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Wanton waste laws and bass tournaments

8086 Views 119 Replies 44 Participants Last post by  fishinthed
The last few weekends there have been some bass tournaments on the lake. After weigh ins my brother and another buddy have driven by the launches in the evening or following day to find a bunch of real nice smallies floating belly up that weren’t able to be revived which is a shame and kinda pisses us off.

My question is, do wanton waste laws apply to bass tournaments? Very discouraging to see the awesome resources of this lake wasted and treated like garbage.
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It's simple when money is involved people will cheat. Even with weigh in format tournaments a couple percent will cheat one way or another. I have seen people fish off limits waters and have seen nuts and bolts in stomachs of fish to add weight etc...

You only need 1 percent of dishonest fisherman to ruin an event. It isnt feasible to put an official on every boat for the avg tournmant the way the MLF does. The MLF has about 7 circuits total. The only level they do weigh and release format is the top level with their best 80 anglers. Even then they split the field up in groups of 40 per day because they struggle to have enough officals trained in the rules. Bassmaster only does it for one event per year for lake fork. They have a large network of people passionate about the sport that help organize the officals there.

There have been plenty of bump board style tournaments that have caught cheaters as well. Where you take a picture on a board then release. Cheating is so rampent in those I wouldn't put my money into it. There have been more than one that were caught cutting tails off of fish to use in the picture and extend the fish. Among other tricks.

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Maybe @DirtySteve knows why they don't do C& nearly immediate release.
Its no different than any other sport. Only takes 1 to ruin it. With your argument fishing shouldnt be allowed. There is one guy on the lake breaking every rule he can for certain.

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Wow. Maybe tourneys shouldn't take place if it's just a cesspool of cheaters.
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Yes i agree 100% but some people just dont care and i dont know what you can do about it. It really isn't mich different than a guy who goes out and shoots 30 carp and dumps them in the lake. I see that on occasion too. Sucks for everyone else.

I was at a tournament saturday. 43 boats and not one dead fish which was surprising with temps at 90 degrees. It was largemouth though not smallmouth. I havent been to a tournament in awhile on st clair but the last two i have been to were at selfridge. One was an august tourney and they had about a dozen dead ones. There was a lineup of shore fishernan very excited to take them. There was also a CO watching tournaments last year at harley ensign and selfridge. He was ticketing people releasing dead fish. Enforcement is the only cure.

The highschool tournaments I particpated in had several teams that took the leftover dead fish that werent taken by locals. That was how the cheaters who put bolts in the fish were noticed. They discovered the issue filleting the fish.

No matter what if you are dealing with the public there will always be a few people that make others look bad.

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I think it shouldn't be so blatantly obvious that fish are being turned into chum. It's ugly even if it's really not that bad for the resource.

I mean, doesn't it feel crappy to the participants too?
Bass tourneys are alot of fun. 95% of the people are outstanding people who enjoy the sport. They get together on weekends or week nights. Compete against each other and celebrate each others success. I went to the top bass trail event this last Saturday and watched the blast off and the weigh in. A good group of guys many have been doing it for decades. They have a core group of around 40 guys and many have been fishing together for years together. They welcome newcomers, locals and youngsters. I am sure they get a dirtbag who enters on occasion too.




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It’s a shame people can take something as pure, fun, relaxing, and as enjoyable as fishing, turn it into a contest, and corrupt it to that point.

I’ve had several friends over the years ask why I never got into competitive fishing. I always said that if it were a “job” it wouldn’t be as fun.

I prefer to keep my tournaments amongst my friends and family if for nothing other than bragging rights and razzing the “losers”[emoji38][emoji38][emoji38]


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If hooked in the tongue or gill area yes it may take an hr but tongue hooked fish will die at a very high rate. They bleed out slowly

The fish that die in a tourney are typcially from fatigue over swim bladder or tongue hooked IMO. Bass are extremely hardy. They can take temps to 83-85 with no issue at all. Smallmouth can handle 20 degree temp changes without issue based on literature from the DNR biologists. The only time i have ever had issues with livewell temps has been in the south with are temps 90-100 degrees and surface water temps of 87 degrees in the middle of the lake. No issues ever with temps on lake st clair for me.

I have seen tournaments that didnt handle weighins well. Everyone lined up in long lines with heavy bags of water. Anglers setting the bags down on hot asphalt while they wait inline for their turn At the bump tank etc. They usually only make that mistake once. The veteran anglers leave their fish in their aerated livewells in those scenarios until the weigh is almost finished.

Every tournament i have been involved in gives penalties for dead fish and Usually fairly severe so anglers do their best.

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Are some of you guys saying catching a bass, unhooking and tossing back results in high mortality?
Musky is quite different when it comes to gills. They have 7 per side and Bass only have 3. Taking out a gill on a musky is 1/14th of its breathing capacity vs 1/6th for a bass.

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I've caught musky that have healed over gill literally hanging out. Not sure how they survive sometimes.
It looks bad for fisherman to leave them for sure. But is it really that bad if 25 boats go out and catch 5 bass each then 6 end up dying? Thats like 4%. They should be collected for sure and not left to rot in the water but the kill rate isn't atrocious. Tournaments collect data on total fish caught and how many are killed. It is a requirement to keep a log for each tournament. The average of dead fish for the highschool circuit I was involved with for 3 yrs was under 3%. I dont think it is much different than any other fishermans kill rate unless you are talking a walleye or panfish fisherman who keeps 100%.

