Whitney (Jacobs) Della Torre is the first recipient of the Noreen Clough Memorial Scholarship for Females in Fisheries.
As the first female regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and later as the conservation director of B.A.S.S., Clough blazed many trails in fisheries. Her long and distinguished career was dedicated to the conservation and management of fish and wildlife. Along the way, she served as a mentor to many and a revered colleague to countless others. Noreen passed away in January 2015 from pancreatic cancer.
As a tribute to Noreen’s impact on careers and lives and for the good of the resources she helped conserve, friends and colleagues established an endowment to provide a scholarship in her memory to a female student working toward a career in fisheries conservation. This year there were 29 applicants representing 19 different colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada.
“Noreen felt that the issues debated in state legislatures and in Congress were where we stood to make the most progress in protecting our natural resources,” said Gene Gilliand, B.A.S.S. conservation director. “This scholarship continues her legacy by encouraging students to get involved in the policy world where they can make a real difference.”
Della Torre worked for U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia after she finished her undergraduate studies and became interested in natural resource policy. She returned to school and received a master’s degree from the University of Georgia, studying environmental science.
While completing that degree, Whitney worked part-time for B.A.S.S. as Noreen Clough’s intern, assisting in various aspects of the conservation agenda and helping with every facet of Conservation Summits put on at the 2012 and 2014 Bassmaster Classics.
Whitney said of Noreen, “The first time I met her she gave me career advice that I will forever cherish. She told me to make my work relevant.”
Noreen’s mentorship inspired Whitney to follow that passion for environmental science and policy and enter law school at the University of Florida, where she is completing her third year. Whitney recently accepted a job offer as an associate at an environmental law firm in Birmingham, Ala., where, following graduation, she hopes to be involved with aquatic and natural resource issues, while volunteering her service to the B.A.S.S. Nation.
About B.A.S.S. Conservation
For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. Conservation has focused on issues related to fisheries and aquatic resource conservation. We work with government agencies to develop sound management policies that protect and enhance aquatic resources. We partner with others to ensure government policies provide for these resources without compromising sportfishing opportunities. And through the B.A.S.S. Nation, we provide volunteer efforts to enhance fisheries resources and protect our sport. B.A.S.S. is world-renowned for state-of-the-art tournament fish care.
Just as with people, bass need stability to successfully raise their families. That’s not easy to achieve for even the most responsible of largemouth parents.
That’s because the whims of nature and the needs of man often complicate or even deny conditions necessary for a strong year class.
“Anglers need to be aware that White River fisheries are cyclical. They are going to have their ups and downs,” said A.J. Pratt with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The fisheries biologist was speaking specifically about Beaver, Table Rock, and Bull Shoals and all impoundments in general. But even natural lakes can prove a hostile place for bass in their first year.
By contrast, what conditions will yield a strong year class? B.A.S.S. Times asked fisheries experts to explain, especially for reservoirs, which receive most of the angling pressure.
Not surprisingly, stable weather and water for the spawn and immediately after rank at the top. If few fry survive, then a year class is all but eliminated.
“If nests are shallow enough, then extreme cold and storms can force the males to abandon them,” said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director. “Smallmouth and spotted bass are less likely (than largemouths) to be affected because they nest deeper.”
Also, depending on the timing, wind from those storms can destroy shallow-water nests or break up the fry school, making the tiny fish more vulnerable to predation, according to Mike Maceina, a fisheries professor emeritus at Auburn University. Additionally, the turbidity it creates can make finding food much more difficult.
“Mortality is very high for a week or two after the spawn anyway,” Maceina said. “Mostly it’s predation, but fry will die in two or three days if they don’t eat. That’s why each nest will have 2,000 to 3,000 eggs.”
In reservoirs, falling water levels can be just as damaging as foul weather.
“They can fluctuate greatly from year to year and that can make for some weak year classes,” Pratt said.
“But on the opposite side, if you get a lot of rain and the water stays up for an extended period, then you have good habitat (along shoreline) and an influx of nutrients,” the Missouri biologist added. “That can produce a good population.”
