How To Hold Trout For Photos: Trout Handling Best Practices

by Thavius | Last Updated:   October 8th, 2022
How To Hold Trout For Photos: Trout Handling Best Practices

Without any doubt, it makes sense for any angler to want to hold a trout, whether you’re catching it for food, fun, as a game fish, or even as a trophy trout. Often, it’s difficult to resist the impulse to pick one up. Some anglers believe that until you hold the trout in your hand, you haven’t actually caught it. Holding a trout is a moment most anglers look forward to, even if they’re going to let it go later. But you have to be sure you are doing it properly for your safety and the safety of the fish.

Compared to other fish species, trout are more fragile and are often smaller fish. Sometimes, they can be slippery and tricky. They have that protective slime coating that aids their swimming and also protects them from parasites and possible infection. Generally, no good angler wants to cause undue harm to any trout fish. Therefore, it is crucial to learn how to hold and handle trout safely.

This piece will carefully walk you through trout handling—how to hold trout safely.

Techniques For Trout Handling

How To Hold Trout

Holding a fish is a fundamental skill for anglers. The following tips will teach you how to do it properly before heading out for trout fishing:

Positioning Your Hands

Your hands are usually the only part of your body that comes into contact with the fish. This is why it is very important to use wet hands when touching the fish. The protective slime coating can be wiped off with dry hands.

Often, anglers fail to recognize that trout are living creatures as well, and they tend to handle them roughly. Even if you intend to catch and release the fish afterward, you still need to consider how it may feel (physiologically).

In the past, some fishermen would attempt to grasp trout by the gills. They even hook it with their fingers through the mouth. This is usually very uncomfortable for the fish species, as it may harm them.

What’s The Best Way To Handle Trout?

The best way to hold or handle trout is to place your hand underneath it. Afterward, cradle the fish to give it more support at the front and rear if it’s a large trout. Smaller trout can be grasped in one hand. With your fingers parallel to the sides of the trout, you should hold it in this position. Do not try to squeeze particularly close to the pectoral fins. A fish’s heart is located directly behind the pectoral fins.

Many anglers easily pick up the trout in this position, especially if it is a large fish with plenty of weight. You need to avoid holding and squeezing the fish in this position. Failure to handle the fish gently puts the fish’s heart and other internal organs under strain and stress. Even if you release the fish later, the physical trauma and stress may eventually kill it.

Furthermore, avoid putting your fingers in the trout’s gills or mouth. Also, this puts unnecessary stress on the fish. It may be fine to stick your finger between the lips of other fish species, but it is advised to keep your fingers out of a trout’s mouth and gills. Ensure your hands are on the body of the fish the entire time.

How You Shouldn’t Handle Trout

Trout do not respond well to danger. So, if you want to handle them, ensure you cradle and support their weight. Doing this will make them remain calm and not see you as a threat or predator. Therefore, keep your hand underneath, and try not to squeeze, even if it wiggles or flops as you try to lift the fish. Brown trout are known to be calmer than rainbow trout. This is why a rainbow trout, especially a big rainbow trout, is a good trout to practice patience with.

On the other hand, rainbow trout tend to be more energetic, so they keep wiggling and flopping. Nevertheless, you will need to treat rainbow trout as calmly as possible, unlike the way you will need to treat brown trout. To keep a wiggling trout calm, you can also hold the trout upside down.

This may take more time than just grabbing it, but it’s worth it as it will be less traumatic for the fish and stress-free for you as well. A big trout may fight you the entire time, but if you persist, they will eventually calm down.


Fishes are naturally slippery, so you will need a good grip to hold a trout while fishing. Instinctively, you’ll do your best to get a good grip on a fish when trying to catch it for a photo, fun, or even food. So you may unknowingly apply pressure.

For many trout, pressure is an attack or sign of a fight. You can easily kill a trout with the pressure of your hand. Because of the way trout’s internal organs are set up, you won’t even be aware of what’s happening. Therefore, you need to be extremely alert and careful. You will know you are applying too much pressure if you can see your fingers denting the fish’s flash. A fish subjected to pressure may swim away but will die soon after.


