Although much is known about the factors that influence the effects of catch-and-release angling on fish condition and survival, relatively little is known about the effects of fishing gear strength on fight time and, hence, fish condition. Moreover, little is known about how gear strength and fight time interact with air exposure duration to ultimately influence the level of exhaustion experienced by fish at time of release. Here we systematically varied fishing gear strength (ultralight versus medium-heavy) and air exposure duration (0 versus 120 s) when targeting Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides. We relied on reflex impairment (using five different reflexes) as a real-time indicator of fish condition. Largemouth Bass fight durations were highly variable between fishing gear types and across fish sizes. Largemouth Bass captured on ultralight fishing gear experienced longer fight times, and there was a stronger positive relationship between fish length and fight time than for those captured on heavier fishing gear. However, fish captured using ultralight gear were easier to handle upon landing and thus experienced shorter hook removal times, which may result in less air exposure in actual angling scenarios. Fish captured with ultralight gear had significantly higher reflex impairment than those captured with heavy gear with no air exposure, while fish captured with both gear types had similarly high reflex impairment when exposed to the air. These results indicate that gear strength does influence the level of exhaustion experienced by Largemouth Bass. However, fish that are landed quickly are so vigorous that handling and hook removal are challenging. We submit that there is likely a compromise where neither ultralight nor ultraheavy gear (always relative to the size and species targeted) is appropriate. Moreover, our findings emphasize the importance of minimizing air exposure, particularly for fish that are exhausted already from a protracted fight. Received December 29, 2015; accepted June 24, 2016 Published online September 30, 2016

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Journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
Cooke, S.J, Cooke, C.J.A., & Brownscombe, J.W. (2016). Ultralight or Heavyweight? The Interactive Effects of Gear Strength and Air Exposure on Reflex Impairment in Largemouth Bass. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 145(6), 1202–1207. doi:10.1080/00028487.2016.1208116