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Bass Anglers Assist in Fisheries Research

Barrie Ontario: Despite forecasts of extreme wind and rain about a dozen conservation minded bass anglers showed up to lend a hand in an important fisheries research experiment on Sat. Oct 30, 2010 led by Dr Bruce Tufts of Queen University in Kingston.

The task for these anglers was to fish the relatively deep waters of Kempenfelt Bay On Lake Simcoe to try and catch several smallmouth bass for the research. The anglers would simulate tournament conditions ... by keeping bass in their livewell, just like they would in a real tournament. Fish would then be transferred to the Shimano Live Release Boat for sampling at the end of the day. Half the bass sampled would be fizzed and half would not. "Fizzing is a treatment used by tournament anglers to treat fish showing symptoms of decompression - such as an overextended air bladder", said Dr Tufts, a renowned researcher on the subject of physiology of fishes. The typical way anglers fizz bass is to insert an 18 gauge hypodermic needle into a specific area on the side of the fish into the air bladder. The air then escapes from the overinflated air bladder (caused when bass are pulled from deep water and kept in a live well) so that when the fish is live released it can swim safely down to the depths from where it came. "If this, or possibly other treatments. are not used, bass will have difficulty getting down, and some may not make it at all", said Tufts.

In 2006 the Aurora Bassmasters began an MNR sanctioned Community Fisheries Wildlife Involvement Program (CFWIP) project that tagged bass caught during Lake Simcoe and Couchiching bass tournaments. As well as double tagging each fish, lengths and weights were taken, a couple scales and the 3rd dorsal spine were removed for ageing purposes. If it was a late fall tournament, the bass was fizzed before it was live released. Typically only bass caught from these late fall events in deep water on Simcoe/Cooch would require fizzing. This five year research project officially ended on October 30th ,2010 when the last of about 1,300 bass over five years was sampled and tagged. "We have tracked the movements of bass caught over the years by relying on all anglers to call the MNR whenever they catch a tagged bass. These tags have that MNR phone number, but also a unique Fish ID number. That number allows MNR to track the bass in their data base and tell us if it has been fizzed or not. Of the 60 or so recaptured tagged bass that have been called in by anglers, over half of them were previously fizzed ... and found to be in great shape months or even years later," said Herb Quan president of the Aurora Bassmasters.

In Barrie, anglers caught bass ranging from one pound to over six. All were caught with conventional bass fishing tackle - and just like in all tournaments no live bait was used. On the Release Boat, which had about 40 bass in full aerated oversized livewells, Dr Tufts and his assistant Jeremy Holden chose 10 bass that were already fizzed and ten that were not, but were prime candidates for fizzing ... ie they were floating in the tanks and showed difficulty staying near bottom. The fish was sedated and blood work was taken from each fish from both sample groups. All these 20 bass were then tagged, measured etc and along with the other 20 fish that were also tagged, were brought out to the Bay with the Live Release Boat. Those that required fizzing were fizzed, then all the bass were live released and able to swim back down to the depths from where they came. "We will now bring the blood samples back to our lab in Queens where we will analyze them to obtain information about the physiological condition of the fish in each of the experimental groups (fizzed and not fizzed). The information we will gather from this research will help us determine how decompression and/or fizzing affects the overall condition of the fish. This will then help us to determine the most appropriate strategies that anglers and tournament organizers should use to keep fish in the best possible condition when they are caught and released in tournaments. This type of experimental approach is really the only way to conclusively resolve these complex issues. Good science is one of the most important steps towards sound conservation practices" explains Dr Tufts.

The week before this research work, MNR crews and several volunteers were busy sampling bass at the Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open Tournament in Orillia. This event, billed as Canada’s Premier One Day Bass Tournament, saw almost 200 bass that were sampled, tagged, fizzed if required and released. This was also the tournament that saw more big bass brought to it than any other in the history of Canadian Tournament Fishing. The top ten teams all had over 27 pounds for their five heaviest bass and four teams had over 29 pounds! The top team, won over $50,000 in cash and consisted of Mark Moran and Joe Muszynski who weighed in 31.50 pounds. They also set an all time Canadian record for the heaviest five bass ever weighed on Canadian soil. Furthermore, an additional unofficial Canadian record for the single heaviest bass ever weighed in, was caught by the Team of Shaun McKay and James Paluch who’s smallmouth tipped the scales at a whopping 8.05 pounds! That one fish earned them $5,000.

In 2008 the Aurora Bassmasters won the prestigious Berkley Conservation Award from B.A.S.S. for their Lake Simcoe Bass Tagging Research Project. There were hundreds of Bassmaster clubs across North America eligible for that award and the $2,000 that went with it. " The funds we received from that and much of the fundraising we do during the rest of the year, helps go towards conservation projects like this. Just the cost of ageing each bass is quite significant but well worth it," said Quan.

"Although our five year project is now officially finished, we are already entertaining other bass research opportunities for 2011 that will build upon what we have learned so far ... and will continue to learn as five years of data is compiled and evaluated. Of course, we can’t forget that there are still over 1,000 tagged bass that are out in Simcoe and Cooch that will continue to be caught by anglers for the next few years. We already have a commitment from MNR to continue taking reports from anglers who call in with a tagged bass", said Quan. Anglers should be on the lookout for these tagged bass (tags are located near dorsal fins at top of fish) and know that the algae they see on the tag can be scraped away with a pen knife in order to read the numbers beneath. "Naturally we hope these anglers live release the fish after writing the phone and tag numbers down," concluded Quan.

The Aurora Bassmasters would like to thank all the volunteers who have helped sample bass for their project in the last five years. They also expressed a deep gratitude for their ongoing partnership with MNR, Queens University and the lab of Dr Bruce Tufts, Bass Pro Shops and Shimano Canada.

Research Day

Jeremy Holden (left) and Dr Bruce Tufts (right-with Queens university cap on) while they were taking blood samples from one of the bass caught.

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High res photos available to media upon request Press Release

Prepared By: Wil Wegman-Ontario BASS Federation Nation Conservation and Media Director, member of Aurora Bassmasters.