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fishermen on Green Bay sometimes get a bad rap from non-competitive
anglers for supposedly abusing bass in their quest for a big payday.
Even if more than
99 percent of those bass are returned alive — and they have been for
all 16 years of the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament — everyday
fishermen against big-dollar events often claim that even if the bass
swim away strongly, they're stressed and many die within hours or days
Rumors of dead
fish littering the bottom, supposedly seen by divers, or carcasses
seen in the clear water of the Sturgeon Bay Flats in summer only adds
fuel to controversy.
A study this week
by University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate students may end the
Two hundred bass
caught, transported and weighed in the Open — 100 each day — were
transferred to a holding pen in the waters of Little Sturgeon Bay at
Wave Pointe Marina.
As of midweek, not
one had died. Neither did any in a control group of 100 bass netted
last week by the Department of Natural Resources. Those fish were
released earlier this week after being held for five days. The
tournament-hooked bass will be released today and tomorrow.
smallmouth bass are pretty tough fish.
While hundreds of
live bass were being weighed, then revived in aerated tanks Saturday
and Sunday at Sturgeon Bay, many others — caught by non-tournament
anglers using live bait — were being filleted nearby at the Sawyer
Park fish cleaning station.
"I've seen it
happen time and time again," said Sturgeon Bay guide and Sand Bay
Beach Resort owner Dale Stroschein, a former touring walleye
professional. "Those are the guys that are probably doing more
damage than tournament fishermen."
the majority of people fishing competitively today understand the
importance of taking care of the fish.
fisherman is not yesterday's fisherman," Stroschein said.
"It's been pounded home so many times to baby those fish."
manufacturers, too, understand this, he said, moving livewells to the
transom area where the ride is the smoothest. Oxygenated livewells and
manual pickups so fresh water can be added to the system when the boat
is running are other innovations spawned from concern for the fish.
basically in a water bubble, cushioned and protected as they
ride," Stroschein said.
few people make money fishing. Most spend far more on fuel and
equipment than they'll ever recoup in winnings.
fishing is one of the few things that's left today that all ages can
do and have fun," he said. "You see fathers and sons,
husbands and wives, friends. The beauty of that is, people are out
enjoying the resource."
resort business gives him an opportunity to see a number of the
competitors later in the season.
don't want to do anything to harm the resource. They want to come back
here with their families," he said.
Bass are not only
abundant in Door County waters, they're big. After failing to crack
even a 3-pound-per-fish average during the first six years of the
Open, the winning weight has averaged near or more than 4 pounds seven
of the past 10 years, including six straight.
Green Bay's Kurt
Ditzman and Allan Jenkins had the fourth-best average in the 16-year
history of the event over the weekend, including an opening-day catch
averaging nearly 4½ pounds per smallmouth.
The duo used tube
jigs and other baits to coax strikes from fish guarding spawning beds
in shallow water.
"You had to be stealthy," Ditzman said.