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Friday
Jan302015

Friday
Jan302015

 


Friday
Jan302015

Are You Smarter Than a Fish?

You’re just outsmarting yourself if you try to “out-think” fish.

Consider bass, for instance. They 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.

 Secret: Although bass are not smart, they do remember and 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 awhile. We saw it happen with buzzbaits in the 1980s and soft jerkbaits in the 1990s. Then came Senkos, swimbaits, and, more recently, chatterbaits, frogs, and swimbaits.

 Secret: The plastic worm (and possibly 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.

 From my first book, Better Bass Fishing--- Secrets From the Headwaters by a Bassmaster Senior Writer. 

Check out all of my books here.

Thursday
Jan292015

BoatUS Warns About 15 Percent Ethanol in North Carolina

Sheetz, a convenience store chain, announced on Jan. 21 that it would offer E15 fuel – gas containing up to 15% ethanol – at 60 of their North Carolina locations beginning in early 2015. Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) believes that could be a problem for recreational boaters, motorists and many other users of gasoline-powered equipment and vehicles.

No marine engines are warrantied to run on E15 and according to AAA, most automobile manufacturers say any damage due to the use of this higher ethanol blend fuel will void the warranty.

In the US, nine out of every ten boaters own a trailerable boat that is most often filled up at a roadside gas station – not at a marina gas dock. While any gasoline with greater than 10% ethanol (E10) is prohibited for use with recreational boat engines, it’s a common practice among trailer boaters to fill the tow vehicle first, then simply pull the boat up to the pump and insert the same gas pump nozzle into to boat’s fuel fill. A small, inadequate warning label on the pump pointing to the prohibited uses of E15 may contribute to a situation ripe for misfueling.

“This isn’t just about boats,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Program Manager Nicole Palya-Wood. “If you own an older car, truck, or any small engine such as a lawnmower or leaf blower that uses gas, you will need to be very aware -- and take an extra moment to ensure -- you’re not putting higher ethanol E15 in the tank.

"At stations that offer multiple fuel selections these corn-based ethanol fuels are often the lowest price, which is an attraction for frugal boaters. Ironically, owners of small, affordable boats could get hit the hardest when the expensive repair bill comes."

BoatUS, which has nearly 20,000 members in North Carolina, will continue to lobby Congress to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – a law which forces these higher blends and less compatible fuels onto the public. For more on the Renewable Fuel Standard go here.

Sheetz operates 437 locations in six states, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina.

Wednesday
Jan282015

Retail Sale of Bass Encourages Black Market

Largemouth bass painting by Al Agnew

States that allow sale of black bass in markets and restaurants are just asking for trouble, even if regulations specify that they must be hatchery raised. The words of Seth Gordon, the first conservation director for the Izaak Walton League (IWL), serve as a chilling reminder of what once was and what could again be when we don’t learn from history.

“So long as there is a legal market anywhere, you may bank on it that thousands of pounds of illegally caught bass will be sold,” he said during IWL’s all but forgotten campaign during the 1920s to save black bass from decimation by commercial harvest.

Well into the 20th century, black bass were commercial, as well as sport fish. Even as government agencies stocked fish anywhere and everywhere and closed seasons limited sport fishing, commercial fishermen harvested largemouth and smallmouth bass with pound and fyke nets, as well as other means, for sale in the fish markets of many cities.

“Eulogy on the Black Bass” read the headline in a 1927 issue of Forest and Stream, and another in 1930 screamed, “Defrauding Ten Million Anglers.” In the latter article, Edward Kemper slammed the Bureau of Fisheries for “overseeing the slaughter of millions and millions of black bass” and he included a “role of dishonor,” naming 10 states that continued to allow sale of bass in markets.

IWL was the prime mover for passage of the Black Bass Act of 1926, which was introduced into Congress by Rep. Harry Hawes of Missouri. As the law prohibited shipment of bass across state lines, IWL also worked within those states to outlaw commercial harvest.

I learned about this little known chapter in bass history from Jim Long, assistant unit leader of the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Oklahoma State University. He came across this and other long forgotten information as he prepared a presentation on the history of black bass management for a Black Bass Diversity Symposium at a Southern Division Meeting of the American Fisheries Society.

“I’ve read some histories of fisheries but I’ve never seen one for black bass,” he told me. “I wanted original newspaper clippings, not third-hand accounts, and data bases made that possible,” he said.

Pouring through archives, Long found a headline from the 1920s that proclaimed “Hoover Laments Decline of Fishing.” And he discovered that the New York Times listed black bass regulations during the 1870s. “That’s something you don’t see today,” he said.

As he divided his search into major time periods, starting with the 1800s, what surprised Long the most were the influential roles played by the IWL and, before that, by Dr. James A. Henshall.

Author of the 1881 Book of the Black Bass, Henshall was a medical doctor and passionate bass angler. The most quoted line in bass fishing literature belongs to him: “I consider him (black bass), inch for inch and pound for pound, the gamest fish that swims.”

Henshall’s passion, said Long, was to promote black bass as “a pre-eminent gamefish.” But the doctor also was a “lumper,” countering decades of science that preceded him.

Long coined that phrase as the opposite to “splitters,” which describes those who recognize multiple bass species.

“Henshall did a lot of really good work, but he considered the spotted bass a smallmouth, the Guadalupe a largemouth, and the Florida a largemouth,” Long explained. “And he was the authoritative voice.”

So, even though the smallmouth bass and then largemouth bass were identified in 1802, the spotted bass in 1819, the Florida bass in 1822, and the Guadalupe bass in 1874, Henshall’s lumping successfully countered their acknowledgement as separate species until the 1940s.

By the way, no one knows where that first smallmouth was caught before it was shipped to France to be analyzed and given its Latin name. But what Long discovered is that the black bass’s keystone designation as Micropterus was based on a damaged dorsal fin.

“It looked like it had a second, smaller dorsal,” he said. “And that word means small fin or wing.”

With improvement in science over the decades, especially in genetics, Henshall’s lumping has fallen out of favor and we’re not likely to name any new species based on an imperfection. Also, we’ve become much more selective about how and when we stock, and we’re focused on improving habitat as never before as a way to sustain fisheries.

All those are good things. But I am troubled by our politicians and their propensity for repeating harmful chapters in our history, as evidenced by New York’s decision two years ago to allow sale of black bass in markets and restaurants.   

Here’s a link to a column I wrote about this threat in 2011.