Oxygen Edge™ – Supercharging offshore live bait with oxygen in livewells for offshore fishing is routine with Southern Kingfish Association and American Striper Association live bait fishermen. Supercharging live bait with oxygen can be the difference between winning and losing competitive offshore fishing tournaments. Keeping tournament baitfish healthy overnight with oxygen ensures high quality live bait ready for early morning action; no wasted time catching replacements for bait that died overnight.
LIVE BAIT SECRETS OF THE PRO’S!
By Gary Caputi
The information in this article is so secret that after you read it we’re going to have to kill you! Well maybe not quite that secret, but close.
When competition is intense and there’s money, new boats, corporate sponsorships and a host of other carrots dangling before their eyes, it becomes compulsory for serious tournament anglers to use every trick in “the book”. However, “the book” is continually being rewritten by anglers who live on the cutting edge of fishing technology and that is one of the truly amazing things about the way tournament competition advances the sport for all anglers.
The introduction of triple engines on tournament boats in recent years is a good example, although one that was accomplished out in the open because it’s pretty hard to hide something that large hanging off your transom. Obviously speed and range are a major consideration to tournament competitors and a couple years ago an enterprising competition angler brought a boat to an event with three V-6 engines strapped to the transom. The extra ponies not only offered more speed, and with speed comes additional range, it also provided a greater chance of making it back for weigh-in should one engine go down under grueling tournament conditions. In short order, tripled-engine boats became commonplace on the tournament circuit and with that even larger boats, up to 38-footers, are now finding their way into the ranks.
Like athletes who used secret training methods to prepare for the winter Olympics held recently in Utah, tournament fishermen are always searching for something new to put them one up on the rest of the field. The most innovative will experiment with new technologies and employ those that prove successful in their competition regime. They will go to great extremes to keep them hidden from the rest of the field and the longer they can keep something a secret the longer they have an edge. The following article will expose just such a technique—literally one of the hottest tricks being employed on the circuit today—that also has applications beyond the tournament fishing arena.
Live Bait Takes Center Stage
You don’t have to be a top-ten contender on the SKA or ASA tournament trails to realize that live bait, be it hardheads, greenies, goggle-eyes, alewives or menhaden, is responsible for more tournament wins than probably all other fishing techniques combined. One of the initial improvements driven by the obvious advantage live bait fishing offers anglers took place in competition fishing boat design. The practice literally spawned a new generation of boats that took live wells from afterthought status to center stage. Today most fishing boats come equipped with two or more large-capacity live wells complete with high-tech pumps and aeration systems. Aftermarket companies developed air infuser systems that pump higher concentrations of fine air bubbles into the live wells in an effort to better oxygenate the water and keep baits in healthier, livelier condition. And it all happened because competitive anglers demanded it.
Top tournament anglers go to great lengths to have a generous supply of live baits available to them prior to the start of each fishing day. Having baits in your wells before the starting gun goes off means not having to search for them during the hours you devote to fishing. More running and more fishing time provides a greater chance at finding the big fish you need to finish in the money. Therefore, catching, or having someone catch, your live baits in advance of the competition and stockpile them overnight has become an important part of a successful game plan. However, you need more than just live bait to get the attention of a big, hungry king or striper, you need quality baits that are in prime condition with undamaged slime coats and the stamina to be frisky on the hook while being dunked or slow-trolled. In response to that need, the quest for better live baits has taken a new and dramatic turn.
Introducing Oxygen Injection
Maintaining baitfish in a typical live well system is difficult and becomes even harder the higher water temperatures become. Catching and placing live baits in a pen or in live wells is a huge stress to the fish’s system. The fear factor produces massive amounts of adrenaline, the natural fight or flight response all animals have when threatened, causing a rapid increase in cellular oxygen consumption in muscle tissue. In raw water or aerated live well systems, the result can be hypoxia—oxygen depletion—the biggest problem you encounter when transporting delicate baitfish. Even if it is not immediately evident, the problem is compounded by you system’s inability to replenish the supply of oxygen in their blood system fast enough. Raw water or aeration simply does not contain enough oxygen to fix the problem. Oxygen depravation results in baitfish that are lethargic and red nosed, that don’t replenish their slime coats and shed scales, that are more negatively impacted by warm water temperatures and, in the extreme, go belly up.
