Fish Post

Releases- July 4, 2019

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If you enjoy fishing for deep water species like snapper and grouper, then you are surely aware of a condition known as barotrauma. Barotrauma is caused by the expanding of gases in fish that dwell in deeper waters when they are brought to the surface, which results in the bulging eyes, stomach protruding from the mouth, and/or bloating in other areas of the fish.

Many recreational fishermen either handle this condition incorrectly or don’t know how to handle it at all, and this has contributed to a high rate of dead discards that are affecting the health of these great fisheries that we all enjoy. However, barotrauma does not have to be terminal for these fish, and there are ways to reduce the likelihood of release mortality.

Folks like Brendan Runde, at NC State University, are working to provide the tools and knowledge to prepare anglers to help reduce recreational discard mortality. One of the most effective tools is called a descender device that safely returns fish to a depth that reverses the barotrauma and allows for them to be released safely.

Thanks to a grant from the SAMFC, a large amount of descender devices called the SeaQualizer have been purchased and are available to anyone who takes a quick online tutorial. These devices typically retail for $60+, but by taking the tutorial, you can have one mailed straight to your house for free while supplies last.

As recreational anglers and conservationists, we should all be willing to acknowledge when there is a problem, identify ways to resolve the problem, and make the necessary changes in our fishing practices in favor of the resource in order to address and reverse the problem. In North Carolina, we only get a handful of days each year for a red snapper season. Take the tutorial, equip yourself with the tools and knowledge, and help spread this message as an advocate of conservation to others.

Who knows? We just might see a longer snapper season in the future as a result…

Check out an awesome video of the SeaQualizer in action here

And follow this link to take the tutorial:


Scientists at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are forecasting higher levels of dissolved oxygen this summer for the Neuse River Estuary. Compared to last summer, the predictive model indicates a smaller likelihood of stresses to the ecosystem, including fish kills.

“Our model quantifies important drivers of water quality in the Neuse River estuary, and allows us to forecast dissolved oxygen levels based on nutrient loads and flows over the preceding nine months,” says Daniel Obenour of NC State, the lead researcher on the project. “The estuary serves as an important fisheries habitat. Understanding and improving water quality is a mission-critical goal for water resource managers, fisheries managers, public officials, and others.”

With support from North Carolina Sea Grant, Obenour, an environmental engineer, is collaborating with coastal ecologist Hans Paerl of the UNC-CH Institute of Marine Sciences. Last year, their team accurately predicted the Neuse would experience unusually low levels of dissolved oxygen.

“Water in the estuary stratifies into two layers—lighter surface water and denser bottom water, like Italian dressing in a bottle separates into lighter and heavier layers,” Obenour explains. “The surface layer of water contains more oxygen because oxygen-producing algae reside there, and it is exposed to the air. Like the spices at the bottom of the salad dressing bottle, algae and related organic material settle into the bottom water, where microbes feed on it and reduce the oxygen content.”

The model generates daily predictions of dissolved oxygen in these bottom waters, the Neuse River estuary’s lowest three feet. Last year, the team accurately forecasted low oxygen levels, regularly below 2.0 milligrams per liter—a critical threshold for many aquatic species. This year’s forecast, however, calls for a somewhat healthier average concentration of 3.4 milligrams per liter during the same July-to-August timeframe.

Alexey Katin, a graduate student in civil engineering who works on the project, says two primary factors drive the forecast that the Neuse will be better oxygenated this summer. First, the winter and early spring were wetter than in the prior 22 years.

“The Neuse River’s discharge was almost double the usual rates for those months,” Katin explains. “These higher flows reduce algal accumulation in the upstream portion of the estuary in the winter and early spring, such that there is less build-up of oxygen-demanding organic matter.”

Second, late spring and summer discharges are expected to be below the historic average.

“Low river flows in late spring and summer generally lead to reduced nutrient loads to the estuary, especially nitrogen, which, in turn, limit summer algal production,” Katin says. “Furthermore, lower summer flows reduce stratification, allowing for more oxygen to mix into the bottom of the estuary.”

