Bass Care 101
A BRIEF ANGLER'S GUIDE ON HOW TO BEST TAKE CARE OF YOUR CATCH PRIOR TO RELEASE
We are fortunate here in the U.S. to have a healthy largemouth bass resource. Starting with Ray Scott and his creation of B.A.S.S. and the catch and release ethic in bass fishing, anglers and bass tournaments have been, and continue to be, protective of this valuable resource. An important key to a future healthy resource, and continually growing bass fishing opportunities, is how we the anglers care for the bass we catch. The purpose of this pamphlet is to help educate anglers on the basics of how to best care for largemouth bass. The increasing number of largemouth bass anglers and tournaments at all levels makes this information more important now than ever. Many tournaments provide live-release boats and good weigh-in conditions that help survival of fish, but they cannot save injured or severely stressed fish. It is essential that every angler understands that the conditions during capture, handling, and livewell confinement are critical in determining whether a bass ultimately survives after release.
Over the years there have been a number of valuable studies and publications on bass care. One of the very best and most detailed resources continues to be “KEEPING BASS ALIVE: A Guidebook for Tournament Anglers & Organizers” by B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliard and Hal Schramm https://www.bassmaster.com/sites/default/files/keepingbassalive_guidebook_comp.pdf. Another excellent study was done in partnership with Phil Morlock, Director, Environmental Affairs at Shimano and Dr. Bruce Tufts and his team at Queen’s University and the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Most recently, a research project funded by 10 state fisheries agencies conducted at Mississippi State University evaluated the effects of water temperature, livewell temperature and dissolved oxygen, and fish landing time on largemouth bass survival. This study took a practical approach of duplicating actual conditions that largemouth bass face during a tournament from catch, to livewell holding, to weigh-in, to release back into the water. Survival was measured after 8 hours of livewell retention and for five days after weigh in. Under controlled conditions, adult bass were then subjected to angling times of 1 minute and 3 minutes, 8 hours in a live well at dissolved oxygen concentrations of 2, 5.5 and 8.5 parts per million (ppm), and livewell temperature of no change in temperature, cooling the water 7 degrees F, or warming the water 7 degrees F. All trials were conducted at temperatures ranging from 63 degrees F to 91 degrees F to fully represent the temperature conditions when most bass tournaments occur.
MSU Study Summary : Longer fight times, fish handling, low dissolved oxygen, and warm water all impacted the survivability, with warm water, having the biggest impact. However, catch and release tournaments had a minimal effect on survival if fish were landed quickly, handled properly, and kept in livewells with good water quality at 84 degrees or less.