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Friday
Mar152013

Commercial Tournament Highlights Carp Threat to Sport Fisheries

Commercial fishermen bring in catch during tournament. AP photo.

The threat that Asian carp pose to the north --- Great Lakes, upper Missouri River impoundments, inland Minnesota waters from the upper Mississippi, etc. --- makes most of the headlines these days.

But these prolific nuisance species also are moving south and east through the Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers systems. And the severity of the invasion in these waters is evidenced by the results of a recent first-of-its-kind commercial fishing tournament at Kentucky and Barkley lakes.

Eleven teams brought in 82,953 pounds of Asian carp. That’s short of the 200,000-pound goal, but 41 tons are more than enough to reveal the extent of the problem.

The Gleaner.com reports the following:  

"It validated some of the things we had thought, that good skilled fisherman can come in there and take out 10,000 pounds a day, all you have to do is create a market," Kentucky Fish and Wildlife spokesman Mark Marraccini said on Thursday. The fish can be harvested to produce fertilizers, pet foods, and fish oil products, he said. They are also edible.

State officials are concerned about the rapid spread of the fish in Barkley and Kentucky lakes. The carp breed faster than some native species and eat up the algae and zooplankton that other fish depend on.

The Asian carp infiltrated the Mississippi River in the 1970s after getting loose from fish farms. Federal officials, worried about the species reaching the Great Lakes, are conducting a study to investigate how Asian carp DNA got into rivers and canals in the Chicago area.

Ron Brooks, Kentucky's fisheries director, said one species of the problem fish, the silver carp, is prone to leaping out of the water when agitated by boat noise, which can injure boaters and skiers.

Brooks said state officials will make tweaks to the next tournament to attract more fishing teams.

The two-day tournament winner was Barry Mann of Gilbertsville. His team hauled in 28,669 pounds and won a top prize of $10,000. The commercial teams used nets since the carp don't bite on baited hooks. More than 20 teams signed up but just 11 teams brought in fish for weighing, Marraccinni said.

The removed carp were taken to a processing plant in Mississippi, where they will be harvested for fish oils and used in pet foods, Marraccini said.

Here’s a video about the tournament.

To learn more about the threat that Asian carp pose to the east and south check out

Asian Carp Also Threaten Southern Fisheries.

Friday
Mar152013

Another State Record Largemouth Caught in Oklahoma

Dale Miller with Oklahoma state record largemouth caught at Cedar Lake. ODWC photo.

Bass anglers have been making big news frequently in Oklahoma these past few months.

The latest is the second state largemouth in less than a year from Cedar Lake. Using an Alabama rig, Dale Miller caught the 14-pound, 13.7-ounce lunker on March 13. It measured 26 1/8 inches in length and 23 inches in girth.

“Last month, I bought a fishing license, and this month I have the state record for the largemouth bass,” said the angler from Panama, Okla.

Miller’s fish surpasses a 14-pound, 12.3-ounce bass caught by Benny Williams, Jr. on March 23, 2012.

"Catching the state record largemouth bass in Oklahoma is a huge deal, but it's even more significant that the state record largemouth has now been caught two springs in a row in less than 12 months' time from the same lake," said Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). "It speaks to the quality of fishing we have in our state. It speaks to our Florida largemouth bass stocking program. And it speaks to our state's anglers."

This latest record follows the state playing host to the Bassmaster Classic in February and two 40-pounds-plus stringers caught at Arbuckle Lake in January. (See Oklahoma Stocking Turns Arbuckle into Big Bass Fishery.)

ODWC says this:

The last two state record largemouth bass as well as several from the state's Top 20 Largemouth Bass List have been caught in the southern and southeast regions of the state. Fish are cold-blooded, so their metabolisms work faster in warmer conditions and they grow more rapidly. Lakes in the southeast region of the state tend to warm up earlier and cool off later in the year than in other regions, which affords these fish a longer growing season.

According to Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department, Cedar Lake has been known to produce big largemouth bass for anglers in recent years --- not only because of its southeastern location, but also because it has a history of receiving Florida strain largemouth bass through the state's stocking program.

"They grow pretty fast down in that part of the state due to the long growing season," Gilliland said. "Cedar Lake has produced several double-digit fish in the last five years. The U.S. Forest Service played a role in the success story when they renovated Cedar Lake several years ago. This renovation created a "new lake environment" that along with the Florida-strain genetics, long growing season, good habitat and abundant forage has led Cedar Lake to become an outstanding bass fishery."

Anglers who believe they may have hooked a record fish must weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale, and a Wildlife Department employee must verify the weight. For a complete list of record fish and the procedures for certifying a state record, consult the current "Oklahoma Fishing Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

Wednesday
Mar132013

Paintings, Prose Make Prosek's Book a Keeper

You don’t have to be a trout angler to enjoy Trout of the World, an updated edition of the book first released in 2003.

I am evidence of that statement. I don’t often fish for trout, but found this both a beautiful and fascinating book, written and illustrated with water colors by James Prosek. He’s added 30 new paintings, as well as an updated preface to the 10x7 book with 233 pages.

