With the spring spawn cranking up in many areas of the state, hundreds of anglers likely have handled big largemouth bass. And while the creatures remain resilient in the water, they often are mishandled by folks when the camera comes out or when being stashed in a livewell.
The ShareLunker program accepts entries of bass weighing 13 pounds or more and uses the fish to spawn and create more bass that are stocked into lakes across the state. The care of big bass is not a hard concept but some fish that have been entered into the program have died — something that can be avoided by properly caring for the fish before they are picked up by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employees.
The biggest thing to remember with any catch is to stress the fish as little as possible — which usually means handling them as little as possible.
With this in mind, here are tips for handling big bass to avoid injuring them.
- Wet your hands before touching the fish.
- Using your dominant hand, grip the fish with your thumb inside the mouth and your fingers locked on the outside of the mouth.
- Support the rear of the fish with your other hand placed beneath the fish just forward of the tail.
- Lift the fish out of the water in a horizontal position using both hands for support.
- Do not hold the fish by the lower jaw in a vertical position. This can dislocate or break the jaw, practically guaranteeing the fish will not survive, since it will not be able to eat.
- Handle the fish only when putting it into a livewell or holding tank. Do not keep the fish out of water or keep removing it from the water for photographs.
- If you must handle the fish, try to do so out of the wind and keep it out of water as little as possible. Wind can dry out the eyes very quickly and result in damage.
For more on the ShareLunker program, including current entries and the number to call to report one, visit their website.