Releasing a bass makes us feel good. But does catch-and-release really help sustain fisheries?
Based on results from a tagging study at Texas’ Amon Carter, a 1,539 acre fishery north of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Sixty-three percent of 786 tagged bass were taken. In other words, fishermen caught nearly 500 of those fish.
Forty-three percent were weighed in by tournament anglers. Another 16.3 percent was caught and released by recreational fishermen, with just 3.7 percent harvested.
There’s plenty more evidence too.
Nearly 75 percent of tagged fish were caught at Florida’s Lake Santa Fe.
“Another study we did on Rodman years ago was 40 percent caught by anglers,” said Mike Allen, professor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Florida.
On Tennessee’s Norris Reservoir, meanwhile, the “adjusted annual angler catch rate” for tagged largemouth bass was 47 percent in 1996 and 34 percent in 1997.
And Jacob Westhoff encountered some powerful anecdotal evidence while doing a smallmouth telemetry study on the Jacks Fork River for the Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit. Eighteen of the 33 bronzebacks with transmitters were caught by anglers.
“Also of note, is that eight of our fish were caught by a single angler in one day during the winter at the confluence of Alley Spring and the Jacks Fork River,” he said.
Clearly, the evidence is there to support the wisdom of catch-and-release--- and more.
“Those findings highlight the importance of proper fish care,” said Randy Myers, a fisheries biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife. But he is quick to add that not all bass fisheries reveal such dramatic findings. For example, just 38 percent of more than 6,000 tagged fish were caught on Sam Rayburn, a lake more than 70 times the size of Carter.
Allen added that the statewide estimate for Florida lakes is about 20 percent.
“It obviously varies widely among water bodies and probably among regions,” he added. “In Florida, we have so many lakes. It’s probably higher in states without as many fishing sites.”
Allen’s point is important. The percentage of a bass population caught ties directly to angling pressure. At Amon Carter, tournament and recreational effort was a combined 14 hours per acre, while it was 5.2 at Rayburn. And in Florida, drought had reduced accessible areas at other fisheries, likely forcing more anglers than normal to fish Santa Fe.
Other factors can influence how great a percentage is caught as well.
“Rayburn has better habitat than Carter,” Myers said. “Overall, it’s a better lake for bass production.”
Still, angling pressure is a top consideration for resource managers in maintaining healthy bass fisheries. That’s why Myers is hopeful that removal of a protective slot at Ray Roberts will attract tournaments away from Carter.
“At Carter, more than half of the effort was from tournament anglers,” he said. “Because they are so popular, we have to think long and hard about restrictions that would limit tournaments. But if 50 percent of tournament-retained fish die (at Carter) it would have some impact on the fishery.”
Consequently, how fish are cared for before they are released also is a concern for Myers and other fisheries managers.
“If a fish is gilling, lots of experienced anglers still assume that it will live,” Myers said. “But that’s not always true. Some of those fish do die.”
The Texas biologist pointed to statistics gathered as part of a fizzing study during five tournaments at Lake Amistad in 2009.
On days when the water temperature was in the 50s and 60s, mortality, both immediate and delayed, was less than 10 percent. On a day when the temperature was 79 to 80, total mortality was 23 percent and delayed 18.3. And, most sobering, when the temperature was 83, total mortality was 50.8 percent and delayed 42.1.
“What we saw at Amistad is that 75 degrees is the critical temperature for bass health in a livewell,” he said. “That high mortality was strictly related to water temperature.”
Hot Days and Heavy Limits
Research like that at Amistad prompted Texas biologists Randy Myers and James Driscoll to recommend an oxygen injection system for livewells, particularly when an angler has a hefty limit as often happens at Texas reservoirs.
“Oxygen injection has long been used by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hatcheries to maintain the health of fish being stocked into reservoirs,” they said.
“Fisheries staff regularly transport or hold fish in ratios equal to or greater than one pound of fish to a gallon of water. However, boat manufactures do not offer oxygen injection system options, and very few tournament anglers have installed oxygen equipment on their boats.”
Proper installation and operation of such a system, they added, “will ensure oxygen levels remain above the preferred level of 7 milligrams per liter, even when livewells contain heavy limits.”
More information is available in a Power Point presentation.
