Will catch and release catch on?

By Bob McNitt

Oudoors Columnist

With bass and musky seasons opening this Saturday, it completes the open seasons for all game fish species in the state. So whatever ends up on the angler's line, as long as it's of legal length, is fair game if, indeed, the fisher opts to keep it for table fare. However, increasingly more anglers are practicing catch and release when bass fishing, and the DEC recently opted to go along with that tactic.

A catch and release bass season that requires artificial lures only was enacted that will run from December 1 thru the day preceding the third Saturday in June (bass season has historically run from then until Nov. 30) each year. The existing third Saturday in June through November 30 season (with a 12 inch minimum length and daily limit of five fish) will remain the same and allow anglers who so choose to keep the.bass they catch.

Since the catch-and-release season was announced, there have been both opponents and supporters of it. Opponents worry that too many male bass that guard nests during the spring spawning period will be targeted and removed long enough to allow increased depredation on the eggs and fry by other species. Supporters argue that bass are being inadvertently caught every spring spawning season while fishing for legal species such as pike, pickerel and walleye, and there's no indication that it has hurt the bass resource.

The DEC, in trying to evaluate the impacts of angling during the spawning and nest-guarding period for bass, studied research from several areas in the United States and Canada. These studies indicated that male bass removed from the nest quickly return to the nest and resume guarding it. However, the length of time male bass are held and kept away from the nest has a direct impact on the length of time it takes it to return to nest-guarding. Under the current catch-and-release regulation, bass must be "immediately released," so, hopefully, any negative impact will be minimal.

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