Anglers care about the fish they catch. Sport fishing is indeed a sport but anglers are still careful conservationists. Enter the use of descending devices.
When fish are caught that are normally deep-sea dwellers, they are sometimes reeled up to the surface too quickly, causing their swim bladders to expand. This condition is called barotrauma and it occurs when the fish’s buoyancy bladder expands too quickly. A fish suffering from barotrauma can be pretty gruesome; its eyes popping out of its head with its stomach pushing out from its mouth.
That is where descending devices can help. Anglers who catch and release these deep water fish have to return the fish to their habitat depth quickly in order to avoid barotrauma. This proved to be an enigma for scientists and conservationists. Fishermen, in the end, figured out a way to save the fish they catch using descending devices.
It’s true; fishermen care about their sport and are as concerned with overfishing and bycatch as any conservationist.
That is why The Sportfishing Conservancy is running workshops around the country explaining why and how to use descending devices. See a successful catch and release of a rockfish in California using a descending device.
By clamping the fish’s lower lip and leading the fish to a quick descent back to its normal living depth, the fish will live. You can see the effects of barotrauma slowly fade as the stomach no longer protrudes from fish’s mouth and its eyes go back to normal as it swims away.
Now the 34 million fish that get caught then released a year have a better chance at living, growing bigger and fighting an angler another day.