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Catch and release study


Norm M
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From last Friday's Kankakee Daily Journal in an article by Bill Byrns

 

A University of Illinois researcher , Cory Suski determined that 4 minutes was about the maximum time a fish could handle the stress of C&R fishing . He recommends that anglers minimize the amount of time it takes to land a fish , including taking a picture and getting it back in the water .

 

His research is availible online in the journal Comparative Biochemical and Physiology Part A . The newspaper article states it will be published in an upcoming issue .

 

Mr Suski conducted the research on bonefish but said the results apply to other gamefish . The study also found that warmer water can increase the amount of time a fish needs to recover .

 

One stressor is expending a lot of energy when it's reeled in and more stress comes from measuring and photos . If the catching lasts a long time it puts additional stress on the fish . Mr Suski likens it to a runner in a sprint , afterward the runners heart rate and breathing may return to normal fairly quickly but the lactate buildup takes much longer to return . He said that 4 hours is sufficient for bonefish to return to baseline values .

 

After reading this , I am even more convinced that using heavier tackle and landing the fish as soon as possible is the way to go . As is well known , I have a thing about cameras so not taking photos any more is not a problem . However from this day forth , I will strive to release each fish with a minimum of handling including not taking it out of the water if possible . I am also taking the tape measure out and leaving it at home , no more measuring fish either .

 

For me at least , how big a fish is will no longer be important , just enjoy the fact that I caught a nice sized fish and let it go at that .

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After reading this , I am even more convinced that using heavier tackle and landing the fish as soon as possible is the way to go .

 

That's an interesting post Norm. I'm curious if you have any thoughts about using crankbaits and the resulting potential for danger to the fish. I like using crankbaits when fishing rivers and creeks for smallmouths but have often noticed and worried that I'll occasionally catch a fish in the eye with one of the treble hooks. However, they never swallow it like they might with lighter tackle, so I'm uncertain of the relative danger of crankbaits compared to other common lures.

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Jeff ,

 

 

Crankbaits are the lure I start with and are my primary tool for catching smallies . Hooking a fish in multiple locations happens quite often . I have also been thinking about that since I read the article in the paper .

 

Mashing down the barbs would help making the release easier but I don't think it will do anything about multiple hooking of the fish . I am thinking about bending the bottom hook on the treble closed and looking to see what effect that has . I don't want cut it off as that may affect the balance of the lure .

 

It may well come down to changing how I fish entirely by switching entirely to single hook lures such as single spins , swim baits and plastic jerks on an EWG Gammie in addition to jigs/soft plastics .

 

I got away from fishing tubes a lot as they had a tendency to get swallowed deeper than other types of plastics I use .

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However, they never swallow it like they might with lighter tackle, so I'm uncertain of the relative danger of crankbaits compared to other common lures.

 

The primary threat for hooking mortality comes from swallowing the hook and piercing the arteries associated with the gills. Superficial wounds to the face and outer gill plates have much less effect on the survival of caught fish. The loss of an eye is a serious wound, but doesn't pose a grave risk to survival.

 

Treble hooks have been identified as risk for higher mortality. I can't recall a study (although it could exist) that specifically compares the risk of hooking mortality with crank baits with treble hooks vs other baits.

 

Let's be careful to point out too that those 4 mintues cited in the article is the MAXIMUM the author felt they could handle. Don't pick this up as a rule of thumb for how long you can safely handle bass. If you land a bass in 30 seconds and wave it around in the air for 3.5....you probably might as well grease up the pan.

 

Also, you can expect that 4 minute limit to vary substantially between species. The way fish species respond to stress varies incredibly. Don't expect bonefish physiology to closely mimic smallmouth bass. That maximum will be different when applied to Micropterus dolomieu.

 

I will say I admire your integrity, Norm, but I do plan to keep measuring fish. The 5 seconds needed to hold your fish beside a calibrated pole yields some good information. If conditions are such that 5 seconds more stress is going to kill your fish, you probably shouldn't be fishing at all.

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I too don't bother with pics or measuring....unless it's a really nice fish. It amazes me how many people don't pinch the barbs whether they're using lures with trebles or any other hook. This is a NO brainer folks!!! Crush the barb and let the hook be removed without further damage. If you think you NEED barbs to land your fish, then I challenge you to fish just 1 day without barbs and then tell me how many fish were lost. Get tough, go barbless!

 

If there isn't a Man Law about this....then I now propose the "Get Tough, Go barbless" rule.

