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Fish Mortality Rates


Mike Clifford
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After reading Ron G's thread in this forum, and recently seeing a topic here , my curiosity was piqued.

Does anyone else feel that an average of 15% delayed mortality for C&R bass seems a bit high?

 

The topic provides a great tool at Google to browse many abstracts online:

http://scholar.google.com/

 

Crawl out from the bush Tim and help us out here.

:P

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After reading Ron G's thread in this forum, and recently seeing a topic here , my curiosity was piqued.

Does anyone else feel that an average of 15% delayed mortality for C&R bass seems a bit high?

 

The topic provides a great tool at Google to browse many abstracts online:

http://scholar.google.com/

 

Crawl out from the bush Tim and help us out here.

:P

 

BASS boasts that they have a 98% live release rate at their tournaments. But that says nothing about survival. 15% sounds fair to me overall. I think we underate the damage we do to fish. Though it is high, 15% for C&R is way better than 100% C&K. :(

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I just finished reading an article from the computer called "Lake Pleasant Tournament Mortality Study" They had a very good survival rate during the study by the Arizona Fish and Game Department. They had one that had a high mortality rate which they atributed to confining the fish is to small and area and high water temps rather then the tournament. There are a good number of studies conducted by various conservation departments that show mortality rates are very low if the tourney sponsors conduct the weigh in properly and that the fish are treated correctly prior to release. This means only a few fish brough to the scales at a time. They are weighed and then dipped in a salt tank to promote slim growth and kill any parisites and then placed in a special holding tank prior to being released by the release boat.

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15% seems high to me too. I know they don't ALL survive, but I don't think even 10% die. That, of course , is based on pure scientific opinion.

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I don't think we have anyway of judging delayed mortality of catch and release fish. It could be that it died of something other then the fact that it was caught and released. The studies conducted by the Arizona Game and Fish held the Bass in pens in a covered dock for 6 days. These were both Tourney caught and shocking samples and for the most part they all survived those six days. Lets look at fish that are implanted with a tracking device. That is certainly a traumatic event for them and yet they survive this and are followed around the lake or river for months or up to a year so the delayed survival would appear to me to be quite good. There have been a number of those types of studies done so if they survive that then it is a good chance they survive catch and release.

Here is the study I was talking about. http://www.azod.com/Fishing/Archives/2004/...20Mortality.pdf

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Interesting topic boys, seeing as i had one nice sized one go belly up on me today after the unhooking process.

 

So while were on the topic of ethics i"ll explain the situation because i am a little upset as well even after a great day fishing.

I was using the senko today with great results,#2 hook Not debarbed until after i lost the smally in report. After that i debarbed every hook.

 

The smallies were engulfing the senko but extremly lightly,the fish i lost i didn't even feel him bite!

 

I had weighted it about six inches up due to a stiff wind and it blowing my line around quite a bit so i was trying to keep it down with the weight.

 

My question is when this is happening do you switch baits even if the bait your using is racking up exceptional numbers of fish?

 

I tied on a hula grub and it was like the fish werent even there,went back to the senko with the debarbed hook and another one engulfed it but the hook i had debarbed so it did little damage coming out on this attempt.

 

What do you do not catch fish on a lure not producing or keep fishing the bait that is working even though their engulfing it.

 

As i mentioned a few factors attirbuted to the problem,one being fishing a lot of rock in a small stream with lots of overhanging limbs,(not being able to set the hook quick enough) And the heat as most smallies were just sucking it in instead of rocking the snot out of it like they usually do.

 

I use a good quality St.Croix with 6 lb.test line, i can feel when a crayfish farts in wisconsin with it but today the strikes were soooo light even though the numbers of fish were so high! They were hungry,just not jumping on it as they normally do!

 

Fishing report Small stream in Northern Illinois

27 smallies ranging from dinks to a 17 1/2" brute. Quite a few 14"s.

 

Pumpkin seed 4" senko with a 1/8th ounce bullet weight.

 

Paul Trybul if you read this,the trail we walked back to the car on wednesday after fishing, it keeps going in a LONG way! Take it someday,cross the creek and keep going back in,Nice water! And yes the water levels were much lower and clearer. That stream is packed full of smalleys,i had a 15"er swim right up to my kneecap and stare at it like it was bait! Strangest thing!

