Release weight helps fish swim away unharmed
Recfishwest has again thrown its support behind a push to get recreational fishers across WA to use release weights.
Designed locally, and mandatory in the west coast bioregion, a release weight is an invaluable tool for all boat fishers.
As mentioned in last week’s column, making them mandatory across the State was a recommendation in the size limit review by the Department of Fisheries.
We support that recommendation because it will help ensure more unwanted fish are successfully released across WA.
Fish caught at depths of greater than 20m, including popular species like dhufish, coral trout, cod, and various emperors, often suffer barotrauma when they are brought to the surface.
Barotrauma is the result of the rapid expansion of gases in the swim bladder as fish are brought to the surface rapidly, which puts pressure on internal organs.
Bulging eyes and the stomach protruding from the mouth are sure signs of barotrauma, which can be lessened by the angler slowly bringing a fish up rather than trying to boat it as quickly as possible.
Fish exhibiting these symptoms can find it impossible to return to the bottom on their own, making them doomed to die when released.
However, tagging results have shown even fish with severe symptoms of barotrauma have survived when handled correctly.
Using a release weight greatly increases the survival of released fish as it assists in returning them back to the bottom habitat and depth of capture.
The release weight, which is essentially a weighted barbless hook, is simply attached to the jaw of the fish and is then lowered back down.
When the fish has been returned to the bottom, the weight can easily be pulled free.
Release weights are available from most tackle stores, and more information on their use can be found on the Recfishwest website at recfish west.org.au.
While it is not yet compulsory in all areas, we would recommend that all boats carry one and use it when needed.
This is another example of a proactive measure contributing to a sustainable fishing future.
A release weight being used on a dhufish.