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With large hooks, like you would use on Fluke. I loose zero. In fact it penetrates better. Same with spinnerbaits. With crankbaits and topwaters that had #6 or #4 trebles I lost a LOT. Maybe because I use Fireline? Less stretch easier to shake off?

I only pinched them down because I was in Sylvania. I kept doing it in the Kank on the larger hooks.

 

100% of the smallies I killed in the last few years were on soft plastics (usually tubes) swallowed. And I fish live bait all the time. zero kill rate, that I know of. At least I never gut hooked one.

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That's like asking a crack addict how many rocks are enough! I love to look back and review photos from past outings -- it's good for the soul. Especially when it's freezing cold out and I'm not fishing.

 

You could say the same thing about reports. How many reports are enough? Most of my reports are from the same mold. Kayaked, tossed the same bait, caught a bunch of fish. Had fun. :P Repeat offender, I guess.

are you looking at the fish or just at your own pretty face? :lol:

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Sorry, but I will continue to measure and take pictures as well. I don't think I am killing too many smallmouths. Sometimes the fishing community takes catch and release a little too far! Also, Norm, don't believe everything you read. Upon working on my masters degree, I took a class on being critical of research papers and projects. I learned one thing, many research projects tend to produce the results that were theorized (before the project begins) by the researcher. In addition, in a year there will be another test that will say smallmouth can't be out of the water any longer than one minute.

 

I don't want anyone to think I am into hurting smallmouths. Anyone who knows me will tell you that no one loves and respects the fish more than I do. But measuring and taking pictures, if done in a timely manner, does little to hurt the population.

 

Sorry for the rant, but I feel very strongly about this topic. Let's just fish and let them go and not have to whip out the stopwatches.

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I don't need to see any photos of smallies. I want to see photos of smallies.

 

Be prepared when taking photos. Keep your hand wet when handling fish.

 

Most guys are holding their breath when they fish with me anyway ;)

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Sorry, but I will continue to measure and take pictures as well. I don't think I am killing too many smallmouths. Sometimes the fishing community takes catch and release a little too far! Also, Norm, don't believe everything you read. Upon working on my masters degree, I took a class on being critical of research papers and projects. I learned one thing, many research projects tend to produce the results that were theorized (before the project begins) by the researcher. In addition, in a year there will be another test that will say smallmouth can't be out of the water any longer than one minute.

 

I don't want anyone to think I am into hurting smallmouths. Anyone who knows me will tell you that no one loves and respects the fish more than I do. But measuring and taking pictures, if done in a timely manner, does little to hurt the population.

 

Sorry for the rant, but I feel very strongly about this topic. Let's just fish and let them go and not have to whip out the stopwatches.

Well said, Jonn.I hope that our belief in catch and release doesn't lead us to unsupported extremes.Any study that states that what's true of one species of fish is true of others should be rejected on it's face since it's common knowledge that different species have different limits in handling stress from trout with the lowest to so called rough fish with the highest.Different fish also typically face different levels of stress during a fight. A fly caught wild trout faces a higher level than a smallmouth due to the longer fight necessitated by the lighter tackle.Yet the more stress vunerable trout when fought and handled properly lives to fight another day as witness the success of catch and release on trout waters.A bonefish presumably expends a tremendous amount of energy during a fight making searingly fast runs of as much as 200 yards sometimes 2 or 3 times before succumbing.

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Any study that states that what's true of one species of fish is true of others should be rejected on it's face since it's common knowledge that different species have different limits in handling stress from trout with the lowest to so called rough fish with the highest.

 

Let's remember that we're looking at a press report about the research, not the research.

 

You have to be careful when the press starts quoting scientists because it's very easy for things to get lost in the translation. I've been through this dance a few times with the press and I can just about guess what happened. The subtext I see here is that Cory intended to say these results were applicable to other species in a general sense. I suspect he tried to point out the effects of temperature and other things on handling stress and none of that ever reached the printed page.

 

You can understand the reason this information was reported this way. Every fish, hook, temperature, species, season, and hooking depth puts complexities in this data. Its very difficult to pack all that information into a few sentances in a news report, and in fact Cory doesn't have that data. We don't even have a tiny fraction of the whole story here. Maybe we should call Cory and ask him to comment on his findings.

 

What we shouldn't do is dump science in favor of bar stool assumptions. Ask any fisheries biologist which is a more fragile fish...almost any sucker species (rough fish), or smallmouth bass and if they're not passed out drunk they'll say the sucker.

