How To Fizz A Bass - Everything You Need To Know About Fizzing
During Covid-19 lockdowns, there was a significant uptick in the number of fishing license sales across the country, and I’ve seen an increase in the pressure fishing tournaments have put on the resource as I travel around the country fishing kayak bass tournaments. With so many new anglers coming into the fold, safe, ethical practices on handling fish are paramount. One of the most controversial topics is the act of fizzing fish.
What Is Fizzing?
Fizzing involves venting the excess gas from the swim bladder of a fish after it has been brought up from deep water, usually from a depth of 20 feet or more. When any species of fish are reeled up to the surface from those depths, their swim bladder expands due to the reduced water pressure, resulting in barotrauma. (This is similar to the bends, which affects scuba divers who surface too rapidly.)
When a fish experiences barotrauma, it is unable to stay upright. It floats on its side and preventing it to swim back down once released. Barotrauma can also cause internal damage to the fish if it’s not treated quickly.
Signs of barotrauma include blood in the mouth of the fish, a bloated swim bladder, and the bladder protruding into the mouth of the fish.
How To Fizz A Bass
Fizzing fish takes precision. You must use a hollow needle and poke a hole in the swim bladder to relieve the pressure. You need to have a basic understanding of fish anatomy to capably perform this procedure correctly. Fizzing can be done through the throat (which most biologists don’t recommend), or the more accepted method, which involves lining the needle up with the pectoral fin and counting two or three scales before sticking it into the fish.
There are some anglers who are not in favor of it, mainly because it does take real skill to fizz a fish. That said, it’s not difficult once you understand how to do it. Many believe you are only further damaging the chances a fish will survive by fizzing it. That is true—but only if the fizzing is done incorrectly. If you don’t know how to fizz a fish correctly, simply keep the fish (if it meets state or local lake inch-length requirements), or just don’t fish deep water.
Fizzing Fish Is Accepted More Than You Think
Joe Balog grew up fishing the Great Lakes, and has made a living as a charter boat captain, fishing writer, and tournament angler. He also worked in wildlife management. He has been very involved with fish and livewell care, and he has working closely with biologists to find the best ways to transport and handle fish during a tournament.
“It’s important to realize in terms of the scientific community, fizzing isn’t a controversial thing. It isn’t a good or a bad thing, it’s just something that you do when you are fishing deep,” Balog says. “If you aren’t fishing a tournament, the quicker you can catch and release that fish, the better. If you bring a fish up, immediately unhook it and let it go… Ninety-five percent of fish will go back down without the need to fizz. I’m all for that. But if the fish remain out of water [for photos] or in a livewell, they will need to be fizzed.”
If you see that a fish is suffering from barotrauma, you must fizz it, because the odds of it surviving otherwise are incredibly low.
“There’s a zero percent chance the fish will live if it [remains] on the surface, so fizzing is a must at that point,” Balog says.
As for the two methods of fizzing, Balog is a proponent of inserting the needle from the fish’s side.
“There are two schools of thought on fizzing,” he said. “Some people stick them in their throats, some [by] the pectoral fin. All the biologists I’ve spoken with have been adamantly opposed to going through the throat.”
How To Fizz A Bass - What The Data Says
However, in trials conducted by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department under controlled conditions, researchers found that survival was significantly higher among fish that were side fizzed compared to those fizzed through the mouth. Autopsies revealed that inserting the needle through the mouth was more likely to cause hidden damage to blood vessels and vital organs. Fish could bleed internally. Side fizzing provides a larger target area with less chance of injury.
The location for side fizzing needle insertion was described in the late 1980s by drawing a line on the side of the fish between the dorsal and anal fins and counting rows of scales down from the lateral line. This was often slow and confusing, so this more recent diagram was developed and is easier to follow (see how to fizz a bass image above).
If you are interested in how to fizz a bass or any fish species for that matter. Here are two fish fizzing kits to get you started.
Fizzing is a valuable tool that all anglers need to become proficient with
Fizzing is a valuable tool that tournament officials and contestants need to become proficient with, especially when fishing at times of the year when bass are likely to be caught from deep water. Anglers should learn to relieve the air bladder pressure in the boat rather than waiting for tournament officials to provide treatment.
Another advancement in the fizzing protocol in the needle-cleaning “reamer” developed by New York B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Director, Barb Elliott. A thin wire is inserted into the needle to help prevent clogging during insertion. It makes the process almost foolproof.
Recently there has been concern voiced about the possibilities of spreading infection between fish fizzed with the same needle. The Texas study and another in Ontario found good survival among fizzed fish, with rapid healing. If there is a concern, keeping a number of fizzing needles in a vial of alcohol and allowing them to air-dry before each use is all that is necessary.
To fizz or not to fizz? The answer is yes if the symptoms dictate. Once you learn when and how to fizz a bass you may be saving a bass that might otherwise struggle to survive, and in doing so you will help preserve valuable fisheries resources.