For Immediate Release: Today the Aurora Bassmasters are proud to release and distribute a report on their Lake Simcoe Bass Tagging Research Project . This report was written by Steven Kerr (retired MNRF biologist and renowned science report writer) with assistance from Wil Wegman (conservation director for Aurora Bassmasters club). It summarizes the results of a five year (2006 – 2010) cooperative research project involving the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and the Aurora Bassmasters. This project helped determine characteristics of bass (Micropterus spp.) angled during eighteen different competitive fishing events on Lake Simcoe and or Lake Couchiching. These catch and release tournaments were comprised of smaller Bassmaster club tournaments, larger one day open events and even the three day Eastern Division B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship in 2009.
This multi-year project has already won the Canadian Sport Fishing League (CSFL) Conservation Award as well as the international Berkley Conservation Award. A total of 327 largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and 1,468 smallmouth bass (M. dolomieu) were tagged, sampled and released.
The report reveals that mean/average total length of largemouth bass caught over the five years was 41.1 cm (16.1in) The average total length of smallmouth bass was 45.8 cm (18 in ). The average total weight for largemouth and smallmouth bass was 1.36 kg (2.99 lbs) and 1.92 kg (4.23lbs) respectively.
The results demonstrate the remarkable average size of Lake Simcoe’s bass caught during tournaments. The average smallmouth sizes and weights in particular rival that of any other smallmouth fishery on the planet! This fact was recognized at the 2010 Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open Bass tournament hosted by the Aurora Bassmasters, when the winners weighed in 31.5 pounds worth of smallmouth, and set the record for the five heaviest bass ever weighed in during a one day tournament here in Canada. During that same event, an 8.05* pound smallmouth (23.5in) was also caught – the largest smallmouth ever weighed in a Canadian tournament; and just like the other bass caught that day, was tagged, sampled and released by joint MNRF and Bassmaster crews.
(* Recorded as 7.9 lbs in the report, as this was the weight recorded on a spring scale at the sample station. The official tournament weight on certified scales was 8.05)
Angled smallmouth bass varied from 2-15 years of age with the average age being 7.4 years. Largemouth bass ranged from 2-13 years of age and averaged 6.9 years. Both species first recruited to the competitive fishery at two years of age, and had to be at least 12 inches long; indicating fairly rapid growth rates for bass this far north. There were 280 smallmouth bass and 5 largemouth bass which exceeded 50 cm (19.7in) in length. Two hundred and thirty-five smallmouth bass exceeded 2.5 kg (5.8lbs) in weight. Overall, the age composition of smallmouth bass was older than largemouth bass.
Over the five year period, a total of 94 tagged bass that were recaptured were reported. Anglers catching a tagged bass would call the MNRF office in Aurora whose general line was displayed on the tag. The 94 bass represents a recapture rate of 4.9% for largemouth bass and 6.8% for smallmouth bass. Five bass were recaptured twice. The average time for recapture after release was 260.9 days for largemouth bass and 383.6 days for smallmouth bass. The longest elapsed time until recapture exceeded five years. Tagged bass reports from this five year study came in until 2014 and are included within the report.
“Each tagged bass tells a story and those are highlighted within the report,” says Aurora Bassmaster president Scott Cochran. “For instance, we had one particular smallmouth that was caught during the BPS Lake Simcoe Open in late October 2010, sampled, tagged and released by the Shimano Live Release Boat in Orillia where the tournament was held. The following spring that same bass was re-caught by an angler and details were called in. That fish had swam up Lake Couchiching, made it past the Trent Severn locks into Sparrow Lake, swam north through Sparrow Lake, bypassed the Big Chute making its way into Six Mile Lake where it went over Whites Falls into Burrows Bay of Gloucester Pool where the angler caught it”, explained Cochran. The total distance travelled from the release site was estimated at approximately 78 km.
During the 2-3 late fall tournaments held every year during this study, many bass angled from deeper water appeared to suffer from barotrauma – which meant the bass would have an expanded air bladder and would have difficulty swimming down to the depths they came from. Therefore in order to relieve pressure from the air bladder a process known as “fizzing” was used by experienced fizzers at the sampling station near the weigh in. This process involves inserting an 18 gauge hypodermic needle into a special spot on the side of the fish into the air bladder. The air pressure is thus relieved and bass typically have no problem swimming back down to comfortable depths afterwards. A total of 684 bass (mostly smallmouth) were “fizzed” during this study. Fifty-two of the ninety-four (55.3%) bass recaptured by anglers months or years later had been previously fizzed.
“Not a great deal of science has been published on the long term survival of fizzed bass, however this 5 year study demonstrates that over half of all the tagged bass that were re-caught months or years after original capture were previously fizzed and therefore still alive and healthy – contributing to the overall fishery. Catch and release really does work, with fizzed bass that need it or un-fizzed ones that don’t. Carefully live releasing bass to hopefully be re-caught again by some other lucky angler, is the single greatest personal contribution any angler can make to his or her fishery, regardless of whether they like to fish tournaments or not,” concluded Cochran.
Finally, this report along with several others, demonstrates that biological sampling at competitive fishing events is an efficient and cost-effective means of monitoring the status of local bass populations. The Lake Simcoe Bass Tagging Research Project helped highlight the incredible size of smallmouth bass in Lake Simcoe; it provided important data on bass movements, age classes and growth rates. The Aurora Bassmasters encourage all interested anglers to read the entire report – which is now available on their website: http://www.aurorabass.com
Aurora Bassmasters Media Director