Summer time tips for handling
Nothing says summer quite like a day on the water trying to catch a
lunker largemouth bass. Many Oklahoma anglers also enjoy the
camaraderie and competition of bass tournaments.
A mid-summer day can be scorching hot. And just as fishermen take
extra precautions such as wearing sunscreen or drinking plenty of
fluids, anglers should also take extra care of their catch of the
Most tournament organizations have strict rules regarding the
careful handling of fish, but during August and early September,
warm water temperatures can create dangerous conditions for
largemouth bass in a livewell. Most anglers are very conscientious
about protecting bass resources, but it is important that anglers be
particularly careful during the heat of the summer, according to
Gene Gilliland, senior fisheries biologist at the Wildlife
Department’s Oklahoma Fisheries Research Laboratory.
"Anglers and tournament directors have been very careful over the
years to ensure that the fish are released in the best shape
possible,” Gilliland said. “However, 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
According to Gilliland, most of the danger occurs while fish are
held in livewells. On-board livewells are among the most important
tools ever devised for reducing tournament bass mortality, but
long-term confinement in a livewell can be hazardous for bass in the
To provide optimum livewell conditions for bass, Gilliland makes the
Fill your livewell as soon as you launch your boat and turn on the
aerator to build up dissolved oxygen levels.
Run your aerator continuously, no matter what time of year. Fish
confined in livewells use oxygen faster than an aerator can replace
Add ice to the livewell. When water surface temperatures are higher
than 75 degrees, adding ice will reduce the water temperature in a
livewell by 10 degrees. One eight-pound block will cool a 30-gallon
livewell for about three hours. Carry extra blocks in an ice chest
to use later. Add non-iodized salt, 1/3-cup per five gallons of
livewell capacity, to help reduce stress on fish.
Re-circulate water through your aerator rather than pump in hot
Replace at least half of the livewell water two or three times daily
to remove ammonia. Add additional ice and salt, and then resume
Commercial livewell additives help calm fish in livewells, helping
reduce stress and decreasing their oxygen respiratory rates.
Gilliland added that tournament directors can also take steps to
keep bass healthy. He suggested the following recommendations for
holding a fish-friendly tournament.
Shortening the duration of summer tournaments to reduce the time
fish stay in livewells. Ideally, weigh-ins should be conducted
Staggering weigh-in times during night tournaments can help
facilitate the rapid release of fish.
Avoid scheduling tournaments in months when water surface
temperatures exceed 80 degrees.
For more information about tips for handling fish in the summer, log
on to the Department’s Web site at
www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishcare2.htm< or call the Oklahoma
Fisheries Research Laboratory (405-325-7288) to request a free copy
of the B.A.S.S. booklet "Keeping Bass Alive, A Guidebook for Anglers
and Tournament Organizers."