My Facebook pages

Robert Montgomery

Why We Fish

Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies

Pippa's Canine Corner 

 

 

This area does not yet contain any content.
Loading..
Loading..
(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
Loading..
Loading..
(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
Loading..
Loading..
(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
Loading..
Loading..
(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
Get Updates! and Search
No RSS feeds have been linked to this section.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Mar262014

Third Carp Species Also Threatens Great Lakes

Activist Angler caught this 30-pound-plus grass carp in a lake that has been damaged by illegal stocking of this exotic species. Photo by Robert Montgomery.

When people talk about Asian carp threatening the Great Lakes and its fisheries, they typically are referring to bighead and silver.

But a third species also potentially could damage this vast freshwater ecosystem if it becomes established in substantial numbers.

The grass carp was introduced into U.S. waters about 50 years ago, with the intent of using it to manage invasive aquatic vegetation. It has done its job--- and then some. Too often it has obliterated all vegetation in a water body, including beneficial native plants.

Additionally, it has escaped and established wild populations, as did the bighead and silver. Today the grass carp is believed to be in at least 45 states.

And now this invader poses danger for the Great Lakes.

Researchers recently documented that grass carp have spawned in the Great Lakes, specifically in Ohio’s Sandusky River, a tributary of Lake Erie. They also point out that 45 of them were caught in the Great Lakes between 2007-2012. That’s not a lot, but it’s 45 too many, especially since about half of those were capable of reproducing, meaning that an established population might already exist.

That does not bode well for bass, pike, and other inshore species that thrive in and around aquatic vegetation.

Read more here.

By the way, I have personal experience with grass carp. Years ago, ignorant property owners illegally stocked grass carp in the little lake behind my house because, they said, “they filter the water and improve the water quality.”  They did so, even though the lake contained little, if any, aquatic vegetation.

Somehow, the carp have survived and today some of them weigh 30 pounds or more. They’re the equivalent of big aquatic cows, degrading water quality, not improving it, as their wastes feed alga blooms during summer.

Also, hundreds of pounds of carp prevent growth of hundreds of pounds of bass, bluegill, and catfish. Like a farm field, a lake can sustain just so much biomass. 

Tuesday
Mar252014

Florida Waters Yielding Abundance of Trophy Bass

Len Andrews caught this 13-pound, 12-ounce largemouth at Florida's Lake Kingsley.

Between Jan. 1 and March 23 of last year,  anglers entered 54 Lunker Club (8-9.9 pounds), 31 Trophy Club (10-12.9 pounds) and 1 Hall of Fame bass of more than 13 pounds in the TrophyCatch program. By contrast, during the same period this year, anglers registered 220 Lunker Club, 89 Trophy Club and 3 Hall of Fame bass.

“Part of that three-fold increase was due to simplified rules and more anglers being aware. Nevertheless, it is clear that Florida is producing and recycling vast numbers or trophy bass,” said Bob Wattendorf of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Additionally in March, a Bassmaster Elite Tournament on the St. Johns River yieded some impressive results, as 11 of the top 12 finishers filled their five-bag limit all four days. Chris Lane won with a four-day total of 90.13 pounds.

More from FWC:

TrophyCatch rewards anglers for participating in citizen-science, by catching, documenting and releasing largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds. Besides the immediate gratification of releasing these older bass to fight another day, anglers provide valuable information about the number and distribution of these trophy bass and what it takes to sustain a trophy fishery.

Biologists compare the findings to existing conservation programs such as habitat restoration efforts, aquatic vegetation management strategies, bass stocking histories and various regulation management approaches to determine what works best.

So you never know when you may find a lunker on the end of your line. To be prepared, go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com now, register, and check out the rules and prizing.

Just registering makes you eligible for a random drawing in October for a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury and equipped with a Power-Pole. However, every time you have a TrophyCatch bass verified, your name is entered 10 more times. Moreover, every verified bass earns you not only bragging rights on the Web but also a customized certificate, decal and club shirt, plus at least a total of $100 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods and/or Rapala.

Bigger fish earn greater rewards: Anglers who have 13-pound plus Hall of Fame entries also get a $500 fiberglass replica of their catch.

All three Hall of Fame entries from this winter (one was caught in the fall by Van Soles on Lake Kissimmee) came from semi-private Lake Kingsley in Clay County. Len Andrews, 74, from Richmond, Va., in a recent two-week period, caught and released 12 Florida largemouth bass over 10 pounds, capped by a TrophyCatch Hall of Fame entry that was verified as 13 pounds, 12 ounces. Andrews also became the first “Triple Crown” winner by documenting a Lunker Club, Trophy Club and Hall-of-Fame bass. All of the hundreds of bass he’s caught on Lake Kingsley have been with a Zoom 6-inch lizard.

Fellow Lake Kingsley angler Joseph “Brooks” Morrell recently reported three huge bass that he caught, documented, released and entered into TrophyCatch. These included the second and third Hall of Fame entries this season (Oct. 1, 2013, to Sep. 30, 2014). These two bass weighed 13 pounds, 12 ounces, and 14 pounds, 9 ounces and were caught March 1 and 8, respectively. The third bass Morrell caught, on March 9, weighed 11 pounds, 13 ounces. All of his catches were enticed to take an artificial crawfish bait. His 14 pounder is the current season leader. If it holds up, he will earn the TrophyCatch Championship ring in October, which is donated by the American Outdoors Fund.

