Release of fish captured by recreational anglers is a common practice due to angler conservation ethics or compliance with fisheries regulations. As such, there is a need to understand the factors that influence mortality and sub-lethal impairments to ensure that catch-and-release angling is a sustainable practice. Longer angling times generally contribute to increased stress and mortality in fish such that reducing these times putatively reduces stress and improves survival. However, the relative importance of fight intensity (rather than simply duration) on fish condition is poorly understood. The objective of this research was to examine the effects of fight intensity on physiological stress and reflex impairment of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). The largemouth bass were angled using conventional recreational fishing gear in May (water temperature ~12°C) and June (~22°C) of 2014 in Lake Opinicon, Ontario, Canada. Fight intensity was quantified using tri-axial accelerometer loggers mounted on the tips of fishing rods. Upon capture, reflex impairment measures were assessed, and fish were held for 1 h prior to blood sampling for measurement of physiological stress (blood glucose and lactate concentrations and pH). Physiological stress values showed a negative trend with fight duration and total fight intensity, but a positive trend with average fight intensity. Water temperature emerged as the most important predictor of the stress response in largemouth bass, while fight duration and intensity were not strong predictors. Reflex impairment was minimal, but higher reflex impairment scores were associated with elevated blood glucose. Overall, the findings of this study suggest that angling for largemouth bass at colder temperatures (<15°C) causes greater physiological stress than at warmer temperatures (>20°C). Based on our findings, we conclude that fight intensity is likely not to be a major driver of physiological stress in this species using typical largemouth bass angling gear, owing to the relatively short fight times (i.e. <2 min).

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Keywords Accelerometer, Angling, Fishing, Largemouth bass, Reflex impairment, Stress physiology
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Journal Conservation Physiology
Brownscombe, J.W. (Jacob W.), Marchand, K. (Kelsey), Tisshaw, K. (Kathryn), Fewster, V. (Victoria), Groff, O. (Olivia), Pichette, M. (Melissa), … Cooke, S.J. (2014). The influence of water temperature and accelerometer-determined fight intensity on physiological stress and reflex impairment of angled largemouth bass. Conservation Physiology, 2(1). doi:10.1093/conphys/cou057