This area does not yet contain any content.
Get Updates! and Search
No RSS feeds have been linked to this section.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

Monday
Oct012012

B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Leads in Keeping Plastic Baits Out of Our Waters

Cody Bigford of Lakeland, Fla., collected more than 6,000 used baits. Photo courtesy of Eamon Bolten

This column is intended as a thank-you to the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation state conservation directors out there who have recognized the need for us to be better stewards of our fisheries and are doing something about it.

These guys and gals are volunteers with families, jobs, and other responsibilities, but they are taking the time to make a difference.

I’m speaking specifically of their dedication to educate and involve anglers in properly disposing of used plastic baits, or, even better, recycling them.

Ray Scott did a great thing when he extolled the virtues of catch-and-release decades ago. Millions of anglers bought into the idea, and, as a result, both the face and the nature of sport fishing were changed for the better.

But we’ve ridden that tailwind long enough. It’s time to do more for conservation, especially in light of growing anti-fishing sentiment in our increasingly urban society. When we don’t take responsibility for maintaining a positive public image, we allow others control of our destiny --- and that’s not good.

Why target used plastic baits? Here’s why:

At Florida’s recent Junior State Championship on Lake Okeechobee, Cody Bigford of the Lakeland Junior Bassmasters turned in 130 pounds of baits that he had collected from various events in his area. That’s one person, in one town, accumulating more than 6,000 used baits.

Now, think nationally and you easily can see the massive quantity of used baits that millions of anglers discard annually.

Too many of those are being tossed into lakes and rivers or discarded along shorelines. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some bass eat those baits and, as a result, suffer intestinal blockages, which leads to death by starvation.

The real problem with trashing our waters with used baits, though, is that it’s irresponsible, plain and simple. Leaving trash of any kind behind is wrong --- even if it is at the bottom of a lake.

But Cody and others are spreading awareness and building a new ethic worthy of the Ray Scott legacy. Of course, in the early going, incentives help.

In Illinois, Allen Severance staged a plastic baits weigh-in at the end of a tournament. The challenge, he said, “was finding a way to convince anglers to participate.”

He did that by convincing Bass Pro Shops to donate gift cards for the winning clubs.

Michigan’s Jarrod Sherwood tried something similar for his state’s championship tournament. He spread the word as early as possible that prizes would be given to the clubs that turned in the most baits. “I am sure the clubs have been ‘cheating’ and collecting baits throughout the year,” he said.

“Our course, that was the point of letting them know ahead of time.”

Wisconsin’s Ken Snow said, “Our guys really like the idea (of turning in used plastic baits). Our youth director, Jessie Heineke, took the baits to melt down and recycle into some hand-poured baits.”

South Dakota’s Jeff Brown added, “Our anglers are pitching in and getting the hang of keeping their plastics that they typically discard. We hand out plastic bags for lure collection prior to the tournament and have a receptacle at the weigh-in for used baits.

Brown also said that he has “worked out a deal” with Minnesota’s Mickey Goetting, who is also the owner of MG Lures. “He specializes in hand-poured lures and has agreed to re-manufacture the baits into something our youth program can sell.”

Adopting the name “ReBaits,” Florida’s Eamon Bolten was the first to envision a program in which used baits could be turned into new baits. Ideally, he would like to see it go national as a coordinated project, with conservation directors collecting and sending in used baits. Proceeds from sales of new baits would go to conservation.

But logistics of such a large-scale undertaking have yet to be worked out. Right now, he has contracted with one company, Reel-Feel Baits, to melt old baits into new. He then gives those baits to those who turned in used plastics.

“Maybe eventually we will sell them,” he said.

Meanwhile, he is encouraged by what he sees happening nationally, not only with other conservation directors but with anglers in general.

“People are starting programs all over the country,” he said. “Some are even using the ReBaits name.

“We’re getting the message across and keeping baits out of landfills and fisheries.”

(Reprinted from B.A.S.S. Times.)

Monday
Oct012012

Anglers, Boaters Getting 'Locked' Out

Starting this month, anglers and other boaters will find water access reduced --- in some cases, even eliminated --- at reservoir systems managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In a few cases, new restrictive policies already are in place.

Officials cite budget constraint as the reason. They say that aging infrastructure requires that they direct funding that normally would go to lower priority facilities and operations to those with higher priorities.       

Among the lowest priorities is lock service, especially on systems where commercial traffic has diminished or, in some cases, disappeared entirely. As a consequence, service has been or will be reduced and/or eliminated at 63 locks nationwide.

In West Virginia, that policy translates into lost access on the Upper Monongahela River, a popular bass fishery.

“With the proposed lock closings, recreational users will have extremely limited access to the two middle pools in West Virginia,” says Jerod Harman, conservation director for the West Virginia B.A.S.S. Federation Nation. “The Corps will basically shut down 13.4 miles of navigable waters, or approximately 1/3 of the fishable waters on the river in West Virginia.

“But, more importantly, this has restricted the thoroughfare from Fairmont to Morgantown. It would be kind of like the only bridge was lost on a major interstate highway. You can either drive on ‘that side’ or you can drive on ‘this side.’ But you can’t get there from here!”

The Alabama, Allegheny, Arkansas, Black Warrior, Chattahoochee, Cumberland, Mississippi, Ouachita, Red, Tennessee, West Pearl, and many other systems also will see locks service reduced or even eliminated for recreational traffic.

As a consequence, some fisheries, such as Hildebrand Pool on the Monongahela, no longer will have public access.

“It’s outrageous,” says Barry Pallay, vice president of the Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA), which has been working with the Corps, communities, B.A.S.S., and others to maintain recreational access.

“Not only is there not access at Hildebrand, but the only access on the Morgantown Pool, Uffington boat ramp, gets silted in.”

