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Carp Czar Focuses on Carp Threat to Ohio, Mississippi Rivers --- Finally

Carp caught at Kentucky Lake. Photo by Steve McCadams.

Activist Angler has been sounding the alarm for months about Asian carp spreading up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, as well as east into the Cumberland, Tennessee and Ohio systems.

Finally, our federal carp czar, John Goss, has taken note that the Great Lakes aren't the only waters at risk. Isn’t that reassuring?

"Attacking the carp populations in the Ohio and Mississippi rivers needs to be our focus over the next few years," he said recently. "With very limited funding, we haven't been able to jump into it. Hopefully, Congress will recognize that, and we're working with federal staff people to get appropriations.” reports that Asian carp have reached Ohio waters of the Ohio River, and moved up the Little Miami River near Cincinnati.  It adds, “The infestation is so bad in Kentucky and Barkley lakes in Kentucky that the first commercial netting contest ever held will target the carp on March 12-13, with a $20,000 top prize. A commercial fisherman in that region told state officials he recently caught 36,000 pounds of carp - in just six hours.”

Goss said commercial netting will be the first wave of defense.

"Commercial fishing is working well on the Illinois River, keeping the bulk of the carp population about 100 miles away from the electric barriers (in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal). This year, netters took 60,000 Asian carp, which means we have a lot less pressure from fish swimming up to the barrier situation."

Following are just a few of articles that Activist Angler has posted to sound the alarm about Asian carp spreading north, east, and south:

Asian Carp also Threaten Southern Fisheries

Minnesota Anglers Urge Action to Stop Asian Carp Invasion

Asian Carp Using New Route to Threaten Minnesota Fisheries


Artificial Habitat Benefits Bass Fisheries

Fisheries in West Virginia and New Mexico are showcasing a new generation of manmade habitat, thanks to innovative state conservation directors in the B.A.S.S. Nation (BN).

Both Jerod Harman and Earl Conway saw the need for effective and long-lasting habitat in reservoirs that endure huge water fluctuations on a regular basis.

“Climate change is already impacting the Southwest,” said New Mexico’s Conway. “Over-allocation of water rights and drought have drained many reservoirs in New Mexico and west Texas. Shoreline and aquatic vegetation is gone and replanting is futile when lake levels fluctuate 20 feet or so every year.

“That’s where floating islands come to the rescue.”

In West Virginia, meanwhile, the West Virginia BN has teamed with a company that makes fish habitat from recycled vinyl and reclaimed PVC to build an “oasis for bass” in Sutton Lake, according to Jerod Harman.

It consists of pea gravel, spider blocks, artificial structures from Fishiding, and vegetation growing in a 5,000-square-foot cage on a mud flat, with a creek channel nearby.

“The artificial structures attract the bass looking for a place to spawn,” Harman explained. “The pea gravel provides the correct bottom structure for bedding.

“When the young bass hatch, the artificial structures help provide a protective environment. The periphyton (mixture of algae, microbes, and bacteria that forms the base of food chain) will provide nutrients for growth, and, later on, the small bass fry can relocate to inside of the vegetation cage for protection from predators.

“This is something that I am really excited about!”

Harman added that he believes the habitat made by Dave Ewald’s Illinois company, which features vinyl strips attached to a heavy base, will greatly enhance periphyton growth, as well as provide better cover for survival of young bass than will the spider blocks alone.

“The structures are ready for installation right out of the box, and David was great to work with,” the conservation director said. “I would definitely recommend these, especially for a small group of volunteers who need to complete a larger-scale project in a limited amount of time.”

Conway and the New Mexico BN also are growing periphyton, but on floating islands instead of vinyl strips. One of those islands, complete with spawning platform, won the 2010 Berkley Conservation Award and was the first step in what the conservation director hopes will be a major habitat restoration project for Elephant Butte.

Bruce Kania’s Floating Island International, a Montana company, has provided the New Mexico BN with prototypes and expertise.

“Floating islands aren’t new,” Conway said. “They occur in nature and have a proven track record for improving water quality and enhancing fish production, but I think that we are just beginning to realize how they can add an entirely new dimension to habitat restoration options.

“My experience is that the shade and food they provide makes them better fish attractors than boat docks or tire water breaks. They are being used more often in public waters and it is just a matter of time until someone wins a major tournament or catches a monster bass off a floating island.”

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Help Protect Ocean's Top Predators, Gentle Giants

If you want to help save some of the ocean’s top predators and gentle giants from extinction, now is the time to act.

Through March 14, those countries that signed an agreement to ensure the survival of threatened wild animals and plants are meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. By signing on to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), they promised to help prevent international trade from contributing to the demise of these species.

Go here to sign the petition urging CITES countries to provide stronger protection for sharks and rays.

Why is this needed?

Project AWARE says this:

Nearly one out of five shark species is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as threatened with extinction. That doesn’t even include hundreds of species (almost half of all sharks) whose population status cannot be assessed because of lack of information. Scientists warn that, in actuality, a third of sharks might already be threatened.

Why do we worry about shark populations? A healthy and abundant ocean depends on predators like sharks keeping ecosystems balanced. And living sharks fuel local economies in places like Palau where sharks bring in an estimated $18 million per year through dive tourism.

They may rule the ocean, but sharks are vulnerable. They grow slowly, produce few young, and, as such, are exceptionally susceptible to overexploitation.

Overfishing is driving sharks to the brink - with many populations down by 80 percent. Tens of millions are killed each year for their meat, fins, liver, and other products.

