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The Online Fisherman Meets Why We Fish

A review of my new book, Why We Fish, is posted at The Online Fisherman, one of the most popular and informative angling sites on the worldwide web. Thanks to publisher Gary Poyssick. An excerpt is below:

I could talk a lot about the book and not be talking about the book. It is pure "uncle stories" and not a resource of accessible ramps. What it is though is a connection to the mind and heart of a guy whose involvement and background in our fishing industries and the media surrounding the industries could be a book all its own. His own website, the, is one that needs to be in your regular reading folder if it is not already there. His knowledge of the politics and characters behind the global attempt to keep recreational anglers off the water is not matched by many . . .  He reflects his position in a chapter called "I'm not an Environmentalist" but for far more resource and research information, make sure you visit his own site.

Get the book. Whether you read it like one string of spaghetti coming out of a very tasty sauce, or you pick at it like those pistachio nuts you really should stop eating by the thirty-dollar pound, taste it. It is worth the chews, and so is anything this guy spends the time writing.

Thanks Robert, great book. And thanks for the quote from Thoreau. It says it all: Many men go fishing their entire lives without realizing it is not the fish they are after.


Is Time Right for Limited Harvest of Goliath Groupers?

Photo by Robert Montgomery

More and more, recreational anglers are saying that Florida should once again allow harvest of Goliath groupers. They say the massive fish are becoming so abundant that they often gobble up the snook, snapper, and other species that fishermen are trying to land.

Others, including dive operators, want the big fish to remain protected. And that’s not surprising, considering the spectacular sight that they provide for SCUBA divers, especially when Goliaths gather to spawn, as they are doing now along Florida’s lower east coast.

But Chris Koenig, who has been studying the fish for more than 20 years, thinks that both sides can have what they want.

He’s preparing a research paper arguing that Goliath grouper should be managed in a similar way to marine mammals. Among the recommendations: maintaining the harvest ban on spawning aggregations; setting a recreational slot limit that prevents harvest of the largest spawners; and establishing a tag program similar to tarpon, in which an angler would have to pay a premium to keep one fish per year.

“This is how you manage an extremely vulnerable fish,” Koenig said. “It would be a great system if people would do it and not get greedy. Give everyone a piece of the pie but without doing damage to the population of these fish.”

Goliath groupers were fished almost to extinction by the 1980s, but have made a dramatic comeback along both coasts of Florida since harvest was banned in 1990.

Read more here.


What's Going on Below That Thick Hydrilla? Now We Know

Photo from Aquatic Plant Management Society

What’s below that topped out hydrilla?

Until recently, only the fish have known.

But recent research by the University of Florida offers some interesting insights, especially for bass fishermen, and confirms that use of underwater video is an effective way to see the mystery below.

“Until now, we had nothing to sample fish in topped out hydrilla,” said Mike Allen, a scientist in the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program. “Electrofishing wouldn’t work.

“We didn’t know if bass were using dense hydrilla or staying away because dissolved oxygen was too low.”

But now we do, thanks to video research led by graduate research assistant Kyle Wilson in experimental ponds and on Lake Toho. Cameras were lowered about halfway down the water column, where visibility was about a meter.

“We wanted to quantify fish habitat use and abundance in these environments,” explained Wilson, who added that work in the ponds, with controlled populations, confirmed that the cameras were an effective way to monitor.

For bass anglers, though, the important discovery is that rarely, if ever, is dissolved oxygen so low that it drives bass away.  “Fish are using dense hydrilla,” Allen said. “We saw use up to 200 yards from open water.”

Even more interesting to bass anglers is that “bass don’t really care about distance to the edge. They were all over the place,” Wilson said of the preliminary research. “And they were moving in and out the way that you assume they would.”

What do bass in hydrilla care about? Food.

“Bass were much more likely to be there if bluegill were there,” Wilson said. “We didn’t actually see prey consumed, but we saw bass exhibiting prey strategy.”

Important questions then are where is “there” for bluegill and why do they like it. Based on video work in the ponds, the denser the population of panfish, the more likely they would move into the interior vegetation. But in general, Wilson said, bluegill seemed to prefer hydrilla that is “not too dense and not too sparse” so that they can see their own prey while hiding from bass.

Does this discovery challenge the long-held belief that the edges are the best places to fish hydrilla? Not necessarily, Wilson said. “Edges of a bed are dynamic with a lot of competition,” he said.

“They still might be the best places to fish. But fish are eating in the interior too. That would give me to confidence to fish in the dense patches too and to keep trying because the bass are there.”

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



The Bass Guys Promote Fishing in the Northeast

If you fish in the Northeast and eastern Canada, especially for bass, you will want to check out The Bass Guys website. Here is what it's about:

"We are dedicated to the promotion of freshwater bass anglers in the Northeast from Maryland to Canada. Our primary focus will be towards the freshwater bass angler but we will also include the saltwater angler too because they are equally important to the sport of fishing on the east coast.

"We are developing this site around the Northeast angler because we don’t think this part of the country is being fairly represented by the professional sport fishing community in general, and specifically by the major manufacturers of fishing tackle, equipment, clothing, boats etc.. This is especially true for the northern sections of New Jersey and the southern New York areas where there is a definite lack of attention from the big names in our sport."


Fishing Helps Us Cope With Troubled Times

Photo by Robert Montgomery

If fishing didn’t save my life, it --- at the very least --- preserved my sanity.

For a year, it provided my only respite from thinking about the horrific way in which my best friends died.

Being on or along the water with a rod in my hand kept me tethered to the simple but profound pleasure of angling and allowed my mind to escape persistent mental visions of what their bedroom must have looked like in the wake of the murder/suicide.

Eventually, the nightmares stopped and I healed. Still, I will maintain a “maintenance” dosage of fishing to bring me peace and joy for the rest of my life.

Why? Because fishing is good for me, a fact I learned long before my friends died.

Here’s what happened:

(This is the beginning of the first essay in Why We Fish, my new book, available at Amazon, Barns & Noble, and other booksellers, as well as from the publisher, NorLights Press. If you like the book, please post a brief review of it at Amazon. Thanks.)