Fish Care - Tomorrows Resource Today 
By U.S. Angler's Choice


 I began fishing bass tournaments prior to my teens and over the forty years of doing so one thing has remained constant. That constant is the importance we all place on fish care. During an eight hour day on the water our quarry often receives more attention than our pets at home. We check on them just about every time we set down behind the steering wheel. We treat them like gold, not only because they are valuable at days end but because we understand they are valuable for years to come. I have never observed a local tournament angler intentionally not doing their best to care for the catch. They fish their waters often and do their utmost to keep those waters healthy. When mistakes are made and pointed out, practices change and we should all point out mistakes if we see them.

 There are many different theories on the best approaches to caring for the days catch. I will share with you some simple things that I have learned over the years that simply work. My partners can verify, I do not lose fish in the live well. Most of us can say that but for those just starting the sport or having a problem you may find this article useful.

 Lets start with the most important tool we have "our livewells" Today's bass boats have insulated systems with multiple pumps for both fresh water and recirculation. Some have oxygenators, adding even higher levels of oxygen to the water we haul our treasure in. Temperature gauges are also part of today's systems, if not equipped floating thermometers are often used. The water quality in today's livewells is often better than the water the fish were taken from.

 It is our responsibility to keep those tools functioning properly. Many boats have backup systems but still it's best to check the operation of all pumps prior to an outing. Be certain spray bars are dispersing water correctly and clean your livewell with a solution of bleach and city water to avoid the spread of disease and or invassives. Simply run a half cup of bleach and a few gallons of water through the system after returning from a trip or prior to making a trip, then of course drain. It only takes about five minutes of run time on the pumps to assure your system is free of problems.

 As water temps rise during Summer always fill your wells on the main body of water. Try to avoid filling with marina water or water from shallow bays. Once your livewell is full, turn off the fresh water in and simply recirculate and oxygenate. By doing this you avoid drawing up poor quality water from areas you may enter during the day. Monitor your livewell temp throughout the day. Most boats will not see a rise of more than couple degrees the entire day but if you see temps rising in the well stop on the main body of water and refill the wells and start the same process again. Some use ice, I have found it is not necessary if you follow the above steps. Some studies have shown changing water temps by large amounts can actually cause stress and harm, a consistent temp may be the better approach.

 Livewell treatments are often used and a product such as Sure-Life CNR has been proven to calm bass, help replace protective slime coats, heals hook wounds and also reduces weight loss. Be cautious, some additives may have stimulants in the ingredients which makes your fish lively through the day but also increases stress and possible problems after release.

 When making long runs, be certain your wells are full. Some go as far as plugging the over flow but do not do so unless your spray bars are above the water line. You need that spray to continue adding oxygen. Full is important as it reduces the slosh affect in the well and offers a better ride for those inside. Check levels often on long runs.

 Many of today's fisheries have aged and spawning grounds have silted. Recruitment seems to be less and less and some DNR agencies have very little success in stocking bass. Until they experiment and find procedures that work or utilize procedures that have worked in other states, we will be dealing with less and less of a resource. We must do all we can to care for the fish we have.

 We all know catch and release works, I have observed the same fish weighed over and over throughout a year. Yes some of us fish waters where we could probably name the bass in them. Lets continue to treat them like gold, so we can enjoy this sport for years to come!