Bycatch– or catching sharks incidentally while fishing for other commercial species – poses a significant threat to sharks. At the same time, new markets for shark products are blurring the line between targeted and accidental catches.

Finning– Shark fins usually fetch a much higher price than shark meat, providing an economic incentive for the wasteful and indefensible practice of “finning” (removing shark fins and discarding the often still alive shark at sea).  Finning is often associated with shark overfishing, especially as keeping only the fins allows fishermen to kill many more sharks in a trip than if they were required to bring back the entire animal.

Shark fishing continues largely unregulated in most of the world’s ocean. Finning bans, such as the European Union’s (EU) finning regulations, are fraught with loopholes. Trade in only three species of sharks – basking, great white and whale - are regulated under  the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). 

 Manta Rays at Risk

They’re easy targets. Moving slowly through the ocean, often in predictable aggregations – these gentle, filter-feeding giants are being slaughtered at an alarming rate.

International trade in these species, driven by Asian markets for Chinese medicine, poses an immediate threat to their survival. Catch of mantas reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization has almost quadrupled in seven years.

An organization of SCUBA divers, Project Aware also works to reduce trash in our oceans. 


Black Is Beautiful

Photo by Robert Montgomery

I’m veering off topic today, something that I do occasionally. But I believe that this is a subject of interest to many fishermen.

That’s because they are dog owners/lovers, as am I.

Following the death of Ursa, my companion for nearly 14 years, I went to the animal shelter last Wednesday to adopt another dog. I went with the intention of getting a pup or at least an animal no older than 6 months.

But once you’ve had a companion dog, walk into a shelter (this one is “no-kill”), and see all those loving animals behind bars, it changes the way you see things, and, as a result, your priorities.

I chose Pippa. She’s an affectionate but somewhat shy, mixed breed, and she was the only one not barking incessantly for attention --- “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!”

The shelter described her as a “Lab mix.”  I think that she is part greyhound and/or collie as well. She’s 1 ½ years old and she had been at the shelter all of her life. All of her siblings were adopted as pups. And here’s the key part: She is black.

Why is that key?

After I finished with the adoption paperwork, a volunteer told me that shelters have difficulty finding homes for black dogs. That stunned me. Such a thing never occurred to me.

Then four more people --- unsolicited --- told me the same thing. And a friend sent me a link to this website.

What I’m asking here is that you consider adopting from a shelter the next time that you want to get a dog and, please, take a look at the black dogs.

Photo by Robert Montgomery

In just a few days, Pippa has transformed into an absolutely incredible companion, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching her discover so much about life that she never had experienced.

Three days after I brought her home, I felt confident enough to allow her off the leash. In short order she discovered running and jumping. Two days later, we had snow, and she reveled in that. Now she’s learned that the world is full of interesting scents and she wants to savor them all.

But still she is obedient. She already knows “come,” “sit,” “stay,” and “bed.” In less than 10 seconds, I taught her to climb a long flight of steps.

The only negative? Black absorbs light and so black dogs don’t photograph as well. I’ll take that tradeoff anytime.

Please, think about adopting your next dog. And take a look at what most others are rejecting when you do.


Texas Nets Long Liners in Operation Shark Fin

Sharks found on illegal long line in the Gulf. TPWD photo.

In Texas waters, Operation Shark Fin has resulted in the seizure of 17,500 feet of long lines and two vessels, as well as 15 citations or arrests.

“TPWD game wardens are committed to protecting our natural recourses across the state,” said Special Operations Chief Grahame Jones of the Law Enforcement Division for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“Operation Shark Fin focused on the lower coast border region where commercial fishing vessels from Mexico known as ‘launchas’ enter our state and federal waters illegally. The launcha crews use gill nets and long lines to catch whatever they can, including many shark species and red drum.”

More than 50 state game wardens and 10 TPWD vessels participated in the four-day, around-the-clock enforcement effort.

TPWD adds the following:

“During the special operation, game wardens made contact with 65 vessels, 5 vehicles, and 206 people.

“Wardens seized two launchas from Mexico (one on the Gulf of Mexico and one on Lake Falcon) and the U.S. Coast Guard seized a third vessel on the Gulf. In addition, wardens seized 17,500 feet of long lines in the Gulf, 6,300 feet of gill nets in the Rio Grande and Lake Falcon and 19 abandoned crab traps in the lower Rio Grande.

“‘In many cases,’ Jones said, ‘Mexican waters have been overfished. Because of that, we are now seeing an increasing number of vessels from Mexico illegally fishing in Texas or federal waters.’

 “Citations or arrests included four for sport fishing violations; two commercial fishing violations (possession of headed/tailed snapper, fillets seized from shrimp boat); two drug-related arrests; three alcohol-related arrests; and two local warrant arrests. In addition, two juvenile runaways were located.

“Fish recovered from illegal long lines and gill net included Atlantic sharpnose sharks, black tip sharks, and red drum.

 “Sharks, the most common target of these vessels, are harvested not only for their meat, but also for their fins. Shark fins, used for soup, are considered some of the world’s most expensive seafood and high demand for it supports a world-wide black market.

“Arrests in gill netting or long line cases are rare. When commercial fishermen from Mexico are caught in the act in Texas or U.S. waters, the only charges that can be filed are misdemeanors punishable by fines. However, the illegal fishing equipment and vessel can be seized.

“Marine interests spotting gill nets or long lines in Texas waters are urged to call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-792GAME (4263), contact a game warden or notify the U.S. Coast Guard.”