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mheichelbech

What happens to the fish?

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My response to the question on river fishing had me thinking about this...I fish the Ohio River a lot.  We catch, and a significant number of half pound to 1.5 pound spotted bass and largemouth bass are caught and released either in tourneys or just casual fishing.  What I have never been able to figure out is why don't they seem to grow any bigger?  There seems to be plenty of bait, especially in Summer.  The water quality doesn't seem to be bad.  They have enough places to get out of the main current.  However, in tournaments, seldom is anything over 3.5 pounds weighed in.  That usually is big fish 3.5 to 4.5 pounds.  It seems like there has to be big fish somehwhere or else these fish just grow old but they don't grow any bigger....

 

Anyone know why this would be?  What biological factors may be at play?  As far as I can see they don't have a lot of competition from other species at this time although Asian carp are beginning to establish a foothold...

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46 minutes ago, mheichelbech said:

My response to the question on river fishing had me thinking about this...I fish the Ohio River a lot.  We catch, and a significant number of half pound to 1.5 pound spotted bass and largemouth bass are caught and released either in tourneys or just casual fishing.  What I have never been able to figure out is why don't they seem to grow any bigger?  There seems to be plenty of bait, especially in Summer.  The water quality doesn't seem to be bad.  They have enough places to get out of the main current.  However, in tournaments, seldom is anything over 3.5 pounds weighed in.  That usually is big fish 3.5 to 4.5 pounds.  It seems like there has to be big fish somehwhere or else these fish just grow old but they don't grow any bigger....

 

Anyone know why this would be?  What biological factors may be at play?  As far as I can see they don't have a lot of competition from other species at this time although Asian carp are beginning to establish a foothold...

 

Here in Iowa on the Mississippi it's similar.  The big fish are around the 3 to 5 pound mark and there usually aren't that many caught.  Most are around 1 to 2 pounds.  I think that's just pretty common for bass in the northern half of the US.  The biggest bass I've ever caught was 4.5 pounds in a pond and that's pretty big for here.  I haven't seen too many larger than that caught in the area.

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I believe what you guys are witnessing is roughly par for the course in northern climes.

When I lived in Jersey, we rarely weighed a bass over 4 pounds,

sadly, most of the them ran between 10 and 16" in length.

 

If you watched the MLF in Lake Istokpoga, Florida, you would've seen a disturbing percentage

of bass weighing under one pound, and those were all Florida-strain bass  :)

 

Roger

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Definitely a northern thing.  

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Watch the MLF tourney that was held in LaCross, WI on the river.  KVD won it based on sheer quantity and not on large fish.  Lots of those guys really struggled because it was so different from lake fishing.

 

Bass don't have the benefit of warm water year round here like they do in the south.  you can find some monsters up here but there are very few.  I believe the state record for Iowa is over 10 pounds but it was caught back in the 80's.  Not sure one of that size exist here any more.

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There's a lot that plays into catching big fish.  Locating them and getting them to bite is only part of understanding them. First, seasons play a huge role in where fish will be, when/how they feed, and their overall size.  That 4lb summer fish will likely be pushing 5 later into the fall or during pre-spawn.  Also, especially in rivers, big fish are going to occupy the best ambush points that provide water conditions that make them comfortable.  Another huge thing that impacts the size numbers of fish is where they sit in terms of species dominance in that body of water.  I've never fished the Ohio, but strong populations of pike, walleye, or musky can displace bass or effect their access to ideal feeding areas. 

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The spotted bass in in Ohio rivers I believe are northern or Kentucky spots that don't grow over 3 lbs, average is about 1 lb. Nothern strain LMB in rivers have to work harder to fight current they have not evolved in, LMB prefer slow low current areas and use too much energy to grow over 5 lbs. Smallmouth bass are natural river bass preferring current and should be heavier than both spots and LMB in northern rivers. The Spotted bass you read about in California are Southern or Alabama spots that grow much larger. 

Shorter growrth periods due to cold water slows growth, lots of factors to consider.