Two guys on a boat in a tournament will go out and catch 30 fish and do their best to release every single fish. The same two guys could fish walleyes and keep 10 and we are griping at bass fisherman for losing an occasional fish. It makes no sense to me. I have caught countless bass this year and never killed a single one. Havent eaten one yet.

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I quit fishing a Monday night tourney over here on the west side because of all the dead floaters I saw after everyone had cleared out. I forget if it was White or Mona lake, but there were at least 6-8 dead floaters out from the launch. It was bad
I disagree. I use my livewell to revive fish and make sure they are healthy all the time before. Livewells have far higher oxygen rates than lake water. Bass can survive fine in warmer temps. Especially largemouth. I have never experienced water too warm in my livewell in michigan. I can only think of a couple times we have ever even added ice as a precaution in michigan. Downsouth definately.

Fish die because of bloated swim bladders, bad hooks, and waiting too long in a weigh in bag in a hot parking lot. I have seen several times where guys in the tournament who have the oxygen tanks for their lievewells will pick up struggling fish and revive them. It isn't the livewells killing them.



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My thought is the live well time weakens the fish to the point of no return. The water in a live well is the warm surface water. My proposal would be catch, measure/weigh and then release, no live well time. Just my thoughts.
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Using big cranks I have seen fish hooked in the tongue or right at the base of the gill near the tongue bleed a little. If you throw those in the livewell those will typically take 1-3 hrs to expire. Not 100% but alot of them do. They can look healthy for a long time.

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I have a really hard time believing fishermen tossing them back right away is as bad as having them in a livewell. Maybe I'm wrong.

Could be delayed mortality but I've NEVER had a bass go belly up on me. Never.
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Every tournament in michigan is registered with the state and they have log sheets that have to be turned in for bioligists. They record number of anglers. Number of fish caught, Hours fished, number of dead fish etc. Catch and release fisherman are not the concern if you are worried about health of a lake. It is the catch and keep you need to be worried about.

I have never heard of a 25 boat tournament on a 200 acre lake. That is kind of small. I have been on 600 acre lakes for a 3 hr tournament but those are usually 15 boats.

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Are there even restrictions on fishing tournaments at all?
You can't tell me that 25 anglers hitting a 200 acre lake on a hot summer day isn't harmful.
You make a good point. I knew a guy who had a business cutting deer. He would typically cut 500 deer in a year and he would have roughly 20 dropped off that nobody ever came back for every season. He said they would go to camp have fun with their buddies. Shoot the buck and bring it home knowing in the back of their mind they dont like venison. Their wife wont cook it they didnt want to pay the processing fee to let it sit in a freezer for 3 yrs. They would just not come back.

Those hunters are among us. There is likely the same percentage of anglers as well. You just see it with the tournament anglers. You dont see it with the guy who takes a limit of walleye and does the same thing. Most people in yhe US today dont eat fish.

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The correlation is the exact same.
Someone shoots a big buck, cuts the head off and says, “ehh, I got my trophy, who cares about the rest of it”
These tourney guys, “ehh, I won my trophy, who cares about a few bass belly up”.

In both instances the resource went to waste.
Just my view on it is all.


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I have been to a dozen or so tournaments downsouth. Never heard of catch weigh and release in any of them outside of top level pros. What is fairly common when temps are in the 90's is to limit the bag to 3 fish per boat. I have seen that atleast a half dozen times.

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It is a logistics issue. The MLF is the only org doing it and only at the very top level of their organization. Lowre leagues in MLF don't do weigh and release. They have 80 anglers and they break it down to 40 per day to achieve what they do.

We had a guy at a highschool tournament spouting off at the tournament director about bass fishing one day at a weigh in. He was making a scene in front of the crowd demanding weigh and release format. The director called him out and said sir we love your idea. Our kids love the weigh and release format from the MLF it is a fun way to fish. We looked into this idea. We only need 110 certifed scales and about 100 volunteers per week to objectively weigh fish. If you would like to raise the $9500 cost of the scales and coordinate the volunteer system we would love to do this. The guy stormed off waving his hand at the director.

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I don't bass fish and have no dog in this fight, so maybe I'm overthinking this...however from watching some of it on TV, why not have an observer along to weigh every fish and release it on the spot? Or are these tournaments not that "big time" enough to have that luxury?

I would think that weighing fish on the spot with a hand/tournament-issued certified scale at the beginning of every morning by tournament control could alleviate some of these dead fish? Or would that just cause more cheating to occur thinking nobody would weigh their fish on the honesty system when they release them there while fishing?
An Indiana bass fisherman was just credited for keeping asian carp out of lake michigan. He was fishing in calumet lake upstream of the carp barriers and noticed an asian carp in a bay close to lake michigan. He contacted the army corps and they came out and shocked the carp. They said thay they get reports all the time that often go unchecked because so many people have no idea what an asian carp is. They respected this guys opinion because of his experience. They knew he was a guy that was aboce average ability to identify fish and he had been on many waters with asian carp in the past.

The army corps shocked the location he took them too and found the fish innediately. They then surveyed the entire area over several days and found no other invasive species.

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