Understanding the Chemistry of Fish

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Bass Lab

Smallmouth Bass are schooling ambushers by nature. The fact that these bronze beauties congregate together can be used to the advantage or disadvantage of the the creek, river, or lake angler. Once a smallmouth is located it is easy to assume there is more then one fish at that particular location. So why is it after one fish is caught and released no more of those vicious predators are revealed from the same spot? Smallmouth are equipped, as with many species of fish, with a biological response to predators. Chemical cues are released from the smallmouth to alert other fish in the area of the presence of a predator. In 2002 the researchers Brian Wisenden, Kieth Vollbrecht, and Jason Brown, in their journal Is there a Fish Alarm Cue? Affirming Evidence from a Wild Study, concluded that most all species of aquatic life are equipped with chemical response cues to danger. To most old timers this information comes to no surprise. Plenty of creek and river anglers correlated that releasing a smallmouth back in the water tended to turn the bite off. It didn't take scientific evidence to convince anglers to keep smallies on a stringer until the spot was tapped out. Of course this is a very touchy practice nowadays, but there are ways to keep chemical cues from turning the smallies off in your secret fishing hole.

Fishing tactics

Schools of smallmouth bass,especially in a small creeks, may be found ambushing from beneath the same rock. So for an angler to release a smallmouth only to swim back under the same rock to exude predator cuing chemicals to the other smallies seems a bit counter-productive. But what else can be done? It is not recommended to keep fish on a stringer until the angler decides to move to another spot. The angler also needs to avoid keeping the fish out of the water for a long duration, so taking the fish to the next riffle or away from the key feeding area for release may be out of the question as well. So how does an angler deal with the predicament of knowing where fish are but not wanting to ruin the spot? There may be no right answer but here are some suggestions to help anglers make the most of their smallmouth honey-hole.

  • Try a live well or a cooler with a portable aerator, such as those offered from KeepAlive , to store small fish for a short duration until the fish relaxes.
  • If the spot is no longer producing fish, move to another spot close or have two locations to fish in conjunction with one another
  • Handle all caught fish with care to lessen the amount stress and secreted chemicals
  • Simply wait for the chemical cues to dissipate away from the nearby fish --wait for the bite to turn "on" again.
  • Live bait tends to negate the response nearby fish have to chemical cues. Using live bait on a congregated school of smallmouth will sometimes facilitate the school's feeding response.
  • Use two different lures and presentations. If the fish are turned "off" from a released fish don't desensitize them to the effective lure --crucial in small creeks.

Fishing Fun

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Comments 2 comments

magnoliazz profile image

magnoliazz 8 years ago from Wisconsin

Excellent hub! You really know your fishing! You should be writing for Field & Stream!


estopher profile image

estopher 8 years ago from Bainbridge, Ohio Author

This is an article I wrote and I did send a query to Field and Stream..and In-Fisherman...I probably could have gotten it in Fur-Fish-Game but I hadn't worked for them when I wrote this (I have an article pending for them now)...But Thank you

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