Mullet Fishing: Catch Photography

Mullet Fishing: Catch Photography


A constant problem is that of trying to take a reasonable photo of oneself, grinning like a hillbilly, and holding a slippery and sometimes lively mullet. Whereas the grinning part can easily be avoided, as many of my online photos will affirm (sorry, Bob), the other bit can be quite tricky. That said, I've seen so many really excellent photos posted by NMC members, I'm guessing that a lot of anglers will already have this 'down', as the 'yoofs' might say. There are a couple of methods that I regularly use, and I'm sure there are several improvements yet to be discovered.

The most-used technique is to mount a compact camera on a lightweight extendable bank stick; this can either be stuck in the ground, or where there is only a hard surface, it can be kept upright by supporting it with the contents of a backpack. An alternative is a lightweight but robust mini-tripod - again, an extendable one offers better options. A useful addition is a quick release attachment of the type which have a trigger-operated spring grip - possibly one of the Maver brand, which seem to be pretty much useless for any other purpose (sorry, Maver).



The camera tripod mount can be fitted with a removable threaded pin, which will allow it to be mounted into the quick-release grip. I've tried using a standard bank pole with just the normal screw thread, but unless the mounting pin is a snug fit into the head of the pole, the camera may rotate infuriatingly while you're trying to set it up, with your mullet becoming increasingly impatient to rejoin his chums.

Up front, before there's actually a mullet involved in the proceedings, it's worth considering the focal length of the lens, and also the proximity of the subject to it. On a digital camera, an ideal focal length for a portrait lens is about 70mm. Compact cameras typically have a wide-angle default setting, with zoom capabilities of (say, using the Nikon A10 as an example) 4.6-23.0mm, which represents an angle of view equivalent to that of a 26-130mm lens in 35mm format. Whilst being distinctly 'wide angle', it's nowhere near a fish-eye lens, which for 35mm format cameras is about 8-10mm. However, there are still some problems to avoid - here are some general suggestions:

  • avoid holding the fish at arms length, towards the camera - this will result in a large fish and very large hands (yes, even you, Donald...)
  • don't get too close to the lens; even with a fish held close to one's body, there will be some distortion, resulting in a large fish in proportion to the person holding it
  • don't get too close to the lens wearing even moderately dark clothes on a bright day, or with a bright background; all the camera will see is 'dark', and there may be a tendency for significant over-exposure
  • more accurate proportions of fish vs. angler will be achieved by stepping back a short way from the camera and then cropping and magnifying the resulting image (as opposed to ensuring a close crop by being close to the lens); the image resolution of modern cameras ensures that no significant loss of image quality will occur when adopting this approach
  • on a bright day, find some moderate shade if possible; this will avoid the pale and shiny areas of the fish from bleaching out
  • if it's very sunny and there's no shade, present the fish away from the most direct sunlight, but check to ensure there's no significant under-exposure in the resulting image
  • it's always worth considering your background, especially if you don't want to give away the venue, or if you want to make sure that you exclude any hillbillies from the shot
  • lay a damp towel over the head of the mullet while you are setting up; it will normally remain calm - I sometimes cover it carefully and loosely with my jacket, if it's getting a bit lively
  • if you rotate the fish in your hands until it's effectively lying flat, then roll it upright just before the shutter fires, it will usually raise its spined dorsal fin, which can add to an appealing photo
  • try and keep it in the water, in the net, until you are ready, particularly if it's a golden-grey; these seem to quickly start to dry out when out of water in such a way that causes an excess of thickening slime to result (with sincere apologies for that description)
  • try to avoid flash, unless it's absolutely necessary in low light, or at night


After all that, just set the timer and 'have at it'.


As an alternative, I sometimes use the cellphone, which offers a variety of additional options, depending on what 'app' is used. These currently include:

  • timer, from 1 to 30 minutes
  • burst mode, from 2 to 100 frames
  • delay between frames, from 1 second to 2 hours
  • audible timer countdown
  • exposure bracketing - useful in difficult lighting situations
  • audio shutter trigger - either a loud noise, or 'cheese'
  • audio trigger sensitivity adjustment
  • bluetooth remote trigger
  • show horizontal line
  • correct horizontal rotation

Instead of a bank stick as a support, I suppose one could use a 'selfie stick' trapped upright in the backpack contents, although I probably won't feel comfortable going into a shop and asking for one of those, at least anytime in this century - did someone say 'eBay'?

Regarding the remote trigger, it's worth adding a fluorescent highlight on both sides, so that it can be conveniently dropped and later retrieved, especially at night, during the controlled panic of getting things done. Putting it on a lanyard is another option, but that's probably far too sensible... and totally destroys any possibility of finding oneself grovelling about in the pitch dark, looking for the blasted thing...

In low light, you may find that the cell phone has far better capabilities than the average compact camera, and a flash-free photo of a more than acceptable quality is usually achievable. Once it's dark, there's no debate - I can't say I've any useful tips regarding night-time flash photographs, other than to use red-eye reduction if available.

Now, going back to the 'grinning' part - sadly, I always seem to forget that bit, whilst concentrating on not dropping the fish and doing all of the above without stuffing it up...



Last updated 03.01.21