With locks closed to recreational traffic, anglers also will be denied the freedom to fish several pools from one launch site, while larger pleasure craft won’t be able to cruise through a system, On the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF), for example, boaters can no longer go from Eufaula, Ala., to Apalachicola, Fla.

That’s because locks at Walter F. George (Lake Eufaula), George W. Andrews, and Jim Woodruff (Lake Seminole) rank as only a “1” in importance. Level 6 locks are manned 24/7, while level 1 locks are opened for commercial navigation by appointment only.

“We’d have to have at least more than a thousand recreational lockages to raise up to level 3, which involves someone manning the locks one shift per day,” says Bill Smallwood, ACF project manager.

The three locks had no commercial traffic in 2011, with recreational lockages numbered nearly 300 at Lake Eufaula and 140 at Seminole.

Out on the Ouachita, a new lock operation schedule means service reduced from 24 hours to 18 hours a day at two Louisiana locks and from 24 hours to 16 hours at two Arkansas locks.

"This could be the beginning of the end for this project," said Bill Hobgood, executive director of the Ouachita River Valley Association.

But the UMRA, B.A.S.S., and others are determined to protect and restore access for recreational use on these systems.

“I am working with Gordon Robertson at the American Sportfishing Association to set up a meeting with the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to discuss the serious impacts that closure of 60 locks will have for recreational fishing and boating,” said Noreen Clough, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director.

UMRA, meanwhile, intends to find a solution, possibly one that can be applied nationally, and Pallay says that Corps officials, in turn, have been cooperative.

During a joint public meeting in July, officers from the Pittsburgh District said this in their Power Point presentation:

“As the federal government steps out, who steps in? We are willing to try anything; to explore any idea. Let’s set the example for the nation on how to do this right.”

UMRA has placed some of its recommendations in a resolution endorsed by communities along the Upper Monongahela. Among them: open the locks during recreation boating season, authorize use of part-time employees or even auxiliary volunteers as lock operators, and investigate innovative ways to fund operation of locks.

“We want to find ways to keep the locks open while we work on long-term solutions,” Pallay says. “And now we are ratcheting up the effort.

“We’re hoping that by April of next year we will be testing a pilot or demonstration project that can be replicated in other places.”

(Reprinted from B.A.S.S. Times.)

Monday
Oct012012

Romney Speaks About Recreational Fishing in Big Game Fishing Journal

The September/October edition of Big Game Fishing Journal features an exclusive interview with Mitt Romney on issues related to recreational fishing.

"The Journal's publisher, Len Belcaro, asks the real questions on the minds of saltwater anglers today, and Governor Romney's answers are exactly what our community has wanted to hear," said Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

 "Just looking at a few of the advance quotes I can tell that Governor Romney truly gets it!"

On what sportfishing means to him as former governor of a coastal state (Massachusetts):

"The economic impacts of recreational fishing activities are significant, and they have too often been overlooked in recent years."

How 'President' Romney would help preserve and protect our coastal traditions:

"Recreational angling can be an incredible economic engine for our coastal states, but it is being shackled by misguided, over-reaching regulations that make little economic or conservation sense."

What a Romney administration would do to address national ocean policy:

"Public participation should begin early in the process and be ongoing. Sustainable recreational use should not only be supported within a national ocean policy, it should be actively promoted."

Tackling angler criticism of NOAA Fisheries:

"A more responsive, transparent, science- and economics-based system is needed to properly manage our marine fisheries. When those pieces are in place, we will enter a new era of trust and cooperation that will be good for the fish - and the fishermen."

The governor's perspective on critical appointments inside Department of Commerce:

"A Romney Administration would focus on bringing a new philosophy into fisheries management that will put the focus back on commonsense regulations that can protect and rebuild fisheries when necessary, but will also allow anglers greater access to healthy marine resources."

To pick up a copy of the September/October Big Game Fishing Journal, visit its dealers page or call 800-827-4468.

Monday
Oct012012

Fishing Groups Hopeful for Less Restrictive Management at Biscayne National Park

Last year, the National Park Service announced that its preferred alternative for managing Florida’s Biscayne National Park includes closing up to 20 percent of the park’s waters to fishing.

But now a coalition of national boating and fishing organizations is optimistic that a less restrictive outcome is possible, based on recent and ongoing discussions between the National Park Service (NPS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

  “As representatives of America’s leading recreational fishing and boating organizations, we are highly interested in the management of Biscayne National Park, one of the country's largest urban recreational fishing and boating areas. Biscayne National Park is a jewel in the national park system and helps support Florida’s $19 billion recreational fishing and boating economy and the associated 250,000 jobs,” the coalition said in a recent letter to NPS and FWC.

And it added this:

“We remind you that the marine reserve zones proposed in the draft GMP are inherently fisheries management tools, and should only be considered as a last resort and only after other, less restrictive options have failed.

“Other management options, such as more restrictive fishing regulations for certain species, species-specific spawning closures and a mechanism to pay for improved enforcement and education of park regulations could be equally or more effective than a marine reserve in rebuilding the park’s fisheries resources.

“We understand the desire of park managers to provide a different user experience for other activities, but we believe this can be accomplished without closing large areas of the park to fishing and boating.”

Here’s a September statement from the NPS and FWC about their discussions.

Coalition members include the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Friday
Sep282012

Zebra Mussels Cause Truckload of Trouble for Tourist

Minnesota conservation officers made a remarkable discovery recently in the Duluth area --- a shopping cart covered in zebra mussels resting in the back of a pickup truck.

The owner of the truck thought that he had stumbled upon an interesting souvenir to take back home to North Dakota. He found out otherwise.

Read the story here.