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Proper Care of Rainwear Will Keep You Dry in a Downpour

Photo by Andrew Poison

Some of the best bites occur during the nastiest weather.

That’s why quality rainwear is as essential to an angler as rod, reel, line, and lures.

“You get what you pay for,” said Chris Leonard, a design engineer of technical apparel for Frabill. “I see guys with expensive boats throw on cheap raingear.

“People should take care of themselves first and then they can really focus on fishing.”

But just buying quality rainwear isn’t enough either. If a fisherman doesn’t properly care for it, he might as well be trying to keep dry during a downpour with a plastic poncho.  And the idea that quality gear requires complicated care doesn’t “wash” either, according to the experts for Frabill, Simms, and Carhartt.

“There’s a misconception out there that it’s hard to care for Gore-Tex and other breathable fabrics,” said Matt Crawford, a public relations representative for Simms. “That’s not true. It’s as easy as doing your laundry. That’s one of the benefits.”

Another popular misconception is that you need a new suit before you really do. Just because you feel cold and clammy --- even wet --- when you wear your current gear, and it is damp to the touch on the outside, doesn’t mean that it’s leaking. The Gore-Tex folks call this “a case of mistaken identity.”

Actually, if the suit doesn’t have any tears or faulty seams, chances are you can make it perform as well as it did when it was new. It’s just a matter of properly caring for your investment.

That means re-application of a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment to your rainwear.

“Having a good DWR finish on the outside is critical,” explained Harry McPherson, a senior manager of men’s outerwear and accessories for Carhartt.

“DWR makes the rain bead up instead of soaking into the fabric,” he continued. “But it degrades over time and by washing. Also, anything that rubs against it constantly, like straps, can weaken it.”

When DWR is inadequate, your gear can appear wet on the outside, as the outer fabric absorbs moisture. In turn, that will make it heavier.

Additionally, condensation can collect on the inside. That’s because damp outer fabric lowers the temperature of the gear through evaporative heat loss. As a result, warm, humid air inside the garment condenses on the inside laminant surface so that it feels wet and the clothing appears to be leaking.

When should you apply a DWR? When you wash and dry your rainwear. And when should you do that? When it needs it, and, at a minimum, at the end of the fishing season before you put away in storage.

“Clean rainwear performs better and smells better,” said Frabill’s Leonard, who added that you’ll encourage mold growth if you put it away wet or even damp.

How do you wash it? Just follow the directions that come with the rainwear, said the experts.

“There’s no need for commercial machines,” McPherson said. “Do it at home.”

He added that applying a DWR every time you wash and dry isn’t necessary, and you can strengthen the DWR with just a quick spin in the dryer when the suit doesn’t need washing. “The heat gives it a charge,” he said.

If you do want to apply DWR, do so after you’ve washed the rainwear and before you put it in the dryer.

“Wash with a synthetic fabric cleaner,” advised Leonard. “Avoid detergents with a lot of additives, dyes, foaming agents, fragrances, and brighteners. They leave residues that can affect the water repellency effectiveness.”

ReviveX by Gear-Aid is one of those cleaners designed especially for rainwear and other synthetic outerwear. It offers a spray-on DWR as well.

Stains also can harm the suit’s ability to repel water. That’s why the really stubborn ones should be pre-treated, Crawford said. Dish washing detergent, such as Dawn, will help dissolve grease.

When you’re ready to wash, make sure that all of the zippers are closed and Velcro enclosures are sealed to reduce the chances of snags and abrasions. Some manufacturers recommend turning the garments inside out; others don’t.

At the end of the wash cycle, rinse twice before spraying on the DWR.

Finally, even if recently washed your rainwear and applied DWR the week before, don’t neglect its day-to-day care. After a session in the rain, air it out. When it’s dry, zip it up and give it a good shake to get out the grit that could damage it.

Take care of your gear, said Crawford, and you’ll discover “there’s no such thing as bad weather.”

 What Lies Beneath

 Even if you properly care for your rainwear, you might not be comfortable fishing in the rain, cautioned Simms’ Matt Crawford and Frabill’s Chris Leonard.

The No. 1 fishing shirt in the world is a cotton tee shirt, Crawford explained, but it’s exactly the wrong thing to wear under synthetic rainwear designed to let air through but keep moisture out. That’s because “cotton doesn’t breathe,” he said.

