Fishing for spawning female bass is a very controversial subject. The large female bass move up from their deep, winter haunts and into the shallows in search of a bed to lay their eggs. This makes them more visible and accessible to shore fisherman and boaters alike. It often means a shot at a once-in-a-lifetime fish which can be immensely rewarding and difficult for any angler to turn down.
Unfortunately it also means the fish are more vulnerable.
Female and male bass will both protect their nest from egg-eating invaders looking to snatch a quick meal. While guarding the nest, bass will rarely feed as they dedicate all their time to protecting the hatchlings. While they may not eat, they will still use their mouths to pick up any critter (or lure!) that happens to make its way into the bed and promptly spit it outside the nest area.
This means they can still be caught even when they aren’t actively feeding. While this is a perfect opportunity for the angler, it can be very harmful to the fish.
Bass are weakened from not eating while protecting their offspring and a long struggle on the line of an angler can prove fatal. It is critical for the future of the lake that these large females survive and are able to reproduce year after year. Additionally the more time out of the water means the longer the nest goes unprotected. This leaves the eggs exposed to a multitude of hungry predators.
A shot at a bass of a lifetime is often too good an opportunity to pass up despite these risks but there are a few things the angler can do to help ensure the safety and survival of the fish.
Start by not letting the fish become exhausted on the end of the line. Try to reel the fish in as quickly as possible and minimize the number of long runs made by the fish. Once the bass is caught handle the fish as little as possible. Hold it just long enough for a picture or two and return the fish to the water quickly.
If the fish truly is the fish of a lifetime, be sure to take a quick measurement of the length and girth. Rather than killing the fish to mount it, a fiberglass replica can be created based on these measurements.