However, there is still a lot of fishing to be done before then, so get out there and see what you can catch.

The FWC scheduled the first of four license-free recreational fishing days on the first full weekend in April each year (April 5-6, 2014), because it coincides with a productive freshwater fishing period, when the weather is usually pleasant. Many of Florida’s recreational sport fishes, inlcuding black bass, bluegill and redear sunfish, move into shallow waters to spawn during spring, making them more available for anglers to catch.

During license-free freshwater fishing weekends (the first weekend in April and the second weekend in June) no recreational fishing license is required. However, all other bag limit and season, gear and size restrictions apply.

To further encourage recreational fishing, the FWC will conduct a special contest during April to collect photos of anglers. All you have to do is post a photo of your family fishing in Florida’s fresh waters on Twitter or Instagram with #FLfish (or you can use #FWC-FamilyFishing). In return for your efforts, the FWC will enter you into a drawing for one of six surprise packages, each including a $50 gift card from Bass Pro Shops, thanks to TrophyCatch, a Glen Lau video library on DVD and assorted fishing lures, hooks, line and goodies to make your next trip even more productive.

Submitted photos must be your own. Editing software must not be used, and the photo cannot include inappropriate content. Photos should be taken during April while freshwater fishing in Florida and include multiple anglers enjoying their day together on the water. The FWC may subsequently use the photos for educational or outreach purposes.

Go to  MyFWC.com/Fishing to learn more about freshwater fishing in Florida. Another good resource is TakeMeFishing.org/State/FL.

Tuesday
Mar252014

Conservation Directors 'Energized' by Summit

Conservation is a priority for B.A.S.S. and its members, as evidenced by this habitat work at Georgia's Lake Allatoona by the Marietta BassMasters. Photo by Dale McPherson.

As the new National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S., Gene Gilliland’s first Conservation Summit was a stimulating success, according to state directors who attended during Bassmaster Classic week here.

“Some of our sessions were very educational and others were just intense, as we gathered our thoughts about where we need to go from here,” said New Mexico’s Earl Conway, winner of the Conservation Director of the Year Award.

 “I left very energized with new perspectives about our goals.”

West Virginia’s Jerod Harman added, “Because every person involved brought his A-game,”there honestly was not  one single thing that really stands above the rest throughout the Summit.  Speaking on behalf of the B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Directors in attendance, we are really looking forward to taking our new-found knowledge back to our states and getting to work!”

Gilliland, meanwhile, did highlight a time Friday, when the tone was set for the program. That was when B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin stopped by to speak for 15 minutes, but ended up staying for an hour to talk about promoting the organization and its conservation work, especially through partnerships.

“He answered all of their questions and they appreciated that,” the National Conservation Director said. “That set the stage and encouraged everyone that conservation has the support of management.”

The first-day “business session” also included an update about the college and high school programs from Tournament Manager Jon Stewart and insights from B.A.S.S. Social Media and B.A.S.S. Nation Editor Tyler Reed on providing content for articles and updates.

Saturday began with a presentation by Gordon Robertson from the American Sportfishing Association and Chris Horton from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. They encouraged the 30 or conservation directors, and a nearly equal number of state fisheries chiefs and biologists, to better communicate with one another. They also reminded conservation directors that their jobs include dealing with political issues, Gilliland said.

Later in the morning, Jim Martin of the Berkley Conservation Institute led a brainstorming session about how to move the conservation agenda into cooperative ventures, looking at the bigger issues, including watersheds, water quality, and access.

“It was a very engaging discussion, with a lot of good ideas that helped energize people,” the National Conservation Director said.

Following lunch sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Mike Netherland from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Craig Martin from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service updated attendees about issues related to invasive plants and aquatic life.

Sunday featured  a grant-writing seminar that Harman described as “fantastic.” Chris Edmonston of the BoatUS Foundation emphasized attention to detail and shared specifics for writing winning proposals.

During lunch sponsored by Alabama Power, Drs. Hobson Bryan and Thomas Wells from the University of Alabama explained how siltation is destroying important backwaters in many of our rivers.

In summarizing the event, North Carolina’s Bill Frazier said, “There’s a noticeable increase in enthusiasm since the inaugural rebirth at Shreveport. There are many very effective programs emerging out of the conservation mission and the state conservation directors are stepping up.”

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

Sunday
Mar232014

Maine Fisheries Opposes Plastics Ban, But Anglers Need to Be Better Stewards

Eamon Bolten started the ReBaits program in Florida.

In deciding not to recommend a ban on soft plastic baits to the state legislature, Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) followed the science. Biologist Dana DeGraaf, who is the trout and landlocked salmon specialist, especially deserves recognition for his diligence in compiling data, researching composition of plastic and biodegradable baits, and donning SCUBA gear to get a first-hand look at discarded baits in Maine fisheries.

