fins and never lost it's sheen and color. I hope they are all like that!
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Interesting thought.

Based on my own personal experience, I know that ALL the fish I caught this year were swelled with pride at having been caught by such an honest, upstanding, handsome, friendly, nice to strange dogs kind of guy like me.

Either that or they just couldn't believe they were dumb enough to take one of my flies.

I've heard that you can always tell if a striper is alive in a photo by looking at it's eyes. If the fish is alive it's eyes will be looking down. I think i got this tidbit from a CCA presentation by Brad Burns. I agree that the fins depend on the fish's level of agitation, if you have them lipped and give them a gentle shake they'll usually put the fins up for you.

I've just looked at a of the pics i've seen around the web and the eye thing seems to hold true.

I also do not buy the dorsal thing. I've lip hooked and quickly released many dorsal down fish that rocket off just fine. I have caught one fish that felt kind of limp; it just didn't feel rigid in my hands. The fish was landed and released quickly and swam off, but I think it may have been sick. Also, I've never heard about the eye thing, but it does make sense. I think that the coloration thing is a tough call, because the natural variation in Striper coloring is so great.
The eye thing is a common sign among steelhead and salmon anglers, and is invariably true for salmonids including trout - usually even when held upright.

I can't say that this generalization applies to all species in my experiences. I just hours over the weekend staring closely at pictures of stripers, blues, albies, bonito, etc. When held up as they are for pictures the eyes can be in a straight out stare although the fish is ready to leap from the hands. The eye trick for stripers does seem to hold true much more often when the fish is laying down in the water or surfline as images will support once again.

My guess is that to say a striper being held up with a straight stare is not necessarily dead or even worn out, you'll see a bunch of photos that allude to this once I get the journals done. On the other hand every steelhead picture I have has a down-looking eye except for those hatchery fish I retained (dead).

IMHO - This eye position trick for stripers is more of a guideline than a rule, common for stripers on their sides but not conclusive for those held upright.


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Greg -

Just to be clear, the paleness I refer to is discoloration - not blondeness. As I noted in the previous post, it is an inconsistency of coloration to the pale side from the rest of the body. If the fish is blonde, it is an overall body hue...

Whereas a stressed out fish might have a paleness around the head and back even when the body is dark.

I could be wrong, but it's interesting to compare observations. Each season we will probably develop more keen observation skills as a result of our discussions.
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Fascinating the observations that come from an eclectic group of fly fishers. Never gave it much thought about fish eye and/or dorsal fin position while releasing or holding fish.

At first, I thought, let me hear other responses in this matter before I voice mine. As usual your summations are always true and correct. Like all animal behavior, the same correlation cannot be true each time. Aspects like the behavior of the fish, how it was fought, length of fight, time of year, condition of the fish and how it was held all contributed to the fish's factor how it might behave.

Knowing this much, and having some holiday time, I searched the scientific community for some knowledgeable answers. Talked to experience fisherman, fish biologist, conservation officers, American Littoral Society and a bunch more. Spent hours compiling their opinions and information.

Lastly I did some field testing of my own in the Seekonk River that proved more beneficial.
During a three hour tide I caught and released four schoolies in the 16 - 22 in range. Fought them at various interval and duration's. Held them in various positions both vertical and horizontal. Held them in my hands in different ways. My findings was astonishing and I mean no disrespect to anyone who holds a fish.

I know these test were not conducted under any scientific guidelines. Yes, I could have called GregO at MIT, but I didn't. He was already involved in the question and I felt it would taint the results. Yes, I could have been in touch with Juro, after all, who has fished in more elements than he has. Yes, I could have called Sully, the founder of the question, but I didn't. And Roop and Matt for their impute before I made my hypothesis. But once again I didn't. I didn't want to shock their world.

My fact finding mission proved without a doubt, - ALL THESE FISH WERE FONDLED BEFORE RELEASE IN EACH PHOTO. Yes , the results are quite shocking. We do have some sick fisher's out there.

For now on, all my fish will be release in a dignified manner. Your rebuttle, if you have one is appreciated.
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My fact finding mission proved without a doubt, - ALL THESE FISH WERE FONDLED BEFORE RELEASE IN EACH PHOTO. Yes , the results are quite shocking. We do have some sick fisher's out there. <hr></blockquote>

Ray - are we talking the raised fins or the eye pointing downward? In a nutshell, are raised fins an indication that the fish is agitated?

BTW, I hear the state is compiling a list of all known fish fondlers and making it available to real estate agents
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That reminds me of the days when you could launch from Washington's Olympic Peninsula shoreline and fish British Columbia waters (Canada). The limit was twice the US limit, so some folks would motor past the imaginary border, come back with twice the salmon without touching Canadian soil.

One day the warden had enough. A young man came motoring in brandishing four fat salmon so he ran over to stop the man.

"You've got too many fish there, buddy!" sez the warden.

"These two are Canadian" said the angler.

"We'll see about that!" grunts the warden as he inserts an index finger into the salmon's anus and probes around. In a few seconds, he puts the fish on the dock and grabs another. He ends up sorting them 3 on one side and 1 on the other, wiping his finger.

With an agitated look on his face he says "these three coho are US fish, you're under arrest boy! What's your name and address?"

The angler pulls his helly hansons down to his knees, turns around, bends over and replies "you tell me".
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Great response Al. I know it's a touchy subject. Never thought about the issue of protecting our young ones. Should that be another thread though?

It would be nice if all "Fish Fondlers" were registered with the state or aleast with the local fishing clubs and bait stores. Would the fact that they would now be registered, send a great many of them underground? It would make the neighborhoods safer.

At least now I wouldn't be sceptical every time I see an angler casting his rod on the lawn. What if your son said, "Can I do that." What's kind of message are we sending here.

More of us should take a stand . We can't ignore the fact, that the problem of fish fondling, lies in our hands.

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