Fish Radio

Rockfish can be returned to deep water safely

November 6, 2015

Rockfish with decompression effects Credit:

Rockfish with decompression effects

This is Fish Radio. A kinder, gentler way to save Alaska rockfish. More after this –

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There are more than 30 different kinds of rockfish in Alaska waters -they are slow growing and can live past 150 years.

  For yellow eye I think the age of first sexual maturity can be anywhere from 15-25 years old. So that has important implications for when these fish are harvested because many of these fish can be caught before they even have the opportunity to reproduce even one time.

Sam Hochholter is a biologist with the state Sport Fish Division. To help conserve rockfish stocks, they are encouraging new release methods that greatly increase fish survival.   Rockfish caught in deep waters often sustain bad injuries caused by rapid decompression. Ace Calloway is a retired Valdez charter skipper

    When you break them out of deep water they don’t have the ability to equalize the pressure and the bladder expands and pushes the eyes out the sockets and stomach out their mouth and it’s a horrible looking site. They basically suffer the same thing a diver does that comes up too fast – what we normally call the bends.

Fish that are released with inflated swim bladders cannot re-submerge and will die. But if the rockfish are returned slowly to the depths, they survive. Studies years ago by the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife showed that rockfish quickly returned to the deep in baskets had almost 100 percent survival.

Recent studies by Alaska sport fish biologists showed similar results.  About 45 percent of rockfish caught by anglers statewide are released and the state is encouraging use of the gentler release methods.  A new web page called “proper deepwater rockfish release” provides quick and easy techniques on how to make and use simple deepwater release tools. About five years ago Ace Callaway was the first to invent and patent a tool to do just that –

  It actually has a pair of jaws that hook onto the lip and takes the fish down. It has a release mechanism that releases the fish   at the proper depth.

He called it the ‘Git er Down –   it is now sold exclusively at West Marine/CA under a fancier name – the Black tip catch and release recompression tool.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods.  Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. Laine Welch .