Even the most efficient aeration system operating at peak efficiency can only increase the dissolved oxygen level in live well water by 2.3 PPM (parts per million) in freshwater and 1.3 PPM in saltwater. Saltwater holds 42% less dissolved oxygen than freshwater and that means maintaining high dissolved oxygen levels is even more critical for keeping baits in top condition in a saltwater environment.
Realizing the problems Mother Nature creates for anglers, David Kinser, president of Oxygen Systems of Texas, developed the Oxygen Edge™. The results he has achieved with his unique live well oxygen injection systems have gotten a small click of tournament anglers who have discovered the difference buzzing, albeit quietly. They want to keep the edge all to themselves and who can blame them!
Dave studied the methods of transporting and maintaining fish presently in use by the aquaculture industry and by state and federal fish hatcheries. He was not surprised to find that hatcheries never use aerator systems when transporting fish because they are incapable of providing high enough oxygen levels to fish confined in limit space in tanks. Instead they use homemade oxygen systems made with commercial welding equipment that inject pure oxygen into the tank water. The results were a real eye opener.
Kinser continued his study of both fresh and saltwater fish gaining an understanding of all the factors that can hurt or benefit fish maintained in a closed system, which is just what a live well is regardless of whether it has a raw water feed system, an aeration system, or both. He began development and testing of a system that injects welder’s oxygen in an easily dissolvable form into water that has proven incredibly effective. Today he offers his unique systems to anglers who use them for baitfish transport and maintenance and to a growing number of competitors in freshwater bass tournaments who use oxygen injection in the live wells of their boats to keep their catch healthy for weigh in and release.
Air Does Not Equal Oxygen
First is it important to realize that aerating a live well is not the same as oxygenating it. It doesn’t matter how much air you pump into water or how fine the bubbles are to make it dissolve. Air is made up of a mixture of common gasses of which only 20% is oxygen and, therefore, it can only increase the dissolved oxygen content in water marginally. Welder’s oxygen, on the other hand, is pure oxygen and by pumping a slow trickle of fine, easily dissolved bubbles of it into a live well you can literally push the dissolved oxygen (D.O.) content of the water to super-saturation levels.
Stress causes baitfish to burn more oxygen than under normal conditions. In the wild, baitfish only become stressed when they are being harassed by predators in which case they either get eaten or get away. If they get away, the momentary increase in bodily functions and the high level of oxygen use returns to normal quickly and the fish can replenish the oxygen supply in its blood, muscles and organs from the surrounding water. If they get eaten, their stress levels are reduced permanently so replenishment is totally unnecessary. But baitfish confined in a boat’s live well, with the water sloshing around as it moves at high speeds or rocks in waves, are kept in a stressed condition for a prolonged period of time and that’s why recirculating raw water or aeration systems are not always capable of replenishing what is being lost. Sustained live well oxygen deprivation in the summer always results in disease and death.
The normal level of D.O. in raw saltwater at 86 degrees is approximately 2.4 PPM. By using a high-flow aerator, which creates turbulence, you can push the D.O. level up to a maximum of 3.7 PPM. However, even 3.7 PPM is insufficient for maintaining baitfish health for an extended period, never mind getting and keeping them frisky. At higher temperatures, live well water can become deadly when the D.O. falls below 6.5 PPM.
With the Oxygen Edge™ system in use in a closed live well without an aerator or raw water circulating through it the D.O. meter, which goes up to 15 PPM, is literally pinned off the scale! You achieve a super-saturation of oxygen which quickly replenishes the oxygen baitfish are losing due to stress. You can keep more baitfish in incredible shape in a live well than ever before and do it for longer periods of time. Transporting 2 to 3 pounds of bait per gallon of water is common and they will stay healthy even when water temperatures soar!
The ultimate result is baitfish that are not only revitalized and healthy, but that are literally “supercharged” with pure oxygen and adrenaline and ready to swim the 500-meter freestyle with a hook in their nose or back when they’re put out behind the boat. That sets them apart from the rest of the pack and makes them natural targets for hungry gamefish!
After checking out the company’s website (www.oxyedge-chum.com), I realized I couldn’t describe the supercharging effect that oxygen injection has any better so here it is from the horses mouth.
“Bait tank water supersaturated with dissolved oxygen and breathed by captive live bait fish and bait shrimp produces unnaturally high arterial blood levels of oxygen. High levels of oxygen combined with abnormally high levels of adrenaline affect hooked live baits positively. Pure welding oxygen is a supercharger. Bait tank water supersaturated with dissolved oxygen supercharges live bait like they’re pumped up on steroids. Live well suffocation is eliminated in hot live well water forever.
