Anglers catching deep sea walleye must carry and learn to use deep sea release devices to prevent fish kills.
Walleye are moving away from their spawning grounds into deep water. Anglers reeling them in from depths of 25 feet or more can cause walleye barotrauma. Barotrauma is when the gas in a walleye’s swim bladder, which helps control buoyancy, expands, forcing the eyes to bulge and the bladder to come out of the mouth. If the fish is released in this condition, it will not be able to return to its depth.
Lake McConaughy, Merritt Reservoir, and Elwood Reservoir are typically the reservoirs where this can be a problem.
Daryl Bauer, manager of the Nebraska Park and Game Commission’s fisheries outreach program, said Nebraska anglers are unaware of deep-sea release devices. Instead, he said, they use hypodermic needles to release the gas from walleye suffering from barotrauma, and he said there’s no research showing it’s effective in saving fish.
A blog written by Bauer discusses this topic and includes a video on how to release fish in deep water. See it at magazine.outdoornebraska.gov/2014/11/deep-water-mortality/.
To avoid causing barotrauma, anglers may move to shallower water. But those intending to fish for deep sea walleye in these reservoirs need to plan. Keep a deep-water release device on hand to quickly release fish back to where they came from. After hooking a walleye, land as quickly as possible; rocking slowly will not lessen the effects of barotrauma.
For more information on fishing or to purchase a permit, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov.