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FISH CARE GUIDELINES FOR TOURNAMENT DIRECTORS: KEEPING BASS HEALTHY THROUGH THE WEIGH-IN
Compiled by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Fishery Research Lab


1.  CONTROL THE NUMBER OF WEIGH-IN BAGS TO CONTROL THE PACE OF THE WEIGH-IN!

  • Keep fish in live wells with aerators running continuously while waiting for a weigh-in bag.
  • Use no more than five bags per twenty contestants (or teams).
  • Use reinforced, perforated bags that allow water exchange.
  • Weigh in flights if the tournament has over 50 contestants or teams.

2.  SET UP WAITING LINE TANKS!

  • Set up one 100-gallon tank per 20 contestants or teams.
  • Fill with lake water just before weigh-in to prevent heating.
  • Cool water 10 degrees below lake temperature with block or bag ice.
  • Aerate tank with recirculating pump or air compressor.
  • Add Catch & Release® as directed for volume of tank.
  • Contestants dip fresh water from tank into bags while waiting in line.

3.  HANDLE FISH AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE!

  • Tournament personnel may wear latex or rubber gloves.
  • Fish are emptied into plastic laundry basket resting in a sink.
  • All baskets are checked and adjusted to weigh the same.
  • Fish are checked for length but are not re-bagged.
  • Lid is placed on top of fish and basket is weighed.
  • Extra baskets are available to weigh individual "big bass".
  • Fish are then transported in the basket to next station.

4.  THE MIRACLE OF THE SALT DIP!

  • Every tournament should have a salt-dip station!
  • Mix three pounds of non-iodized salt with fifteen gallons of water in an aerated sink or tub.
  • After fish are weighed, submerge basket of bass in solution for 10 to 15 seconds.  No more!
  • Bass may loose equilibrium and roll over, this is a normal reaction.
  • The salt solution kills bacteria and fungus.
  • It stimulates the slime producing cells on the fish' body.
  • The salt dip dehydrates the fish by pulling water out through the skin and gills.
  • When the fish is placed back into lake it absorbs fresh water like a sponge, flushing toxins.
  • Drain and refill salt solution after 20-30 baskets of fish.  Have additional salt and water ready.
  • Take care with disposal of salt water.

OTHER RELEASE CONSIDERATIONS

1.  PRE-RELEASE HOSPITAL TANK

  • Large tank similar to waiting line tanks (75 to 100 gallon capacity).
  • Water is cooled 10 degrees below lake temperature with block ice.
  • Non-iodized salt added at a rate of one pound per 25 gallons of water.
  • Add amount of Catch & Release® appropriate for volume of tank.
  • Supply pure oxygen if possible through air stones or bubble hose.
  • All fish are placed in this tank after weighing but before salt-dipping.
  • Healthy fish are recaptured quickly, salt dipped and released.
  • Use a long handled net with soft, knotless nylon or rubber bag.
  • Weak fish are treated longer.  After 20-30 min. they are netted, salt dipped and released.
  • Fish showing signs of air bladder overinflation are treated here (see below).
  • Fish judged as dead at weigh-in or too weak to survive are immediately placed on ice in a cooler.

Caution! - It is very difficult for untrained workers to distinguish between "healthy" fish and those that will die days later.

2.  AIR BLADDER OVERINFLATION!

  • Overinflated air bladders cause erratic swimming, floating on its side and may stop breathing.
  • Not restricted to fish caught from deep water.  Stress can cause this in fish from shallow water.
  • Use a 16-18 gauge hypodermic needle, 1-1/2 to 2 inches long to release excess gas.
  • Caution! - Puncturing a fish in the wrong place can cause lethal damage.
  • See Honey Hole Magazine website for suggested puncture location.

3.  RELEASE SITE

  • Release site should have good water quality and adequate depth.
  • Low traffic areas are preferred.
  • Fish should not be released right at the shoreline if possible.
  • Use a dock or a beached boat to get released fish into deeper water.

