How Long Can Bass Live Out Of Water? Catch-N-Release Basics


Since bass is not a particularly favorite fish to many, a big part of the bass anglers prefers to Catch-N-Release the fishes. If you are not going to eat the catch, it is undoubtedly the best option to release the fish.

This way it can continue its fish life and do what fishes do. You can probably wait a minute to take a photo, or two, or a few. But how many photos can you take without suffocating the fish? How long can bass live out of water?

In a sense, a fish out of the water is the same thing as a person underwater. Both will eventually die of suffocation. But fundamentally, they are not the same thing. Above water, a fish will survive longer than you’d survive underwater.

On an experiment, bass survived above water for up to 15 minutes and still recovered on their own when released.

How Long Can Bass Live Out Of Water FI

How Long Can Bass Live Out Of Water?

Catch-N-Release is a widely popular practice in fishing, especially for bass. The reason is simple. Since the fish is not going to be consumed, it’s the best thing to do to let the fish continue its life and reproduce for the next season.

The wound heals in a few days, and the fish probably forgets the experience even sooner. Why? Because fish have the brain of a fish(?). Hehe, you can understand why Bass fishing is so popular? Anyway, here’s more detail about releasing the fish.

How Long Can Bass Live Out Of Water

Why Do Fishes Die Above Water?

How long a fish will live above water is related to why fish die above water. For us humans, we die underwater because when we run out of breath, we cannot control the urge to inhale.

Since we are underwater, we inhale water and fill our lungs with it. Water is denser and heavier than air, so the inhaled water collapses our lungs cells, making us completely unable to breathe.

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It is the opposite process for the fish above water. Since fish live underwater all their lives, their gills have high internal blood pressure to counter the external pressure composed by the water.

The two pressures balance themselves out. When a fish is pulled out of the water, The external pressure is neutralized, but the internal pressure remains. This causes the gill cells to explode.

This is the prime cause of fishes dying above water. Suffocation comes much later. It easily takes over 10 minutes of being above water for a fish to start suffocating.

The structure of the gills for different species of fish is different. For some species, the structure of gills is strong enough to hold. Some fish species have adaptations that allow them to linger longer above water without, well… dying.

Why Do Fishes Die Above Water

Unfortunately, No bass species have them.

Other factors are their metabolism rate and the oxygen level in their body. The colder the region is, the slower the metabolism rate of the fishes. Bass, being cold-blooded, highly depend on the environment and adopt highly based on the environment.

So, the same species, say a black bass, fished from Canada will survive longer on average than one fish from Mexico.

Oxygen level in their body also plays a crucial fight. The longer you fought the fish before pulling it out, the more oxygen is used up before even coming out of water. Hence, it will not live nearly as long compared to one that was pulled out fairly quickly.

How Long Can Bass Live Above Water?

As I mentioned above, the bass does not have any particular adaptations for breathing oxygen from the air. The only way they can get oxygen in their body and release carbon dioxide is through their gills.

Bass is a moderate-temperature fish. Their metabolism rate is fairly high in the fish kingdom. Also, bass put up a significant fight before you can pull them out of water. All things considered; the bass dies relatively quickly above water.

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One thing they have going for them is that they have sturdy gills. Their gills don’t collapse or explode rapidly. So, in most cases, bass dies of suffocation, being unable to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.

The southern bass usually takes around 15-20 minutes before reaching the end. Whereas the northern bass can hang in longer, around 20-30 minutes, sometimes reaching over an hour. As I said, there are a lot of factors that come into play.

Whether the fish can recover or not is another thing. If you catch a decent size bass after an impressive fight from the region of Florida, you should probably finish your photoshoot and return the fish to the water within 5 minutes.

Because the fish has already been exhausted, and the longer it stays out, the more chance it will go in a shock and would not recover once released. In comparison, you could wait a little longer for the perfect shot if you caught the same fish from Canada.

In general, the bass can return and recover after about 10 minutes of being out of the water. It can “live” much longer, though. Don’t be shocked if you see the bass alive even after about half an hour of catching it. Although, if you release the fish then, it’s probably already in a shock and will die anyway.

In the ideal situation, a bass can theoretically survive well over an hour out of the water, almost closing two hours.

How Long Can Bass Live Above Water

What To Do After Catching A Fish?

Frankly, you decide what to do with it. If you are planning on eating it, you should store the fish somewhere safe. Popular methods include –

  • Keeping it in a tank or bucket with a little water.
  • Attaching a stringer and lowering it in water.
  • Putting it in a wire mesh basket or net and keeping it in the water.
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Either way will suffice. The fish will stay alive and fresh, and you can bring them home when you are done fishing.

Or if you are not planning to eat them, then you should take the picture with it if it is worthy and release it as fast as possible. Do not keep it around unless you need to. The longer you are keeping it out of the water, the more torture it is for the fish.

What If The Fish Struggles Or Looks Very Bad After Releasing?

This can happen when the fish fought up to its limit before you could pull it out, and you didn’t release it very fast. In this situation, leaving the fish may cause its death. To ensure the fish survives, you may need to perform fish CPR.

Well, that’s just a fancy term. All you need to do is lower the fish under the water and move it back and forth. It’s best if you can hold its operculum open. The fish should recover.

Final Words

Even if a fish can survive 10 minutes above water, that doesn’t mean you should do that. Imagine finishing a sprint and being forced to hold your breath underwater. Surely nobody would like that. It’s the same experience for a fish. It’s best to release the fish ASAP unless you are keeping it.

But is it okay to catch and release a fish? Yes, it is okay. The wound will heal in a few days, and the fish will forget about it relatively soon. They don’t have sharp memories as some people like to fantasize about. Please be humane toward the fish and have a good one.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>