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Interesting topic indeed, and timely as well since physiological stress and therefore hooking mortality tends to go up in high temperatures.

 

There is no reliable single hooking mortality rates alhtough the points brought out earlier are useful ones. Studies are all over the map with estimated rates of hooking mortality. The few studies I am aware of that target smallmouth bass have quite low hooking mortality rates. Those data might or might not be applicable to the streams where you fish.

 

Your skills as an angler will be the biggest determinant of your catch's ability to survive. I have no doubt that some people have a 15% mortality rate. I suspect most skilled anglers wading on the water and directly releasing their catch have a much lower mortality rate.

 

...but this time of year it's important to keep this issue in mind. My understanding is that smallmouth begin to stress in the heat above 25C. As long as they're well fed and unstressed at those higher temperatures, they're fine. Once they're hooked, their stress is greatly increased. Especially in the dog days of summer, once you hook something, get the fish in, minimize air exposure playing time and handling time. Use single, barbless hooks, don't drop the fish in the mud or on the bank. You might also consider staying away from live bait this time of year as that tends to increase deep hooking which results in more mortality.

 

Even with all of those precautions, from time to time you'll have an unlucky hook-up and kill a fish.

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As far as barbless hooks go, I know that the fish I've caught that swallowed the hook leave my hand in in much better shape when I use barbless hooks than when I don't pinch the barb.

I've been looking up studies that compared mortality rates between barbed and barbless hooks and the results show almost no difference which really surprised me.

I've also seen studies that show overall mortality of between 10% and 30% every year even if there is no angling pressure at all.

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Needless to say, the only way we can be certain that we are not personally responsible for hooking mortality is not to fish for them in the first place.

Then we wouldn't be out there working to make sure the species has clean(er) water and a sustainable habitat in which to live. They would simply swim out their lives, getting eaten as prey occasionally, with nary a care in the world. We can't let them off that easy. :lol:

It was pointed out in another topic that we are going to kill a few...but we are directly responsible for causing more to live that otherwise would be dying much sooner without our intervention. That fact is indisputable.

 

If anglers were not involved, money to preserve and protect would dry up, and we wouldn't be raising our kids to be ethical sportsmen and women in their own right.

This is another issue altogether, and I'll touch more on it in a future thread.

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Kevin, I have a feeling the fish you lost was stressed out from the fight and not the unhooking. Even if it had been a quick unhooking and back in the water it may not have survived. We are going to loose some no mater what we do or how we do it. It is just something that will happen. We don't like it and feel saddened by this but perhaps the fish was in trouble before you hooked it and wouldn't have mad it anyway. Like Mike Clifford said if we were not out enjoying the sport we love abd spending our money be it as a weekend angler, a pro angler, a guide or occasional angler then the quality of the fishery would not be what it is today. The fishing we do have is here because we have paid our fair share to support it and keep it going.

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Tim

 

I don't recall if I ever got the answer to this age old question, but do fish feel pain from being hooked, and at what level? I'm sure different variables apply, but just looking for an in general answer.

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:blink:There is no reliable single hooking mortality rates alhtough the points brought out earlier are useful ones. Studies are all over the map with estimated rates of hooking mortality. The few studies I am aware of that target smallmouth bass have quite low hooking mortality rates.

 

:D Your skills as an angler will be the biggest determinant of your catch's ability to survive. I have no doubt that some people have a 15% mortality rate. I suspect most skilled anglers wading on the water and directly releasing their catch have a much lower mortality rate.

 

;) You might also consider staying away from live bait this time of year as that tends to increase deep hooking which results in more mortality.

 

:( Even with all of those precautions, from time to time you'll have an unlucky hook-up and kill a fish.

 

Tim,

 

Good post. It is a nice spring board.

 

:blink: First question is,"If we have no reilable studies on Smallmouth Bass, what do we do?" I would say to err on the side of extreme caution. Treat them like trout, fish that we know more about.

 

BTW I think studies are going to have better survival rates than day to day angling. You have anglers with a certain level of skill; they are instructed on how to release; and big brother is watching. The fish has a much better chance here than he would have being caught by a casual angler.

 

:D Specifically, releasing knowhow and skill is very important. And are we "prepared" as the scouts say? That is, do we have the forcepts, side cutters, or needle nose pliers ready to hand, buried in a tackle box, or back in the car?

