Rockfish are a slow growing, long-lived fish (50 to over 100 years depending on the species). Rockfish populations can be easily overfished and once overfished it can take 50-80 years for the stock to recover. It is important for you to take steps to minimize your impact on rockfish. Here are a few steps you can take to lower rockfish mortalities while fishing.
When fishing in an area that allows retention of rockfish, don’t release smaller rockfish so you can keep slightly larger ones. Released rockfish have a low survival rate even if they appear to be in good health when released.
If you have caught your limit of rockfish or are catching rockfish while fishing for a another species, like lingcod, move to a location that doesn’t have much rockfish. Rockfish are usually found close to the bottom in rocky areas. To reduce your impact on rockfish try fishing well off of the bottom and avoid rocky areas.
Target lingcod before targeting rockfish. Lingcod generally reside in the same areas as rockfish so by fishing for your lingcod first you have the opportunity to keep the rockfish you catch at this time. After you catch your lingcod, you can catch your remaining rockfish at your favorite pinnacle.
Try using large baits and lures when fishing for lingcod or halibut, this may reduce the number of rockfish you accidentally hook.
When you release a rockfish, use a descending device to return the fish as close to the depth of capture as possible. Using a descending device to release rockfish greatly enhances their chances of survival. Studies have shown that returning rockfish to the water as soon as possible and avoiding excessive handling is very important to their survival. For more information see the WDFW guide “Protect Washington’ Rockfish”
For additional information on easy methods to re-submerge released rockfish, see the following two guides:
While these actions may not seem like much, the results can be significant. We sincerely appreciate the effort, on the part of anglers and the recreational fishing community, in trying to protect our valuable rockfish populations.