TULSA, Okla. — Every single bass weighed in at the Classic lived to be caught again by other anglers.
One of B.A.S.S.’s most important principles is our commitment to fish care and the catch-and-release ethic. So when it came to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa — and the long 90-minute drive from the take-out to the weigh-in — B.A.S.S. officials and fans of the sport wondered how the fish would fare.
With the extra precautions taken by the Classic contenders, B.A.S.S. officials, B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors and biologists from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), 100 percent of the fish were released back into Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees alive.
“Bass are able to tolerate the stresses of being caught, confined in a livewell, then handled in a weigh-in, much better when the water temperature is low,” explained Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for ODWC. “In the case of the 2013 Classic, water temperatures at Grand Lake ranged from 39 to 45 degrees.”
The contenders did their part by pumping fresh water into their livewells during the day, and on the hour-and-a-half drive to Tulsa, they ran recirculating aerators continuously to keep the oxygen levels in their livewells high.
“The Classic anglers always take every measure possible to ensure they care for their catch, from hook-up to livewell to the stage,” added Noreen Clough, conservation director for B.A.S.S. “And we at B.A.S.S. take every measure possible once those fish hit the scales to minimize their time from weigh-in to getting back into the water.”
“As the boats came into the holding yard in Tulsa,” said Gilliland, “trained B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors and ODWC biologists checked each angler’s catch and treated (fizzed) a handful of fish that showed signs of swim bladder over-inflation. Once inside the BOK Center, the fish were bagged quickly, weighed quickly and hustled backstage to a waiting 600-gallon ODWC fish hatchery truck filled with lake water. We bubbled in pure oxygen to maintain the best possible 'recovery-room' conditions. We kept the tank the same temperature as the anglers’ livewell to eliminate any temperature shock.
“After being weighed and placed on the hauling truck, the fish were monitored continuously,” continued Gilliland. “At the end of the weigh-in, they were taken back to Grand Lake and released in several different locations. The following morning, each location was inspected to see if any fish had expired. None were found.”
All 548 fish lived to be caught again by Oklahoma anglers, thanks to a continuing commitment to fish care and a willingness to make improvements in every facet of the process.