Once the hook is removed and pictures are taken, most anglers would then release this fish back into the water, where it will recover over the next several hours depending on temperature and length of retrieval time. But during a traditional tournament format, a few fish will need to be kept until the weigh in. The live well can be a dangerous place for fish, as water quality can quickly decline due to high amounts of ammonia coming from the stressed fish' gills. Bacterial loads will increase as water quality becomes poor. In the beginning of tournament fishing, many bass could not survive their time in the live well and mortality was a common sight at weigh-ins. With the advances in live well circulation, oxygen, and chemical additives, mortality is rather low today. However, research still shows that mortality at tournaments can be 4-6% and this doesn't take into account how bacteria and stress will effect the fish long term.
Major League Fishing is innovating a new format that will revolutionize professional tournaments. They require their anglers to use no nets and penalize them when a fish touches the boat carpet. But their real advantage is that each fish is immediately weighed by an on boat official using a fish grip and digital scale. The fish are then logged into the Scoretracker Live software, allowing immediate updates to be made to the leader board. The fish is then immediately released. Mortality is therefore non-existent and handling stress is greatly reduced. MLF is making their Scoretracker software available to any local and club organization. As a biologist, I know this format is something every fisheries professional and fishermen can support. Major League Fishing is truly taking steps to help conserve and improve all fisheries they compete on. Hats off to that!
By Steven Bardin M.S.