AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) teamed up with Lone Star Jr Bassmasters (LSJrBM) to promote conservation and healthy fisheries for the club’s Aug. 6 tournament at Lake Tawakoni out of Sky Point RV Park Marina. The event utilized digital scales provided by TPWD’s scale loaner program to incorporate the catch, weigh and immediate release format.
Located in the Dallas Forth-Worth area, LSJrBM club is affiliated with the Texas B.A.S.S Nation (TBN). The club, led by Director Robert Brown, is the first youth/high school fishing club in the state to employ the catch, weigh and immediate release format in an organized competitive youth angling event. Through the scale loaner program, TPWD is partnering with the club to help protect Texas’ fisheries resources.
“I am so thankful for the TPWD scale loaner program and the support and coaching from TBN Conservation Director Dave Terre,” said Robert Brown, Lone Star Jr Bassmasters Director. “A month prior, during our July tournament in the sweltering heat, Dave was walking me through how to prepare our tanks for the weigh-in process, and suggested to me that a catch, weigh and immediate release format could greatly enhance the survivability of tournament fish, especially during these hot Texas days. I said let’s do it for our next event. So, Dave acquired the scales and made the trip to train our captains and support the weigh-in for our August derby.”
During the summer months, the use of these scales is especially important due to the hot weather conditions that are particularly stressful for bass. The added stress on the fish results in rates of high mortality, with a majority of deaths occurring after the fish are released (up through seven days post-release).
“We are in process now of obtaining member feedback on their perspective on the format used at Lake Tawakoni for consideration for future club tournaments,” added Brown.“I believe every LSJrBM member realizes the importance of fish care and how the catch, weigh, and release format can help limit the negative impacts on fish. Being able to instill this perspective into the minds of our youth anglers is pretty awesome.”
Traditional bass tournaments require anglers to hold up to five bass in livewells, removing them from their catch locations, followed by a weigh-in process on stage. According to studies, this format can lead to a fish mortality rate of 15-60 percent, or higher, depending on the water temperature.
“I applaud the LSJrBM club and TBN for their conservation minded efforts in their last tournament, and hope this is a stepping stone for more clubs and tournament directors moving forward,” said Jake Norman, Inland Fisheries Tyler District Supervisor. “While the traditional weigh-in format is heavily engrained in bass anglers, there is no denying the data available on summer-time delayed mortality, especially on larger fish that are targeted during competition.”
The scale loaner program was launched in 2017 and currently has 100 digital scales available for public use. The first 60 loaner scales were originally donated to TPWD for use during the Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC), the tournament that pioneered the catch, weigh and immediate release format. The scales give tournament organizers the opportunity to host larger tournaments while keeping conservation at the forefront.
“As a management biologist, angler satisfaction is one of my top end goals, but there are only so many management actions we can take to maintain quality fishing opportunities for all,” added Norman. “Anglers such as those in the LSJrBM club taking some action of their own to ensure the greatest survival of tournament caught fish is a major step in ensuring our great fisheries persist for the future generations of anglers.”
TPWD uses Brecknell – Samson digital scales, which are the same ones used by Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour. These scales have been proven to give consistent readings during tournament competition and have the trust of anglers. In addition, they work properly to register a Toyota Sharelunker that might be caught in a tournament.
For organizations interested in borrowing the scales, the dates should be reserved in advance and need to be picked up and returned by the borrower. TPWD loans the scales free of charge. For more information about the scale loaner program and to make reservations, contact Todd Driscoll at email@example.com or at 409-698-9114 ext. 229.