Learning about rockfish is literally getting into people’s hands in the form of playing cards.

“We came to the conclusion that a lot of people like playing cards, when you go on boats or travel, there’s typically a deck of cards on board to keep people busy. It’s really a way to bridge the gap between sport and commercial fishing regulations.”  

Andrew Olson is the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game groundfish and shellfish coordinator for the Southeast region.

He helped design the deck of cards as part of a statewide initiative launched in 2017 to better align management between sport and commercial users, especially with black and yelloweye rockfish.

The playing cards, which have been in hand for just a few weeks, are part of an aggressive outreach campaign to educate Alaskans in general.

 “We want to promote education to the public on rockfish, life history how to properly identify them and communicate about the deep water release device and how it can reduce barotrauma.”

Starting next year, all saltwater anglers will be required to use so called ‘descender’ gear to prevent rockfish from dying from decompression trauma that practically turns them inside out.

“They must have a functioning deep water release mechanism on board and all rockfish not harvested must be released at a depth of capture or at a depth of 100 feet.”

The two of hearts card describes deep release devices; the deck also includes 48 of the rockfish species found in Alaska, along with their habitats and life history. Did you know that rougheye rockfish, the 10 of spades, can live to be 200 years old?

Artist Kellii Wood of Petersburg did the card backs and anatomy drawings and Ray Troll’s quirky artwork adorns the Jokers.

 “One says Rockfish, Paper, Scissors with a picture of a yelloweye, and the other one looks like a black rockfish with “rock” highlighted because it has a guitar.”

Olson says reaction to the rockfish cards has been very enthusiastic.

“Some reactions I’ve heard – they didn’t realize how old some of these rockfish are, how long it takes them to reach maturity, the fact that we have so many species in Alaska was, I think, shocking. Some folks have said they are using the cards to learn about a rockfish per day and get familiar with them. It’s been very positive.”  

Thirty thousand decks were made by US Playing cards at a cost of about a dollar a piece.

The rockfish cards are available for free at Fish and Game offices at Kodiak. Anchorage, Homer, Douglas/Juneau headquarters, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell and Sitka.