Catch-and-release works only when it’s done correctly
A generation ago, the idea of catching a legal fish and throwing it back seemed strange. Catch and ... what?
Now catch-and-release has become common, especially among bass anglers. But a Canadian study published last year says that fishing tournament anglers should adopt better release policies.
Black bass — the largemouth, smallmouth and spotted relatives of panfish — don’t require pristine waters to be prodigious breeders. The need for stocking is rare. As long as there is suitable spawning habitat, not too many predators and lots of forage fish, bass generally need no help in sorting out the birds and the bees.
Research has long documented the mortality rate of bass that were caught and immediately released by sport anglers as 1-2%. In tournaments in which bass are caught, transported in a livewell and released near the weigh-in site, mortality has been estimated at 28% or higher.
The report acknowledges the conservationist ethic supported by tournament organizers and participants. Many bass tournaments, it said, are
switching to some form of catch, weigh, video and release at the point where the fish was caught.
The researchers from Carleton University in Ontario studied stress placed on bass by conditions including water temperature, oxygen level, handling, air exposure, livewell structure, crowding of livewells and weigh-in systems.
“Despite the potential benefits to at-boat release tournaments, there are a number of possible avenues for research that can benefit individual fish and fish populations. For example, there continues to be the need for research in the area of fish care and livewell design,” stated the report in Fisheries Magazine, a publication of the American Fisheries
Society representing professional fisheries scientists.
Some of the study’s recommendations could be adapted by recreational weekend casters. Everyone enjoys a good fight, but the prolonged exercise of resistance can seriously deplete a fish’s energy. The report suggested that after a fight of several minutes or more, big bass should be allowed to rest alone in a livewell before being released at the point of capture.
Maintaining equilibrium between the water temperature at the depth a fish is caught and in the livewell can be critical. Some anglers attempt to help fish by dropping oxygenation tablets into the tank. Too much oxygen, said the report, can do as much damage as not enough oxygen.
There’s another consideration at this time of year. After eggs are fertilized, male bass fan them to prevent coverage by silt, guard the redds from predators and protect the fry. When an adult is pulled off the redd, a wide range of predators from gobies to bluegills to crayfish immediately begin stealing eggs. Anglers who want to help the bass they cherish should begin by protecting their progeny. Lake Erie algal blooms Expect another summer of relatively clear water on Lake Erie. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted Wednesday that harmful algal blooms would be smaller than average through July.
“Discharge of water from the Maumee River [in western Ohio] was below average in March and April, due to lower than average rainfall, which led to low phosphorus loads in early spring,” stated a media release. “While weather systems in early June are bringing rain to the region, there is still uncertainty in the weather models on exact amounts, placement and intensity of rainfall which leads to uncertainty in the discharge and the phosphorus load.”
NOAA said that by late June, normal rainfall was expected to return bringing less uncertainty in the amount of discharge.