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Secrets That You Should Know About 'The Bite'--- Part 3

These are but a few of the secrets in "The Bite" from Better Bass Fishing: Secrets From the Headwaters by a Bassmaster Senior Writer. Here's a link to the book at Barnes & Noble. Also, Amazon carries it, but often is sold out. As of 7/29, it had two left in stock.

Secret: Many anglers believe that Florida strain largemouth bass are more difficult to catch than northern strain. If that’s true, it’s probably because most of the waters in the Florida strain’s natural range are shallow. That can make for some awesome fishing when conditions are right.

           But it also means you’ll get the cold shoulder when trying to catch them during or just after a cold front. Without deep-water refuges where they might be more inclined to bite, Florida bass often move in tight to protective shallow cover during cold weather and become very lethargic. Just about the only way to provoke a bite during such times is to drop a jig or soft plastic bait on the fish’s nose.

          Even in deeper waters of Texas, Louisiana, California, and other places where they have been introduced, Florida strain largemouths still tend to “shut off” more completely during cold weather than do their northern counterparts.

Secret: Sight is the most important sense for a bass in finding food. That’s why, when given a choice, it will move to clearer water to feed. And that’s why you should seek it out too, especially in fisheries where most of the water is stained or muddy.

          The late bass pro Ken Cook, a former fisheries biologist, has this to say about how bass see: “Underwater, a bass’ eye is far superior to the human eye, probably so much better that we can only imagine what its capabilities are. Some studies have indicated that bass can see up to 12 times as well in muddy water as the human eye can in the same conditions.”

Secret: But also check out muddy or stained water pouring into a lake, especially if it is warmer than the main body of water. The runoff contains insects, which attract forage fish and, they, in turn, attract bass.

Secret: Bass often will follow this discharge of warmer, stained water out into the lake, and you should too.

Secret: Sometimes, muddy water is just on the surface, with clear water below. For instance, that can happen when a smaller, rain-filled tributary empties into a larger stream. Sometimes you can catch bass that are using the surface mud as ambush cover.     

More "secrets" about the bite upcoming at Activist Angler.

Check out all my books at Amazon.



Tournament Winnings Help Bass Pro Whitmire Provide Clean Water for Those in Need

Bruce Whitmire, father of five, grandfather of nine and U.S. Air Force veteran, has one purpose when it comes to fishing -- and it’s not collecting trophies. Whitmire has dedicated his life and his fishing career to raise money to provide clean, safe water for people in East Africa.

Twenty-two years ago, Whitmire and his wife traveled to East Africa on several mission trips. That's when he realized how many families relied on women and children to travel many miles carrying  buckets on their heads so that they could have water. The bucket that is supposed to bring health and life to families, however, is often the bucket that also brings disease and death, because that water often is contaminated.

This reality was a shock to Whitmire, who grew up in East Texas.

“When you see children sick and hurting from water-related diseases and you know how to help them, you must invest yourself in the remedy of their suffering,” Whitmire said.

And that’s exactly where his journey began.

In 2009, Whitmire founded Global Water Partners, a non-profit organization that provides clean, safe water to people in need living in developing countries. That water is provided by drilling wells, at no cost, for millions of people living in the underprivileged areas throughout East Africa.

The organization, which drills wells, is funded by individual and corporate donations, as well as the profits Whitmire receives from fishing the B.A.S.S. Open circuit and Fishers of Men tournaments. He chose fishing as the vehicle for fundraising because of his pure passion of the sport.

Today, Whitmire tells the Global Water Partners story before each tournament and during weigh-ins.

 He is aided in his mission by Mercury, one of his sponsors.  

“I have fished all over the USA and I can always count on my Mercury Pro XS to work hard, sip fuel, produce the power to get me out of the hole, and the speed to get me there and back on time,” Whitmire said.

“Mercury plays a vital role in providing clean water to the people who need it most."


Too Many Mouths to Feed and Not Enough Food

Sometimes, a fishery can have too much of a good thing--- including bass and other predators

That's the case for Greers Ferry Lake, prompting the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) to provide a supplemental feeding for all those hungry mouths.

“It was evident in the crappie, largemouth bass, walleye and hybrid striped bass we sampled that there was not enough forage to support the predator population,” said Tom Bly, fisheries supervisor at the AGFC’s Mayflower office.

 “There are many minnows and bream species in Greers Ferry, but gizzard shad and threadfin shad are the dominant forage species. Just about everything eats them.”

And there were not enough of them.

As a consequence, AGFC stocked 37,000 threadfin shad this past spring, both as an immediate food source and as brood stock for rebuilding the population of the baitfish. Cold winters during 2014 and 2015 caused high mortalities of these smaller shad, which die when water temperatures drop to the low 40s.

"Threadfin shad are a subtropical and southern temperate fish that prefer warm water," Bly added.

Often, threadfin can find refuge in deeper water, that but that wasn't the case this time. Biologists failed to find a single fish while sampling during 2015.

