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Heat Already Taking Its Toll on Fisheries

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Excessive heat and drought are contributing to fish kills throughout the country, and almost certainly incidents will increase as summer progresses. Typical peak time for heat-related kills is late summer, and we're still two months away from that.

Here’s a sampling thus far:






Mermaids Are a Myth And So Is Idea That Catch Shares Will Improve Fisheries


Honestly, I am crushed.

Mermaids aren’t real, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

You know that agency, of course. It’s the one that wants Big Government management of a public resource for private profit in a scheme called Catch Shares.

In its startling expose, NOAA says this:

“The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species. Magical female figures first appear in cave paintings in the late Paleolithic (Stone Age) period some 30,000 years ago, when modern humans gained dominion over the land and, presumably, began to sail the seas. Half-human creatures, called chimeras, also abound in mythology — in addition to mermaids, there were wise centaurs, wild satyrs, and frightful minotaurs, to name but a few.

“But are mermaids real? No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found. Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That’s a question best left to historians, philosophers, and anthropologists.”

And California’s Dan Bacher at has this blistering retort:

“This ‘illuminating’ statement was issued by the same agency that has done nothing to stop the killing of millions of Sacramento splittail, Central Valley chinook salmon, steelhead, striped bass, Delta smelt and other species in the state and federal Delta pumps every year in order to export massive quantities of northern California water to corporate agribusiness and southern California. While mermaids may be a myth, the slaughter of fish in the Delta death pumps is not.

“This is also the same agency that, under the leadership of NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, has pushed the controversial ‘catch shares’ program to privatize the oceans. A catch share, also known as an individual fishing quota, is a transferable voucher that gives individuals or businesses the ability to access a fixed percentage of the total authorized catch of a particular species.

"Fishery management systems based on catch shares turn a public resource into private property and have led to many socioeconomic and environmental problems, according to Food and Water Watch.”


Anglers in Gary, Indiana, Need Your Help to Regain Access to Lake Michigan

Using a Google map, Silas Sconiers shows where Gary anglers have lost access to Lake Michigan.

The fishermen of Gary, Indiana, need your help. Over the years, as the city declined and then casinos moved in, they’ve lost shoreline access to Lake Michigan.

Silas Sconiers has been fighting for years to regain that access, contacting Gary’s mayors, as well as officials at U.S. Fish and Wildlife and, most recently, the National Park Service (NPS).

“The city of Gary has 22 miles of shoreline, with piers and wharfs and a shuttered power plant,” he says. “We use to enjoy fishing all along the lake front. But one by one, due to plant closures and politics, we no longer have access.

“Gary is the only city on the entire Great Lakes in the United States and Canada without a public access fishing spot!”

Political barriers especially anger Sconiers, who believes both incompetence and corruption have led to this situation.

“Our city leaders have not exercised any due diligence regarding our riparian rights to access the piers and wharves, which they have control over but lack the competency to carry out the task at hand,” he adds.

“They seem to lack the understanding of their duties and what it all encompasses and they do not know anything about quasi-public facilities and have no business entering into negotiations with Fortune 500 companies.”

Sconiers created this commentary to express his frustration with Gary city officials.

But while he has made no headway with city officials, Sconiers has learned that the NPS provides financial assistance to Gary, and it there that he hopes to make progress.

Regretfully, he also is playing the “race card,” which, at first, seems a strange tactic, since both the general population of Gary and its city officials are predominantly African American. But Sconiers points out that “we are being denied the right to fish in Lake Michigan like all other races are enjoying.”

To help Gary’s anglers regain access to Lake Michigan, send your e-mail of support to NPS at, with a copy also to the Department of Justice at In the subject line, put this: “No Equal Opportunity to Fish in Lake Michigan in Gary, Indiana.”

Sconiers can be contacted at

And check out this story --- Where Work Disappears and Dreams Die --- to see what it’s like to live in Gary these days.



Fizzing Can Save Stressed Bass

Throughout the Mid-South, the Alabama Rig produced big strings of big bass from late fall to pre-spawn.

“At Guntersville and Kentucky Lake, it was the No. 1 pattern,” said Dustin Evans, a Tennessee angler who fishes the Bassmaster Weekend Series and other circuits.

“It’s such an effective technique when the bass are lethargic,” he added. “It produces larger fish, too, with lots of 3 ½ to 5 pounders and 6 plus not that uncommon.”

That’s the plus side of the ‘Bama rig for winter fishing. The down side is that bass caught on this variation of the saltwater umbrella rig typically are suspended around shad in 20 feet of water or more. Pulled from such depths, they should be vented to prevent fatal barotrauma.

But proper fish care hasn’t kept up with effective fish catching, according to Evans, and Toby Lillard, another Tennessee tournament fisherman.

“Anglers need to do a much better job with venting as they use the Alabama rig more,” he said.

