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Friday
Mar212014

Stop Blaming the 'Villagers'

Today’s biology lesson is about the life cycle of zebra mussels. As an added bonus, I’m going to provide a little instruction in the lost art of journalism.

First, read this excerpt from an article about the exotic shellfish on the KAAL website in Minnesota:

 * * *

"Say you've pumped in 100 gallons of water off Lake Minnetonka and it comes in now and then pumps out, any villagers that happen to be in that tank can't get out either,” said Larry Meddock with the Water Sports Industry Association. The villagers are trapped. That's important because the filter reduces the risk of any hitchhikers being transported from one lake to another through ballast tanks on boats.

* * *

Now here’s the journalism lesson: Know what you’re talking about.

And here’s a clue to the biology lesson: “Villagers” don’t live in water; they live in a village. And they are people, not zebra mussels.

What, then, are the “villagers” that the KAAL author is referring to? Had she bothered to do any research, she would have discovered that the correct term is “veligers.”

Here’s what you need to know about zebra mussels and what that article failed miserably to explain:

Veligers are the microscopic, free-swimming larvae of zebra and other mussels. They can drift in the water for several weeks, before settling onto hard surfaces to grow into hard-shell adults.

They likely were introduced to the Great Lakes as veligers in the ballast water of ocean-going ships. They also are being spread within the United States in ballast, as well as in bilges, livewells and any other water left in a boats as they leave infected waterways.

As adults, they can hitchhike by attaching to boat hulls, props, and trailers, surviving out of water for a week or so.

That’s why it’s so important that you clean, drain, and dry your boat after leaving any water infected with zebra or quagga mussels. And the failure of many to take these precautions is a major reason that these problematic shellfish have spread out from the Great Lakes, and, in recent years even crossed the Continental Divide.

Aside from outcompeting native species for oxygen, food, and habitat, they clog water and hydropower plants, costing the nation’s economy more than $1 billion a year in damages and associated control costs annually.

Stop the spread of “veligers,” and leave the “villagers” alone.

Thursday
Mar202014

Angler Leads Way to Protect Dolphins

Dolphins trapped in a tuna net. Photo courtesy of Divine Dolphin, Drake Bay

Some of the most spectacular things that I have ever seen while fishing are the pods of spinner dolphins that swim alongside the boat in the Pacific waters of Costa Rica.  Watching them leap, twirl, and dive just a few feet away, I can’t help but feel the joy that they so enthusiastically exhibit.

Sadly, not enough is being done to protect these marine mammals, which are “collateral damage” when foreign commercial fishermen come into Costa Rica waters to net tuna.

As fishing director at Crocodile Bay Resort, my friend Todd Staley is trying his best to gain protection for the spinner dolphins, by forcing the commercial netters farther offshore. In a letter to Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla, he said this:

“Most people have no idea how tuna are captured. More often than not in Costa Rica, large ships encircle schools of tuna swimming below massive pods of dolphins. Since 1950, more than 6 million dolphins have died at the hands of the tuna industry.

“Today they claim they have methods to release the dolphins before taking the tuna onboard the ship. Even though the majority of these dolphins may be released alive, the panic and stress put on these animals is horrendous while they are held prisoner in the nets. When released, the pods of dolphins are separated, often leaving mothers and young apart.

“Commercial and sport fishermen who have spent lots of time on the ocean see firsthand how these tuna ships operate. They have helicopters to spot the dolphins. Then they drop explosives on top of the dolphins to drive the tuna toward the ship. This practice is illegal in Costa Rica but often used . . .

“By moving the tuna boats out to at least 100 miles, which is only another 40 miles in an ocean of territorial water, you can effectively protect an entire subspecies of dolphins. In a country famous for its protection of natural resources, this is little for the Costa Rican people to ask.”

Todd Staley with Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla.

For his tireless efforts to educate about sustainable fishing practices and to keep Costa Rica’s fish, dolphin, and sea turtle populations healthy and robust, Todd has been nominated for the IGFA Chester H. Wolfe Sportsman of the Year Award by the Redbone@Large Tournament Group.

Thursday
Mar202014

Potash Tournament Benefits Fishery, as Well as Charity, Kids

Tournament competitors dropped Fishiding "Safehouses" to improve habitat at Strom Thurmond Reservoir.

Activist Angler note: Teaming with Fishiding, PotashCorp introduced a conservation component to its benefit tournament last year and plans to include it again this year. I hope that other tournament organizers will take note and follow the leader because these kinds of projects actually could improve fisheries.

