I may be preaching to the choir but this issue has become important to me and I want to get the word out. You are all aware that the populations of rockfish are much lower now than they were in decades past. (If you don't believe this, talk to any old salt about how the fishing was in the 50's and 60's) The dwindling numbers are one of the major motivations behing the MLPA initiative that is likely to close off a large percentage of the prime fishing habitats along the California coast.
I spend alot of my treasured time on the Pacific targeting rockfish but have always tried to be selective and "Limit the kill, not kill the limit". Any of you who catch rockfish know that issue is complicated when they are caught deep and the swimbladder bursts on the way to the surface (the cut off seems to be around 50'-60'). I am guilty of having killed inflated fish in the past that are small and probably haven't reproduced yet. There is also the often repeated scene of protected rockfish that can't be kept and yet can't return to the bottom because they are hyperinflated. It's sad to watch 'em float away just to become seagull snacks.
I can't personally do much about the MLPA initiative but there is a way to cut down on the mortality of juvenile and protected rock fish. I learned this technique last year. It's quick, it's easy and it works. Basicly the trick is to create a vent in the fish with a large bore needle or tube. The gasses rush out and the deflated fish will swim back to the bottom. Studies have shown that, performed correctly, the swim bladder heals within 4 days and the stomach protrusion and perforation resolve with no ill effects to the fish. My tool for the job is a cheap meat injection syringe purchased at the hardware store. It works perfectly for the job with the plunger removed.
I found a website with instructions and a VIDEO of the venting process. Give it a try.
I have been aware of this rather popular technique for quite some time, and I feel it is something all bottom fisherman should be ready and prepared to do.
I've been told by several marine biologists that there is a high mortality in rockfish that have been vented. Up here in Alaska few people target rockfish but often catch them as a by catch when fishing for halibut. When I find myself catching rockfish, the only solution is to move to a different spot. I love to eat rockfish but hate to kill them and I just can't imagine a yelloweye surviving if its eyes are popped out and glassed over from coming up from 200 or 300 feet.
Did these biologists say if the mortality rate was high in all species or just rockfish? I have heard from multiple sources over the years that this was a safe, responsible release method for bottom fishing.
There are better ways than venting for me. One way is a large weighted hook tied upside down with the barb filed off or pushed down. Hook the fish's lower lip and drop back down to depth and pull sharply to remove fish. Another way is a weighted milk type crate. Tie weight on all four corners of the crate so it will sink upside down. Then tie a rope on bottom side in the middle (now the top). Place fish in the upside down crate and drop back to depth. The fish will swim out and just pull the crate back up. The crate method allowes more than one fish at a time to be realesed.This message has been edited. Last edited by: SoCalAngler,
Sending them back to depth has got some definite appeal as a better method to my way of thinking. (the link didn't work for me)
The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and a good report makes the bones healthy.
Some rockfish survive venting better than others; apparently yelloweye have the worst survival rates. One problem is that even if you can get the fish down and the gas out, it may have lost its vision when gases in the eyes expand. There just isn't a good solution. I've resigned myself to accept the fact that rockfish are a bycatch only. They don't fight much anyway -- and at least up here, there are enough halibut arond to fill the freezer.
You are a lucky guy. I have been fortunate to have fished for salmon and halibut in Alaska on multiple occasions. Beautiful place and great people!
You are to be commended on your attitude towards the rockfish . If more people shared your mentality we might not be faced with the problems that currently exist. The fact though is that along the pacific coast including Alaska, rockfish comprise a significant part of the sport fishery. Barring complete closures, that is not likely to change.
The success of venting varies with the skill of the person performing the procedure, how long the fish is out of the water, the amount of bacteria introduced with the perforating device and wether or not any internal organs are damaged in the process.
I have not seen any published studies that suggest that it is better NOT to vent. I have seen authoratative work demonstrating that fish survive the venting process when correctly perfomed with few ill effects.
Certainly a fish that swims back to the bottom has a better chance of reproducing that one floating on the surface with a flock of gulls around it screaming "Mine,Mine,Mine..."
Venting is clearly not a perfect solution but given the current state of the fishery it is better option than none and, if performed correctly appears likely to improve fish survival.
Iver Lien (TunaHead)
Pulling a fish with a swim bladder to the surface kills them and it should be mandatory that they are retained. Venting or any other form of getting the fish back to the bottom only hides the waste.
Before the uncontrolled growth of the charter fishing industry in SE Alaska the halibut fishing went to hell, funny how good fishing for some can be considered bad fishing for those of us that were there for "the good old days". When the butts got harder to catch charters started pounding the rockfish. When you have 300+ boats doing one or two trips a day it doesn't take long for the fish population to collapse.
Life's Tough, Then You Die
I have addressed this issue on various forums and was pleased to see an alternative release device that would work for those that are opposed to venting.
Credit goes to "Orca" on a different forum. I have reposted his picture of the device in my photo bucket file (see link).
Here is his description of how it works...
"Hook your line/swivel to the barrel swivel on the left, put hook on Floater as Threemuch suggests above, and lower away. When you hit bottom, give a jerk and "fish off." The hook in this photo has a nub where the barb was, but barb has been removed."
I agree with your ideas on retention. The problem is that some fish in California cannot be retained by law and must be released. I've more than once seen party boats a line of red floaters drifting away.
It's never simple is it?
We have the same issues in Oregon. Hoggem' is involved with a group (OCEAN) that is in trying to find a solution. MPZ's are not a good thing, the way California is doing them and it looks like they are going to stick them to us up here too. Locking up 10% of the Oregon coast will lock up 90% of the fishing and that's the 10% they are grabbing.
Personaly, I quit fishing for lingcod because of the high bi-catch of yellow eye, even though I know that the ODF&G numbers are not right.
Life's Tough, Then You Die
Lee-You need to fish Lings with a spear gun again then bycatch is a no brainer.Mark
Tuna is a STATE of mind
Unless you are fishing Mexico, the deepest you can fish for rockfish is 240’ in the south and 180’ in the Northern and North Central RCG areas.
My best guess is if you pulled a fish from 240 or even 180 you have probably killed it from the decompression and stress caused by coming up too fast. Venting a fish like this is not going to help the fish survive but it will make the angler believe mistakenly he or she did the “Right thing” and they can feel better.
I fish a lot of stuff at around 100 feet and have had most fish released swim back down under their own power, the few that have needed some assistance I use a barbless hook lip hooked into the fish that is fixed upside down on a 1’ long wire with a swivel at each end an 8 oz weight gets them down.
However, in fairness I have called a DFG biologist I know and asked for his professional opinion on release techniques that have the highest survival rate. I’ll report out later on what he tells me.
I just received a call from the biologist and the short of it is in his professional opinion the worst way to release fish for the untrained and unsanitary is to attempt to vent the fish with a needle or a fillet knife or other sharp object.
The best way is the barbless lip hook or weighted crate or just keep the first ten fish you catch.This message has been edited. Last edited by: JanZ,
Making Humboldt bay safe for bait one halibut at a time
"No Brainer"-> That one actually made me groan.
I fish the same general areas you do and around the same depths. I agree about bringing 'em up from great depth. The charter boats I mentioned in the earlier with the post were seen at Reading Rock. It's a shame to see those fish wasted. I intend to discuss this with the charter captains in Trinidad and provided them with the tools to vent if they choose to do so.
Do the Eureka charter boats still make runs to the Cape?
Yea, but someone we both know has my speargun. I hope it's getting used.
Life's Tough, Then You Die
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