The fishing trip was going fantastic. My buddy Austin Abadie and I were catching bass after bass on small Academy H20 Xpress square-billed crankbaits during one of my vacation days.
I’ve been told my vacations and my work look a lot alike.
Anyway, a particularly vicious strike prompted me to set the hook again, and I pulled a 1 1/2-pounder out of a submerged tangle of wood.
By the time I got my hand on the bass to unhook it, blood was streaming from under its gill plate. Sure enough, the rear treble of my lure had snagged the fish’s gills.
That fish was as good as dead. Or so I thought.
Abadie took the bass after I unhooked it and gave me an order I thought was awful strange.
“Hand me that Mountain Dew out of the ice chest,” he said.
I just stared out him, wondering why he needed a little sugary pick-me-up at that particular moment.
“It’s right inside the lid,” Abadie prompted, bleeding bass still in hand. “It’s the only one in there.”
Still puzzled, I handed him the 20-ounce bottle of Dew, which Abadie tucked under his arm before twisting the cap off with his free hand.
The fish was still bleeding all over the place.
For the life of me, I still couldn’t figure out why Abadie was 1) still holding that fish and 2) had a sudden hankering for that cold drink.
But instead of putting the bottle to his mouth and guzzling a big sip, Abadie poured some of the drink into the bass’ maw.
The yellowish liquid poured out of the gills, washing the blood away — and no fresh flow of blood replaced it.
The bleeding stopped instantly.
“I’ve been carrying that Mountain Dew around just so I could try this,” Abadie said. “I saw a video or something with (Bassmaster Elite Series pro) Gerald Swindle talking about how Mountain Dew will stop the bleeding.
“I’ve been dying to try it.”
It was amazing, but I still figured the bass would turn belly up. So we put the fish in the livewell as a test (and I also was taking home a few fish for dinner). We kept it separated from other bass so we could easily identify it at the end of the trip.
Several hours later, we finished out the day of fishing, trailered the boat and drove an hour back to Abadie’s home.
There, we transferred the bass I had kept to an ice chest.
And when Abadie pulled out the once-bleeding fish, it was flopping around mightily trying to break the angler’s grip.
I couldn’t believe it, but the fish was alive and well. And there wasn’t a drop of blood coming from the injury.
So what’s the key? Dunno.
Abadie postulated it could be the citric acid in the drink.
A quick Google search reveals conflicting opinions (though none based on scientific research). Some contend the citric acid causes the capillaries within the gills to shrink, while others say phosphoric acid in drinks like Coca-Cola will do the same thing.
No matter the reason, though, it’s obviously a way to save gill-hooked fish from certain death — whether you’re releasing them or trying to keep one alive for weigh-in.
Be sure and watch the attached video to see how well the trick works.
For more tricks on keeping fish alive, click here.