• Cooke, Steven J.
  • Dunmall, Karen M.
  • Schreer, Jason F.
  • Philipp, David P.


We studied the effects of catch‐and‐release angling on rock bass Ambloplites rupestris a small but common centrarchid species in North America. A field study of hooking injury and mortality was conducted in Lake Erie at a water temperature of 16°C. We captured fish using one of four terminal tackle types: barbless worm, barbed worm, barbless jig, and barbed jig. No mortality was observed in any of the four treatments even after holding fish for 5 d. Fish captured using worms were hooked more deeply than fish caught on jigs. Fish captured on barbless jigs were unhooked most easily and more rapidly than with all other tackle types, resulting in an average of only 20 s of air exposure. Because they were more difficult to remove from the hook, fish captured on other terminal tackle experienced at least twice as much air exposure. To assess sublethal effects, we measured the cardiac responses of rock bass exposed to 30 s of simulated angling followed by 30 or 180 s of air exposure. These air exposure durations were intended to simulate the conditions faced by fish that were either easy or difficult to remove from the hook. Fish experienced arrhythmia during angling, although overall cardiac output increased. Fish experienced severe bradycardia during air exposure, but after being returned to the water, all fish exhibited elevated cardiac output. Fish exposed to 30 s of air exposure required 2 h for full recovery, whereas those exposed to 180 s of air required 4 h. During periods of cardiac disturbance, increases in cardiac output were due to both heightened heart rate and stroke volume. Our results suggest that hooking mortality did not vary with bait or hook type and that physiological disturbance of rock bass was influenced by the duration of air exposure, as influenced by bait and hook choice. We recommend that anglers attempt to minimize handling and air exposure of angled fish and keep pliers or other hook removal devices readily accessible to facilitate rapid release of fish not intended for harvest.