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thatoneguy

At what point is it too much?

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We had a thread on here last summer/fall about the increasing tournament pressure on Leech, and its impact on the bass fishing. While the bassin' on Leech is still mighty good, it's certainly less mighty good than a few years ago, and those who have fished it for a long time say the decline is very noticeable.

I was just looking at the Classic Bass HSOforum, and on the front page it had an announcement about a new tournament "trail" coming this summer. I put "trail" in quotes, because 5 (FIVE!) of its events are on Leech this summer. Five.

I'm not a fisheries biologist, but I've read enough and talked to enough anglers and fisheries types to know that this is not going to be a good thing for the lake.

I'm all for promoting the sport, and I had a blast fishing tourneys for the first time last summer, but more than anything I want to see fishing improve on Leech rather than decline. I can't see anything good coming from this sharp increase in tournament pressure.

Thoughts?

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I admittedly haven't fished Leech much and am certainly no expert. My personal opinion is that the DNR has a pretty solid understanding of the population of a lake and how tournament fishing effects that population. I believe if the population of the lake was really in trouble or in a serious decline, there is no way the DNR would allow a single tournament on the lake, much less 5.

If you honestly are concerned, I'd call the DNR in the area. Talk to them about your concerns, see if they'll let you come on survey with them. I'm sure they survey a lake like that often. I've done that here in the metro and they were more than willing to let me come along, even saying they love the help. I haven't done it yet, but certainly plan to.

Again, not trying to disagree with you or downplay your concerns, just playing a little devil's advocate.

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Thanks, Presco. That's just the kind of feedback I'm hoping for. I certainly will be in contact with the area DNR just to get their thoughts on it. I will say that many people I've already talked to have the distinct impression that area DNR folks focus almost solely on walleye and muskie management in Leech, and don't give a fig about bass. I hope that's not the case, and I'd like to believe they are big picture folks. We'll see.

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That might be the case. Money rules everything right? Hope its not true as well.

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Wasn't the main concern that all (or most) of the fish were being caught in boy bay, but after the weigh ins, they were being released in walker bay? I could definitely see that being a problem if the bass were still guarding nets, but for the rest of the summer, wouldn't they eventually make their way back to where the suitable habitat is?

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Wasn't the main concern that all (or most) of the fish were being caught in boy bay, but after the weigh ins, they were being released in walker bay? I could definitely see that being a problem if the bass were still guarding nets, but for the rest of the summer, wouldn't they eventually make their way back to where the suitable habitat is?

"Eventually" is a relative term on a 103,000 acre body of water with 195 miles of shoreline. That's 16+ miles away from where they were caught to where they were released, and that's not including the wandering they will need to do in order to find their way back. If you were dropped in an unknown location 16 miles from your home in the woods how long would it take you to find your way back, and how much wandering would you need to do? And that's not including the 30+ lb muskies and pike they now need to find a way to hide from because you placed them in a location that doesn't offer the protection they are used to.

Now don't get me wrong here I am not bashing tournaments and have fished in a few myself, but IMO if you are running a tournament on a body of water the size of Leech, you should be required to release those fish in a relatively similar location to where they were caught. Not in the middle of nowhere and force them to survive and find their way on their own.

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Exactly, CAMAN. Actually fewer tourneys go out of Walker Bay any more. Most bass events launch from Horseshoe Bay or Trapper's Landing. The fish (mostly) get released just outside the harbors, and the closest suitable habitat nearby is the docks in the harbors. I talked to a friend who had a family reunion at Horseshoe Bay the week after an Excel Series tourney, and he said his family (by his count) pulled - and kept - at least 15 4+ lb bass fishing from the docks.

I think the level of tourney pressure would be fine if, as was mentioned above, there was a requirement that the fish be released spread around the bays where they live.

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Perhaps your issue should be with your friend and not people that release bass.

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My friend didn't keep any fish. He was also powerless to keep people from keeping legally caught fish - fish that wouldn't have been in that harbor if the tourney had a better release plan. Thanks for the feedback, though.

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If the fishing pressure gets too tough on you come on down to Le Homme Dieu and fish for a couple of days. When you get back you'll remember how good you have it up there wink

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Relocating fish doesn't seem to be all that bad for them. I know this example is for a muskie but bass can't be all that different.

