The Right Tools for Deep-water Fish Releases

Will you be fishing for snapper or grouper on your next fishing trip? Continue your role as a conservationist by paying close attention to signs of barotrauma and being prepared to respond. Barotrauma is a condition seen in many fish caught at depths greater than 50 feet and is caused by pressure changes leading to an expansion of gases in the swim bladder. It is important to treat barotrauma in fish you do not intend to keep. Signs of barotrauma include the stomach coming out of the mouth, bloated belly, distended intestines and bulging eyes.

Barotrauma can cause damage to internal organs and be fatal unless appropriate steps are taken to mitigate its effects. It is important to know in advance what tools are available and how to use them to help fish return to the bottom and increase their chances of survival.

Descending devices take fish back down to a depth where increased pressure from the water will recompress swim bladder gases. They fall into three categories: mouth clamps, inverted hooks and fish elevators. With proper set-up and practice, descending devices can be easy to use and make a big impact on the survival of released fish. Learn more about descending devices and how to use them at by clicking on the “Descending Devices” playlist.