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Wednesday
Apr022014

Oklahoma's Arbuckles Yields More Big Bass

Lone Grove anglers Doyle Idleman and Marco Vaca hold a five-bass stringer that totaled 42.71 pounds at Lake of the Arbuckles on March 23. (Photo courtesy Future Bass Team Trail)

Is Lake of the Arbuckles the Oklahoma version of Texas’ Lake Fork? It appears that way, courtesy of Florida-strain bass stocked there by the state.

Here’s the latest Arbuckles big-bass news from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation:

If not for the two that got away, tournament anglers Marco Vaca and Doyle Idleman might possibly have weighed-in a five-bass stringer of nearly 50 pounds. As it turned out, their 42.71-pound sack on March 23 at Lake of the Arbuckles was enough to win the Future Bass Team Trail's first 2014 divisional contest, Trail director Joe Copeland said.

The giant stringer also eclipsed Arbuckle's heavy-sack record: 42.04 pounds caught by former Elite Series angler Jeff Reynolds and Johnny Thompson in January 2013.

For the past several years, Lake of the Arbuckles in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area has been giving up lunker largemouth bass. Vaca and Idleman's largest fish bent the scale at 10.93 pounds, but even that did not win the biggest-bass honor at the tournament! The second-place team of Terry Alsup and Brad Hill had the day's big bass at 11.69 pounds, with a five-fish stringer totaling 34.16 pounds.

Six bass at the tournament weigh-in went more than 10 pounds. And only 14 boats were entered.

"I've been fishing tournaments for 30 years in Oklahoma, and I've never seen anything like it," Copeland said of the south-central Oklahoma lake. "With what's coming out of it now, there's no doubt a state record is in there."

Vaca, 33, said he did not begin bass fishing until 2009. Still, he said he's reeled in "a bunch of 10-pounders" during his brief fishing career. "That lake there has been really good to me," the Lone Grove angler said.

Vaca said the water temperature at Arbuckle was 49 degrees, and most of his team's bass were caught in the morning. The two biggest fish were in the live well within 45 minutes after the tournament started. He said they were hitting crankbaits and Alabama rigs in about 15 to 20 feet of water.

Mid-March has proved to be a great time to catch big bass in Oklahoma, as the fish are laden with eggs and preparing to spawn in the next few weeks. The last two state record largemouth bass were caught in March 2013 and March 2012.

Copeland said it's just nature. "As the fish prepare to spawn, they are going to eat everything and fatten up. And that Alabama rig, they just can't resist it," he said.

With few exceptions, Oklahoma's biggest bass are being caught in southern Oklahoma waters, where the Wildlife Department has concentrated its efforts to grow trophy bass through its Florida bass stocking program.

In the right habitat conditions, Florida bass have proved to grow larger faster than the native northern largemouth bass that is prevalent in the state. But Florida bass survival has proved problematic north of Interstate 40, mainly because of colder winter conditions compared with what is seen in southern Oklahoma.

Three teams at the March 23 Arbuckles tournament weighed in more than 30 pounds of fish. The event's third-place team of Bill Chapman and Johnny Owens brought in five bass totaling 32 pounds.

Vaca tipped his hat to the other teams for their remarkable efforts. "If I had 30 pounds of fish in the livewell, I would not think I was going to get beat!" But on Lake of the Arbuckles, recent bass tournaments have proved to be real heavyweight bouts.

The lake near Sulphur is part of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, which is operated by the U.S. National Park Service. The Wildlife Department has periodically stocked the lake with Florida bass fingerlings for many years.

Lake of the Arbuckles has a daily limit of six largemouth or smallmouth bass combined, and all largemouth and smallmouth bass from 13 to 16 inches long must be returned to the water immediately. 

Tuesday
Apr012014

Invasive Species Top List of Tourism Concerns in Michigan

Invasives species, including Asian carp, rank at the top of concerns by Michigan tourism professionals.

Tourism industry professionals in Michigan were asked to “identify key issues facing and threats to the integrity of Michigan’s tourism resources.” Since Michigan is a Great Lakes state, the results are not surprising: Invasive species rank as the top threat.

The tourism folks know what they’re talking about, not only for Michigan, but for much of the rest of the country as well.

As a matter of fact, I think that they correctly have identified the top four for many of the states, and they have appropriately placed climate change and increasing the number of wind farms where they belong--- at or near the bottom.

Sadly, a good number of them have bought into the environmental left’s hatred of fracking, when no evidence supports the notion that it poses a threat to our lands and waters. In fact the former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, said unequivocally that her agency has found no evidence of contamination.

  • Spread of invasive species (aquatic & terrestrial) – 65.2 percent
  • Lack of/limited funding for resource protection/maintenance – 59.5 percent
  • Declining water quality of our lakes, rivers and streams – 42.7 percent
  • Declining water levels of our lakes, rivers and streams – 41.3 percent
  • Diversion of water from the Great Lakes – 39.3 percent
  • Reduction in historic preservation tax credits – 28.9 percent
  • Closure of Department of History, Arts and Libraries – 25.1 percent
  • Fracking – 24.5 percent
  • Need for better/faster adoption of technology at tourism sites – 20.8 percent
  • Under-appreciation of Native American history and culture – 20.0 percent
  • Climate change – 16.8 percent
  • Spread of infectious diseases – 8.5 percent
  • Increasing number of wind farms – 7.7 percent
Monday
Mar312014

New Mexico's Conway Honored for Conservation Efforts

New Mexico Conservation Director Earl Conway.

