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B.A.S.S., Other Groups Urge Action By Corps To Protect Great Lakes

B.A.S.S., along with other hunting, angling, conservation and outdoor industry organizations, supports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to prevent Asian carp from infesting the Great Lakes.

The Brandon Road Lock and Dam, near Joliet, Ill., and below the Chicago Area Waterway System, is a chokepoint to reduce the risk of invasive Asian carp swimming directly into Lake Michigan. The Corps’ “Tentatively Selected Plan” (TSP) proposes a gauntlet of technologies including an electric barrier, water jets, complex sound and a flushing lock to reduce the risk of Asian carp getting through, while still allowing navigation through the lock.

“Asian carp pose one of the greatest threats to the Great Lakes and the world-class smallmouth bass fishery that anglers travel from all over the country to enjoy,” said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. 

 “The Great Lakes are home to many invasive species. Some of those invaders have been worse than others, but just how many more can the system take before it reaches a tipping point and bad things start to happen? Bass fishermen sometimes don’t recognize invasive species as such a bad thing, especially when you talk about the Great Lakes.

“Zebra mussels and gobies, while real problems for industry and shipping, have proved to be a boon to the bass population, but nothing good can come from an Asian carp invasion. These fish have incredibly high reproductive potential, and in short order, can make up the majority of the pounds of fish a body of water can support. They filter out the plankton that is the base of the food chain for everything else, there are few markets for them and no real way to control the population explosion.”

While expressing support for the TSP, the groups in a letter also urge the Corps of Engineers to pursue full federal funding of the $275 million estimated cost, rather than require a local cost share, due to the national significance of the issue.

Additionally, the groups noted that Congress authorized the Corps to prevent aquatic invasive species transfer between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, and therefore the Corps needs to continue pursuing a two-way solution to preventing aquatic invasive species transfer. However, that pursuit should be simultaneous without diverting resources from moving ahead with the TSP.

“Competing interests and politics-as-usual have stalled the closure of the carp pathway to Lake Michigan for too long,” said Gilliland. “It’s been studied to death, and we know what needs to be done. There is just no more time. This needs to be pushed through, or we stand to lose one of this country's greatest fisheries.”

The groups also encourage the Corps to explore Aquatic Nuisance Species treatment technology that can be used in the locks, as well as continuing other efforts to reduce the Asian carp population below the lock and dam.

The Corps issued a timeline with the release of the plan, which estimates a final report in August 2019, at which point it will be up to Congress to approve and fund the project, with a construction completion date of 2025 if there is no delay in approval and funding.

B.A.S.S. is among 50 conservation and fishing industry groups signing the letter of support. Others include the American Sportfishing Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation and B.A.S.S. Nation organizations in Ohio and Michigan.


For The Dog Lovers On Your Gift List . . . 

Santa knows what they want.


For Fish And Fishermen: A Real Shocker . . . 

(The following is from Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen.)

When I became conservation writer for B.A.S.S., the first thing that I learned is that fisheries biologists are an angler’s best friends. In 30 years, I haven’t changed my mind. 

They are the source for information about bass behavior and biology, as well as fisheries management. And it is their field work that enables the states to maintain quality fisheries. Without them, chances are that many of us wouldn’t be fishing.

Electrofishing is one of the most important --- and least understood--- aspects of that field work. Want to learn what electrofishing is all about and how it and help you catch more fish? Ride along.

Rules vary from state to state, but an angler can volunteer to go along on an electrofishing survey in many of them. It’s one of several ways to get to know our best friends. You also can volunteer to help with cleanups, putting out fish attractors, and planting aquatic vegetation. Also, you can assist with kids’ events sponsored by your state wildlife agency and help out in the booth during a weekend outdoor show.

“We encourage people to become involved,” Florida biologist Bill Pouder told me.

You’d rather just fish? No problem. You still can learn what the biologists are discovering during their electrofishing surveys. Oklahoma biologist Gene Gilliland suggests “following along behind at a safe distance.

“Watch what the biologists turn up and make note of the habitat each fish comes from,” he continues. “When they stop to work up the catch, ask them to show you what they are collecting and fill you in on the latest survey results.

“It might surprise you to see what you’ve been missing.”

Gilliland says that electrofishing is fast, efficient, and non-lethal.”

“It allows us to catch large numbers of fish for length, weight, growth, and diet information,” adds Georgia’s Jim Hakala. “It allows us to see how well the fish are growing, weak and strong year classes, average fish size, how robust the population is, and, often, at what size anglers begin to pick up the harvest on a certain bass species.”

