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Friday
May242013

Angry Guide Calls Out N.H. Trout Unlimited for Supporting Lead Ban

I am not the only one enraged by the New Hampshire’s legislature decision to ban lead jigheads and sinkers of 1 ounce or less. (See post below this one.) Angling advocates nationwide are shaking their heads in disbelief at the state’s disregard for science and common sense.

And they are not going to go away and quietly accept the state’s lead ban--- or forget those who supported the ban.

Here’s a letter to Trout Unlimited from Brian Emerson, a licensed fishing guide in New Hampshire:

As a lifetime angler and licensed guide for all species of fish in New Hampshire, as well as a former supporter and donor to NHTU, I have to tell you that I am totally disgusted with Trout Unlimited "selling-out" the fishing fraternity by supporting SB89. Eventually I'm sure it will come out as to what TU received in exchange for their support of this unfounded and unnecessary ban on bass fishing tackle. Perhaps your goal was to drive a wedge between trout and bass fisherman. If so, you don't begin to know how you have succeeded.

This bill was not endorsed by the NH F&G Commission for many good reasons. Why you would elect to support a bill contrary to their wishes certainly escapes me.

I have read your letter of support that was sent to the legislative committee and it sickens me to see that you would suggest that the NH loons are threatened (FACT: They most definitely are not!!!!) And the notion that the targeted bass jigs are having a significant negative impact on the loon population is obviously the statement of an uneducated person. Trout tackle continues to be the number one cause of lead toxicosis in loons, years after it has been banned.

Like I said, I fish for all species of fish and I expect that TU will feel the backlash from this to an extent they couldn't have imagined. You now have hundreds, and most likely thousands, of irate fishermen that will be on a mission to destroy TU in this state. Your only hope for salvation will be to support the repeal of SB89.

I can assure you the bass community will be submitting a bill to do just that in the future. I'm sure that lead-weighted flies, flies with lead eyes, lead-core line and any other trout tackle containing lead will be attacked as well (most likely by the very group that you sided with on this bill!).

I am ashamed, as a trout fisherman, to think that anglers placed their trust in you to oversee their interests only to be sold down the river. I will do everything in my power to let as many sportsmen as possible know what you have done and urge them to no longer support your organization.

If you want to send your own letter to the New Hampshire Trout Unlimited, here’s the address: nhtroutunlimited@gmail.com

Friday
May242013

New Hampshire Defies Common Sense and Science in Banning Lead Tackle

The anti-fishing loon-atics have had their way in New Hampshire, as the state’s House of Representatives passed a bill to outlaw the use of lead jigheads and sinkers of 1 ounce or less. The bill previously passed without opposition in the Senate and now awaits the governor’s signature to be made law.

The bill’s intended purpose is to protect loons from dying of lead poisoning by ingesting the jigs and sinkers. But a law wasn’t needed for that. It rarely occurs anyway.

“There is no substantial evidence to suggest that lead fishing tackle has detrimental impacts on loon, or other migratory waterfowl populations,” the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation said in a letter opposing the bill. “In fact, studies by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have found loon populations are either stable or increasing across the nation.”

What the bill will do, however, is discourage recreational fishing in New Hampshire, especially by those from out-of-state. Resident anglers will mostly continue to use lead jigs and sinkers, since no punitive measures are attached to the new law.

But out-of-state anglers won’t want the potential hassle and so will go elsewhere to fish. That means their money will go with them.

That translates into fewer tourist dollars to benefit the state’s economy and less revenue for management of the state’s fish and wildlife resources, since fishing license fees are a primary source of revenue.

Additionally, over time, the measure is likely to depress the number of resident anglers as well. That will mean less funding not only from loss of licenses but from the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) program. State apportionments from the latter are tied to license sales; the more who fish the waters of a state, the more money that state gets.

Whether money comes from license sales or WSFR, it benefits fish and wildlife in general as it is used to restore and enhance habitat. In other words, when anglers buy licenses and spend money on their sport, they actually benefit loons, not harm them.

Congratulations New Hampshire loon-atics for your stupidity and short-sightedness. 

Thursday
May232013

Climate Change Is Reality; Claim That It Is 'Manmade' Is Not

Out on the water, biologists observe the effects of climate change on fisheries. At conferences, they talk about its implications.  For example, at the recent annual meeting of the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society, concerns about its effects were discussed in at least seven presentations, several of them involving bass.

One abstract summarized this way: “Climate change is thought to be a leading driver in the erosion of biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability at all scales.”

Yet, some anglers deny the reality of climate change, and I speak from personal experience in saying that. I’ve met them.

So have the biologists. “When I explain what is happening (to fishermen), I have to tip toe all around the reasons for change,” says one.

Why is that?

Certainly a number of them do not believe.  But for most, I think that refusal to accept reality has more to do with blind rejection of what they view as the “party line” for environmentalists. And I can relate to that argument.

Much of the “green” agenda  is anti-fishing, as typified by attempts to ban lead fishing tackle, and campaigns to create “protected areas,” where recreational fishing would not be allowed. Let’s not forget, either, an adjunct of that, the animal rights movement, which now wants to use drones to stalk and harass hunters and fishermen.

But what anglers with tunnel vision fail to see is that enviros are beating the drum to end “manmade” climate change. Questioning the validity of that argument is where fishermen should make their case, not denying that the climate changes and, in so doing, affects fisheries.

Of course climate changes. It’s a dynamic force.

More than a century ago, Mark Twain reputedly said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” The reality, though, is that’s the case, no matter where you live. As fronts move in and out, weather changes --- by the minute, by the hour, by the day. And just as it evolves over these short periods, it changes during longer stretches of time as well --- by the year, by the decade, by the century.

