Air Bladder Relief
* Handling Fish|
* Fish Care
* At the Tournament
* Personal Notes
* Trouble Shooting
Though it is only my own theory, not proven scientific fact, I think fish caught in deep water are not the only ones that suffer air bladder expansion. When stressed I believe fish can inflate their air bladders like human adrenalin becomes increased upon stimulation. A fish can be determined to have an expanded air bladder when: the fish is trying to get deeper in the water but cannot, the fish is rolling over and over, or the fish is swimming in a nose-down position with tail elevated. Relieving the air bladder of these fish is controversial. It has not yet been fully studied, and even TP&W personnel differ on it's procedure. In some cases it won't be necessary if you treat with Catch & Release, and hold fish horizontally until it can hold itself up. Air bladder relief procedure is done only when it's obvious the fish will perish without one last effort to save it. TP&W has done no studies on the practice I use to hold fish upright, but in six years of fish care I have seen it help fish. If allowed to lay over in an unnatural position I firmly believe that fish will simply give up. We have had success with fish unable to hold themselves up by holding them in a normal position for 20 minutes to one hour, and in some cases relieving the air bladder.
It's preferable, especially with the larger bass of five pounds or more, to have someone hold the fish for you on a smooth wet surface or place the fish in a large landing net just under the surface of the water in the hospital tank. If this procedure is done in your boat do not hold fish on carpet, but place on wet weigh bag or other smooth surface. Place the fish's head on your left as this side presents the best location for the air bladder. It's best to have the person holding the fish "lip" it with their left hand and hold the wrist of the tail with their right hand. Small fish can be done by one person more easily than larger ones. Once the needle is inserted the fish must be held under water so you can see air bubbles escaping, preferably by the side of the boat rather than in the livewell.
A large biopsy or spinal tap needle is needed for this procedure, one that has an insert that can be removed to allow air to flow out. A single hollow needle will not work as it will become clogged with scales and skin immediately. Use a spinal needle no smaller than 18G31/2. Your veterinarian may be able to help you get these in an inexpensive disposable form, But, do not dispose of it after use, it's reusable. They simply cost a lot less than the ones vets or surgeons use. Your needle must be 16 to 20 gauge and at least two inches long. Spinal tap or biopsy needles are best, do not use anything else.
____________ THE PROCEDURE ____________
You must push the needle under the skin, this is best done at an angle between scales. Back needle out until just the tip of the needle in under the skin, redirect needle straight into fish about half the length of the needle. Remove plunger and allow air bubbles to escape for a count of 8 to 10 seconds. Do not remove all air, this is important. Remove only a small amount of air, then wait and see if fish is better. You can always remove more if necessary. Allow fish to go free and observe it's behavior. If fish resumes normal swimming, all is well. If fish goes to bottom and simply lies there, do not worry, yet. It's usually just tired from trying to get down and needs some rest. If fish recovers in 30 minutes or so, hold for another 30 minutes then release into lake. You've given that fish the best chance for survival.
Continue to: Notes on Fish Care & Air Bladder Relief