You almost certainly knew that trout live in the waters of Russia, and probably you would not be surprised to know that they also swim in the rivers of Afghanistan. But did you know that trout exist in the mostly arid African nation of Morocco? Prosek reveals that they live in “rugged mountain terrain, and their native habitat is very difficult to access.”

Each  of the 100 paintings is accompanied by an historic profile of the fish, as well as the author’s personal reflections. According to the publisher, “Prosek savors the beauty of various fishing spots, and contemplates the fate of the species and man’s role in the extinction of animals.”

The book retails for $35 and is published by Abrams Books

Monday
Mar112013

Carp Czar Focuses on Carp Threat to Ohio, Mississippi Rivers --- Finally

Carp caught at Kentucky Lake. Photo by Steve McCadams.

Activist Angler has been sounding the alarm for months about Asian carp spreading up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, as well as east into the Cumberland, Tennessee and Ohio systems.

Finally, our federal carp czar, John Goss, has taken note that the Great Lakes aren't the only waters at risk. Isn’t that reassuring?

"Attacking the carp populations in the Ohio and Mississippi rivers needs to be our focus over the next few years," he said recently. "With very limited funding, we haven't been able to jump into it. Hopefully, Congress will recognize that, and we're working with federal staff people to get appropriations.”

Cleveland.com reports that Asian carp have reached Ohio waters of the Ohio River, and moved up the Little Miami River near Cincinnati.  It adds, “The infestation is so bad in Kentucky and Barkley lakes in Kentucky that the first commercial netting contest ever held will target the carp on March 12-13, with a $20,000 top prize. A commercial fisherman in that region told state officials he recently caught 36,000 pounds of carp - in just six hours.”

Goss said commercial netting will be the first wave of defense.

"Commercial fishing is working well on the Illinois River, keeping the bulk of the carp population about 100 miles away from the electric barriers (in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal). This year, netters took 60,000 Asian carp, which means we have a lot less pressure from fish swimming up to the barrier situation."

Following are just a few of articles that Activist Angler has posted to sound the alarm about Asian carp spreading north, east, and south:

Asian Carp also Threaten Southern Fisheries

Minnesota Anglers Urge Action to Stop Asian Carp Invasion

Asian Carp Using New Route to Threaten Minnesota Fisheries

Friday
Mar082013

Artificial Habitat Benefits Bass Fisheries

Fisheries in West Virginia and New Mexico are showcasing a new generation of manmade habitat, thanks to innovative state conservation directors in the B.A.S.S. Nation (BN).

Both Jerod Harman and Earl Conway saw the need for effective and long-lasting habitat in reservoirs that endure huge water fluctuations on a regular basis.

“Climate change is already impacting the Southwest,” said New Mexico’s Conway. “Over-allocation of water rights and drought have drained many reservoirs in New Mexico and west Texas. Shoreline and aquatic vegetation is gone and replanting is futile when lake levels fluctuate 20 feet or so every year.

“That’s where floating islands come to the rescue.”

In West Virginia, meanwhile, the West Virginia BN has teamed with a company that makes fish habitat from recycled vinyl and reclaimed PVC to build an “oasis for bass” in Sutton Lake, according to Jerod Harman.

It consists of pea gravel, spider blocks, artificial structures from Fishiding, and vegetation growing in a 5,000-square-foot cage on a mud flat, with a creek channel nearby.

“The artificial structures attract the bass looking for a place to spawn,” Harman explained. “The pea gravel provides the correct bottom structure for bedding.

“When the young bass hatch, the artificial structures help provide a protective environment. The periphyton (mixture of algae, microbes, and bacteria that forms the base of food chain) will provide nutrients for growth, and, later on, the small bass fry can relocate to inside of the vegetation cage for protection from predators.

“This is something that I am really excited about!”

Harman added that he believes the habitat made by Dave Ewald’s Illinois company, which features vinyl strips attached to a heavy base, will greatly enhance periphyton growth, as well as provide better cover for survival of young bass than will the spider blocks alone.

“The structures are ready for installation right out of the box, and David was great to work with,” the conservation director said. “I would definitely recommend these, especially for a small group of volunteers who need to complete a larger-scale project in a limited amount of time.”

Conway and the New Mexico BN also are growing periphyton, but on floating islands instead of vinyl strips. One of those islands, complete with spawning platform, won the 2010 Berkley Conservation Award and was the first step in what the conservation director hopes will be a major habitat restoration project for Elephant Butte.

Bruce Kania’s Floating Island International, a Montana company, has provided the New Mexico BN with prototypes and expertise.

“Floating islands aren’t new,” Conway said. “They occur in nature and have a proven track record for improving water quality and enhancing fish production, but I think that we are just beginning to realize how they can add an entirely new dimension to habitat restoration options.

“My experience is that the shade and food they provide makes them better fish attractors than boat docks or tire water breaks. They are being used more often in public waters and it is just a matter of time until someone wins a major tournament or catches a monster bass off a floating island.”

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