Time for a change

Catch-and-release fishing tournaments are high on the list of things to do each year for avid Sunset Country anglers. Indeed, events like the Kenora
Bass International and Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship have served to showcase the area’s fantastic fishing.
Not surprisingly, they’ve attracted many of North America’s premier anglers.
But the benefits don’t stop there. The better run events have helped educate people about the benefits of catch-and-release angling, have served to improve angler ethics, have provided valuable biological data for the Ministry of Natural Resources, and have boosted local businesses and economies.
It is that way right across the country—albeit often on a smaller scale than the big events we’ve become accustomed to here. Yet while tournament interest skyrockets, the way most events are run has stayed pretty much the same.
And that has the folks at Shimano Canada thinking.
Since the inception of catch-and-release fishing tournaments, Shimano has been a leader. Under the pioneering direction of Tom Brooke, Shimano Canada
designed the first Live Release Boat in the mid-1980s.
Today, a fleet of state-of-the-art aerated pontoon boats criss-cross the continent, assisting major tournaments in releasing fish back into the lakes and rivers in as healthy a condition as possible. In effect, they’re fish ambulances.
Even though a number of scientific studies have shown the vast majority of fish caught in tournaments survive after they’re released, the bottom line remains that the fish-handling process associated with most events hasn’t changed a great deal over the years.
That has intrigued Brooke and Phil Morlock, Shimano’s director of environmental affairs, to wonder where improvements could be made.
Using the Shimano Sport Fisheries Initiative, they funded Dr. Bruce Tufts, a respected fish physiologist and professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, to study tournaments and identify specific aspects of the weigh-in process that could be modified to improve the condition of the fish.
The results of the multi-year project have now been published—and several opportunities exist. One of the most important involves the plastic bags many tournaments provide anglers to transport their fish to the scales.
“When anglers have several large fish, the amount of oxygen available to the fish in the bag can drop very quickly,” Dr. Tufts explained. “Hot summer temperatures also contribute to this potential problem.
“At high temperatures, the oxygen solubility in water decreases, but the rate of oxygen consumption, the metabolic rate, of the fish is increased,” he added. “Thus, a closed bag with warm water can become a very precarious situation for the fish.”
Another part of the traditional weigh-in procedure the researchers identified for change was the actual weighing of the fish. When they’re removed from the bags, the fish traditionally are unceremoniously dumped into an empty plastic container where they flop about until they settle down enough to be weighed.
The period of time they’re out of the water can be traumatic.
“The structures within a fish gill that are involved in respiration are called lamellae,” noted Dr. Tufts. “When the fish is in water, these lamellae provide a huge surface area for the uptake of oxygen and secretion of carbon dioxide.
“Any time a fish is removed from water, these structures collapse and exchange of these respiratory gases is largely inhibited,” he remarked.
While exposing the lamellae to air is an issue anytime, Dr. Tufts said it is particularly problematic in tournaments.
“While it’s pretty easy to hold your breath for a short period at rest, it’s a much different situation when you’ve just run a 400-yard dash,” he explained. “In fact, most animals possess a wide range of physiological adaptations to maximize oxygen transport when their metabolic rates are elevated.
“So, what Mother Nature is telling us about this issue is that it’s very important to provide the fish with sufficient oxygen when their metabolic rates are elevated.
“That is why it is so important to eliminate the extended period of air exposure that the fish undergoes during the old weigh-in process,” he stressed.
Dr. Tufts uses the word “old” to highlight the new Shimano Advanced Weigh-in System his research help designed. It is the most fish-friendly weigh-in process ever developed and already has been adopted by the Canadian Fishing Tour—the largest circuit in the country.
At the forefront of the new procedure is the use of flow-through plastic baskets when anglers transfer their fish to the actual weigh-in scale (KBI
and FFCBC organizers can pat themselves on the back on this one. They adopted this system years ago).
The baskets then are submersed in a series of holding tanks that receive a continuous supply of oxygen-rich water. FFCBC officials adopted a similar process this past summer and demonstrated its effectiveness.
The biggest change, however, is weighing the fish while they remain immersed in water.
“Our research verifies that keeping the fish in water during the weigh-in has profound physiological benefits,” Dr. Tufts said. “Bass or walleye that were kept in water during the weigh-in process maintained 150 percent and 65 percent higher energy stores, respectively, than fish weighed in air.”
Ironically, using an in-water-weigh system was something Morlock and Brooke wondered about from an accuracy perspective. But after a series of rigorous tests at Queen’s, any worries were put to rest. The weights were exactly the same.
“In fact,” says Morlock, “it is quite possible that the weights obtained by weighing the fish in water are more accurate because there is now no error associated with the fact that the fish are flopping while they’re being weighed.”
What the Shimano research partnership with Queen’s University clearly has demonstrated is that it is time for significant changes in the way
tournaments handle fish.
“We believe that when science and research reveal new methods that are significantly better for the fish, we must adopt these techniques as soon as possible,” said Shimano’s Tom Brooke, an expert tournament angler himself.
“This is in keeping with the conservation heritage of fishing and it is our hope that anglers everywhere will benefit from these improvements,” he added.

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Time for a change

Dear sir:
As a new provincial election rolls around, taxpayers have to carefully consider what sort of government they want running their province for the next several years.
Do they want a government that employs an anti-Robin Hood policy, whose philosophy seems to be “Take from the poor and give to the rich,” or one that has the best interests of all citizens at heart.
The Eves government and the Harris government before, in their attempts to create more tax relief for the major tax providers, have created many negative side-effects.
The results of these actions have resulted in hardships for our less affluent citizens, inadequate health care, tainted water, tainted meat, continued disruption of our education system, power blackouts, and decreases and confusion in municipal finances.
The budget presented by the Eves government would amount to $10.3 billion, according to independent economists. Eves denies that this is so, but can find no independent economist to back up his figures.
At the same time, the Eves government is hiding a $2-billion deficit.
One of the main government promises has been that they would provide balanced budgets in return for all the hardship and inconvenience they have visited upon the citizens of Ontario.
This has not happened.
The solution to all these problems is simple. This government has failed in its mandate and needs to be replaced.
Signed,
Bob Fryer
Fort Frances, Ont.