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 Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie