The problem with catch and release

SPECIAL Dr. W. Vaughan McCall, of Augusta, and Pat, his guide, show off the 45-inch long northern pike Vaughan caught on the Cree River out of the lodge of the same name in Saskatchewan Province, Canada. He was fishing with a spinning outfit and a large Johnson silver spoon with a trailing white curly tail worm.

How many times have you been fishing on Thurmond Lake and caught a quick limit of stripers and hybrids? That’s the daily limit of 10 per fisherman, either all stripers, all hybrids or a combination of both totaling 10.


You didn’t want to leave the lake after just 30 minutes or an hour on it, so you decided to practice catch and release. But there is a problem you probably didn’t think about:

With 10 fish in the boat, the next one caught is technically over the limit so you are breaking the law. My friend, professional fishing guide Billy Murphy, saw a man who had limited out do just that. There was yet another problem of his own making:

The hybrids he was catching and releasing were dying after he threw them back. The reason was oxygen levels too low to support fish, even after they were chasing schools of shad to the surface. Their time was limited in the sub-surface strata. They’d swallow some shad and quickly return to the oxygen-rich depths.

The stress of being caught, handled and then thrown back into the lake proved to be fatal for this man’s fish.

“You could follow the trail of dead fish all the way to his boat,” Murphy said. “He should have quit fishing for schooling fish, gone after largemouths or crappie, or gone home.”

That man also was lucky no conservation rangers were in the vicinity. Evidence of his guilt was floating all around his boat.


Raysville Marina, (706) 595-5582 – Shannon Godowns caught shellcrackers and catfish off our docks. William Hawkins caught 15 crappies on minnows.

Capt. David Willard, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed, fulltime professional guide specializing in hybrids, striped bass and trophy largemouth bass. Boat phone: (706) 214-0236. (803) 637-6379 ( – Water temperature has dropped into the low 80s and the expected high winds should force our first turnover. The fish are still scattered. You have to be patient, but we’re picking up a few in the 40-to-50-foot range. I’m also seeing some schools of small fish, but they’re not staying up very long. We’re basically on hold until after the hurricane.

Billy Murphy, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed guide specializing in striped bass and hybrid bass. (706) 733-0124 – Surface temperatures are falling into the low 80s and the lake is mostly clear. The schooling fish are up and down quickly so it’s hard to catch them. We have been trolling lead-head Super Flukes and Storm swim baits. Each day, it seems to us the fish are getting bigger. Biggest fish we’ve netted weighed 5 pounds. We are having fun catching them on light tackle. Glenn Tanner tried tolling a deep-diving bait with our Flukes and swim baits and picked up a 16-pound striper. Also fishing with me were Larry Freeman of Grovetown and Jim Thouvenot of Evans.

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William Sasser’s Guide Service, (Capt. William Sasser, Capt. Bradd Sasser, Capt. Andrew Tubbs, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed, full time professional guides specializing in crappies, hybrids and striped bass). (William) (706) 589-5468, (Bradd) (706) 267-4313, (Andrew) (803) 507-5083 – Bradd – Water temperatures are cooling into the low 80s and we’ve even seen some high 70s. Conditions on the lake will certainly change after the expected high winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Irma’s remnants early next week. The fish are bait fish beginning to move up in the water column. Surface activity is steadily on the increase, with schools of small fish spotted just after daybreak. Some of the more prominent schools have been seen towards Parksville, the north end of the Georgia Flats, the mouth of Georgia’s Little River and up that river near Cherokee and Moseley creeks. They are moving fast so keep a Super Fluke handy, or you can troll various jigs like bucktails or Lil’ Fishies. Some folks are trolling live herring behind planer boards, but we prefer fishing live herring on downlines in 25 to 35 feet of water off humps and shoals. If you like to catch blue, channel or flathead catfish, if you mark fish 40 to 50 feet down, dropp a live herring and you’re almost guaranteed to catch “Mister Whiskers.”

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Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, (843) 838-2530 – Capt. George Tangalos and his crew on Miss Lea boated a 37.06-pound king and won the annual Labor Day Fripp Island Kingfish Tournament. Runners-up were Capt. Maci Dawn and crew on Little Lure with a 29.08-pound king. The two-fish aggregate weight prize went to Capt. Billy Powell and crew on Baby Ruth with a 39-pound total. Capt. Richard Dozier and crew on Done Dealing won the Spanish mackerel division with a 4.08-pound fish, with Capt. Kyle Godly and crew aboard Full Circle second with a 2.08-pound fish. Chef Dee Doolittle was thanked for a great cookout and other thanks were tended to fundraisers Bob and Carlene Rogan and general support from Scott Corley, Bill Rouch and Rodney Hinton and families as well as Sea Island Marine.


Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 ( P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, Ga. 31410-0771 – We’re asking all our fishermen friends to stay away from the coast this next weekend because of the imminent threat from Hurricane Irma.



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