Catch and Release Guidelines
- Make sure livewells are in good condition.
- Interiors should be free of rough or abrasive edges.
- Standpipes, drains, and recirculation lines should not pose hazards to fish.
- Livewells used for black basses and walleye should have a capacity of at least 25 liters.
- Start each day with clean, washed, and rinsed livewells.
- Fill livewells to maximum capacity. Fill them early in the day from an open-water location at the angling site. Avoid water from shallows or at sites that are crowded with boats. Watch for low dissolved oxygen levels during early morning hours on overcast days.
- Provide continuous aeration and agitation. These features should be turned on immediately upon filling, before fish are added. Livewells should not be turned off until the end of the fishing day.
- Keep livewell water cool.
- If ambient water temperature is 70°F or more, maintain livewell temperature 5 to 10 degrees cooler.
- If ambient temperature is less than 70°F, maintain livewell within 10 degrees of ambient.
- Pumps and motors can increase water temperature; watch for this.
- Use ice when livewell temperature exceeds 70°F.
- Avoid cooling water too quickly. Adding small amounts at frequent intervals is better than one large block.
- Ice from municipal water sources may release chlorine compounds into livewell, which can harm fish. Make ice from untreated water if possible. If not, boil chlorinated tap water or allow it to stand in an open pan for 24 hours before freezing.
- Ice containing chlorine or chloramines can be contained in bottles or locking plastic bags.
- Do not overload livewell. Five largemouth bass or walleye per well should be the maximum; less if livewell is small or fish are exceptionally large.
- Watch chemical balance.
- Sodium chloride (table salt). About 1/3 cup per 5 gallons is recommended, less in naturally salty waters. Add some at the start of each day and periodically throughout the day to replace salt lost in water exchanges.
- Potassium permanganate. Add 2 to 8 parts per million to reduce organic materials, which helps maintain water quality. Available from aquaculture supply sources.
- Clove oil. Add 25 to 120 ppm when livewells are filled.
- Clinoptilolite or other ammonia-absorbing materials. Use 14 grams/liter to help maintain water quality, especially where continual flow-through circulation isn’t possible.
- Never use commercial water additives unless they are in agreement with FDA and EPA regulations.
Oxygenation of Livewells to Improve Survival of Tournament-Caught Bass
By Randy Myers and Jason Driscoll, TPWD Inland Fisheries Division