Quote:
In mid-June of the 1998 fishing season, one of the study participants caught a musky of barely legal size on the east side of the Flowage in the Pork Barrel Island area in five feet of water. The musky was hooked in the gills and bleeding. Although the guide took all possible cautionary measures, the little musky exhibited signs of high stress. The guide thought that it may be best to allow the musky to rejuvenate itself in the boat's livewell. Since the guide was quitting for the day, he decided to motor over to the west-side of the Flowage for some cool refreshments. After returning to the boat, from the establishment, the study participant checked on the young musky and found that it seemed to have replaced some of its' lost energy. After attaching a radio transmitter to the musky it was released on the west side in front of the establishment. Initially, this relocation of the musky was frowned-upon by others involved in the study. But, eventually this proved to be one of the most important Muskies of the study. Homer, as we later named him, remained in the area on the west side that he was moved to, locating under a bog, in eleven feet of water, until late-July. Then suddenly, Homer began to move. Amazingly, over the course of one weekend Homer made his way under the bridge that separates the east and west sides, and completed his 3-1/2 mile trip back to the point of his catch and release experience. He didn't remain there long though, as it is believed that Homer, upon return to his former home range near Pork Barrel Island, associated the area with a bad experience. In response, Homer relocated to a new home range approximately ½ mile from Pork Barrel Island. He spent the remainder of the fishing season in his new home range. Homer's ability to seemingly find his way back could prove extremely important because it may indicate that Muskies exhibit the same type of "homing" qualities that salmon display. If that is the case, then it could have major implications for musky spawning, as well as the need to preserve traditional musky spawning habitat. During the 1999 fishing season we will continue similar experiments to discover if this type of behavior is repeated by other Muskies.

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Why don't we find a study on bass...

Ah, here we go!

Quote:
Movement of Largemouth Bass Following Tournament-Release

Author: Todd Driscoll |

Tournament fishing is popular at Sam Rayburn Reservoir. TPWD’s most recent estimates indicate that 52% of Sam Rayburn anglers participate in at least one bass tournament per year, compared to only 6% of all Texas anglers. We also estimate that there are over several hundred bass tournaments per year at Sam Rayburn, with tournament fishing (including practice fishing) comprising 36% of the total annual fishing effort, and 46% of the bass fishing effort. Therefore, we know that tournament anglers handle a large number of bass every year at Sam Rayburn, and some of these fish may be relocated greater than 20 miles from their original capture point. In addition, because a majority of the larger tournaments conduct weigh-ins at the lower, southeast end of the reservoir, concentration of largemouth bass at weigh-in sites is also likely. These concerns can affect overall angler catch rates, both in a negative (relocation) and positive way (stockpiling following weigh-ins). If stockpiling is severe, fish growth, body condition, and survival may be reduced.

At least 12 peer-reviewed studies have examined largemouth bass movement and dispersal rates associated with tournament weigh-in sites. Overall, combining most of the study results, largemouth bass traveled an average of 1 mile from the release site within 40 days. By the end of the various studies (study lengths ranged from 3 months to 2.5 years), the average dispersal distance for each bass was 2.2 miles, but 51% of fish were still within 1 mile of the release site. Only 14% of bass returned to their original capture site (homing behavior), and 22% were recaptured by anglers.

The most recent studies tend to indicate higher rates of dispersal and homing behavior. At Lake Rideau, Canada (1996-1998), fish were displaced from 1 to 10 miles. After 2 weeks, average dispersal distance of bass was only 440 yards. However, 37% of fish eventually returned to their original capture site (all were displaced less than 5 miles). A study at Chesapeake Bay, Maryland (2000) indicated that 64% of largemouth bass had moved at least 0.3 miles within a week. The average final dispersal distance of bass was 6 miles from release sites and 95% were at least 0.3 miles away. Even though fish were displaced 9 to 13 miles from capture areas, 30 to 40% of bass returned to initial capture areas. At Lake Martin, Alabama (2005), bass moved an average of 5 miles from the release site after 10 weeks. After 2 months, no fish were in close proximity to the release site, and all fish tracked over 3 months returned to within the same general area of capture.