What might you learn by riding along on a survey or talking to a fisheries biologist about his work? Sometimes, you uncover something that will help you during a specific season:

Hakala once found frogs in the bellies of largemouth bass in February.

“I figured that the frogs they were eating were starting to emerge from the mud on the lake bottom,” he theorizes. “As they stirred, they became easy prey for the largemouths. So the potential for an angler to throw a sinking frog imitation and be successful in February, when frog patterns aren’t on an angler’s mind, was potentially identified by the diet study.”

Other valuable information is timeless:

“There are many times more bass out there than you could ever imagine,” says Gilliland

He explains that an electrofishing boat can make a pass down a shoreline and then a make second pass, collecting fish that were missed the first time.

“I guarantee that if I can’t shock them all in one pass, you can’t catch them all in one pass either,” he says. “If you catch a bass, fish that area again. That fish was there for a reason.

“Something attracted it to that area and chances are there are more bass in the same vicinity that were attracted for the same reasons.”

The same strategy, he adds, should apply to a single piece of cover. Many likely looking stumps, bushes, and laydowns will yield no fish to the shocker, but one, for no apparent reason, might give up four or five bass.

“If you catch a bass, fish that cover thoroughly, and make it a point to visit that spot again later in the day.”

Fish in thick cover, he adds, often have food in their stomachs. He believes that’s because they’ve been out foraging and have returned to a safe place to digest their meals. Bass in open areas, however, often have empty bellies “because they are actively searching for that next meal.”

To profit from this electrifying insight, throw a fast-moving bait between clumps of weeds and brush, especially during peak feeding periods of dawn and dusk, Gilliland advises.

“On the other hand, trying to entice a bass that has a full belly out of his hiding spot may take a great deal more patience,” the Oklahoma biologist said. “Choose your lures and presentation accordingly.”

And just what are the contents of those full bellies? When Georgia guide Mike Bucca rode along with Hakala, he was startled to see the forked tails of large gizzard shad sticking out of the throats of 4- and 5-pound spotted bass.

“That is likely why swimbaits perform well on big fish. A big fish has the means to routinely eat something large, but doesn’t until that large prey is in distress. Then it pounces,” the biologist says.

Hakala adds that he more often is surprised by how small the forage is. “I think that a lot of times they (bass) select for a certain size prey that is usually much smaller than what they can handle,” he says.

But whether you’re riding in a shock boat, cleaning up a shoreline, planting vegetation, or dropping attractors, the most valuable thing that happens when you volunteer is that you get to know your best friends.

(From Why We Fish.)



Montana's Fort Peck Producing Big Smallies, Including State Record

In the Great Lakes states, smallmouth bass seem to be growing to record sizes by gorging on round gobies, an exotic species. Out West, they seem to be doing much the same thing by feeding on cisco (lake herring), likewise a nonnative species, at Montana's Fort Peck Reservoir.

At least that's the theory proposed by Mike Dominick in late September, after he caught a state record smallie. On a certified scale, it checked in at 7.51-pounds, besting the old mark of 7.4 caught last year by Jacob Fowler at Flathead Lake.

Dominick said that he's consistently caught smallmouths stuffed full of cisco, citing one trip when he caught five fish of more than 6 pounds each and another when he and a companion caught 30 topping 3 pounds each in 1 1/2 hours from the same spot.

"They've got the perfect recipe for growing them, as long as the bait keeps up. I think an 8-pounder will be caught next year," he said, adding that his fish could have been that large had it been caught in the spring, when it likely would be laden with eggs.

And he's surprised that walleye anglers haven't taken a record from the eastern Montana fishery yet. State record is 17.75 pounds caught in 2007 at Tiber Reservoir.

Incredibly, Dominick's trophy, which he released, is just a little more than a pound shy of the state record largemouth, an 8.8-pound specimen caught at Roxon Rapids Reservoir in 2009.

The Montana angler hooked the smallmouth along a submerged rocky ridge with a drop-shot rig on 8-pound test.

"It tried to jump twice, but it was too big," he told the Billings Gazette. "It just stuck its nose out of the water and wallowed around. It was ungodly fat, just an impressive fish."

A serious bass fisherman who drives 9 1/2 hours to fish Fort Peck, he was particularly pleased that his fish tops the current record, caught by casual angler Jacob Fowler from a  Flathead Lake dock, using bait.

"I've been working two years for that fish," Dominick said. "I thought that record was breakable.

"But whether Fish and Game accepts it or not, that's okay. It was the most impressive one I've seen in Montana."