Anglers who caught a huge tiger shark off the coast of Australia have been attacked with the same indignant outrage as that heaped on the Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion.
Never mind that the two incidents are vastly different. That doesn't matter to the name-calling know-nothings whose comments highlight their colossal ignorance regarding wildlife and nature. What matters to these "animal lovers" is that they want to heap abuse on those who fish and hunt.
And in doing so, the implication should be clear to all of us who hunt or fish and occasionally keep what we catch: They don't want us doing it either, and, if they have their way, one day we won't be able to. They've already scored victories on this front in western Europe, where catch-and-release isn't allowed in some countries because its "cruel" and in others where live bait can't be used because it's equally offensive.
How ignorant are these people? Here's one comment on Facebook, where the photo of the nearly 1,400-pound shark and the anglers originally was posted:
"WTF is wrong with these people leave the Sharks alone without them out ocean would be a lot more polluted." (Comment is reprinted just as it was written.)
And here's an excerpt from another:
". . . you went into another's place of residence and fought an unfair battle, you were armed with a weapon that has placed this creature in an unfair situation. To me you are cowards . . . "
That's called anthropomorphizing, and that's what these people do. In other words, they attribute human qualities, needs, emotions, etc. to animals. In fact, a primary objective of the most radical is achieve legal "personhood" for animals.
The same types of comments and attacks surfaced on social media against hunters and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in the wake of last fall's bear hunt, which the agency deemed an appropriate management tool to help control the state's exploding bear population.
With the shark, meanwhile, we know little about the circumstances of the catch and why the anglers decided to keep the fish instead of release it. What we do know, though, is that their catch was legal.
And we know that they were using light line (15 kg-pound test, or the equivalent of about 30-pound). What that suggests is that they probably were not targeting sharks, and that a long fight was required to bring it to the boat. And the longer the battle, the more likely that the shark was too exhausted to survive afterward. That sometimes happens when large fish are caught on light line.
Of course, that's of absolutely no importance to the know-nothings who say things like this:
"You are just as bad as poachers in Africa."
They are relentless too, and not in the least bit troubled by their ignorance, as they are fueled entirely by emotion.
And as we become an increasingly urbanized society, where more and more people spend little time outdoors and have no clue as to how nature works, this is only going to get worse for those of us who fish and hunt.
Ongoing research by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), suggests that fishing beds for the Florida strain of largemouth bass has little, if any, impact on populations--- if those fish are not harvested.
Results "indicated that fish captured during the spawning period contributed significantly to fall recruitment, despite being removed from their nests," reported Nick Trippel and other biologists who participated in two projects.
They added, "Genetic analysis of over 3,249 Florida bass fall recruits collected over two years provided evidence that nest fishing may not significantly impact the number of adults contributing to reproduction or the average number of recruits produced per adult."
In this study, researchers set up hatchery ponds, each stocked with 10 pairs of mature Florida bass. For two years, half of the ponds were fished and the other half were not. If caught, fish were held for one hour and then released. Biologists snorkeled the ponds every other day to document the number of nests made and confirm that the nests in the fished ponds were being pressured.
After the spawn, the ponds were left alone until October, when they were drained and the number of young produced in each was counted. Using fin clips to obtain DNA, biologists determined the parental contribution from each pond.
Genetic results revealed that fish that were caught off nests still contributed as many juveniles to the recruited year class as did fish that were not caught, they reported. "These results reveal that fishing for nesting Florida Bass likely does not have any negative population level impacts."
In the other study, conducted on three lakes during the spring of 2012 and again in 2015, they observed nests that were randomly placed in three test groups: never fished, catch-and-immediate release, and catch and hold for one hour, before being released 1,000 meters down the shoreline.
"There were no statistical differences in nest success rates between the three treatment groups: 32 percent for controls, 27 percent for catch-and-release, and 27 percent for catch and hold," the biologists said. "Lake, male size, and brood stage were better predictors for nest success rates than angling treatments were. Nest success was higher for smaller males than larger males."
The length of the spawning season likely helps explain why fishing for bedding bass has little if any negative impact. Mike Allen, a fisheries expert at the University of Florida, reported graduate student Stephanie Shaw found the average male raises at least two broods a year.
"The long spawning season in the southern states makes this feasible," he said. "It's less likely that males can successfully raise more than one brood in the northern states, where total spawning duration may be only a period of two to three weeks."
