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Robert Montgomery

Why We Fish

Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies

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Friday
Jan192018

The plastic worm (and its many cousins in assorted shapes and sizes) seems to be the only bait that bass do not learn to avoid. Probably that is why it remains the most used artificial bait by anglers of all abilities.

---- One of the many "secrets" in Better Bass Fishing: Secrets From The Headwaters By A Bassmaster Senior Writer. Available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Friday
Jan192018

Despite Carp, Sport Fish Thriving In Illinois River

In recent years, the Illinois River has gained notoriety for  huge numbers of Asian carp that have taken over portions of this waterway. Bigheads and silvers have crowded out native species, and the latter's tendency to jump when frightened has made boating dangerous.

But there's a bigger and better revelation about the river in general that's good news for both native species and anglers. Populations of largemouth bluegill, catfish and other sport fish are at the highest levels in more than a century.

That recovery is directly attributable to implementation of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) in the 1970s, according to a recent study.

“The biggest single negative change that happened to the Illinois River in the 20th century was the opening of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1900,” said Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) researcher and fish biologist Daniel Gibson-Reinemer, the lead author of the study.

“After that, a lot of the untreated sewage from Chicago started flowing right down the canal and into the Des Plaines River, which is the headwaters of the Illinois River.”

Before that, the Illinois had been a remarkable resource, providing 25 percent of the total value and 15 percent of the total catch of all commercial fisheries in all rivers of the Mississippi Valley, even though it accounted for just 2.6 percent of the total length of the rivers.

But all those sewage-related nutrients spawned an overgrowth of microbes that depleted the river's oxygen, suffocating fish and other aquatic life, according to INHS aquatic ecologist Richard Sparks, a co-author of the study. A "dead zone" spread slowly from north to south, as hydrogen sulfide gas bubbled up from the bottom, bringing with it sewage fungus and other decaying matter.

INHS scientists have been studying the Illinois River since before the canal was built and, in 1957, they began to establish monitoring stations. Sparks joined the team in 1972.

“Back then, the only fish we were picking up were carp and goldfish, and it was awful seeing these fish,” he said. “They had tumors; they had eroded fins. They had various diseases, including what was called ‘pop-eye disease,’ where the eyes enlarged and just fell out of their eye sockets."

The CWA also was passed in 1972, and the slow recovery began. Since then more than $3 billion has been spent on reservoirs and tunnels in and under Chicago to capture the city's sewage and stormwater runoff. By the late 1980s, researchers saw sport fish coming back dramatically.

 “In the late 1950s and the early 1960s, very close to Chicago, about 97 percent of the fish that we caught were common carp or goldfish. Those are invasive species, they’re not native, and they’re really pollution tolerant,” Gibson-Reinemer said.

Today, those same species make up less than 3 percent of the researchers’ catch.

“If we lump all the sport fish together, we are now catching between 100 and 300 fish per hour now in those same areas, where in the 1950s and 60s, we were basically catching none,” he said.

Sparks added, “What we found in this new study would be no surprise to any biologist: If you clean up the environment, your fish and game populations will be better off.

"What is unique about this study is that, thanks to decades of research, we can document this in a scientifically robust way.”

Scientists from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Illinois Department of Natural Resources also participated in this study, which received financial support from the federal Sport Fish Restoration program.

Thursday
Jan182018

Thursday
Jan182018

Huge Tilapia Caught In . . . Tennessee?

The Nile tilapia is exotic species from tropical Africa. It shouldn't be able to survive the winters in Tennessee. But in one reservoir, it is. And the fish are reproducing and growing big. Photo shows the state record on rod and reel, 7 pounds. 6.6 ounces. Bow fisherman took one that weighed 9 pounds, 8.4 ounces..

How is this possible?

Remember what mathematician Ian Malcolm said in "Jurassic Park," when scientists told him that dinosaurs wouldn't reproduce because they were all genetically engineered to be female?

"Life, uh . . . finds a way."

Yeah, Tennessee anglers have a new fishery, but what does this say about the possibility--- even the likelihood--- of other exotic species, including piranha, becoming established in places where they shouldn't be able to survive? And this is not the first time something like this has happened. Another tropical exotic is established in a South Dakota stream, believe it or not.

I'll have an conservation feature coming up about this in B.A.S.S. Times and then later at Activist Angler.

Monday
Jan152018

Check Out NAPRA's 'Why We Fish' Essay Contest

Click here for information about contest and National Association of Professional River Anglers. Contest is open to the public.

With a respected reputation nationally, NAPRA is a wade-fishing tournament circuit based in Ohio, with focus on the Mad, Great Miami, and Stillwater rivers.

Why We Fish has 38 five-star reviews at Amazon.

Here's one of them:

"I read this book about 1/2 way through, then ordered 4 more. I gave them, as gifts, to friends. Some of the contributors are folks I hold in very high regard, as well as Mr. Montgomery himself. I keep referring back to certain passages occasionally, primarily to gain insight from someone else's perspective. I do recommend this book. My friends have thanked me several times."