Effective July 15th of this year, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council now requires descending devices be on board and readily available for use on commercial, for hire and private recreational vessels while fishing for or possessing snapper and grouper species in Federal Waters.
The following are considered to be acceptable descending devices.
- Descending device means an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet.
- The descending device attaches to the fish’s mouth or is a container that will hold the fish.
- The device MUST be capable of releasing the fish automatically, by the actions of the operator of the device, or by allowing the fish to escape on its own.
There are 3 types of descending devices. Lip Clamp, Weighted Hooks and Box Style. The lip clamp and weighted hooks are the most popular and are easily stored. The lip clamp style can be pricey and if you’re like many anglers in South Florida, you are very aware of our shark problem when it comes to getting quality fish to the boat. Imagine losing one of these expensive descending devices to the taxman while you’re trying to properly release a snapper or grouper back to the bottom.
I have created my own version of a weighted hook from combining several others I’ve seen online. It’s very basic and cost effective should you get taxed. It’s a simple 7/0 hook cut just behind the barb, inverted with a lead tied to the eye and a swivel to attach to your mainline. You can adjust the weight according to the size of the fish and depth you are in. Once you have the fish unhooked, you can slide the barbless hook into its lower lip and send it to the bottom or close enough to it. With a quick yank, it should come off the barbless hook free of the barotrauma pressure and swim away to grow larger.
I would suggest keeping the more expensive device on board should the law stop you, but use the homemade one when fishing. Most of us have been there when you catch that almost legal mutton and do our best to vent it, only to watch it float away or get eaten on the surface by a shark. Now we can do a little more to help revive our future catches.
For more information, go to https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/bulletin/noaa-fisheries-announces-gear-modifications-snapper-grouper-fishery.
Until next time,
Capt. Ryan Palmer
Family Jewell Fishing Charters