Naturally, fish don’t like staying out of the water. The farther you get from the water, the higher the chance something could go wrong. The longer you hold a fish out of the water, the worse it gets for the fish. You would not want to be the first angler who accidentally dropped a trout on land. Even a good grip is liable to slip off.

When handling fish, especially trout, make sure you keep the fish wet. Between the time the fish is out of the water and the time it is released, the fish should be kept wet the entire time.

How To Perform A Calming Grip

Trout handling is quite easy. Once you have gotten hold of your trout, allow it to feel at ease by laying it in your hands. You can then begin to ease its stress by covering the eye with your hand and placing a hand in front of its nose to stop it from swimming. When a fish is blinded, they are likely to relax and remain calm. They are less likely to fight and hurt themselves when they can’t see.

When you hold the fish in this manner, you can use your other hand to grip it just above the tail. Also, you can try lifting the tail out of the water while ensuring the eyes are still covered. If you do this correctly, you should be able to keep the trout from slipping. You don’t need to apply much pressure, just a firm grip. Therefore, if it doesn’t slip, you have it in the right spot.

The Effect Of Temperature Change On Trout

Generally, fishes are cold-blooded, especially trout. Trout are cold-water fish, and brown trout prefer water temperatures of less than 59 degrees Fahrenheit. They usually start to struggle at 68 degrees and may die at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Pulling the trout out of the water will cause the temperature to rise abruptly. Depending on the temperature of the day, you could kill your catch easily. This implies that being caught is more stressful for the fish as the temperature changes, which ultimately reduces the chance of survival.

If you do not have good fish handling skills and have tried the tips above, you may also need to consider:

  1. The Use of Nets: You might do fine without a net if your fish fighting and trout handling skills are excellent. However, if you intend to admire your fish for a long time or you want to take a picture when fishing, you might need a net to get the fish camera ready. Using the net is also important for trout handling to keep the fish in the river during the entire handling time. You can also use rubber nets to catch trout before handling it. Rubber nets are a great choice because they remove less of the fish’s protective slime coating. This ensures the fish remains healthy when released back into their habitat.
  2. The use of barbless hooks: Barbless hooks are often considered for easier unhooking and handling. This is done to reduce the amount of time spent holding the trout and potentially damaging it. Unlike barbed hooks, they are faster, easier to use, and remove from a fish. They are often used for catching and releasing fish because it allows the fish to get back into the water faster. Many anglers prefer using a barbless hook for catch and release. This method is safer for the fish as it reduces injury, physical stress, or even death.

Watch this video to learn how to hold trout correctly:

How To Hold Trout For A Picture

How To Hold Trout

Generally, holding a trout to remove the hook is one thing. However, holding it for a picture is a little different. For many fishermen, the picture signifies the success of their catch. Occasionally, most anglers want to show off when they catch a big fish—especially if they catch a big trout.

Generally, when trout handling, you keep your hand underneath, cradle the fish just behind the head and hold the tail firmly; nevertheless, avoid squeezing. Keep the trout in the water, lifting it out very briefly just above the water to take the shot. Ideally, a trout should be out of the river for just 10 seconds. If you need another shot or new angles, you will need to put the fish back in the water for a minute or two before you try again.

The best way to hold a trout for a picture is delicately, swiftly, wet-handed, and while keeping it near or in the river. However, it is better to approach this from the perspective of what’s best for the fish because it is presumptuous to imply that there is a single optimal way to hold a trout for a good picture. However, with the four principles initially mentioned, we will look at how to catch and hold a trout for pictures in different fly fishing situations and in various picture poses.

