How to Prevent Barotrauma in Fish

Hi folks – I have a favor to ask and that is to please click on and watch the following video clip. It is about a unique new way to combat barotrauma (uncontrolled decompression of internal gas) in fish like walleye, bass, perch, crappies, pike and muskies that have a closed swim bladder, using a product I discovered at the ICAST Show.

I think is the best conservation fishing tool I’ve ever come across. And full disclosure: I am not sponsored by theBarotrauma2 company (called EcoLeeser) nor have they paid me a penny to endorse their product. Matter of fact, they don’t even know to endorse their product. Matter of fact, they don’t even know I’ve reviewed it here. I have been testing the RokLees for more than a year now in open water as well as through the ice, and it is brilliant.

As many anglers know, every 28 feet you go down in the water column represents one atmosphere of pressure. So, when you hook a fish in deep water and bring it up, its eyes bulge and its swim bladder expands because of the reduction in pressure. In the extreme, its blood vessels can even burst and the fish can haemorrhage.

In divers, the problem is known as “the bends” or “rapture of the deep”. And, the way it is counteracted is by a long, slow and steady ascent to the surface often taking half-an-hour or more, so that your body can adjust to the changes in pressure and expel the life threatening gases.

But, that is not feasible with fish. Imagine, taking 45-minutes to land a walleye, bass or muskie that you hooked in deep water. Anglers have looked for other solutions including fizzing, or sticking a hypodermic needle into the swim bladder to expel the build up of air.  Even worse, some have resorted to deflating the stomach sticking out of the fish’s mouth mistakenly thinking it is the air bladder.

I won’t go into all of the cons of fizzing, but know there are very few, if any, natural resource agencies that support the procedure.

Anglers, too, often mistakenly believe that if they reel a fish up slowly to the surface, they can reduce the risks of Barotrauma3barotrauma; whereas in fact, a slow retrieve exacerbates the situation and gives the air bladder more time to expand even further.

Indeed, for over 30 years, prior to retirement I worked for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and when I was the District Manager in Kenora, our conservation officers would routinely scoop up dead and floating walleyes following major tournaments with clear evidence (intestines and organs hanging out of the punctures) that the fish did not survive.

Ditto in the winter, when our fisheries’ technicians would put underwater cameras under the ice in popular crappie ice fishing locations and spot dead crappies floating just under the surface of the ice for as far as they could see. The crappies had “drowned” because they had expended so much energy fighting the effects of a distended swim bladder after they were released that they subsequently popped up to the surface like a cork and died.

The RokLees, on the other hand, was developed to safely return these fish to the bottom, or the depths where they were caught. In fact, it was specifically designed for rockfish along the Pacific west coast, where anglers routinely hook the fish in several hundred feet of water. If it works at these depths for rockfish, imagine how well it will perform on walleye, bass and other fresh water fish caught in much shallower water.

Indeed, I recently loaned my RokLees to the fisheries’ consultant working with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources on the Winnipeg and English River systems in Northwestern Ontario. They are live netting and tagging lake sturgeon as part of a population study, but inadvertently, they are also catching extremely large walleyes. Fish in the 10-, 12- and 13-pound category.

They were so impressed with the success of the RokLees for successfully releasing the large walleyes that they immediately ordered several of the inexpensive tools for the technicians.

If you watch the following video clip you’ll see how it works.

7 thoughts on “How to Prevent Barotrauma in Fish

  1. Looks like a great product. Will probably save a lot of fish.

    However I always understood it was already to late. Once the fish has be tramatized like that. (Eye bulging, stomach starting to come out) is this not true?

    Does the fish really recover that easily? Wow a very cool product if it can help the fish.

    Clint Allen.

  2. Hey Gord,
    Both Thumbs up for your efforts. I’m convinced by your video. I’m going to find one at the tackle show and have one in my boat
    Cheers, Rich

  3. This is an great tool, I used to fish in 23ft of water and no problems, but then the fish were being caught in 40ish ft so I moved but quit because of the fish doing this. I will be buying one of these as soon as I can find one, great great idea.

  4. Gord, thanks for this blog and short video. Great information every fisherman should know and put to use.

    Best fishes,


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