Whether you’re a diehard reef angler or only occasionally venture offshore to target deep-water species, knowing how to use descending devices or venting tools will help the fish you release survive and help keep you out of trouble. We have the scoop on a new program that is helping Gulf of Mexico reef anglers meet DESCEND Act requirements through education and even free fishing gear!


The DESCEND Act made it unlawful to fish for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico without a device to safely return discarded fish to the water at a depth sufficient for the fish to recover from barotrauma. The law went into effect in January 2022 and requires anglers on commercial, for-hire, and private recreational vessels to have a venting tool or descending device rigged and ready to use when fishing for reef fish species in Gulf of Mexico federal waters.

What Is Barotrauma?

Fish that are caught in deep water often experience barotrauma from being reeled up from depth. Barotrauma occurs when gases expand in a fish’s tissues and organs causing internal damage and bloating. When released, these fish can struggle to return to depth and consequently die. The effects of barotrauma and release often lead to a high number of fish dying unless fish are released properly.

Barotrauma Symptoms

  • Bulging eyes
  • Protruding stomach
  • Protruding intestines
  • Bloated belly
  • Bubbling scales
  • Fish floating on the surface

Return ‘Em Right

Return ‘Em Right is a new program that aims to increase survival of reef fish by equipping anglers with the knowledge and tools to successfully release fish suffering from barotrauma. In addition to education, the program will provide free release gear to Gulf of Mexico anglers that are committed to using best release practices and helping the future of the fishery. Does that sound like you? Register below!

Register for Free Gear

Gulf of Mexico anglers can register for a 15-minute online review of best practices. After completing the online training, anglers will receive a free kit that includes two descending devices, lead, and all the tools needed to safely return fish to the bottom.

In addition to sharpening your fishing skills and scoring free gear (the kit has a retail value over $100!), joining the Return ‘Em Right movement means every time you fish for reef species you’re doing your part to “Earn Another Fight.”


Equipping yourself with knowledge and tools to release fish responsibly will benefit today’s anglers, the next generation of anglers, and the overall health of our fisheries. It’s our responsibility to do our best to ensure the fish we release survive to grow, spawn and be caught again!

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Return ’Em Right program is independent from the DESCEND Act and is not a result of legislative changes, but the free gear provided through it will keep you fishing legally.

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