Fish Care Guidelines for Tournament Directors: Keeping bass healthy through the weigh in
1. CONTROL THE NUMBER OF WEIGH-IN BAGS TO CONTROL THE PACE OF THE WEIGH-IN!
- Keep fish in live wells with aerators running continuously while waiting for a weigh-in bag.
- Use no more than five bags per twenty contestants (or teams).
- Use reinforced, perforated bags that allow water exchange.
- Weigh in flights if the tournament has over 50 contestants or teams.
2. SET UP WAITING LINE TANKS!
- Set up one 100-gallon tank per 20 contestants or teams.
- Fill with lake water just before weigh-in to prevent heating.
- Cool water 10 degrees below lake temperature with block or bag ice.
- Aerate tank with recirculating pump or air compressor.
- Contestants dip fresh water from tank into bags while waiting in line.
3. HANDLE FISH AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE!
- Tournament personnel may wear latex or rubber gloves.
- Fish are emptied into plastic laundry basket resting in a sink.
- All baskets are checked and adjusted to weigh the same.
- Fish are checked for length but are not re-bagged.
- Lid is placed on top of fish and basket is weighed.
- Extra baskets are available to weigh individual "big bass".
- Fish are then transported in the basket to next station.
4. THE MIRACLE OF THE SALT DIP!
- Every tournament should have a salt-dip station!
- Mix three pounds of non-iodized salt with fifteen gallons of water in an aerated sink or tub.
- After fish are weighed, submerge basket of bass in solution for 10 to 15 seconds. No more!
- Bass may loose equilibrium and roll over, this is a normal reaction.
- The salt solution kills bacteria and fungus.
- It stimulates the slime producing cells on the fish' body.
- The salt dip dehydrates the fish by pulling water out through the skin and gills.
- When the fish is placed back into lake it absorbs fresh water like a sponge, flushing toxins.
- Drain and refill salt solution after 20-30 baskets of fish. Have additional salt and water ready.
- Take care with disposal of salt water.
OTHER RELEASE CONSIDERATIONS
1. PRE-RELEASE HOSPITAL TANK
- Large tank similar to waiting line tanks (75 to 100 gallon capacity).
- Water is cooled 10 degrees below lake temperature with block ice.
- Non-iodized salt added at a rate of one pound per 25 gallons of water.
- Supply pure oxygen if possible through air stones or bubble hose.
- All fish are placed in this tank after weighing but before salt-dipping.
- Healthy fish are recaptured quickly, salt dipped and released.
- Use a long handled net with soft, knotless nylon or rubber bag.
- Weak fish are treated longer. After 20-30 min. they are netted, salt dipped and released.
- Fish showing signs of air bladder overinflation are treated here (see below).
- Fish judged as dead at weigh-in or too weak to survive are immediately placed on ice in a cooler.
Caution! - It is often difficult to distinguish between "healthy" fish and those that will die days later.
2. AIR BLADDER OVERINFLATION!
- Overinflated air bladders cause erratic swimming, floating on its side and may stop breathing.
- Not restricted to fish caught from deep water. Stress can cause this in fish from shallow water.
- Use a 16-18 gauge hypodermic needle, 1-1/2 to 2 inches long to release excess gas.
- Caution! - Puncturing a fish in the wrong place can cause lethal damage.
3. RELEASE SITE
- Release site should have good water quality and adequate depth.
- Low traffic areas are preferred.
- Fish should not be released right at the shoreline if possible.
- Use a dock or a beached boat to get released fish into deeper water.
4. RELEASE TUBES
- Large diameter PVC pipes (at least 8-inch diameter).
- Smooth joints.
- Continuous flow of water.
- Do not drop at an angle of more than a 30 degrees.
- Delivery end should be no more than one foot from the lake's surface.
- Empty into water at least three feet deep.
5. RELEASE BOATS & TRAILERS
- Release boats and trailers should be used to distribute fish away from heavily used boat ramps & marinas.
- In the absence of a pontoon boat, use contestant boats to shuttle fish away from weigh-in area.
6. ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
- During the weigh-in, place dead fish on ice in a cooler immediately, out of view of spectators.
- Workers should police after weigh-in area, leaving it cleaner than when they arrived.
- Remain in the release area for at least one hour after weigh-in to pick up any dead fish.
- If a fish is floating or cannot swim on its own it will likely die and should be removed.