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Citizens Must Be Voice for Fish and Wildlife in Gulf Restoration

Less than five years after the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history, BP has agreed to pay $18.7 billion in penalties and damages for its role. This stands in stark contrast to the decades-long litigation following the Exxon Valdez spill, and is great news not only for those who live along the Gulf Mexico, but for all of us who recognize the ecological, recreational, and economic value of this region to the nation.

Much of our seafood comes from there. Millions of us visit the five Gulf states annually to fish and enjoy other outdoor pursuits. And if you live in the Midwest or Great Plains, the waterfowl hunting that you enjoy annually is  dependent on healthy and abundant marshes and wetlands along the Gulf Coast, where 70 percent of waterfowl from the Central and Mississippi Flyways stopover or winter annually.

Now that we have an amount for what it likely the largest environmental settlement in history, it's important that plans and projects be implemented wisely and effectively. The federal RESTORE Act of 2012 will ensure that 80 percent of any Clean Water Act civil and administrative penalties paid by BP and other companies responsible for the disaster goes to the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund. That means each of the Gulf states will receive hundreds of millions of dollars to implement recovery plans, starting with Pot 1 for wildlife habitat restoration and improvement of water quality. This category also provides for “job creation” and “infrastructure projects,” which could allow expenditures that sound good but that won’t help the Gulf.

That's why it will be important for citizens along the Gulf to be a voice for fish and wildlife. They must tell their governors and state legislators that they want the money spent on projects such as restoring wetlands, sea grasses, and barrier islands, as well as ensuring adequate freshwater flows, which are important for sustaining healthy spawning and nursery habitat for fish and wintering areas for ducks and geese.

Vanishing Paradise looks forward to working with federal and state officials and the RESTORE Council to make sure that the BP funds go to meaningful, comprehensive restoration.

And as this work begins, we should remember that we still don't know the true extent of the damage caused by an estimated 4.9 million gallons of oil pouring onto the ocean floor. Years and possibly even decades will be required to determine population level impacts to species.

What we do know is that an estimated one million birds died from exposure to the oil, as well as large numbers of dolphins and sea turtles. We also know that cleanup crews removed 106,465 tons of "oily material" from Gulf shorelines by the end of 2013. And BP reports that it already had spent $14 billion and 70 million personnel hours on cleanup and response by that time.

With direction as provided by the RESTORE Act and watchful oversight from those of us who want the best for Gulf Coast fish and wildlife, it now will spend an additional $18.7 billion.


The Supreme Test of a Fisherman . . . 

"The difference between fly fishers and worm dunkers is the quality of their excuses".  Anonymous

"Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher’s salary." Patrick F. McManus

Why We Fish--- Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen

"Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." Henry David Thoreau

"I've gone fishing thousands of times in my life, and I have never once felt unlucky or poorly paid for those hours on the water." William Tapply 

"For the supreme test of a fisherman is not how many fish he has caught, not even how he has caught them, but what he has caught when he has caught no fish." John H. Bradley


Forage Production Boosted to Aid Ailing Fishery at Greers Ferry

As biologists continue to investigate why most of the sport fishery is in decline at Greers Ferry, they’re also taking steps to address what they suspect is the cause.

In short, they believe, the lake has too much of a good thing --- too many bass, crappie, and walleye. And not enough forage to feed them.

Thus, fisheries managers “are going to start culturing forage (minnows, bluegill, and threadfin shad) through the Greers Ferry Lake nursery pond,” said the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). “This year, they will raise bluegill and fathead minnows through the summer and release them in the fall. This will give the bluegill several opportunities to spawn prior to release.”

Next year, they will use the spawn for threadfin shad production. Additionally, AGFC will not stock predators until the forage population recovers.

“This includes black bass species, walleye, and hybrid striped bass,” AGFC said. “Once the forage base recovers, biologists will stock these species in a manner that lends itself to a more sustainable fishery that can withstand a series of low-water years.”

Low or even normal water levels for six of the past seven years might have contributed to the imbalance in the aging reservoir. “We know that, historically, low-water years results in a reduction in productivity in lakes such as Greers Ferry,” AGFC explained.

By contrast, high water “feeds” the lake through increased runoff and flooding of shoreline vegetation.

Additionally, cold weather during recent winters likely contributed to the decline of threadfin shad, the most dominant forage species in the lake. The threadfin is a subtropical and southern temperate fish, and water temperatures in the low 40s can cause significant die-offs.

“Threadfin shad may still exist in Greers Ferry,” AGFC said. “But their abundance appears to be very low.”



Share a Recyling Location for Plastic Baits

Do you know of a recycling location or container for soft plastic baits? If so, mark it on the Fishidy map. Just click here or on the map to go to the link sponsored by Keep America Fishing.

Identified locations will feature the Pitch It logo, making it easy to find on a phone, tablet or PC.

While you are at the site, also please take the pledge to properly dispose of your used plastic baits. In othe words, "Pledge to pitch it!"


Kentucky's Cave Run Gets Big Habitat Boost

KDFW photo

Fisheries managers are hopeful that anglers are enjoying better fishing for bass, muskie, and other species at Cave Run Lake this summer, courtesy of about two-miles of shoreline habitat added in 2014.

“We heard reports within a month of anglers pulling bigger fish off that structure,” said Tom Timmerman, a fisheries biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (DFWR).

“This spring, the water was 30 feet above summer pool, but it’s back to normal pool now, and we’ll see what happens.”

Timmerman explained that two more miles of shoreline cover are being added this summer, with a final objective of eight miles for the 8,270-acre fishery that was created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1970s. Since then, much of the originally flooded timber and brush have rotted away.

“Cave Run Lake still has a lot of timber standing in some areas, but they’ve basically become telephones,” the biologist said. “It’s not what it was when it was impounded decades ago.”

That’s the same situation for many of the reservoirs in Kentucky, especially in the eastern part of the state. But if the Cave Run effort proves successful, similar projects will follow on some of those fisheries.

“The lakes all have good fisheries,” said Ron Brooks, fisheries chief. “It’s just that fish are not always accessible. This kind of habitat work will make it easier for anglers to find the fish.”

At Cave Run, the state, Corps, U.S. Forest Service, Department of Juvenile Justice, Friends of Cave Run Lake Bass Club, and a small army of volunteers placed between 1,500 and 2,000 “individual units,” in 8 to 20 feet of water, according to Timmerman. Those units included cedar and Christmas tree bundles and pallets, some with trees and some left open. Using a barge and about a dozen small boats, workers placed the cover tighter along one shore and spaced it looser on the other.

That’s because the project is a “learning experience,” Timmerman said.

“Bass won’t be there all of the time either,” he added. “But anglers will figure it out.”