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Anglers Use Facebook to Help TPWD Bag Redfish Poacher

Congratulations to Texas anglers who reported a poacher after his brother posted a photo of the offender with his catch on Facebook.

The photo of Luis Castro holding a large redfish (red drum), with eight others in the bed of a pickup, carried the caption, “Just for fun.”

In Texas, the bag limit is three per day. Only one can be longer than 28 inches and it must be properly tagged.

For his offense, Castro was fined $2,600, with an additional $2,645.91 assessed as part of civil restitution. No doubt some anglers would like to see him do jail time.

Starting on Nov. 1, game wardens with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department received multiple complaints regarding the Facebook post. Investigation followed and, less than two weeks later, an arrest warrant was issued for Castro.

“Anglers on several social media sites were posting negative comments, and a day after the picture was originally posted, it was removed,” said Maj. Alan Teague. “However, the picture had been saved by many anglers and reposted.”

He added that fishing groups as far away as Florida learned about the incident.

“With tips from anglers and hard work by our game wardens and dispatchers, we were able to track the individual to a city in South Texas,” Teague said.

During sentencing, Justice of the Peace George Solice noted how important recreational fishing is to the people in Willacy County which includes Port Mansfield.  Before sentencing Castro, the judge pointed out that there are people in the county whose livelihood depends upon the quality and future of recreational fishing.

“It was an obscene number of fish that you caught,” the judge said to the defendant.  “We are all living paycheck-to-paycheck but none of us are going hungry.  It was completely unnecessary to take that many fish.”



Normally, we shared stories about the day’s fishing, with lots of laughing and teasing lightening the mood. But on our first evening there, the mood was somber, not sad exactly, but more reserved. I don’t remember how the conversation started or what we talked about at first, but eventually we learned that several of our small group were from one family.

 “We come here every year,” the father said. “We almost didn’t come this time. Our son was killed on 9/11.”

From my point of view, at least, time stopped, as did the rocking chairs that some of us were sitting in. Here we were, a couple of thousand miles from New York City, and we were in the presence of a family freshly grieving because of the World Trade Center tragedy.

(Excerpt from the essay "9/11" my new book, Why We Fish.)


KAF's Queen of Fish Crowned

Congratulations to Kacey H. of Matlacha, Fla., for being voted Keep America Fishing’s 2013 Queen of Fish. Kacey was chosen from among the 260 entries by popular vote and a panel of industry experts, fishing pros, and staff. The King/Queen of Fish marked Keep America Fishing’s first photo contest during which  Facebook followers were instructed to upload a photo of their best catch of 2013 in order to compete.

Go here to learn more.


Shimano Key Player in Fisheries Conservation

Just about anyone who fishes knows about Shimano rods and reels. It is one of the industry leaders in innovation for both.

Not nearly so many are familiar with the company’s long-standing devotion to fisheries conservation. But more are learning as Shimano steps into its new role as a supporting sponsor of Bassmaster tournaments and its name appears on live-release boats.

Traditionally, though, the company has worked quietly in the background. But Noreen Clough, recently retired B.A.S.S. Conservation Director, knows about that little publicized history.

“Shimano continues to be a key player in fisheries conservation,” she said. “It continues to sponsor scientific research and identify techniques to improve catch-and-release fishing. B.A.S.S. is fortunate to have Shimano and Phil Morlock as partners.”

Morlock is one of the primary reasons that Shimano is a “key player.” As the long-time director of environmental affairs for Shimano, he knows as much about angler and conservation issues in North America as anyone. And in political circles, he is one of the most outspoken defenders of public access and our right to fish.

Shimano's Phil Morlock

“As threats multiply, from animal rights groups and others, we’re forced to pay more attention,” he said. “Whether by design and intent or by other less nefarious means, I believe the very basis of science-based fish and wildlife management, conservation, and sustainable use is being threatened as never before.”

With animal rights groups, a persistent theme is that fish feel pain, an argument that Morlock loves to debunk.

“If fish did (feel pain), they would be unable to eat many of the spiny/prickly creatures like crawfish and other fish (because of dorsal spines) that they survive on,” he said. “That’s a rather obvious point to those of us who fish or who have a background in science.

“But for those who do not, the media does a poor job of filling in the rather glaring gaps in information deficiency often inherent in animal rights campaigns.”

Some of those who want to push us off the water, meanwhile,  don’t like opposition by Morlock and Shimano, especially in opposing the Marine Life Protection Act, which has needlessly closed many of California’s coastal waters to recreational fishing. In a petulant snit, they initiated a “Shame on Shimano” campaign, accusing the company of lies and caring more about making money than protecting the oceans.