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Interesting.

 

How are we defining "fragile"?

As in how we can sling it around as we see fit, or overall as a species?

 

Where does the term "tolerant" fit into the equation?

I submit this:

http://lcwc.net/CreekWatch/fish-studies.html

A stream not unlike some we find right in our own backyards.

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Your point is well taken that "fragile" can mean just about anything. There isn't a specific scientific meaning of that word where fish are concerned. In this case, the context was handling so that's what I meant and I assume that's what Ron means too.

 

Suckers (especially red horses) are the first fish species to die during collections. Carp (not a sucker, but a minnow) are highly robust.

 

Smallmouth fall somewhere in between.

 

The use of "tolerant" and "intolerant" came into vouge with the increased use of the Index of Biotic Integrity (developed at the University of Illinois by researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey). "Tolerant" is generally used to describe species that will remain in a system that has been compromised by pollutants. The presence of high numbers of "intolerant" species indicate a high quality stream that has not been compromised by pollutants.

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Wait a second????

Look at your watch, time 4 minutes. That's a long time. Just how much time do you really need?

 

Okay, so smallies are a more tolerant species. just how much time do you need? 5...6..7 10 minutes?

 

CRIPES! how long does it take you to reel in a fish? More than a minute? Seriously?

If not, what do you do in the extra 3 minutes? Comb your hair for the photo?

 

This guy isn't saying anything outrageous. Just to minimize the time you spend fightinng andling the fish and warm water makes things worse. this isn't even new information.

 

Jeez. Just my opinion. but.... If your going spend time and money insituting C&R laws and installing signs everywhere encouraging everyone else to C&R least you can do is go the extra mile put all the odds in the fish's favor.

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It's all about having a game plan BEFORE you go out. That includes having the camera pre-set, tools at the ready, and practice with both items BEFORE you go fishing.

On my last trip we timed ourselves and had it down to 1 minute or less. Now here's something to consider when I say 1 minute or less. We caught 1,043 pike that averaged 38" and 16#. 124 of those were between 41-50". If you can get a 41"+ pike off in a minute then you should have no problem with a smallie no matter how bad it's hooked. And all those fish on that last trip were hand landed. No nets. No craddles. No Boga grips.

I'm big about photographing fish. Duh....because it's our business. That being said here's some tips from our site that might help to quicken the process and get fish back in the water a little faster: http://customfish.com/info.html#1%20photo

 

Now, back to the tools/landing. You should have the right tools for the job. Trying to unhook a treble hook from between gill rakers with a short pair of pliers is just asking for trouble. And dont be afraid to go out the back of the gills and cut the line. So ya gotta re-tie. So what... ya just saved a fish and a whole bunch of time.

I like the barbless hook idea but not for all situations. On that last trip..um..yeah..we cut em all off. Plus we took trebles off of baits if they were just overkill. A Bulldawg only needs ONE bottom treble and the dorsal hook. I've even taken off the front trebles on some of my smallie cranks and put an Excalibur Rotating Treble on the back. It's a no-miss system because the Rotating Trebles just dont miss. In fact they sometimes overhook.

 

 

But again..it's all about a game plan. Know the moves. Know the tools. Know the camera. And practice before you go after a trophy smallie. I suggest trying out your camera settings while fishing for panfish. You can always erase digital blunders.

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Let's remember that we're looking at a press report about the research, not the research.

 

You have to be careful when the press starts quoting scientists because it's very easy for things to get lost in the translation. I've been through this dance a few times with the press and I can just about guess what happened. The subtext I see here is that Cory intended to say these results were applicable to other species in a general sense. I suspect he tried to point out the effects of temperature and other things on handling stress and none of that ever reached the printed page.

 

You can understand the reason this information was reported this way. Every fish, hook, temperature, species, season, and hooking depth puts complexities in this data. Its very difficult to pack all that information into a few sentances in a news report, and in fact Cory doesn't have that data. We don't even have a tiny fraction of the whole story here. Maybe we should call Cory and ask him to comment on his findings.

 

What we shouldn't do is dump science in favor of bar stool assumptions. Ask any fisheries biologist which is a more fragile fish...almost any sucker species (rough fish), or smallmouth bass and if they're not passed out drunk they'll say the sucker.