However, the three recent studies above involved simulated tournament conditions. That is, fish were collected with an electrofishing boat, implanted with an electric transmitter, and then displaced to mimic tournament displacement. The researchers did this to minimize death of tagged bass by eliminating fish stress associated with livewell confinement and the weigh-in process, as implanting transmitters is a significant stressor by itself. Nearly all of the older studies used bass from actual tournaments. This indicates that the rate and distance largemouth bass disperse from a weigh-in site is related to fish condition. Fish in good shape likely disperse quicker than stressed fish.

Due to the variable results from these studies, it is hard to make specific conclusions relative to Sam Rayburn or Toledo Bend reservoirs. In general, it appears that if largemouth bass are released after tournaments in good shape, only short-term stockpiling occurs at release sites, as most fish disperse from release sites within 2-3 months and up to 40% of these fish may return to original capture sites. Although fish displaced up to 13 miles have demonstrated homing abilities, few make it back to original areas if displaced over 6 miles. In contrast, as tournament-related stress increases, bass will disperse less. Specific rates of movement following release are likely affected by available habitat, food availability, location of release (main lake or cove), fish size, and water temperature.

Most importantly, a study we conducted at Sam Rayburn in 2003-2004 indicates that population-level impacts of tournament-related bass relocation and concentration are likely low. No question, stockpiling at release sites does occur, as we estimated that 31,050 bass were transported to weigh-in sites during the one-year study. But, we also estimated that tournament anglers transport only 5% of the total largemouth bass population of legal-length (31,050 of the 621,000 available bass) in one year. Simply put, only 1 out of 20 bass are subjected to relocation and potential crowding at release sites per year.

Even though population-level effects are likely low, tournament organizers should still do everything possible to minimize potential overcrowding after release. Properly aerated live-release boats or trailers should be used to scatter fish over broad areas, and weigh-ins should be spread out over the entire reservoir. If you have questions about this article or area lakes, stop by the Inland Fisheries office at the Jasper State Fish Hatchery or contact us by phone (409-384-9572) or email ( todd.driscoll@tpwd.state.tx.us). Good luck and good fishing!

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Good info, CAMAN - thanks. Looks like there is enough troubling info in the body of research that tournament organizers ought to pay attention, but not so much that it's likely to be immediately catastrophic. I'll follow up with local DNR folks and start a conversation.

Quote:
At least 12 peer-reviewed studies have examined largemouth bass movement and dispersal rates associated with tournament weigh-in sites. Overall, combining most of the study results, largemouth bass traveled an average of 1 mile from the release site within 40 days. By the end of the various studies (study lengths ranged from 3 months to 2.5 years), the average dispersal distance for each bass was 2.2 miles, but 51% of fish were still within 1 mile of the release site. Only 14% of bass returned to their original capture site (homing behavior), and 22% were recaptured by anglers.

That part is what worries me the most.

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I don't find that worrisome at all. There's somewhere between 0.5 and 2 million bass in Leech Lake, and they will be moving maybe 500 fish over the course of the tournament. There's plenty of fish that will move up on those spots. And the caught fish will find food. They likely don't move far because they find food not all that far from where they are released.

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Nick -

You don't cite the source, but the writing looks familiar to me.

If the study you cited was from the 'Chippewa Flowage Musky Study' ... it's worthless.

Long story for another time, but...worthless. Utterly useless as a credible source of information about anything scientific having anything to do with fish, fish behavior, research methodology, valid statistics...useless. Like, socks on a fish useless.

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I do know of one tournament where caught fish were transported

to a 'release location' which happened to be right off Fisher's Point - one of the deepest spots in Walker Bay. Wonder how well those fish did?

One thing that I don't see considered in some of the research done on returning fish, and which might be difficult to study but very informative, is what the long term behavior changes are for caught and released fish. Maybe the research is out there and I just haven't seen it.

For example: If fish caught in June take 40 days to get back home, what condition are they in? How well do the survive the winter (growing season here is a bit different than Sam Rayburn). What's their spawning success the next spring? Long term, those are the things that matter, not just if they swim back to Boy Bay.

I know some of the people I know in the area who have fished Leech for a very long time are not wild about what the bass population is like these days. Won't say tournaments are the sole reason and doubt they would either (Leech is changing, and rapidly) but it's a concern for them.

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Fish populations boom and bust regularly, and on every body of water. Lake conditions and weather is the only factor.

One bad winter will be more detrimental to bass populations on Leech than tournaments moving or killing a few hundred fish.

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