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Wednesday
Mar182015

States Agree on Plan to Manage Gulf Red Snapper Fishery

In a move long-awaited by the recreational fishing and boating community, the directors of the state fish and wildlife agencies from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have agreed on state-based management of Gulf of Mexico red snapper, which in recent years has experienced increasing privatization of this public resource and decreasing recreational fishing opportunities.

 The announcement was greeted with strong enthusiasm from the recreational fishing and boating community, which has supported greater state control of Gulf red snapper.

 “Throughout the country, states have proven to be highly successful at fish and wildlife management in a way that conserves natural resources while allowing for reasonable public access,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “The Gulf states are among the nation’s leaders in marine fisheries management, which is why we have continued to look to them as the vehicle for managing Gulf red snapper going forward to get us out of the current mess created by federal mismanagement.”

 Gulf of Mexico red snapper is presently managed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, under the National Marine Fisheries Service. The states’ agreement is predicated on Congress transferring management authority away from the Councils.

 “Coordinated management among the states is the only solution to an unaccountable federal system of fisheries management,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “Faced with an untenable situation, the states have risen to the challenge and collectively identified a clear path to a more balanced fishery.”

 Under this management structure, each state would have authority to manage red snapper out to 200 miles off its coastline. Each state would be responsible for developing and implementing a red snapper management plan for its waters, which would be approved by the rest of the states.

 “We have long pushed for the states to take over Gulf red snapper, but until now, we haven’t had a detailed plan for what state-based management would look like,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “Under this approach, we are confident that management outcomes will begin to align with the health of the resource and anglers’ access to it.”

“Gulf red snapper is incredibly important to the economy of coastal communities throughout the Gulf of Mexico region, and attracts anglers from all across the country,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “It’s abundantly clear that the states are best equipped to manage this valuable fishery. It’s time we give them that opportunity.”

Tuesday
Mar172015

Troublesome Invasive Plant Returns to Potomac River

Sassafras River Association volunteers collected these water chestnuts from creeks and streams on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

A troublesome old invasive has reared its head once again on the Potomac River. While sampling fish populations, biologists with Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries (VGIF) found a dense clump of water chestnuts, covering about ½ acre of water, near a boat rental dock in Pohick Bay Regional Park, 25 miles south of the nation’s capital.

Response was quick, as VGIF organized volunteers to hand pull the troublesome plant this past fall.

Water chestnut is probably a lot more troublesome and invasive potentially than snakeheads might be,” said biologist John Odenkirk.

“It was dense, but we got it. Hopefully, we nipped the potential for this plant to take over the bay and shut it down.”

Because it is an annual that sprouts from seeds, this fast-growing exotic is not susceptible to herbicides. It can be controlled only by pulling or mechanical harvest. The seeds have sharp needles that can attach to wildlife, clothing, and other items for transport to new areas, and they can remain viable in sediment for more than a decade. Just one acre of plants can yield enough seeds to cover 100 acres.

Native to both Asia and Europe, water chestnut was first confirmed on the Potomac in 1923, with a two-acre bed expanding to cover 41 miles of river, from Washington, D.C., to near Quantico, Va., in just two years. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the dense, floating mats restricted navigation, harmed fisheries, and killed off submersed plants with their thick canopy.

The Army Corps of Engineers mechanically harvested the infestation and the plant was considered mostly eradicated from the Potomac by 1945. But limited hand harvesting continued into the 1960s.

USGS is studying this more recent invader to determine its species and lineage. Its spiny seed pods don’t resemble those of water chestnuts found in Maryland and other states. Additionally, VGIF and volunteer stewards will keep an eye out for future outbreaks. 

Sunday
Mar152015

New York Legislation Reminds Anglers to Clean, Drain, And Dry

Giant salvinia on boat trailer in Texas. TPWD photo

New legislation in New York makes anglers and other boaters responsible for taking common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. That means that they should clean, drain, and dry their boaters and trailers to remove plant and animal matter before transport or launch.

“New York’s new law is the latest, but not the last,” said Gene Gilliland, National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. “Texas and Arizona passed clean, drain, and dry laws a few years ago.

“It is said that there needs to be legislation to enforce common sense,” he continued. “Checking your boats for clinging plants or debris, cleaning it by removing materials or power washing after you’ve boated in contaminated waters, removing the plug to drain your boat’s bilge or livewell, and drying the boat thoroughly to prevent the spread of any sort of plants or critters should be automatic --- an unconscious habit --- for all boaters.

“The fact that it is not a habit results in laws that force the issue.”

Starting in November, offenders in New York waters will receive a written notice for a first violation, along with educational materials regarding invasive species. A fine of up to $150 will be issued for a second offense, up to $250 for a third offense, and no more than $1,000 for a fourth.

Additionally, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has adopted regulations that prohibit boats from launching or leaving agency access sites without taking these precautions. Also, several local municipalities and state organizations have adopted local laws to minimize the spread of invasives, including boat inspection and washing requirements.

In 2014, New York adopted its first mandatory inspection program for boat launches on Lake George.

DEC points out that invasives threatened both tourism and sport fishing by outcompeting native species for food and habitat. Additionally, they can spread diseases, and, once established, are nearly impossible to eradicate because they have few natural predators in their new environments. Nationwide, they annually cause about $120 billion in damage.

“As much as people don't like government regulation, the problem here is one of how easily a system can be contaminated,” Gilliland said.

“A single boat can be responsible for introducing invasive mussels or plants. If boaters do not police themselves, to protect water resources, states may take drastic measures, such as we've seen in California, where boats are banned altogether from some waters.”

Friday
Mar132015

Support Sportsmen's Act: Keep America Fishing

By now, you have probably heard about the Sportsmen’s Act.  On February 5, an updated and reenergized version was introduced. So far, it is getting support from both sides of the aisle but it needs your help to get passed into law.  Here you’ll find the information and tools you need to tell Congress to support the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015.

Friday
Mar132015

What Is Life All About? Go Fishing And Find Out

A friend once told me that when his father was questioned or criticized by his non-hunting friends about his fondness for fishing and hunting, he responded that his pursuits had “much more of an ecological integrity and a biological and cultural basis than their golfing or even attendance at professional sporting events.”

Those wise words have led me to the realization that fishing is just as important as a means as it is an end. Yes, fishing is synonymous with relaxation, catching fish, having fun, and spending time with friends and family. Those are all valuable “ends” that make life better.

But fishing also is the means by which we connect with both our humanity and nature as we pursue those ends. In the outdoors, only hunting and possibly farming are comparable.

Sure, running, biking, swimming, and playing tennis are healthful pastimes, as are hiking, kayaking, and a variety of other pursuits in nature. But none of them transport us so completely into the web of life as fishing and hunting. We might no longer fish or hunt to feed our families, but these pastimes takes us closer to what life is all about than anything else I can think of --- except for maybe getting lost in the wilderness or being pursued by a grizzly bear.

And in getting closer to what life is all about, we implicitly recognize our place in it and, as a consequence, are healthier and happier in our everyday existence.

What is life all about? Go fishing and find out.

Read more in Why We Fish--- Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen.

You also might like Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies--- Growing Up With Nature.