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Catch-and-Release Fishing During Spawn Doesn't Hurt Population, Florida Study Reveals

Ongoing research by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), suggests that fishing  beds for the Florida strain of largemouth bass has little, if any, impact on populations--- if those fish are not harvested.

Results "indicated that fish captured during the spawning period contributed significantly to fall recruitment, despite being removed from their nests," reported Nick Trippel and other biologists who participated in two projects.

They added, "Genetic analysis of over 3,249 Florida bass fall recruits collected over two years provided evidence that nest fishing may not significantly impact the number of adults contributing to reproduction or the average number of recruits produced per adult."

In this study, researchers set up hatchery ponds, each stocked with 10 pairs of mature Florida bass. For two years, half of the ponds were fished and the other half were not. If caught, fish were held for one hour and then released. Biologists snorkeled the ponds every other day to document the number of nests made and confirm that the nests in the fished ponds were being pressured.

After the spawn, the ponds were left alone until October, when they were drained and the number of young produced in each was counted. Using fin clips to obtain DNA, biologists determined the parental contribution from each pond.

Genetic results  revealed that fish that were caught off nests still contributed as many juveniles to the recruited year class as did fish that were not caught, they reported. "These results reveal that fishing for nesting Florida Bass likely does not have any negative population level impacts."

In the other study, conducted  on three lakes during the spring of 2012 and again in 2015, they observed nests that were randomly placed in three test groups: never fished, catch-and-immediate release, and catch and hold for one hour, before being released 1,000 meters down the shoreline.

"There were no statistical differences in nest success rates between the three treatment groups: 32 percent for controls, 27 percent for catch-and-release, and 27 percent for catch and hold," the biologists said. "Lake, male size, and brood stage were better predictors for nest success rates than angling treatments were. Nest success was higher for smaller males than larger males."

The length of the spawning season likely helps explain why fishing for bedding bass has little if any negative impact.  Mike Allen, a fisheries expert at the University of Florida, reported graduate student Stephanie Shaw found the average male raises at least two broods a year.

"The long spawning season in the southern states makes this feasible," he said. "It's less likely that males can successfully raise more than one brood in the northern states, where total spawning duration may be only a period of two to three weeks."

Allen added that bass are not "total spawners," as are trout and salmon. Rather, they are "batch spawners," which means their eggs are spread over multiple spawning events yearly. "Genetic studies have confirmed that female bass spawn with multiple males across a given spawning season," he said.

Still, all of this is not to say that bed fishing could not have an negative impact on bass populations in some cases. "Bed fishing that involves a high harvest component may display results significantly different than this experiment (test ponds)," the FWC biologists said.

"However, we feel that results are applicable to bass fisheries around Florida, as the majority of bass being caught, 70 to 99 percent, are voluntarily released and harvest rates are less than 10 percent."

Additionally, they cautioned, the pond study was not designed to measure "deleterious impacts" that might be associated with fishing specifically for trophy bass. 

"However, this study was designed to simulate a worst case scenario in which every nest created throughout the entire spawning season was vulnerable to angling. This is likely not the case in larger public waterbodies with higher habitat complexities."

And finally, here's a revelation that will not surprise many anglers who have been frustrated in their attempts to entice bedding bass: "We also saw that catch rates of Florida bass while on nests were lower than expected, suggesting that Florida bass are less vulnerable to angling than previously thought," the biologists said.


Anti-Hunting Movement Helped by Some Hunters 

Wolves are the most misunderstood and persecuted predator in human history. That's why I wrote Revenge of the Wolf: Sometimes, You Should Be Afraid of the Dark. And that's why I wrote what  follows:

A Field & Stream cover from 1955 shows an attitude that still prevails today among some "hunters" who are quick to point out that they are champions for conservation. Also notice  the title above the art: "Strafing Arctic killers." Now read the comments below, which were posted with it at Instagram, especially the last two.

fieldandstream#tbt This here, is some wild and old-school carnage. On the February 1955 cover, a pack of wolves attacks a caribou, while a hunter guns down the wolves from the bush plane (notice the orange blast from the muzzle...and red blood from the wolf at the top right).

jdnovak97This needs to be legalized in northern Wisconsin

bradklosinski If you were a rancher or a hunter in areas that have wolves you would very clearly understand the importance of harvesting and managing the population. But you have no idea about management or what it's like to have thousands and thousands of dollars taken away because of these animals. If I had it my way I'd kill everyone I see. But yuppie faggots like yourself don't let that happen because there "pretty".@aroundthebend3

anyroadhomeWow @fieldandstream deletes the posts that advocate science and conservation biology??? I had no idea that this company was operated by those that turn a blind eye towards reason and critical thinking.@aroundthebend3

Now let me ask you this: Why were those "Arctic killers" attacking that caribou? For kicks?  For a trophy head mount? No, they are carnivores and they must kill to eat, to survive.

