State reviews methods to aid rockfish release survivability

Staff reportDecember 1, 2013 

Heather Reed, state coastal marine resources policy coordinator, will lead a briefing Friday afternoon of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission on the use of descending devices to improve the survivability of released rockfish.

Reed is scheduled to discuss recent studies that show improved survivability of rockfish when they are released back to the depth of their capture using descending devices. She also is to report on actions taken through the Pacific Fishery Management Council to adopt lower mortality rates for coastal rockfish released with descending devices compared with rockfish released at the surface.

The commission also will hear an overview of outreach efforts to improve awareness of recreational anglers on the benefits of using descending devices to release rockfish and properly identifying the rockfish they catch and release.

Rockfish have a gas-filled organ called a swim bladder that expands and contracts to control its buoyancy. When a fish is caught and reeled in, that mechanism for moving vertically is thrown out of whack. The volume of a swim bladder can triple when a rockfish is reeled in from depths as shallow as 60 feet.

Using a device to quickly release a fish back at the depth at which it was caught is vital to its survival. Studies of rockfish caught off California showed 83 percent of fish caught at depths between 217-350 feet, survived when returned to depth within 2 minutes. The odds of a fish dying after recompression nearly doubled with every 10-minute increase in time at the surface, according to California Sea Grant.

Fish management: The commission is expected to discuss Grays Harbor salmon fishing and lower Columbia River sturgeon management policies. Both are scheduled to take place Saturday morning.

Walleye limit: The commission will receive a briefing and hold a public hearing Friday afternoon on a proposed change in the walleye limit on the lower San Poil River in northeast Washington. Department staff will brief the commission and hold a hearing on the rule change that would increase the daily bag limit for walleye on the lower river from eight fish to 16.

Land acquisition: The commission is scheduled to vote Friday morning on three land acquisitions. The proposals are 640 acres in Kittitas County, 2.54 acres in Mason County and 2,639.26 acres in Asotin County.

When: Friday and Saturday. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. each day.

Where: Natural Resources Building, Room 172, 1111 Washington St. SE., Olympia.

Agenda: You can see the complete agenda at wdfw.wa.gov/commission.

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