Many scientific studies have been conducted to evaluate the survival rate of bass that are caught and then released at the conclusion of bass tournaments. Because many environmental factors can come into play (water temperature, how the fish are handled and cared for by the anglers, and the weigh-in methods used by the tournament organization), the survival numbers can range dramatically. According to an article published on the Ohio Division of Wildlife website, the average survival rate for catch and release of sportfish is 82%. However, that number can range as low as 25%.
Fortunately for Ohio bass anglers, every major tournament organization that I’m aware of practices outstanding weigh in procedures, and my feeling is that the survival rates associated with their weigh ins substantially beat out the 82% average for all catch and release scenarios. For their efforts, they should be commended! I’m sure there are still a few outlying organizations that have not adopted proper procedures. My challenge to anyone reading this is to speak up and voice your opinion to the tournament director should you encounter a process that hurts the chances of a bass being released alive and healthy.
While fishing an Ohio Mega Bass tournament on Indian Lake Saturday I got a first-hand reminder of just how successful catch and release can be. Indian is perhaps the most highly pressured tournament lake in Ohio. You’d be hard pressed to find a Saturday from April through September where at least one bass tournament isn’t taking place. During my tournament we caught three quality fish in the two pound range that all had small puncture holes underneath their jaws from where they had been on culling tags from a prior tournament. The fish were fat, healthy, and full of fight. Had they been kept or mistreated by the pior anglers who caught them, or had the prior tournament organization not conducted a quality weigh in, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of weighing them in.
Fish care is extremely important to our bass fisheries here in Ohio, particularly in the heat of summer, and I encourage everyone to do their part! For more information on proper fish care, please read my Summer Fish Care article.