When releasing deepwater fish, the right tools mean everything
June 8, 2021
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Video on devices in descending order:
Are you going to fish for snapper or grouper on your next fishing trip? Continue your role as an advocate for the environment by paying close attention to signs of barotrauma and being prepared to respond. Barotrauma is a condition seen in many fish caught at depths greater than 50 feet and is caused by changes in pressure causing gas to expand in the swim bladder. It is important to treat barotrauma in fish that you do not intend to keep. Signs of barotrauma include a stomach sticking out of the mouth, a swollen belly, distended intestines, and bulging eyes.
Barotrauma can damage internal organs and be fatal unless appropriate measures are taken to mitigate its effects. It is important to know in advance what tools are available and how to use them to help the fish return to the bottom and increase their chances of survival.
Descent devices bring fish to a depth where increased water pressure will recompress swim bladder gas. They fall into three categories: mouth clamps, reverse hooks and fish elevators. With proper setup and practice, descent devices can be easy to use and have a big impact on the survival of released fish. Learn more about descending devices and how to use them at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterFishing by clicking on the “Descending Devices” playlist.
Descent devices return fish to a depth where gas in the swim bladder can recompress.
Ventilation tools are hollow, sharp instruments that treat barotrauma by releasing the expanded gas from the swim bladder, allowing the fish to descend to depth.
REMINDER: Items such as fillet knives, ice picks, screwdrivers and gaffers are not aeration tools and should never be used to aerate a fish. Venting a fish incorrectly can do more harm than good.
To ventilate well, lay the fish on its side (on a cool, damp surface). Ventilation tools should be inserted 1 to 2 inches behind the base of the pectoral fin, under a ladder at a 45 degree angle, just deep enough to release the trapped gases. Never insert ventilation tools into the belly, back or stomach of a fish that may protrude from the mouth. Learn how to ventilate properly by visiting YouTube.com/watch?v=jhkzv1_2Bpc.
Ventilation tools should be inserted 1 to 2 inches behind the base of the pectoral fin, under a ladder at a 45 degree angle, just deep enough to release trapped gases.
Descent devices and ventilation tools should only be used when the fish show one or more signs of barotrauma and cannot descend on their own. It is essential to work quickly when using these tools and to return the fish to the water as soon as possible. Anglers should choose the device and method that they are most comfortable with and that best suits the situation.
Anglers should also use appropriate equipment when fishing for reef fish. Circle hook and / or stall tool requirements apply to anglers who fish reef fish in Florida. Non-stainless steel in-line (non-staggered) circle hooks with crimped barb often hook in the mouth rather than the gut, making it easier to release the fish. The stall tools also help release the fish quickly so you can be back fishing for that big fish in no time. Using the right tools and quick action will make a big difference in the survival of any fish you release, helping to preserve Florida’s world-famous fisheries for the future. For more details on the reef fishing gear requirements for circle hooks and stall tools, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations”, then click on “Equipment Rules” under the Reef fish tab.
Non-stainless steel in-line circle hooks with the crimped beard (top photos) and release tools (bottom right photo) should be used to help release fish quickly and increase their chances of survival. Crimp the barb on any hook to make it barbless (photos bottom left).
To learn more about good fish handling techniques, visit MyFWC.com/FishHandling. Check out our descending devices reading list to learn more about barotrauma, descending devices, and ventilation tools. Visit our YouTube channel at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterFishing for more how-to videos on saltwater fishing. For answers to questions, contact 850-487-0554 or [email protected]
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This email was sent to [email protected] using GovDelivery Communications Cloud on behalf of: Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission 620 S. Meridian Street Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600 (850) 488-4676
This press release was produced by the Grand Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are those of the author.