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Missouri Angler Snags State Record Paddlefish

Record paddlefish snagged in Missouri waters.

Missouri has a new paddlefish record, as Andy Belobraydic snagged a 140-pound, 8.8-ounce trophy Saturday on the north end of Table Rock Lake. The old snagging record, weighing 139 pounds, 4 ounces, also came from Table Rock in 2002.

The record fish measured 6 ½ feet long and was nearly 4 feet in diameter.

The largest fish taken in Missouri waters on hook and line, as opposed to being snagged, was a 130-pound blue catfish, pulled from the Missouri River in 2010.

On March 6 in Thailand, meanwhile, Jeff Corwin, a nature conservationist, caught a sting ray with an estimated weight of 600 to 800 pounds. It measured 14 feet long and 8 feet wide and could be the largest freshwater fish ever caught on rod and reel. Current record is a 693-pound catfish pulled from Thailand’s Mekong River in 2005.

Beluga sturgeon is listed as world's largest freshwater fish by Conservation Institute.

Here’s a list of the largest freshwater fish by species, with the paddlefish as No. 10. Note, though, that the Conservation Institute says that it grows to only 60 pounds and 5 feet long.


Industry Looks at Boat Design as a Way to Combat Mussel Invasion

Zebra mussels on shopping cart

For years, resource managers focused on education, regulations, and boat inspections to help stop the spread of invasive species such a zebra mussels. But in late January, a new tactic was initiated as a first-of-its-kind boat design summit was staged here.

“If you can build a better boat, it makes it easier down the line,” said Brian Goodwin of the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), which develops safety standards and is a sponsor. “There is no silver bullet that will solve the problem. But this is part of it.”

Other sponsors included the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Minnesota and Lake Minnetonka’s Tonka Bay Marina. Minnesota ranks No. 1 nationally in boat ownership per capita.

Organizers hoped that the event would stimulate recommendations for new designs for the more than 100 boat manufacturers, marina operators, conservation leaders, and biologists in attendance.

“This is a critical piece we need to look at and make sure we’re doing all we can do to reduce the risk,” said Ann Pierce of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “I think it will be extremely beneficial, and not just for Minnesota.”

In addition to attaching themselves to hulls, mussels often stow away on boats in any place that water accumulates, including motors, bilges, livewells, and transom wells. Pontoon boats, the fastest growing sector of the boating industry, and wakeboard boats, which collect water to create wakes, especially are conductive for aquatic hitchhiking. For example, lifting strakes on pontoons enable them to go faster, but they often are sealed only at one end, allowing small mussels entry at the other.

“For a lot of companies, it’s going to be a retooling,” said Bob Menne, owner of Premier Marine, the fourth-largest pontoon manufacturer in the nation, and the only one, he said, to weld strakes and keels to keep out zebra mussels.

“We take it as a very serious issue,” he said.


Still No Plan to Address Susquehanna's Sick Smallmouth Bass

Despite evidence that smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River are ill, state and federal officials refuse to categorize the waterway as “impaired.” And until it receives that designation, a plan can’t be developed to address the problem, which probably is pollution.

"We are absolutely certain that the smallmouth bass population of the middle Susquehanna River is sick, based upon the continuing presence of lesions and tumors in young and adult bass," said John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fishing and Boating Commission (PFBC).

"We've been collecting data since 2005, and believe that these fish health issues are causing a decline in the population, which means the river is sick. It is not necessary to know the exact source or cause of the sickness before the Commonwealth declares the river as impaired."

Yet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency supported the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in its decision to exclude nearly 100 miles of the Susquehanna in its 2014 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report.

In 2012, PFBC asked DEP to declare that section of the river from Sunbury to Holtwood Dam, near the Maryland border, as impaired. Both then and in 2014, DEP asserted that it lacked sufficient data to make that determination.

Now the earliest that the river could be declared impaired is 2016.


