Rockfish Deep Water Release Device

Many of Alaska’s Rock Fish are bottom dwellers. The scientific name for them is non-pelagic rock fish. They may also be called Demersal Shelf Rockfish. They make their home on the bottom of the ocean. They like to hang out near the reefs and other rocky structures that protrude from the ocean floor.

There may be as many as 15 to 30 species of these fish that make their home in the waters of Alaska. Some of them can live to be 80 to 100 years old.  They grow and mature slowly and reach reproductive maturity late. They produce lots of young but the young have an extremely high mortality (death) rate. Few of them survive to reach adulthood and reproduce. Because of these reasons, rock fish are a species that could easily be over fished. Regulations have reduced the bag limits on these bottom dwellers to reflect these concerns.

Another concern and threat to these fish comes from the fishermen themselves. Most non-pelagic rock fish are caught by accident while targeting halibut. When the fisherman gets the fish to the surface, he releases it. Herein lies the problem. These non-pelagic rock fish have an air bladder that can’t vent itself. When they are brought up from the deep, this bladder is often pushed out through the fish’s’ mouth. Upon release, they no longer are able to make themselves dive back to the bottom. If they are left at the surface, they will soon die.

Many studies have been done and the results show that most will survive if they can be returned to the bottom. The pressure equalizes for them, allowing them to once again control themselves. These studies have shown that a simple homemade device can greatly improve their chances of survival. This device should be kept on hand at the ready before fishing begins so that no time is lost when it is needed.

This device is built from a large fish-hook. The barb is removed so that the fish can be released easier when it reaches the bottom. A lead weight is attached to the eye of the hook. The weight should be 3 lbs. or more. A fishing line is then attached to the curve of the hook. This makes the hook hang in an upside down position. The hook is hooked through the bottom jaw of the fish and the fish with the apparatus attached is placed in the water. The weight will carry the fish to the bottom. The line can be jigged until the hook comes loose from the fish’s jaw. The upside down hook and sinker are then retrieved back to the surface.

This device when properly used can save many fish that would have been lost.

The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game has an article on this device along with pictures if you would like further information. This article can be found here.

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