She’s still your personal best, even if she’s out there getting bigger!
With the new coastwide slot-limit for striped bass now in place, it’s possible that you may have to release your fish of a lifetime! The question arises are you going to release your bass boatside? Or bring the bass into the boat for a quick measurement, photo, and then release?
Any of the bass you catch in the 40-inch range could fit this bill for many anglers. For others it is going to be 50 inches or more. This is going to be a personal decision each angler will have to make.
To release the bass boatside, have the rod man reel the fish in until it can be reached. With the rod man controlling the head another person will reach down with a pair of long needle-nosed pliers to remove the hook. If necessary, a third person can assist by holding the leader. You can do this with the boat in or out of gear.
If you are going to bring your bass into the boat to get a measurement and a photo this poses a dilemma, as now you will need to net the fish and take it out of the water. Knowing how to net the bass properly will come into play to minimize physical stress and harm. One problem I often see is that many anglers just don’t have a big enough net. They reach for the bass and it ends up hanging over the sides of the net and doesn’t fall into the bag. You need a large diameter hoop, a minimum of 28 inches across at its widest point. However, many of these nets have knotted nylon netting that can cause physical damage to the fins, scales, slime coat, or get caught in the gills. It would be best to use a net that is knotless, coated, or has soft mesh.
Only the net man should tell the rod man how to play and maneuver the fish. This would mean when to let the fish run, when to reel down, and when to lift and pull. Too many times everyone on the boat starts yelling at the rod man and it only becomes confusing and nerve-racking for that person when staring down at a monster bass.
To net the fish correctly, wait for the rod man to have the fish in position. Then quickly scoop down under the head and body and lift the net up. Don’t just hold the net out expecting the bass to swim into it. Also, I place an elastic band around the net handle and use it to secure the net bag to the handle. When I lift up on the bass the elastic will slide off or break and the bass will fall into the bottom of the bag. I use an elastic on the hande because it will prevent the bag from pushing into the bass’s face when I stick the net into the water. This will keep any hooks, especially trebles on plugs, from getting tangled in the net that can cause a problem or prevent the bag from opening.
From this point it is important to get the bass back in the water as quickly as possible. Carefully slide the net out from under the bass and take your measurements. For a weight estimate within 5% you can use the formula length x girth squared/800. The length measurement is to the fork of the tail not the tip of the tail.
To pick up the bass for a quick photo wear gloves and do not to hold it vertically except to quickly lift it. You will want to cradle the bass horizontally. Keep your fingers from making contact with the gills at all times. After the photo, place the bass in the water in an upright, horizontal position. Do not move it back and forth. Instead, to get water through its gills, make sure its mouth is completely submerged. Hold it with one hand under the belly and one hand on the tail. If it is not exhausted, it should swim away quickly.
If the bass needs further assistance you can put the boat in gear and hold it by the lower lip with the mouth completely submerged. This will force a good amount of water through the mouth and over the gills.
Do not let the fish go until it is able to swim strongly and freely out of your grasp.