Handling caught rays safely?

Discussion in 'Surf, Piers, & Jetties' started by jjdbike, Jul 24, 2022.

  1. jjdbike

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    Hello folks,

    Many of you know me as a Mid Atlantic surf fisher who visits occasionally. Soon to be a North County resident. On the rare occasion I get to fish your surf, I get spooked by how many rays I see in the surf.

    I hear & read people talking about the stingray shuffle. Takes a lot of work, but I suppose it's needed. Is there such a thing as stingray proof booties or boots? Anyone here wear them?

    How do you handle them when hooked in a way that's safe for you and the ray? I wonder how many folks simply cut the line and leave the hook in? Not the best for the fish or the environment, but pro better than messing w/ it a long time out of water.

    Please advise... what do you do?
    JD
     
  2. William Ritchie

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    You will probably get many replies on this subject . I have spent many years surfing ,diving , fishing . It took nearly 50 years before I got tattooed by a ray , I used to tell others to suck it up when they got tagged . I now have a different perspective on how much a ray sting can damage / hurt a person . I generally wear an armored dive boot to protect from rocks , shells , glass and have better traction on wet surfaces . I can also say that an armored , 7mm boot will NOT , stop a ray spine , goes thru like a laser . I have read about ray proof / resistant footwear but never used it . Do the shuffle , keep your eyes open and hope for the best . If you are prone to Anaphylaxis , carry your Eppi pen as reactions can occur . Soak in the hottest water you can stand when you do get tagged . Tight lines . WR
     
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  3. Bird334

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    Five most dangerous fish on the West Coast
    By
    WON Staff
    -
    December 22, 2021
    0

    4-Guadalupe_Island_Great_White_Shark_Underwater-696x468.jpg
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    The Pacific boasts some of the world’s deadliest fish with an array of weaponry that any angler should be aware of – here are the top five most lethal critters you’re likely to encounter on your next trip.

    5 – Wolf eel (Anarhichthys ocellatus)
    Found: Central and Northern regions of the West Coast
    Danger rating: 2/10
    Potential injuries: High-pressure bites that’ll crush bones.

    5-WOLF-EEL-FOR-DYLAN-DEPRES-445x1024.jpg
    THE WOLF EEL boasts one of the strongest bites of anu fish (Photo: Dylan Depres).
    Not an everyday West Coast catch, the horror-movie-ugly wolf eel is usually caught on lingcod or rockfish tactics and boasts one of the most formidable bites in the piscatorial world. Famously, they’ll make splinters from a broom handle in one bite and can crush a can of pop, even when their head is no longer attached to the body.

    So, handling one when it hits the deck presents a real danger of losing a finger or chunk of flesh once those backward-facing layers of teeth clamp down on whatever gristle they can find. Wolf eels are pretty unique; they mate for life and are long-lived, so we’d encourage you not to kill or damage them if possible. Just take great care in returning with a very long set of pliers or dehooker over the rail so it goes straight home, and can’t chow down on your digits.

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    4 – Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
    Found: Up and down the California coast

    Danger rating: 5/10
    Potential injuries: Death and dismemberment in one bite

    The West Coast is home to large numbers of the planet’s apex predator, but incidents are usually restricted to one or two encounters a year with anglers not on the menu. Surfers and free-diving spear fisherman are recent recipients of unwanted attention but these are rare and great whites are commonly filmed or witnessed in populated waters paying little attention to the humans nearby, plus it’s illegal to target them.

    Despite the films, they are not actively engaged in hunting humans and pose little threat to the average angler. Thus, whilst they may be capable of tearing any of us in half with one shake of the head, they’re not high on the list of fish to be genuinely afraid of and aren’t interested in things with two legs, most of the time. You don’t need a bigger boat.

    3 – California scorpionfish / sculpin (Scorpaena guttata) Found: Southern California and Mexico

    Danger rating: 6/10
    Potential injuries: Puncture wounds and poisoning from fin spines

    3-IMG_0894-225x300.jpg
    SCULPIN have poison-laden fins and need to be handled with care. (Photo Ben Harvey-Murray)
    Despite being one of the prettiest marine critters around and a common sportboat catch, the California scorpionfish, known locally as sculpin, packs a spectacular array of venom- laden fin spikes that can ruin an unsuspecting angler’s week if stuck during the unhooking process. Likened to a rattlesnake bite, the venom is delivered via hollow spines in its fins and has been known to cause heart and blood pressure issues lasting for days, making this one to handle very carefully when it hits the deck or shore.

    Think proper de-hooking devices, long-nosed pliers and heavy-duty, puncture-proof gloves. The good news is that the flesh is amazingly tasty and sought after by many in the know, so it’s often worth the hassle of getting it safely in the sack should the opportunity occur. Just don’t get spiked.