Arway recently spoke to the game and fisheries committee of the state House of Representatives about this issue. According to, here's what happened:

He also continued his call to have the Susquehanna River officially declared “impaired.” Once the premier flowing smallmouth bass fishery on the East Coast, it's been in decline in recent years, with smallmouth bass populations shrinking and more and more fish showing up sick, he said.

The commission, state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency are doing a study to determine what's causing the problems, he said. A report is due by September.

After that, action needs to be taken, he said. Sick bass have been showing up since 2005, but no one's done anything but collect data since, Arway said.

An impaired designation would set the stage for a corrective plan, he added.

“We know the fish are sick. The (Department of Environmental Protection) admits the fish are sick. The question is, why are they sick and what are we going to do about it? And we haven't started down that road yet,” Arway said.


Volunteers Once Again Improving Habitat at Lake Havasu

As volunteers lead a resurgence in the Lake Havasu Fisheries Improvement Program, anglers are being surveyed to help determine the success of the 20-year effort.

“We’re trying to find out what people are catching, how many fish they are catching,” said David Bohl, president of the Lake Havasu City chapter of Anglers United, who suspects that smallmouth bass are becoming the dominant species.

 “We want to see if they are satisfied. Hopefully, they’re catching a lot of fish.”

Extending into next fall, the project is financed with a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with a goal of 5,000 responses. Surveys are available at a half dozen access locations around the 20,000-acre impoundment on the Colorado River.

The original $27 million program to add a variety of habitat and increase access began in 1993 for the reservoir that was built during the 1930s for water storage, and since has become one of the most popular fisheries in the arid Southwest. Effort lagged a bit at the end of that 10-year program, but volunteers since have revived it.

Between 100 and 200 brush bundles are dropped monthly during summer, with much of the work being done by members of the Lake Havasu Marine Association (LHMA). Along with Anglers United, other partners include the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Game and Fish, and California Fish and Wildlife.

“It’s one of the best places where every arm of government, volunteers, and nonprofits are working together to get something done,” said BLM’s Jason West, who coordinates the program.

As an example of the cooperative effort, area landscapers provide tree branches and other brush, which are bundled with rope, weighed with sand bags and sunk in coves, where they are believed to provide habitat for about seven years, as they slowly decompose.

At least anecdotally, the fishery has benefitted from the long-term effort, with both size and quantity improving, according to BLM biologist Doug Adams. Program advocates hope the survey will provide more definitive evidence.


Kids Need the Outdoors

The photo is of my friend Teeg Stouffer and his son Goody. Teeg contributed a wonderful essay, "Free," to Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies. The book now has 26 five-star reviews at Amazon. Many readers share it with their children.

Here's an excerpt from his essay: 

"Every summer Monday, mom took my brother and me to that lake, that spot I started off telling you about, and we’d meet my grandma there. We’d be both loved and free. We’d be set off on our own adventures to catch fish and frogs and turtles.

"I don’t think it’s wrong for kids whose experience outside is the grass of a soccer field or the dirt of an infield, but I think it’s a shame if that’s the extent of it for them. Those structured outdoor experiences teach important things like teamwork, dedication, and the benefits of competition. All of those values are great. But kids need unstructured playtime in the outdoors, too, with its risks, dangers, opportunities, and freedom to learn, grow, and solve problems.

I was a kid who had a red, white, and blue bedroom with an American flag painted on the wall--- no kidding. A Boy Scout, who loved the Beach Boys and knew every word to Lee Greenwood’s 'God Bless the USA.' Freedom has always resonated with me, and I think it does for most people, even folks who don’t really know what it is to be free, because they never have been. "

In no particular order, other contributors included Brenda DeGreeRandy Joe HeavinSabrina ThompsonRon PresleySteve ChaconasAndy McDaniels,Gene GillilandLeonard SonnenscheinBlake Muhlenbruck, Skyler Wiseman, Judy Tipton, and Hobson Bryan.