Whether you’re a frequent reef angler or only occasionally venture offshore to target deep-water species, knowing how to use descending devices or venting tools will help the fish you release survive and help keep you out of trouble. We have the latest scoop on a new program that is helping Gulf of Mexico reef anglers meet DESCEND Act requirements through education and free fishing gear!
The DESCEND Act made it unlawful to fish for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico without a device to safely return discarded fish to the water at a depth sufficient for the fish to recover from barotrauma. The law went into effect on January 13, 2022, and requires anglers on commercial, for-hire, and private recreational vessels to have a venting tool or descending device rigged and ready to use when fishing for reef fish species in the Gulf of Mexico federal waters.
Fish that are caught in deep water often experience barotrauma from being reeled up from depth. Barotrauma occurs when gases expand in a fish’s tissues and organs causing internal damage and bloating. When released, these fish can struggle to return to depth and consequently die. The effects of barotrauma and release often lead to a high number of fish dying unless fish are released properly.
Return ‘Em Right is a new program that aims to increase the survival of reef fish by equipping anglers with the knowledge and tools to successfully release fish suffering from barotrauma. In addition to education, the program will provide free release gear to Gulf of Mexico anglers that are committed to using best release practices and helping the future of the fishery.
Gulf of Mexico anglers can register for a 15-minute online review of best practices. After completing the online training, anglers will receive a free kit that includes two descending devices, lead, and all the tools needed to safely return fish to the bottom. In addition to sharpening your fishing skills and scoring free gear, joining the Return ‘Em Right movement means every time you fish for reef species you’re doing your part to “Earn Another Fight.” Equipping yourself with knowledge and tools to release fish responsibly will benefit today’s anglers, the next generation of anglers, and the overall health of our fisheries. It’s our responsibility to do our best to ensure the fish we release survive to grow, spawn, and be caught again!