Monday, April 8, 2013

Potomac Rockfish Catch and Release

The Potomac Rockfish season is usually closed from January 1 through the middle of April every year.  This year (2013), the Potomac Rockfish season opens on April 20th.

During the closed season, you can still fish for Rockfish in the Potomac River, but you must use Barbless Hooks and you must release the fish with a minimum of handling so that it can survive when you return it to the water.

You can either purchase Barbless Hooks, or you can grind the barbs off of your normal hooks.  Fishing in saltwater with the barbs ground off will result in rusting, so keep a lookout for that or you'll end up with rust stains all over your boat.

Here are a few things you can do to increase fish survival rates (decrease fish mortality) when you Catch and Release a Potomac Rockfish:
  • Wet your hands before you touch the fish.  This helps keep the rockfish's slime coating intact.  If you handle the fish with dry hands or with a towel, it will remove the protective slime, subjecting the fish to bacterial infections.
  • Don't use a net to land the fish
  • Don't touch the fish's gills, as they are very sensitive and the slightest touch can injure them
  • Hold the fish by its mouth/chin, and cradle the underside of the fish with your other hand
  • Hold the fish horizontally at all times - especially the larger ones, as their internal organs aren't made to hang vertically with gravity yanking on them.
  • Don't lay the fish on the deck of your boat.  Hold it as prescribed above, take a quick picture if you want, then get the fish back into the water as soon as possible.
  • If it's a hot day (90 degrees or higher), then the air temperature can shock the fish.  The sooner you can get the fish back in the water, the better.  It's best not to catch and release on a very hot day, as the mortality rate on these fish is high - upwards of 20%.
Keep these general rules in mind when handling any Potomac Rockfish that you intend to release back into the river, and you'll greatly increase its chances of survival and being caught by another angler in the future.

Tight Lines!

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