The Oxygen Edge™ and you accomplish what Mother Nature can’t do. You may now provide the right amount of dissolved oxygen in your bait tank during the summer when live bait experience acute and delayed mortality problems peak. Oxygen deprivation stress in the bait tank cannot occur with The Oxygen Edge™.”
There you have it. The secret some SKA tournament pros like Andy Colson of Deuces Wild Contender/Yamaha team have been keeping hidden under hatches in their boats. They are using oxygen injection to pump up their baits into mini-Arnold Schwarzeneggers that gamefish just can’t resist. But that’s not all oxygen injection can do to help live bait fishermen.
Transporting Live Bait—No Problem!
One of the more difficult aspects of handling live bait is getting them from places where they can be easily caught to where you are going to fish. This problem is common to most live bait fishermen, but particularly vexing for striped bass fishermen who use alewives (blueback herring) for bait. Alewives are only available for a short time in the spring as they make their run from the ocean up rivers and streams into lakes. Throughout much of this time they are not always found in the same areas where fishermen want to use them so they must be caught and transported to temporary holding pens. Transporting these delicate baitfish has proves difficult because they get stressed and die easily. Aerated live bait tanks, even treated with a variety of chemicals, are not 100% effective and can only hold a limited amount of fish for a short period of time.
The problem is eliminated with the use of an oxygen injection system. The Oxygen Edge™ comes with an oxygen dosage chart carefully developed by Kinser that shows you how to control the correct amount of oxygen from his system based on the total poundage of live baitfish you have in a closed tank. It allows you to transport two to three pounds of live baitfish per gallon of water while maintaining and keep them healthy. He provides instructions on using simple additives like potassium chloride, which can be purchased at a grocery store as a salt substitute, to increase the strength of heart and skeletal muscle contractions. It improves overall durability because when baitfish become stressed they lose potassium quickly. He also recommends a product called Ammonia Lock-Out to reverse the effects of ammonia build up in a closed tank. In fact Kinser considers the education process an important part of the service he offers customers who purchase his Oxygen Edge™ systems and he is only a phone call away if you ever need his expertise to help you with a problem.
Beware Home Made Units
Oxygen Edge™ systems are not cheap, but they don’t cost much more than a decent rod and reel and they are well worth their price. Kinser uses an adjustable regulator machined from solid brass that is plated inside and out like a SCUBA regulator. His units are designed to withstand the saltwater environment and are certified by the Compressed Gas Association to their rigid E-4 ignition test requirements. Precision flow control and special tubing cleaned for pure oxygen service are supplied with a large, specially developed diffuser stone that emits tiny bubbles that are easily absorbed. An oxygen tank-refilling adapter is also included with the system. Refilling the portable oxygen tank from a larger shop-size bottle takes about 5 minutes and may be done at home.
Kinser’s units are proven safe, something that cannot be said for homemade units that utilize medical oxygen regulators or that are adapted from systems manufactured for other uses. It is important to realize that any gas under pressure can be dangerous if not properly contained and oxygen is also a fire hazard. A homemade system can be risky to use on board a boat, but Kinser’s systems are completely reliable. He offers portable units and units designed to be installed in boats. Tank refills of welder’s oxygen are inexpensive and readily available so the only investment is the purchase price of the system. Over 180 hours of continuous use costs less than one dollar.
If you’re a live bait fisherman, oxygen injection is the answer to a lot of the mortality or weak bait problems that you’ve encountered in the past and is the pathway to supercharged baits. So now you have to ask yourself whether you want the edge, too. If the answer is yes, you can contact Dave Kinser by E-mail at email@example.com or you can go to his website and read up on the systems at www.oxyedge-chum.com. For those lacking computer skills or a connection to the Internet, you can write to The Oxygen Edge, P. O. Box 383, 131 Kinser Road, Anahuac, Texas 77514 or call Dave at 409-267-6458.
We thank Jack Holmes, President, Southern Kingfish Association for his permission to reproduce and publish “LIVE BAIT SECRETS OF THE PRO’S!”. Angler magazine, April 2002, pg. 6. Angler magazine is the official publication of the Southern Kingfish Association and American Striper Association.
We thank Gary Caputi who wrote “LIVE BAIT SECRETS OF THE PRO’S!” for his permission to reproduce and publish his article, sharing his knowledge, experience and live bait expertise with competitive tournament anglers and sport fishermen worldwide.