Have you ever wondered where do tournament bass go after they’ve been released? Do they make it back to where they were originally caught or do they stay around the release site?
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One of the most interesting studies that I found was conducted back in 2011 and 2012. Researchers took bass caught from Lake Champlain during nine different tournaments throughout the 2 year study.
There was a total of 2,301 fish were tagged using T-Bar Tags, including 1,160 Largemouth bass and 1,141 Smallmouth bass. In addition to the 2300 bass that were tagged with T-Bar Tags, another 91 bass had radio transmitters implanted into them (Radio Tags), this included 53 Smallmouth and 38 Largemouth.
Researches tracked the radio tagged bass and anglers who recaptured the T-Bar Tagged bass were asked to contact the researchers to track the information.
Of the tournament bass that were tagged, 264 bass were recaptued and reported. Of these 264 fish, 185 Largemouth were recaptured and 79 Smallmouth were recaptured. The information that was taken from these 264 fish is extremely interesting.
Out of all the tournament bass that were released and recaptured only one Smallmouth actually made it back to its original capture area, which was in the Inland Sea, in which it was recaptured 4 months later.
It was found that the majority of the bass actually stayed in Cumberland Bay for up to two months before they started to disperse. By the end of the 2 year study 56% of the radio tagged smallmouth bass and 44% of the radio tagged largemouth bass eventually left the bay and swam to other parts of the lake. The t-bar tagged bass dispersal was very similar.
This means that 56% of the Largemouth that were caught in tournaments over the course of those two years actually stayed in Cumberland Bay. The interesting thing about this is Anglers told researchers that the majority of the Largemouth bass (70%) that were caught in these tournaments came from two main areas of the lake. Ticonderoga on the South End of the Lake, and Miquoy Bay on the north end of the lake. However of the recaptured Largemouth none of them had returned to those areas.
Looking at the smallmouth, the majority of them stayed in the bay for 2 months before they dispersed from the bay. Although the majority ended up leaving there were still a large percentage 44% that stayed in the bay throughout the study.
One of the most interesting things was discovered in this study is that bass did not cross deep water as they dispersed from the bay. Deep water is known as a pelagic Zone and in this experiment, deep water was considered 65ft deep. Instead the bass hugged the shoreline as they started moving out of the Bay.
Similar results were found in a study done by Gilliland in 1999 that showed 84% of tournament-released bass traveled along continuous shoreline and only 16% crossed deep, open water.
Researchers suggested that bass used different landmarks to get from place to place. There were a few smallmouth that made it back to the Vermont side of the lake but this was after they had traveled along the New York side to the northern part of the lake and then crossed into Vermont Waters. All fish crossed to the Vermont water and less than 65 ft of water.
Lake Shasta in California the department of fish and wildlife tagged 580 tournament caught bass. Of the bass that were tagged there was 497 Smallmouth and 83 Largemouth.
Of the 83 Largemouth that were tagged, 34 were recaptured by Anglers over the three-year study. Of the 34 that were caught 13 of them were caught less than 1 mile away from their release point. The other 21 we’re captured between 1 and 7 miles from the release site.
Looking at the analytics the Department of Fish and Wildlife concluded that during the first 40 days after being released, the average distance traveled by the Largemouth was less than a mile, and the average for the entire three-year study period was less than two miles.
However, smallmouth dispersed quicker and farther than Largemouth. 87% of the released bass were caught from 2-15 miles from the release site. Within the first 20 days after being released, the majority of the smallmouth bass traveled at least 3 miles and a few traveled as much as 8 miles.
The conclusion of the biologists was that largemouth bass travel short distances after being released. They established new territory and continued on with their lives. However, smallmouth bass often travel back to where they were caught. Why smallmouths have this homing ability and largemouths do not, no one knows for sure.