IDNR Recommends Caution at Fishing Tournaments Due to Hot Weather

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is recommending fishing tournament organizers implement additional precautions regarding the catch and handling of fish during upcoming tournaments on Illinois lakes and waterways due to continued hot weather and drought-related water conditions.

“We thank organizers and anglers involved in bass fishing tournaments here in Illinois this summer for considering reducing the number of tournaments and taking extra care at the tournaments that are held to reduce the stress and mortality of bass brought to weigh in,” said Debbie Bruce, chief of the IDNR Division of Fisheries.  “Every effort should be made to ensure the survival of fish caught in tournaments since survival of those fish is important to maintaining the quality of bass fishing in Illinois.”

Research has demonstrated that the water quality conditions in even the best boat live-wells can reach near-lethal or lethal conditions during the heat of summer.  Although most research indicates that survival of bass caught in fishing tournaments is usually good, the mortality of bass brought to tournament weigh-ins is highest during the heat of the summer.   With Illinois’ record-setting heat this summer, lethal conditions for tournament-caught fish can develop rapidly.

When considering ways to protect fish caught during tournaments this summer, the IDNR Division of Fisheries recommends that tournament organizers consider:

Reducing the length of the tournament and lowering the number of fish that can be brought to the weigh-in:
Reducing the length of the tournament reduces the amount of time that bass caught are exposed to the stress of declining water quality. Also, by shortening the length of the tournament, both the fish and anglers reduce time spent at tournament weigh-ins during what may be the hottest part of the day.  By reducing the number of fish brought to the scales, the demand for oxygen and live-well crowding is reduced.   In addition, fewer fish in the live-well will help fish maintain the condition of the slime coat that is essential to reduce susceptibility to infections after release back into the water.

Maintaining conditions in the live well:  
Tournament anglers should ensure aeration is continuous in their live-well, with occasional water changes made through the day.  Although bottles of ice may be considered as a way to cool the water in live-wells, recent research indicates there is little benefit to bass survival of using ice bottles since wide variations in water temperature appears to be more stressful than warm, steady water temperatures for bass.

Limiting the number of bags used to bring fish from live-wells to tournament scales:
Water quality conditions in transport bags deteriorate even more rapidly than in live-wells due to crowding and lack of aeration.   Lines at the scales during fishing tournaments should be avoided, especially in excessive heat.  If photographs are to be taken of tournament fish, photographers should be ready so the fish can be released back into the lake or waterway or into the release-boat tank with only a minimum delay.  Time out of water should be minimized as much as possible to enhance bass survival.

“The IDNR appreciates the efforts tournament organizers and anglers are taking during this brutally hot and dry summer in Illinois,” Bruce said.  “The bottom line for all of us who enjoy fishing in Illinois is that adult bass are a precious resource that deserves the utmost care in ensuring their survival to be caught again.  Research biologists have determined that a little effort goes a long way to ensure the survival of bass released during tournaments, hopefully to be caught again in the future and contribute to higher quality fishing.”

For more information on fishing in Illinois, go online to www.ifishillinois.org or www.dnr.illinois.gov.

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