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Tuesday
Jan212014

Why We Fish Reminds Anglers of 'Who They Are'

"The book points out how fishing has winners and losers, but there are lessons to learn either way. In the end, angler readers may be reminded of who they are as it relates to fishing and the resource. They may also be influenced by the author to personally promote the magnificent sport of fishing.

"Montgomery takes the reader from Missouri to Florida to Africa and beyond to show how fishing reaches beyond geographical boundaries. He points out similarities and differences in location that serve to underpin the reasons why we fish.

"Those of us who recall turning over rocks for crawdads and catching grasshoppers by hand will be reminded of even more childhood memories of fishing in Montgomery's writing. He obviously enjoys the memories of his childhood and enjoys more the sharing of the pleasures that came in times gone by and why those pleasures need to be passed on to our youth."

(The above is an excerpt from an Amazon review of my book, Why We Fish.)

Tuesday
Jan212014

Angler Aid Needed to Revitalize Reservoirs

Dale Hollow photo by Robert Montgomery

Exclusive of the Great Lakes, more than 84 percent of freshwater anglers fish in lakes and reservoirs. With about 10,000 of them larger than 250 acres, manmade impoundments are especially important.

“Our generation has never known an America without reservoirs,” said Alton Jones, 2008 Bassmaster Classic winner.

But for far too long, reservoirs have been enduring a quiet death. As a result, the number who fish them, as well as natural lakes, has declined from about 45 million during the mid 1980s to 23 million in 2011.

What’s going on?

“Reservoirs may look like natural lakes, but they were created by people, and they must be cared for by people,” said Jones, a Texan well acquainted with the value of manmade waters.  “As they age, the quality of fish habitat declines, and so does the quality of fishing.”

Additionally, few reservoirs are being built anymore.

That’s why Jones is helping spread the word to anglers about the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership (RFHP) and its ambitious goal to revitalize these fisheries, most of which are 50 years old or more.

Aging degrades reservoirs, just as it does natural lakes. But the process is much more accelerated in manmade waters. Flooded timber decays and dissolves. Upstream sedimentation fills in backwaters and shallow areas. Water quality declines because of nutrient runoff and other pollution.

“We’re way behind in addressing these issues,” said Jeff Boxrucker, RFHP coordinator.

That opinion is echoed not only by Jones, but by Dave Terre, chief of fisheries management and research for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

“Fishing is still great,” Terre added. “But we need to restore habitat for now and future generations to keep the reservoirs functioning. And there’s no way that funding from state agencies is sufficient to tackle these problems.

“We need anglers and the fishing industry to be more pro-active. We need to all work together to improve fishing and water quality.”

A couple of notable examples, Table Rock in Missouri and Arkansas and Conroe in Texas, highlight how it can be done.

Work on Table Rock began in 2007, as a pilot program of sorts for National Fish Habitat Partnership, which spawned the reservoir partnership two years later. Partners include the Missouri Department of Conservation, Arkansas Game and Fish, Bass Pro Shops, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, assisted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Thus far, 1,869 cedar and hardwood structures have been sunk in the reservoir, along with 114 rock structures and 76 stump fields. Twenty-six rock fences also have been added, as have 11 piles of stumps and rocks.

Assessment of what works best and where has been ongoing, according to Missouri’s Mike Allen.

“We have seen slight improvement (in the fishing), but we only have three years of sampling and we need more.”

Both creel and internet surveys revealed that 95 to 99 percent of anglers support the $4 million project, which is scheduled to end in December.

“We hope to do continuing work, but not through the current structure,” Allen said. “We are working to become a member of Friends of Reservoirs (FOR).”

FOR was created to provide non-profit funding and  grassroots manpower for reservoir restoration projects, with Seven Coves Bass Club at Lake Conroe the first chapter. Work there has focused on establishing native vegetation while controlling invasive hydrilla. The club even established its own nursery for growing beneficial plants, and it serves on the Lake Conroe Habitat Improvement Project Coalition with TPWD and other others.

Earlier this year, the coalition was honored with the Texas Environmental Award by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.”

“Members are committed, passionate, and respected,” Terre said.

Serving as an adopt-a-lake program with individuals, non-government groups, and agencies all working together, FOR now has 13 chapters involving 11 organizations, 35 individuals, and 3 corporate sponsors. Additionally, 35 states have expressed support for the program, while five projects have been proposed and all of them funded. Financing comes from tax deductible donations, as well as grants, mostly from NFHP funds administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We would love to have lots of groups operating like Seven Coves Bass Club,” Terre said. “So far, we have seven FOR chapters in Texas. We want to see them in as many states as possible.”

Participating groups can expect to do habitat work, such as sinking brushpiles. But that’s not all they are needed for, according to Boxrucker.

“Of the top seven impairments, only one is happening with the reservoirs themselves,” he said. “The other problems come from outside.”

Based on a nationwide survey of resource managers, RFHP determined that sedimentation is the top problem, with 25 percent  of reservoirs having moderate to high impairment. Insufficient aquatic plants and structural habitat are next, followed by non-point source pollution, excessive nutrients, excessive inorganic turbidity, and “excessive levels of agriculture.”

