Lake Mitchell Association members were concerned that while the vast majority of bass taken by tournament anglers were caught in Lake
Mitchell, almost all the fish were released in Lake Cadillac after the weigh-ins. It was believed at least some of these fish should be returned and redistributed in Lake Mitchell.
Last summer a volunteer group of Lake Mitchell Association members attended nine bass tournament weigh-ins in Lake Cadillac collected 268 bass and returned them to various points around Lake Mitchell. The Bass Tournament Release Program was formed in 2007 by the Lake Mitchell Action Committee, a sub-committee of the Lake Mitchell Improvement Board. Once a plan for releasing bass was devised, the committee members needed to procure and equip a release boat. Mark Pentecost, the owner of Cadillac Track and Trail, donated a pontoon boat and motor as well provided the boat registration. To equip the boat, Brent McCumber provided a livestock watering tank while Ron Moelker came up with a battery and a water pump. Craig Hewett offered docking at Four Winns Test Center. Encouraged by the success this year, the bass release program will continue in 2009.
Most of us associate bass tournaments with the roar outboard engines screaming across Lake Mitchell at dawn on weekend and holiday mornings, followed shortly thereafter by the appearance of bass boats off the end of your dock. From their boat decks, tournament anglers toss plastic worms under, and occasionally on top of, docks and boats.
While it may be disconcerting to see folks so close to your shoreline, they are breaking no law and their presence is a boon to our local economy. Yes, the fish they extract from spawning beds or under your dock won’t be returning; they will travel in the angler’s aerated live well to the weigh-in where they will quickly be weighed and then released. Most of these fish swim away, although the vast majority are now several miles from where they started their day.
How a tournament works.
Bass tournaments impose strict rules on participants. No live bait can be used. Absolutely no alcohol can be consumed. All game laws must be observed meaning that no more than five legal-sized bass may be taken by each angler to the weigh-in. There is an incentive to keep fish lively since points are subtracted at the weigh-in for dead or dying fish. After the weigh-in, all fish are released; tournament fishermen never keep fish for their own use.
Most weigh-ins take place in Lake Cadillac, and even when weigh-ins are conducted on Lake Mitchell, at Pilgrim’s Village or the State Park, no fish are ever returned to the north or west end of Lake Mitchell. Research studies conducted with tagged bass at tournaments show that about 2/3 of all bass released after a weigh-in will stay in the vicinity of their release point for months.
Bass are collected from a tournament weigh-in at Kenwood Park.
Al Anderson releases bass into Lake Mitchell near Big Cove.
What is being done to return and redistribute bass in Lake Mitchell.
To try to maintain a natural distribution of bass in our lakes, the Lake Mitchell Action Committee has implemented the following plan based on Part 459 of the Michigan Fisheries Laws, which states that fish must be returned to the lake that they are caught in.
In the spirit of this law 50% of all bass taken to a weigh-in must be released in the opposite lake from which they were caught. Fish released in Lake Mitchell will be returned at one of five locations along the north and west shore of the lake. Each tournament will only use one release point, since each tournament would be assigned a different release point. At the end of season, records will show a roughly even redistribution of tournament caught fish.
Permanent signs stating the law about the non-transfer of fish will be posted at Kenwood Park, City Dock, and both ends of the canal as well as the Lake Mitchell State Park boat landing.
During this year the members of the Lake Mitchell Association will be at weigh-ins to help facilitate compliance with the law and DNR Conservation officers will occasionally stop in at tournament weigh-ins to make sure fish are being redistributed. We are looking for volunteers to help us with this project. If interested contact Dave Foley.