Tom

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Lake Minnetonka, a 14,000 acre lake just outside of the Twin Cities Metro has a lot of Large Mouth and on a typical outing most of the season, the fish will run 1-4 pounds. The biggest Bass I picked up was the one on my Avatar, it ran about 5lbs. I am using an ultra light or light action rod with 10-15 lb braided and usually a steel leader. I picked up 1 little Bass (see photo) and there is another Large Mouth Bass swimming around with my 1/16 ounce jig and a small Chartreuse Gulp grub, because I used the 10 lb mono that came on a brand new reel I was trying out for the first time, fishing for Crappie off the dock out back. The water was low and when I pulled the fish up by the line, it broke. I changed the line to a 20lb Braided Fireline before I did any more fishing.

 

 

Bass off Dock behind apt cropped.jpg

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I think what you are probably seeing is the natural state of a healthy ecosystem.   Most bodies of water that produce crazy size fish for an area have some whacky imbalance - too many baitfish, artificially warm water temps on power plant lakes, nutrient runoffs etc..     Usually if you find a honey hole there is some unnatural variable, including the actual body of water itself (i.e. impoundments)

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One thing to add:  While what you're seeing could be just a normal, healthy distribution of fish, it could also be that you're seeing a body of water where the bass are the competition for food resources is such that 'big fish' just can't grow.  To make an analogy, there'd be way more skinny people in the zombie apocalypse.

 

Sorry, was just talking about The Walking Dead.  But, I think the illustration fits.

 

While catch-and-release angling is a great way of ensuring that already large fish can grow larger and be caught again, it also means that fewer fish are being harvested by humans.  And that means that there more fish swimming competing for a fixed amount of food/forage.  That increased competition actually keeps the little fish from growing much and the bigger fish from reaching their maximum potential.

 

A call to your local fisheries biologist might be interesting.  It could well be the case that a selective harvest of some 'eater-sized' fish would lead to a better population of 'trophy-ish' fish.  This from one of my state's biologists makes a similar point.

 

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3 hours ago, mheichelbech said:

My response to the question on river fishing had me thinking about this...I fish the Ohio River a lot.  We catch, and a significant number of half pound to 1.5 pound spotted bass and largemouth bass are caught and released either in tourneys or just casual fishing.  What I have never been able to figure out is why don't they seem to grow any bigger?  There seems to be plenty of bait, especially in Summer.  The water quality doesn't seem to be bad.  They have enough places to get out of the main current.  However, in tournaments, seldom is anything over 3.5 pounds weighed in.  That usually is big fish 3.5 to 4.5 pounds.  It seems like there has to be big fish somehwhere or else these fish just grow old but they don't grow any bigger....

 

Anyone know why this would be?  What biological factors may be at play?  As far as I can see they don't have a lot of competition from other species at this time although Asian carp are beginning to establish a foothold...

 

Have fished the Indiana stretch of the Ohio River for nearly 30 years on and off. Have also seen many of the IDNR surveys from those pools. There are several factors that seem to be at play based on that research. The first is that it's a pretty tough living being a bass on the Ohio. Shocking surveys in our pools show that the overall population is only about 1/10 of a good bass fishery, and about 1/5 of an 'OK' bass fishery. Recruitment is really low, as would seem to be survival. Very minimal spawning areas due to heavy siltation, and huge water level fluctuations from year to year. One of the more recent surveys on what is considered to be one of our best embayments showed no YOY, 1 or 2 year old bass.

 

Growth is another problem. Seems the ones that do survive grow quick for their first 3 years or so, reaching 12" ('keepers') within that time frame. However, growth after that is well below average. Our oldest bass in that survey was just 7 years old, and it was only 16." There used to be a huge stocking effort that went on for years down in the pool near Cincinnati/Lawrenceburg and it barely helped.

 

There are big fish in the system, but they don't show up routinely. Fishing there really runs in spurts. You can get a couple good years when rainfalls are normal and the river doesn't do anything crazy. That allows the grass to take hold, the water to clear, and extra cover to be provided. But it's such a large drainage area that huge floods always end up happening sooner or later, wiping out any good that had occurred. Timing is often terrible too, with some of the highest flooding through the winter months when bass are trying to settle into their wintering areas which can be pretty limited and specific in some pools, and when their metabolism is lowest. When I tracked it many years back, the overall trend in the bass fishing seemed to be declining over the past 20 years. I think it will just always be a marginal fishery.

