By JEFF MEYERS, Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Research on bass activity in Lake Champlain fishing tournaments suggest the fish are moving from their release location more quickly than in past years.
The Lake Champlain Research Institute has continued its efforts to tag smallmouth and largemouth bass, so researchers can study them when they are set free after weigh-in during the series of professional contests held on the lake.
“We completed our final 100 tags (during the recent FLW tournament),” said Dr. Timothy Mihuk of the Research Institute. “We’ve done 3,000 tags in the last 12 months and have gotten a pretty good response thus far.”
The t-bar tags researchers have attached to both species of bass include an ID number, phone number and email address to contact Research Institute scientist Mark Malcoff with information on when and where an angler has caught one of the tagged fish.
“We’ve gotten about a 14 percent response (from those tags),” Malchoff said.
The project also includes tagging a certain number of fish with a surgically implanted transmitter, so researchers can follow the movements of bass on a regular basis. About 70 bass have been tagged with the transmitters.
“Fish have traveled as far north as the Canadian border and as far south as the Ausable River,” Mihuk said. “Some stay around the Plattsburgh area, and some move away. They seem to be moving more this summer, however.”
Both Mihuk and Malchoff said it was difficult to determine why the fish are more on the move this year but noted that the condition of the lake is much different than it was a year ago.
Last year, the lake level was well above normal following the record flooding in the spring, but this year, lake levels are below normal.
“We were just commenting on how the lake’s surface would have been 6 feet higher last year,” Malchoff said.
The lake is also much warmer than the two men have seen it become in recent years. Warm water can be more stressful on bass caught during tournaments, which is one reason officials hold summer contests in northern locations like Lake Champlain.
“We’ve also seen that fish are moving out of Cumberland Bay right away this summer,” Mihuk said.
In past years, he noted, bass would often spend at least a week close to where they were released.
Researchers are encouraging anglers to set free the fish with the radio collars so they can continue to be monitored, but if people do decide to keep their catch, they should still contact Malchoff with information on the location of the fish.
Researchers are also measuring the stress that tournament activities have on bass as they move from hook to angler’s boat to weigh-in station and then back to the lake.
“We’ve looked at fish over the last six or eight tourneys,” Mihuk said. “These (tournament) organizers follow good practices in how they care for the fish. They want to preserve the fish, and they work hard to keep the fish in good condition.
“When you look at tourney data, you’ll see that the average weight of five fish caught (the limit for each angler on any given day) is not changing,” he added.
“We have a pretty healthy bass population in Lake Champlain,” Malchoff added.
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HELP WITH RESEARCH
The Lake Champlain Research Institute asks that anglers who catch bass with red or yellow tags on them to contact the institute at 564-3038 or firstname.lastname@example.org to report when and where the fish was caught. The tags do not need to be removed, and fish that are released back into the lake can continue to provide data for researchers.