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  Experts across the State of Oklahoma are recommending a “time-out” during July and August to help conserve our Bass.

 August, 2003

By: Douglas Detherow

I remember fishing a tournament four years ago on Lake Ft. Gibson on August 18th.  Geeze it was miserable. I recall wanting to spend most of the day in the water rather than in the boat. Of course I had shorts on, but I had regrettably worn sandals rather than sneakers and burnt a sizeable blister on one of my toes by bumping into one of the many metal tie downs along my deck. It was 104 degrees and not a lick of wind.  Luckily we found a frog statue in Ranger Creek that sprayed water out of its mouth, off a cliff, and down in to the lake.   We weathered most of the afternoon fishing up and down that bank, more concerned with the refreshing bath than catching bass. 

It was way after noon, and I hadn’t seen a bass since just after daylight.  We had caught four really nice ones on top waters between take-off and 7:30 AM.  But the bite had disappeared with the arrival of that scorching sun.  Luckily the tournament director had required us to have ice in the boat as part of the livewell inspection before take-off.  The ice was long gone now, but the insulated livewell lids hadn’t been open for hours and the water within was very cool. By recirculating the water rather than introducing water from the hot lake, the fish were as lively as when we had caught them in the grey light of dawn.   

Over the past few years, none of us that fish the larger tournament trails here in Oklahoma have had to face this scenario.  Why??  Because there haven’t been any tournaments in August to fish!!

Well, tournaments of much size anyway.  Many of the smaller clubs persist, but none of the big tournaments have scheduled a tournament in the month of August over the past three years.  The reasons are obvious….It’s hard on the basser’s and even harder on the bass!

Many try to escape fishing in the heat of the summer, by having night tournaments.  This is way easier on the fishermen for sure, and the fish seem to bite better, but in actuality, the night tournaments have proven to be harder on the fish than fishing during the regular daylight hours.  Many of the night tournaments still run for 12 hrs or more and that water in the livewells is still a blazing 85 + degrees.  That spells trouble for any bass that is packed around all night before weigh in. 

OklahomaBassFishing.com has gathered some of the top tournament directors in the state, an expert from BassMedics.com,  and the ODWC fisheries department together to share their thoughts on the “Summer Break” and the benefits to all the fish and the fishermen along with some helpful hints to help you and your catch survive the summer heat if you do find yourself out on the water….. 

Carl Woods
(Tournament Director for Jimmy Houston Outdoors, OAU Director)

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“In my opinion in Oklahoma we have kinda been talked into avoiding the hottest months of July& August by the ODWC, especially Gene Gilliland. And I have gone along with this thinking even though I think that it would be possible to hold events during these months, with some pre-planning on the part of the contestants themselves and the tournament directors.”

For the contestants it would require some really "simple" safe-guards such as.

(1.) Always fill your live wells early in the morning before takeoff, that’s when the water is the coolest of the day.
(2.) Run your livewells on "recirculate" not on "aerator" to build up the oxygen content in that cooler morning water, when you run the aerator, you pump out the cooler, oxygenated water and take in warmer water with less oxygen.
(3.) Run your pumps on manual, not on the timer.
(4.) And use a livewell additive such as "Rejuvenade™" in the livewell.
(5.) Carry frozen water jugs, such as gallon milk containers to drop into the livewell about twice per day.

For the tournament directors it’s this…

(1.) Hand out fewer weigh in bags; never have a weigh in line going.
(2.) Make sure that all the bag holding tanks are in the shade and have pumps running during weigh in.
(3.) Have a release system that is "quick" and easy to release the fish that is "shaded" during the day with chemicals also.

“We have done a lot of events in past years in this manner during the summer months and not lost a lot of fish, but we had the advantage of having all the above equipment, including the "fish release trailer". My final advice is this. When we did Summer events, we setup a canopy for shade and had cold water for the contestants there. We encouraged them to come in during the day, take a break, sit in the shade and relax and cool off. After 10-15 minutes of cooling off, the contestants felt more like fishing again, they were kinda "recharged" for the rest of the day. Shorter hours for the event are a real good idea too. Have weigh in at 2:00pm instead of 3:00pm.”
 

Dave Roush
(Tournament Director for Skeeter, Tulsa Metro, OAU Director)

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“Skeeter has decided to not schedule events in July or August due mostly to recommendations made by ODWC fisheries biologist Gene Gilliland.

He has really been the driving force behind presenting the facts that have helped all of us realize just how detrimental summer tournaments can be to the bass.

I have read reports of as many as 70% of the bass caught and then released after the tournaments in water over 85 degrees die!

If you must have the tournaments while the water temperatures are this hot, consider shortening the hours of the tournament.  Move the weigh-ins to 2PM rather than 3.

Also lowering the number of the tournament limits from 5 fish to 4 during the summer months would greatly reduce the number of fish subjected to the stress of a day in a hot livewell. 

