Here’s a full guide to taking the best care of the carp on the bank and to taking a great photo.
When we go carp fishing, we believe that we are fishing for carp, but what we are actually fishing for memories. Such memories enable us to tell stories that will keep us and our friends entertained for many years to come. As an angler, learning to take great photos of fish as well as taking the best possible care of the carp is an essential art. Photographing fish is an art just like angling. It’s not difficult, but there are a few simple rules. Here’s a full guide to taking the best care of the carp on the bank and to taking a great photo.
You’ve caught a carp, what happens next?
Let’s take the best possible scenario and say that you’re fishing with a mate, it’s daytime and he can take the photos right away. So what do we need to do before anything else happens? I’m going to go through this step by step and cover:
- Getting organised for the trophy shot
- Taking care of the carp on the bank
- Getting set up for a good photo
- Holding the carp safely for your shot
So you’ve done the hard part, you’ve caught a carp, now it’s time to get organised to ensure the safety of yourself, your gear and the fish.
- Secure the Carp –First thing to do (if the water depth is adequate and the bank is free from obstructions): get a bank stick and stab it securely into the ground in front of the V in the net frame. If you can’t do this then move the fish whilst it’s still in the net to a location where it is safe to do so. This secures the carp to the bank and frees you for the next part of the operation.
- Check the hook hold –Next, look to see where the fish is hooked. If it’s foul hooked then you need to take extra care when lifting the fish. If the hook has fallen out, remove the rig from the net before you attempt to lift the fish. If the hook is caught in the net, get it out. Cut the mesh of the net if necessary, you can soon stitch it back together with some braid. Sometimes it’s safer to unhook the carp in the water or simply cut the rig off. The greatest danger to the carp happens when the hook is both in the carp and caught in the net. In this situation lifting a fish out of the water can cause terrible damage to the carp. If the hook hold is secure and safe as it should be then leave the hook where it is and cut the mainline.
- Prepare your swim –You should always try to keep your swim organised and free from clutter but if you’re in the middle of a hectic period of activity you may have let things go a little. Have a quick tidy up and make sure the path to the unhooking mat is clear.
- Camera –Seems obvious right? But how many times is a fish caught, plopped straight on the mat and then the cry goes out: “here mate, you seen my camera?”.
- Carp cradle or unhooking mat –A dry mat is very dangerous to carp as it will absorb the protective layer of mucus which will make it more susceptible to disease. During hot weather foam mats left in the sun can absorb a massive amount of heat and become extremely dangerous to the fish. Cool a hot mat with multiple buckets of lake water or submerse it in the lake completely. It also needs to be correctly located for the photo and not too far away from the fish in the net.
- Weigh sling –Same thing, it must be fully wetted with lake water. Tap water contains chlorine and is dangerous to the health of the fish.
- Bucket of lake water –You’ve wetted the mat and the sling but you’ll need more water to keep the fish wet especially during warm weather.
- Forceps –You may be sure that the hook is in the mouth but it’s not always easy to assess how far back or how difficult it will be to extract. Leaving the fish unattended on the mat while you rummage in your tackle bag for your forceps is just bad angling. Get them out and place them by the mat, ready for whatever you may have to deal with in advance.
- Antiseptic – The health of the fish is paramount and the correct application of such products is mandatory at Beausoleil as it is at most venues.
- Kneeling mats –Maybe I’m getting old (don’t answer that, I know I am !) but for a few years I’ve been taking two kneeling mats whenever I go fishing. They’re very useful in the bivvy and a great help when it comes to photo time. One of the cardinal sins when photographing carp is height of the camera from the ground. This is usually due to the fact that persuading the cameraman or woman to kneel in the mud to get low enough is difficult! I use one for me and give one to the cameraman. Just be careful if it’s windy that they don’t take off and land in the lake!
- Weigh Scales – It’s a good idea to weigh the fish first before the photo. So grab your scales and a weigh crook or lifting bar if the carp is over the 20lb mark.
