Management policies related to catch‐and‐release (CR) angling of smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu vary widely across the geographic distribution of the species. Some jurisdictions, principally in the northern latitudes, prohibit or limit angling efforts that target nesting male smallmouth bass, whereas angling during the nesting period is generally unregulated in southern jurisdictions. Existing studies of individual‐level angling impacts on nesting smallmouth bass have primarily been conducted in the north; thus, the extent to which these findings are relevant to other regions is unknown. In the current study, we sought to systematically evaluate the rates of nest abandonment by nesting smallmouth bass subjected to common angling practices (CR treatment: Brief angling and no exposure to air; air exposure [AE] treatment: Exhaustive angling and 3 min of AE) and tournament practices (simulated tournament [ST] treatment: Exhaustive angling, 2 h of live‐well retention, and 3 min of AE prior to release) across a latitudinal gradient encompassing virtually the entire south‐north range of smallmouth bass (i.e., southern Missouri [MO], southern Ontario [SON], and northern Ontario [NON]) and compared these treatment groups with nonangled controls. We also quantified the extent to which physiological disturbance associated with angling varied across latitudes (peripheral populations [MO and NON] versus the intermediate‐latitude population [SON]). Whole‐blood lactate and glucose levels were highest in fish subjected to ST conditions, indicating increased stress; this pattern was conserved across all latitudes (although there was some evidence of intraspecific variation in stress response). Additionally, the pattern of brood abandonment was similar among fish at all three latitudes; ST fish exhibited the highest rates of nest abandonment (MO: Control = 9.1%, CR = 0%, AE = 9.1%, ST = 100%; SON: control = 10%, CR = 10%, AE = 10%, ST = 50%; NON: control = 7.7%, CR = 0%, AE = 9.1%, ST = 50%). Interestingly, fish from the most southerly latitude, where regulations are the most liberal, abandoned nests at higher rates than did fish from the other latitudes. Collectively, these data reveal that the reproductive success of individual smallmouth bass can suffer from interaction with anglers, particularly in a tournament context, regardless of the region. Further study is needed to determine the extent to which individual nest success is relevant to recruitment and how this relationship varies across latitudes.
Conducted angling experiments, blood samples, snorkelling surveys