Fisheries in New Mexico are improving because of Earl Conway. And as they are, his efforts have shown other state conservation directors how much can be accomplished through initiative and persistence.

For contributions both to his own state and to B.A.S.S. Nation, Conway was honored as Conservation Director of the Year during Bassmaster Classic Week here.

That award and four others were presented at the Conservation Awards Banquet sponsored by the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Foundation and the Aquatic Plant Management Society.

“Earl has done a really great job of working with agencies, cities, schools, and others,” said Gene Gilliland, new National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. “He has run into roadblocks everywhere he has turned and found ways around them.

“He has leveraged grants to get more grants and found outside sources for funding in places conservation directors would never think to look. And he has built partnerships.”

Conway said that he was “surprised and humbled” by the award.

“There are so many others that I know worked harder, sacrificed time with their families, and gave up many days on the water to accomplish real ‘boots on the ground’ projects while dealing with policy issues in their region,” he said.

The New Mexico director added that he is motivated by his passion for both conservation and fishing and “equally tenacious when it comes to funding and executing challenging and innovative projects that address the problems we have with our irrigation reservoirs.”

The New York B.A.S.S. Nation (NYBN) and the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation (CBN), meanwhile, received Berkley Conservation Institute awards.

NYBN won the Conservation Award for its Ramp Monkeys and water chestnut removal, while New Mexico earned honorable mention for its floating islands project and Florida for ReBaits, a program for recycling used plastic baits.

Ramp Monkeys were members of youth clubs who removed plant debris from launch areas and cleaned, drained, and dried boats and trailers as they left the water.

CBN earned the Angler Recruitment/Retention Award for innovative marketing strategies to gain new members.  They included an Uncle Sam poster with the words “The BN Wants You,” maps to help potential members find the clubs nearest them, and a PowerPoint explaining what the organization is all about.

The New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation won the FishAmericaFoundation/B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Fund Award and will use the $5,000 prize for a radio telemetry study. Simms Fishing provided the funds with a 2012 donation.

“The results will be used to evaluate appropriate bass tournament rules as well as provide the public with a better understanding of the effects of tournaments on their resource,” said Gilliland. “The project has potential far beyond New Hampshire.”

Georgia’s Lake Oconee Bassmasters received $1,500 for winning the Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Foundation/Aquatic Plant Management Society/B.A.S.S. Conservation Aquatic Vegetation Management Award. The money will be used to help establish native aquatic vegetation in that fishery, as well as Lake Richard B. Russell and Lake Jackson.

Additionally, Nationwide Insurance announced its donation of $5,000 to the FishAmericaFoundation/B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Fund. That money will be distributed in grants to clubs and chapters, based on project merit.

Friday
Mar282014

Bill Dance: Why We Fish Is 'Absolutely a Masterpiece'

Bill Dance, one of the great gentlemen in the fishing business, sent me a letter about Why We Fish awhile back. I’ve referred to his kind words from time to time to promote the book, but didn’t quote more than a phrase or two.

Here’s an excerpt in more detail:

“Your new book, Why We Fish, is a perfect example of your unbelievable talents, Robert, and it’s absolutely a masterpiece. You’ve always had the unique ability to put thoughts on paper that are both memorable and easily understood by everyone, and that’s why I always look forward to reading every new thing you do!”

Aside from his vast knowledge about how to catch fish, especially bass, Bill Dance also is noted for his “bloopers.” What you might not know is that he also is a champion for conservation and good stewardship of our fisheries.  We first became friends more than 20 years ago when I was writing an annual conservation series for Bassmaster Magazine entitled “Living Waters.”

Friday
Mar282014

Mapping the Invasion

This screen shot shows zebra and quagga mussel invasion as of 2006.

Nature Conservancy has produced some great interactive maps showing how invasive aquatic species have spread out across the country from their point of introduction.

Featured species include bighead and silver carp, zebra and quagga mussels, Eurasian ruffe, round goby, sea lamprey, and black carp.

Also, in late 2012, the organization released a report saying that aquatic invasive species “cost businesses and consumer in the Great Lakes region hundreds of millions of dollars annually in direct costs and even more from indirect costs related to removal, maintenance, and management of those species.

“Meanwhile, state and federal governments are currently forced to spend additional millions as they attempt to control the impacts and prevent the spread of AIS (aquatic invasive species).”

According to the report, the largest industry affected by AIS in the Great Lakes is tourism and recreation, which is responsible for employing more than 90,000 people in the region, generating $30.3 billion annually in revenue. Costs range from monitoring and controlling AIS to lost revenue from beach closings affecting hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses.