Bass aren’t the only fish that can suffer from a condition called barotrauma when pumped out of deep water.
In a nutshell, barotrauma is the physical reaction to changes in pressure between the body and water or air pressure. For example, humans can experience the acute effects of barotrauma with altitude changes when flying or driving.
At its most serious, scuba divers and pilots can experience something called decompression sickness (aka “the bends”) through exposure to pressure changes with rapid ascent. Hence the dive tables and dive computers used by scuba enthusiasts. And recompression and decompression chambers for those who work in extreme pressure environments.
But fish don’t have it quite so easy. Of course, some fish are more suited to rapid changes in pressure. For example, lake trout and whitefish, which can rocket from depths over 100 feet to the surface with no effects. Such fish have special physiologies to remedy the effects of built-up gas.
But bass and walleyes? Not so much. Their air bladders are quick to swell when pulled by anglers out of waters roughly 30 feet and deeper. And sometimes waters even shallower if the fish has been spending the majority of their time living deeper, only moving shallower to feed.
It’s what makes fishing deep so precarious if your intent is catch and release. Even more so for the tournament angler, whose hope is not only a successful release after weigh-in, but qualification with a full bag of live fish. These days, dead fish are typically disqualified from total weight from bass and walleye tournaments.
So, what do you do when the walleye you just caught in 30 feet of water goes belly-up in the live well?
Fizz ‘em. Canadian walleye and bass tournament Alex Keszler explains in this on-the-water video!
Note: Although the data is still out on the long-term survival of fizzed fish, one thing is certain; some chance of survival is better than none.