 

 

;) This whole discussion started with fish caught on soft plastics. Plastics are a lot more like live bait than they are artificial IMHO. While it has been a while since I used live bait, I still have my share of deep hookings on those salted, scented, and flavored morsels even though they are "technically" artificial.

 

:( I still kill some. I would kill less if I observed some simple rules.

 

What do you think of these?

 

1. Debarb all hooks.

 

2. Replace treble hooks with single hooks.

 

3. Do not use live bait.

 

4. Do not use soft plactics unless you use octopus or circle hooks.

 

5. Have appropriate forcepts, side cutters, and pliers out and ready before you start fishing.

 

6. When you lift a fish out of the water, hold your breath; do not breath again until the fish is back in the water.

 

7. Land fish with a net or cradle as the Musky and Trout Fishermen do.

 

Man laws? :huh:

 

Note: Items in italics were added after Jamie's post.

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Kevin, thank's for the report. I've only been that far back once and I do remember a nice plunge pool with chunk rock in the chute and the pool opened up like a small pond. I figured you would like the better average size in that stream. My best advise to you Kevin is to upgrade that 6# mono to fireline or powerpro and you'll feel the bites better. It still can be tough on a windy day with that big bow in the line. You actually have to watch your line in combination of going by feel.

 

I guess as long as we poke sharp metal points into a fish's head there is going to be some mortality. 15% seems pretty high. I know I lose a few but I would estimate 1-2 in 200. It is hard to predict any long term effects though. I remember one time a small fish about 6" hit my lure and it must have just had 1/2 the lure in its mouth. When I set the hook the hook went right in the head behind the eyes and killed it instantly. I felt the bite but then it was like reeling in a stick. That was one fish in several 1,000 over the past 5 seasons. I still think that in rivers natural mortality is much higher than angler mortality due to C&R.

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Kevin,

Switch to a Gamakatsu Circle Hook on the Senkos. I use #8 red Gamakatsu Octopus hooks but i carry the circles with me in case i run into a stretch of insane hitters.

*******************************

 

As far as mortality rates go; I wouldn't trust a single study of mortality rates based on a tournament anywhere. Have you SEEN a bass tounrament on tv?? YANK the fish out of the water. FLY it thru the air. BOUNCE it off the bottom of the boat. Pick up fish, RIP the hooks out and then hold it with one hand in a horizontal posistion and TORQUE the jaw to the point of near dislocation. Oh..and then if it's big enough THROW it in the livewell (remember to put the aerator on so you dont kill all the fish in there like that idiot Mike Iconelli did. Moron.). And if it's not big enough THROW it out of the boat like a hot rock. And yes..I got all that from watching the 5 minutes of fishing tournament coverage that I have seen on TV in the entire duration of my life. Or even worse is when a guy like Jimmy Houston holds the fish in his hand while explaining the rock pile he's fishing to the tv viewer...for like 5 minutes. Yeah...the lactic acids aren't building up in THAT fish enough to kill it. Puh-lease ***** :angry:

 

I think mortality rates depend on the hardware used and the care of the fish. For topwater lures I use Excalibur rotating treble hooks because the fish are being surface hooked without swallowing the entire lure. With senko type baits I'm using octopus or circle hooks because chances are you're going to have a few fish swallow the bait..and if they do have a bait too deep, cut the line.They have a better chance of passing it than they do with a bleed-out. I also change my style on any particular day based on what they are doing. If they are super aggresive I'll upsize the bait OR react in a quicker fashion on hookset so they cant swallow the bait. If I have everything at my disposal I'll switch from a medium action IM7 to a med/hvy IM8 so there's less flex in the fish' favor thus taking away that possible 2" of give that will allow the bait to go deep....I mean, if they are jumping on the bait that hard using an IM8 is only going to help you anyway.