A few have had competitors release fry during one of the competition days, but all that really does is provide an opportunity for promotion of the event. It does little or nothing to help the fishery. If bass have sufficient habitat, they will reproduce just fine on their own. If they don't, adding more fish to compete for already limited forage and cover is pointless.

The following article about the Potash tournament appears in the April issue of B.A.S.S. Times:

In regard to bass tournaments, Joey Bruyninckx had a better idea.

“I wanted to do something that benefits charity, kids, and the environment,” said the environmental specialist for PotashCorp, who added that he likes to fish and has ties to fishing. “From there, it just all came together.”

Thus was born the PotashCorp Fishback Tournament, set for June 6-7 at J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir (also known as Clark Hill) on the Georgia-South Carolina border.

But it’s possible that this year’s team event, unlike the inaugural last year, might be changed to one day instead of two.

“A lot of the fishermen are older and the two-day tournament was rough on them,” Bruyninckx said. “And it was exhausting for the volunteers. Changing it to one day should increase participation while lessening work.”

Still, last year’s two-day tournament, with a $12,000 payout for first place, was a “huge success,” said the employee of the world’s largest fertilizer company. With 135 teams competing, $6,000 was raised for the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance and $4,000 for the North Augusta Fishing Team, a youth organization. Volunteers from the latter performed much of the labor, including returning bass to the lake.

What made this event different from most others, meanwhile, was the conservation component. On Day One, each team placed habitat in the reservoir on its first or second stop.

“I was worried that there would be a lot of fussing and grumbling,” the environmental specialist said. “But afterward, a number of them told me how much they appreciated what we were doing. There were way more positive comments than negative.”

Had competitors been asked to load a brushpile with cinder blocks onto the deck of their bass boats, the reaction might not have been so positive. But instead PotashCorp provided them with self-contained habitats made from reclaimed vinyl siding by Fishiding (a supporter of Activist Angler). All anglers had to do was unfold and drop the “Safehouse,” which boasts a 7-foot diameter when opened.

Fishiding owner Dave Ewald said the units “sink to the bottom and land upright to resemble a bush. The wide limbs create maximum shade, often preferred by bass and forage fish. Nutrients then stick to the vinyl and start the food chain.”

Bruyninckx sought and received approval from Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before implementing the habitat-improvement component of the tournament. Orginally, he had considered having each team release bass fry, but DNR biologists convinced him that adding habitat would be more beneficial.

The same is planned for this year’s event, which its creator hopes will have more sponsors. PotashCorp donated $25,000 last year and is expected to increase that to $30,000 this year.

Those interested in participating in the tournament should contact Jon Hair at the Tackle Shop in Martinez, Ga. Phone numbers are (706) 432-8225 and (706) 723-6292.

Companies interested in being a sponsor should contact Bruyninckx at (706) 469-1239. 

Thursday
Mar202014

Marietta Club Teams with DNR, Corps to Improve Allatoona Habitat

Photo by R. Dale McPherson

The Marietta BassMasters teamed up with Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year to place much needed cover in Lake Allatoona, a 12,000-acre fishery on the Etowah River near Atlanta.

“This project will add considerable fish habitat to an area of Lake Allatoona that is largely habitat deficient,” said Dale McPherson, the club’s Conservation Chair. “Once the lake level rises and the trees flood, the strategic location of the Christmas trees will provide an excellent fishing opportunity for anglers, including bank anglers, who visit Proctor Landing.”

McPherson said that the work was organized in conjunction with DNR biologist Jim Hakala as a part of the GoFish Georgia Program. He also pointed out that improving habitat an Allatoona will be an ongoing effort.

After the Corps picked up about 275 trees at dropoff points and brought them to the landing, club members spent about 2 ½ hours drilling holes in the trunks and then securing the cover to concrete anchor points provided by DNR.

Because the flood-control lake was at winter pool for this January project, the anchor areas were dry, but will be 8 to 10 feet below the surface during spring.

Proctor Landing was chosen for habitat improvement because it receives less wave action that other portions of the fishery. Consequently, the tree bundles likely will provide cover for 6 to 7 years.

“The 25 participating members were more than half of our club membership,” said McPherson. “This was great participation from our members!”

He added that those who did not work contribute $20 each into the club’s conservation account, with some of that money used to buy the wire used to anchor the trees.

