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Bed Fishing: Friend Or Foe

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What are your thoughts on fishing for spawning fish? Is it good or bad for the health of an overall fishery? Do you take precautions when handling bedding fish? All thoughts appreciated. 

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I love bass fishing, but taking bass off their beds is not what I would call a good idea if it disrupts their spawn.

 

I remember years ago when a big bass right around eight to ten pounds was on her bed not ten feet from shore, more like 8 feet away. I could reach out with my rod tip and tap her on her head and she just sat there and took it.

 

I tossed in a rubber worm slowly dragged it into her bed, watched her pick it up and I set the hook and reeled her in. I let her go, she went right back to her bed, and I did it again a few minutes later and caught her twice in like 5 minutes.

 

I went away, came back a short while later and tried for a 3rd time to catch her but this time all she did was look at the lure and did not try and pick it up. It was as though she had learned her lesson.

 

Well so did I. I learned that this was not bass fishing- not for me anyways. I learned that I was disturbing something that should be best left alone. And I have not taken a bass off her bed since.

 

But that is just my opinion now, and I know a lot of fishermen specifically target bass in this vulnerable condition and can catch some of the biggest bass they ever caught this way, but is it really bass fishing? Some would say yes, and I would say I don't think so any more. I leave them be until after spawn, then its on!

 

As for handling the fish, we should never touch the body of a bass. Never. Don't touch them, don't drag them in across the land, don't yank them into the boat and let them flap around. Even netting a fish can kill it. Handle them only by the lip of the mouth is how I was taught.

 

Bass have a thin slimy coating called the mucoprotein coating that is their only natural defense from infection and disease. And if we open that up or wipe it off the fish we could be killing the fish without even knowing it or, thinking about it harming the fish.

 

Many do handle the fish destroying this thin film on their bodies to snap photos, or other, and then let the fish go and watch it swim away thinking they just released a healthy fish when the truth could be the opposite- as they wipe the slimy mucoprotein coating off their hands and go back to fishing.

 

By handling that fish they could have just doomed it to die within hours or days of release while we go home thinking we released an otherwise healthy fish.

 

There are numerous articles and other reports about how to handle the fish without destroying the mucoprotein coating...

 

http://www.bassresource.com/fish_biology/reducing_bass_mortality.html

 

 

http://www.bassresource.com/fish_biology/handling-bass.html

 

 

http://www.ncwildlife.org/portals/0/boating/documents/keeping_bass_alive_handbook.pdf

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Not too knowledgable on how the fishery is affected as a whole, but I have noticed when I catch a fish off a bed, I usually find it right back in the nest a few minutes after releasing it.

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I love bass fishing, but taking bass off their beds is not what I would call a good idea if it disrupts their spawn.

I remember years ago when a big bass right around eight to ten pounds was on her bed not ten feet from shore, more like 8 feet away. I could reach out with my rod tip and tap her on her head and she just sat there and took it.

I tossed in a rubber worm slowly dragged it into her bed, watched her pick it up and I set the hook and reeled her in. I let her go, she went right back to her bed, and I did it again a few minutes later and caught her twice in like 5 minutes.

I went away, came back a short while later and tried for a 3rd time to catch her but this time all she did was look at the lure and did not try and pick it up. It was as though she had learned her lesson.

Well so did I. I learned that was not bass fishing. I learned that I was disturbing something that should be best left alone. And I have not taking a bass off her bed since.

But that is just me and I know a lot of fishermen specifically target bass in this vulnerable condition and can catch some of the biggest bass they ever caught this way, but is it really bass fishing? Some would say yes, and I would say I don't think so any more. I leave them be until after spawn, then its on!

As for handling the fish, we should never touch the body of a bass. Never. Don't touch them, don't drag them in across the land, don't yank them into the boat and let them flap around.

Bass have a thin slimy coating that is their only defense from infection and disease. And if we open that up or wipe it off the fish we could be killing the fish without even knowing it or thinking about it.