  • Standard Riverside Photo: The Riverside or the lakeside view of a trout is unquestionably the picture that appears most frequently. If you adhere to the basic fish handling principles and try out different angles and poses, you will have a fascinating post-adventure gallery. However, to take this shot, you have to unhook the trout and come to terms that the fish may fight as you try to take a photograph.
  • Floating in the Boat Photo: In the fishing world, more trout are caught from a boat, so it is important to take note of certain things when trying to take this type of photograph. It is ideal to use a long boat and net as standard practice. Once the trout is in the net, let it stay in the net and keep the net in the water until you are ready to take another shot. Furthermore, you will need to get your dry hands wet before touching the fish you caught. Make sure you do not lose grip of the fish before getting the shot and try as much as possible not to squeeze the fish.
  • The Trout Selfie: After fishing, trying to take a trout selfie is quite challenging. You may need to consider if the fish is large enough to deserve a photo in the first place. To determine this, you can check the trout’s weight. If you decide to take the shot, keep the fish in the nets between shots and ensure that you lay the fish in a damp area.
  • Underwater Photo: This is a picture idea any angler would want to try. However, it is very tricky to get a good and clear image of a completely underwater trout. Next-generation fishermen can try to take several underwater shots on their fly fishing adventures.

Watch this video to learn how to hold a trout to take photos:

When handling trout for a photo, it is important to make sure you take note of the following:

  • Do not exhaust them: Don’t try to play with the fish, Playing or prolonging a fight with the fish adds unnecessary stress, which can eventually harm or kill the fish. Playing with trout is fun and exciting, but you should know when to release them.
  • Keep them in the water as much as possible: As a human, you can’t breathe underwater. In the same vein, trout can’t live above the water either. When they are out of the water, they begin to suffocate, so be careful not to keep them out for too long.
  • Be careful when removing the hook: Barbless hooks are the ideal hook for your fly fishing adventure. This hook is easier to use and does not injure the fish, especially stronger and larger trout.
  • Avoid squeezing: Fish don’t give up just because they have landed in your net. They can still try to swim away before you take a photograph. You may squeeze them too hard when trying to keep them in place. Instead, keep them in your net and submerged in water until you are ready.
  • Catch and release them as fast as possible: If a trout is exhausted after catching them, you may need to revive it before you release it. To avoid this exhaustion, you should learn to release a fish as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t put your fingers in the gills: The gills of trout are very delicate and easily damaged. So, it is important to ensure your hands do not touch the trout’s gills.

Common Trout Photo Mistakes

How To Hold Trout

The Overhand Tail Grab

An overhand tail grab is a way to handle a large trout, but it is a mistake when handling or trying to take a picture of a smaller trout. Although holding the rear half of the fish lessens the possibility of a fight, it may not be the best angle to take a photo. Instead, if you want to take a broadside shot of the fish, try to hold it underneath with both hands, ensuring that your fingers do not cause any damage.

The Full Hand Block

As much as you are trying to hold the fish with your overhand or underhand grip, it is a mistake if your hands cover too much of the trout. You don’t want your hands to cover the entire fish in the picture. Therefore, be conscious of how your hands are placed on your catch.

The ”Makes it look small” hold

Often, trout shrink when photographed – whether small or large. This is why many fly fishers try to hold the fish away from themselves and closer to the camera. More often than not, this works regardless of the angle. Just make sure the camera is closer to the fish.

The Over/ Under Baseball Bat Grip

This mistake is worse than the full-hand fish block. It happens when you cover most of the trout’s front half with an overhand block and most of its back with an underhand block or vice versa.

Key Insights & Takeaways

Finally, fishing is supposed to be fun and relaxing. Although, for some, fishing is a challenge. Either way, you must respect the fish and protect natural life. When you respect the trout and preserve its life, you will still be able to fish on another day. If you accidentally damage a fish, you don’t have to be hard on yourself. Sometimes, mistakes help us learn better.

In this article, we have carefully looked at trout handling for a photo or for fun. Although, sometimes, it’s best to release the hook and allow the fish to swim away. In fact, it is always the best option, but sometimes you may want to admire your catch for a moment. Therefore, you must hold and handle it with care.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the equipment you need to hold trout?

Anglers do not need equipment to hold their trout and preserve its life. However, they would need to learn fish handling techniques.

Should you hold a trout by mouth?

While holding some fish species by mouth makes sense, trout is an exception. holding trout by mouth will only cause the fish to suffer extensive damage.

How to keep trout fresh after catching?

It’s quite simple. Ensure you have a container or bucket of the trout’s habitat water where you can regularly dip the fish to let it relax for some time.

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I've been a fisherman for over 35 years. From catching small bullheads with my grandfather at his pond to catching strippers on the backwaters of the Chattahoochee, I love to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water.