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Tuesday
Jul092013

Catching Fish IS Important

The fishing trips we take as adults often take us back in time to the angling adventures we had as children. Photo by Robert Montgomery

When you take a child angling for the first time, catching fish is the top priority. They don’t have to be big fish, but they should be cooperative and plentiful enough to amaze and delight the beginner.

Gear and technique aren’t important. Nor is teaching the youngster to bait his or her own hook and take the fish off the hook. The catch is the thing.

You bait the hook, you take off the fish and, as you do, you revel in the child’s delight as you remember how it was for you when you were that age.

Some of us never outgrow that intense desire to catch fish. The rest of us never forget. That’s why all of us who fish can identify with Chicago angler Johnny Wilkins, who tried in vain recently to set the world record for most fish caught in 24 hours.

Though he failed, Wilkins still caught a staggering 2,011 fish, most of them bluegills, on a cane pole.

“I’m all pruney-handed and carved up from catching fish,” he said. “Two thousand fish is kind of a lot for one day.”

I’ll say. Most of us don’t catch that many fish in a year.

But I do remember when a buddy and I caught more than 150 bass in one day (we stopped counting at 150). Our thumbs were raw and bleeding by the time we headed in, and that was a day we’ll never forget.

Just as our children and grandchildren will never forget those special days of catching fish with us.

When you’re young, catching fish is why you fish. As you age, you begin to recognize other pleasures to be derived from wetting a line. In my new book, Why We Fish, I explore those reasons, as do others, including Bill Dance, Dave Precht, Kathy Magers, Ken Cook, Steve Chaconas, Ben Leal, TChad Montgomery, Bruce Condello, and Teeg Stouffer.

You can check out the book, along with reviews about it, at Amazon. Just click on the button at the right side of the page.

Tuesday
Jul092013

Keep America Fishing Strengthens Its Angler Advocacy Program

As Keep America Fishing supporters exceed 1 million, the angler advocacy program is introducing a new membership option and a new website.

“These are exciting milestones for Keep America Fishing. Our new membership program and website will help us reach the next million anglers and increase angler influence on policy issues affecting sportfishing,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association.

Kathryn Powers, director of Keep America Fishing noted, “We are looking forward to providing our members and advocates with useful policy tools and benefits that will create a fun experience and inspire them to take action on policy issues. Launching the Membership program and new website is just a first step. Look for great things to come.”

Go here to learn more.

And get involved. Now, more than ever, anglers must be activists, if our sport is to endure. We face unprecedented threats at every level, from federal to local, from the National Ocean Council and the Asian carp invasion to lake associations that want to deny public access and anti-fishing groups that demand unwarranted bans on lead fishing tackle.

Monday
Jul082013

The B.A.S.S. Factor

Photo by Robert Montgomery

(The following is the introduction to one of my essays in Why We Fish. You can buy the book from Amazon and other booksellers. To buy from Amazon, just click the link on the right side of the page.)

If you fish, you probably know the name “Ray Scott.” And maybe you know that he popularized catch-and-release.

But I doubt that you know how profoundly he and his organization have influenced both why and how we fish.

In 1967, Scott staged his first event, the All-American Bass Fishing Tournament at Beaver Lake in Arkansas. A year later, he founded the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), which today has more than 500,000 members and is recognized worldwide for its fisheries conservation efforts, as well as its high-profile bass tournaments.

“If we didn’t have B.A.S.S., we would need to create it. It’s a tremendous organization,” Paul Brouha, former executive director of the American Fisheries Society, told me back in 1998, when B.A.S.S. was celebrating its 30th anniversary.

And Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited, added, “B.A.S.S. clearly represents Middle America in all of the positive senses.

“Because of it, Congress and politicians know that they cannot do harmful things to environmental laws that Middle America cares about and expect to be successful.”

On a more personal level, George Cochran, a two-time Bassmaster Classic winner, told me, “I say my little prayers at night. Not many people can say that they do exactly what they want for a living. B.A.S.S. has made that possible for me.”

Comments like these reflect the legacy of B.A.S.S. and Scott. They help us see the importance of the organization, both directly and indirectly, for bass fishing in particular and sportfishing in general. As they and the following overview of its contributions attest, if not for B.A.S.S., we would have fewer quality fisheries, fewer anglers, poorer resource agencies, and a sportfishing industry worth far less than its estimated $115 billion annually.

Monday
Jul082013

Parenting Is Tough for Bass Too

Photo from Wayneswords.com

Caring for fry on the nest is a challenging job for bass, mostly because of the predation threat posed by sunfish, gobies, and other fish species.

At the University of Illinois and Illinois Natural History Survey, researchers studied fish on the nest in ponds, hoping to better understand the stressors that force some to abandon their offspring and, by extension, assess how this might affect the sustainability of a fishery’s bass population.

Using a turkey baster to “devalue” nests, what they discovered through snorkel surveys will come as no surprise to most bass anglers.

“In general, the most successful parents appear to be the largest ones, with big individuals that spawn early in the season producing the most offspring,” said Cory Suski, an assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.

“However, this work has really only been done in experimental pond settings, and extrapolating to wild populations has not yet been done.”

Specifically, scientists found that bass are less likely to abandon large broods than small ones. But they also observed that odds of fish leaving the nest increase as fry are lost.

Predator level, brood size, and brood stage of development are the most important factors in fish deciding whether they will stay on their nests or leave, according to Suski.  And the importance of each of those factors varies in relationship to the others. For example, an overwhelming predator burden might force bass to leave even a large brood. But fish would be more likely to stay with a small brood if few predators were present.

On the other hand, nutritional condition and stress levels, as revealed by blood samples from males taken off nests, seemed to have little influence. But fending off predators can lead to a reduction in the fitness of males, thus lessening their ability to protect.

Another consideration in assessing the sustainability of a fishery is that not every nest is successful, even under ideal conditions.

“There has been a lot of work recently showing that recruitment does not result from equal contributions of babies across many nests,” Suski said. “Rather, there is a large inter-nest difference in the quality of the offspring, and relatively few nests in a population contribute the majority of offspring every year.”

And just how many of those quality young are required to maintain a bass population? That remains a mystery.

But based on observations under controlled conditions, “we can say that premature brood abandonment has the potential to negatively impact populations, particularly because so few nests appear to be involved in population regulation,” Suski said.

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

Wednesday
Jul032013

Possible World-Record Tarpon Caught Along Florida Coast

This is not the giant tarpon recently caught and released. But it is a 200-pound-plus specimen caught in Boca Grande Pass. Photo from Blackwater Charters.

A world-record tarpon might have just been coast off the coast of Florida. We’ll never know for sure. That’s because verifying the catch would have required killing the fish, and the captain elected to release it.

Kudos to him.

“One of the reasons that the fish was so big was because of the eggs she was carrying,” he said. “Most likely, she is offshore spawning now, and I feel better about that than any record.”

Measurements of girth and length suggest the fish weighed between 310 and 340 pounds. The world record is 286 and the Florida record is 243.

Incredibly, every camera onboard had a dead battery, according to report.

But an iPad was used to record video of the fish as it was measured alongside the boat.

Read more here.

See the video here.