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Black Bass Dispersal Patterns Following Catch-and-Release Tournaments on Lake Champlain

Maynard, George A., Mihuc, Timothy B., Sotola, V. Alex, Garneau, Danielle E., Malchoff, Mark H.
North American Journal of Fisheries Management 2017 v.37 no.3 pp. 524-535
Micropterus dolomieu, Micropterus salmoides, bass, fisheries, lakes, managers, mortality, radio frequency identification, radio telemetry, New York
Lake Champlain is consistently ranked as one of the top fisheries for black bass Micropterus spp. in the United States. Tournament fishing on the lake has become increasingly popular, with dozens of tournaments held annually since the early 2000s and at least 60 more planned for 2017. The largest of these tournaments launch from Plattsburgh, New York, and their frequency has generated concerns among fishery managers and the public over post-weigh-in mortality and stockpiling. However, relatively little is known about the disposition of tournament-caught black bass in large (>750 km ²) lake systems. To address this information gap, we T-bar-tagged 1,141 Largemouth Bass M. salmoides and 1,160 Smallmouth Bass M. dolomieu collected from tournament anglers launching from Plattsburgh during 2011 and 2012. Additionally, 38 Largemouth Bass and 53 Smallmouth Bass caught during professional bass tournaments were implanted with radio tags prior to release. Angler-reported T-bar recaptures yielded a 9.8% recovery rate, with over half of the tag recoveries occurring within the first month postrelease, primarily within 5 km of their release. Radio-tagged fish were tracked for up to 383 d following release into Cumberland Bay, 1 km northeast of Plattsburgh. Overall, 43% of radio-tagged Largemouth Bass and 56% of radio-tagged Smallmouth Bass left the bay, although there was variation in dispersal patterns between years. One T-bar-tagged fish and no radio-tagged fish returned to their proximate capture locations. Despite the absence of fish returning to their original capture location, results from both T-bar tagging and radiotelemetry suggest that long-term (>1 month) stockpiling in Cumberland Bay is not an issue. However, short-term (<1 month) stockpiling, coupled with an abundance of publicly accessible fishing areas in Plattsburgh, may warrant concern for increased black bass mortality during the weeks after release. Received April 24, 2016; accepted February 8, 2017 Published online April 4, 2017