By FWC 

TrophyCatch Research: Proper Bass Handling

 

Last updated 5/12/2023 at 10:59am

Courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The best way to display a trophy bass allows for the fish to recover quickly, and helps assure survival after release.

We know anglers care about big bass, which means they also care about how they handle big bass.

Especially in recent years, concerns have been voiced about how anglers handle bass during catch-and-release fishing. This has prompted Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and University of Florida biologists to develop a research project to examine this important issue.

The results showed that none of the three tested handling methods caused any permanent damage, and there were no differences among handling types on bass feeding or survival. However, there were differences in how long it took the bass to recover based on how they were held.

Bass held with the full support of two hands recovered fastest when released, in less than 10 seconds on average.

Bass held by the jaw with one hand in a tilted, fully horizontal position recovered within 12 seconds on average but required major jaw adjustments in many cases for the fish to return to normal behavior.

Bass held vertically by the jaw with a grip device recovered slowest, within 33 seconds on average, but with NO major jaw adjustments.

TrophyCatch receives occasional comments about how anglers are pictured holding their catch. We recommend a two-handed horizontal hold because it provides the greatest support of a trophy bass and the fastest recovery. In TrophyCatch, the vertical hold is also acceptable, but we still recommend that an angler minimize the time that a bass is supported by only one hand. We do not recommend a horizontally tilted one-hand hold by the jaw.

This study documented increased sores, lesions, and inflamed gill and mouth parts on bass 30 days after handling; therefore, we also recommend wetting your hands and anything that the bass will touch to reduce damage to the fish and its protective slime coat. Across all holding types, bass weight decreased after handling. Earlier research showed that after a tournament or a catch-and-release angling event fish did not feed right away. This could have negative effects on the fish's health over time. Thus, we should perform our due diligence to minimize the time spent handling bass after catching them and be sure they are cared for in the best way possible by:

• Having a camera, scale, and measuring device ready in advance to document your catch

• Landing the fish quickly

Courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

BEST AND WORST WAYS: Three types of bass handling techniques included in a FWC and UF study. Left to right: 1) Most recommended: Bass held by the jaw and body, two-handed support, 2) Recommended: bass held by the jaw with a lip gripping device, and 3) Not recommended: bass held by the jaw with only one hand and rotated to a horizontal position by leveraging the jaw.

• Securing the fish in a live well or beside the boat in a net while preparing to measure, weigh, and photograph it. (This allows for easier documentation and minimizes the fish's time spent out of water.)

• Handling the fish minimally, only as necessary. Wet your hands and all surfaces the fish will come in contact with

• Releasing the fish carefully by holding it upright in the water until it regains balance and swims away.

See our TrophyCare page for detailed information and recommendations about best handling practices for trophy bass. Being cognizant of these practices when catch-and-release fishing likely reduces mortality (both immediate and delayed) for the fish.

The FWC thanks our citizen-scientist anglers and fellow conservationists for your questions and concerns which prompted this study! Our researchers were pleased at how difficult it was to find photos of TrophyCatch anglers holding their catches in a horizontally tilted position using just one hand (the least-recommended hold). We are proud to see anglers taking good care of their trophy bass to increase their chances of surviving, reproducing, and being caught again!

 

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