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Galveston Grass

Photo by Robert MontgomeryBeneficial marsh grasses like this will grow more plentiful as restoration projects enhance fish and wildlife habitat in Galveston Bay. With the Galveston Bay Foundation and Vanishing Paradise providing oversight and assistance, much of the work will be financed by the  RESTORE Act, using funds provided by BP to compensate for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill five years ago.


Restoring Galveston Bay

Activist Angler is down at Texas' Galveston Bay, looking at efforts to improve the wetlands, sea grasses, and oyster reefs.  Galveston Bay Foundation and Vanishing Paradise (VP), an initiative by the National Widlife Federation, are making certain lots of good work is being done with money from the RESTORE Act.

Following a tour of the projects, we found time to do a little fishing with Captain Chris Howard. Andy McDaniels, VP national sportsmen's outreach coordinator, is holding the redfish.


Join the Pitch It Campaign to Keep Plastics Out of Our Waters


Please pledge to “pitch it” in Keep America Fishing’s (KAF) new campaign to prevent used plastic baits and other trash from littering our waters and  shorelines.

KAF says this:

“What happens when soft baits get torn or worn out? Too often, they are ending up as litter at the bottoms of ponds, lakes and rivers and that’s causing problems. Recently in Maine, a bill was introduced that would have banned the sale and use of soft plastic lures.

“That’s why Keep America Fishing created the Pitch It campaign to talk to fishermen about the proper disposal of worn out soft baits. By standing up against litter, we can protect our precious natural resources while taking away a powerful argument from those who want to regulate the contents of our tackle boxes. That’s a win-win!”

Go here to take the pledge and hear a short video by Kevin VanDam in support of the effort.

By the way, I started warning about the problems caused by discarded plastic baits back in 2011, first in B.A.S.S. Times and then at Activist Angler. Angler Joe Ford, who caught a large bass with a stomach full of discarded baits, and Carl Wengenroth at The Angler's Lodge on Lake Amistad first brought this issue to my attention. Here are a couple of those early articles:

Discarded Baits Could Be a Killer; Put Them in the Trash

We Have a Problem


Jacksonville Extorted to Join Campaign to Destroy Rodman

Several years after I became a conservation writer for B.A.S.S., the Rodman debate prompted me to question some environmental groups and their causes. As I did so, I realized that facts mean more than ideology for me, and that the facts supported not destroying the impoundment on the Ocklawaha River.

Two decades later, those facts tell me the same thing:

Florida’s Rodman Reservoir is a world-class fishery, a popular recreation area, a wetlands-rich ecosystem, and an invaluable water storage basin in a state that shows no sign of slowing growth. But for the environmentalists, ideology continues to trump reality. That ideology holds that man is not a part of nature and anything that he does defiles it.

Many times, the latter is true. But Rodman is the exception that makes the rule, as man’s meddling combined with Florida’s unique topography and climate to create a resource richer and more diverse than the river above and below it. Environmentalists, however, refuse to acknowledge the value of this 9,000-acre remnant from an ill-conceived canal project that was cancelled 50 years ago. They want it gone. Period.

Their latest effort involves extorting the City of Jacksonville to join them in their quixotic quest. For economic gain, the city’s leaders want to dredge the lower St. Johns River so that the port can accommodate larger mega-container ships coming through the Panama Canal. The St. Johns Riverkeeper threatened to sue to stop the dredging unless . . . .

That’s right, unless Jacksonville gets on board with the mission to destroy the reservoir on the upstream tributary of the St. Johns, 60 miles away, the Riverkeeper will oppose the project. Of course, the city has absolutely nothing to do with the reservoir or its management. Its value lies in its lobbying power in the Florida Legislature, which has steadfastly refused to authorize destruction of the fishery.

The argument for this unholy alliance is that taking out the dam at Rodman will somehow mitigate the damage done to the lower St. Johns by dredging. The hypocrisy is staggering. But the tactics of environmental zealots no longer surprise me. They pursue their causes with religious fervor and nothing --- not facts, not common sense, not popular opinion --- will deter them in their mission, whether it is to create no-fishing zones in our oceans, stop fracking, or destroy Rodman Reservoir.

"Make no mistake, when our economic development team is trying to recruit businesses to come here, they are selling the quality of life in Northeast Florida," said Daniel Davis, president and CEO of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. "The St. Johns River is key to that quality of life and we need to pull together to protect it. The business community now is fully a partner in this effort to clean and protect the St Johns River."

Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, meanwhile, added that the millions of gallons of water that would flow into the river once the dam is breached will mitigate the decreased water quality and other aquatic impact of dredging the ship channel from 40 to 47 feet.

"For nearly three years, we have worked diligently to protect the St. Johns River from the inherent risks of dredging," she said. "This unique partnership creates a new opportunity to fortify our river. While restoring the Ocklawaha will not address all of the dredging impacts, it would provide significant ecological benefits to the St. Johns."

Even the Times-Union newspaper joined in the misinformation campaign, editorializing that, by taking down the dam, “the water level would drop and a total of 20 springs stopped up by the reservoir would flow again. Also, wetlands would be restored.”

The truth is that no springs are stopped by the reservoir, nor is the Ocklawaha prevented from discharging into the St. Johns. The dam simply regulates flow. Blowing it out would result in a huge, but brief slug of water cascading downstream. After that, flow would return to essentially what it is now. Long-term effect would be minimal at the mouth, where the dredging would occur.

Additionally, far more wetlands would be destroyed than restored, as would fish and wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, and millions of dollars in economic benefits annually to the communities near Rodman.

Of course, all of these mean nothing to the true believers because they are the ill-gotten by-products of man’s defilement of nature.

Still, I suspect that this gambit will be no more successful than previous attempts to destroy Rodman, thus negating the agreement. And, if that is the case, I’m really looking forward to seeing what the Riverkeeper has to say about the city’s plan to dredge. 

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


Hey, Mate, Check Out the Aussie Bass

B.A.S.S. in Australia? That’s right.

But no bass.

We shouldn’t be critical of that, though, because “bass” anglers in the U.S. don’t pursue real bass either.  Largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass all are members of the sunfish family. On the other hand, white and striped bass really are bass.

Down Under, anglers pursue the “Australian bass,” known scientifically as Macquaria novemaculeata, a member of the Percichthyidae family.

The Australian non-bass bass shares some characteristics with the U.S. non-bass bass, including a pugnacious attitude and a willingness to strike artificial baits.

But they are distinctly different species, with U.S. fish growing larger. Australian bass typically average 1 to 2 pounds and measure 12 to 14 inches long.

How big do Australian bass get? That’s not entirely clear. This website says that the heaviest ever caught checked in at 8.3 pounds (3.78 kilograms).

A recent report from Australia says that a “fishing world record” recently was set during a B.A.S.S. event at Lake Boondooma, when Stan Kanowski caught one on a spinnerbait that measured nearly 19 inches (48 centimeters) long. It also points out that Kanowski says that he’s caught larger fish and that only recently have length records been kept.

Here’s an article from about Australia joining B.A.S.S.