Many human "hunters," such as Brad above, don't want to share.  They are NOT conservationists, and THEY are the ones who have no idea about management.

Wolves should not be allowed to kill livestock indiscriminately, and they should be delisted in states where their number have recovered and their populations managed with hunts. But to say that you'd "kill every one" is the height of hypocrisy for hunters who think of themselves as conservationists. And such comments and attitudes hurt the argument on behalf of hunting as a wildlife management tool among the millions and millions in this country who don't hunt but do vote and influence public policies.

That attitude nearly led to the wolf's extinction in the Lower 48, with thousands shot, poisoned, and trapped by government hunters during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Those same traps and poisons, placed throughout the western wilderness, also killed many other species, including eagles, livestock, and humans.

Now the wolves are back, as our wildlife agencies, at least, have recognized that ecological balance,  not total extermination of a species, is the best way to manage wildlife. Concurrently, we have an epic battle going on for the survival of sport fishing and hunting, as our population becomes more urbanized and less in touch with nature. Hunters and anglers--- many who truly are conservationists--- are pitted against an animal rights movement that is totally ignorant of the outdoors, yet grows stronger and more radical every day.

These people want to stop hunting and fishing. Period.  And people like Brad are among their greatest assets in convincing millions of people who don't fish and hunt to join their side.

If you'd like to learn more about this issue, as you read an action/adventure novel, featuring wolves, humor, romance, a psychotic killer, and a brawl at Bass Pro Shops, check out Revenge of the Wolf: Sometimes, You Should Be Afraid of the Dark, available as an ebook at Amazon.


American Shad Another Reason to Fish Florida Waters

Caught my first American shad today on  Florida's St. Johns River, while fishing with Captain Ron Presley and Dave Burkhardt, owner of Trik Fish fishing line.

Migrating into rivers to spawn, the shad ranges from Florida to Canada, and is a great sport fish on light tackle or fly rod. It's a dogged fighter, much like a smallmouth, and often will jump. Catches of 30 to 40 fish a day are common when concentrations of fish are found and they are feeling cooperative.

Shad start migrating into the St. Johns in December, with the run lasting into February. Largest fish caught in Florida waters weighed 5-3. Farther north, though, they tend to grow larger. World record of 11-4 came from Massachusetts' Connecticut River in 1986.

They once were the most commercially valuable fish in the Mid-Atlantic states. But by the late 1800s, overharvest, pollution, and loss of habitat had decimated the species in many waters. An annual harvest of 17.5 million pounds at the turn of the century plummeted to less than 2 million pounds by the 1970s.



New Book-- Revenge of the Wolf-- by Activist Angler

“Good morning,” the wolf said. “This is a fine, cold morning, is it not?” Its eyes seemed more green than gold in the misty light and its bushy tail, hanging loosely, reflected a relaxed attitude.

Richard cleared his throat, but no words came. He wiped his nose with his hand and squeezed his legs together.

“We looked through many windows before we finally found you,” the wolf continued. “You must have thought that we never would come.”

Richard nodded, finally regaining the gift of speech. “You’re right,” he said. “I never thought you would.

“Exactly what is it that you want anyway?”

The wolf smiled.

Excerpt from my  new book, Revenge of the Wolf: Sometimes, You Should be Afraid of the Dark, now available as an ebook at Amazon. Here's more about the book:

A child is dragged kicking and screaming into the wilderness. Livestock is brutally butchered. Pets vanish without a trace. Something is terrorizing Parkland. That “something” is a pack of wolves, residents believe. The most persecuted and misunderstood animals in history, wolves had not lived in this area of Missouri for more than a century. But just a few weeks before Christmas, they are back.

Only Richard, Bonnie, and Thomas believe the wolves are not to blame. They join forces to speak out for the animals that cannot speak for themselves and find out the truth behind the reign of terror.

 In a unique twist, wolves are the main characters in several of the chapters, as they hunt, court, explore their new surroundings, and care for one another. Ultimately, the man who champions the wolves is, in turn,  saved by the pack that adopts him as one of its own.

 This fast-paced eco-thriller is seasoned with mystery, romance, and humor, as well as a sprinkle  of Native American mysticism and the supernatural.

Robert U. Montgomery is the author of Under the Bed: Tales From an Innocent Childhood; Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature; Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom from Real Fishermen; Better Bass Fishing, and Heart Lights.