Remember: when we take a carp out of the water, we are putting its life at risk.
If we all thought a bit harder about that just before we lift them out the water then I’m sure many handling mistakes would be avoided. The principles are simple, the techniques are simple.
Getting ready to lift the fish
For the most part, modern 42” carp nets are well designed pieces of kit. However, on far too many occasions, I’ve witnessed their clever design innovation be completely ignored. I’m talking about their ability to be quickly broken down and separated from the handle.
You do it when you put it away at the end of the session. You’re meant to do it when you catch a fish too! Breaking down the net is much safer and easier.
Cut it, fold it, slide it, check it, lift it!
- Cut it – Handling your rod and a carp at the same is difficult and can be dangerous. Avoid the need completely by cutting the mainline below the tubing. To stop the tubing sliding off the mainline nip the end of the mainline with a pair of forceps or tie a couple of over hand knots.
- Fold it – Here’s a top tip for folding down your net, rest it on the top of your boot before pressing down to flex the arm and disassemble it. This prevents the edge of the net becoming worn and developing holes as you press it into gravel or mud. This extends the life of the mesh and prevents a small hole turning into a gaping one!
- Check it – This is the most important step, so check:
- Where are the hook and lead? What will happen to them when you lift the carp? It’s very easy for the hook to get caught in the mesh and cause massive amounts of damage to the carp mouth when you go to lift it.
- Where are the fins (reach down and fold them flat if necessary, especially the pectorals).
- There are no twigs or obstructions in the way.
- That you have a secure foot hold.
- The path to the mat is clear for you, and the carp.
- Slide it – Nowadays I always slide the net and carp directly into a floating carp retention sling and lift them using the sling rather than the net alone. Lifting specimen carp directly using the net only even when folded down can put a lot of unnecessary strain on the fish.
- Lift it – As seen in the water, fish weight is very deceptive, the fish can be an awful lot deeper and wider than you think! Use your legs and keep the fish as low to the ground as possible without scraping it. Head straight for the mat and gently lower the fish onto it. We can now begin with unhooking the fish.
Remove the hook, treat the mouth and weigh the carp
Next step is to carefully remove the hook from the carp’s mouth and then weigh it. Check out this blog post to see how to do it.
Now that the fish has been unhooked and weighed, time to take a photo. The capture of any fish is a special and unique event and we should reflect that when we take our photo. Let’s take into account some practical as well as artistic considerations.
You need a flat piece of ground with easy access all round, ideally in the shade with the sun (if any) shining towards the fish. It should also be as close as possible to the current location of the fish. Make sure you remove all clutter around you. If you have the lake or trees in the background, you’ll always have a good shot:
If you have to move the fish to a better photo location, the best way to do it is to pick up the entire unhooking mat or cradle with the carp, and very carefully carry it to your chosen spot.
Set up the shot
Now that you’ve placed the cradle in a good location and checked the background for angling debris, you can set up the shot. Kneeling mats can be really useful for extra comfort.
Get yourself behind the cradle and pretend that you’re holding a carp. You should be in a low squat position and sat on your heels. The arms should rest on the knees which are spread open for stability. Get the photographer to take a few shots in this position without the fish. The camera should be kept low to the ground (500mm max) and close enough to the angler so that with the lens zoomed out the angler and fish fill the frame. This is the setup that you are looking to achieve:
How to avoid the “fat finger” syndrome?
If you’re too close, you risk chopping off fins, hands or heads. You’ll also over magnify the size of the fish with the resulting tell tale fat finger syndrome. To avoid fat finger syndrome, the photographer needs to move back and if necessary zoom in a little so that you can still fill the frame. This will come down to the maximum zoomed out angle of the lens.
Holding the carp safely is another skill you may need to learn. It does take a bit of practice but if you’ve never been shown how to do it, check out this blog post where I will show you step by step how to correctly how the carp in front of you, or have a look at this video:
Now you’re ready to take that trophy shot!