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Strategies Improve for Controlling Hydrilla; Giant Salvinia Grows as Threat to Fisheries

Hydrilla has joined Eurasian milfoil as an invasive exotic plant that threatens northern fisheries. It now has been found in Kansas and Missouri, and the Nature Conservancy is reporting “a number of populations on the doorstep of the Great Lakes.”

Giant salvinia, meanwhile, has emerged as a significant danger to some southern waters, especially in eastern Texas and Louisiana.

Yet much of the news these days is good for anglers in regard to troublesome aquatic plants, particularly hydrilla. Resource managers assert that they have learned from past mistakes and now strive to control this fish-attracting invasive, rather than obliterate it.

“We’re not trying to wipe it (hydrilla) out anymore,” said Howard Elder, aquatic plant biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. “We’re trying to find a happy median.”

Bill Caton, leader of the Invasive Plant Management Section at Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, echoed the sentiment, emphasizing that “spot treatment” is preferred.

“It’s like treating weeds in a flower bed,” he said. “It’s much better if you don’t let it get out of control. If you do, then it costs you more, you have to use more herbicides, and you have more dead vegetation to deal with.”

Caton acknowledged that sometimes the aftermath of a herbicide treatment for hydrilla and other invasives still “can look bad” to anglers.

“But the public is just looking at the immediate impact of the treatment and not thinking about the results,” he said. “Treatments are like prescribed fires. They can look bad, but they’re often the only alternative that we have for providing good fish and wildlife habitat and preserving places for people to fish.”

Mechanical harvesting, he added, “is too expensive and destroys everything,” including fish and invertebrates trapped in the plants.

Grass carp, meanwhile, are an option in some states, including Texas and South Carolina.

“We knock the hydrilla back with herbicides and then use grass carp for control,” Elder said.

For the massive Santee Cooper system, the exotic grass-eaters are the preferred primary tool, and Chris Page, manager for the aquatic plant program at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, believes  balance has been achieved with this method as well.

“We do maintenance stocking of one fish per eight acres,” Page said. “That’s about 20,000 fish. And we’re going to put in another 10,000 to manage an additional 400 acres of (hydrilla) coverage.”

Such a formula is a far cry from the 700,000 fish stocked in the 160,000-acre system from 1989 to 1996, he explained.

“I understand the problem that the public had with that. There were too many carp for several years.”

But as they better manage hydrilla, state agencies also are challenged with new threats to fisheries, including crested floating heart (see below) and giant salvinia.

Unlike hydrilla, giant salvinia has no redeeming value as fish habitat, and it can double in area in 10 days or less. It destroys primary productivity in a fishery and acidifies water until only a desert remains under its canopy.

In Texas, giant salvinia is established in 12 lakes. It also has spread to Louisiana, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as other states.

“Hydrilla is a greater threat overall because it is so popular and so widespread,” Elder said. “Giant salvinia is not as easily distributed and it prefers acidic waters, which is why it is a threat in east Texas.”

This latest invader also is more difficult to control with herbicides than hydrilla, and carp won’t eat it. That’s why both Texas and Louisiana are raising weevils that will feed on the exotic plant.

New Invader

There’s a new bad kid on the block: crested floating heart. It’s been in Florida for awhile, and now is causing problems in South Carolina.

Chances are good that this native of Asia also is established in other states, but hasn’t yet been identified. With flat, floating leaves and white flowers, it resembles the native banana lily, according to the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (CAIP) at the University of Florida.

“I think that this could be a bad one,” said Mike Netherland, an aquatic plants expert for the Army Corps of Engineers.

As with so many other exotic plants now degrading our waterways, it likely “escaped from a water garden somewhere,” according to Chris Page, program manager for aquatic plant management in the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Within four to five years, crested floating heart spread from 10 to 15 acres to 2,000 in the 160,000-acre Santee Cooper system, he added.

