Fishing competitively for black bass in New Hampshire has intensified substantially over the last decade. With this in mind, it has become increasingly important for bass tournament sponsors and participants to keep the following in mind, in an effort to minimize potential conflicts with other user groups and to maximize the survival of bass that are caught and subsequently released during the event.
1. It is the responsibility of the bass tournament sponsors to contact and comply with all local requirements governing the use of municipal and town owned boat launch facilities and parking areas. The local contact should include town officials (Selectman/Town Manager) and the Police Department.
2. Show consideration at all times at the launch ramp by alternating the launching and retrieving of boats with other boaters, allowing equal access to the ramp.
3. KEEP YOUR LIVEWELL FULL! Excessive sloshing over an extended period of time during rough-water rides, especially in a less-than-full livewell, may lead to injuries to bass from contact with aerator components, dividers, or compartment lids.
4. Water temperature tolerance for bass depends on the temperature to which it is acclimated. Fish living in 65º water cannot tolerate warmer water temperatures (>78º) as well as fish living in 75º water. A rapid temperature increase of 5º or a rapid temperature decrease of 10º can be lethal to bass.
5. Bass metabolism increases rapidly as water temperatures go up – meaning bass need more oxygen, consume it more rapidly, at a time when the water’s ability to hold more oxygen is declining. Therefore it takes more aeration of the livewell water to keep bass alive at warmer temperatures.
6. Livewell water quality constantly changes during the tournament day as bass excrete metabolic waste in the form of ammonia, which is highly toxic to the fish with the toxicity increasing with water temperature. The build up of ammonia is easily resolved by continuous pumping of fresh water into the livewell.
7. Stress is a major cause of delayed mortality in tournament caught bass. Reducing stress to these bass requires three things: reducing handling injuries and loss of protective mucus; healthy conditions in the boat livewell; and, quick, efficient weigh-ins where fish are subjected to minimal handling while maintained in adequate life-supporting conditions through-out the weigh-in process.
8. Some procedures to expedite fish release (and thus reduce initial mortality) include: staggering start and weigh-in times, having shaded holding tanks with flow through circulation systems available at the weigh-in, not holding weigh-ins when air temperatures are > 90°F, and transporting fish from live-well to weigh-in in water-filled plastic bags (the time fish remain in water-filled plastic bags should be less than 10 minutes).
9. Studies have found larger black bass experience greater initial mortality than smaller black bass, indicating capture and confinement in live-wells appears to be especially stressful to larger fish. It is essential that losses of large black bass in northern populations are minimized since larger males and females spawn earlier in the spring, allowing the resulting progeny to accumulate more energy reserves prior to entering their first wintering period, which increases their chance for survival. Tournament organizers can address this issue by adopting big fish or big fish/hour formats that reduce the time large bass are held in live-wells before weigh-in and release.
10. Initial mortality has also been positively related to daily limit, and mean weight and number of fish per angler. Additionally, it has been shown that the daily limit is the single most influential variable affecting initial mortality. Tournament organizers can address this concern by implementing reduced daily limits.
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