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Handle Summer Largemouth Carefully
by Steve McCadams


 We are now in the time of the year when stress on caught largemouth bass and resulting mortality are highest. Bass tournament organizers and participants have a stewardship obligation to protect the bass resources they utilize.
 The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has several tips for tournament anglers to help keep fish alive before and after weigh-in.  The following suggestions reflect current research by southeastern fisheries management agencies into practice of culling fish during tournament events and the stress caused by holding fish in live wells.
 For more information call your local TWRA regional office or the Fisheries Management Division in Nashville at (615) 781-6575.

 Fill your live well at your first fishing spot using water from open areas of the lake.

 Turn on your re-circulating pump immediately and leave it on all day (set pump switch to manual for continuous operation).  If the aerator must run on a timer, run as often as possible as oxygen depletion occurs quickly when the pump is off.  Make sure aeration system provides proper aeration while boat is moving or on a trailer.  If you don't have a re-circulating system, add one.

 Only pump in fresh water when lake surface water temperatures are below 75 degrees.

 When water temperatures are above 75 degrees, re-circulate livewell water continuously, but do not pump in hot water from the lake.  Use ice to cool the water and slow fish metabolism (block ice melts slower) and try to maintain water 10 degrees cooler than lake.  Try to use only non-chlorinated block or bagged ice.

 Use non-iodized salt (available at feed stores) to maintain electrolyte balance and reduce effects of stress. Salt should be added at 1/3 cup per 5 gallons of water. Pre-measure and store in zip lock bags. Commercial livewell additive may also be added as directed.

 Drain half of the livewell water every three hours to remove toxic waste products (carbon dioxide and ammonia).  Add 1/2 the amount of ice, salt, and commercial livewell additive each time.

 Install an oxygen delivery system, which delivers oxygen directly into livewells from a pressurized tank through air-stones or hose.  The system must have a regulator or pressure valve and the tank must be securely mounted.  This system is better than simple aeration (air is only 21 percent oxygen) and solves oxygen demand problems.  Although less need for water temperature adjustments is usually required, flushing with freshwater every 2-3 hours is still essential.

 Keep fish in rear livewells, evenly distributed between compartments. Fish in forward livewells are more likely to be injured from bouncing on rough water.

 Land fish with knotless nylon or rubber nets.  Land fish quickly and avoid damage to slime coating. Grasp fish by lower jaw only, holding them vertically. Support large fish with a wet hand under the belly. Do not allow fish to touch boat or carpet and rub off protective slime.

 Don't keep fish out of water longer than you can hold your breath. This includes fish in bags headed for weigh-in.  Depletion of oxygen in bags can occur within a few minutes.

 Remove hooks quickly with as little tissue damage as possible. Remove deep hooks carefully with pliers or hemostats.  When attempts fail, cut line five or six inches above the hook.

 Remove dead fish from livewell immediately to prevent further mortality.

Steve McCadams
  is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area and host of The Outdoor Channel's television series  IN-PURSUIT. 




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