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.
Dave Fryda, Missouri River System supervisor, said given the exceptional Lake Sakakawea walleye fishing this summer, enticing many anglers to the big lake, it’s important to know that fish reeled in from deep waters will likely die if released.
“When the bite first started, anglers were catching fish in shallow water,” Fryda said. “As the summer progressed, fish move into deeper water and are now being caught at depths where barotrauma is a concern.”
Change in water pressure will cause the swim bladder to expand, which means fish can no longer control balance. In addition, 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, but it is especially noteworthy for this time of year in Lake Sakakawea.
Prior to fishing at least 25 feet deep, anglers should make the decision to keep what they catch prior to fishing and honor that commitment.