Fishing in a Sauna
Fishin' in an Sauna: How to keep your fish and yourself alive in oppressive heat.
June 29, 2012 was the hottest day in recorded history in most parts of Tennessee. The official temperature reached 109 degrees, although I heard reports anywhere from 105-115 degrees. When I backed the Triton down the ramp at 5:00 AM it was a cool 75 degrees. That didn't last long. It was in the triple digits by 10 AM and just got hotter all day. What’s worse, was there was not a puff of wind all afternoon. I took out about 4 PM after a toasty 11 hour day on the water and headed for the pre-tournament meeting.
Being outside for 11 hours under these conditions should not be entered into lightly. My phone was alarming all day with excessive heat warnings stating to stay inside. Yet, we crazy bass fishermen often still venture out in it. The right choices can make an extremely hot day on the water bearable, the wrong ones, can be deadly. I fish a lot of tournaments with air and water temperatures above 90 degrees. I feel like I have a system that works well for keeping me cool and healthy, and keeping my bass happy and alive.
Keeping yourself cool:
Tip #1- Dress for success:
A few years ago I was watching the Elite Series on TV and saw Shaw Grigsby covered head to toe, facemask and all, to protect himself from the sun. At the time, I thought it was a little over-kill, but I’ve come to understand that not only does covering your skin protect you from sunburn, it is actually much cooler.
I've always been a long-sleeve guy in summer tournaments. It keeps me from getting sunburned, it keeps me cool, it also keeps me from having to continuously apply sunscreen. I have several very lightweight, breathable, long-sleeve shirts with an SPF 50 rating. Last year I bought a "buff" for my neck and face. It's a little goofy-looking and takes a some getting used to, but at the end of a long day on the water, I’m not red-faced, I’m not hot, and I’m actually cooler during the day. I recently took the plunge and bought some sun gloves as well. The main reason I did that was so that I wouldn’t have to keep putting sunscreen on my hands. I love the gloves! All you have to do is get them wet and they keep your hands feeling very cool. After a day of fishing, they are a little stinky with fish slime, but that is a minor problem and usually a good sign too. A good wide-brimmed is also a good idea. Although if you wear the buff, you are keeping the sun off your face and neck.
Tip #2- Hydrate, then hydrate some more:
A couple years ago I fished an August tournament on Kentucky Lake. The temp was in the mid 80s at take-off and around 100 by weigh-in time. The humidity was 192%. When I picked up my co-angler that morning he got into the boat with two 1-liter Mountain Dews. This could be not good. I didn’t think too much about it, because I had about 25 water bottles, so I could share some with him. About 12:30, he sat down and said, “I don’t feel too good.” He was red all over and said he felt sick. “How much water have you had today?” I asked. His response was none, just two Mountain Dews. That was a recipe for disaster. I offered to take him to the dock, but he said he would be OK. I made him drink several water bottles to cool his body down.
When it is excessively hot, you must keep yourself hydrated. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. My rule is that I drink a bottle of water every time I start the big motor. If I move 10 or 15 times during the day, that keeps me plenty hydrated. Drinking water quenches your thirst, but it also cools the body. Sodas and energy drinks are a bad idea in oppressive heat, they just dehydrate you more. I’m not a Gatorade guy. There is so much sugar in most sports drinks that they make me feel sick. However, sports drinks do provide hydration and electrolytes that help the body stand extreme heat.
I often get some strange looks idling in at weigh-in time. Usually the guys that are making fun of my goofy mask and gloves are red-faced, sun-burnt, have been drinking Dr. Pepper all day. I feel fresh. They look like they’ve been smashed by a beat truck.
Keeping your Bass Alive in the heat:
Tip #1- Oxygen is key.
Why do fish have trouble in hot livewell? Lack of Oxygen. The hotter the water, the less oxygen in the livewell. There are several aftermarket systems that add oxygen to livewells. The most popular is probably the Oxygenator. This system claims to create pure oxygen in the water. The negative to the oxygenator is that there are reports that it can create toxins when livewell additives are used, especially those with salt. I am not a chemist, so I won’t enter that argument. I do know that makers of the Oxygenator don’t recommend using chemicals other than their own with their system. I use a T&H Pro Air system. While this is not a pure oxygen system like some others, it constantly infuses air into the livewell via air stones. I’m sure the T&H system is not producing as much pure oxygen as some systems, but I don’t worry about poisoning my fish if I add livewell chemicals or salt.
Tip #2- Keep the temperature under control.
There are arguments both ways on the use of ice in livewells. I’m not going to present date from a number of scientific experiments, but I will say what works for me. I use ice in moderation. Too much ice will affect the bass adversely. I add a big hand full or a chunk off an ice block about every hour. As a general rule of thumb, I don’t want the water to feel cold, but I don’t want it to feel like bath water. I carry a soft-sided cooler full of ice. If time allows, I’ll freeze lake water in gallon zip lock bags to take along. That can be challenging when you don’t have access to a freezer, so if I must I’ll use standard ice bags.
Tip #3- Keep them upright.
When you look in the livewell and see fish on their side, it is usually an air-bladder problem. Especially when you use ice to cool the livewell, I have found that fish tend to float more. Learn how to “fizz!” There are a couple different methods and if you do an online search, you will see demonstrations. I use a needle in the fish’s throat. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s hard to miss. I have had people tell me, “But I caught these 8’ deep, I don’t know why they are on their side.” I’ve had to fizz fish I caught 5’ deep before. Something about changing temperature affects the air bladder. If they are on their side, I have found no way to fix it other than releasing air from the bladder.
I have not weighed in a dead fish in three years (and yes, for you smart &%$’s, I have weighed in some live ones), since I started using this system. I’m not saying it is right for everyone, but it works very well for me.
If you venture out in the heat the rest of the summer. I hope some of these tips will be useful. Maybe this blog will help save a bass or two, or perhaps even a bass fisherman.
Until next time,
Keep chunkin’ and windin’
Boat US ANGLER ProStaff
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