Letter to the Editor: ‘Weigh on the Water’ Protects Local Fisheries

There is a proposal to limit bass and walleye tournaments on Sturgeon Bay to a “weigh on the water” format only when they’re held prior to June 30. The rationale for this proposal is to protect annual recruitment of these two species by limiting angling during their reproductive period. Why would any angler knowingly advocate for something that risks the future of a local fishery?

I strongly support this proposal and firmly believe that every angler should as well. Financial gain for a few on the backs of our public natural resources is wrong. 

I base this position on my research group’s long-standing studies on the impacts that angling nesting bass (even catch-and-release) has on reproductive success and annual recruitment, much of which is summarized in “Black Bass: Ecology, Management, and Conservation,” which Dr. Mark Ridgway and I edited.

Let me summarize some basic relevant facts:

1. Male bass build nests, and after spawning, they guard the eggs and larvae from predators for not only the 10-14 days before they become free-swimming fry, but for two to three weeks after that as well, until the offspring can recognize and avoid predators.

2. If the male parent is removed from the nest at any point during those five weeks, predators move in rapidly and start to consume the offspring.

3. Half of the brood is consumed in 10-15 minutes, and 100% if the male does not return.

4. Tournaments destroy the reproductive effort for every nesting male that is weighed in or culled. 

5. During springtime tournaments, as many as 90-plus percent of the bass angled are nesting males.

Do the math!

The bottom line: Advocating for, participating in and even condoning tournaments that target fish during their reproductive period is shameful. Tournament anglers need to reevaluate their approach toward competitions, abandoning the “me/now” attitude for these reasons: Our children and grandchildren – the demographic with the most at stake – have no voice, so we adults need to safeguard their fishing futures. In addition, the anti-fishing movement is growing, and its biggest bullseye is on tournament anglers. Let’s not feed it.

Dr. David P. Philipp

Chair, Board of Directors

Fisheries Conservation Foundation

Champaign, Illinois