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Certain boat access sites have become very popular weigh-in locations for bass tournaments, which has resulted in large numbers of adult bass being stocked frequently at one site. Bass movement studies show that tournament-caught bass may take a few months to move several kilometers away from their release site. This behavior could cause potential problems if forage and habitat are limited in the release area. Disease issues, such as Largemouth Bass Virus, also are a concern if bass remain crowded in a small area.
The AGFC Black Bass Program constructed a live-release boat that can be used by bass tournament directors to recycle their catch on Lake Ouachita. The boat helps recover and re-distribute tournament-caught bass to different locations around the lake after a weigh-in.
The boat itself is a 29-foot triple pontoon equipped with a 200hp motor. A three-compartment bottom-dump tank holds about 650 gallons of water, which means that it can safely hold up to 650 pounds of fish. The tank sections are individually plumbed for filling and contain individual diffusers, which provide oxygen from a compressed oxygen cylinder. Funds to purchase the boat were provided by a $10,000 grant from the FishAmerica Foundation. The Black Bass Program matched the grant money in order to purchase and equip the specially designed boat and tank that were manufactured by Waco Manufacturing and Ketcher Metal Products in North Little Rock.
Mr. Bill Barnes, owner and operator of Mountain Harbor Resort and Marina on Lake Ouachita, has graciously donated a covered slip at his marina to house the live-release boat. Tournament directors can access the boat after a brief consultation and review of operation guidelines.
The AGFC Black Bass Program also has live-release trailers that can be used by local bass tournament directors to recycle their catch.
The use of live-release trailers by concerned anglers and tournament directors will be instrumental in bass conservation efforts and will help reduce the stock-piling effect of bass at popular access areas on our lakes. The trailers were designed with two holding tanks mounted with oxygen diffusers and come equipped with all needed equpment to fill and aerate the tanks. The tanks are approximately 200 gallons each and can handle approximately one pound of fish per gallon of water.
The Black Bass Program has a set of procedures available explaining the simple operation of the trailers as well as tips on how anglers can keep bass alive in their livewells. Anyone interested in using a trailer at their next tournament can contact the Black Bass Program at the Hot Springs Regional Office, 877-525-8606; the Hope Regional Office, 877-777-5580; the Mountain Home Regional Office, 877-425-7577; the Mayflower Regional Office, 877-470-3309, or the Russellville Regional Office, 877-967-7577.