The best college bass anglers from across the country competed on Lake Bemidji for the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro. Competitive bass fishing has joined the curriculums of a number of colleges and high schools nationwide. Not without raising some question to the impact these events might impose on the resource and lake regions. Will Weaver, a well known Bemidji lakes area resident raised a number of questions in his opinion letter to a Bemidji newspaper. Weaver asked me for my thoughts.
Regarding the Bemidji event, Weaver states in his letter to the Bemidji Pioneer: "Pre-fishing" has begun. Ninety heavy boats. Six full days of fishing ending with the weigh-in on Saturday. So I have questions. How many fishing tournaments can our local waters handle in one summer? Who decides this?
The number of fishing tournaments on local waters is determined by the Minnesota DNR. Events with 25 boats and above need to get a permit and the process is in place so the DNR can regulate for minimum impact to the resource.
What is effect on water quality of 90 heavy powerboats over six days?
Today's outboards run cleaner and more efficient than the ones used years ago. There is certain to be some impact, however less in comparison to years ago.
What is the relationship of fishing tournaments, introducing invasive species (zebra mussels, milfoil)?
Tournament boats for this event are inspected and decontaminated by certified DNR inspectors. Once the boats are cleared, they are allowed to fish tournament waters only, until after the event. Tournament anglers are well informed. Inspectors comment, tournament anglers are diligent in keeping their boats free of invasive species. With ESPN TV on site for this event, the national stage saw Minnesota's efforts to slow and stop invasive species.
The Bass Master tourney is catch-and-release, yes, but with what effect on fish kept in live wells the entire day? Do "pro" fisherman ever read studies on delayed fish mortality?
Bass fisherman were first to introduce catch and release fishing to the angling scene and walleye events soon followed. Here is what Henry Drewes, Northwest Minnesota Fisheries Manager, had to say about Bass Masters efforts to reduce fish mortality.
Location was perfect:
• The stage was right on the lakeshore
• Release boat was 75 feet from the back of the stage
• Anglers could pull up boats on beach adjacent to the weigh-in site
Equipment and set-up was excellent:
• They used Berkley brand double fish transport bags— less than one minute from boats to shaded, aerated holding tanks
• Shimano release boat had four 200 gallon tanks
• All tanks were supported by oxygen diffusers
• Fish were transported back proportionately to where they were caught (roughly 75 percent downstream to Stump and 25 percent upstream to Irving/Carr/Marquette)
• Very conscientious of fish care
• Maximum time fish were out of water was 2 minutes
What are the larger messages of the Bass Master world view?
Varied. Some would like tournaments to go away while others support tournaments. The way in which this event was handled, positives outweigh the negative. One example, more young people engaging in the outdoors. Nationally, fishing license sales are on a decline. Competitive angling in a school's curriculum is sure to add numbers of anglers to the sport nationwide. Putting a smile on the face of resource managers is another example of a positive effect, along with license revenues support continued resource management.
Weaver asked the questions some are afraid to ask about tournaments. It's important to understand from where Weaver comes from, then in the end, respectfully putting the way we treat each other before the fish.