I‘m a liberal leaning outdoorsman attempting to open the minds of right wingers to the idea that libs fish too. Anglers come from all walks of life, left, right, and center. Not everyone who fishes for bass is a redneck fond of Nascar, country music, and religiosity. Expect posts about largemouth bass fishing, techniques, reviews of lures and other products, but not any condemnable conservative rants. I hope to inspire the online angler community to dial down rhetoric which will do more harm than good to our sport.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

• A Lesson In Fish Handling

Lump me in with the rest of the anglers that don't always properly handle bass. I am trying my best to learn the right way. Sometimes it's unavoidable. I'm usually alone on the boat when I fish, so weighing, taking pics, etc, is a cumbersome task if you set a 30 second time limit. If you pay attention to photos of bass people catch, you'll notice just how many anglers are doing things they aren't supposed to. Fishing shows and tournaments aren't exempt from these mistakes either. Let me share what I've learned and maybe you can chime in with some more advice as I'm still learning to make sure I am doing things right. Also chime in if anything I covered is actually a myth. It's so easy these days to come across incorrect information on the net. My goal when writing most of my tips is to make it easier to find the information you need in one place without having to get your answers from three or four fishing sites.

Catching a bass is a stressful ordeal for the fish. On top of that, you're removing them from the water and breathing becomes an issue in a very short period of time. I've read that it's advisable to set a 30 second time limit or hold your own breath as a time keeper. Catch the fish, do what you have to do, and release it all within 30 seconds. If you plan on taking longer than that, put the fish in the livewell and let it have some time to recover. Then take your pictures, get the measurements, and let it go. I won't cover livewell management in this post, but it's a very important topic, especially for tournament anglers. I'm not sure which formulas are recommended, so I welcome anyone to jump in and mention a few things.

The other thing I want to cover is how I've been taught and recently read regarding holding a bass. Hold them vertically by the lip and do not overstretch the jaw beyond the natural open position. You can apparently do a lot of damage and not even know it. I read that the way you hold your fingers is of some importance. Make sure your fingers supporting the jaw from underneath don't apply the force that overstretches the jaw. By keeping your fingers straight, apparently you don't apply as much force. Also gripping the lip from the side makes things easier on the jaw. If you plan on turning the fish horizontally, support its weight with the other hand, especially when we're talking about ones with a gut. Smaller bass experience less damage, but that doesn't mean that it's harmless. You can still do damage to the lil ones if you fail to support their weight when held horizontally. One thing I didn't come across was whether or not handling bass by their gills is appropriate. I'll have to do some more reading.

Fish also have a protective slime coat on their scales. When handling the bass aboard the boat, it is recommended that you wet your hands before handling the fish by its body. Wiping off that slime layer leaves those spots susceptible to disease and later, death. Don't rest them down on the floor of the boat for the same reason. I'm guilty of that one far too often and sometimes it cannot be helped. The same can be said for setting fish on piers and the ground. Even wetting your measuring board is suggested.

Now let's talk about the release. Again, if the fish has spent any significant time out of the water, consider placing it in the livewell for a while. When releasing the bass, don't drop it in the water. Sometimes that is unavoidable, especially for bank fishermen. You want to reoxygenate the bass after the stress of the fight. The gill filaments move in one direction. They are attached at one end and are designed to receive in one direction. Going in the opposite direction can damage the gill filaments. I've also read that moving the bass forward too quickly can introduce too much water into their stomach. Gently move them forward letting the water go through the gills and only let the bass go when it is ready to go. It will take off when it is ready. Sometimes they will even get their last word so to speak and splash you good. Now, that 5lb 11oz bass pictured in my sidebar took a while to recover even though I landed her in seconds. I took a little too long taking pictures. When I released it, I held the bass in the water for a long time before it was ready to go. I like to lightly let go and keep my fingers close to the lip. If the fish swims away, great. Sometimes the fish will tilt a little to its side. That means it is not ready to go. I'll grab the lip again to hold on a little while longer.

We like to let the good ones go to catch another day. Let's make sure we're doing it the right way. For the tournament anglers, remember a dead fish is a penalty fish.


Chris said...

Great post. I have begun not even bringing bass totally out of the water that I don't plan to take a picture of. Even on our bigger fish on a recent trip to Ontario, I used a net to land them but I never lifted the net totally out of the water. I unhooked the bass in the net and told my sons to get the camera ready. Once they did, we lifted the fish, took the picture and released the fish in less that 20 seconds. Hands were already wet from unhooking the fish in the net.

Too many people see pro anglers swing bass into the boat and think its ok.