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Days in the Stream, Not Wild, Crazy Women

“If fishing is interfering with your business, give up your business.” Sparse Grey Hackle

“Most fishermen swiftly learn that it’s a pretty good rule never to show a favorite spot to any fisherman you wouldn’t trust with your wife.” John Voelker

Why We Fish --- Reel Wisdom from Real Fishermen

“One evening I was awakened from a deep sleep by a weird noise coming from my husband, only to find out he was dreaming and he was a Dry Fly. I suspected then, and now realize, his dreams are not made up of wild, crazy women, only episodes of his days of being in the stream.” Jan Thousan

“I am firmly convinced that the ideal combination leading to a happy life is to have the time to both fish and read.” Brian Murphy

There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenity of the mind.” Washington Irving


Snakehead Numbers Decline

Maryland DNR photo Good news from the snakehead front, as the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that catch and distribution of the exotic predator in the Potomac River was lower in 2013 than in 2012.

In announcing the finding from the Tidal Bass Survey, biologist Joe Love said, “The 2013 observations represent the first decrease in catch and distribution since the species was first discovered in the Potomac River (2004). It is not clear whether the cause of the decline is increased angling effort or other factors.”

But angling effort has increased considerably in recent years, aided by initiatives from both DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Additionally, the state is providing more incentive for catch and harvest of snakeheads by instituting a state record program and including an invasive species category for awards in the Maryland Fishing Challenge.

Not all the news regarding snakeheads is good, however, as two adults were captured by electrofishing for the first time ever in the Wicomico River. Anglers had reported catching them there as early as 2011.

“It appears that it takes two years between angling reporting and collection by Maryland DNR’s Tidal Bass Surveys,” Love said.

Additionally, adult snakeheads were collected from the Patuxent, in numbers similar to 2012.

“Based on suitable habitat for northern snakehead and the population estimate, we calculated that there were about five per acre of suitable habitat,” the biologist explained. “Reports for Little Hunting Creek and Anacostia River ranged from four to nine northern snakehead per acre.”

The invasive fish also was collected “in relatively small numbers” from the Rappahannock, Rohde, Blackwater, and Nanticoke Rivers.

A small snakehead was captured in a trap from a ditched area that connects the Blackwater to the Little Choptank. This suggests that the fish could use this pathway to also colonize the latter, the biologist said.


Change in Regulations Opens Stonewall Jackson to Tournaments

For the first time since it was flooded in the late 1980s, Stonewall Jackson Lake will play host to bass tournaments during 2014.

The move was made possible by a change in regulations. Catch-and-release has been replaced by a six-fish limit, with only one of more than 18 inches allowed. Whether that latter restriction will deter tournaments, especially some of the larger ones, remains to be seen.

West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) decided to remove the catch-and-release requirement because biologists saw signs of decline in the fishery.

“Overall, the condition of the lake’s largemouth bass has diminished, and there are far more spotted bass in the fishery than there used to be,” said Bret Preston, fisheries chief. “We believe the new regulations will help to counter those trends and maintain really good bass fishing at Stonewall Jackson.”

He added, “We wanted the new regulations to encourage the harvest of smaller fish, but, at the same time, allow someone who catches a really nice bass to keep it. We don’t think allowing people to keep one trophy bass will have any adverse impact on the lake’s ability to produce trophy fish.”

DNR biologists recommended the change last year. Following public meetings and surveys of anglers at Stonewall Jackson, it was approved by the agency’s commission.



Electrofishing Surveys Reveal Virginia's Top Bass Fisheries

Western Branch, Briery Creek, Gatewood, and Pelham rank at the top for largemouth bass populations in Virginia’s four regions, according to recent electrofishing surveys.

“Those lakes ranked at the top will provide excellent opportunities for anglers to catch quality largemouth bass,” said Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF).

The agency cautioned, however, that “some of the large reservoirs are ranked lower than you might expect. Smaller reservoirs normally have higher sampling efficiency and will thus rank higher based on this evaluation.”

VDGIF based its rankings on the number of bass 15 inches and longer that biologists collected during one hour, as well as relative stock density, which is the proportion of bass in a population  over 8 inches  that are also at least 15 inches.

In Region I, Chesdin, Gardy’s Millpond, Prince, and Chickahominy Lake join Western Branch as the best, while Lake Burton, Smith Mountain, Conner, and Fairystone join Briery Creek in Region II.

For Region III, North Fork Pound Reservoir, Lake Whitten, Rural Retreat, and South Holston rank behind Gatewood, while Germantown, Occoquan, Burke, and Frederick follow Pelham in Region IV.


B.A.S.S. Valuable Partner for Fish Sampling

Photo by Robert Montgomery

As he released sampling results recently, Ohio biologist Travis Hartman praised B.A.S.S. for its assistance in a survey during the Bassmaster Pro Shops Northern Open on Lake Erie last fall.

“We get more smallmouth and largemouth biological samples from your tournaments than we get anywhere else,” said the fisheries expert for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Sandusky Fish Research Unit.

“We greatly appreciate your cooperation.”

Incredibly, competitors caught smallmouth bass from 16 year classes, with the oldest 17 years old.

“A lot of the trophy fish are 10 to 15 years old,” Hartman said. “Usually the older fish aren’t the largest, because they are slower growing.”

The most productive year classes for smallmouths were 2005 and 2007.

Anglers brought in largemouth bass from nine year classes, with the oldest being 12. Year classes 2007, 2008, and 2009 yielded the most fish.

The event provided more largemouths than biologists had seen in the past, Hartman pointed out, including some that measured 19 inches. He added that anglers have been catching more in recent years near shore and around islands, “getting good numbers and size.”

The mean length for the 758 smallmouth bass measured was 16.6 inches (the average of all lengths divided by the number of fish), while the mean length for 53 largemouths was 16 inches.

Biologists originally planned to measure all fish caught on the first two days and keep the deceased. Then with the field reduced to 12 competitors on the final day, all bass would be kept and taken to the lab to determine age and gender, as well as length and weight.

But with the second day of the tournament cancelled, they decided to keep 136 bass on Thursday.  Biologists measured and weighed these fish, as well as determined sex and age (from otoliths, or ear bones).