We evaluated the effect of improved live-well conditions and the interaction of tournament stress and largemouth bass virus (LMBV) on tournament-associated mortality of largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides caught during 12 summer tournaments. Improvements in live-well conditions (reduction in water temperature by 2-5??C; addition of NaCl; continuous aeration) significantly reduced initial mortality of largemouth bass from 7% to 3% (F 1,11 = 10.29, P < 0.01). However, postrelease mortality of fish held for 5 d in net-pens or raceways was not reduced by the improved live-well conditions and averaged 76% for all tournament fish (F1,11 = 0.09, P = 0.77). The percentage of angler-caught fish infected with LMBV at the end of tournaments (14%) was significantly higher (P = 0.05) than the percentage infected in the general population (7%). The percentage of LMBV-infected fish increased during the post-tournament retention period to 64% for fish from live wells with improved conditions and 70% for fish from control live wells. Reference fish collected by electrofishing and held with tournament fish for 5 d also had high mortality (59%) and LMBV prevalence (47%), but these variables were significantly lower than those for tournament fish (mortality: F 2,30 = 3.63, P = 0.04; prevalence [Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test]: P < 0.01). Many of the fish also had bacterial diseases during the post-tournament period, so the effect of LMBV on postrelease mortality could not be determined. However, the higher postrelease mortality of tournament and reference fish in our study relative to that observed in previous tournaments on lakes presumed free of LMBV suggests that this newly discovered pathogen influences measurement of post-tournament mortality. Increases in LMBV prevalence after typical fishing tournaments without prolonged post-tournament fish confinement will probably be lower than those we observed, but further research on the effects of LMBV on fish released from tournaments is warranted. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2006.
Additional publication details
Effects of live-well conditions on mortality and largemouth bass virus prevalence in largemouth bass caught during summer tournaments