“We hope to get angling groups started with the habitat work,” Boxrucker explained. “But once we get them involved and have momentum, we want to move upstream, to address other issues.

“We’re treating these reservoirs as parts of river systems. Most of the other partnerships (under the NFHP umbrella) are watershed-oriented, and we’re going to work with them too.”

These collaborative efforts not only will improve fishing, Classic winner Jones added.

“Good fish habitat is the foundation for healthy aquatic life and clean water supplies,” he said. “Water fish live in is the same water you drink. What’s good for the fish is good for you.”    

Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership

The RFHP’s stated mission is “to protect and improve healthy aquatic habitat in reservoir systems for the benefit of fish and wildlife and the enhancement of quality of life for people and their communities.”

Its executive committee includes representatives from B.A.S.S., Bass Pro Shops, state agencies, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Geological Survey.

For more information:

RFHP

Friends of Reservoirs

National Fish Habitat Partnership

Table Rock fish attractor map and survey

 

Sunday
Jan192014

Feds Continue to Ignore Anglers, Push Ahead With 'Sector Separation'

 

Monday update: Comments link (below) might not work. Thanks to T.J. Stallings for alerting me to this. If that is the case, send your comments to gulfcouncil@gulfcouncil.org  Also tell your Representatives and Senators about this issue and why you oppose it. The Big-Government know-it-alls are trying their best to ignore us, and it's time to get their attention.


As part of its determined effort to manage every aspect of our lives, including fishing, this administration is pushing ahead with its scheme for “sector separation” in the Gulf of Mexico’s red snapper fishery. This is a divide-and-conquer strategy, and it continues despite long and loud opposition from recreational anglers and their advocates.

By promising an allotment for charter captains, the feds intend to split recreational anglers, making them easier to subjugate for Catch Shares.

Under Catch Shares, the federal government turns over a public resource (fish) for private profit. It does so under the guise of better management of the resource, but its real intent is to reduce participation, thereby making federal control easier.

Mostly Catch Shares has been implemented on commercial fisheries. A company or a boat receives a specific “share” of the allotment for a season.

When the scheme is applied to mixed (commercial and recreational) or recreational fisheries, however, it treats sports anglers as a single entity and allots it a single share. Common sense will tell you that this cap will discourage both participation and growth in recreational fishing, which is worth far more economically than commercial fishing.

With “sector separation,” the feds hope that charter captains will forsake recreational fishing and support Catch Shares.

Even if you don't fish for saltwater species, this is something that you should be concerned about and speak up against. This is but one of several ways that this Big-Government administration intends to tell you where you can and cannot fish.

Here’s the latest on this from the Coastal Conservation Association:

The Council let it be known with its stealth release on the afternoon of Christmas Eve that this time, for sure, they really want to know how you feel about Amendment 40 – Sector Separation. And, at the same time, they announced that they don’t really care what you think about sector separation because they went ahead and launched the Headboat sector separation pilot program already. 

What’s the purpose of this public comment thing again? 

The only thing more disingenuous than the Christmas Eve News Dump is the charade of public comment in federal fisheries management on this issue. There is nothing in the glorious history of sector separation that indicates the general public matters in this arena. If it did, then these plans to give away fish to private businesses would have been dead and buried long ago.

Why should we care if yet another comment period is open on plans to divide up the recreational sector and give another small group of business-owners an insurmountable advantage over the general public in the red snapper fishery? The uncomfortable truth is that if we flooded the Council website with comments in opposition to this nine times in the past and washed our hands of it on the 10th time, that 10th time would forever be held up as evidence that this is what the public wants.

As sorry as this whole episode is, we can’t let that happen. 

We must fight this all the way to the end. You have done your part repeatedly and you’ve done it well. This is a battle in which we are struggling not because we are wrong or apathetic, but because the system doesn’t work the way it is supposed to.

We are up against a system that does not understand recreational angling and often acts like it doesn’t want to. You need look no further than the fairly insulting decision to release an announcement of the most controversial federal fisheries amendment in recent history on Christmas Eve. 

This comment period is a chance to OPPOSE SECTOR SEPARATION ONE MORE TIME, and we should take it. But more significantly, it is an opportunity to send the message that millions of recreational anglers cannot be oh-so-casually dismissed. We deserve far better treatment than this.

The comment period on Amendment 40 – Sector Separation is open until Jan. 23. Click HERE to submit comments electronically or submit written comments to: Peter Hood, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

The next meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will take place February 3-6, at the Westin Galleria Hotel, 5060 W. Alabama Street in Houston, Texas.

Also, read what the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have to say about this scheme to privatize and limit participation for public fisheries.

 

Friday
Jan172014

Why We Fish Helps Reader Understand Fisherman's Soul

"Robert Montgomery's Why We Fish is outstanding, a must read for anyone interested in fishing or in understanding the fisherman's soul. Montgomery does a wonderful job of eloquently saying on paper what so many of us feel about what for many of us, is out favorite pastime.

"I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in fishing or in understanding why we fish." --- Review of Why We Fish at Amazon

Friday
Jan172014