“We’ve done some (herbicide) treatment in coves, where there’s no water movement,” said Page, adding that effective application is difficult in open water.

“It’s the most aggressive floating-leave plant that we’ve encountered on the lakes,” said Larry McCord, supervisor of analytical and biological services for the Santee Cooper power and water utility. “It is rooting in high-energy areas along the main shoreline and can grow quite successfully in 10 to 12 feet of water.”

In Santee Cooper’s lakes Moultrie and Marion, this invasive exotic has the potential to spread over 40 percent of the acreage, McCord explained. Plus, reports from Asia suggest that grass carp won’t eat the plant, not good news for a waterway where they are used to control hydrilla.

Once established, cresting floating heart blankets the surface, blocking light penetration to beneficial submersed plants.

In Florida, according to CAIP, the invader is considered a Category II ecological threat. That means it has increased in abundance, but has not yet altered Florida plant communities to the extent shown by Category I species (hydrilla).

(A variation of this article was published in B.A.S.S. Times a few years ago.)


Ensuring Fishing for the Future

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Most who fish just want to be left alone to do so.

Others desire that too, but are not content to leave it at that. They want to ensure quality fishing for future generations. State conservation directors in B.A.S.S. Nation are among those, as are volunteers with Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation.

 My friend Teeg Stouffer is one of those, which is why he founded Recycled Fish, reminding anglers that we all live downstream.

I am one of those as well, which is why I founded the Activist Angler website with the goal of “promoting and protecting recreational fishing.” That’s why I’ve volunteered to be a fishing instructor for the Missouri Department of Conservation this spring.

And it’s why I wrote my new book, Why We Fish, in the way that I did. Most of it celebrates why we keep going back to the water and the benefits that we derive from doing so. But a small portion is devoted to stewardship and the threats confronting recreational fishing.

When I’m on the water, I’m not thinking about such things, and I’m not asking you to either. But when you’re not fishing, I’ll hope that you think about stewardship and the importance of passing on healthy fisheries to future generations.

And I’ll hope that you’ll take the Recycled Fish Stewardship Pledge:

  • I pledge to live a lifestyle of stewardship on and off the water. Living as a steward means making choices throughout my daily life that benefit lakes, streams and seas - and the fish that swim in them - because my Lifestyle Runs Downstream.
  • I will learn the fish and game laws where I hunt or fish and always abide by them.
  • I will practice catch and release and selective harvest faithfully and responsibly.
  • I will "police my resource" by turning in poachers and reporting polluters.
  • I will make up for "the other guy" by cleaning up litter wherever my adventures take me.
  • I will boat safely and responsibly, never trespass, and treat other enthusiasts respectfully.
  • I will inspect, clean and dry my boat, boots and waders when moving between waters to prevent the spread of invasive species.
  • I will provide my time, money, or other resources to support stewardship efforts.
  • I will take steps to see that my home, lawn, vehicle, workplace and everyday lifestyle are as fish-friendly as I can make them by reducing my water, energy, material and chemical footprint.
  • I will encourage others to take on this ethic and will connect others with the outdoors to grow the stewardship community.
  • I choose to serve as a role model in protecting what remains and recovering what’s been lost of our wild and natural places.
  • I am a steward.

Plenty of 'Serenity' to Be Found on Nation's Waters

Jumping from fifth to first, “Serenity" was the most popular boat name for 2013, according to Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS). “Second Wind” moved up from sixth to second, while “Island Girl” cracked the top 10 for the first time at third. (Click the song titles for musical accompaniment.)

Possibly as a sign of the times regarding concerns about Big Government, “Freedom” also showed up for the first time at fourth.