4.  RELEASE TUBES

  • Large diameter PVC pipes (at least 8-inch diameter).
  • Smooth joints.
  • Continuous flow of water.
  • Do not drop at an angle of more than 30 degrees.
  • Delivery end should be no more than one foot from the lake's surface.
  • Empty into water at least three feet deep.
  • If lake temperatures during the tournament are considered warm for that lake, do not use release tubes.  Use deep water release boats instead.

5.  RELEASE BOATS

  • Release boats should be used to distribute fish away from boat ramps & marinas.
  • In the absence of a pontoon boat, use contestant boats to shuttle fish away from weigh-in area to deeper water in the main body of the lake away from boat traffic areas.

6.  ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

  • During the weigh-in, place dead fish on ice in a cooler immediately, out of view of spectators.
  • Workers should police after weigh-in area, leaving it cleaner than when they arrived.
  • Remain in the release area for at least one hour after weigh-in to pick up any dead fish.
  • If a fish is floating or cannot swim on its own it will likely die and should be removed.

FISH CARE GUIDELINES FOR TOURNAMENT ANGLERS: KEEPING BASS HEALTHY IN THE LIVE WELL


1.  FILL YOUR LIVE WELL EARLY IN THE DAY!

  • Fill live well at first fishing spot.
  • Use water from open lake areas with good water quality.

2.  TURN ON THE RECIRCULATING AERATOR IMMEDIATELY!

  • Set pump switch on manual (continuous operation)
  • Run continuously all day.
  • If aerator must run on a timer, run as often as possible.
  • If boat does not have a recirculating aeration system, add one!
  • This is a must to provide proper aeration if you transport fish while the boat is moving or on the trailer.

3.  LAND FISH QUICKLY, AVOIDING DAMAGE TO SLIME COATING!

  • Grasp fish by lower jaw only, holding them vertically.
  • Support large fish with a wet hand under the belly.
  • Use soft, knotless nylon or rubber landing nets.
  • Do not allow fish to touch boat carpet and rub off protective slime.
  • Remove hooks quickly with as little tissue damage as possible.
  • Remove deep hooks carefully.  When attempts fail, cut line five or six inches above the hook.
  • Don't keep fish out of water longer than you can hold your breath.

4.  KEEP FISH IN REAR LIVE WELLS IF VOLUME IS SUFFICIENT!

  • Fish in forward live wells are more likely to be injured from bouncing during rough water travel.
  • Distribute fish evenly between rear live well compartments.

5.  PUMP FRESH WATER REGULARLY!

  • When water temperatures are below 75 degrees, pump fresh water as often as possible.

6.  ADD ICE & SALT!

  • When water temperatures are above 75 degrees, recirculate live well water.
  • Do not rather pump in hot lake water.
  • Ice cools the water and slows the fish' metabolism.
  • One 8-pound block of ice cools water in a 30-gallon live well about 10 degrees for three hours.
  • Adjust the amount of ice according to live well size.
  • Block ice melts slower and can be stored for later use.
  • Monitor live well water temperatures.
  • Non-iodized salt (available from farm feed stores).
  • Helps maintain electrolyte balance and reduces the effects of stress.
  • Add 1/3 cup per five gallons.  Pre-measure salt into zip-lock bags.
  • Add Catch & Release® as directed.
  • Drain half of the live well water every three hours.
  • Refill with fresh water to remove toxic waste products (CO2 and ammonia).
  • Add ½ amount of ice, salt and Catch & Release® each time.

7.  OXYGEN DELIVERY SYSTEMS

  • Oxygen from pressurized cylinder is delivered directly into live well through air-stone or hose.
  • Must have regulator or pressure valve.  See Coast Guard regs about carrying pressurized tanks.
  • Solves oxygen demand problems.
  • Usually less need for water temperature adjustments but adding salt is still recommended.
  • Periodic flushing with fresh water is also required.
  • Better than simple aeration, but not a cure all.
  • Under extreme conditions (water temp. over 90 degrees) these will not prevent all mortality.

For more information contact:
Gene Gilliland

Oklahoma Fishery Research Laboratory
Phone: 405-325-7288
E-mail: ggillokla@aol.com

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