Allen added that bass are not "total spawners," as are trout and salmon. Rather, they are "batch spawners," which means their eggs are spread over multiple spawning events yearly. "Genetic studies have confirmed that female bass spawn with multiple males across a given spawning season," he said.
Still, all of this is not to say that bed fishing could not have an negative impact on bass populations in some cases. "Bed fishing that involves a high harvest component may display results significantly different than this experiment (test ponds)," the FWC biologists said.
"However, we feel that results are applicable to bass fisheries around Florida, as the majority of bass being caught, 70 to 99 percent, are voluntarily released and harvest rates are less than 10 percent."
Additionally, they cautioned, the pond study was not designed to measure "deleterious impacts" that might be associated with fishing specifically for trophy bass.
"However, this study was designed to simulate a worst case scenario in which every nest created throughout the entire spawning season was vulnerable to angling. This is likely not the case in larger public waterbodies with higher habitat complexities."
And finally, here's a revelation that will not surprise many anglers who have been frustrated in their attempts to entice bedding bass: "We also saw that catch rates of Florida bass while on nests were lower than expected, suggesting that Florida bass are less vulnerable to angling than previously thought," the biologists said.
Wolves are the most misunderstood and persecuted predator in human history. That's why I wrote Revenge of the Wolf: Sometimes, You Should Be Afraid of the Dark. And that's why I wrote what follows:
A Field & Stream cover from 1955 shows an attitude that still prevails today among some "hunters" who are quick to point out that they are champions for conservation. Also notice the title above the art: "Strafing Arctic killers." Now read the comments below, which were posted with it at Instagram, especially the last two.
fieldandstream#tbt This here, is some wild and old-school carnage. On the February 1955 cover, a pack of wolves attacks a caribou, while a hunter guns down the wolves from the bush plane (notice the orange blast from the muzzle...and red blood from the wolf at the top right).
jdnovak97This needs to be legalized in northern Wisconsin
bradklosinski If you were a rancher or a hunter in areas that have wolves you would very clearly understand the importance of harvesting and managing the population. But you have no idea about management or what it's like to have thousands and thousands of dollars taken away because of these animals. If I had it my way I'd kill everyone I see. But yuppie faggots like yourself don't let that happen because there "pretty".@aroundthebend3
anyroadhomeWow @fieldandstream deletes the posts that advocate science and conservation biology??? I had no idea that this company was operated by those that turn a blind eye towards reason and critical thinking.@aroundthebend3
Now let me ask you this: Why were those "Arctic killers" attacking that caribou? For kicks? For a trophy head mount? No, they are carnivores and they must kill to eat, to survive.
Many human "hunters," such as Brad above, don't want to share. They are NOT conservationists, and THEY are the ones who have no idea about management.
Wolves should not be allowed to kill livestock indiscriminately, and they should be delisted in states where their number have recovered and their populations managed with hunts. But to say that you'd "kill every one" is the height of hypocrisy for hunters who think of themselves as conservationists. And such comments and attitudes hurt the argument on behalf of hunting as a wildlife management tool among the millions and millions in this country who don't hunt but do vote and influence public policies.
That attitude nearly led to the wolf's extinction in the Lower 48, with thousands shot, poisoned, and trapped by government hunters during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Those same traps and poisons, placed throughout the western wilderness, also killed many other species, including eagles, livestock, and humans.
Now the wolves are back, as our wildlife agencies, at least, have recognized that ecological balance, not total extermination of a species, is the best way to manage wildlife. Concurrently, we have an epic battle going on for the survival of sport fishing and hunting, as our population becomes more urbanized and less in touch with nature. Hunters and anglers--- many who truly are conservationists--- are pitted against an animal rights movement that is totally ignorant of the outdoors, yet grows stronger and more radical every day.
These people want to stop hunting and fishing. Period. And people like Brad are among their greatest assets in convincing millions of people who don't fish and hunt to join their side.
If you'd like to learn more about this issue, as you read an action/adventure novel, featuring wolves, humor, romance, a psychotic killer, and a brawl at Bass Pro Shops, check out Revenge of the Wolf: Sometimes, You Should Be Afraid of the Dark, available as an ebook at Amazon.