Many handle the fish destroying this thin film on their bodies and then let the fish go and watch it swim away thinking we just released a healthy fish when the truth could be the opposite. By handling that fish we could have just doomed it to die within hours or days of release while we go home thinking we released an otherwise healthy fish.

True true... It's funny, I can't seem to catch spawning fish lol! Biggest thing I heard is never hook a fish in the side of the head. We are fishing, not snagging.

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I did it once, the problem I noticed is that the waters here are packed with bluegill/crappie which would swarm the nest once I got the bass off it. Once I return the bass it would go right back and chase them off. I try to stay away from it now cause I don't want to be deminishing their numbers.

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If you fish at all during spawn season you will certainly catch bed-fish whether you want to or not.  

 

Everyone has to draw their own line on the conservation issue.  For me, that line falls between allowing myself to bed-fish and not allowing myself to keep bass for dinner.  

 

Not saying one is right and one is wrong, that's just where I draw the line for myself.  Someone else's line might be allowing themselves to fish during the spawn and not allowing themselves to actively target fish on beds.

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I have had state of Florida biologists tell me that catching spawning bass does not really have much of an effect on overall numbers of fish in whatever body of water.

 

I was told that just one mating pair is enough to populate an entire lake.

 

And, here in Florida where we have a lot of development, new retention ponds are dug out of dry land and in a matter of months, as they fill up with water, you start to see minnows appear, and in 2 or 3 years you can catch bream and bass in them. How did they get there?

 

The biologists say that birds are the mostly likely culprit, along with turtles, alligators and other wildlife that move from one water hole to the next carry fish eggs with them to transplant fish into previously barren locations.

 

So taking some spawning fish does not do a whole lot in terms of diminishing fish numbers from what I am understanding of the situation here in Florida.

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I have had state of Florida biologists tell me that catching spawning bass does not really have much of an effect on overall numbers of fish in whatever body of water.

I was told that just one mating pair is enough to populate an entire lake.

And, here in Florida where we have a lot of development, new retention ponds are dug out of dry land and in a matter of months, as they fill up with water, you start to see minnows appear, and in 2 or 3 years you can catch bream and bass in them. How did they get there?

The biologists say that birds are the mostly likely culprit, along with turtles, alligators and other wildlife that move from one water hole to the next carry fish eggs with them to transplant fish into previously barren locations.

So taking some spawning fish does not do a whole lot in terms of diminishing fish numbers from what I am understanding of the situation here in Florida.

Really? Fisheries biologist in Indiana say that it is untrue that birds plat eggs in ponds.. Hmm... May have to look to confirm those.

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As a young angler, seeing those huge Momma bass on the bed was almost more than I could stand.

I just had to try and catch her.  Sometimes I did but more often than not, I got a ton of flipping & pitching practice.   Those days have long past & I’ve decided that it’s not for me.   Since I do not stop fishing during the pre, spawn, & post spawn periods, I do catch fish that are full of eggs but I do not target them on the nest any more.  I usually focus my efforts out off the bank looking for staging fish either waiting  to go up shallow or may have finished and are post spawn.  

 

As for the effects on a fishery & the ethics of the practice, the debate will rage on probably forever.

 

A-Jay

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Really? Fisheries biologist in Indiana say that it is untrue that birds plat eggs in ponds.. Hmm... May have to look to confirm those.

 

 

Well then here develops a good question...

 

If developers can dig a hole into the earth no where near any other bodies of water, and you see that the brand new hole they are digging is dry as a desert, once it starts filling with water, how do fish get in there so quickly? In just months you can see minnows swimming around in there. And in 2 or 3 years catch bream and bass in them.

 

What logical method would you say transplants fish into a brand new barren body of water? How do they get in there?

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Well then here develops a good question...

If developers can dig a hole into the earth no where near any other bodies of water, and you see that the brand new hole they are digging is dry as a desert, once it starts filling with water, how do fish get in there so quickly? In just months you can see minnows swimming around in there. And in 2 or 3 years catch bream and bass in them.