“It’s too bad that Shimano is the only fishing company that has seriously stepped up to the plate to fight some of the threats to angling,” Chris Horton said at the time. Now Midwestern States Director for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Horton is a former National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S.

“This is how they are rewarded,” he continued. “It makes an easy target for the enviros. If more companies would do what Shimano has done, they’d have a lot harder time beating the good guys.”

Doug Olander of Sport Fishing Magazine added, “This is an attack not only on Shimano, but on all businesses that make and sell tackle, and in fact on all men, women, and children in this country who enjoy the chance to spend time on the water hoping to catch a few fish.

“That's why what at first glance seems just plain goofy is no laughing matter.”

Morlock doesn’t think that any threat should be disqualified because it’s “goofy.” That’s why he monitors them all, as one of sport fishing’s most devoted advocates, and looks for the reality behind the curtain. A perfect example, he says, is the anti-lead campaign.

“If you can’t shut down fishing and hunting with one approach, try another, like ‘toxic substances harming wildlife,’ and soft peddle it,” he explains. “Same endpoint by a different means.”

And as Morlock and Shimano defend recreational fishing, they also are working with B.A.S.S. and other partners to make it better.

“There are a series of layers to our involvement with B.A.S.S.,” he said. “And conservation is a cornerstone.

“Right now, you see the live-release boats. But this is going to evolve into other conservation initiatives.”

Some of the possibilities include habitat improvement, fish care, and youth programs, Morlock said, adding that such work likely will involve partnering with B.A.S.S. Nation states and clubs.

“Because of what we do (in conservation), we’re unique in the fishing business,” the director added. “And the history of where we’ve come from is directly related to where we’re going.”

That history includes both fresh and saltwater habitat work, creation of the first live-release boats nearly 30 years ago, and, more recently, development of a water weigh-in system for tournaments.

“We took apart every step of the tournament, from the time a fish is caught until it is released,” Morlock explained. “And that led to development of this system, which is faster than weighing fish out of water and less harmful.”

Without innovations such as the live-release boats and the weigh-in system, tournament fishing would be in big trouble, he said. “We could see a real vulnerability for any event. The anti-use folks will attack anybody. It doesn’t matter what size the tournament.”

The director of environmental affairs added that many improvements have been made since Shimano launched the first live-release boat in the mid 1980s. “Too many fish in warm water with low dissolved oxygen can lead to mortalities,” he said. “We’ve seen lots of changes in ways to reduce that, and B.A.S.S. has done a good job of staying current.”

Morlock pointed out that “virtually all big tournaments use live-release boats now.”

Shimano owned three live-release boats for awhile.  And it sent them, along with crews, all over the country. “Demand was so great that we couldn’t stay current,” Morlock says. “So we donated the boats to different tournament organizations. Today, a lot of organizations have boats based on our designs.”

In those early years, the company also played a critical role in a massive restoration project at Lake Havasu, where shoreline access for such work was minimal. The Bureau of Land Management and its partners constructed the habitat, and then a Shimano boat placed it. Together, they brought the fishery back.

(This article appeared originally in Fishing Tackle Retailer Magazine.)


Legendary Fish

A frayed piece of leader owns a place of honor at my desk. It was left to me by a “legendary fish.”

That’s my own term so I’m not surprised if you haven’t heard it before. For me, “legendary fish” is one rung up the ladder from “big,” “trophy,” and even “fish of a lifetime.”

Of course, pursuit of a trophy is one of our prime motivators. And losing a big one fuels the fire in our belly even more. If we can’t get the one that got away, we want one even larger.

We replay over and over in our heads how and why we lost those fish. We didn’t set the hook hard enough. Our drag was too loose. We didn’t hold the rod low enough. And so on and so on. Truth be known, many of our friends and family probably are long-past tired of hearing us recount our heart-wrenching tales of those big ones that got away.

But for me, a legendary fish is different. Believe it or not, I’m okay with having lost three of those. If I had caught them, would I have been happy? Certainly.  Because they were immense fish, each would hold a place of high honor in my memory bank. And my family and friends would be long-past tired of hearing me recount how I caught them.

So why am I okay with failure? I’m not. I didn’t fail. Those fish beat me, pure and simple. With each one, I can think of nothing that I could have done differently to bring it to the boat. Call that rationalization if you want. I don’t see it that way.

Just having seen and done battle with each for a few seconds is enough for me. In fact, I believe that I am even more pleased with those memories than I would be with “hero” photos of me with those brutes.

The first was a rainbow trout . . .

(Excerpt from the essay "Legendary Fish" in my new book, Why We Fish.)