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Bits & Pieces: Angler's Elbow, Muskie Mortality, and Bass Repellents

Blending fishery science with everyday fishing.

Bits & Pieces: Angler's Elbow, Muskie Mortality, and Bass Repellents

This article originally appeared in the July 2022 issue of In-Fisherman.

Fishing Fitness: Angler’s Elbow Relief & Prevention

Tennis elbow is a common source of elbow pain, and is often caused by overuse activities such as office desk work, painting, racquet sports, or, for anglers, repetitive casting and retrieving lures over long periods of time. For fishermen, this condition is often called “anglers elbow.” Symptoms can include swelling or tenderness around the elbow, especially where tendons attach to bones on the outside of your elbow, and decreased grip strength.

Here are a few exercises to help relieve elbow pain and also to help prevent it from recurring. If you feel pain during any of these exercises, stop immediately.

Towel Twist—All you need is a small kitchen or bath towel to perform this exercise.

Two hands squeezing a rolled up towel.
The Towel Twist.
  • Roll up a towel and hold it lengthwise in front of you, with one end in each hand.
  • Twist the towel as if wringing water out of it, moving your hands in opposite directions.
  • Use slow, smooth movements. Avoid quick, jerking motions.
  • For an added benefit, focus on squeezing the ends of the towel with a strong grip to help improve your grip strength.

Wrist Curls and Extensions—These exercises can be performed with very little weight to be effective.

A hand holding a dumbell.
Wrist curls and extensions.
  • Place your arm on your leg or arm of a chair for support.
  • Turn your hand palm up and curl your wrist up.
  • Your arm should not move during the exercise.
  • Repeat the exercise with your palm facing down and extend your wrist up.  
  • You can add weight by holding a light dumbbell or even a water bottle. Avoid the tendency to lift with your arm, especially when using a heavier weight. Focus on form, not how much weight you can lift.
A hand holding a dumbell.
Wrist curls and extensions.

Forearm Twists—This is a great rotational exercise that helps build forearm strength.

A hand holding a dumbbell.
Forearm twists.
  • As in the previous exercise, place your arm on your leg, chair, or table for support.
  • Hold a light dumbbell at one end with one hand vertically, so your palm faces down on top of the dumbbell.
  • Rotate your forearm until the dumbbell is in a horizontal position and your palm faces inward.
  • Keep your elbow and arm fixed throughout the exercise.
  • As with the previous exercise, avoid lifting with your upper arm and/or moving your elbow.
A hand holding a dumbbell.
Forearm twists.

To help prevent elbow pain, use a heating pad for 5 to 10 minutes to warm up your elbow, then lightly go through your normal casting motion without a rod. Technique is extremely important, not just for casting great distances and improving accuracy, but for preventing injury as well. Practice making smooth casts while avoiding jerky movements. Focus on using your hips, torso, and shoulders to help you cast, as opposed to quick wrist and elbow motions. Let the bigger muscles do most of the work.

–Scott Hotaling

Scott Hotaling is a certified personal trainer. See more on his Training Basically channel on YouTube, or visit trainingbasically.com.




Field Science: Muskie Mortality in Summer

A muskie held in the surface of the water.

Muskie anglers have sometimes observed that attempts to revive muskies caught after a tough battle in warm-water conditions have been challenging or even a failure. As with trout, some conservation-minded anglers even refrain from fishing for them in hot conditions. Biologists have not had any solid data on this problem with which to potentially make management decisions.

So over the past two seasons, researchers at Coastal Carolina University, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, and West Virginia Department of Natural Resources have conducted a study on catch-and-release mortality of muskies caught in the upper James River. They implanted radio tags in 45 muskies in 2020 and 50 in 2021 and also attached external tags to alert anglers.

With help from local muskie anglers, they tagged half of the sample in July through August when river temperatures often crest 80°F. When a tagged fish was subsequently caught, they followed it for several days to see if it survived release. Muskies were lethargic in the warm river and summer catch rates were low, even for livebait and night-fishing. Muskies tended to cluster near cool-water refuges such as the mouths of cooler creeks. The team was able to calculate summer release mortality around 33 percent, which was additive to a natural mortality of 7 percent during that period.

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With computer modeling, they then calculated the predicted effect of a closed season for that period. They calculated that based on study results and the level of summer muskie fishing there, a closure would not increase the likelihood of fish surpassing 40 or 45 inches. They concluded that mortality is decidedly higher for fish caught and released from warm water. But because summer catchability and fishing pressure are low, a closure would bring no population-wide benefits.

–Steve Quinn

From The Lab: Bass Repellents

An illustration of a fish with a clothespin on its snout chasing a lure that's a bottle of deet.

At Berkley Fishing’s biology lab in Spirit Lake, Iowa, longtime and now retired lab director Dr. Keith Jones conducted research on how to make fish bite. His findings have keyed development of Berkley’s PowerBait and Gulp! formulas. Along the way, he’s also tested products that are far from attractive.

“The most repulsive materials are insect repellents that contain DEET,” Jones says. “This substance seems to repel about everything that swims, crawls, flies, or runs. Bass detect it at concentrations less than 1 part per million. Touch­ing a lure after applying DEET renders it repulsive for well over an hour.

“Detergents and soaps also are offensive to fish, and their surfactant properties can damage fish’s gills. Bass also reject some food preservatives, particularly those derived from benzene. The active ingredient in many sunscreens—PABA; p-aminobenzoic acid—also repels bass.

“On the other hand, some substances widely considered repulsive to fish actually are not. The amino acid L-serine, found in human skin, spooks salmon, but has no effect on bass. We’ve also offered bass food dipped in motor oil and gasoline, and watched them gobble it up.”

–Steve Quinn

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