It remains to be seen, though, whether those in the legislature who pushed for the ban in 2013 will accept the recommendation and alternative actions suggested by IFW. As in the Pacific Northwest, prejudice is strong against bass, an introduced species in many Maine waters. Coldwater anglers argue that if the bass weren’t there, neither would the discarded plastics.

One study cited by those who want the ban involved hatchery brook trout in a laboratory, with 63 percent of the 38 fish eating plastics. But that shouldn’t be at all surprising since the baits were mixed in with pelletized food.

As with bass, only anecdotal evidence exists that wild trout and salmon eat the discards. For example, in nearby Vermont, biologist Shawn Good said that he has received reports of trout with baits in their stomachs, and he’s also seen some abnormally skinny bass.

“I’ve killed a number of them over the years just to open them up and try to see what’s wrong with them,” he said. “A lot of these fish had two or three soft plastics in their stomachs. So we know they can affect individual fish.”

But, as in Maine, no research supports the notion that entire fisheries are being harmed by the discards. “I don’t think banning them is necessarily the right move,” Good explained. “But it’s something we should keep an eye on and let anglers know about, so they can try to reduce the amount that ends up in lakes.”

Which is exactly what DeGraaf and IFW recommended to the Maine legislature. “It’s mostly a littering problem,” the biologist said.

Sad to say, of that there was ample evidence, both from visual checks at launch sites and from underwater observations.

“Many discarded SPLs were readily observed visually from the boat prior to the diver survey,” the report said. “Hundreds of additional discarded SPLs were observed at Tricky Pond but were uncounted outside the initial survey area due to time limitations.

“In addition, multiple piles of discarded SPLs were observed at the toe of the Tricky Pond public boat ramp. This was indicative of anglers purposely dumping used SPLs after fishing and prior to trailering their boat(s) out of the water.”

Some soft plastics unavoidably will be lost while fishing. But, as the IFW discovered, some anglers continue to improperly dispose of their used plastics. In doing so, they needlessly contribute to the litter problem and provide ammunition to those will continue to push for a ban, not only in Maine but in other states as well.

Consequently, IFW’s recommendation of a public education campaign is a good one and something that other states should initiate as well.

“The Department could establish a process for public education and outreach regarding the effects of discarded SPLs and the process by which anglers should discard or recycle used SPLs,” the agency said in the report now posted on its website.

It proposed signs and collections boxes for baits at ramps, as well as media advertisements and printed material in the fishing regulations book. And it recommended that anglers “participate in SPL recycling programs such as the B.A.S.S. ReBaits SPL recycling program. This could include providing collection bags with each purchase of a Maine fishing license and/or advertising the Re-Baits program in print on the Maine fishing license.” (This is my B.A.S.S. Times column about Eamon Bolten starting the ReBaits program in Florida.)

A final reason that IFW does not recommend a ban on soft plastic baits should be of special interest to bass anglers nationwide. It said that a viable biodegradable option doesn’t exist, despite advertising claims to the contrary. “After one week, one month, and eight months post-treatment, the biodegradable SPL showed no signs of degradation,” the report said, adding that no national or international standard exists for “ what constitutes ‘biodegradable plastic’ and SPLs specifically.”

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

Friday
Mar212014

Stop Blaming the 'Villagers'

Today’s biology lesson is about the life cycle of zebra mussels. As an added bonus, I’m going to provide a little instruction in the lost art of journalism.

First, read this excerpt from an article about the exotic shellfish on the KAAL website in Minnesota:

 * * *

"Say you've pumped in 100 gallons of water off Lake Minnetonka and it comes in now and then pumps out, any villagers that happen to be in that tank can't get out either,” said Larry Meddock with the Water Sports Industry Association. The villagers are trapped. That's important because the filter reduces the risk of any hitchhikers being transported from one lake to another through ballast tanks on boats.

* * *

Now here’s the journalism lesson: Know what you’re talking about.

And here’s a clue to the biology lesson: “Villagers” don’t live in water; they live in a village. And they are people, not zebra mussels.

What, then, are the “villagers” that the KAAL author is referring to? Had she bothered to do any research, she would have discovered that the correct term is “veligers.”

Here’s what you need to know about zebra mussels and what that article failed miserably to explain:

Veligers are the microscopic, free-swimming larvae of zebra and other mussels. They can drift in the water for several weeks, before settling onto hard surfaces to grow into hard-shell adults.

They likely were introduced to the Great Lakes as veligers in the ballast water of ocean-going ships. They also are being spread within the United States in ballast, as well as in bilges, livewells and any other water left in a boats as they leave infected waterways.

As adults, they can hitchhike by attaching to boat hulls, props, and trailers, surviving out of water for a week or so.

That’s why it’s so important that you clean, drain, and dry your boat after leaving any water infected with zebra or quagga mussels. And the failure of many to take these precautions is a major reason that these problematic shellfish have spread out from the Great Lakes, and, in recent years even crossed the Continental Divide.

Aside from outcompeting native species for oxygen, food, and habitat, they clog water and hydropower plants, costing the nation’s economy more than $1 billion a year in damages and associated control costs annually.

Stop the spread of “veligers,” and leave the “villagers” alone.