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« Invasive Species Concerns Force Access Restrictions on Anglers | Main | Catch-and-Release Should Be Outlawed! »
Friday
Aug032012

Stocking Exotics Is Thoughtless and Selfish Act

The snakehead is growing in popularity among anglers.

This fish has been spread far beyond its native waters. It leaps often from the water. It has damaged fisheries.

Name that fish.

If you said “silver carp,” you are correct.

But that description also applies to the largemouth bass.

I thought about that recently, after reading this article.

Before I make my point about that, let me first explain some terms. An “exotic” or “non-native” is any species introduced outside its native range. It can be from another continent or it simply can be from another watershed.

If it proves harmful, then it is also can be termed “invasive” and/or a “nuisance” species.

Few would argue that silver and bighead carp, both from Asia, are both invasive and nuisance.

On the other hand, the largemouth bass is the most popular sport fish in North America and possibly the world. Where’s the negative in that?

Let’s start with its historic --- and limited --- range. It existed originally east of the Rocky Mountains from southern Ontario and Quebec down to east Texas and northeastern Mexico and across to western New York and Pennsylvania, as well as the southeastern states.

Today, the largemouth is established in every state except Alaska, as well as Japan, Spain, Italy, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, among other countries.

In most instances, the predatory bass has been a welcome addition to sport fisheries because it both adaptable and cooperative. But that is not always the case. For example, Japanese resource managers report that it is eliminating smaller, native species.

My point is this: I see the same thing starting to happen with the snakehead as happened with the largemouth bass. Anglers have begun to recognize it as an aggressive sport fish that is fun to catch, and, thus far, it hasn't seemed to damage the Potomac River and its tributaries.

My fear is that anglers will spread snakeheads because they want to catch more of them and in waters closer to their homes.

We planted largemouth and smallmouth bass ---- along with rainbow and German brown trout --- in new fisheries during a less enlightened time, when we gave no thought to consequences and ecological balance. We created some great fisheries. But we devastated some as well, including many waters populated by brook trout.

Today we know about the problems that exotic species can bring, as we watch Asian carp cause catastrophic damage to our rivers.

Yet anglers, lakefront property owners, and others continue to illegally stock fish. Among them: grass carp, northern pike, walleye, and crappie. Will the snakehead be next?

 I hope not. To do so would be an incredibly thoughtless and selfish act in which a public resource is put at risk for private gain.

For the most part, we got lucky with largemouth bass. But we’ve had plenty of examples since to show that, most times, introduction of exotics does more harm than good. 

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