Mortality of walleye caught in live-release tournaments: assessment, reduction, and determination of acceptable levels

Research on black bass tournaments indicates that fish die from hook and handling injury, bacterial disease, or undesirable conditions in boat livewells or during weigh-in and release. Most mortality is due to poor livewell and tournament handling conditions. Numerous studies of black bass tournaments indicate that total mortality has averaged 28% during the past two decades. Assessments of walleye tournaments suggest mortality is substantially higher. Three issues must be addressed for the conservation of high-quality walleye fisheries in light of walleye tournaments: (1) accurate estimates of total mortality in live-release tournaments, (2) development and evaluation of procedures to maximize survival of walleye in live-release tournaments, and (3) determine levels of mortality that are biologically and socially acceptable. Our objectives are: (1) determine accurate estimates of total mortality in 12 walleye tournaments, (2) develop and evaluate procedures to maximize the survival of walleye caught in live-release tournaments, (3) determine potential effects of tournament mortality on walleye populations using population models, and (4) determine levels of mortality for tournaments that are socially acceptable. This research will produce information useful to maximize survival of tournament-caught walleye and the effective integration of walleye tournaments in fishery management.