 

-T9 

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10 minutes ago, Team9nine said:

 

Have fished the Indiana stretch of the Ohio River for nearly 30 years on and off. Have also seen many of the IDNR surveys from those pools. There are several factors that seem to be at play based on that research. The first is that it's a pretty tough living being a bass on the Ohio. Shocking surveys in our pools show that the overall population is only about 1/10 of a good bass fishery, and about 1/5 of an 'OK' bass fishery. Recruitment is really low, as would seem to be survival. Very minimal spawning areas due to heavy siltation, and huge water level fluctuations from year to year. One of the more recent surveys on what is considered to be one of our best embayments showed no YOY, 1 or 2 year old bass.

 

Growth is another problem. Seems the ones that do survive grow quick for their first 3 years or so, reaching 12" ('keepers') within that time frame. However, growth after that is well below average. Our oldest bass in that survey was just 7 years old, and it was only 16." There used to be a huge stocking effort that went on for years down in the pool near Cincinnati/Lawrenceburg and it barely helped.

 

There are big fish in the system, but they don't show up routinely. Fishing there really runs in spurts. You can get a couple good years when rainfalls are normal and the river doesn't do anything crazy. That allows the grass to take hold, the water to clear, and extra cover to be provided. But it's such a large drainage area that huge floods always end up happening sooner or later, wiping out any good that had occurred. Timing is often terrible too, with some of the highest flooding through the winter months when bass are trying to settle into their wintering areas which can be pretty limited and specific in some pools, and when their metabolism is lowest. When I tracked it many years back, the overall trend in the bass fishing seemed to be declining over the past 20 years. I think it will just always be a marginal fishery.

 

-T9 

Think you nailed it.  25 years ago was pretty good.  Could actually get a 15 pound sack.... that seems rare these days...

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Maybe  largemouth  just thrive better in lakes than rivers with heavy current . Smallmouths do get big in local rivers . No spotted bass  around here .

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Yea there are some smallies in the pool I fish but I think most ar caught by accident.  One thing that has hurt the size in our area is that the spotted bass have really taken over in the last 15-20 years.  Used to be mostly largemouth which got bigger way back when burn now it's mostly spots and even the spots don't get as big as they used too.

 

Another contributor may be zebra mussels...while they certainly have helped to to clear up the water I've heard they also can suck up a lot of the nutrients.

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You may also be underestimating even what it takes to sustain the healthy population and distribution you are seeing. If all the bait, fish, and ideal conditions you see only output the bass you see, imagine how much more it would take to have an even bigger size class of fish.

 

That and regardless of ideal-ness of bait, cover, etc., these fish are expending calories in a river system AND have a short warm season to grow in ohio.

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16 hours ago, HeavyDluxe said:

One thing to add:  While what you're seeing could be just a normal, healthy distribution of fish, it could also be that you're seeing a body of water where the bass are the competition for food resources is such that 'big fish' just can't grow.  To make an analogy, there'd be way more skinny people in the zombie apocalypse.

 

Sorry, was just talking about The Walking Dead.  But, I think the illustration fits.

 

While catch-and-release angling is a great way of ensuring that already large fish can grow larger and be caught again, it also means that fewer fish are being harvested by humans.  And that means that there more fish swimming competing for a fixed amount of food/forage.  That increased competition actually keeps the little fish from growing much and the bigger fish from reaching their maximum potential.

 

A call to your local fisheries biologist might be interesting.  It could well be the case that a selective harvest of some 'eater-sized' fish would lead to a better population of 'trophy-ish' fish.  This from one of my state's biologists makes a similar point.

 

 

My local Sportsman's pond has this issue.  When I was on the board there we drained the pond and started over.  We had it dredged and had the Eagle Scouts do a project where they added a bunch of structure for bass.  We stocked it and didn't allow fishing on it for 3 years.

 

It's now been 8 years and while there are plenty of bass to catch the biggest I have seen was about 15".  I fished there last Friday and Saturday and ended up catching about 30 total.  The majority of those 30 fish were all 11" to 13" long.  At one point I caught 4 fish in a row that were exactly 12.75" long.

 

I had been saying for a couple years now that they need to start culling a bunch of small bass.  Currently they have a sign up that says all bass must be put back.  Was talking to a couple of the new board members a few weeks ago and they finally have decided that they need to start culling bass.  I told them a fishery would be best.  Have a bunch of kids and family come out and let them keep the bass they catch or throw them off to the side.

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Teach kids and families to throw them off to one side like trash.....instead offer a fish fry and teach them how to clean and eat those fish.

Tom

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