Fishing Pressure and Black Bass

As spring fights its way through a stubborn winter season, the fishers and the fishes feel their collective juices beginning to flow. Weather is on, then weather off, water warming and then cooling, the fish moving up and then pulling back. The powerful urge to to do what comes naturally and the pent up need for action, one is fodder and the other foe. Soon the two will meet on a shallow bank of a lake, pool in a river, or shoreline in a pond. 

Does fishing pressure affect spawning bass? 

The question of whether fishing pressure harms spawning bass is an old one, the answer may be elusive or undetermined for some, but others believe there’s potential for harm to the fishery and to the fish. Does violently pulling spawning fish off of beds damage their ability to complete their mission? Does removing a spawning fish from a bed and transporting them to a weigh-in prevent the cycle from completing and open the bed to predators and most importantly, does all this have an appreciable effect on the overall bass population? What do the experts say?

As we’ve discussed before, research on catch and release shows that removing bass from beds can adversely affect individual nest success. However, the potential effects on the overall population can be variable. Florida bass (a distinct subspecies native to the state) grow bigger, faster, and can therefore produce more eggs relative to other bass species. And they live in warm and productive waters. As such, their populations can withstand a range of individual nest failures because there’s enough young from successful nests to compensate for lost nests. A newly released, four-year study by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists, “found that bed fishing has very little impact on how successful individual nests are or the numbers of next generation of bass produced.

“A question that always comes up in the spring is the issue of “bed” fishing — targeting spawning bass by sight fishing for them on their nests. Should we be concerned? Let’s examine the biology. Catching and immediately releasing a spawning bass does little apparent long-term harm to the fish. If released carefully and quickly, these fish usually return to the nest and resume guarding the eggs or fry. However, hold that fish out of water for an extended period while your partner fumbles for the camera, or keep the fish in a livewell waiting for an afternoon weigh-in, you induce stress. A stressed fish may return to its nest but may be unable to defend it against predators. Or it may not return at all. Obviously, a fish that is transported miles away to a weigh-in is not likely to return home to save the brood.

But it is not all gloom and doom. Researchers have found that female bass do not always lay all their eggs at one time in one nest. They may mate with several males over a several day or week period. It’s nature’s way of mixing up the gene pool to ensure the species survival even if some nests are abandoned or otherwise compromised.”,Gene%20Gilliland

How does excessive fishing pressure effect a fishery? 

There is no doubt that fish get spooky and smarter on pressured fisheries. Studies have shown this to be true on small and large lakes. The old debate is how long is a fish’s memory when it comes to lures varies among biologists and fishers. Most of us have caught numerous scarred or physically damaged fish from being caught multiple times. Missing eyes, perforations in the mouth from hook penetrations, and other scarring is not uncommon on heavily fished impoundments. Fish with artificial baits stuck in their gullet are common, as are fish that die from blockages due from the same.

In a previous post, a reader noted that as a scuba diver he could hear running boats 2 miles away from under the water. Imagine what it must sound like to a fish on Lake Fork on a spring weekend with literally 100’s of boats a day running 50 to 70 MPH. 

Are all the fish affected the same way at the same time? Without a doubt some fishers would claim this to be true while others swear there’s fish that have never seen a hook. I suspect both views have validity especially when I see pics of giant fish caught on the very lake where I couldn’t get a bite. 

I once lived between 2 major highways under a main flight path of DFW Airport, I swore I wouldn’t be able to sleep from the constant noise on all sides 24 hrs a day. After a while though, I wasn’t bothered the noise or I would go inside my house and shut it out. I believe fish do the same on crowded lakes like Lake Fork. They live their lives and occasionally when things get to loud they move either away or deeper, usually temporarily. So if the fish aren’t biting where they should be try moving out or deeper, change from big to small baits, heavy to lighter line. But most of all don’t give up, as a friend of mine once said when asked why a fish would eat a lure, “Hey, they gotta eat something”. 

Tight Lines - Alex

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