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Angling Participation on the Rise


The number of people fishing and otherwise enjoying the outdoors increased “dramatically” from 2006 to 2011, according to the recently released 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation report.

 Here are some of the highlights:


  • More than 90 million U.S. residents 16 years old and older participated in some form of wildlife-related recreation in 2011; that is up 3 percent from five years earlier. The increase was primarily among those who fished and hunted.
  • Wildlife recreationists spent $144.7 billion in 2011 on their activities, which equated to 1 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Of the total amount spent, $49.5 billion was trip-related, $70.4 billion was spent on equipment, and $24.8 billion was spent on other items such as licenses and land leasing and ownership.
  • The number of sportspersons rose from 33.9 million in 2006 to 37.4 million in 2011. The data show that 33.1 million people fished, 13.7 million hunted, and 71.8 million participated in at least one type of wildlife-watching activity such as observing, feeding and photographing wildlife.

Fishing and Hunting

  • Of the 13.7 million hunters that took to the field in 2011, 11.6 million hunted big game, 4.5 million hunted small game, 2.6 million hunted migratory birds, and 2.2 million other animals.
  • Of the 33.1 million anglers that fished, 27.5 million freshwater fished and 8.9 million saltwater fished.
  • While 94% of the U.S. population 16 years of age and older resided in metropolitan areas (50,000 and over populations), 89% of all anglers and 80% of all hunters were metropolitan residents.
  • 73% (24.2 million) of all anglers were male and 27% (8.9 million) were female. 89% (12.2 million) of all hunters were males and 11% (1.5 million) were females.

Wildlife Watching Highlights

  • 71.8 million U.S. residents observed, fed, and/or photographed birds and other wildlife in 2011. Almost 68.6 million people wildlife watched around their homes, and 22.5 million people took trips of at least one mile from home to primarily wildlife watch.
  • Of the 46.7 million people who observed wild birds, 88% did so around their homes and 38% on trips a mile or more from home.
  • Other types of wildlife also were popular for trip takers: 13.7 million people enjoyed watching land mammals such as bear, squirrel, and buffalo. 4 million people watched marine mammals such as whales and dolphins; 6.4 million enjoyed watching fish; and 10.1 million enjoyed watching other wildlife such as butterflies.
  • People spent $54.9 billion on their wildlife-watching trips, equipment, and other items in 2011. This amounted to $981 on average per spender for the year.

The U.S. Census Bureau selected more than 48,600 households across the country to obtain samples of sportspersons and wildlife watchers for detailed interviews. Information was collected through computer-assisted telephone and in-person interviews. Starting in December 2012 through May 2013, the State reports will be prepared for release on a rolling basis. The survey is funded by Multi-State Conservation grants under the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs which celebrates 75 years of conservation success in 2012. 


Setting Hook Properly Is Key for Catching More Fish

Photo by Robert Montgomery

(Author's note: This article was written a few years ago for young anglers. But the advice applies to anglers of all ages who want to catch more fish.)

You feel the fish bite. It even pulls the line and bends your rod. But you don’t catch it.

What happened?

Maybe the fish was too small to get the hook in its mouth.  Maybe it bit and spit.

Or maybe you didn’t set the hook properly.

Along with mastering a level-wind reel, one of the biggest challenges for young anglers is learning how to set the hook.

Remember when you first went fishing? When you saw your bobber bounce that first time, you were so excited that you started reeling as fast as you could. Probably your dad or your grandpa or maybe even your mother was yelling, “Set the hook! Set the hook!”

You just kept reeling. You didn’t know what “set the hook” meant.

Now, you know that it means to pull back on the rod when you see or feel a fish bite, and that’s what you do. But still you miss bass. What’s wrong?

Maybe nothing. We all miss fish occasionally--- even professionals such as Kevin VanDam.

But you definitely can improve your catch rate if you will listen and learn from the best.

“With a Texas rig, you have to drive the hook through the plastic,” says VanDam. “I like to do it with a little slack line. I drop the rod tip and hit real hard.”

Others say to tighten your line all the way before setting the hook. The problem with that is a tight line can make it easier for a bass to feel you--- and possibly drop the bait--- before you set the hook.

Whichever method you use--- tight or a little slack--- act quickly when you feel a bite on a soft plastic. And jerk hard.

With another single-hook bait, the spinnerbait, you should pull more than jerk. “Let the rod load up and pull into the fish,” VanDam explains. “Reel hard and pull.”

“Load up” means the weight of the fish is putting bend into the rod, especially the tip.

Topwaters and crankbaits, meanwhile, make it easier to connect with the fish because they have treble hooks. But be careful.

“You want to let the fish load up on a crankbait or topwater,” says Florida pro James Charlesworth. “And then you want to do a sweeping hook set. If you set too hard, you can jerk the hooks right out.”

VanDam adds, “Today’s hooks are so good, so sharp, that you don’t need to set the hook hard.”

With a topwater, the Michigan pro advises that you wait until you feel the weight of the fish pulling down before you react.