The model builds upon data that Paerl’s laboratory has collected through the Neuse River Estuary Modeling and Monitoring Project. The “ModMon” project marks 25 years this month.

“Without these extensive datasets, a model like this would not be possible,” says John Fear, deputy director for North Carolina Sea Grant and the Water Resources Research Institute, which have supported ModMon-based research over the years. “We’re pleased one of the state’s long-term monitoring datasets can help manage estuarine systems.”

At the same time, Obenour, who also has worked on predictive models for Lake Erie and the northern Gulf of Mexico, cautions about substantial uncertainty when forecasting water quality months in advance, especially in the Neuse.

“Major meteorological events can affect hypoxia in both the short and long term,” Obenour explains. “Last year’s Tropical Storm Chris and Hurricane Florence initially elevated oxygen levels, but also deposited large quantities of oxygen-demanding organic matter in the estuary. It is unclear how much of that extra oxygen demand may persist into this summer.”

Furthermore, while fish kills are often linked to extremely low oxygen levels, they also can occur for other reasons.

“A Neuse River fish kill in May was primarily linked to a fungus,” says Nathan Hall, a UNC-CH coastal ecologist also based at IMS and researches water quality topics.

Obenour says a primary purpose of the model is to improve understanding of the estuary and anticipate how it will respond to changes in nutrient loading and climate.

“We have plans to share the forecast with the public and various resource managers,” he adds. “We hope the model will enable us to raise awareness about nutrients, oxygen levels, and estuarine health.”


The American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA) President, Glenn Hughes, along with many ASA members, made the case before the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that sportfishing equipment should be excluded from the next round of proposed tariffs on Chinese imports.

“We understand the position of the president regarding current trade relations with China and we support realigning the trade agreements to correct the unfair trade practices,” said Hughes. “However, we are deeply concerned about the impacts of these proposed tariffs on all the manufacturers who are already paying a unique excise tax of up to 10% to support sportfish restoration.”

On May 13, 2019, the administration proposed a list of approximately $300 billion in Chinese imports subject to Section 301 tariffs of up to 25%. This list of imports includes fishing equipment manufactured or sold by ASA’s members including fishing rods, hooks, reels, lines, and many other necessary fishing equipment.

Today’s hearing before the USTR was an opportunity for the recreational sportfishing industry to make their case before the nation’s trade representatives that fishing equipment should be exempt from this new round of tariffs.

ASA members, including representatives from O. Mustad & Son, TackleDirect, Pure Fishing, ZEBCO Brands, Catch Co., and Big Rock Sports, provided testimony on the disproportionate economic harm these proposed tariffs could have on their bottom lines when this industry is already paying a unique 10% excise tax.

This excise tax is paid at the time of purchase and applied to items like fishing rods, reels, line, and tackle: the same fishing equipment on the tariff list. The funds collected from this excise tax flow into the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (SFRBTF) that supports fisheries conservation and management practices as well as boating access and education in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

“Our members contribute almost $150 million each year to conservation and they know this funding goes to good use as it can help increase fishing opportunities for anglers,” said Hughes. “However, for an industry that already has slim profit margins, an additional tariff on top of this excise tax could have a significant negative impact on their business, fishing participation, and funding for the next generation of anglers.”

Sixty percent of fishing equipment is imported to the United States with two-thirds of this equipment coming from China. For many product categories, China is the only option to produce some of this fishing equipment as they have the supply lines and infrastructure already in place to meet anglers’ demands.

Attempting to find and move production to other countries would take considerable time and money, and ultimately doesn’t exist. Should these proposed tariffs go into effect on fishing equipment, it would increase the cost for consumers and moving supply lines would do the same.

Hughes concluded, “The proposed tariffs and the associated increases on the cost of fishing equipment are expected to result in a substantial reduction in consumer spending. Fewer fishing equipment purchases means less revenue for fisheries conservation and management, which ultimately means less funding for programs important to the Trump administration’s priorities to improve public access to the outdoors.”