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Tuesday
Apr162013

Columbia River Ripe for Mussels Invasion

Portland State University researchers recently revealed some bad news regarding the Columbia River Basin: Water chemistry and temperature there are sufficient, if not ideal, to support invasion by quagga and zebra mussels.

“We found that 68 percent of mussels raised in untreated Columbia River water gained weight,” said researchers Brian Adair. “This does not bode well for the Columbia.”

On a positive note, water in the Willamette appears only marginal for mussels, due to lower calcium levels.

Scientists obtained the results by placing mussels from Lake Mead in containers of untreated water from the two rivers. Then they observed the mussels as calcium concentrations and water temperatures were changed.

“This appears to confirm our fears that mussels would grow well in the Columbia,” said Bill Bradbury of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. “The results underscore the importance of the boat inspection programs and other efforts in our states to keep mussels out of Northwest waters.”

Researchers also are testing several types of coatings to see how well they inhibit mussel growth. Given acceptable surfaces, the shellfish block water intakes with their dense colonies, as well as deplete nutrients and smother fish habitat.

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

Tuesday
Apr162013

Anglers Achieve Access Victory in Maryland

Keep America Fishing is calling Maryland’s recent passage of HB 797 “a tremendous victory for anglers.”

That’s because the bipartisan legislation requires state and local transportation departments to consider providing, where reasonable and cost-effective, waterway access in roadway construction or reconstruction projects.

“Maryland’s 10,000 miles or rivers and streams, as well as its 4,000 miles of tidal shoreline, can be difficult to access because adjacent roads and bridges can lack safe shoulders, pull-off areas or parking,” KAF said. “These areas often were constructed without regard to access and angler safety. Oftentimes access can be provided at minimal or no cost, but is not incorporated in project planning.”

Learn more here.

Tuesday
Apr162013

On a Fish Care Mission . . .

Most bass anglers believe that they practice effective catch and release, but many are mistaken.

That realization is what motivates Carl Wengenroth to travel the vast expanses of Texas, teaching fish care to bass clubs. It is what motivates him to educate whoever will listen at The Angler's Lodge, a resort that he owns on Lake Amistad. And it is why he will give presentations during 2013 at National Marine Manufacturers Association boat shows.

“Guys tell me that their boats never kill a fish,” said Wengenroth, conservation director for the Anglers Bass Club of Del Rio. “But when I ask them if they’ve ever been back to the weigh-in site two or three days later, they say, ‘No.’

“They just don’t understand delayed mortality. But if we’re going to preach catch and release, we need to do it right.”

Wengenroth first realized that “we have a problem” when he saw the consequences of improper handling of bass during tournaments at Amistad and other lakes. When released after weigh-in, the fish swam away, but their carcasses littered the surface days later.

Many of the fatalities were the result of barotrauma (inflated bladder) and the fish could have been saved if they had been fizzed, Wengenroth learned, as he worked with Texas Parks and Wildlife and state Conservation Director Tim Cook to improve survival rates.

“Tim’s ethic has inspired me,” the lodge owner said. “The fire underneath his butt has put one under mine.”

Consequently, Wengenroth now conducts fish care classes from Del Rio to Conroe and down to Zapata, asking only that clubs pay for his hotel room and pass the hat for gas money.

During the 1 ½ hour-class, he shows anglers how to improve water quality in their livewells and in tournament holding tanks, as well as explains the why and how to vent bass through their sides.

With an oxygenation system for the boat’s livewell, an angler can turn off the aerator and will need to change the water only two or three times a day, Wengenroth explained. “Those who don’t want to install one “should put the aerator on and leave it on,” he said.

Keeping livewell water 5 to 8 degrees cooler than surface water is important too and that can be done by ice, with chemicals added to knock out the chlorine. A cheap floating thermometer allows for monitoring of temperature.

But no matter how good the water quality, if fish are suffering from barotrauma they are likely to die. “I teach them when you put a fish in the livewell, check it in 15 minutes and then again in 30 minutes,” the club conservation director said. “If it’s still down, then you are good to go.”

Wengenroth added that many are surprised to learn what contributes to barotrauma. “High temperatures in a foot of water can cause it as well as deep water,” he said.

And needle phobia is a common theme among anglers in his classes. To deal with that, he uses small filleted fish to teach bass anatomy and show where the needle goes when it is inserted under a side scale.

“This way, the can see that the needle will go where it is supposed to go (into the bladder), and they lose their fear of killing the fish,” said the lodge owner.

Following his classes, he added, anglers often tell him “I had no idea” and express their gratitude for his instruction.

“I am proud to say I believe in my heart I have made a difference,” Wengenroth said.

Clubs that would like to learn more about fish care from Wengenroth can contact him at AnglersLodge1@yahoo.com or (830) 719-9907.

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

Friday
Apr122013

PETA Plans to Use Drones to Harass Hunters, Anglers

Photo from Count Down to Zero-Time

Fishermen, especially tournament fishermen, you are next.

