Anglers Can Save Wasted Rockfish

Rockfish swim in deep waters off Alaska. And when they’re caught and brought to the surface, the pressure changes can cause incredible trauma. But a recently completed study from the Alaska Department of Fish and Games shows the fish have an amazing ability to recover if they are released back down at depth. Sam Hochhalter  is an ADFG fishery biologist who worked on the study. He says 98 percent of the fish in the study survived when they were released at depth:

Only 22 percent of the rockfish survived when they were released at the surface. Hochhalter says 1 out of every 2 rockfish caught by sport anglers statewide are released. And he hopes this new information will help convince anglers to return those fish to the depth of capture:

More and more rockfish are caught and harvested in recreational fisheries in Alaska each year. But Hochhalter says not much is known about the state’s rockfish populations. But biologists do know the fish live a very long time- up to 150 years. That makes them susceptible to over harvest. Hochhalter says they’re also late to reach sexual maturity:

Hochhalter says there are commercial tools available to release fish at depth. He says homemade versions work too.

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Annie Feidt is the broadcast managing editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Annie here

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