S.C. Sea Grant Consortium
Underwater camera image of red snapper.

Use Best Fishing Practices When Releasing Red Snapper

It is our responsibility as anglers, managers, and scientists to sustain fish populations for current and future use.

Red Snapper Can be Injured by Barotrauma

Snapper grouper species, such as red snapper, live in deep waters and often suffer from barotrauma, or pressure related injuries when being reeled up quickly from depth. This causes gases in the body to expand, and the fish is usually unable to return to depth on its own.

Signs of barotrauma include bulging eyes, stomach protruding from mouth, anal prolapse, bloated belly, or bubbling scales.

Stomach protrusion, one of the signs of barotrauma, is being exhibited by this Red Snapper. Image by Bryan Fluech.

A Red Snapper floats on the water surface due to the effects of barotrauma. Image by Bryan Fluech.

A Red Snapper displaying signs of barotrauma is being prepared with a descending device to return it to the bottom. This weighted device will take the fish through the water column and reverse the effects of barotrauma. Image: Sea Grant/SAFMC

A weighted tool called a descending device, is readily available for use. If fishing for snapper grouper species in the South Atlantic, all recreational, for hire, and commercial anglers must have a descending device readily available and attached to minimum of 16 ounces of weight and 60 feet of line. Image by SAFMC.

Use Proper Equipment and Best Practices to Help Fish Survive After Release

The survival of fish after releasing them is important so that fish can re-enter the population and reproduce for future generations.

Not using proper equipment and practices reduces a fish’s chances of survival due to injuries from barotrauma, improper handling, or from predation.

The use of best fishing practices can significantly increase the rate of survival of released fish. These include:

  • Using the required gear such as descending devices, dehooking tools, and non-stainless steel hooks
  • Avoiding non-target species
  • Holding fish horizontally with wet hands

By following best practices, you can help the fish you release see another day.

Learn About Best Fishing Practices

Learn more about best fishing practices and regulation specifics on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s website.

Contact Ashley Oliver, Best Fishing Practices Outreach Specialist, with your questions about best fishing practices for red snapper.