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Do Not Vent Fish!

All the Venting Techniques are Wrong - According to Professor Gene Wilder


With everything we do concerning catch and release, perhaps the most controversial is releasing fish caught from deep water. Most fish coming up on a hook from depths of more than about 80 feet will have an expanded or burst air bladders (swim bladders).

We have talked about these bladders in other articles. The fish use them to create a neutral buoyancy so that they can remain at a constant depth. If they move up to shallower water, they regulate their swim bladder to decrease the pressure. If they move deeper, they increase the pressure.

But fish are only able to regulate their bladder just so fast and quickly coming to the surface on a hook and line often exceeds their ability to reduce the pressure. In deep water, fish often “blow” to the surface once you get them half way up. They bob around on the surface like a cork.

When we catch short fish like this – ones that we need to release to comply with the legal limits, we usually will use a venting tool ice pick, or knife to relieve the pressure and allow the fish to return to the bottom. Otherwise, they float on the surface and become easy prey to predator fish.

Some states, Florida in particular, have enacted new rules requiring a venting tool be present on a boat while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. They also require a de-hooking device, but that’s a whole other subject.

I have been venting fish for many years. Those that did not get vented before releasing were quickly made a meal by a big barracuda. I was happy to see the rules change to actually require venting of fish.

Now comes someone who is challenging all the thinking about venting. Gene Wilder, Professor of Fish Ecology at Texas Tech University, has come out with a study that indicates venting does no good – in fact, the paper states that venting actually can do more harm to the fish and recommends that all venting be stopped.

Hmmm… Where in the world did Professor Wilder come up with all of this? He has a website that discusses various aspects of the subject, and his paper can be read at. I will warn you – there is a ton of scientific lingo and calculations involved, but when you sit and digest the actual process he used and the results he obtained, it will make you wonder about venting.

To me, this finding could pave the way to a “no release” rule in deep water. If you catch it, you own it, no matter what the size, and after you catch the limit, you are finished. But then what happens if you catch your limit of say, seabass, and you want to catch red snapper? How do you only catch red snapper? How do you keep a seabass off your hook?

The other thing this finding could do is help promote the anti-fishing crowd’s agenda. If catch and release is not working in deep water, then perhaps fishing should be halted all together in deep water. Do you see the possibilities?

So – how do you feel about all of this? Does Professor Wilder’s paper make sense? Where do you see all this going? Hmmmmm…

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