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Clough Retires as B.A.S.S. Conservation Director

Noreen Clough will leave behind a firm foundation when she retires as B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director this month.

“We have directors in 47 states and Canada. They are the real story of bass conservation,” she said. “They bring a huge variety of skill sets and do a far greater variety of work today than just habitat improvement.

“They are volunteers who give up some of their fishing time because they are passionate about conservation and fisheries, and the work that they do goes unknown by many.”

The same can be said of Clough, who served as National Conservation Director from 2004 to 2007 and again from 2011 until her retirement. But those who have worked with her do know of her enormous contributions to B.A.S.S. specifically, and fisheries generally.

“Noreen has been a rock and a voice of reason for a lot of important fisheries issues,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “She will be sorely missed, both as a friend and professionally.”

Todd Gentzel, Colorado’s state director, added that he would have been “in deep trouble dealing with some of these issues,” without Clough’s leadership.

One of the greatest assets that Clough brought to her position was decades of experience in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including as Deputy Assistant Director for Fisheries. In other words, she understood how things are done --- and not done--- in a bureaucracy. That proved invaluable as she partnered with the ASA, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council, and other advocacy groups.

“On any issue, Noreen never just criticized,” Robertson said. “She always had a thoughtful solution to offer. That’s a hallmark of high integrity. Anyone can just criticize.”

Clough is the fourth to serve as National Conservation Director since the position was created by former B.A.S.S. CEO Helen Sevier in the early 1990s. A retired fisheries biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, Al Mills began the work, building partnerships with state and federal agencies to improve fisheries.

Bruce Shupp followed.  Former fisheries chief for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, he is most remembered for initiating a series of annual workshops about Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV). At these professionally facilitated events, state, federal and university scientists and fisheries biologists shared evolving news and research regarding the virus.

If not for Shupp’s initiative, it’s not unreasonable to believe that panic would have ensued regarding the threat LMBV posed. The result could have been massive restrictions on bass fishing, especially tournaments.

“This was one of the best collaborative processes ever,” said Dave Terre, chief of management and research for Inland Fisheries at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Clough took over in 2004, and then, in 2007, thought that she was ready to enjoy a life of leisure and travel, including fishing in Costa Rica. But her replacement, Chris Horton, moved on to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and she stepped back in.

During her second term, the B.A.S.S. Nation system of state conservation directors has seen a Renaissance of sorts. Today, these volunteers arguably are more knowledgeable and skilled than ever before, and they have made their priorities about much more than trash cleanups and encouraging catch-and-release.  In addition to a variety of habitat work, they are involved legislatively, and, most importantly, they combat unwarranted attempts to restrict access and ban lead fishing tackle.

Not surprisingly, Clough takes none of the credit for this. She attributes their accomplishments to a “huge variety of skill sets” and said that they have become “very sophisticated.”

But state directors beg to differ.

Jim Cardillo, former Pennsylvania director, said she had a unique ability to concentrate the focus of state leaders “into one beam of intense magnitude to overwhelm any obstacle for the betterment and health of the bass we all love to catch.”

And Colorado’s Gentzel added, “She was always there to answer questions, and she worked tirelessly, sending us information and making sure that we stayed on top of issues,” he said. “She brought all of the CDs a lot closer with our conference calls, and she made this a lot easier for all of us. She will be missed greatly.”

Yes, she will.

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


Angler Outrage Delays Vote on Expanding Keys No-Take Areas

Florida Sportsman photo

Outraged by proposals for new no-take zones throughout the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, charter captains and commercial fishermen won the most recent round in this ongoing battle.

They convinced members of the Ecosystem Protection working group to postpone recommendations for new protected areas until after September, when regional meetings will be staged throughout the Keys.

 "This is a declaration of war against fishermen ... a vast overreach," said Upper Keys commercial fisherman Carlos Jimenez.

Both charter and commercial fishermen said creating new ecological reserves, much larger than the Sanctuary Preservation Areas at popular reef sites, would concentrate fishing pressure in smaller areas. More closures would "saturate other areas" with lobster traps, commercial fisherman Gary Nichols said. "This is the most ludicrous map I've ever seen."

Read more here.


Why We Fish Book Reveals 'The Best Day' of Fishing

Guide Dale Stroschein with two of the 5-pound-plus smallmouth bass that we caught on "The Best Day." Photo by Robert Montgomery

Putting aside the many indirect pleasures that we derive from fishing--- relaxation, spending quality time with friends and/or family, etc.--- a good day of fishing for me is when I catch lots of fish.

A better day is when I catch lots of big fish.

And my best day?

That’s what I explain in my new book of essays, Why We Fish. That day  occurred six years ago, while fishing out of Door County with guide Dale Strochein on Lake Michigan, and I write about it in “The Best Day.”

When I told Dale that I had written about it, he said, “I still talk about that day. It was the best day.”

I’ve been trying to contact all of the great people that I mentioned in this book, so that they will know that I included them. But it’s not easy, since I wrote 40 of the 50 essays,  and I’m indebted to lots of folks for what they have shared with me over the years.

By the way, nine of those were written by some very talented folks, including Bill Dance, Dave Precht, Ken Cook, Kathy Magers, Teeg Stouffer, Steve Chaconas, Ben Leal, Chad Montgomery, and Dr. Bruce Condello.  And the 10th originated from the Mystery Tackle Box Facebook page, where Ross Gordon asked followers why they fish.

As I work to promote the book, I received word from my publisher recently that Barnes & Noble stores will carry Why We Fish. And the International Game Fish Association will include it in its library, and mention it in the organization’s publications.

Also, Don McDowell invited me to talk about the book on his Shake, Rattle and Troll radio show this morning.

I hope that you will check it out at Norlights Press or Amazon (click button on right side of page), where it has received 13 five-star reviews so far.


Still No Satisfactory Answers for Why Clermont Chain Is Drying Up

A "waterfront" property on Lake Crescent in Florida's Clermont Chain. Photo by Robert Montgomery

Back in January, I wrote an article about the mystery of why Florida’s Clermont Chain of Lakes is drying up.

Many who live in the area believe that withdrawals--- both authorized and unauthorized--- are the cause. One suspected culprit is the Niagara Bottling Co. in Groveland.

Government officials blame the weather.

The local media, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be interested. Do a Google search for “Clermont Chain water level” and you’ll see my article at the top. Below that, you’ll see a link to a couple of articles that have been published in the Orlando Sentinel, one of them in 2008.

The second, from April 2013, says that a taxpayer-funded study confirms that yes, indeedy, it’s all about the weather.

But when you look at the shorelines of the Clermont Chain, that’s difficult to believe. The photo accompanying this post was taken in October 2012. The owner of that “lakefront” property tells me that the water level hasn’t changed much, even though rainfall is above normal.

By the way, if you have “waterfront” property on the Clermont Chain, you should know that you are paying more in property taxes than you would be if you were landlocked. I’ve seen estimates that being on the water elevates your property value by 25 percent or more. It might be more than that in Florida. Here’s a link about why waterfront property costs more.

My point is this: If you live on the Clermont Chain and your waterfront property is no longer on the water --- as with my friend’s property in the photo above--- should you be paying the higher property taxes required of a waterfront property owner?


Silver Carp Dying in Missouri River

Silver carp are dying in the Missouri River near Vermillion, S.D. And they’ve been found dead elsewhere as well.

 That’s good news, of course. We have far too many of these exotic invaders in far too many of our rivers.

But what concerns resource managers is that they don’t know the reason or reasons for these die-offs. Possibly they are related to water quality. Or maybe they are occurring because of a disease. If it’s the latter, the disease could pose a threat to other species.

Read more here.