Outside Yelloweye, this will effect you.

Discussion in 'Conservation, Fishery Politics and Management.' started by OldBlackDog, Feb 11, 2017.

  1. OldBlackDog

    OldBlackDog Well-Known Member

    Outside Yelloweye.
    by Jeremy Maynard
    Last week I wrote about halibut and the emerging recreational fishery management regime for 2017. Despite some, admittedly small, uncertainty around what the regulations might be after the start of the new license year April 1, halibut are a good news story compared to the topic of this column.

    The header for this column is “Outside Yelloweye” which for the uninitiated might require an explanation and I’ll start with the second word first. Yelloweye refers to yelloweye rockfish, one of the three-dozen members of the Sebastes family of fishes. These are widely distributed on the Pacific coast of North America from Baja California all the way to western Alaska, although some individual species have more specific geographic ranges.

    Outside in this context refers to the entire British Columbia coastline excepting those waters between the east coast of Vancouver Island and the mainland, from Queen Charlotte Strait through the Strait of Georgia and on to Juan de Fuca Strait. Despite no observable external differences, biosampling studies enabling DNA analysis have found that yelloweye rockfish in each of these two very large areas are in fact genetically distinct and so are managed as separate stocks. Management of inside yelloweye was changed dramatically some dozen years ago as part of the inside rockfish aggregate when a combination of much reduced fishing harvest and a series of Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCA’s) was introduced.

    Because rockfish are described as a sedentary species, which is to say non-migratory, these sanctuary areas in which no hook and line fishing for any species by any harvest group is allowed are designed to act as a seed bank for the surrounding area as buoyant eggs and tiny juveniles are unwittingly distributed further afield by currents away from the RCA. Although there are a number of RCA’s located on the outside BC coast by far the largest number are found around the inside, in response to the severity of the conservation issue there.

    Apart from having a sedentary life history other key features of rockfish are slow growth, long-lived (yelloweye have been aged to 120+ years old) and late to mature (often 10-15 years old as maiden spawners), with perhaps the most challenging characteristic being that rockfish suffer from barotrauma, the inability to quickly expel gases in the body that expand as the rockfish are brought up from depth. This frequently causes the swim bladder to get pushed out of the throat and eyes to bulge out of their sockets, crippling the fish. Even if caught as unintended by-catch and released, the saying is that a caught rockfish is a dead rockfish for precisely these reasons.

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) gets condemned for all manner of management failings for the fin and shellfish species for which it is responsible for, occasionally unfairly so but unfortunately more frequently with some justification. And as someone who has spent more than three decades taking part in recreational and multi-sectoral fishery advisory processes to the department I am convinced that its worst failure relates to the management of rockfish. Having allowed through gross overfishing the severe depletion of inside rockfish in the 1980/90’s, requiring draconian restrictions to literally save the species in the early part of this century, once again DFO has allowed much the same thing to occur in outside waters, with yelloweye rockfish in the process of becoming the key focus there.

    The management challenge for rockfish in outside BC waters is greater than around the inside for a number of reasons – a much larger area, more diverse habitat, a greater number and diversity of high powered fisheries that encounter rockfish and, even now, a greater rockfish abundance in aggregate. However, enough stock assessment has been done to demonstrate that outside yelloweye rockfish are greatly overfished and the harvest must be curtailed, and fast.

    DFO staff have calculated that a sustainable all-fishery harvest of outside yelloweye is 100 metric tons (MT) a year but that the recent year harvest is nearly three times that amount and included in that are about 35 MT taken for First Nations Food fisheries and in various test fisheries for a variety of groundfish. This total is unlikely to change, leaving about 65 MT of outside yelloweye for the combined commercial and recreational harvest. DFO believes that the recreational fishery takes about a fifth of the outside yelloweye harvest and, in the absence of an allocation policy between these two fisheries for rockfish, intends to split up the future allowable catch based on recent assessed catch shares. This means the recreational catch of yelloweye will have to be reduced from 55-65 MT annually down to 12-15 MT, and by 2019 as well.

    Estimates of the recreational outside yelloweye catch are likely overstated because of the inability of many anglers to accurately identify rockfish by species. Indeed the catchall phrase “red snapper” is still commonly used by many to describe any kind of red or orange rockfish, despite the fact that there are no snapper on the BC coast. The yelloweye rockfish is well named because it does in fact have a distinct yellow band around the outer edge of the eye however a number of similar but different rockfish – canary, vermillion and aurora’s in particular – are frequently counted as yelloweye when they aren’t.

