We’re hearing reports of big bass dying from stress of landing and handling in warmer water temperatures. It would be difficult to sacrifice a block of treasured angling days left in this year’s season. But some folks are asking if they should suspend bass angling until September to protect trophies they’ve worked so hard to grow?
Boy, that’s a Catch 22 dilemma. When you hear stories like these, however, it may influence you to chase bluegill or catfish the next 45-days. One lake recently had heavy weekend fishing pressure with catches to 10 pounds 10 ounces. The following day, the ranch manager found two floating carcasses. Even though turtles had consumed part of one, remains still weighed over eight pounds. The second tipped scales near seven pounds. There were no other dead fish to suggest a damaging water quality event. I watched a companion land an eight and one-quarter pounder in August temperatures. He never removed her from the water and executed a quick release. She sadly rolled on her side and didn’t survive extended efforts at resuscitation. At least the grand lady holds a place of honor in his den.
We understand your frustration. You followed a successful plan and invested five or more years growing eight to 10 pound hulks. It’s time to celebrate by catching and admiring those trophies. Safely savoring that moment may require a little more patience this time of year. Keep in mind; eight to 10 pound bass are entering “senior citizen” age. The average life expectancy of a largemouth is 10 years. Those fish could be six to eight years old. Imagine yanking them from a shaded, cool 10-foot depth to a shocking 90-degree surface temperature. That’s stress! Like leaving air-conditioned comfort and getting in a sweltering car.
If you continue fishing, please practice these considerations. Schedule outings during early morning and late afternoon to dusk. Limit time in landing each catch. Extended playing builds up lactic acid that can be injurious. Use barb less hooks and keep fish in the water while unhooking. Wet hands before handling fish. Touching them and flopping on a boat or dock surface removes protective slime that prevents fungus and disease. Minimize time out of the water for photos. Fish can breath out of water about as long as you can hold your breath.
Catch and release doesn’t “guarantee” survival, especially when the fish’s environment is being pushed to its limits. Couple hot water with low dissolved oxygen levels and sudden exertion. Fish may appear to swim away unharmed only to suffer delayed mortality hours or days later. I may have almost missed the best analogy. How do you feel after an April day versus an August day on the lake?
We appreciate your business,
Bob Lusk – Matt Rayl –Chad Fikes – Walter Bassano