Hopefully through organizations such as OAU, working with the ODWC, we can get the message out to the fishing public of just how beneficial it is to take a summer break.” 

Doss Briggs
(Three Rivers One-Bass Medics, OAU Director)

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Here is the livewell management info that was used at the classic.
During the tournament, the only fish that were lost were due to anglers not following the instructions.

RECOMMENDED LIVEWELL PROCEDURES
TO MAXIMIZE BASS SURVIVAL

(As used at the 2003 Basmaster’s Classic)
1. Fill your livewell from deep and/or flowing water before arrival at your first fishing location.

2. Add one block (bag) of ice to each side of the livewell. The use of Catch'N Cool blocks added every three hours is also adequate. Rejuvenade will take care of any chorine in the ice.

3. Turn on aerators (continuous recirculation) and leave on throughout the day!

4. Add one lid (2 teaspoons) of Rejuvenade for every 20 gallons of water to livewell.

5. 9:30 am – Add one additional block of ice to each side of the livewell.

6. 11:30 am – Exchange approximately half the water in the livewell with fresh water to remove metabolic waste products. Add another block of ice and half treatment of Rejuvenade to each livewell.

7. 1:30 pm – Add last round of ice to livewells.

8. Upon arriving at the ramp for weigh-in, ensure that the aerator is on and set to continuous recirculation.

9. Leave your fish in the boat until time to take to weigh master.

10. Always, when holding fish at staging area, add in additional water to increase oxygen content in bag. Oxygen content can be depleted in less than one minute when water is over 85 degrees!

We would encourage everyone holding tournaments in the summer to take a pro-active approach to fish care. This can be done by either, shortening tournament hours, reducing the creel limit, or improving the conditions required for the livewell environment.

Rejuvenade can benefit the last one the most if none of the others change. If the instructions are followed properly, the fish can actually be returned back to the water in as healthy of a condition as when they were caught. Fish care is very similar to taking care of anything that is extremely sensitive or delicate. It requires time and effort to ensure that the fish not just survive, but that their systems are replenished.

Remember, it is the anglers who are responsible for the fish for the majority of the day; the tournament staff typically only has them for less than one hour!
 

Gene Gilliland
(ODWC Fisheries Research Lab)

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We (ODWC) conducted a bass tournament delayed mortality study in 1995 and 1996 and found the same thing that every other researcher has found concerning summer tournaments.  Mortality is associated with increasing water temperature.  Based on a compilation of all the studies that have been conducted since the early 1970s, tournament-related mortality averages around 26-28%.  However, spring and summer events may average less than 15% while summer events may have mortality rates of 40%, 50%, 60% or higher. 

These findings were enough to convince many of the major tournament circuits that 1) for the good of the resource, and 2) for the good of tournament fishing, they should consider not scheduling tournaments in July and August.  Many groups have followed our advice.  We'd like to see more circuits and clubs follow their lead.

Our study resulted in the set of fish care recommendations found on our ODWC website (www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishcare2.htm<) and ultimately into the booklet I co-authored with Dr. Hal Schramm that BASS published called Keeping Bass Alive, A guidebook for Anglers and Tournament Organizers.  This booklet is available on the ESPN/BASS website (http://espn.go.com/outdoors/bassmaster/s/b_cons_bass_alive_launch.html<) or in printed format from my office (E-mail me at ggillokla@aol.com).

On
August 23rd, 2003 we are conducting a cooperative study on Lake Texoma with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to investigate to the influence of summer tournament stress on the progression of Largemouth Bass Virus disease in tournament-caught fish.  Anglers from the Texas and Oklahoma BASS Federations and Oklahoma Anglers Unlimited will be fishing in a controlled tournament to collect fish for this research.  Information can be found at www.oauinfo.org.  This is just one of four such research tournaments being conducted this summer (the others are in Missouri, Kentucky and North Carolina).

As for night tournaments, there is an inherent misunderstanding about them.  Anglers assume that since the air temperature is cooler that night contests are somehow easier on the fish.  In most cases, just the opposite is true.  Water temperatures do not cool significantly at night (it takes a long time for water to cool off).  Many night tournament fish from dusk until dawn so fish may be held in livewells for up to 12 hours!  Reducing livewell retention time is an important factor in reducing tournament-related mortality.  We recommend multiple weigh-ins for night events.  Weigh-in at midnight and require all fish caught up to that time to be released.  Then weigh-in again at dawn.  Splitting the night up will reduce livewell time and keep fish from being held in poor quality water for long periods of time.
 

Oklahomabassfishing.com would like to thank these gentlemen for their time and sharing their expertise regarding these issues.  We would also like to encourage the tournament directors, fishermen and women of Oklahoma to heed the advice given to ensure the health and wellbeing of the fragile natural resources we have been blessed with here in our great state.  

What we work together to save today, our children will be able to enjoy tomorrow.

-tight lines