View Full Version : preserving Rock Cod and other deep water fish

10-13-2006, 12:25 PM
Last year, I was invited to vacation in Florida. It was a none scheduled vacation and as such I was on a strict budget. If I am near water, you can bet your life, I will take the opportunity to fish. This vacation, I didnt have the funds to charter a four pack and had no takers to split the costs. So, I decided to get on a party boat to fish for whatever they fish for in the Atlantic.
It was a poor day of fishing with the pool going to a guy who caught a four pound trigger fish.
The few fish I caught were barely big enough to cover a piece of sushi rice. Knowing these fish got the bends, I knew they would be food for seagulls at best. However, I learned something from a deck hand. Whether true or not, I decided to emulate what this person told me.

What this deck hand did was puncture the swim bladder of the fish. He claimed that the puncture would quickly heal. Puncturing the swim bladder helped the expanded gases release hence allowing the fish to get back to some depth.

I have thought about the science of this and would love some feedback. Specifically, to treat the bends in homo sapiens, it is best to return to the depth that you were at before going back to the surface and depressurize using various calculations.

The common or garden rock cod who comes up from a depth is unable to get back down due to the expansion of gases in its body. However, if the swim bladder is punctured, it should be able to get back down to its comofortable depth range. Assuming the physical trauma of the bends can be overcome, it stands to reason that if the swim bladder heals, the fish would have a fighting chance of survival.

My hypothesis is that if I catch a small cod and I throw it back, it is dead meat anyway so why not puncture the swim bladder and if this works, I am doing a good thing. If it doesnt work, the thing will die anyway so there is nothing to lose.

In conclusion, I would love some feedback to see if I am dulling the point of my fillet knife needlessly. If I am, I will cease and desist. However, if there is a consensus and we all start doing this it will be a source of further conserevation helping us fish for bigger and better fish tomorrow.

I recently bought a laminated rock cod chart which discusses age of maturity and life span of these species. They can live a very long time! It takes quite a few of them several years to reach maturity (when they develop their sex organs). As such, whether DFG rules are followed or not, it is a shame to throw these fish back to Davey Jones' Locker wihtout giving them a fighting chance.

Happy Fishing


10-13-2006, 02:48 PM
good work nibbs, this has been in practice for a loooong time, it's just that it has not had the exposure to the sport group per say although I'm know a lot of sporties have been doing it. some use a hypo needle to deflate a knife may be a little to harsh. it has also been used to keep fish alive for the live fish market, a poke twards the middle of the fish behind the peck fin will work fine. we have found no more than 65' of depth is a good zone, some spiecies can survive deeper, although to deep will cause damage beyond servival. I'm sure you will hear from other fisher here!

10-13-2006, 03:33 PM
Yeah, what the Captain said. Use a needle and do it very carefully behind the joint of the pectoral fin. Don't poke the sack protruding from the mouth of the fish, as this is not the swim bladder; it is their esophogus (sp?) and no one can recover from a puntured esophogus!

10-13-2006, 06:21 PM
never heard that, sounds like some good info thanks all

10-13-2006, 07:56 PM
this really should be double checked. ive read in many places that any of the fish that are punctured will die. in other words, deflating their bladder will kill them soon after.

10-13-2006, 09:48 PM
There is a number of different ways you can release rockfish back to a comfortable depth. The Shelton Fish Descender works with a spare fishing rod and small weight. You hook the fish on and drop it in the water. The weight pulls the fish down to whatever depth you want. You then give a quick tug and the fish is released. Another way is with the use of a milk crate. Turn a milk crate upsidedown. Attach a few sinkers. Tie a rope to the inverted crate. When you put a fish back in the water, lower the crate over the fish. The weight of the crate will push the fish down as far as your rope will allow. The fish will swim out on its own or when you pull the crate up. The last method is with a hypodermic needle. I've fished on a number of rockfish tagging trips and this is the method used. I think it's the fastest and easiest. Alot of the fish that are tagged, vented, and released have been recaptured a day, month or even a year later. They do survive the venting process. I'm sure there may be some that don't, but I don't know if there's any way of knowing what percentage. I'm not a biologist but from filleting fish, the air bladder is located about the same level as the middle of the fishes' eye and about one inch past the gill plate. I think if you go too low you risk hitting a vital organ.

10-13-2006, 11:04 PM
nope, but fishermen who wants to be able to catch fish in the future

10-14-2006, 12:35 AM
This is what I found on the net. *It basically says about the same things with more details.


10-14-2006, 05:59 AM
I use an 18g needle and insert it about an inch behind the gills, a little below the lateral line and an angle down and in, until I hear the air rush out. Then I drop them in head first and this seems to help them with the swimming momentum downward. Quick and easy, and much better than seeing them float off, only to be pecked to death by a bunch of seagulls ... "mine, mine, mine".

10-15-2006, 01:54 PM
I'll second it for the Shelton Fish Descender. You can rig it up in line so the fish decompresses while you are lowering your bait or lure back down.

10-15-2006, 04:52 PM
i'll say it first.... I AM AN A$$
all you people are just trying to hide your kill
do you really think a fish with its eyes, and guts sticking out both ends has a chance to live even after deflating?
i have also been on biologists runs to cordell banks for study
they wanted a few live chillies
there were only 2 that survived to the dock
you people that are doing the catch and release are only killing the fish

the law should be the first 10 fish caught you keep no matter what size or color
if you dont want a bunch of baby blues and blacks then get off the school
go beat a different rock and you will find better fish...action will of course be slower, but you wont have to kill 40 fish to get 10 that i would consider small

go ahead and burn me
culling should be illeagal


10-15-2006, 09:37 PM
The deeper the water, the greater the effect of barotrauma on a fish. I don't know how deep you were fishing at Cordell Banks but I think any fish caught in the deeper waters are less likely to survive. One of the reasons for the rockfish tagging study is to find out what the effects of barotrauma are and to see if it is possible to catch and release rockfish. Most of the study was done in water less than 90ft. I don't think the study is completed yet, so I don't know what their conclusion is. What I do know is that there have been about 200 recaptures to date. I don't know how many of the recaptured fish were actually vented with a needle when they were initially caught and released, but I would say probably most were. The recaptures show the fish can and do survive. I don't know what the mortality rate is but it's not 100%. Hopefully the study will give us a better understanding of what can and can't be done in handling these fish. I'm not suggesting that anyone should throw back smaller fish to try and catch bigger ones. What I am saying is that if you catch an illegal fish such as a canery, yellow eye or cowcod it stands a much better chance of survival if its vented or put back down to a deeper water level.

10-16-2006, 08:27 AM
great discussion!!! thank you to all of you who responded. I for one will do what I can to try and give those I catch and release every chance for survival.
I also like the comment about moving to a different rock should I catch too many undersized fish.

I did try and go out again this weekend with my wife and three kids 1, 5 & 9. Weather wasnt too bad (NOAA weather site was down) However, after the one year old threw up on the wife and my five year old threw up in the galley, I decided to go back (much to the chagrin of my wife and 9 year old).