Researchers from SUNY Plattsburgh’s Lake Champlain Research Institute have recommendations for bass fishing tournament participants to help save the fish caught and released.
The recommendations, derived from a two-year study of several thousand bass during the course of nine Plattsburgh-area fishing tournaments, are designed to eliminate or reduce fish stress; manage trauma in bass that are caught; and help fish disperse from release points in Lake Champlain.
Dr. Tim Mihuc and Mark Malchoff of the LCRI led the research team, which included SUNY Plattsburgh students participating during the 2011 and 2012 field seasons. The resulting 37-page report, “Post Tournament Release Movements of Black Bass in Lake Champlain,” serves as a technical report to the Lake Champlain Basin Program, which, along with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, funded the research.
“Previous studies have largely confirmed the ‘sustainability’ of catch-and-release tournaments, but few researchers have looked at differences between the two bass species, and very little work has taken place on large lakes,” Malchoff said.
Those studies showed that smallmouth and largemouth bass may suffer trauma associated with their capture and release during professional and amateur fishing tournaments. The LCRI report revealed that there is a direct relationship between fish stress and tournaments.
Fish caught and contained until they can be shown and weighed at a station often exhibit signs of stress. The longer they’re in containment, the more likely they’ll become stressed, researchers found. In addition, for largemouth bass, length was a significant factor: longer fish were more likely to be wounded or exhausted.
By learning more about these factors, the researchers hope to help tournament operators “fine tune” future tournaments to minimize stress.
The four-page sheet of recommendations, “Lake Champlain Bass Tournaments: Practices that Increase Survival and Dispersal Rates,” is particularly aimed at bass tournament stakeholders — the directors, weigh-station personnel and those who are out on their bass boats.
The report also recommends the establishment of a long-term monitoring program for Lake Champlain’s warm-water fishery.