SANDUSKY, Ohio — Blustery weather forced a change in tactics for fish sampling at the Bassmaster Bass Pro Shops Northern Open on Lake Erie in September. Still, biologists with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources who collected data at the tournament are confident that they will gain valuable information for fisheries management.
“B.A.S.S. tournaments are a rare chance for us to get our hands on so many fish, look at them, and really find out what is going on,” said Travis Hartman with the Sandusky Fish Research Unit.
“I think that this will be the best one-time sample that we’ve had, with smallmouth bass ranging from 14 inches to about 22.”
Additionally, the event yielded higher numbers of largemouth than in the past, including some 19-inch fish.
“We don’t know enough about them,” said Hartman, adding that anglers have been catching more of them near shore and around islands in recent years. “They’re getting good numbers and size.”
The original plan had been to measure all fish caught on the first two days and keep the deceased. Then with the field reduced to 12 competitors on the final day, all bass would be kept and taken to the lab to determine age and gender, as well as length and weight.
But with the second day of the tournament cancelled, fisheries managers decided to keep 136 bass on Thursday. Data will be compiled this winter, when biologists have finished additional sampling on Lake Erie and the otoliths have dried out enough to be examined.
Sampling during previous tournaments has revealed that smallmouth bass are growing older than previously believed, with some to 17 years.
“A lot of the trophy fish are 10 to 15 years old,” Hartman said. “Usually the older fish aren’t the largest because they are slower growing.”