“One way or another, every Marietta BassMasters member contributes to our conservation projects.”

(This article appeared originally at Bassmaster.com)

Wednesday
Mar192014

Lake Kingsley Leads Way for Trophy Bass in Florida

Len Andrews with TrophyCatch bass caught at Lake Kingsley.

North Florida’s Lake Kingsley is yielding an abundance of big bass this spring. Unfortunately, most of us can’t fish it. On the east, access is limited to military personnel from Camp Blanding and, on the west, with permission of private homeowners.

Still, it’s indicative of what many of the Sunshine State’s public waters are capable of producing, especially during the pre-spawn and spawn. And with the introduction of Florida’s TrophyCatch program a couple of years ago, we’re now getting a better idea of that what they are producing.

 The latest news from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is that Len Andrews caught and released a dozen largemouth bass that weighed 10 pounds or more during a two-week period at Lake Kingsley. Previously, FWC reported that Joseph Morrell caught three double-digit fish in early March. Morrell’s largest weighed 14-9 and Andrews’ 13-12.

Here’s more from FWC about 74-year-old Andrews and his big bass:

Andrews discovered north Florida’s Lake Kingsley 17 years ago and now routinely visits for three months every year, generally fishing seven days a week. His very first cast with a Zoom 6-inch lizard on a Shimano baitcasting reel and G. Loomis rod yielded a 14-pound, 8-ounce Florida largemouth back in 1999. He has been hooked ever since, and always uses the same lure while sight-fishing for bass in the shallows.

Andrews grew up fishing with friends, and in the 1960s and ’70s he tried his hand tournament fishing, but said he “nearly starved,” even after adding guiding on Rodman Reservoir to his repertoire. Ultimately, he relied on being a union carpenter and supervisor until he retired.

TrophyCatch is an incentive-based conservation program that rewards anglers for legally catching, documenting and releasing trophy largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds in Florida. The second season of this very successful effort to gather information on elusive trophy bass while encouraging anglers to release them began Oct. 1, 2013, and ends Sep. 30 this year. The program itself is ongoing, but having seasons allows the FWC to award a championship ring annually, which is donated by the American Outdoors Fund, and to draw for the Phoenix bass boat, which is powered by a Mercury outboard and equipped with a Power-Pole. Simply registering at TrophyCatchFlorida.com makes you eligible for the random boat drawing.

Andrews’ 13-pounder, which he caught on March 11, was verified on a certified scale by FWC biologists Allen Martin and Steven Hooley as the fourth Hall of Fame entry this season. Van Soles recorded the first, a 13-pound, 2-ounce tournament-caught bass from Lake Kissimmee. Joseph Morrell followed earlier this month with two catches a week apart, weighing, 13 pounds, 12 ounces and then our current leader – a 14-pound, 9-ounce bass. Both of Morrell’s catches were also caught and released on Lake Kingsley.

Hall of Fame entries receive a free fiberglass replica mount ($500 value) from New Wave Taxidermy; $200 worth of gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Dick's Sporting Goods and/or Rapala; a Bass King duffle bag with customized hoodie, shirt and hat; and a Glen Lau DVD. In addition, their names are entered into the Florida Bass Hall of Fame at the Florida Bass Conservation Center .

The other two clubs that are part of TrophyCatch are the Lunker Club for bass between 8 and 9.9 pounds, and Trophy Club for bass between 10 and 12.9 pounds. Verified Lunker Club entries receive $100 in gift cards from our partners and a club T-shirt. Trophy Club entries earn $150 in gift cards and a long-sleeve club shirt. All three groups also get a club decal and customized certificate.

To enroll in any of the three clubs and support conservation, anglers should register at TrophyCatchFlorida.com, where they will also log in to submit their catches. A verified catch must be properly documented by one of the following means:

  • Photo of entire fish on the scale with the weight showing (if not perfect, be sure to supplement with a closeup showing the scale and at least part of the fish, a shot of entire fish on a tape-measure, and maybe a girth photo);
  • Link to a tournament website with official results, or to a publication that includes your name and verified weight of the individual fish;
  • A copy of an official printed tournament weigh slip, with tournament information that includes your name and the verified weight of the individual fish, or;
  • Provide the name and contact information for an FWC official who saw the actual fish being weighed and can verify the entry (e.g., creel clerks, conservation officers, event volunteers).

Other anglers can view the gallery and map on the TrophyCatch website to see where all the great catches are being made, and follow us at Facebook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida