Bassmaster: Anglers take care to ensure that caught fish survive
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, February 17, 2013
2/17/13 at 5:46 AM
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The true stars of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic at Grand Lake are the fish, but from the time the tournament location was announced many have wondered if the fish can survive transport from the lake to the Classic stage at Tulsa's BOK Center and back to the lake again, especially if the weather is extremely cold.
The answer from the man who literally wrote the book on catch-and-release bass care is that the bass will not only survive, they'll thrive.
"I feel extremely confident that we will have very high survivals," said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and co-author of the BASS fish care bible for anglers and tournament directors, "Keeping Bass Alive."
Keeping fish alive has become a science since tournament anglers turned from "catch-and-grease" to catch-and-release when BASS founder Ray Scott first popularized the idea in the 1970s.
"It's been studied over and over, all across the country," Gilliland said. "We actually used Grand (Lake) for research projects in the early 1990s to look at survival of fish after tournaments."
Gilliland will personally be on hand as part of the crew looking after Grand's bass backstage at the BOK Center in Tulsa on Feb. 22-24, as he has at many Bassmaster Classic events across the country.
The man handling the fish on stage, BASS Tournament Director Tripp Weldon, is a 23-year veteran on the tour. "We fully expect to have 100 percent live release," Weldon said. "That certainly is our goal and we fully intend to hit that goal."
Gilliland spelled out a few reasons why he believes the bass will remain healthy.
Professional anglers experienced in fish care are fishing for a $500,000 prize and get penalized for having dead fish.
The water temperature will be cool, roughly 45 degrees. A fish's metabolism will be slower (less oxygen needed and fewer wastes excreted). And cold water holds higher levels of oxygen.
Bass boats have live wells of more than 40 gallons with circulation/aeration pumps. Two fish on one side and three on the other will have 20 to 25 gallons on each side. Even if the outside weather is unseasonably cold (or warm) the 90-minute drive to Tulsa will have little impact on the temperature of water inside the tank.
Additional treated water and anything else needed, just in case, will be available at a staging area near the BOK Center before the angler takes the fish to the stage.
The fish are transported inside the boat live wells right up to the BOK stage and spend only a short time out of the water for the weigh-in. Backstage, the fish are placed in an ODWC hatchery truck for transport back to the lake.
Gilliland said a second hatchery truck will be available, just in case.
"I doubt we'll need it but it's there if we do," he said.
Where fish will be released after the weigh-in is top secret, Gilliland said.
"We've got game warden escorts and we're working with (Grand River Dam Authority) to arrange places to release the fish," he said.
The fish will be delivered to various locations.
"We're not going to just back up to the first boat ramp and just dump them in," he said.
Weldon said he often gets the question about fish care.
"I often say it, and I've been doing this a long time, priority one is the safety of all the competitors and one-A is care of the resource, care of the fish and getting them back to the lake and in good shape," he said.
Original Print Headline: Catch and release
Kelly Bostian 918-581-8357
Jeff Kriet holds up fish at the weigh-in of the Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport, La., in February 2012. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file
MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file