To keep the fishing great on the Alabama Gulf Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, anglers are becoming aware of the need to take steps to ensure any fish released back into the water have the best chance to survive.
For those who fish for reef fish, like Alabama’s iconic red snapper, it’s essential. When a fish is reeled to the surface from significant depths, it can suffer barotrauma with symptoms of bloated stomachs and swim bladders. If it's not properly released, it will likely be unable to return to its reef habitat and die or be picked off by a predator.
Anglers can complete a 15-minute education module on the Return ‘Em’ Right site. Once completed, anglers become eligible to receive a package of descending gear valued at $100.
The gear includes a ready-to-use SeaQualizer device used to release fish at 50-, 100- and 150-foot depths. An inverted hook device is also included that allows the fish to be released manually.
The descending device can be used on all reef fish species, like snapper, triggerfish, and amberjack.
For inshore species, the red drum (redfish) is a hardy species, and the survival of released redfish is high. If you want a picture, dip the fish with a net, remove the hook, snap the photo, and slip the fish overboard.
Speckled trout are much more delicate and need special care if you plan to release trout, especially the large females that provide the most significant spawning potential.