Releasing fish caught deep and quickly brought to the surface has long been a problem both in salt and freshwater. Basically the fish’s air bladder —now filled with expanded air from the depressurized rise from the deep—keep it floating on the surface.
Tournament walleye anglers have long been using the technique called “fizzing” for fish held in a livewell for later release. Friend and pro Mark Martin has this method down pat.
He holds the fish upside down in his livewell, moves two scales to either side of the anal hole, then counts five to seven scales forward toward the fish’s head. At this point a needle (usually an old IV needle or a fairly large hypo needle, that you might obtain from a veterinarian) is inserted at a 45 degree angle and left there until bubbles cease coming out through the needle.
For bass, at least there’s an easier, less invasive way. It could work on other fish, though species with serious teeth could pose a problem. California anglers Todd and Rod Thigpin, who make Stocker Swimbaits, use a sinker and structure marking buoy for fish bass pulled up from 20 feet or deeper.
A 10-ounce, torpedo-shaped sinker works best. The weight is tied to the end of the marker buoy line. And then while lip-holding the fish in a vertical position, the sinker is dropped past the fish’s crushers into its gullet (you know, like a sword swallower). Then you let the weight take the fish down to its comfort level. Through the line you’ll feel the fish becoming active as it reacclimatizes. A jerk on the line will quickly remove the sinker.
This stuff is surely worth a try. “Floaters” don’t stand much of a chance for survival. Send any thoughts, disagreements or other methods you’ve discovered this way. We’d all like to share them.