Bluegills and other predators can eat bass eggs and fry within 5 minutes of the male being removed from the nest, according to recent research at the University of Illinois.
The fact that they move in when the protector is caught and pulled out is not news. But this recent finding about how fast it can occur is something that anglers should remember.
“One of the main conclusions of the study was that in a lake where there are very few brood predators, when you angle a male away from his nest and then immediately release him, the change of a negative impact is less,” said Jeff Stein, a University of Illinois fisheries scientist.
“But if the nest is located in a part of a lake where there is a high density of brood predators, once the male is removed, predators get into the nest very quickly. On average, the time it took brood predators to begin eating bass young was less than 5 minutes in cases where the nest was located near schools of brood predators.”
Stein added that his message to anglers is that it’s best to get the fish back in the water as soon as possible if they are catch-and-release fishing for nesting bass early in the year, especially if the lake is known to have a high number of bluegill and other predators.
Of course, the debate remains never-ending about whether to fish for bedding bass because of what happens when they are removed from the nest and the fear by some that it will harm productivity. I don’t do it, but that’s a matter of personal choice. I don’t think that it generally is harmful to bass populations. And fisheries managers have found no evidence that it is.
The bottom line is this: Southern fisheries aren’t nearly so vulnerable because they have longer spawning seasons. Northern fisheries are more vulnerable because seasons are shorter. That’s why spring bass fishing often is catch-and-release in the Upper Midwest and Northeast.
But no matter what lake or stream you are on, if you are catch-and-release fishing, it’s always a good idea to get that bass back in the water as quickly as possible.