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Ban on Plastic Baits Proposed in Maine; Voice Your Opposition Now

To quote Red Forman from “That ‘70s Show”: “Holy Crap!”

Legislation is being proposed in Maine to ban the use of soft plastic baits. And to show you just how uninformed the perpetrators of this idiocy are, they refer to the baits as “rubber.” Never mind that no scientific research indicates that fisheries are harmed by use of the baits.

Keep America Fishing says this:

“On January 17, state Representative Paul Davis introduced H.P. 37/L.D.42, legislation that would prohibit the use of all 'rubber' lures.

“The legislation seeks to ban ‘rubber’ baits but does not define the term.

"Even so, the intent of the legislation is clear – to ban the soft baits that Maine anglers use every day.

“Technically, there are no ‘rubber’ baits on the market as soft baits are made from various substances, none of which are rubber. The bill would even ban biodegradable soft baits currently available. The legislation does nothing to encourage further understanding of this perceived problem or to improve angler education on the use of soft baits.

Please, go directly to Keep America Fishing to send a letter to the Maine Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife opposing this bill.”

Coverage of this issue also is at


Why We Fish, the Book

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after”  --- Henry David Thoreau

 I’m putting together a book about why we fish. It’s entitled, appropriately enough, Why We Fish. Most of the book will consist of essays written by me.

But I’m also including a few others who have something interesting and insightful to say about why we fish. Bill Dance is one of my contributors.

Would you like to be?

If you have a personal story or experience that speaks to one (or more) of the many reasons that keep us going back to the water, please tell me about it.

Plug “Why We Fish” into "search" on this page (upper right) to get a rough idea of what I’m talking about. I’ve written several short pieces for this website on the subject. Most of these posts are shorter than those essays that will be in the book, but they still will give you an idea of the subject. A few of the essays, though, will be just a few hundred words.

If you’d like to share a story with me, click “contact me.” Send me an e-mail telling me a little bit about what you have in mind, and I’ll respond with my e-mail address so that you can send your story to me directly.

If you submit something, though, I can’t guarantee that I will use it. And I reserve the right to edit for clarity, punctuation, grammar, spelling, etc. (I’m a former English teacher, by the way.)

But if you do have something to say on this subject, I hope that you’ll contact me.

I also hope that you will buy the book! 


Amendment Could Weaken Protection for Missouri Streams, Fisheries

The rusty crayfish is but one of several species that threaten Missouri streams.

It appears that the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and Conservation Commission might be on the verge of weakening the regulation that it implemented in March 2012 to protect Missouri streams from invasive crayfish. If it does so, native ecosystems, especially smallmouth bass streams, likely will pay the price for this concession to the Missouri Farm Bureau (MFB) and the aquaculture industry.

Those two special interests pushed hard against the original regulation. Last year, they also collected signatures statewide against the move to prohibit the import, sale, and purchase of live crayfish for use as fishing bait, as well as for pond stocking and as pets for food.

And don’t forget that we have fish farmers (in other states) to thank for the Asian carp invasion now devastating fisheries throughout much of the country. They persuaded decision makers that the economic interests of aquaculture were more important than protecting ecosystems and native species from invasive species.

Why does Missouri need this regulation? Read these previous posts at Activist Angler:Missouri Needs Angler Support to Protect Fisheries from Invasive Crayfish and Invasive Crayfish Threaten Fisheries.

The amendment would allow the virile, or Northern, crayfish to be purchased for re-sale and sold for use as live bait. It still could not be imported from another state.

But research by MDC biologists indicates that the virile crayfish poses a significant threat. Here’s what they discovered in investigating crayfish invasions in Missouri:

“In February of 2012, U.S. National Park Service (NPS) biologists contacted MDC to report they had discovered an invasion of virile crayfish in the upper Current River watershed.  They had discovered the species at 13 locations along the Current River watershed, totaling about 42 stream miles.  Invasions were later confirmed by MDC staff, working with NPS staff. 

“Current River is in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, is one of the most recreationally important (canoeing, fishing, etc.) rivers in Missouri, and NPS staff were concerned about effects of this invasion on the river’s ecology and fishery.  Nobody has yet studied this invasion to determine effects.  However, NPS biologists noted several sites where virile crayfish outnumbered native crayfish and numbers of native spothanded crayfish (Orconectes punctimanus) were notably lower than expected (relative to observations from around the watershed).”

With research beginning only in 1999, biologists say that they aren’t yet certain how much of this species distribution in Missouri is native and how much is invasive. But they say that the virile crayfish is a “very hardy and adaptive species” that can be highly invasive.  

Additionally, Charlie Rabeni, retired leader of the Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, says this:

“I have studied streams and crayfish in particular in Missouri Ozark streams for over 30 years. I am in total agreement with other experts who see any change to the prohibition of selling any species of crayfish to be potentially very harmful to stream biodiversity and to smallmouth bass and rock bass.”

If you want to help protect Missouri streams and smallmouth fisheries, voice your opposition to the amendment and support for the original regulation in a letter to the Missouri Conservation Commission (c/o Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102.)