    An additional challenge is that many rockfish, yelloweye included, are caught as by-catch to a different target species, usually halibut or lingcod. Populations of both species are in good shape, with important directed fisheries for them by all harvest groups. Rockfish by-catch when after halibut can be lowered by fishing non-rocky ground but lingcod prefer much the same habitat as rockfish and the gear for one is equally as effective as for the other.

    At this point no decisions have been made but DFO groundfish staff have indicated that changes to reduce the recreational outside yelloweye harvest are going to occur soon. In the absence of any good options expect large reductions in rockfish retention limits and/or seasons and possibly reduced limits and/or seasons for lingcod in outside waters. Other ideas include a maximum depth restriction when fishing for any groundfish, already in effect along some parts of the US Pacific coast but hard to enforce.

    Other than angler education the idea with the most promise is the use of descending devices e.g. the Seaqualizer ( http://seaqualizer.com/ ). Attached with a large weight to the end of a dedicated rod and line outfit, these allow for the return and release of rockfish at something close to their original capture depth in short order, mitigating the worst aspects of barotrauma. Their use to date has been limited but there is a growing body of data that indicates they can markedly improve the survival rate of released rockfish. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that such devices will soon become mandatory for any angler specifically fishing for any bottom fish, regardless of species.

    So, to use an oft expressed phrase, if it’s not one thing then it’s the next and yelloweye rockfish along the BC outer coast are it for 2017 and the next few years. Stay tuned for updates on this evolving fishery management story.

    Jeremy Maynard | February 11, 2017 at 10:10 pm |

  2. fogged in

    fogged in Well-Known Member

    The column makes some good points.
    I am not sure where most fishermen stand on the problem of depleting populations of Rock Fish?
    My opinion is if left uncontrolled, Yellow Eye in particular could be fished into near extinction, even on the outer coast.
    The number of sport fishermen fishing the outer coast has increased by HUGE numbers in the last 10 years.
    Fishing guides in particular know where to catch Rock Fish, including Yellow Eye and many of their guests expect to take a full limit of everything available to them, followed by a nice tip to their guide and that's what a guide is expected to do...please his guests.
  3. Twinstrike

    Twinstrike Member

    I don't know why guides are always getting blamed for depleting fish stocks. Check out the picture on instagram suggest there is lots of blame to go around.
  4. Derby

    Derby Well-Known Member

    everyone should take the time to looking into descending devices and there usages...We all need to do our part which includes avoiding high encounter area's.... Descending devices will be come a part of our tackle boxes pretty quick....
  5. Birdsnest

    Birdsnest Well-Known Member

    Not many of us or no-one I know of is jigging cod is 1 to 6000 feet of water. This off shore on the shelf of a species of rock fish I have never seen in the "shallows". Never the less the picture suggests something is wrong there for certain.
  6. Fishtofino

    Fishtofino Well-Known Member

    I've been using a homemade descending device for 4 years ever since a client from Washington state showed me how easy it is. They have used them down there since the 90's.

    I usually try and target the lings in less than 120 feet to avoid the yellow eyes that don't taste that great once they've been frozen. Fresh are great!
    the fog ducker and TheBigGuy like this.
  7. TheBigGuy

    TheBigGuy Well-Known Member

    I try to avoid rockfish entirely. I try to stay 5-10 ft off bottom to avoid them. I also use big Hali hoochies in 8 1/2in -10 inch sizes which tends to discourage smaller rockfish. I've found the rockfish in Barkley Sound super wormy and never bother keeping them. A descending device is good, and can be made easily from a spreader bar.
  8. Prairie Locked

    Prairie Locked Active Member

    Any insight into the device that you'd be willing to share? TheBigGuy had a pretty simple set up he'd shared previously using an old spreader bar.
  9. TheBigGuy

    TheBigGuy Well-Known Member

    You can also use a heavy lead head jig of say 24 ozs. File the barb off. Hang it upside down by tying your line to the bend of the hook. I prefer the spreader bar because you can add a heavier weight.
  10. Fishtofino

    Fishtofino Well-Known Member

    I use a shaved down barbless 2 lbs lead head on a spider wire leader and have another 2 lb sinker on a duo lock snap for big ones.
    I hook it thru the edge of membrane in the jaw hinge, barely holding it.
    Lower the fish slowly to the bottom and give it a quick jerk.
    In 4 years I've never seen one float up to the surface.
    i use a 2 lb lead head on a braid leader and add a 2 lb weight on a slider snap on the leader for a large yellow eye.
    Hook it lightly in the membrane in the jaw hinge. Works great
  11. BearCove

    BearCove Well-Known Member

    This is what I use, have been using it for about 2 years now. They seem to work well and there is a TON of information about their use on the internet. How to use them correctly, data on release rates, all you will need to know.