  1. Serenity
  2. Second Wind
  3. Island Girl
  4. Freedom
  5. Pura-Vida
  6. Andiamo
  7. Island Time
  8. Irish Wake
  9. Happy Hours
  10. Seas the Day

“We’ve had indicators that a boater who names his boat Second Wind may have rebounded from a misfortune such as divorce, health or other major issue, while someone who names his boat Island Girl or Island Time may enjoy a more carefree spirit and need an escape from everyday life,” said Greg Edge of BoatUS Boat Graphics. “And you can guess that boats with names like Happy Hours may be the most popular boats on Friday night at the marina or Saturday afternoon raft-up – their more outgoing owners celebrating with family and friends.”

Need a boat name? BoatUS has more than two decades of top 10 boat name lists and more than 9,000 names in its online Boat Name Directory, as well as a checklist to help pick a name, christening ceremony information, and an easy-to-use online design tool to make your own boat name here.


Predation Can Be Quick When Male Bass Removed from Bed

Bluegills and other predators can eat bass eggs and fry within 5 minutes of the male being removed from the nest, according to recent research at the University of Illinois.

The fact that they move in when the protector is caught and pulled out is not news. But this recent finding about how fast it can occur is something that anglers should remember.

“One of the main conclusions of the study was that in a lake where there are very few brood predators, when you angle a male away from his nest and then immediately release him, the change of a negative impact is less,” said Jeff Stein, a University of Illinois fisheries scientist.

“But if the nest is located in a part of a lake where there is a high density of brood predators, once the male is removed, predators get into the nest very quickly. On average, the time it took brood predators to begin eating bass young was less than 5 minutes in cases where the nest was located near schools of brood predators.”

Stein added that his message to anglers is that it’s best to get the fish back in the water as soon as possible if they are catch-and-release fishing for nesting bass early in the year, especially if the lake is known to have a high number of bluegill and other predators.

Of course, the debate remains never-ending about whether to fish for bedding bass because of what happens when they are removed from the nest and the fear by some that it will harm productivity.  I don’t do it, but that’s a matter of personal choice. I don’t think that it generally is harmful to bass populations. And fisheries managers have found no evidence that it is.

The bottom line is this: Southern fisheries aren’t nearly so vulnerable because they have longer spawning seasons. Northern fisheries are more vulnerable because seasons are shorter. That’s why spring bass fishing often is catch-and-release in the Upper Midwest and Northeast.

But no matter what lake or stream you are on, if you are catch-and-release fishing, it’s always a good idea to get that bass back in the water as quickly as possible.


States to Receive $1.1 Billion to Manage Fish and Wildlife 

States will receive $1.1 billion this year to manage fish and wildlife, courtesy of the nation’s anglers and hunters. During my nearly 30 years as a conservation writer, one of the things that saddens me the most is how little this program is understood and appreciated by the public. Additionally, every few years Washington politicians try to steal the money for other uses, even though it is "dedicated" to fish and wildlife management.

The money is collected as excise taxes on hunting gear, fishing tackle, and motorboat fuel by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FW) and then apportioned, based on land and water acreage and number of licenses sold.

States receive it at a 3-to-1 match, meaning FWS pays 75 percent for each eligible project.

“Anyone who enjoys our nation’s outdoor heritage should thank hunters, anglers, recreational boaters, and target shooters,” said Dan Ashe, FWS director. “Through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, these individuals have created a 75-year legacy for conservation of critical wildlife habitat and improved access to the outdoors for everyone.”

That’s right. Even if you don’t fish or hunt, you benefit if you spend time in nature. That’s because funds go to acquire and improve habitat for all species, not just those pursued by anglers and hunters. It’s also used for research, as well for restoration projects and increasing public access.

 The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs have generated more than $15 billion since their inception – 1937 for the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program and 1950 for the Dingell-Johnson (also known as Wallop-Breaux)  Sport Fish Restoration Program – to conserve fish and wildlife resources. The recipient fish and wildlife agencies have matched these program funds with more than $5 billion. This funding is critical to sustaining healthy fish and wildlife populations and providing opportunities for all to connect with nature.

Go here to find your state’s apportionment for fiscal 2014.