Heavier bass reeled in at tourney

The Ministry of Natural Resources reported a “significant” increase in the average weight of the 492 bass caught and tagged during this year’s Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
Darryl McLeod, area biologist with the MNR here, said they found the average weight of this year’s bass hauled in by the anglers to be 2.5 pounds (15.5″).
That’s an increase from the 2.11-pound average weight caught in the inaugural tournament in 1995, and the 2.10 pounds reeled up last year.
The MNR, with the help of the Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club, is doing the assessment work to provide additional information to help better manage the bass population in Rainy Lake–while trying to ensure the quality fishery continues to exist there.
They also are trying to determine if there are any long-term impacts of the tournament on the fishery, and what improvements might need to be made in future ones.
Some 1,229 bass were caught during the three-day tournament this year (up from 829 last year and 457 in 1995), totalling an incredible 3,067.31–1,327.10 pounds more than last year’s catch.
Eighty-six percent of all the bass caught this year were returned to the North Arm, 13 percent to the South Arm and just one percent to Redgut Bay.
McLeod noted the “class of ’87 bass” (10-year-olds) was more “abundant” this year, which helps to explain the increase in weight of the fish caught.
He noted the average age of the fish caught in 1995 and ’96 were 7.68 and 7.55 years, respectively.
McLeod said there were really three reasons for the increase in size this year.
“There was an increase in 10-year-old fish, which grow by about one to two cm each year, anglers are beginning to know the lake better, and the conditions, with the exception of Friday morning, were really good,” he explained.
There were 13 recaptures of tagged fish during this year’s tournament, four of which were tagged this year, six from 1996 and three others from 1995.
“That shows the fish certainly survived and the stress of the ordeal didn’t prevent them from feeding the next day,” said McLeod, noting there were other recaptures reported during pre-fishing.
More have been made by other local and non-resident anglers throughout the year.
Still, there were 35 mortalities at this year’s tournament (2.8 percent), a half a percentage point more than last season. Last year’s tournament saw 19 fish lost, and just three in the first year.