 

I'm a smallie guy first and a muskie guy second. In muskie fishing there are some serious factors regarding catch/photo/release that have to be considered in assuring a proper job of handling and release in a quick fashion. It's DRILLED into our heads as muskie guys. Whereas bass fishermen see the above tournament morons banging fish all over the boat and viola...you just taught a generation of fishermen that whipping a fish out of the water and throwing him back with a solid side-smack-belly-flob from 4' up is perfectly acceptable. And it is..if a 15% mortality rate is acceptable, then sure..go beat em up and let them dance on the floor of a $40,000 bass boat. Keep them out of the water as they get lifted, bagged, weighed, lifted again, released en mass in the same 20' area, etc. Check out a muskie tournament sometime. The fish are judged IN the boat and released immediately...not 15 miles from their home range. The fish are kept in the water for the entire unhooking process most of the time and when they are released it's as if a child is being taught to swim...NOT throw out of the boat from 4' up. Visit a muskie site and check out any topic about mishandling fish. Those guys are fanatics. I've seen guys just about get driven out of the sport for sliding a muskie across a boat deck. Whereas with bass fishing it's perfectly normal to take two fists full of tournament winning bass, fling them over your heads in a sign of victory, pose for the camera for 10 minutes and then toss them back in a basket for some lacky to slide them down a chute into a holding tank jammed with other entries.

But I digress.

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I don't recall if I ever got the answer to this age old question, but do fish feel pain from being hooked, and at what level?

 

Steve, fish feel and respond physiologically to stimuli in more or less the same way humans do. But the higher brains functions associated with that stimulus are clearly not the same (given that fish barely have a higher brain at all).

 

Our ability to crawl inside a fish's head is limited, but especially for smallmouth bass, with heavy insensitive mouths designed for engulfing spiny, toothy prey it seems pretty far fetched to equate their experience on a hook to what a human would feel. Clearly bass want to get lures out of their mouths once they feel a hook and realize what they've eaten isn't prey. They don't need psychological counseling after a round of CPR...whereas if that happened to me, I might (and this is not a cue for anyone to share their alien abduction stories).

 

Mike G., I like your list but I'm not sure I'm going to get the hook out of a fish faster if I'm holding my breath.

 

To the suggestion that we need more studies of hooking mortality in bass, I would have to opine that would be a waste of time and money at this point. We know what the general trends are driving hooking mortality and we know what we need to do to reduce hooking mortality. Ten more studies would come up with 10 more rates based on the unique conditions that existed at that time. We would end up about where we started in the first place. As much as this has been covered, new research is unlikely to uncover anything new about the causes of hooking mortality. Perhaps there is a need for more studies of techniques to reduce hooking mortality, but it's a known process at this point.

 

I also agree with jamie that the attitude of most tournament fishers I see on ESPN seems overly cavalier. The house where I'm staying at the moment has cable TV, and just the other day I flipped past an ESPN broadcast of Kevin VanDamme flipping a bass into the boat just the way jamie described. A quick hook set and playing time..good so far...but immediately after that...bonk goes the fish on the boat bottom....bonk goes the fish against the live well housing after being thrown into the hole. VanDamme seems like one of the more respectful characters on that tour and the system has reduced him to that? The whole tournament mentality seem problematic.

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... Have you SEEN a bass tounrament on tv?? YANK the fish out of the water. FLY it thru the air. BOUNCE it off the bottom of the boat. Pick up fish, RIP the hooks out and then hold it with one hand in a horizontal posistion and TORQUE the jaw to the point of near dislocation. Oh..and then if it's big enough THROW it in the livewell (remember to put the aerator on so you dont kill all the fish in there like that idiot Mike Iconelli did. Moron.). And if it's not big enough THROW it out of the boat like a hot rock. ...

 

...I'm a smallie guy first and a muskie guy second. In muskie fishing there are some serious factors regarding catch/photo/release that have to be considered in assuring a proper job of handling and release in a quick fashion. It's DRILLED into our heads as muskie guys.

 

Jamie,

 

You made some good points on circle hooks and handling fish.

 

If we are sincere about survival, are we ready to go to octopus or circle hooks and take a chance at missing X% of our hookups?;)

 

Isn't the typical BASS Tournament handling a "bad example" for the kids?;)

 

Too bad the tournaments put such emphasis on speed, and that is what we see on TV. TIME=FISH=MONEY on the BASS circuit. Compare that with the extreme care shown by Musky Fishermen and Trout Fishermen when they net and unhook a fish. At least on the TV shows, they show that they care as much about safely releasing the fish in hand as they do about catching a bunch more. Typically the Musky or Trout is kept in the water in a net or cradle during the process of removing the hooks. The angler is allowed a brief "pose" with the fish held horizontally.Immediately after, the fish is returned to the water and held in an upright position till it swims off by itself.

