Guy Harvey Magazine

WIN 2012

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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Page 50 of 83

The FishSmart gurus will continue to tackle the issues of barotrauma, predation, and thermal shock, but as they do, many recognize there may still be an even more significant challenge to successful catch-and-release fishing—coming up with a list of recommended practices that is reasonable enough for fishermen to use effectively and willingly. Perhaps no issue illustrates this better than the two primary methods currently used for dealing with barotrauma. While venting the swim bladder is the established method, recompression, or sending a fish back down to depth before release, is gaining attention. Organizers say this is one of the most interesting things to come out of the FishSmart workshop. Alena Pribyl, a recent PhD grad from Oregon State University and a workshop participant, has done research in this area and says recompression is the use of any type of device to help a fish get back down in the water column. "Basically, we're talking about weights," says Pribyl. "The simplest device is a barbless, weighted hook, but you can also use something like an inverted milk crate or a basket with a trap door. There are also devices you can buy from tackle shops," she says, referring to descender devices with release clips that are used with a rod and reel. Whatever the method, Pribyl says recompression in rockfish can be incredibly effective, citing several studies conducted along the West Coast, including a recent study by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that involved an extensive rockfish tagging project looking at 17-day survival after barotrauma. "Sam [Hochhalter] found 98% survival success in yelloweye rockfish recompressed with a descending device compared to only 22% for surface-released yelloweye rockfish." These kinds of survival rates are (forgive us) eye- popping, especially when accepted release mortality rates for the same species range from 22 to 56 percent, depending on the depth at which the fish is caught. Of course, researchers already know that different species respond differently to recompression just as they respond differently to venting, but there seems to be a trend that shows recompression is more effective overall. If that's the case, it has fishery Pull a fish from the water and it can show you more moves than John Travolta in tight pants. To get it back in the water safely, you'll need a few moves of your own. Here's our primer on a successful release technique. Plan Ahead Have a game plan for releasing fish before you ever head out, making sure you have the tools you'll need. If you're catching fish you can't—or don't want—to keep, plan on moving to a different area, changing depth, or using different bait. Gear Up Use tackle suited to the size of fish you are trying to catch. Consider using "weak hooks" that break if you catch fish too big. Employ circle hooks where required and learn the proper techniques for using them. Land the Fish Don't play fish to exhaustion, but land them as quickly as possible. If you can, leave fish in the water rather than bringing them on board. If you must handle them, use knotless, rubberized landing nets, rubberized managers in the southeast wondering if the Gulf of Mexico's venting requirement may need to be updated to allow for recompression when applicable. And, this is where the issue of practical implementation comes back into play, because getting a fish back down to depth takes significantly more time than simply venting it. Burns puts it this way: "If you're on a private boat or a six-pack, recompression can be highly effective. On a head- boat, with 40 anglers, there's just too much volume and the fish are likely to be out of the water too long, at which point swim bladder gas expansion, thermal shock, and other factors begin to take a greater toll." While the work on barotrauma and other catch and release issues continues, the big picture for fishermen remains rosy. There are plenty of things we can do that are proven to significantly boost the chances that a released fish will live long enough to grow, reproduce, or be caught again another day. And even a small change in the percentage of fish that survive can make a big contribution toward healthy fish stocks. gloves, or wet towels to avoid removing the slime layer from their body. Revive and Release Release fish as quickly as possible and determine whether you need a release tool (dehookers, venting tools, recompression tools) to improve their chance of survival. Also, revive fish as needed by allowing water to flow over the gills. Beat Barotrauma Bulging eyes and distended stomachs are a sure sign of barotrauma. When not required by law to use venting tools, recompression is generally the best method, and fish should be returned to the depth from which they were caught (or as close as possible). If venting is necessary, DO NOT PUNCTURE THE STOMACH PROTRUDING OUT OF THE MOUTH, but vent the swim bladder behind the pectoral fin. You can find more online at and Photo: Steve Theberge.

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