It’s tough to do that when you see a big bass wallowing all over your bait. Your first instinct is to jerk as soon as you see the fish going after the topwater. Setting the hook too soon, however, will just pull the bait away from the bass.

If you’re fishing with a spinning rod, light line, and finesse baits, you don’t want to jerk at all. Doing so might break the line. Plus, you don’t need as much force to stick a bass with a light wire hook as you do with a big worm hook.

Instead of jerking, use a “reel set.” When you feel the fish, reel as fast as you can, allow the rod to load up and pull straight up and back.

“I do a lot of smallmouth fishing with a spin rod,” says VanDam. “With this hook set, if you miss the fish, you can let the rod back down, and the smallmouth will be right there to hit the bait again.”


Bass Are Faster Than You Think

Bass aren’t the fastest fish in the world. But no matter how quickly you retrieve that crankbait or topwater, you can’t get it away from them--- if they want it.

That’s because even the fastest reels are capable of retrieving baits at only 2 or 3 miles per hour. A bass, meanwhile, can swim in bursts of 12 to 18 miles per hour.

Most of the time, they don’t, not even when they’re feeding. That’s because bass are pot-bellied, ambush predators. Much of the time, they would rather chow down on a slow-moving worm or injured minnow.

The key to success when you’re fishing is not to know how fast a bass can swim, but how fast it is willing to swim. Experiment with speed until you find the right one.

Knowing your reel’s “speed” is important for this. One reel can look almost exactly like another but be faster or slower.

“Speed” refers to the amount of line retrieved in one full turn of the handle. A fast reel (7.0:1 gear ratio) can take in 30 to 31 inches of line per turn, while a slower one (5.0:1) only 20 or 22.

If you’re fishing with a crankbait, you might think that you want a faster reel, but probably you don’t. That’s because fast reels are used mostly when fishing soft plastics, to take up slack line quickly before the hook set or to get the bait back to the boat in a hurry after it is out of the strike zone.

Although not always, slower reels usually are better for faster-moving crankbaits. For one thing, they allow time for the baits to go to their proper depths. For another, they allow for more erratic, lifelike action.

With some fish, especially many salt-water species, you do want a speedy retrieve. That’s because tuna, wahoo, dorado (dolphin), billfish, and others are roving hunters that chase down their prey.

No one knows for certain how fast the fastest fish can swim. But experts estimate that a leaping sailfish can hit 68 miles per hour, based on the fact that it can strip out 100 yards of line in 3 seconds.

Other speed demons include the swordfish (60 mph), marlin (50), and wahoo (47). 


Architect of Catch Shares Leaving NOAA

Dr. Jane Lubchenco is stepping down as administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She orchestrated the attempt to privatize a public resource --- saltwater fisheries --- through a scheme known as Catch Shares.

The Washington Post provides this vanilla assessment:

“Still, Lubchenco was praised Wednesday by the Ocean Conservancy. 'Dr. Lubchenco and NOAA were quick to respond to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring that the Gulf region, including the marine ecosystem, is restored,' said interim president and CEO Janis Searles Jones.

“Lubchenco also oversaw in 2010 the controversial transition to a new fishery management system in New England that allots fishermen individual shares of the catch, which they pool and manage in groups.

“The system aimed to give fishermen flexibility to fish when the market and conditions were good, and free them from being restricted to an ever-dwindling number of days they were allowed to fish. And it pleased environmentalists because it established hard, enforceable catch limits to better prevent overfishing.

The Gloucester Times was a little more on target:

Her departure from the Obama administration will end a four-year regimen that promised revitalization of the fisheries via a new economic system based on privatization known as Catch Shares but instead produced a declared fisheries disaster in the Northeast and a spontaneous resistance by industry all along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

“Finding her style to be imperious and rigid, U.S. Congressmen John Tierney, Barney Frank and Scott Brown were united in calling for the president to replace Lubchenco by mid-2010.

“Fishermen were galvanized by dislike for her personality and policies — especially the commodification of the groundfishery, which has been in a steady decline since her appointment — and held national rallies at the Capitol in 2010 and 2011 that drew more than two dozen members of Congress.”

This could be interpreted as good news for both commercial and recreational anglers. But the reality is that President Obama has four more years and the person whom he appoints to replace Lubchenco likely will be just as bad --- or even worse.


New Chemical Shows Promise for Killing Zebra Mussels

There’s good news to report about combating zebra mussels.

Zequanox seems to have been highly effective at killing the exotic shellfish in Illlinois’ Deep Quarry Lake. Treated areas experienced an average mussel mortality of 97.1 percent, compared to 11.2 percent in untreated areas.

“Zequanox has proven to be a powerful tool for controlling invasive mussels in 'in-pipe' applications such as cooling water systems," reported Marrone Bio Innovations.

 "This study shows the product can be equally as effective in open waters. This successful study represents MBI’s next step in our commercialization efforts for Zequanox in natural water bodies, and we’re excited about expanding into this new market, where there are currently no other environmentally compatible treatment options.”

Read more here.