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Spawning Beds - To Fish or Not To Fish

by: Lloyd Tackitt 2/1/2013

For most fresh water fish the following is basically true. 

Male builds nest.  Female deposits eggs.  Male fertilizes eggs.  Female leaves.  Male remains to guard eggs and fry when they hatch and afterwards for a time.

The male is up against the whole world during this time.  Everything wants the eggs and the fry for dinner.  Minnows, other fish, crayfish, large fry eating small fry and eggs of second hatch, even insects eat the eggs...everything that eats wants those eggs and fry.   Eggs are also at risk of not hatching due to fungus and being covered by silt and sediment.  The male fans the eggs to prevent this when he's not chasing predators away.

An unguarded nest, even for a moment, draws predators that rapidly eat the eggs/fry.  The male has to protect the nest from 360 dgrees of danger.  Chasing a predator off in one direction leaves the nest exposed from the other three directions.  Fish dart in and eat as many eggs as possible until chased off by the male.  While chasing those predators off others move in, and on it unguarded nest can lose hundreds of eggs per minute.  Be wiped out in mere moments.

So, now the question.  Is it okay to catch fish off of a nest?  If caught and kept, its eggs or fry are goners.  If caught and released the nest can be severely damaged during the male's temporary absence - and in many cases catch and release causes the male to abandon the nest completely due to stress.

The most succesful hatches come from the nests of the largest males.  The larger males are more aggressive and more likely to be caught. 

The aim of most anglers is to catch the largest fish possible.  During the spawn is fishing a nest self defeating behavior?  Do we deprive ourselves of more fish in following years?

What's your opinion?


Blog content © Lloyd Tackitt
Member comments
Flyrodn, CO   2/1/2013 10:54:13 AM
In my mind it depends on the water, species, and how that water is managed. In Colorado, very few waters have sucessful walleye spawns due to lack of spawning habitat, so it really doesn't matter. For bass in large impoundments there is little evidence to support banning bass fishing the beds as so many get missed by anglers and it takes few to maintain the population. Having said that, on small ponds with limited habitat, I think the bedding areas should be protected. So my answer is it depends and the angler should think through each situtation. Personally, I think we should avoid fishing spawning fish.
cookster, CO   2/1/2013 11:09:40 AM
I love fishing bass beds in Texas but the trick is to put them back and not on the stringer. In Colorado i don't play until after the spawn.
tracks, CO   2/1/2013 3:11:46 PM
I'll fish Bass pre spawn in smaller ponds but I will move away from the beds during the spawn, there are other things that can be caught in the middle of the lake and away from the beds. There's always bigger lakes....
elkinthebag, CO   2/1/2013 3:11:51 PM
I hit the big females during the gill spawn then vise versa. Hit the gills when the bass spawn kinda relieve the pressure on them in the smaller lakes I fish
smalliefan, CO   2/3/2013 9:59:30 PM
You really have to know the situation. Generally I would leave them alone. But I have some ponds on a farm and if the population is off and there are two many bass, this is one tool to restore balance. Same thing if there are too many bluegills. If you are trying to reduce bluegills, you can catch males on nests, but you also need to let them go. It gets complicated, but big males suppress breeding bay small males. Bluegills are so prolific that it really takes a lot to affect a lake or pond that is overrun by small ones. But if you don't know for sure what to do, the safest route is to leave them alone. Public waters are harder to understand and to manage because management changes take so long to make and the fishermen have a wide range of actions and ideas. And most fish are less prolific than bluegills so mistakes have lager effects.
Riffling Hitch, CO   2/4/2013 6:08:48 AM
IMO Completly wrong, these wonderful creatures when at their most vunerable should be protected and respected. Let nature take its course and nature will take care of us!!!
l.c.j.bait, CO   2/4/2013 7:57:02 AM
no no no
NEfisher, CO   2/5/2013 3:58:15 PM
Aspects of this are still hotly debated in the fishery science world. Even some of the most respected researchers cannot come to a consensus about the population-level effects of angling male largemouth bass of their nests and many forms of research are ongoing. To illustrate this point, in the current issue of the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, there are a comment and response about a study published in 2011 called "Evaluating the potential for stock size to limit recruitment in Largemouth Bass" So we can argue our personal opinions about angling individual males off nests here and the ethics of it. But in terms of coming to a conclusion about whether it leads to depensatory or compensatory mortality and how that affects the overall bass fishery, the jury is still out.
Coyute, CO   2/5/2013 4:04:41 PM
The question I have is do I flip the tube or the creature bait. :)
Lloyd Tackitt
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