Florida anglers will no longer be required to carry and use a venting tool when fishing for reef fish such as snapper and grouper in Gulf of Mexico state waters.
Removal of the venting-tool requirement means anglers are free to determine how to best maximize the survival of released reef fish and are free to use any device or method they feel is appropriate, depending on thecircumstances, to eliminate barotrauma.
Barotrauma occurs when fish are brought quickly to the surface from deep water. The change in pressure from depth to surface causegases in the fish’s swim bladder to expand, which can damage internal organs and hinders the fish’s ability to return to the bottom. Venting –– puncturing the swim bladder with a hollow, sharpened instrument — allows gases to escape so fish can swim back down to depth. While venting tools are still a useful way to increase the chances of fish survival after release, fish do not always need to be vented to survive upon release.
Descending devices, which carry fish back down to deeper waters where internal gases are recompressed by water pressure, are another, more recently developed alternative to venting that are also effective tools to increase survival rates among fish with barotrauma.
Non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks and dehooking devices are still required in Florida state and federal Gulf waters when fishing for reef fish. These tools minimize handling time which aids in survival of the fish upon release.
Venting tools are not required in Atlantic state or federal waters.
Maximizing post-release survival of fish is critical to marine fisheries conservation and management, because it means more fish survive to reproduce and insure the health of the stocks
For more information go to: MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Fish Handling” and look under “Tackle.” Information about reef fish gear rules is available under “Recreational Regulations.”