 

PS as a result of your observations, I ammended some of my rules above.

 

Are we ready to adopt the same careful practices in handling bass? ;)

 

It is ironic that Ray Scott defended what they currently do as a vast improvement over the early tournament practice of donating the day's catch to a local orphanage. His C&R rule was a pragmatic PR move. Even though the bass populations of the large reservoirs they fished could easily take the removal of the catch-a tiny fraction of the bass population, they could not convince the local anglers that the tournaments were not ruining their fishing holes. So he came up with live wells, live release, and penalties for dead fish. Give him a little credit. :)

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This might be an unpopular sentiment here, but REMEMBER....habitat is way more important than individual animals. If the right habitat is maintained, the individual will be replaced in time.

I enjoy C&R, or CPR, as much as anyone but keep some perspective. Work for habitat preservation/restoration. If a legal fish goes belly-up maybe you should eat it.

Gregg

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AND...I would agree that the bass tournament mentality is opposed to the reasons most of us fish, and the way most of us fish; patient, reflective, observing things around us, etc. I used to watch that crap a little, but have decided to avoid it religiously.

Gregg

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Jamie,

 

You made some good points on circle hooks and handling fish.

 

If we are sincere about survival, are we ready to go to octopus or circle hooks and take a chance at missing X% of our hookups?;)

 

Isn't the typical BASS Tournament handling a "bad example" for the kids?;)

 

Too bad the tournaments put such emphasis on speed, and that is what we see on TV. TIME=FISH=MONEY on the BASS circuit. Compare that with the extreme care shown by Musky Fishermen and Trout Fishermen when they net and unhook a fish. At least on the TV shows, they show that they care as much about safely releasing the fish in hand as they do about catching a bunch more. Typically the Musky or Trout is kept in the water in a net or cradle during the process of removing the hooks. The angler is allowed a brief "pose" with the fish held horizontally.Immediately after, the fish is returned to the water and held in an upright position till it swims off by itself.

 

PS as a result of your observations, I ammended some of my rules above.

 

Are we ready to adopt the same careful practices in handling bass? ;)

 

It is ironic that Ray Scott defended what they currently do as a vast improvement over the early tournament practice of donating the day's catch to a local orphanage. His C&R rule was a pragmatic PR move. Even though the bass populations of the large reservoirs they fished could easily take the removal of the catch-a tiny fraction of the bass population, they could not convince the local anglers that the tournaments were not ruining their fishing holes. So he came up with live wells, live release, and penalties for dead fish. Give him a little credit. :)

 

Mike,

A quick shot with a horizontal fish is a great point to bring up. Just a few fast seconds out of the water is all that's needed.

Example:

pipestone-muskie-web.jpg

 

Unfortunately the smallie that she wouldn't let go of didn't fair too well. :angry::(:(:(

pipestone-muskie-bait-web.jpg

 

So ala Kevin Dells, chalk me up for one on the mortality chart. Ugh. That sucks.

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We fish; we contribute to fish mortality, period. Sure we can try to be careful but inevitably if we keep fishing we are going to kill some fish. Accept that fact and be able to live with it or don't fish. My two cents.

 

I accept!

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Oh...I accept it also. Sure. Why not.

But they are idiots. We all understand that ofcourse. I'm just happy I don't have to watch them to learn what I've learned that makes it possible for me to catch fish. :P It's a business...a "show", if you will. Knowing that makes it a little more tolerable when I see them flipping fish on a boat deck, I guess. So yeah. I accept their shinanigans.

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Hah, Yep Jamie one point against you!

 

Can we get points back for chewing out local smallie fisermen that aren't aware(or are aware but don't care!) of their creel limits.

 

I went to the river Sunday and as i was getting in another fellow was getting out,he had a basket tied to his kayak,guess what was in it?

 

Four smalleys and three walleye,Kish limit is one smalley per day over 14"s.

I did chew him a new Arse and pointed at the regulation sign on the bank, the one right next to his truck!

 

I told him i was turning him in and headed back to my truck for paper and a pen,he peeled out of there so fast hit almost hit a jogger! His middle finger out the window!

I love it! But yes he kept the fish!

 

I will also add we tubed this last sunday and i was quite surprised again at how much garbage people can't take out with them BUT the many floatilla's stopping on islands to clean up everybody elses mess, i helped out and thanked them all,good folks!

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