is here and high temperatures have locked in all across the Sooner
state. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation wants to
remind sportsmen that the heat can take its effects on anglers and
the sportfish they pursue.
are warming up very quickly," said Gene Gilliand, fisheries
biologist with the Wildlife Department. "It is very important
that anglers use extreme caution handling any fish they plan to
return to the water this time of year. But, largemouth bass are
the biggest concern because they are our most popular sportfish
and many bass tournaments are held throughout the summer."
Bass anglers must take
special care to ensure the health and safety of the fish they
catch and the future of the resource, Gilliand added. Most
tournament organizations have strict rules regarding the careful
handling of fish, but severe summer weather and hot water
conditions are extremely dangerous for fish kept in livewells for
several hours before a weigh-in.
A study conducted by the
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has shown that an
average 28 percent of bass caught during summer tournaments die
within six days of their release. Gilliand said that most
tournament anglers are very concientious about protecting bass
resources, but many are not equipped to deal with potentially
dangerous conditions that accompany summer tournament fishing.
"The last thing a
tournament angler or tournament director wants is to kill
fish," Gilliland said. "That's something they've tried
to be very careful about over the years, and for the most part
they've been successful, but summer fishing presents some unique
conditions that can cause a potentially lethal amount of stress on
fish. We can't eliminate those conditions, of course, but we can
take certain steps to lessen fish mortality during
Anglers can increase the
survival rates of any fish by following these suggested handling
* Moisten your hands before
handling a fish.
* Release any fish you don't
plan to keep as soon as possible.
* Gently place the fish back
into the water.
* Fill your livewell as soon as
you launch your boat and activate the aerator to build up
dissolved oxygen levels.
* Run your aerator continuously,
no matter what time of year. Fish in livewells use oxygen faster
than an aerator can replace it.
* Add ice to the livewell. When
water surface temperatures are higher than 85 degrees, adding ice
will reduce the water temperature in a livewell by 10 degrees.
* Use block ice if possible. It
melts slower than crushed or cubed ice, and it cools water more
evenly. One eight-pound block will cool a 30-gallon livewell for
about three hours. Carry extra blocks in an ice chest to use
* Add non-iodized salt, 1/3-cup
per five gallons of livewell capacity, to help reduce stress on
* Re-circulate water through
your aerator rather than pump in hot surface water.
* Replace at least half of the
livewell water two or three times daily to remove ammonia. Add
additional ice and salt, and then resume re-circulation.
* Commercial livewell additives
help calm fish in livewells, helping reduce stress and decreasing
their oxygen respiratory rates.
Gilliland adds that the
ultimate fish care system involves the use of pure oxygen supplied
from a pressurized cylinder through a bubble hose in the live
A simple livewell oxygen
setup can be built from a small bottle used by welders fitted with
a regulator. Commercial systems are also available that are
specifically designed for boat livewells and live bait tanks.
Tests have shown that these
systems help reduce mortality even further, especially when used
in conjunction with other handling tips.
To learn more about the
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation or fishing in Ok-lahoma,
log onto the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartent.com.