The benefits of catch-and-release fishing are self-evident — you keep fish, big and small, in the fishery for the next time around.
But anglers and biologists have suffered angst over the fate of what happens to fish after release, and science has shown proper handling ensures the fish will be there for the next tournament.
Next, professors of fisheries science at Texas Tech University, Gene Wilde and Kevin Pope, took the science a step further. They asked: how do largemouth bass growth rates respond to catch-and-release?
Here’s the good news — growth rates in captive fish caught and released showed no difference in growth compared to captive fish that were not caught. Wilde and Pope caught 64 largemouth bass in tanks with Mister Twister grubtail jigs on a 2/0 hook. In the same tanks were 36 largemouth bass that were not caught that they used for comparison.
The growth between the lots of bass was not different when measured 40 days later. The implication is straightforward, Wilde said: “We now know that catching and releasing a fish has no impact on growth. If growth were reduced, released fish might produce fewer young in future spawning, or they simply may not get much larger; sublegal size fish may not make it to legal size, at which they could be included in a tournament catch.”
Wilde thinks their research should be applicable to any largemouth bass population, saying, “This basic result would stand up anywhere.”
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When not penning stories about the outdoors, Craig works in communications for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is an outdoors’ columnist for the Albuquerque Journal and ESPN Outdoors, and a frequent contributor to Flyfisher and North American Fisherman magazines. He holds degrees in fisheries and wildlife management from Hocking College and New Mexico State University, and an M.Sc. in fisheries science from the University of New Mexico. He’s a candidate for an M.A. in rhetoric and writing at the University of New Mexico. He writes weekly for sportsmansguide.com.