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Thursday
Feb062014

Invasive Species Threat Goes Both Ways

Mostly resource managers have been concerned about Asian carp invading the Great Lakes through a manmade connection with the Mississippi River basin. But exotics already in the lakes also could migrate out and spread into rivers throughout the Midwest, if the electric barrier separating the two systems is not 100 percent effective.

One of those is the Eurasian ruffe, a small perchlike fish that entered Lake Superior during the mid 1980s in the ballast water of European freighters. It then spread to Lakes Michigan and Huron, and, this past summer, researchers found ruffe DNA in Chicago’s Calumet Harbor.

“The Eurasian ruffe is a relatively small fish that produces a lot of eggs and reaches maturity very quickly,” said Lindsay Chadderton, Aquatic Invasive Species Director for The Nature Conservancy’s Great Lakes Project. “They feed from the bottom of the food chain, and they’re going to compete with native and introduced species dependent on the same fauna.”

On the positive side, Illinois officials emphasized that no live ruffe have been captured in the harbor. They said that the DNA could have come from a bait bucket or ballast tanks, not an actual fish.

Still, even the possibility that the ruffe could be poised to spread inland underscores how vulnerable both the lakes and the Mississippi River basin are to invasive species and the need for an effective two-way barrier, according to The Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups.

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

Wednesday
Feb052014

Asian Carp DNA Found in Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan now has joined Lake Erie as a fishery where Asian carp DNA has been discovered.

A single positive sample for silver carp was found in Sturgeon Bay this past summer, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which conducted the research along with the University of Notre Dame and The Nature Conservancy.

The water sample wasn’t screened for the presence of carp DNA until recently. It was collected originally in a search for evidence of Eurasian ruffe, another exotic fish species.

Is the finding cause for concern? That’s debatable. But it is reason enough to begin regular sampling of Sturgeon Bay.

“When we start talking about evidence for Asian carp in a system and the use of DNA, we talk about repeated sampling events and repeated detections,” said Chris Jerde, a Notre Dame scientist.

This latest discovery was from just one of 50 water samples taken in Sturgeon Bay and 282 total from the state’s portion of Lake Michigan.

But Jerde added that if Asian carp DNA were commonly spread by bird feces, boat hulls, and other means besides live fish, other positive samples would be noted from across the Great Lakes.

"We can talk about alternative pathways (for DNA to get into a water body), but we still have thousands of negative detections throughout the Great Lakes and we have one positive here."

DNR’s Bob Wakeman added, “It is what it is. We just need to clarify what it means.”

Despite the discovery of positive DNA in Lake Erie and even a couple of live carp over the years, no evidence has been found of a breeding population.

Tuesday
Feb042014

'Reel' American Pastime Revealed in Why We Fish

“In a world where the video machines have taken over, Robert brings the reel American pastime to surface! Fishing isn't only about time spent on the water, it's about time spent with people...family and friends.

“Building memories while taking part in an outdoors activity lasts a lifetime. Robert's book reminds lifelong anglers to share the outdoors and introduces others into the No. 1 recreational activity in the country. You are never too young....or too old to wet a line! Thanks, Robert, for sharing these messages in an entertaining format!” ---- Review of Why We Fish by Capt. Steve Chaconas of National Bass Guide Service

Monday
Feb032014

Keep Smaller Bass to Grow Bigger Ones

Protective slot limits have proven a good tool for improving bass fisheries during their more than 30 years of use. But arguably they would have been --- and still could be --- far more effective if anglers followed them as fisheries managers intended.

But about the same time as slots were recognized by wildlife agencies as a strategy for growing larger bass, anglers began to embrace catch-and-release. Too often, those two work at cross purposes, which has prompted managers to rethink how and when to use protective slots, if at all.

“If anything, slots are used less,” said Bill Pouder, a fisheries biologist and regional administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “In Florida, we’ve had one new one in the last 10 years.”

Jason Dotson, an FWC section research leader, added, “Harvest rates are low, usually less than 10 percent. Fisheries managers in the Southeast are not as concerned about overfishing as they were in the 1980s.

“Now, we’re more concerned about growing trophies and providing goods numbers than being sustainable.”

In Texas, meanwhile, fisheries managers have added just three protective slot limits during the past 10 years, according to Craig Bonds, a region director for Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW). Additionally, seven have been removed in favor of minimum or maximum length limits and a catch-and-release regulation, while six have been modified to shift protection to longer fish.

“Texas fisheries managers have not substantially increased the use of SLLs (slot-length-limits) over the past 20 years,” Bonds said.

“We have maintained SLLs where they have been successful at restructuring largemouth bass populations to make fishing better for our constituents. We’ve removed or modified them where they were not successful in achieving our management goals.”

Why have they sometimes been unsuccessful, not only in Texas but in bass waters across the nation?

A protected slot’s purpose is twofold. First, it is intended to shield a certain size of fish, say 14 to 18 inches, from harvest. Second, it is intended to encourage harvest of fish smaller than 14 inches to reduce competition for forage and habitat brought about by excess recruitment. When anglers follow both practices, theoretically the number of bass above 18 inches increases.

But because of the popularity of catch-and-release, reality often has trumped theory.

