Ocean

The Solution To Reef Fish Barotrauma 

Everyone who fishes in the Gulf of Mexico understands that some fish float when released.  This is one of the biggest problems with catching reef fish such as Red Snapper, Grouper, Triggerfish and other saltwater species.  It has long been known that most of the reef fish caught in deep water will not survive if they are too small or are caught out of season and have to be returned to the water.  Some people say that dolphins stand in line, waiting on the fish to be released so they can eat them.  Others anglers will tell you that they float fish behind the boat on a regular basis.

Working To Find A Solution To Help Floating Fish Survive

We are working with scientists trying to come up with a solution to help fish survive what is called barotrauma.  Everyone knows that the water depth that a fish is caught has an effect on the fish.  We are tirelessly working on a way to change the way we fish by using light tackle and fishing higher in the water column or at a lower Atmosphere to reduce the stress on the fish.  We all know the solution is not to fish on the bottom for reef fish.  That will never happen as long as everyone does not know how to help the fish survive barotrauma.

The Cause of Reef Fish Barotrauma or Fish To Sometimes Float When Released

Reef fish barotrauma is caused by two things.  The first reason is the fish that are targeted are caught on the bottom of the gulf or deeper in the water column.  The second thing that causes barotrauma is the reef fish are reeled up at a faster rate than they can adjust their swim bladder.  The results are devistating to the fish if they were caught in depths greater than 3 atmospheres or 99 feet deep.  The problem is greater if the fish are caught in dephts of over 200 feet or 5 atmospheres.   

The solution is getting fish back down to a depth or atmosphere (ATM) where their air bladder restores itself to a natural pressure.  For instance, if you catch a fish in less than 33 feet of water or 1 ATM, they are likely not to show any signs of barotrauma.  If you catch a fish between 34 and 66 feet or 2ATM, the fish will suffer minor trauma, depending on the species.  If you catch fish in depths greater than 3 ATM or over 77 feet, there is 3 times the pressure on the fish than it is if caught in shallower water.  The problem is not deep sea fishing.  The problem is the way people fish and the depth that they fish.  Most people fish too deep and do not understand Boyles Law.

Fish Descenders and How They Work

Mr. Bill Shelton of Newark, California is the inventor of the Shelton Fish Descender ™ that hooks to the fish and helps take them back down to a depth where the fish’s air bladder naturally adjusts to the atmosphere that the fish came from.  The secret to this invention is that it is key to getting fish back down below 33 feet or 1 atmosphere of pressure quickly or to the depth the fish came from.  This can be whatever depth.  The descender works and helps fish that are caught in lower or shallower waters such as 1 ATM, 2 ATM and 3 ATM.  We do not know how it will work on fish that are caught in depths greater than 4 ATM or deeper.  This is because of the damage done to the fish by the pressures created by retrieving them from deeper water.

We use the Shelton Fish Descender ™ exclusively in an effort to successfully release all of our fish species that have suffered from barotrauma back to a depth that will allow them to recover.  We also fish higher in the water or less than one atmosphere or 33 feet in an effort to minimize the harm to the reef fish.  If an angler does catch a fish on the bottom, we return that fish to its original depth to quickly stabilize the fish.

Deep Water Grouper and Barotrauma

The obvious problem for those of us fishing for deep water Grouper in atmospheres greater than 3ATM or about 100 feet.  Most grouper live in 180 feet 5.5 ATM or 350 feet 10.6 ATM.  The problem is when a deep water species such as Grouper being caught in atomospheres greater than 5 ATM is the effect the gases have on the internal organs of the fish.  Everyone knows that when you catch a grouper, the fight real hard until the get up off the bottom and then they are preceded by a bubble to the surface and the fish kind of gives up and almost floats to the surface as dead weight. 

The survivability of an undersized Grouper that has been caught and released in deep water is slim.  From what we have seen, the damage to the internal organs is extreme and prevents the fish from surviving anyway.  That is why we are being careful with our study of deep water grouper.  In actuality, we are catching Red Snapper in deeper water which is causing a problem with their safe release and survivability. 

Barotrauma Reef Fish Summary

Thank you for taking time to read about reef fish barotrauma.  We promise to work hard to preserve the life of released fish.  We have changed and we will continue to look for innovative ways to help save our fishery.  If you would like to go fishing with us and witness how gentle we are with reef fish that are being released, please visit our fishing rates page to see which charter is best for you.  Once you have decided on a charter, please fill out our fishing reservations page online and lets go fishing.  If you must speak to someone directly, please call us at 251.975.8111 and we will gladly assist you.