The biologist added that management strategy for Greers Ferry has shifted to bolstering the forage base, with threadfin stocking continuing from a commercial hatchery until the population shows signs of recovery. Additionally, nursery ponds will be used to grow minnows and bluegill, as well as threadfin.

"We also will not stock any predators until the forage population recovers," he said. "This includes largemouth, spotted, and smallmouth bass, walleye and hybrid striped bass. Once forage recovers, we will stock these species in a manner that lends itself to a more sustainable fishery."


Bass or Carp, Which Species Is Smarter?


If you're an angler who believes that sometimes you get "outsmarted" by those wily ol' bass, I have some bad news for you.

Carp are even "smarter." That's right.  The bottom feeder disrespected by so many is no dummy.

"From my years of experience in observing bass in the laboratory, I would have to rank them around the middle of the intelligence range: definitely smarter than trout (at least hatchery trout) but dumber than carp (no insult intended — carp are smarter than you think!)," said Dr. Keith Jones, who has long studied fish behavior for Berkley.

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"The common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are indeed among the smartest freshwater fishes, if not THE smartest," said another source. " They learn well for fish. They have the longest complex learning retention of all fishes tested."

Seriously, though, it's impossible to measure fish "intelligence" in any way comparable to the way that it is measured in humans. Rather, we watch how they behave in nature, and, more importantly, in laboratories and just their response to various stimuli.

As I reveal in Better Bass Fishing, you’re just outsmarting yourself if you try to “out-think” bass. Yes, bass are capable of learned behavior. But they definitely aren’t the “Einsteins” of the fish world. Carp and bluegill rank higher in laboratory tests. Most importantly, though, bass (and other fish species) don’t “think” and they aren’t “smart.”

Rather, bass are selective as to food, cover, and water, and, each spring, they are driven by the biological imperative to spawn.

Those anglers who are smart enough to recognize those needs and respond accordingly, are the ones who catch the most and largest bass.  They look for water and cover that they have learned is attractive to bass during each season of the year. They learn the migration routes that fish take to those locations. They observe what bass are feeding on and try to offer baits that are similar in appearance.

Although bass are not smart, they do seem to learn to avoid some baits. That why new baits--- and new colors, to a lesser degree--- seem to produce better than older styles. For a while. We saw it happen with buzzbaits in the 1980s and soft jerkbaits in the 1990s. Now, it's happening with swimbaits.

(Check out all my books here.)

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And here's an interesting take from the World Fishing Network:

The IQ of fish varies greatly depending on the species. It varies even further depending on individuals within any given species. Anglers need to look at the species that they are targeting for known traits and advantages that could make them more difficult to catch.

Fish can learn to avoid specific lures and noises made by anglers. In order to continue to be successful, anglers need to try new lures and colors on a regular basis. An effort should also be made to fish new areas and to make as little noise as possible.

Fish intelligence is hereditary and they can be bred to be easier to catch. Anglers should care take when harvesting fish in order to avoid selectively breeding intelligence. Smaller fish, whether intelligent or not, haven't had the chance to learn to avoid lures. Therefore, they make a better choice for harvesting.

Whether you are catching fish or not, it is unlikely that they are outsmarting you. Their intelligence is very limited. You just need to work around what they may have learned.

Where do carp and bass rank in intelligence on a planet with more than 30,000 species of fish in our ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans? We'll likely never know that.

But some scientists suspect that the top of the class are of the marine variety.

"In general, cartilaginous fishes (sharks, skates, and rays) have higher brain-to-body mass ratios than bony fishes, as well as most cold-blooded vertebrates. And manta rays have the largest brain size of any cartilaginous fish, although we don't know why," reports one website.

"What we do know, though, is that they're very curious. They also somehow perceive humans as 'special.' Along with marine mammals, they are among the very few animals known to seek out human contact for reasons other than food. Some of them have even been known to let humans ride on them. Preliminary evidence even suggest that they could recognize themselves in mirrors, putting them in an extremely small group of animals."

And Thom Demas, curator of fishes at the Tennessee Aquarium shared this interesting observation on the same site:

"I don’t know that there is a clear answer to this question but here is a personal experience from my time working with fishes.  The common hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus, has proven over the years to be a very aware and observant fish. 

"I have kept many of them and while I have never looked into brain to body percentage for this animal, it clearly displays behavior that seems just a bit above that of many other fish I have worked with

"From observing my daily work (the hogfish was doing the observing) to following me around (moving in the tank to be nearest me--- presumably because of curiosity).  I know, you think it probably just wanted food and that’s what I thought. 

One day I fed the fish until it would no longer eat and then went back to my work.  I recall seeing that fish follow me around with a piece of food hanging from its mouth and more on the bottom of the tank being ignored; that convinced me there was more going on. 

I had one that would allow you to 'pet' it while on SCUBA in the water with it.  Many fish are evolved to display lots of complex behaviors or accomplish many things we could interpret as smart but the common hogfish will always be one of the smartest fish in my book!"