Tim,

You defend the researcher by surmising that re other species he was just speaking in a general sense.It should be evident that I was speaking of rough fish in general and in general most are significantly more tolerant. I agree we should not dump science for barstool assumptions but that we should reject classroom conclusions(which as Jonn G. points out are often rejected by other classroom conclusions)when they fly in the face of our own hands on in the field experience.While Mark is right in stating that it should not take 4 minutes to land and photo a smallie there are other species were it takes longer such as steelhead trout,salmon,various saltwater species perhaps even including bonefish themselves given those runs they make.If we accept this study why bother with c+r if they're likely doomed to die anyway?

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I agree with Mark K. Four minutes is a long time. Any angler should be able to land the fish, measure the fish, and take a photo or two in well less than four minutes. My initial remarks were a result of the original post. I would never want the alliance to go to a stance where we discourage anglers from taking a photo or two and/or measuring their prized catch. In my opinion, pictures are my way of "taking the smallmouth home with me". In addition, pictures are a marker of each and every trip.

 

I live for river smallmouth and would always want pictures to be a way to remember the trips I have taken throughout my life. Hopefully, my kids will someday enjoy looking at their father happily holding up a smallmouth.

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If I'm with someone, which is the only time I take fish pics anyway, I'll hand them the camera and dunk the fish until the camera is ready to minimize time out of the water. Using current to enhance "breathing" when possible. Of course, you do loose some of those suckers that way.

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Four minutes IS a long time. I was fishing yesterday after the IDNR electrofishing trip and I started counting out handling times. Of fifty or so fish I caught, two difficult unhooking jobs took 2 minutes from strike to release. A couple of larger fish needed a little playing time and were measured and took just over a minute. Everything else was in and out in less than a minute and most of the dinks were in and gone in less than 30 seconds.

 

I would hate to see us use that 4 mintues as a rule of thumb. Even with pictures and measuring we can do far better.

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Tim,

It should be evident that I was speaking of rough fish in general and in general most are significantly more tolerant.

 

What you find to be obvious isn't necessarily so. In fact, in this case it's simply not true.

 

"Rough fish" have no inheret tolerance for handling. If you value experience , then consider my experience with thousands of hours electrofishing, seining, gill netting, fyke netting, lab culture, pond rearing and hook and line fishing. I can tell you that gizzard shad, suckers, most minnows, and all darters are often less tolerant of handling than smallmouth bass. For every thick-skinned common carp there's a gizzard shad or a silver redhorse that dies when you look at it sideways.

 

I agree we should not dump science for barstool assumptions but that we should reject classroom conclusions(which as Jonn G. points out are often rejected by other classroom conclusions)when they fly in the face of our own hands on in the field experience.

 

Compared to surgically implanting a radio-transmitted EKG in a fish and monitoring it's responses to stress in a controlled laboratory setting, what field experience do you have that would cause you to reject this paper? Personally I haven't seen Cory's paper to know if it merits defense. I do think applying a four minute time limit derived from bonefish is too broad for smallmouth, but I'm not convinced that's what he said.

 

If Jonn's professor intended to convey that scientific studies were all biased and therefore not useful, that professor is doing his students a great disservice. Bad studies do occur, but science is designed to root those out over time. Even in criticizing those papers, the professor in question was engaged in that process. If he were merely trying to convey the need for critical thinking and skepticism where science is involved, perhaps then he would not be leading his students astray.

 

If we have to chose between the field experience of some one who has worked diligently for months and possibly years under the supervision of trained professionals to address a specific question, and some one who has a vauge intuition about something they've never lifted a finger to research, I think the choice about who to believe is rather obvious.

 

...it takes longer such as steelhead trout,salmon,various saltwater species perhaps even including bonefish themselves given those runs they make.If we accept this study why bother with c+r if they're likely doomed to die anyway?

 

And this is why catch and release is a questionable conservation strategy for some of those larger species. One study showed that a very high percentage of tarpon (a species with unavoidably long playing times) become exhausted during handling and are eaten by sharks after being caught and released. Bag limits may actually kill fewer fish and be the more reasonable way to go in some cases.

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Full article can be viewed at Science Daily:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/...70927164432.htm

 

Source: Cory Suski (217-244-2237; suski@uiuc.edu)

 

Original Press Release:

http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/news/stories/news4143.html

 

May appear on the following page upon publication:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/10956433

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I've gone totally barbless on everything. Mash all the barbs down before you go out. Most fish I catch never leave the water I just shake them off. If I hook a fish deep I can usually reach in through the gills and get the hook out of the throat skin no problem. The barbless thing is really great when you hook yourself it's no big deal,so it's probably easier on the fish.

Phil

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