    Picked these up at a trade show in WA a couple years ago, there was a booth set up promoting them. I think that we should all have on onboard and be using the. It is in all of our best interests to do our best in protecting all stocks of fish.


    Cuba Libre likes this.
  12. Prairie Locked

    Prairie Locked Active Member

    Bearcove, I think the major issue with this product would be buy in. At probably around $100 CAD (exchange, shipping, etc), how many people will pay it?

    I'm not saying it's a valid excuse but it would be cost prohibitive for many if not a majority of anglers.
  13. Derby

    Derby Well-Known Member

    Retail is $79.89.... If you get into a lot of fish that require releasing its the easiest and efficient way to release them... snap on the your down rigger ,let the rigger down half the speed and at t he right depth( should be a 1/3 to at least 1/2 the depth caught) poof swims away.... there are many of devices that can used...this one is the sage rod of descending devices... good product easy to use....
  14. BearCove

    BearCove Well-Known Member

    With all the money being spent on all types of gear one would think that buying a product that in turn is going to help the fishery in the long run that it wouldn't be that tough of a decision to buy one.

    Bad excuse really.

    Anyways, for those guys out there that want to be a part of the solution these things work great. They have multiple different depth settings, very easy to use, and you don't need anything but a rod, reel and weight to use it.

    Cuba Libre, Policeman44 and Derby like this.
  15. Derby

    Derby Well-Known Member

    The descending devices will in time became mandatory equipment I believe. Washing, Oregon, California and Alaska it is now... its matter of time.... this yellow eye bye catch can and most likely will have some serious effects on some of the existing fishery in the future...
    Cuba Libre likes this.
  16. Prairie Locked

    Prairie Locked Active Member

    BearCove, you missed my point. The point was more of how many people will spend $80-100 on a product when you can make something up with the gear that you have that would likely work just as well? I'd rather release the fish using one of the above mentioned methods (Fishtofino, TheBigGuy) than spend the money on a device I may only use 1-2 times a season or that runs the risk of being lost or misplaced. I'm not speaking out against the conservation of these fish (all bottom fish with swim bladders), it's actually to the contrary. I very much support conservation and proper live release of all fish for a successful recovery.

    I don't run into much incidental rock fish by-catch, maybe a couple each season. When both eyeballs are extruded and the pupils are blown, the mortality rate must be darn close to, if not 100% so these we keep. I focus more on avoidance, staying off bottom, etc. To date, I've been lucky, I've only ever caught 1 yellow eye.
  17. Samnjoe

    Samnjoe Active Member

    I have used the Seaqualizer for 2 years now.
    Very easy works great. I set it for 100 feet.
    We get piles of yellow-eyes up North Island.
    I think the real culprits are the draggers working off of the Brookes peninsula.
    Looks like a pumpkin patch out there some days with all the discarded orange by-catch.
    Very sad.
    sly_karma and Derby like this.
  18. Tidal Chaos

    Tidal Chaos Active Member

    I just bought a Seaqualizer, waiting to try it.

    Have tried multiple other methods, gave up on chasing fish that wiggle off the barbless hook, or the twisted wire method, or the weight isn't heavy enough to get the cod back down and it gets off the hook on the way down because it starts to get life back in it and bumps itself off the hook and then floats back up. Watched video's on the Seaqualizer and there shouldn't be any of these issues; clamp the jaw shut and send it back down, hit the set depth; jaw opens; fish swims away, done! No chasing floating fish, fish is released at a set depth. Easy and money well spent in my opinion. Everyone is entitled to try what ever method they chose or what works for them; I prefer not to get frustrated at a fish that I am trying not to feed to the eagles.
    Derby likes this.
  19. CIVANO

    CIVANO Well-Known Member

    seaqualizer works great every time. I have used one for 3 years and when jigging for ling I no longer have a slick of dead rock fish behind the boat.
    Cuba Libre and Derby like this.
  20. charlie415

    charlie415 Well-Known Member

    I bought one too. Made one out of tig rod a couple of years ago but too much messing around. Haven't tried it yet but soon.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017

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