Ray Scott, the father of modern bass fishing, was the consummate sales guy.
Wheeling and dealing was his middle name, but more importantly he was an innovator and conservationist. He not only saw fishing as a mainstream sport but also saw the duty of those who love the sport to take care of the waterways and the fish.
Initially fish were brought to the scales — a 10-fish limit many times — on a stringer or a rope. Most met their demise in a frying pan, but he knew there was a better way. Catch-and-release was born. Tanks were designed into boats to keep fish alive, weighed and then released back to the water. C&R is now a religion, and those of us who love this game would rather take a beating than kill a fish.
Sometimes it just happens, though. Even those times cause most of us to get an upset stomach. By our very nature we just want all the fish we catch to swim away after we weigh them. Don’t get me wrong — we like to eat fish, too. But killing one in a tournament not only causes a penalty of precious weight, it goes against the grain of what we are about.
I am in favor of folks catching fish for a fish fry or their family, but because the fish are not an unlimited resource, it is important that we let a few go, too, especially those who fish a lot. If we cleaned every fish we caught, we could indeed hurt the gamefish population.
Today’s boats are better equipped to handle live release, and companies have now gotten on board designing fish care products that aid us in that effort. From oxygen-supplying vents like the VT2, to oxygen creators like the TH Marine Oxygenator, keeping the water fresh and oxygen rich is the goal. Insulating the livewells plus using non-chlorinated ice also work to keep fish in better shape while stored in the boat.
I do my best to make sure the fish I catch are properly cared for. But recently, after the purchase of a new boat, I did not do my due diligence making sure my livewells had everything they needed and have lost two big fish. My insides still hurt as a result — nothing is worse to me than killing a fish in a tournament. I knew I had an issue and it had to be taken care of post haste.
Many who have fish ponds in their backyards have been using venturi devices in them for years. Why not use them in a livewell?
After the second fish died, I got to work on my boat that night and added a recirculation pump and Dannco Venturi inside the livewell. I already had an Oxygenator, but now the venturi keeps the water equal to or better that the water they were caught in. My fishing buddy Taylor Umland has been using them for the last few years and swears by them. Combine the venturi with G-Juice chemical additive and I am hopeful I won’t see this again.
I seasoned my livewells overnight with a heavy dose of G-Juice soaking into the pores. I've always had the ritual of vacuuming them out and wiping them down with hydrogen peroxide, but because this was a new boat I didn’t do it. It has been now. I tested it this past week and released the fish back into the water without incident.
The Dannco Venturi is a pipe, O-ring, and tube apparatus that when pushed by a minimum 500-gallon-per-hour pump adds oxygen to the water from an outside source through a small tube in the top of the venturi. It will work in livewells up to 50 gallons. The New Pro Products VT2 vents allow the bad gases to escape though the livewell lid during recirculation and when running.
Fish urine and waste can cause ammonia build up that can kill the fish. The venturi is positioned next to the Oxygenator near the bottom of the livewell and serves two purposes — adding oxygen but also allowing the bad gases to escape.
I also use a non-treated sponge or pool noodles in my livewell to calm the fish down. They tend to position near the venturi and under the sponge and don’t seem to bang around in the livewell as much. Baitwell additives can be added to the sponges and last longer, too.
I purchased my venturi online at Bottom Dwellers, a company that is involved with bait tanks, catfish and striper care. It cost $40 and I had it in two days ready to be installed. After a few scratches and a bit of engineering it is up and running and I am very pleased with the results — no more deceased fish.
The science of fishing is more than technique and bait choice. It is really a biology lesson that we learn more about every year. Take the time to make sure everything on your boat works correctly, do your part to do maintenance on more than what does the catching. Live release is the lifeblood to great fisheries, and if we each do our part they can remain great fisheries.
Terry Brown is President of Wired2Fish.com, an industry leading, daily website and social media fishing centered community that provides information on products, industry newsmakers and fishing techniques. You can read more by going to www.Wired2Fish.com.