By DAN HEATH
---- — PLATTSBURGH — About 18 dead bass washed up or were floating near the Dock Street Landing boat launch this week.
Leon Seymour of Plattsburgh said he first saw them on Monday morning.
Back at the spot Tuesday afternoon with friend Dave LaMora, he said they believe the dead fish are a result of the FLW Everstart Series tournament held in Plattsburgh July 18 through 20.
That event featured 125 professional anglers and 125 co-anglers.
“This is a catastrophe to us,” Seymour said.
While 18 or so dead fish might not seem like a lot to people, he said, who knows how many more turned up elsewhere along the shores of Lake Champlain or didn’t wash up at all?
The Everstart Series is a catch-and-release event, with the fish being returned to the water after weigh-in.
LaMora thinks the fish are stressed while they are kept in live wells on the boats, sometimes from the time they are caught as far away as Ticonderoga and then brought back to Plattsburgh.
He says more damage occurs as they are placed in large bags as anglers wait in line to weigh their catch, even though the bags are kept in tanks of circulating water.
“There’s got to be a better way from time of catch to time of weigh-in,” he said.
‘DOESN’T MAKE SENSE’
Tournament Director Ron Lappin said he doesn’t believe the dead fish are tied to the recent contest. He said there were six to 10 in the area near the boat launch all week at any given time during the event.
He said they used two $200,000 release boats equipped with state-of-the-art systems to provide cool, oxygenated water as the fish were taken for release well beyond the breakwater at the Plattsburgh Boat Basin.
“We’ve got the best equipment in the business,” he said.
It doesn’t make sense that the fish could wind up back at the launch site, due to a southerly wind and the strong current at the mouth of the Saranac River, Lappin said.
The FLW even has an employee stay in the area to watch for any “delayed mortality” incidents, and none were reported.
The health of the fish in any lake is of prime importance to the FLW, he said, as that is part of what makes for a successful tournament.
PROPOSED CATCH LIMIT
Seymour and LaMora said they aren’t opposed to bass tournaments and the revenue they generate for the region but want to see more care paid to the health of the fish.
Gary Golden, also of Plattsburgh, said he met one of the tournament contestants at a local gas station. That angler told him he had caught as many as 80 fish in a day as he scouted locations on the lake.
Seymour said he would like to see a limit on the number of bass that tournament participants are allowed to reel in daily. LaMora said that, as a long-time lake guide, he realizes the importance of quality fish.
“I’ve heard more than once that these FLW members fish all over the country and they have never fished a better lake than Lake Champlain,” he said.
“I’m sure none of them want to see what we saw here today.”
Email Dan Heath:email@example.com