- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 28, 2009

The way I interpreted a report in ScienceDaily, a Rockville based Web magazine, largemouth bass aren’t the brightest knives in the drawer and they’re kind of vulnerable to being caught.

So what’s new about that?

If you enjoy having a good chuckle, Web sites occasionally provide it.

The story isn’t terribly revealing, but how many bass-crazed loonies out on the Potomac River know that after 20 years of research conducted by the University of Illinois it was discovered that “vulnerability to being caught by anglers is a heritable trait in largemouth bass.”

OK, in the style of Homer Simpson, let’s have one big “Duh!”

Listen, Illini researchers, could it be that the largemouth bass simply is a glutton and that it will eat whenever possible, or at the very least attack some kind of object he believes to be alive and might threaten to invade its territory?

The university researchers said that among a group of carefully recorded catch-and-release anglers, many fish were caught more than once. One bass was caught three times in the first two days of the study; another was hooked and released 16 times in one year.

What the researchers said they proved is that most bass display a “heritable trait” for being caught. They are genetically disposed to do so. The descendants of female and male bass that had been repeatedly hooked also developed a habit for chasing after lures and getting caught as they grew older. The laboratory crowd called this High Vulnerability (HV), as opposed to a smaller number of fish not fooled by the fishermen - Low Vulnerability (LV).

I think the whole idea of HV and LV is a bunch of malarkey. Most of the bass that are available in a body of water might be caught; lesser numbers evade the efforts of fishermen. But one thing is sure: The bass aren’t alone in being greedy and going after artificial lures, inherited trait or not.

What would the researchers say about gluttonous bluefish, stripers, white and yellow perch, redfish, etc. Are they vulnerable because of a “heritable trait?” The list is wide open, and even among humans the similarities are astonishing. For example, my father and mother liked barbecued ribs, so now I do, too. Could that fall under the rubric of scientific discovery?

On a separate note, the university study appeared to be against catch-and-release bass fishing during the spawning season. It said that if a male bass - who guards the nest after a female lays her eggs - is hooked by an angler and is kept away from the nest for no more than a few minutes, other bass will quickly enter the area and eat the fry. Such findings run counter to what we’ve been told numerous times by money-hungry tournament fishing groups who believe that catch-and-release fishing absolutely is not harmful because the bass swim back to their lairs and continue to live as they did before they were caught.

The Illinois study also urged fisheries officials in the various states to come up with protective measures for bass during the annual spawning season, or at the very least cancel the public weighings of fish far away from where they were caught. For example if a tournament is held and a spawning female or male is caught they should be released on the spot. That, of course, would remove the contest organizers’ and anglers’ bragging rights and showing off catches. Fat chance of that happening.

The study also suggested doing something that a few of us local anglers thought of years ago: setting aside special areas to protect bass during their annual spawning time. With the help of several bass-fishing guides and fellow anglers, I was involved in asking the Maryland DNR to bring this about. The tidal Potomac River’s Gumtree Cove in the Nanjemoy Creek and the large Linton Cove inside Chicamuxen Creek are off-limits during the spring’s bass-spawning days.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected] Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/ sports.

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