Here’s what is coming up in the process to amend the regulation, according to MDC:

“The annual code review where the Regulations Committee will be discussing the proposed amendment to the crayfish regulation will be on Wednesday February 13, 2013 at the Missouri Department of Conservation Headquarters building in Jefferson City starting at 10 a.m. in the auditorium.

“Once this amendment to the regulation is proposed, it will go to the Department’s Regulations Committee for review. With the approval of the Regulations Committee and Director, the proposed regulation changes would then be presented to the Conservation Commission for approval. If approved by the Commission, the regulation changes would then be filed with the Secretary of State’s Office and posted for public comment.” Pending comments, the new regulation would then take effect March 1, 2014.”


ESA Protection for Clear Lake Minnow Could Threaten Bass Fishery

Photo from Lake County Marketing Program

Those who fish and live near California’s Clear Lake have good reason to fear a proposal to list the hitch, a type of native minnow, under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Passed with the best of intentions in 1973, the ESA has proven to be a poorly worded, over-reaching federal mandate often used --- and abused --- by environmental organizations. They wield it to push a preservationist ideology, with saving plants and animals from extinction simply a convenient front for raising funds.

By contrast our rights to use both public and private lands and waters are the collateral damage, with little recourse except years of expensive litigation, an option that few of us can afford.

At Clear Lake, one of the best bass fisheries in the nation could be threatened by this listing, as well as the well being of communities that rely on the economic engine of recreational fishing.

How good is this 43,785-acre natural lake? Well, until it was surpassed by Texas’ Falcon in 2008, Clear Lake owned all of the heavyweight B.A.S.S. tournament records. In 2007, it surrendered a four-day weight of 122 pounds, 14 ounces to Steve Kenney.

It is ranked as the 10th best bass fishery in the country by Bassmaster Magazine.

Additionally, agriculture around the lake could be a casualty.

“The one fact that surprised many in the audience was that local economic conditions can't be taken into consideration while determining if a species is endangered,” said the Lake County Record-Bee newspaper, reporting on a public meeting about the listing proposed by the Center for Biological Diversity.

 “In other words, even if the listing of a species as endangered would have devastating consequences on a local community it would have no effect on the listing process.

“That did not sit well with many at the meeting. Many worry if the hitch is declared endangered it would impact the use of the lake by fishermen and boaters. The local farming community, which uses water from the lake, is also worried about the consequences of the hitch becoming an endangered species.”

What is used to determine whether a species is appropriate to list as endangered or threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service?

“The best scientific information available,” reports the FWS in its “ESA Basics” fact sheet.

As many critics are quick to ask, what if the best available isn’t very good? The spotted owl controversy provides the perfect example.

In 1991, FWS gave the northern subspecies of the owl ESA protection as a “threatened” species. “Best scientific information available” suggested it was declining because of habitat loss. As a consequence, much of the Northwest’s logging industry was forced to shut down on both private and public lands, killing thousands of jobs and collapsing local economies.

But the spotted owl population continued to decline.

Today, that “best evidence” suggests the spotted owl is threatened by its more aggressive cousin, the barred owl, moving into its territory. And wildlife managers are developing plans to kill thousands of barred owls.

If the hitch should be listed, it’s entirely plausible to think that largemouth bass might be similarly targeted. After all, it is not native to Clear Lake, or even California for that matter.

Yes, bass have been in the fishery for more than a century and the lake has been altered dramatically over time by development, which has contributed to the hitch’s decline. But because of their high profile, bass are a favorite target in the West. Preservationists also insist on blaming them for the decline of salmon in rivers that have been altered almost beyond recognition by dams and diversions.

On the other hand, a restoration plan for the hitch might not be directed at diminishing the bass population. Maybe it will be about habitat improvement, and that even could be good news for bass and other Clear Lake species.

But the history of the ESA and its enforcement is full of examples where common sense does not prevail, including the ordeal of Montana rancher John Shuler. He shot a grizzly bear from his porch in self defense, although the FWS didn’t see it that way and fined him $7,000. Fortunately, the Mountain States Legal Foundation agreed to represent him at no charge in the eight-year battle that would have cost him $250,000.

A federal judge finally ruled in Shuler’s favor. But how many others, like the timber industry, lost out and continue to lose out to “best scientific information available” with no recourse?

Those who fish and live around Clear Lake should keep that in mind as they consider whether to support an ESA listing for the hitch.

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


Lake Fork Produces Its Biggest Bass in More Than a Decade

TPWD photo by Larry Hodge.

Lake Fork just yielded its largest bass since 2002, as Richard Scibek persuaded a lunker weighing 16.04 pounds to eat a live “black salty” goldfish. The fish ties another Lake Fork bass for the 22nd biggest ever caught in Texas.

Lake Fork now has produced 16 bass weighing 16 pounds or more, and holds 32 spots on the list of the 50 biggest bass ever caught in Texas.

Scibek’s bass also is the largest to date in this year’s ShareLunker program, sponsored by Toyota and Texas Parks and Wildlife.