Why Do Fish Get Bulging Eyes And Expelled Stomachs? Barotrauma Explained!
As a fishermen you have probably come across a situation where a fish had what appeared to be it's stomach protruding out of its mouth? How about eyes that were bulging like they had just find out they won the lottery?
Both of these occurrences are actually very common and occur quite frequently given the right conditions.
"Fish have air bladders that allow them to regulate their buoyancy and depth"
This past summer I got the chance to do a lot of deep drop fishing in the Bahamas. We primarily target species such as Yelloweye snapper, queen snapper, mystic grouper and snowy grouper. All of these fish are generally caught in 800+ feet of water! Giant electric reels and heavy duty deep drop rigs are sent down to the bottom with a squid, barracuda, and bonito as bait. These fish are reeled in relatively fast on an electric reel, as manual cranking would get too tiresome. Most of the deep drop species make excellent table fare and are highly sought after.
Now lets dwell into Barotrauma and what exactly it is. Fish have air bladders that allow them to regulate their buoyancy and depth as they live in water and most species of fish in the ocean, will live in different depths depending on seasons and their life cycles. Pressure underwater is felt at a greater pressure curve than above land so to make up for this difference in pressure, gases are allowed to expel from fish when they dwell deeper. When a fish is reeled up to the surface too fast barotrauma occurs as the gas in their air bladder cannot be expelled fast enough and the decrease in pressure, results in the expansion of gas inside them. This means an expanding air bladder which pushes on other organs of the fish, thus resulting in bulging eyeballs and stomachs. This is why deep dropping is almost exclusively a NON catch release fishery. Its a way to put meat on the table, as most fish would die upon release.
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