Catch-Photo-Release Tournament Help

Tournament host:  The Captain Mel Redfish & Trout Classic

The Captain Mel Classic is every spring (this year, April 26).  It is a photo/release event.  One thing that has become pretty clear:  A number of people are shy about tournament participation.   If you want to share the tournament info with your fishing contacts let them know that I will be offering up a lot of instruction on the management, handling and photography of fish that should make it easier.   It’s really not that difficult and we can help you out.

For a lot of people who have never done it I identified some anxiety over tournaments and photography.   In the lead up to the 2013 event, we will alleviate some of those concerns and help people to feel more confident with handling and photographing fish with suggestions and demonstrations.

The bottom line is that this is going to be a great event, benefiting Mel’s charities and people who knew Mel will enjoy the tribute.

You will be supplied with a measuring board (or can use your own if you have one) but will need to use your own digital camera for the event.   There will be a mix of people fishing from boats, kayaks and maybe even wade fishing.

Preparation and Practicing:

“Camera ready”

Where will you have your camera?    Quick access to your camera is important.     Shirts with good pockets are one great option, or small dry boxes placed where it can quickly be handled, opened and put into action is another choice.

Have a plan on where you will put your measuring board for the photo.   The tournament measuring boards are on blind shades so if you want to take pictures from in your kayak across the beam of your craft, take along a small board to place under your measuring board for better support.   A sturdy piece of plastic rain gutter (about $9 to $11 at a hardware store) is also an option and it has a great shape to help hold the fish in place and should lie across the width of the kayak.  This is something that you may want to have for all your fishing anyway and is a cheap investment.

We suggest that prior to the tournament you do some practice runs with your camera to learn the height and distance you want your camera to be from the location of the measuring board and fish.  With digital cameras, you get a chance to review your photos pretty quickly.   Make your goal to get your photograph of your fish and get the fish back in the water as fast as possible.

Wade anglers will want to take along some kind of “caddy” which can be made from foam block or a plastic tub.  Again, test out your caddy device before tournament time to make sure it is going to work properly for you.

Handling a fish and laying on the board

Catching a fish is the first part.   (Great job!!)  Appropriate handling is next.   Do not use landing nets, particularly on trout because it damages the protective slimes on the skin, exposing the fish to infections and death.   A “bare handed” landing with a wet hang or using the Fish Grip (a tournament sponsor, a purchase that can be made for $12 to $14) to secure the fish.   Thrashing at boat/kayak-side, once captured and laid down, trout and redfish usually will be cooperative for you to get the shot.

Lay your fish down on the board and get your shot with a “natural lay” of the fish.    The “pinched tail” measurements are for official sizes and harvesting fish.   Natural lay allows the anglers, many of which will be taking photos at very close proximity to get a clearer shot of the fish and getting the other arm out of the way.
Photo by Jose Chavez, Hardcore Kayak Anglers Club: Chris Ravelo shows technique for capturing the shot of a redfish on his measuring board

Judging and Adjustments:

Fish can squirm around or “slide off zero”.   Do your best.  You will turn in your camera for judging and they are going to ask you what you caught.  They will look at the photos and then list the length in our records.   So do your best but get the fish back and swimming off and the judges.

Other opportunities:


February 19  The Bay Area Canoe, Kayak Club monthly meeting (6:30 PM  Bill Jackson’s, Pinellas Park.)
Eric Bachnic from Mirrolure, will do a presentation on his products and give demonstrations in the Bill Jackson’s pool.
Mirrolure is a three-time “Supersponsor” of the Captain Mel Classic.   Show up to get tips on using Mirrolure hard baits to catch a tournament-winning fish!

February 28– Kayak Fishing Skool
6:30 to 7:45PM
Bill Jackson’s, Pinellas Park.
“Using lures to catch trout, redfish and flounder”, also with instruction on fishing the Captain Mel Classic for first-timers!
Good luck in the 2013 Classic!!
By Neil Taylor, host of the Captain Mel Classic and guide at