Low, stable water also can enable a good spawn. Sometimes, though, it will be more nutrient-poor than high water. Consequently, fry either won’t survive or grow as quickly into robust fingerlings. Still, good year classes are possible during low water, Maceina said.
Meanwhile, water moving quickly through a reservoir can be harmful, the fisheries professor explained. “When you have a high exchange rate, then it’s more like a river. You have more turbidity and food is blown out.”
In natural lakes and some reservoirs, aquatic vegetation provides both food for the young fish and refuge from predation.
“That’s one of the most consistent factors for guaranteeing good reproduction,” said Maceina, adding that too much can be nearly as harmful as too little.
Gilliland agreed. “If you have too much cover, little bass will stay in there and keep eating bugs on the plants,” he said. “Then in the fall, the plants will die back and the fish will be only 2 inches long. They’re much more likely to get eaten.”
Shifting to a fish diet early in the summer, can enable young of the year bass to grow to 6 or even 8 inches by fall, greatly enhancing their chances of surviving the winter.
“If you are going to grow big bass, it needs to happen quickly,” Maceina said. “The growth advantage occurs early in life.”
During winter, meanwhile, cover in deeper water can help young bass, especially the smaller ones, escape being eaten.
“Shallow-water cover is critical right after the spawn,” Gilliland said. “But they can’t stay there in winter because the water is too cold. That’s why it might be a good idea to make brush rows instead of brushpiles.”
Fisheries managers wait until the following spring to gauge the strength of a year class. “You want to see them through their first fall and winter,” Gilliland said.
“And size will vary hugely. As with any population, you are going to have a bell curve. Some grow like rabbits, and some are runts. The majority will be in the middle.”
Considering all that a young bass has to endure during its first year, it’s a good thing that a strong year class isn’t necessary annually to maintain a healthy fishery.
“Every several years, you need a good spawn,” Gilliland said. “Bass have long lives compared to other fish. Missing a year class is not a huge hole in the population for a fish that lives 10 years or more.
“But if you have two or three (poor year classes) in a row, then you have a bigger hole and anglers will see that. It will show up three or four years down the road in fewer quality fish.”
Additionally, bass are an adaptable and determined species, foul weather and fluctuating water levels notwithstanding.
“Bass will spawn in a lot of different places, in a lot of different depths,” the conservation director said. “And not all of them spawn at the same time. Usually, there are enough successful nests to maintain the population.
Something happens in our wiring when that inanimate graphite rod in our hands springs to life, connected to another living thing. Think about this: why would it be fun to catch a fish? Why would it be even more fun to watch a big fish swim away? Who knows, but it is. Logic cannot define it. There is no reasoning to it, no explaining it to someone who hasn’t experienced it.
But it is fun. It’s healing, being out there. It transcends a peace, and it’s about more than neurons and psychology. That dancing rod does something in our soul, and, if you ask me, something in our spirit, too.
Fishing uniquely connects us to nature. Hiking, kayaking, hunting, and golf --- all of those things get us outside. But fishing does something nothing else does. The tug is the drug. Studies prove it. And that connection with nature ---with Creation--- that can help define a relationship with the Creator.
With God. Jesus didn’t show up here to bring us a bunch of rules. He came for the sake of relationship. Relationships created, or renewed, or restored. Relationships rooted in all the right stuff, like truth and grace and love. And out there in the outdoors, whether it’s alone, or with a family member or a buddy or a bunch of buddies, that’s a sweet spot for relationship.
Excerpt from "Faith and Fishing" in Why We Fish.
Monster blue catfish up to 100 pounds are already swimming in at least two Kansas rivers and probably Milford Reservoir.
“The blue catfish has created a kind of big-game fishing in Kansas,” said Doug Nygren, Kansas Wildlife and Parks fisheries chief. “Now people can go out and have a legitimate chance of catching a 50-pound fish.”
Biologists and experienced blue cat anglers say more lakes may hold 100-pounders in the future. Cheney and El Dorado reservoirs, near Wichita, have the potential to grow catfish that could eventually top the current world record of 143 pounds.
“I think Kansas could someday harbor a new world record,” said John Jamison, a professional catfish tournament angler from Spring Hill. “With the forage base we have in our lakes, a 140- to 150-pound fish is highly possible."