Anglers Should Keep Fish Caught in Deep Water

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries personnel encourage anglers to keep fish caught from depths of more than 25 feet, rather than practice catch-and-release.

Scott Gangl, Game and Fish fisheries management section leader, said while catch-and-release is often encouraged under the right conditions, fish reeled in from this depth will likely die if released.

“Fish caught from deep water have a lower chance of surviving after you release them because of the extreme change in water pressure,” Gangl said.

Change in water pressure will cause the swim bladder to expand, Gangl said, which means fish can no longer control balance. In addition, he said other internal injuries are likely, such as ruptured blood vessels or damaged internal organs. Because of these other internal injuries, biologists discourage fizzing, the practice of deflating the swim bladder.

Barotrauma injury can happen in any deep water body such as Devils Lake, Lake Oahe and Lake Sakakawea, Gangl said, but it is especially noteworthy for this time of year in Lake Sakakawea.

“As water warms during summer, fish tend to move to deeper, cooler water,” he added. “This is particularly true for walleye in the big lake, where walleye follow their primary forage of rainbow smelt to deeper depths as summer progresses.”

Prior to fishing at least 25 feet deep, anglers should make the decision to keep what they catch and honor that commitment.

“Our simple message is for anglers to keep fish that are caught from these depths, or to fish in shallower water when practicing catch-and-release,” Gangl said.