    2 – Moray eel (Gymnothorax mordax)
    Found: Rocks, reefs and harbors Danger rating: 8/10

    Potential injuries: Finger removal, deep bite-inflicted wounds

    2-800px-California_Moray_Eel_32582219365-300x200.jpg
    MORAY EELS are commonly encountered in California.
    Ever seen the Alien films and winced at the creepy second set of jaws the xenomorphs are rocking? If so, we’ve got some bad news for you; moray eels have the exact same setup, they’re very real and they like biting meaty things like fingers. This is probably the one fish on the West Coast we’d be very keen to not touch at all because they’re strong, flexible and aggressive when out of the water, making them hard to handle.

    De-hook with minimal interaction and be wary of their ability to twist back and around on anyone nearby. Be especially wary when fishing around rocks in the deeper harbors and jetty systems at night as they often live in these environments and will come out to find prey when the light goes.

    We’ve had some interesting encounters with morays whilst fishing these areas – such as returning a fish in the shallows at night and feeling a giant moray trying to bite the hand that’s in the water holding the returnee. Stories of divers feeding morays and losing a chunk of flesh or a digit are not uncommon. Don’t let the prey be your fingers or feet.

    1 – Pacific round stingray

    (Urobatis halleri)
    Found: Shallow sandy beaches in California and Mexico
    Danger rating: 9/10
    Potential injuries: Deep puncture wound on feet or hands

    The Pacific round stingray might be small, but the record for the largest number of stings in one day is held by an Orange County beach with 176 swimmers stung as they accidentally tread on the baby rays in the shore break. This hit rate equates to thousands of stings per year on the West Coast and, despite the Pacific round stingray’s unimpressive size, they pack a real punch and are actually born with a large stinger ready for action. If you’re stung, the best treatment involves an hour or two with the afflicted foot in a very hot bucket of water to kill the venom that’s now in your foot.

    Obviously, prevention is better than cure, so adopting the slow, foot-dragging walk known as the Stingray Shuffle to give the rays time to get out of your way is highly advised. Most baby stingrays inhabit shallow sandy beaches so treat these areas with extreme caution in the summer, and the use of stingray-proof boots, although somewhat clunky, will give you a lot of protection if you’re wading in low visibility water. Unhooking is relatively easy with a pair of pliers holding the tail lobes to stop the stinger tagging your hand, and a quick flip upside down to aid access to the hook. They might not look much to be worried about, but with a huge number of victims every year and a painful day-ruining sting, they are undoubtedly the most dangerous fish on the West Coast.

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  4. Mike M

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    My buddy likes to wade in protected water to fish for halibut. He consistently catches, but he's been stung 5 times this season. For me, I just cast farther and stay out of the water.

    When unhooking small stingrays, I lift the line to put them on their back then approach from the head with my hemostats to unhook from their lip. I can't remember ever having a gut-hooked stingray... maybe I'm just lucky.

    Here's my son's fiance with a small stingray. IMG_1541.JPG
     
  5. jjdbike

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    Thanks everyone,
    When you say wade into protected waters, do you mean protected by special regulations or do you mean protected as in back waters, bays, lagoons etc?
    JD
     
  6. jjdbike

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    Thanks bird,
    We catch Wolfe fish while ground fishing in New England (North Atlantic). They look very similar. Also similarly nasty. Good eating, but now protected.
    I wonder how closely related that are? Ours looks more like a fish and less like an eel. Here's a pic of one caught on a boat I like fish in Maine for haddock, pollack and cod. I''ve caught my share of them. They grab a jig as well as bait.
    JD.

    29wolf-2765153943.jpeg
     
  7. Mike M

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    Protected from waves in our harbors.
     
  8. MisterT

    MisterT Well-Known Member

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    The only way to stay 100% safe is staying away from the water and casting far with the rod. (Long rod & long cast reel?)

    If I land a ray I generally flip it over (on its back) and step on the tail while removing the hook.
     
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  9. Werfless

    Werfless The Coach ..RIP my friends
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    Ok.. my .02... If you fish here and don't bring a gaff almost all the time, you are barking up the wrong tree if you're trying to be serious, unless you're fishing light/mobile. Rays hunt by smacking stuff with their wingtips, so, tossing lures, you will hook many, especially with trebles. Slide your gaff down your line to the hook and shake the thing off. Really big rays can be grabbed by the plate in the roof of the mouth, or if they aren't too big, the so called "ear holes". Our rays here can be absolutely massive, with a couple species being confirmed as man killers, namely the pelagic and diamond rays. Caution is always warranted, even the little ones can cause quite a lot of damage and pain. With all that, our larger local rays can put up a tremendous fight with loads of stamina. They would be considered prime gamefish in many parts of the world, in truth.
     