Leonard added, “People forget that they sweat. You want vapor to be able to pass through the layers, and the worst for that is cotton.

“Cotton is for the couch. You want breathable base layers like fleece, polyesters, and wools.”

Against your skin, you should wear wicking undergarments, such as Dri-Fit by Nike, Crawford added.

“Anglers have been slow to use these types of things,” he said. “But they’re really fortunate now because they have so many options that have been tested and perfected in other environments.”

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


History Reveals Bleak Time for Black Bass

 Hickling's Fish Farm photo of hatchery-raised bass

Despite objections from many of the state’s anglers, New York recently decided to allow sale of black bass in markets and restaurants. The regulation stipulates that they must be hatchery-raised, but the words of Seth Gordon, the first conservation director for the Izaak Walton League (IWL), serve as a chilling reminder of what once was and what could again be when we don’t learn from history.

“So long as there is a legal market anywhere, you may bank on it that thousands of pounds of illegally caught bass will be sold,” he said during IWL’s all but forgotten campaign during the 1920s to save black bass from decimation by commercial harvest.

Well into the 20th century, black bass were commercial, as well as sport fish. Even as government agencies stocked fish anywhere and everywhere and closed seasons limited sport fishing, commercial fishermen harvested largemouth and smallmouth bass with pound and fyke nets, as well as other means, for sale in the fish markets of many cities.

“Eulogy on the Black Bass” read the headline in a 1927 issue of Forest and Stream, and another in 1930 screamed, “Defrauding Ten Million Anglers.” In the latter article, Edward Kemper slammed the Bureau of Fisheries for “overseeing the slaughter of millions and millions of black bass” and he included a “role of dishonor,” naming 10 states that continued to allow sale of bass in markets.

IWL was the prime mover for passage of the Black Bass Act of 1926, which was introduced into Congress by Rep. Harry Hawes of Missouri. As the law prohibited shipment of bass across state lines, IWL also worked within those states to outlaw commercial harvest.

I learned about this little known chapter in bass history from Jim Long, assistant unit leader of the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Oklahoma State University. He came across this and other long forgotten information as he prepared a presentation on the history of black bass management for a Black Bass Diversity Symposium at a Southern Division Meeting of the American Fisheries Society.

“I’ve read some histories of fisheries but I’ve never seen one for black bass,” he told me. “I wanted original newspaper clippings, not third-hand accounts, and data bases made that possible,” he said.

Pouring through archives, Long found a headline from the 1920s that proclaimed “Hoover Laments Decline of Fishing.” And he discovered that the New York Times listed black bass regulations during the 1870s. “That’s something you don’t see today,” he said.

As he divided his search into major time periods, starting with the 1800s, what surprised Long the most were the influential roles played by the IWL and, before that, by Dr. James A. Henshall.

Author of the 1881 Book of the Black Bass, Henshall was a medical doctor and passionate bass angler. The most quoted line in bass fishing literature belongs to him: “I consider him (black bass), inch for inch and pound for pound, the gamest fish that swims.”

Henshall’s passion, said Long, was to promote black bass as “a pre-eminent gamefish.” But the doctor also was a “lumper,” countering decades of science that preceded him.

Long coined that phrase as the opposite to “splitters,” which describes those who recognize multiple bass species.

“Henshall did a lot of really good work, but he considered the spotted bass a smallmouth, the Guadalupe a largemouth, and the Florida a largemouth,” Long explained. “And he was the authoritative voice.”

So, even though the smallmouth bass and then largemouth bass were identified in 1802, the spotted bass in 1819, the Florida bass in 1822, and the Guadalupe bass in 1874, Henshall’s lumping successfully countered their acknowledgement as separate species until the 1940s.

By the way, no one knows where that first smallmouth was caught before it was shipped to France to be analyzed and given its Latin name. But what Long discovered is that the black bass’s keystone designation as Micropterus was based on a damaged dorsal fin. “It looked like it had a second, smaller dorsal,” he said. “And that word means small fin or wing.”

With improvement in science over the decades, especially in genetics, Henshall’s lumping has fallen out of favor and we’re not likely to name any new species based on an imperfection. Also, we’ve become much more selective about how and when we stock, and we’re focused on improving habitat as never before as a way to sustain fisheries.

All those are good things. Seeing what has happened in New York, though, I am troubled by our politicians and their propensity for repeating harmful chapters in our history.

