RE: Balog on Michigan regs I'm surprised to hear someone who understands the danger and has been so outspoken about not allowing tournament anglers to fish during the spawn around the Bass Islands in Lake Erie (even though he participated) to be so seemingly open to the proposal of allowing catch and delayed release, specifically for tournament anglers, during the heart of the spawn in Michigan. Why would you assume a different result than what Lake Erie experienced?
The fact of the matter is no scientist, biologist, or ichthyologist can say what will happen if tournament anglers in Michigan are allowed to hold stressed out (from the rigors of spawning) adult fish in their livewells for hours, bounced across 4-foot waves, and bagged up and weighed in, before being released miles from their spawning beds. How many 12- to 15-year-old bass will suffer delayed mortality?
You have to consider more scientific evidence than the number of eggs that can successfully hatch even if a large number of guarding adult fish are removed from their nests. Comparing statistics from Florida in Michigan is ridiculous! The Florida strain of bass is not even the same species as what we have in Michigan; it grows a pound a year (reaching legal length limits in that same time), it doesn't live as long, it needs a different environment to survive, and reacts different to environmental changes. A Michigan bass doesn't reach legal length limit for 3 or 4 years. Michigan bass live longer and can survive a much colder environment and their spawn is a small fraction of the spawning season in Florida.
Yes, you can catch a much bigger fish in Florida or some of the other Southern states that don't have closed bass seasons but the fishing average size and numbers is better here in Michigan, Minnesota, and Northern states (that have closed seasons during the heart of the spawning season) than any of those Southern states despite what you see or read about the tournaments held in the South during spawning season when fish are protecting their nests. That's why experienced national tournament anglers like KVD and Kim Stricker opposed allowing tournament anglers to delay release. They realize how good our fishing is compared to other parts of the country.
The year-round catch and immediate release issue is totally different than the proposal to allow tournament anglers to catch and delay release, but it seems to be lumped together by many anglers who like to think in black and white. The bottom line to all of this is our fishing is some of the best in the country for average size and numbers. We won't know for sure what our fisheries can withstand as far as pressure until we go past that point ... then it's too late! I fish tournaments and would love it if we could do it year-round with no detriment to our catch rates, but judging from what I have experienced in other states, that is not possible. The risk outweighs the benefits!