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Why We Fish

Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies

Pippa's Canine Corner 

 

 

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Friday
May302014

Going Fishing Always Better Than Staying Home

“Creeps and idiots cannot conceal themselves for long on a fishing trip.” John Gierach

“There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.” Roderick Haig-Brown

Why We Fish --- Reel Wisdom from Real Fishermen

“The trout do not rise in the cemetery, so you better do your fishing while you are still able.” Sparse Grey Hackle

“Those who think that we go fishing for the fish probably also think that teenage boys read Playboy for the articles.” Robert Montgomery 

Friday
May302014

Magnuson-Stevens Needs to Address Goals, Needs of Recreational Anglers

Photo by Robert Montgomery

As Congress considers changes in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), a coalition of angling advocate groups says that not enough consideration is being given to recreational fishing.

“Since its inception, the Magnuson-Stevens Act has focused primarily on commercial fisheries to the detriment of the nation’s 11 million recreational fishermen and the nearly half a million jobs they support,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation.

“Revising the law in a way that incorporates the goals and needs of anglers is long overdue. Our community has put forward the policy changes that will set the foundation for an effective saltwater fisheries management system, but we need Congress’ help by enacting these common sense and non-partisan policies.”

The recommendations offered by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, commonly known as the Morris-Deal Commission, include the following:

  • Establishing a national policy for recreational fishing
  • Adopting a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management
  • Allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation
  • Creating reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines
  • Codifying a process for cooperative management
  • Managing for the forage base

MSA is the primary law governing management of marine fisheries, and critics argue that On May 30, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a reauthorization bill, H.R. 4742, also entitled the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.”

 “While we appreciate Chairman Doc Hasting’s interest and efforts in Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization, we would like to have seen more done in this bill to address the needs of the recreational fishing community,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association.

“This bill includes several provisions that we support, such as easing the strict implementation of annual catch limits and improving stock assessments for data poor fisheries, but unfortunately our top priorities are not meaningfully addressed.”

“In addition to overlooking the priorities of the Morris-Deal Commission, we are also disappointed that the federal management failure with red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico is not resolved in H.R. 4742,” added Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association.

“A comprehensive overhaul of red snapper management is the only way to get us out of this mess. It’s vital that Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization addresses this management train-wreck by transferring Gulf red snapper management over to the states, which are much better equipped to successfully manage this important fishery.”

After passing out of committee, H.R. 4742 now awaits a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to unveil its Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill in the near future. With limited floor time before the November elections, many experts believe that full Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization may not occur until the next session of Congress.

“We understand that Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization likely has a long road ahead before a final bill gets signed into law, so we are hopeful that working with our friends in Congress, we can get the recreational fishing and boating community’s priorities addressed,” said Angers.

“We’ve been waiting a long time to bring focus toward improving saltwater recreational fisheries management, and there’s too much at stake to let this reauthorization pass without making the necessary changes that will establish a management system that works for – not against – recreational fishermen.”

Thursday
May292014

Magnuson-Stevens Needs More Flexibility

“One of the key messages the Committee has heard is that while the 2006/2007 amendments to the Act were good, those requirements have been hard to achieve in some regions without significant economic pain and that some level of flexibility is necessary.”

That’s an assessment of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by Chariman Doc Hastings of Washington State, as the House Natural Resources Committee considers its reauthorization and improvement via H.R. 4742, also known as the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.

Advocates for both recreational and commercial fishing have been critical of the legislation intended to better conserve and management saltwater fisheries. They acknowledge its good intent, but argue that it has unnecessarily limited participation and harvest

“This debate today isn’t just about the use of a natural resource – it is about providing a sustainable source of protein as well as providing economic vitality to coastal communities,” he continued.

“In some regions of the country, fishing communities are struggling. A report from NOAA stated that groundfish revenues 'fell in 2012 in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island with Massachusetts and New Hampshire seeing a four-year low in groundfish revenues.'

“In New Bedford alone, the value of groundfish landed dropped from $31 million in 2011 to $19 million in 2013. The report went on to state that the number of active vessels dropped from 916 vessels in 2009 to 764 vessels in 2012 and of the 764 active vessels only 401 took a groundfish trip in 2012.

“And in the Gulf of Mexico, the recreational harvest of red snapper in Federal waters is down to just 9 days despite encouraging reports on the health of the resource.”

Go here to learn more.

