big bass

Gently resuscitate during release.

(Editors Note: Occasionally, we feel it necessary to reprint past articles highlighting timely management topics. As outlined in the above article on summer months, we’re entering a very stressful period for big bass. Thanks for your indulgence while we emphasize awareness for handling your treasured trophies.)

During summer months, we hear reports of big bass dying from stress of landing and handling in warm temperatures. One lake recently had heavy weekend fishing pressure with catches to 10 pounds,10 ounces. The following day, the ranch manager found two floating carcasses. Even though turtles had consumed part of one, remains still weighed over eight pounds. The second tipped scales near seven pounds. There were no other dead fish to suggest a damaging water quality event. Years ago, I watched a companion land an eight and one-quarter pounder in August temperatures. He never removed her from the water and executed quick release. Sadly, she rolled on her side and didn’t survive extended efforts at resuscitation. At least the grand lady holds a place of honor in his den.

big bass

Cradle lunkers. Don’t hold by the jaw.

We understand your frustration. You followed a successful plan and invested five or more years growing eight to 10-pound hulks. It’s time to celebrate by catching and admiring a few. Safely savoring that moment requires a little patience this time of year. Keep in mind; eight to 10-pound bass are entering senior citizen age. The average life expectancy of a largemouth is 10-years. Those fish could be six to eight years old. Imagine yanking them from a shaded, cool 10-foot depth to a shocking near 90-degree surface temperature. That’s stress! Like leaving air-conditioned comfort and getting in a sweltering car. Some of us relate when recalling that mowing the lawn at age 65 isn’t as easy as it was at 35.

     From now through fall is a stressful time for fish. Please follow these hot weather handling tips:

  • Use barbless hooks.
  • Fish early morning and late afternoon to sundown. Working a topwater on a moon-lit night is exciting.
  • Land and release fish quickly. Keep them in the water while unhooking. Please don’t hold them for extended periods to photograph. A bass can live out of water about as long as we can hold our breath.
  • Soft plastic baits are popular this time of year. If one swallows the hook, cut the line and leave it. Surprisingly, body chemistry will erode the hook and cause less injury than attempted removal.
  • Don’t hold big bass horizontally by the jaw. It could break the jaw. If holding horizontally, place your hand under their stomach to support weight.

Harvested fish should be placed in a cooler with ice. They will not survive current surface water on a stringer or in a live well.