AGENCY WARNS BASS TOURNAMENT RELEASE MAY VIOLATE LAW
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Catch-and-release fishing tournaments which allow competitors to fish in one lake, but release their catch in another is a direct violation of Alabama's public water stocking laws, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) has announced.
According to Stan Cook, chief of fisheries for the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, this regulation has been in place for many years and is intended to protect the quality and integrity of Alabama's sport fisheries.
"Moving fish from one reservoir to another can have a number of detrimental consequences," said Cook.
Cook said anglers who release fish caught in one reservoir into another could introduce genetically inferior strains of spotted bass, dilute genetic benefits of the Florida bass stocking program and may introduce the Largemouth Bass Virus which decimated many of the state's bass fisheries in the late 1990s.
Furthermore, Cook said, anglers may introduce non-native, potentially harmful species into lakes where they do not currently exist. It's also possible, he said, that fish caught in lakes where consumption advisories are in place may be released into lakes without such advisories.
"It is important for anglers to know that these types of tournaments are not illegal," said Cook. "However, releasing fish into a body of water other than where they were caught is illegal. If tournament organizations want to continue to offer these types of tournaments to their competitors, they are certainly free to do so as long as the fish brought in from other reservoirs are not released. These fish can be donated to a charitable organization such as an orphanage, they can be harvested and eaten by the anglers who caught them or they can be returned by the anglers to the reservoirs from which they were caught."
Cook also said it is also worth noting that fish can legally be moved from one reservoir to another only if they are transported by boat through a navigable lock.
"Most Alabama tournament anglers are very conscious of what is necessary to ensure the health and survival of the fish they catch and weigh in during tournaments," said Damon Abernethy, fisheries development coordinator for the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. "Bass anglers, in particular, go to great lengths to protect the fish that provides them with the opportunity to enjoy their most favorite pastime.
"Anglers and tournament directors need to be aware that transporting, crowding, or handling fish when water temperatures are high (greater than 85 degrees Fahrenheit) drastically increases the likelihood that they will not survive," added Abernethy.
A fish's slime coat acts as a barrier to harmful pathogens that can enter a fish's body through areas where this protective coating has been removed. Diseases are more easily transferred from one fish to another when they are held in close proximity to other infected fish, such as in livewells or holding troughs.