  10. dmorgan3

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    Mud marlin. And I can attest that a 25 lb. bat ray from a float tube caught using 10 lb. line is not easy to bring in. It took about an hour to get to shallow water where I could easily and safely remove the lure (foul hooked on a wing). Never tried putting my fingers in the roof of the mouth of a ray, looks like they could get crunched real bad.
     
  11. Werfless

    Werfless The Coach ..RIP my friends
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    Most rays have crushers pretty far back towards the throat, I think all our rays but one have the plate that extends to the front of the mouth...
     
  12. camobass

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    I’ve had quite a few horrific injuries in my life, stared at my bones sticking out of my skin a few times. Worst pain I ever felt in my life was a broken stingray barb stuck in my heel. No joke.
     
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  13. carpkiller

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    I have been stung 3 times. Once was a fairly good puncture on a finger because of careless handling of a small round ray while unhooking it.

    The other two times were when a round ray was swept into my foot while I was wading in foamy wash less than a foot deep. One was a deep puncture, the other was a slash that resulted in a red line on my foot, as if someone had just brushed with a half warmed-up soldering iron.

    I have stepped on hundreds and hundreds of rays while wading and never once been stung by any of them. Yeah, after it happens and I rinse the piss outta my trunks, I shuffle my *** off for an hour or two. And if I'm pumping shrimp or wading in the surf and see rays cruising around I shuffle....for a few minutes.

    Back on topic...

    Round rays, I just flip over on the sand and unhook 'em.

    The only way to get stung by a bat ray is to drop it on your foot, or put your foot in the water behind them so they can back up to it. Their stinger's up by their butt, and their tail's only a little more limber than a pool cue. In the surf, slide 'em up on the sand, slide your hand down the line and feel for the hook...if they swallowed it, cut the line. If they're lip-hooked, reach under with the pliers and unhook the fish. Yes, they have a built-in handle...a bony plate in the roof of the mouth; hook your fingers behind it and lift 'em up for a picture and to put 'em back into the water.

    Pelagics and Diamond rays, haven't had that much experience with them but their stinger is farther down the tail and they can thrash it around. Don't be where they can hit you.
     
    #13 carpkiller, Jul 25, 2022
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2022
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  14. Bassnbeans

    Bassnbeans 4th turning is gonna hurt
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    Great advice on here.

    My .02 on the shuffle: I know rays are supposed to be super sensitive to vibration and motion in the water, but I have “shuffled” right up to with a couple feet of them on many occasions. Seems to usually be on the more crowded and active beaches and river mouths. (Maybe they accommodate to all the commotion?) Now I found that if I lifted my heel an inch or too and slammed it down hard, the rays had no problem getting the message and figuring out which way to scram. So mine was always to a forefoot slide to stay under any that might be there, then little stomp with the heel.

    Oh, and flip them and pin the tail REAL GOOD before you use forceps or pliers to remove the hook. Those tails are hard-wired to pop whatever touches the fish. No connection to the brain required (ask me how I know). Think knee-jerk reflex.

    Best of luck.
     
  15. cort

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    Agree on flipping to the back to unhook, but my related question is: What's the best way to handle/transport them the 20 feet from the sand back to the water's edge, to release, without getting tagged?
     
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  16. Bassnbeans

    Bassnbeans 4th turning is gonna hurt
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    I wanna say “who cares if they make it back to the water” but that wouldn’t be eco-sensitive. LOL.
    Keep pliers on the tail and grab their mouth or sphericles. Or if you have the tail secure, you can grab it firmly below (caudally) of the stinger by the base of the tail fin (talking round rays here).
    BTW, the wing meat tastes like lobster. Just sayin’.
     
  17. Zhao

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    If you were wearing boots - (gently) kick them all the way back. By the time you got the hook off, they were probably exhausted and won't whip as fast. Usually I put my foot close to the body (a few mm), then kick it. In this way you won't kick too hard and the ray had little time to react.
    If you were not wearing boots - push them with the butt of the rod
    I have yet got a super heavy one that rod could not move. But if I do, I may step on its tail and cut the stinger off. I heard it will grow back in a few weeks.
     
  18. carpkiller

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    Bat rays, grab 'em inside the mouth. Palm up fingertips behind the bony plate, other hand on top of the head in case they wiggle a bit. Then just carry 'em, for the small to mediums. The big ones, brab inside the mouth and drag down the sand.
    Round rays, I just grab 'em by the stinger with my forceps or pliers and carry em that way.
     
  19. camobass

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    Famous last words
     
  20. dmorgan3

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    I am emotionally attached to my fingers though, not sure that I want to take that risk.
     
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