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


Monster Brown Trout Taken in New Zealand

Here’s one that will give trout purists a nightmare:

Otwin Kandolf caught what could prove to be a world-record brown trout while fishing in the milky waters of a New Zealand canal.

Why was a brown trout in such a place? It was feeding on pellets near a salmon farm.

The fish that Kandolf said looked like a “submarine” checked in at 42 pounds, 1 ounce. That surpasses the world record of 41-8, but, as of now, no one knows if this New Zealand monster will be certified as a new record.

Go here to see a video about the catch.


Behind the Scenes at the Lunker Bunker

ShareLunker 547. Texas Parks and Wildlife photo.

Check out the new 14-minute video at the Texas ShareLunker Facebook page. It shows what happened when ShareLunker No. 547 was taken into the Lunker Bunker at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.

You also can see a video in which Donald Deville tells how he caught that 14.06-pound largemouth at Lake Fork.


PFBC Looks to EPA to Help Save Susquehanna Smallmouth Fishery


A “perfect storm” of stressors is destroying one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the nation. Algae blooms, bacteria, viruses, parasites, and pollutants annually decimate young-of-the year bass, leaving the Susquehanna River with a steadily declining number of big fish and little recruitment to replace them.

Since the first disease outbreak in 2005, biologists with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) have been studying the problem on the river that flows from Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, N.Y., to Chesapeake Bay, draining about half of the state’s land area. Their conclusion: The problem is too complex for them to solve without additional help.

“That’s why we’re trying to convince the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to put the Susquehanna on the (impaired waters) list,” said John Arway, PFBC executive director.

Despite the Susquehanna’s biological and recreation impairment, the state Department of Environmental Protection decided not to include the river on the list, forcing the PFBC to look elsewhere for help.

 “We’ve also had meetings with our members of Congress,” Arway said. “This is extremely important. If the river goes on the impaired list, then there’s a time clock to fix it. But that clock doesn’t start until the problem is formally recognized.

"Putting it on the 303D list would mean that there’s a plan and we’d be eligible for grant money and we could prioritize how to spend it.”

The PFBC has support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its campaign. In a letter to the EPA, Region 5 Director Wendi Weber wrote the following:

“We concur with recent scientific assessments that indicate a chronic problem exists with recruitment of smallmouth bass in the river.

 “We are also concerned with the recent rise in reported skin lesions on bass, as well as emerging evidence of inter-sex, possibly caused by endocrine disruption compounds in the water. The Service believes the suite of warning signs exhibited by the smallmouth bass population is cause for careful and thorough assessment of environmental conditions in the river. While exact linkages and root causes seem to remain unclear, we believe the evidence suggests that environmental stressors are affecting the biota in the river.”

And just how much have those environmental stressors impacted smallmouth bass? “We’d typically get 1 ½ to 2 good years for every 1 bad year (of reproduction). Now, we will be lucky if we get 1 out of 8,” said Geoff Smith, a biologist who has studied the river.

He added that the number of adult fish in the river “has plateaued to low densities historically.”

 “As the older fish die of old age, we’re not seeing the recruitment we need to replace them,” Arway said

He points to dissolved phosphorus in the river as a “principal stressor.” Right at the time bass are born, he added, “We’re seeing blooms of nuisance algae from the west shore to the east shore.”

That results in low dissolved oxygen, which in turn, compromises the immune system of young bass.

“We need to trace it (phosphorus) to the source,” Arway said. “We need to know where it comes from. That’s why we need to be on the 303D list.”

Additionally, biologists have identified these contaminants in the river that could cause endocrine disruption:

Thirteen flame retardant compounds, 2 personal care products (triclosan), 14 organochlorine pesticides, and 9 other pesticides.

They’ve also confirmed Largemouth Bass Virus.

“That’s not likely a factor (for abundance). But just carrying that virus might add to the stress,” Smith said.

Possibly most disturbing, though, is that similar problems with smallmouth recruitment now have spread into the Susquehanna’s tributaries and even outside of the basin, to the Allegheny and Delaware.

Anglers, meanwhile, “were madder than a hornet’s nest for a time,” Arway said. That’s because the PFBC implemented mandatory catch-and-release for the middle 98 miles of the Susquehanna and prohibited targeting of bass on nests from May 1 to June 15.

“But now they understand and they’re behind us. They’re working with us,” the PFBC executive director added.