The two suspect that similar scenarios will occur during hot-weather fishing.

“The ‘Bama rig will play a role this summer with bass on the ledges,” Lillard said. “In 8 feet or deeper, they’ll be subject to barotrauma.”

Popularity adds to the problem caused by effectiveness of the rig, which is not allowed in the Elite Series.

“Most definitely there are more guys fishing the Alabama rig because it’s easy to gain confidence with,” Evans said. “But venting should be embraced too.

“Every angler should be responsible for venting his fish. And every tournament director should have someone who can do it.”

Gene Gilliland, an Oklahoma biologist and fish care expert, echoed their concern. “If the Alabama rig results in more fish being caught in deep water from June to August, then the odds will be higher for greater mortality. Anglers must realize what they should do to prevent that.

“If there are longer lines of 20-pound bags, both anglers and tournament directors need to brush up on their fizzing skills. Lots of them have never had to deal with this kind of thing before.”

As members of the Ventafish pro staff, both Evans and Lillard have made it their mission to educate other bass fishermen about barotrauma, and they have stepped up that effort with the advent of the ‘Bama rig. They set up instructional booths at tournament registrations and offer classes to bass clubs, as well as help fizz fish before they are released following weigh-ins.

“Untold numbers of fish don’t get fizzed at small tournaments and you see them floating down the lake,” Evans said. “Fizzing gives those fish a chance.”

Barotrauma typically results from a change in pressure when a fish is pulled up from 20 feet or more. The swim bladder inflates, often pushing into the throat, with bulging eyeballs another indicator. But fish taken from shallower water also can develop the condition.

“Many fish from less than 20 feet of water need to be fizzed,” Evans explained. “I believe that they are suspended fish and they stress out in the livewell and their gas bladder expands.”

Whatever the cause --- pressure change and/or stress--- anglers should recognize symptoms that may be more subtle than bulging bladder and eyes.  

“If their tails or out or their heads are up (in the livewell), they’re losing the fight,” Evans explained. “In a couple of hours, they’ll be belly up. But fizzing can save their lives.”

He added that he doesn’t wait for visible signs when he catches bass that are deep and/or suspended. “I don’t even hesitate. I know from my experience ledge fishing that those fish need to be fizzed.”

Some anglers insist that they don’t need to vent their bass because they care for them so well in the livewells, providing plenty of cool, oxygenated water. But that cool water, which slows down the metabolism of cold-blooded bass, sometimes simply delays onset of barotrauma.

“When they’re dumped back into warm water, they’ll get stressed and need to be fizzed,” Evans said.

“I think that barotrauma is more depth related than temperature related,” Gilliland added. “But warmer temperatures can make it much, much worse.”

Still don’t want to fizz?

“Venting can make a huge difference in tournament outcomes in terms of dollars and earnings,” said Brian Jones, a tournament angler with a degree in fisheries management and the third member of the Ventafish team. “You get penalties for dead fish.

“And if a fish is stressed in your livewell, it is putting more ammonia into the water, which will stress all of the other fish. You can save a whole bag of fish by venting the ones that need it.”

How to Fizz

Both B.A.S.S. and the Ventatfish team recommend venting fish through the side, deflating the bladder with a needle prick.

“I don’t endorse any particular product, but I endorse side venting only,” said Noreen Clough, National Conservation Director.

In addition Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers an instructional video --- “Treating Barotrauma in Largemouth Bass (Fizzing)” --- on its Facebook page.

“It’s an easy method,” said Evans. “Just a pinprick in the side, and you hear the air come out.

“I tell people to try it on a keep fish in practice and see how easy it is.”

Lillard added, “With mouth venting, you could hit an organ and kill the fish. The key is the size target that you are aiming at. With side venting, you have a silver-dollar size target and all you’re sticking the needle in is white meat and the air bladder.”

Both Ventafish and Team Marine USA sell venting tools on their websites. Anglers Choice, Ohero, and others are available at online outlets and in stores.

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


Feds Charge Two With Selling Snakeheads, Walking Catfish

Potomac River guide Steve Chaconas often catches snakeheads.

Here’s a story with a happy ending regarding invasive aquatic species--- maybe.

Two Michigan men are facing federal charges and a possibility of up to five years in prison and fines up to $250,000 for the illegal sale of snakeheads and walking catfish.

At a primitive, gut level, I’d like to lock ‘em up and throw away the key, same as I would like to do with those who intentionally start wildfires and those who uglify our lands and waters with their trash.

Now, here’s my question to officials: Why did it take you so long? According to the timeline in the story, the investigation started in 2009, with a confidential informant buying illegal fish from these guys.

And here’s my concern: Between then and now, how many snakeheads and walking catfish did they sell to others, who might have released them?

Read the article here

And in a related story, a snakehead has been captured in British Columbia, after being sighted in a park pond several weeks before.