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Night Ban Imposed to Protect Sagging Walleye Fishery at Mille Lacs

Removal of the minimum length requirements for bass is but one of the new regulations recently implemented at Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake in hopes of bolstering the sagging walleye fishery.

But it is the extension of the nighttime fishing ban until Dec. 1, instead of lifting it in mid-June, that has stirred the most controversy. That’s because summer anglers like to pursue walleyes after dark.

“It’s like a dagger to the economy up here,” said Bill Eno of Twin Pines Resort.

Guide Jason Hamemick added, “They’re going to have to figure something else out because this is blowing up right now.”

Others think that the “bad publicity” generated by the change in regulations is worse than the reality.

The reality, meanwhile, is that walleye numbers are at a 40-year low, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“The current walleye regulation and extended night fishing ban will protect upcoming year classes of young walleye, adult spawning stock, and help ensure the harvest stays within the safe harvest level,” said Don Pereira, fisheries chief.

By contrast, northern pike numbers are at record highs, and the smallmouth bass population has been increasing since the 1990s.  But populations of tullibee and perch, both important forage species, are relatively low.

“The new regulations reflect our commitment to improving the walleye fishery as quickly as possible with as little harm to the local economy as possible,” Pereira added.

“More liberal northern pike and smallmouth bass regulations speak to the fact these species can withstand additional pressures because their populations are at or near record highs.”

For bass, the creel limit remains at six, with no minimum size. Only one can be longer than 18 inches.

Previously, smallmouths had to be between 17 and 20 inches, with one longer than 20 permitted. Additionally, Mille Lacs will be exempt from the statewide catch-and-release smallmouth rule that goes into effect in mid-September.

The northern pike limit has been increased from 3 to 10, with one of more than 30 inches allowed.

For walleyes, daily and possession limits remain unchanged at two fish of 18 to 20 inches, with one of more than 28 inches allowed.


Lake Norman Gets Heavyweight Habitat

Photo by Jeff Willhelm

Some heavyweight fish habitat was added to Lake Norman earlier this year--- about 285 tons of it.

That’s the estimated weight of the boulders dumped into the 32,000-acre impoundment on the Catawba River to create artificial reefs on the sandy bottom. The North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF) engineered the work, with funding from Duke Energy’s Habitat Enhancement Program.

NCWF’s Tim Gestwicki predicted that fish began making use of the structure within 24 hours. “The fish congregate there like crazy,” he said.

He added that the rocks provide more reliable habitat than brushpiles that deteriorate and sometimes move with currents. “The best situation is to dump rocks and create reefs,” said the organization’s executive director.

“It’s a very good aquatic habitat enhancement, and, once algal growth beings to form on the rocks, it attracts juvenile fish to the reef, which in turn attract the larger predatory fish.”

Using a barge and track hoe, workers from Lancaster Custom Dock & Lift Systems placed the rocks off the Kaiser Island peninsula near Little Creek and off the Brawley School Road peninsula. They were stacked 4 to 12 feet high in depths of at least 30 feet so that they would not pose navigation hazards.

About 270 tons of rocks were dumped three years ago to create reefs just north and south of the North Carolina 150 Bridge.


EPA Levies Record Fine for Water Pollution

Alpha Natural Resources will pay $27.5 million in fines as part of a settlement that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says is “the largest penalty in history” under the water-pollution portion of the federal Clean Water Act. The civil penalty is for nearly 6,300 violations of pollution limits at company sites.

Under the agreement, Alpha also will improve its water treatment practices for 79 active mines and 25 coal processing plants in West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia. According to EPA, that means $200 million will be used “to install and operate wastewater treatment systems and to implement comprehensive, system-wide upgrades to reduce discharges of pollution from coal mines.”

The Justice Department’s Robert Dreher added, “The unprecedented size of the civil penalty in this settlement sends a strong message to others in his industry that such egregious violations of the nation’s Clean Water Act will not be tolerated.”

Alpha spokesman Gene Kitts, meanwhile, said the consent decree “provides a framework for our efforts to become fully compliant with our environmental permits.”

He also pointed out that the company’s compliance rate for 2013 was 99.8 percent.

“That’s a strong record of compliance, particularly considering it’s based on more than 665,000 chances to miss a daily or monthly average limit,” he added. “But our goal is to do even better.”


More Money Wasted by Humane Society of United States

The growing animal rights movement threatens not only recreational fishing, but hunting, farming, and medical research.

The problem is that they use concern for animal welfare, which all of us share, as a Trojan horse to raise funds and increase their political clout.

In other words, most of the money donated to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other such groups does not go to benefit abused dogs and cats in local animal shelters.  In a clever parody of how the money really is used, HumaneWatch created a video parody entitled Lawyers in Cages.

Now, HumaneWatch has discovered something else: HSUS also is using donations to buy body armor, as well as official-looking badges.

“Here’s why this is silly: HSUS does occasionally assist law enforcement in conducting raids on dogfighters. But there’s no way that any law enforcement agency would ever put volunteers in a situation where they might be in the line of fire. The police will make arrests, and HSUS will assist in collecting evidence/seizing dogs afterward.”

HumaneWatch adds that money used for these expensive, but needless, vests could be going to feed animals in shelters.

Yes, please, donate to help feed and care for abused dogs and cats and to help them find homes. But donate locally!


Oklahoma Stocks 1.8 Million Florida Bass

From the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation:

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Florida Largemouth Bass Program had another great year of production for 2014. The program produced more than 1.8 million Florida bass, which allowed 31 lakes to be stocked. This year's production ranks as the second-best behind the record 2.2 million fish stocked just last year.

The goal of the Florida bass program is to produce trophy bass for Oklahoma anglers. To do so, genetically pure Florida bass are stocked into the state's lakes to influence the genetics of the native bass populations. Bass with Florida genes are able to grow larger more quickly than the native Northern largemouth bass. Except for one fish, every state-record bass since 1979 has been a Florida bass or a Florida hybrid bass.

Oklahoma's current state record largemouth bass was caught in Cedar Lake in March 2013 and weighed 14 pounds, 13.7 ounces. "Oklahoma is really right on the line of where you can expect Florida bass to be successful," said Cliff Sager, south central region senior biologist. Sager continues to say, "Lakes in the southern half of Oklahoma have shown much greater success in sustaining Florida-strain bass. There's a reason Cedar Lake (in southeastern Oklahoma) has broken the state record two years in a row."

Stocking sites are chosen by a committee of biologists based on many criteria. The committee considers the documented success in trophy bass production, as well as angler pressure. Also, lakes with better habitat for bass are more likely to be stocked than lakes where good bass habitat doesn't exist. Sager said growing trophy bass in a particular lake "is an eight- to 10-year investment." Therefore, the Wildlife Department concentrates on the waters that hold the most promise for producing trophy bass.

All of the Florida bass that the Department stocks are spawned at the Durant hatchery. Most of the fish are raised there, but some of the fry are distributed to state hatcheries in Byron and Holdenville for raising. The state's fourth hatchery at Medicine Park gets involved by helping to deliver FLMB fry and fingerlings to the various lakes for stocking.

This year's above-average production of FLMB can be credited to better spawning and improved handling techniques being used by hatchery technicians. Improved techniques have allowed record fish production the past two years, and Ike McKay, project leader at the Durant State Fish Hatchery, credits "the commitment and cooperation of everyone involved."

Sager said, "it truly is a coordinated effort to raise and stock that many fish over a short period of time and speaks to the dedication of the Wildlife Department to improve our fisheries resources."

To see a list of the 31 lakes stocked with FLMB this year go to 2014 Largemouth Bass Stocking Report.