Thursday
May292014

Georgia Opens New Trophy Fishery

Georgia DNR photo

A new trophy bass fishery opened in southwestern Georgia early this spring. It’s small, but prolific.

“Fisheries staff has seen some incredible fish as they prepared this pond for its opening,” said John Biagi, fisheries chief for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“With an average weight of more than 6 pounds, and a heaviest weight of more than 10 pounds, I think this area should definitely be on the destination list for any bass angler that wants to hook a big one.”

A part of the Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area, 15-acre Panic Pond opened to the public for the first time on March 1, after being acquired by the state in 2010. Except for July and August, it will be open Saturday through Monday  year around during daylight hours.

Bag limit is one largemouth with a minimum length of 24 inches, but anglers “can take unlimited photos of other worthy catches,” said DNR.

Because of thick growth of plants along the shores, the pond is best fished from a boat. The agency says that there are no restrictions, but cautions that the fishery contains “many stumps.” No live bait is allowed.

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

Wednesday
May282014

How About Hippos?

If you think that we’ve made a mess of our lands and waters through intentional and unintentional import of exotic plants and animals, you are correct. For example, we now spend billions of dollars annually to control and mitigate the damage done by just four recently introduced species: bighead carp, silver carp, quagga mussel, and zebra mussel.

And in attempts to minimize problems, the government often has made them worse. During the 1940s, the state of Louisiana touted the South American nutria as a way to control water hyacinth, a fast-growing exotic that was crowding out native vegetation in wetlands. Today, the nutria is eating away those same wetlands, contributing to saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion.

In the early 1960s, the states of Alabama and Arkansas allowed import of grass carp to control aquatic vegetation in aquaculture ponds. By 1970, escapees had established populations in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Today, these troublesome grazers are established in at least nine states and have been sighted in more than 40. Ask just about any bass angler, and he will tell you that the grass carp is public enemy No. 1.

And speaking of carp, we have the federal government to thank for one of the worst management decisions ever in regard to our fisheries. In 1877, the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries began intensively cultivating and stocking common carp. In fairness, it was prompted to do so both by public pressure and by overharvest of native fish stocks. By the turn of the century, however, it already was regarded as a nuisance.

“Moreover, their rapid spread appeared to threaten both water quality and native species, as commissioners nationwide noted a deterioration of formerly clear and fertile lakes and waterways upon the arrival of carp,” says the National Park Service.

But you don’t know the half of it. Actually, things could be worse. Much worse. Instead of nutria eating away those Louisiana wetlands, we could have hippos. And who’s to say that these massive “water horses” which can weigh up to 4 tons and eat up to 100 pounds of vegetation a day, wouldn’t have spread east, west, and north?

They are “relatively tolerant of cold conditions,” says the Glen Oak Zoo, which also points out that “many individuals live to 40 years.”

Oh yeah, they also are generally believed to have killed more people in their native Africa than another animal, including lions and crocodiles.

All things considered, I’ll take the nutria, thank you. It tops out at about 12 pounds and is not as likely to charge me at the launch ramp.

But in 1910, Frederick Russell Burnham, a famed American scout and world adventurer, proposed replacing our nation’s depleted wildlife population --- we had hunted deer, turkey, and buffalo nearly to extinction --- with animals that he had encountered in southern Africa.

His proposal lined up nicely with the search for a solution to the growing problem of water hyacinths in Louisiana waters, as well as America’s need for more meat. Writing about this little known piece of American history, Jon Mooallem in American Hippopotamus, says that Rep. of Robert Foligny of New Iberia “liked to plug up problems with big solutions.”

Thus, Foligny introduced H.R. 23261, also known as the “Hippo Bill,” to “appropriate $250,000 for the importation of useful new animals into the United States.” The Washington Post assured readers that they would see shipments of hippos within a few years.

Fortunately for all us, a boatload of hippos never docked in New Orleans. But it wasn’t because of the unexpected discovery of good judgment in Congress. Rather, one representative said that the beasts should not be introduced because unscrupulous hunters would sneak onto the farms and hunt them for trophies.

Yeah, that’s the reason not to import aggressive animals that boast 20-inch teeth and can run at speeds of more than 20 miles per hour.

What turned the tide, though, was that the Department of Agriculture decided to transform swamps and other undeveloped areas into agricultural land to grow more beef cattle.

Thank goodness. Otherwise, we might we watching “Hippo Die-Nasty” instead of “Duck Dynasty” on television.

(This column was published originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)