The "Put 'Em Back" Fish Release

Anyone who has fished for lakers that are at depth are aware of the problem that arises when they are brought up to the surface and unable to expel excess air from their air bladder, as that air expands on the way up.  Scuba divers doing this are subject to barotrauma and can die from this, as a result of them breathing compressed air from their tanks and  that air then expanding in their lungs as they ascend.  Fish are the same way, breathing compressed air at depth that then expands in their air bladder but, fish are a bit tougher than us humans and wind up "barfing" their air bladder out or as cod do sometimes actually barf their insides out!!

I have been doing some Internet research on this subject and there is quite a bit that has been written up on the subject of barotrauma  in fish.  "Fizzing" is a technique used by some but something I wouldn't feel comfortable doing to fish.  It entails using a hypodermic syringe that is pushed into the fish and into their air bladder, thereby allowing the excess air to "bleed" out through the syringe.  No doubt works but, if you miss the air bladder and hit the gut or something worse, heart/liver, you'd wind up killing the fish rather than helping it.  The technique I've been using via the downrigger ball has worked OK in the past but that "ripping" the hook out of the fishes mouth at depth is not always that tender on them either.  What I did find on several sites was what others are referring to as a "fish descender", simply put, a device to put the fish back down to the depth it was caught at, and it releases itself, sort of!  My design is my own, being careful of course to not breach any patent pending device that may be out there, good grief, heaven forbid someone bends a piece of wire the wrong way and copies someone!!  Whatever.

Here it is, simply made from a halibut spreader bar that I picked up at Wholesale Sports for four bucks.  I took the swivel assembly off the one side by bending the wire and then sharpened the end of the bare wire.  The rigging simply hooks onto the downrigger clip with the cannon ball below the device, to give it weight to take the fish back down.  Now, some may think that taking a wire and poking it through the fishes bottom lip is cruel, I'm guessing its no more cruel than over handling a fish, dropping it on its noodle in the boat or beating it with a net numerous times in an attempt to get it into the boat.  This device is quick, simply poke that hook through the bottom lip, get some weight on the fish (holding it by the tail) and slowly let the rigger ball down.  The fish follows right behind the ball, mouth open so it can breath OK, and lower it down to the depth you caught it at.  Once you reach that depth just reverse the rigger right away and that hook slides up and out of the fishes mouth, its just that simple as Shell Buzey would say!!  Hey, us humans are sticking stuff through our lips and other weird spots so a wee hole in the fishes lip is nothing as compared to floating around on the lake surface and being pecked apart while still alive!  Also, there's no doubt that fish get the odd hole poked in them somewhere from the stuff they eat, so again, I really don't feel a hole in the lip is going to cause any long term damage.  In any event, I'm gong to be using this all the time now and in fact just leave it hooked up on the rigger wire as shown in the pic, that way your not scrambling around putting it together if you do get a "bloater"!