the inception of the fisheries enhancement program in Queensland
some 15 years past, a change in the average fishos attitude has
come about. With the stocking of our inland lakes and rivers came
the inevitable fishing competitions. Many of these early comps were
based on gut and gill concept and run either on a heaviest fish
or on a secret weight system.
a period of time (aided by the Catch and Release cry of greats like
Harro, Steptoe, Bethune and Starling) people saw the need to release
fish to help maintain the levels of fish in our waters. A new breed
of sportfishos was born. The earlier comps that began to encourage
catch and release accepted fish that were bought in a bucket with
the fishes tail sticking out of it and a few with eskies or garbage
bins full of water. The odd setup even had an airator, although
rarely big enough to do the job adequately. Sure a few fish might
have survived but on a whole this was a pretty poor way to go about
there are purely catch and release only competitions and tournaments
where an honesty measurement system is run, or one where competitors
need to bring the fish in for measuring and/or weighing by judges.
The judges may reject any fish that are not in good condition and
penalize for any dead or dying fish. Thus there is a need to keep
fish alive and kicking. The thing that is needed to keep fish alive
is a properly setup livewell.
livewell is part aquarium, part artificial lake environment and
somewhere to revive fish if it is necessary after a prolonged fight
or being taken from cool deeper water into the warm water near the
surface. This is also a factor to consider when using a bilge pump
system to fill or replenish water from the surface.
makes a good livewell? Firstly you need to consider how much water
it holds. The more water the better as increased volume increases
the maximum potential oxygen supply. This also helps to dilute any
waste products produced by the fish. Another important reason to
have a large volume is to enable fish to have room to move without
overcrowding and causing any injuries. Make sure that the livewell
is deep enough for fish to hold upright and not on their sides as
this is an unnatural position and can lead to stress. Also ensure
that no part of the fish are out of the water or touching the bottom
due to low water levels, both of these can cause damage to fish.
Oxygen is the next most important factor. No amount of water in
a livewell will sustain fish indefinitely without a sufficient air
pumping system. I've seen plenty of eskies with a cheep and nasty
battery operated airstone being the only provider of oxygen. These
just don't cut the mustard. A high volume 12-volt air pump attached
to a large bar type airstone is a minimum.
the most popular system used is a submersible bilge pump piped up
to a spray bar that recirculates water from the bottom of the livewell
and sprays it over the surface of the water allowing oxygen exchange
and the release of carbon dioxide and some ammonia. While a spraybar
system does the job it has it's drawbacks in making a lot of noise
(added stress) and can damage the skin and scales on fish due to
the high-pressure jets or sprays.
One of the best bilge pumps on the market is the Keep
Alive Oxygen Infusors. These are a submersible bilge pump with
the added advantage of having an airhose attachment that draws air
into the pump and mixes the water and air together creating micro
bubbles. This system can add up to six times more oxygen to the
water prior to being sprayed back into the tank. In fact it isn't
necessary to pipe the water up to a spray bar as oxygen is added
to the water and recirculated straight back out again and there
is less obstructions in the tank for fish to damage themselves on.
There is also a model the can be mounted externally onto the livewell
so that no obstructions exist. The air hose can also be connected
to an oxygen bottle if one wishes to go the whole hog.
temperature of the water is critical in keeping fish alive. Warm
water cannot hold as much oxygen and also aids in the growth of
bacteria and algae. The air that we breathe contains 20.9% oxygen
and fish are usually comfortable in 0.0008% oxygen. If you halve
the amount of available oxygen, just like us a fish will start to
die. There can be as much as an 8 or 10 degree C difference in the
water that the fish was hooked from and the surface water that is
used to fill your livewell.
to counter act this is to add ice to the livewell water. Not just
ice you buy from a garage, you need to prepare this yourself beforehand
using boiled water that is free of chlorine. If regular store bought
ice is used, chlorine is added to the water as it melts and we all
know what happened to our pet goldfish when we gave them too much
shape of livewells is also important as a round or oval tank tends
to get less wave motion going while motoring. A round shape also
aids in circulation. Having no corners stops the fish from nosing
into a corner and getting stuck there as is commonly seen. A large
percentage of sportfishos that frequent catch and release comp have
the locally made EvaKool/Baileys iceboxes, which they use as livewell.
These will suffice, acknowledging that they are not round but, they
do have good insulation to help stop the water getting warm and
when the lid is closed, puts the fish into darkness also aiding
in reducing stress.
sure that it is clean first, which means no stubbies or food in
there just before you fill it up. Or get a second icebox/esky just
for use as a livewell keeping in mind there are thousands of dollars
in cash and prizes up for grabs at times and you don't want to lose
a fish just so your fourex didn't get warm. Oh and don't forget
to change the water every couple of hours. A well made livewell
will give many years of good service to you and the fish. Maintain
you're investment by cleaning all part including piping upon return
home to stop bacteria and algae growth and allow it to full dry
out before closing it up.
thanks to several US sites for some helpful information.
you on the water. Fitzy..
2000 Garry Fitzgerald. Sweetwater Fishing Australia