Bass Mortality By: Jim Cardillo

Posted by Nina Kaseburg on

Fish Mortality
One could argue that, unlike hunting, a catch-and-release sporting event such as recreational or tournament fishing is a win-win situation. Anglers get to test their skills against the fish they seek or against their fellow anglers. After each tally, the captured fish are set free to go about their aquatic lives. However…
Various studies have shown that even released fish die in the days following their release.
I recall reading about a tournament in Maryland in particular. A one-day tournament with 80 anglers, and a two-day event involving 158 anglers, were held on the Potomac River near Smallwood State Park in Charles County. 3,200 fish were weighed in the three-day event. An estimated 600 bass have been discovered dead two days after the tournament. This translates to an 18.5% death rate.
A fishing guide, who reported the problem, and demanded a complete investigation, said he has no issue with well-run events but is angry that "most of these 100- to 200-boat events are from out of state and they abuse the local fishery - and our rights.
Factually, as you all know, there are several variables that can contribute to such a disaster. Here are some reminders that help keep our sport out of the negative news reports:
  • Minimizing the fight reduces the stress.
  • Quick hook set reduces the incident of swallowing the hook.
            This is particularly the case with plastic baits.
  • Keep the fish in the water.
  • If the fish is not a keeper handle it with the care that guarantees its ability to grow up to be a keeper in the future. 
  • Handle the fish properly
  • Don’t let the fish hit the carpet or shoreline! This removes the protective slime coating and leaves the fish vulnerable to disease.
  • Remove the hook(s) as cleanly as possible. Minimize damage to tissue. You can do this easily if you bend down the barb on your hook.
  • Don’t lift the fish to a horizontal position unless you support it with your second
             hand under the body of the fish. 
  • Get the fish back into the water or into the live well as soon as possible. I teach novices to hold their breath when they bring the fish out of the water and resume breathing when the fish is either in the livewell or released into the water. If you’re not breathing, you experience what the fish feels 
Live well management
Keep your live well water within 5-degrees cooler than the tournament water.
Cool water holds more oxygen than warm water.
Running your aerator constantly vs. on a timer adds to the probability that your
     released bass will survive the dreaded post release mortality statistics.
     Consider padding the inside of the live well lid. Fish are injured by hitting the top of
     the livewell not to mention the beating they receive from your traveling at 45+ MPH
     to and from your favorite fishing spots.
  • Additives
     Select additives for your livewell. The claim is that they reduce stress levels in the
     angler as well as in the fish. Additives introduce an anti-biotic agent, and begin to
     replenish the slime coat. Proven or not I would think that it must be better than not
     using the additive.
Please continue to do your part to ensure that there will be fruitful fishing for all to enjoy in the future.
Jim Cardillo,



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