by Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters (c) 2001
The catch-and-release ethic is now a big part of fishing, not only in tournaments, but also fishing in general. Quite simply, it helps sustain the resource. But improper care and handling of fish by anglers can cause unintentional harm to fish.
Following are a few tips on returning bass to the water:
When handling a bass, grasp it by the lower jaw to avoid touching the rest of its body. This prevents the accidental removal of its protective slime coat that fends off infection. With larger fish, two hands may be needed to support the weight of the fish. Too much stress placed on the lower jaw can actually injure the fishs mouth, preventing it from eating once its released back to the water. If you want a photograph of your catch, wet your free hand, place it underneath the fish to support its body weight and hold it horizontally.
Never carelessly drop a fish from extreme heights or toss it a long distance across the water. The best way to release a fish is to gently lower it into the water by its lower jaw. Watch to see that it swims off safely. If not, carefully move the fish back and forth through the water by hand to assist with the flow of oxygen across its gills. Remember, the longer a fish is out of the water the greater the mortality rate increases.
Live release tournament anglers often use livewells. Run your aerator to ensure bass receive the right amount of oxygen inside the livewell. When the water temperature is below 70 degrees, use intermittent aeration and recirculate the occasionally. If the water temperature is between 70 and 85 degrees, fill the livewell early in the morning and aerate continuously. Mortality risks are greater when the water temperature goes above 85 degrees. Run your aerator and recirculating pump all the time and add ice to the livewell to cool the water. Add an 8-pound block of ice to a 30-gallon livewell three times a day during a tournament.
Placing special additives in the livewell can help restore a fishs protective slime coat. They also heal wounds and remove harmful chlorine from melting ice. The use of noniodized salt is a good additive. Note the emphasis on noniodized salt, as iodized salt will actually harm the fish. Use recommended doses of live-release formulas or 1/3 cup of salt per 5 gallons of water. Dump the water out of the livewell periodically throughout the day to remove built-up ammonia and fish-waste products. Before weigh-in pour another pre-measured cap of live-release formula into the water to calm the fish.
Pump-out systems and dip nets ease the process of removing fish from a livewell. If these devices are not available, dip your weigh-in bag inside the livewell and herd the fish into it head first. Gripping the bass by its lower jaw is another safe way to pull the fish out of your livewell.
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