What logical method would you say transplants fish into a brand new barren body of water? How do they get in there?

Interesting food for thought.. Will have to do some research on it. Seems like you have a good logical explanation though.
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Generally, a good male that is agressive and active will attract mire than one female to his nest and spawn with each one of them. Along with that, an active female will spawn a number of times and, in most cases, in a number of different males nest. I think that is sort of a hedge ( on the part of the female) against sn infertile male spoiling the hatch of a good fertile female, this insures a higher success rate for that spawn. Ken Cook Oklahoma Fisheries Biologist

It is this sporadic purging of eggs and the ability to spawn with different males on several nest that keep the annual spring bedding season from being severely impacted by large tournaments. Texas Parks & Wildlife Department biologist Clarence Bowling says studies have shown that a female (when handled properly) will simply locate a bed and an available male in the area where she is released and complete spawning.

GETTING A LOCK ON THE SPAWN by Tim Tucker

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Some people try to say that the fish eggs can not remain alive and viable on bird's feet because they can dry out, but fish eggs could be inside a bird's mouth or beak, or inside folds in a turtle's body if it crawls across a fish bed it can wedge eggs into folds in its body and remain moist in there for some time as it moves around. Same with alligators even possibly snakes too.

 

All of these creatures move from one body of water to another.

 

I can not see any other more likely way for fish to get transplanted into a barren body of water as quickly as they do.

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This bring up a question I always had. Have studies ever come up with figures regarding average number of fry hatched per nest vs survivability to adulthood where a bass begins not be such a victim to the foodchain say 3+lbs?

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Author ~ Dan Ashe

 

First let’s start with the basics. Nearly everyone has seen largemouth bass in an area that has been swept clean near the shoreline during the spring. These swept areas are bass nests or beds. Spawning takes place when the water temperature reaches 60-75o F. The male constructs the bed and courts a female to spawn, where he then releases his sperm to fertilize the eggs. Fertilized largemouth bass eggs are yellow to orange in color. The male stands guard over the eggs to protect them from predation and continually fans the water to keep water moving over the eggs to keep silt from building up on top of them, while the female leaves once spawning is complete.  Largemouth bass sexual maturity is influenced by size more than age, with most bass reaching sexual maturity with the ability to spawn at around ten inches. The largemouth bass in our lakes usually attain this size at about age two. Largemouth bass beds have been reported to contain anywhere from 5,000 to 45,000 eggs with the differences in number dependent on the size and condition of the spawned female. The time it takes largemouth bass eggs to hatch is highly influenced by water temperature with hatch time at 65o F being about 2 ½ days.

Life for young largemouth bass is hard with very few surviving their first year. One paper I have found cited that only two tenths of one percent of young bass made it past their first year in an Alabama lake. There are several factors that are considered important in determining survival, most notably time of spawning, temperature, predation, and available forage and habitat.

Generally speaking, larger bass spawn earlier than smaller bass. This characteristic is important to young bass survival. Fish that hatch sooner have longer to feed and grow before winter sets in and thus a greater chance of over winter survival. There is some debate as to whether bass populations with a large number of big fish have a distinct advantage to maintain a more constant and stable population in terms of steady recruitment. The down side of having an earlier spawning time is that these fish are more vulnerable to extreme temperature fluctuations than those that are spawned later when the likelihood of a spring freeze is less likely. Therefore, the debate goes on. I guess it all depends on what year you want to look at.

Temperature plays the most significant role in early survival of bass, where it can influence entire year classes of bass. As stated earlier temperature determines how long it takes for eggs to hatch, the longer it takes eggs to hatch the likelihood of predation of those eggs increases. In addition, once bass hatch they are not mobile, they are still on the bottom of the bed feeding off a yolk sac. Again, the longer a fish is immobile the chances of predation increases significantly. Water temperature determines how long it takes for the bass larvae to develop and become mobile. At 70o F bass are able to swim in about 10 days after hatch, at colder temperatures this time is significantly longer.