“Slots haven’t worked,” said Jeff Slipke, a fisheries expert with Midwest Lake Management, Inc., in Missouri. “For one reason or another, folks are reluctant to keep small bass. So what you’re doing when you use a slot is creating an artificially high minimum length limit. A 12- to 15-inch slot is really a 15-inch minimum.”

In a worst case scenario, that can result in a fishery with an overpopulation of small to medium size fish.

“A lot of the time, there’s ample food for young bass to 8 to 10 inches,” Slipke continued. “Where you start to see stockpiling is at 10- to 14-inch bass because there’s a lack of 3- to 4-inch bluegill for them to eat. When that happens, bass hit a wall and won’t grow anymore.”

When working as intended, the slot reduces the number of bass moving into that protected slot and, thus, the competition for food.

All of this is not to say that slots have not worked. Some of them have, especially when managers closely monitor not only the bass population but angler behavior.

For example, Florida managers replaced a 14-inch minimum with a 15-24 slot in 2000.

“Prior to that, harvest was pretty high, up to 30 percent,” Pouder said. “We wanted to try to redirect effort, to protect the females.”

And it worked, harvest declined to 10 percent, and Istokpoga now is one of the best trophy lakes in the Sunshine State, the biologist said.

Other times, fisheries have improved when the protective slot is replaced with a higher minimum length, as happened in Texas’ Lake Nacogdoches. With a 14-21 protective slot in place, managers noted that too many bass longer than 21 inches were being harvested.

By changing to a 16-inch minimum in 2008, TPW allowed anglers to keep more small to intermediate fish to eat, and, simultaneously, increased the odds of catching a trophy. The latter occurred because remaining bass had less competition for bigger and more desirable forage, allowing them to grow both faster and larger.

A volunteer trophy bass reporting program “revealed exceptionally high catches” of trophy bass following the regulation change,” Bonds said.

What does the future hold for the use of protective slots? Fisheries managers continue to believe that they are an effective management tool, but they also know that how effective depends largely on angler behavior.

The key, Bonds believes, is educating anglers about how harvest of bass below a protected slot improves their chances of catching bigger fish.

“Simple manipulations of consumptive variables (changing the slot and/or the bag limit) will not likely motivate bass anglers to harvest more fish,” he said, adding that TPW has produced a video, “Eat More Bass: Slot Limits Help Grow Bigger Fish,” in hopes of convincing fishermen to do that.

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

Friday
Jan312014

Threat to Your Right to Fish Grows With Animal 'Rights' Movement

No long after I posted the article below, I learned of this attack against recreational fishing in Australia.

Sooner or later, someone is going to try to stop you or someone you know from fishing. Possibly it will be attempted with legislation. Possibly it will be related to prohibiting catch-and-release because it is “cruel.” Or maybe it will be tied to giving “rights” to fish and wildlife.

This anti-fishing front is part of an aggressive animal rights campaign with origins in Europe, where catch and release already is illegal in places, as is the use of live bait. And the movement is growing here, as a growing percentage of our population is urbanized with little to no direct contact with nature.

Following are some of the latest news stories regarding the animal rights movement on this side of the ocean:

  • In Maine, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) opposes hunting tactics that the state allows for management of its bear population. You remember the HSUS. You’ve seen the commercials. It’s that noble organization dedicated to taking better care of homeless and abused cats and dogs.

The only problem is that very little of that money goes to pet shelters. Rather, it funds radical animal rights campaigns.  Check out this great parody of those misleading tear-jerker commercials: Lawyers in Cages.

Here is what two state representatives have to say about the HSUS campaign in Maine:

 “It was not the Humane Society of the United States that stepped up to protect and elevate the public perception of bears from a pest to one that that should be conserved and protected. Indeed, this was the effort of sportsmen, the Legislature and conservationists through a new license fee that would be used to establish an ongoing revenue stream to guarantee trained, professional biologists and wardens would closely monitor and protect bear populations . . .

“Since 1969, with the oversight of the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife bear biologists, the legislative Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and sportsmen, Maine’s black bears have flourished. The population has grown from 23,000 in 2004 to 31,000 in 2012, with healthy bears found throughout Maine . . .

“Enter the Humane Society of the United States, who, with their team of lawyers and millions of dollars slated for media manipulation, would hijack this success story and replace it with wildlife management based on 30-second emotional TV commercials.”

  • In Oregon, an animal rights activist and eco-terrorist was sentenced to just five years in jail by a sympathetic judge.

"She was a member of a group blamed “for 20 fires across the West from 1996 to 2001 that did $40 million in damage. They burned a ski resort in Colorado, wild horse corrals in Oregon and Northern California, and lumber mills and Forest Service offices in Oregon.”

  • Finally, check out No, Animals Don’t Have Rights, in to a New York Times piece that declared “an era of what might be called animal dignity is upon us.”

“Let me be clear: I'm all in favor of treating animals decently, with special sensitivity to their pain and suffering. By all means, let's pass stricter regulation of factory farming and laboratory experimentation.

“But the basis of these reforms should not be any quality we presume the animals themselves possess. It should grow out of an expansion of the sphere of human concern and sympathy, along the lines of the old aristocratic ideal of noblesse oblige — the notion that one's superiority obliges one to act nobly toward commoners. In other words, we should treat animals decently not because they're just like human beings, but rather because they're not.

“The animal rights movement, by contrast, invariably takes the opposite tack — either reducing us to the level of animals or attempting to raise them up to ours. Both should be resisted.”