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
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
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!