Once the bass fry become free swimming they must begin to feed within days or they will die. Bass fry initially feed on zooplankton (microscopic animals) and the amount of zooplankton is dependant on phytoplankton (microscopic plants). Lakes that are turbid, acidic, etc., generally are not productive in terms of plankton production, with low fish recruitment due to inadequate forage for young fish. Bass fry are voracious feeders needing to feed several times a day. Food passes through their stomachs every few hours. Over time as the bass grow they will shift to a fish diet. It is imperative that ample forage fish be available for both the larger and younger bass. Bass will always eat one another, but if there are other prey species available the amount of cannibalism will be less.

 

A-Jay

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I avoid targeting bed fish, plenty to catch that aren't on beds. I respect the fishery and it my own personal ethics not target them to allow them to spawn unmolested.    

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I dont know what other states rules are but here in minnesota bass opener isnt until 2 weeks after the main species fishing opener and I agree with it. fish like crappie and sunnies are open all year.  I dont feel the need to fish for bass until they are done spawning. as soon as the ice is out its time for pan fish until season opener, then its time for walleye and northern pike, until bass opener.

 

I do not hesitate to eat any of those species, but aside from the sunnies and crappies I like to keep the fish on the smaller size.  walleye and bass 1.5 lbs to 2.5ish and northerns from 6-12lbs.

 

I guess it depends on location but up here in minnesota I feel that all bass fisherman should be a sunnie and crappie fisherman since they prey on bass eggs so much.

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Here in Ontario, Canada, the season for bass doesn't even open until mid-late June, when the bass are typically done spawning. I guess there's a reason for that and we just have to suck it up until June to get our lines wet....for bass that is.

 

Walleye and Pike opener is mid-May and trout is mid-late April (when there's likely still ice on certain lakes).

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I do it for a day or two with smallmouth, then, honestly, it gets boring. Largemouth are too finicky on the bed for me. I am sure some of the largemouth I catch in the spring are on beds, but I don't target obvious bedding largemouth unless its a hog.

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Question

If it's unethical to catch em off the bed what do y'all do about catching the female moving from one nest to the next?

Would this not create the same problem?

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Well then here develops a good question...

 

If developers can dig a hole into the earth no where near any other bodies of water, and you see that the brand new hole they are digging is dry as a desert, once it starts filling with water, how do fish get in there so quickly? In just months you can see minnows swimming around in there. And in 2 or 3 years catch bream and bass in them.

 

What logical method would you say transplants fish into a brand new barren body of water? How do they get in there?

 

The Boogie Man at midnight.

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I like to go out during the spawn and fish a couple ponds wearing out the smaller "buck bass" guarding the nests, I release them very quickly and they always go right back to guarding their bed. If I see a big female, I may make a couple casts but I'm not going to sit there for an hour bouncing a bait off her head until she bites. The main thing I use the spawn for is to scout out new water, because it gives you an opportunity to see the big fish.

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Here in NJ it is Catch & Release only for LG & SM from April 15 to June 15 in an effort to protect the spawning population.

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Well then here develops a good question...

 

If developers can dig a hole into the earth no where near any other bodies of water, and you see that the brand new hole they are digging is dry as a desert, once it starts filling with water, how do fish get in there so quickly? In just months you can see minnows swimming around in there. And in 2 or 3 years catch bream and bass in them.

 

What logical method would you say transplants fish into a brand new barren body of water? How do they get in there?

People put the fish in there. First if you just have water with no fish then you can have a bad mosquito problem so whenever a pond is made it is almost always stocked with at least minnows, but usually bluegill and bass to. This is usually done by whoever made the pond. 2nd is guys jut put them in there by bucket. I have done it many times when I was a teenager whenever a new sand pit pond was dug or a new golf course was built. I have seen other doing it to. It happens a lot more then you might think.

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Really? Fisheries biologist in Indiana say that it is untrue that birds plat eggs in ponds.. Hmm... May have to look to confirm those.

I live in florida and have heard the same thing about birds carrying eggs from one body of water to the next

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