“When we talk about climate change, we talk about changes in long-term averages of daily weather,” says the National Atmospheric and Space Administration.

Anglers who deny this fact of life damage our reputation as conservationists, and alienate some of our closest allies, the biologists. Instead of being supporters of enlightened management to sustain fisheries, they become barriers.

Most importantly, in rejecting climate change, they are disputing the idea that changes occur naturally in fisheries, changes for which there are no “solutions.”    

Still not convinced? Just look to the north and south, the front lines for fisheries altered by climate change.

In Florida, milder winters have allowed snook to move up the Gulf Coast. Eight years ago, the saltwater predator was an infrequent visitor to Crystal River. Now it seems to be a firmly established resident --- and a competitor with bass for forage and habitat. Long-time angler Matt Beck says that it’s not uncommon to catch more snook than bass when fishing for the latter. “Today, snook in the 20- to 35-pound range are caught on a regular basis,” he adds.

Florida biologist Allen Martin says the state has no data on the river’s bass population, but he doesn’t doubt Beck’s observation.

“With mild winters, snook have moved as far north as the Suwannee, about 100 miles to the north,” says the biologist, adding that degraded habitat and increased salinity because of lower flows of springs likely have contributed to changes as well.

“Peacock bass, armored catfish, and tilapia moved farther northern too,” he adds. “A couple of cold winters knocked them back, but they probably will start moving north again.”

Meanwhile, water temperatures have been warming for 47 years on New York’s Oneida Lake, a benefit for bass.

“It’s been particularly pronounced since the 1980s, when smallmouth bass really started to take off,” says Randy Jackson, a biologist with the Cornell Biological Field Station on the lake. “At Lake Erie, there’s a strong correlation too.”

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that largemouth bass, bowfin, longnose gar, and gizzard shad also are profiting from warmer weather, he adds. Concurrently, the cold-water burbot, on the southern end of its range, is declining.

“This is all consistent with what people are predicting,” he says. “No one can argue than we have warmer lakes than we did 40 years ago.”

I wish that were true, especially among anglers.

(This opinion piece appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Wednesday
May222013

Record Size Burmese Python Killed in Florida

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission photo

Burmese pythons in Florida are going to keep growing and becoming more widespread, as a Miami man confirmed earlier this month. The same story already is playing out with other exotics, as we pay the price for government’s failure to regulate and restrict the import of potentially dangerous and damaging fish, wildlife, and plant species.

Only in the case of Burmese pythons, there’s an increasing risk to human life.

You doubt that?

General wisdom has it that these snakes grow to 17 or 18 feet and can weigh 200 pounds or more. But here’s the thing: These snakes are established in new territory, with none of the variables (climate, disease, predators, etc.) that naturally would inhibit growth and expansion in their native range.

That’s already being shown with silver and bighead carp, as they spread and crowd out native fisheries with their massive numbers. It’s evident with the snakehead. Just a year ago, one of world-record proportions was pulled from the Potomac River.

The python that Jason Leon killed in a rural area of southeast Miami-Dade County measured 18 feet, 8 inches long and weighed 128 pounds, a record for Florida.  That’s already large enough to kill and consume a child or dog.

And these invaders are going to keep growing . . . and spreading . . .

Here’s a report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

 

Tuesday
May212013

Darden Restaurant Chain Disrespects Recreational Anglers

If you’re a recreational angler, you might want to reconsider that next family trip to Red Lobster or the Olive Garden. In spending your money at one of these Darden restaurants, you are supporting a restaurant chain that does not support you.

In fact, it’s not unreasonable to say that Darden is no friend to fishermen. As the recreational angling industry argues for a greater share of red snapper, the chain has come down squarely on the side of commercial fishing.

In fact, a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel says this:

“Even Darden Restaurants — which has seafood on the menu of all of its 1,900 restaurants — supports the quotas. In a letter last June to the Gulf Management Council, the company called for a continuation of the quota, though it said commercial fishers should be allotted more and recreational anglers less.”

Now before I told you about this situation, I wanted to make absolutely sure of the facts. To do that, I had to track down the letter. You’ll find it here.

After reading it, though, I still wasn’t certain of Darden’s position. That’s why I asked Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association, to take a look at it.

Here is what he said:

“I too am a little fuzzy on some of the specifics in that letter, but it is clear to me that they’re calling for a review of the red snapper allocation, and imply that more of the quota should be given to the commercial sector.

“Not surprising that a seafood company would want a greater supply of red snapper, just like it’s not surprising that anglers want more fish made available for them to catch!

“The difference is that we have an increasing body of data that demonstrate the significantly greater economic value (some showing an order of magnitude or more) that these fish hold when caught recreationally vs. commercially.”

In other words, more and more evidence reveals that recreational fishing for red snapper (and other “mixed fishery” species) is more beneficial to the economy than commercial fishing. Now add in the fact that recreational fishing for marine species accounts for only about 2 percent of harvest.

Check out Comparing NOAA’s Recreational and Commercial Fishing Economic Data to learn more.

And how about this from a background document on the grouper fishery provided me by Leonard:

“A recent presentation to the socioeconomic science and statistical committee (SESSC) of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council by two NOAA Fisheries Service economists showed that recreational value for grouper far outstrips commercial value in the grouper fishery.

“These economists concluded that the current allocation is economically inefficient and to increase efficiency and maximize the value to the nation, the allocation should be moved towards the recreational sector.”

If you do decide to keep patronizing Darden restaurants, you might want have a chat with the local restaurant manager about this issue, or, even better, you might want to write a letter to the chain, expressing your displeasure with a policy that disrespects a significant portion of its customers and their families.

As Leonard pointed out, it’s not unreasonable that a seafood company wants more fish to sell in its restaurants. But if it drives away customers by antagonizing them, what’s the point?