The current minimum size limit on bass in Ireland is one method used for the stock management of the species from a recreational standpoint. Most anglers who retain fish observe both the size and number limits. The addition of a maximum size might help improve the fishery even further and enhance the management of the fishery based on a slot size.
As the popularity of bass angling increases and anglers operate within the current restrictions on a take basis, it may impact on the distribution of the type of fish we will have in our waters. Currently the minimum size for killing fish is 40 cm’s. The fish population over 40cms includes both male and females, but larger fish tend mostly to be female. If there was to be say an increased tendency to take larger fish then we could be left with a greater population of smaller male fish over time.
The introduction of a protective slot limit would prevent the keeping of mid-sized fish, whilst allowing the capture and retention of both smaller and larger fish. Catching fish below the protective slot may take advantage of the greater number of small fish, which would then allow mid-sized fish a better opportunity to survive and grow out of the protected size range.
I realise there are huge pressures on bass stocks at the moment – spear guns, illegal netting, commercial pressure, taking of bass beyond the legislated restrictions by anglers, lack of enforcement and even increased recreational activity.
As the protected mid-sized fish continue to grow, they eventually become the large fish. A further restriction of the retention of one such large fish in a 24 hour period might be further considered as an increased enhancement of the stock management. As anglers we would like the increased opportunity to capture the ‘fish of a lifetime’ – slot size management might help to increase the overall numbers of larger fish and the opportunities to capture that elusive mystical creature.
These pressures are all taking their toll – the continued removal of the population of breeding females could impact negatively on the species too.