But first People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wants to “stalk hunters” with drones, according to usnews.com.

The animal rights group says it will "soon have some impressive new weapons at its disposal to combat those who gun down deer and doves" and that it is "shopping for one or more drone aircraft with which to monitor those who are out in the woods with death on their minds."

But, at least here’s a little something to be thankful for:

PETA says it will not weaponize the drones. Instead, it will use them to film potentially illegal hunting activity and turn it over to law enforcement.

"The talk is usually about drones being used as killing machines, but PETA drones will be used to save lives," PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk said in a statement.

U.S. News reports the group is considering purchase of the CineStar Octocopter, which is capable of carrying a DSLR camera for up to 5 minutes. With smaller cameras, the drone can fly for about 20 minutes.

The group says it also hopes to fly drones over fishing holes, factory farms, and "other venues where animals routinely suffer and die."

See? I told you that anglers are next.

I’d suggest wearing foil fishing caps to reflect sunlight into the cameras and protect your identity as you go about your bloody business on the water.

To legally operate the drone, PETA will likely need a certificate of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, a process which can take several months.

Kaitlynn Kelly, a representative for PETA, told U.S. News that it will soon seek FAA approval but that it "hopes this won't be an issue," and that it plans to have permission to fly beginning in the fall.

"We're not releasing the locations that we have in mind, but we will look into the Northeast, bighorn sheep hunts, and bowhunts because those are especially cruel," she said.

U.S. News cautions that PETA may want to carefully monitor its drone. Last year, an animal rights group drone was shot down while it was attempting to monitor pigeon hunters in South Carolina.

For anglers, how about this: A trolling motor that quickly converts to a 50-caliber machine gun?

Seriously, these animal-rights zealots cross the line between sanity and insanity regarding tactics as frequently as the sun rises and sets. But --- and this is important --- they are relentless.

Mock them? Certainly. But don’t ignore them and pretend they don’t exist. They pose a serious threat to your right to fish and hunt, and as we become a more urbanized society --- with more and more people farther removed from nature --- they will become even more so. 

Friday
Apr122013

Fish, Dolphins, Turtles Continue as Casualties of Oil Spill

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, consequences for fish and wildlife weren’t nearly as disastrous in the Gulf of Mexico as I feared they would be.  Still, they weren’t good.

And they still aren’t. No one is suggesting that the coastal states aren't open for tourism business or that the fishing isn't good, but some species still are being harmed.

“Three years after the initial explosion, the impacts of the disaster continue to unfold,” said Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation. “Dolphins are still dying in high numbers in the areas affected by oil. These ongoing deaths—particularly in an apex predator like the dolphin—are a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem.”

Restoring a Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Three Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster looks at how different species of wildlife across the northern Gulf are faring in the wake of the oil disaster:

  • Dolphin deaths in the area affected by oil have remained above average every month since just before the spill began. Infant dolphins were found dead at six times average rates in January and February of 2013.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called the dolphin die-off “unprecedented”—a year ago. While NOAA is keeping many elements of its dolphin research confidential pending the conclusion of the ongoing trial, the agency has ruled out the most common causes of previous dolphin die-offs.
  • More than 1,700 sea turtles were found stranded between May 2010 and November 2012—the last date for which information is available. For comparison, on average about 240 sea turtles are stranded annually.
  • A coral colony seven miles from the wellhead was badly damaged by oil. A recent laboratory study found that the mixture of oil and dispersant affected the ability of some coral species to build new parts of a reef.
  • Scientists found that the oil disaster affected the cellular function of the killifish, a common baitfish at the base of the food web. A recent laboratory study found that oil exposure can also harm the development of larger fish such as mahi mahi. 

“The oil disaster highlighted the gaps in our understanding of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Ian MacDonald, professor of Oceanography at Florida State University.

“What frustrates me is how little has changed over the past three years. In many cases, funding for critical research has even been even been cut, limiting our understanding of the disaster’s impacts. For example, we know that some important coral communities were damaged, but funding for the necessary follow up has not been there.”

The report’s release comes as BP and the other companies responsible for the disaster are on trial in federal court for violations of multiple environmental laws. The report describes different sources of restoration funding resulting from the disaster and provides initial suggestions for how this money can be used to improve the outlook for the species discussed in the report.

“Despite the public relations blitz by BP, this spill is not over,” said David Muth, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program.

 “In 2012 six million pounds of tar mat and contaminated material from the BP spill were cleaned up from Louisiana’s coast. Justice will only be served when BP and its co-defendants pay to restore the wildlife and habitats of the Mississippi River Delta and the Gulf of Mexico.”

Other oil disasters have taken years to reveal their full effects, and often recovery remains incomplete after decades. To date, the disaster response has focused on removing the visible oil, but little has been done to tackle the region’s long-standing habitat degradation and water quality problems—issues that were exacerbated by the oil disaster.

“I’ve always considered myself truly fortunate to make a living fishing these waters,” said Ryan Lambert, owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures, a lodge and charter boat operation in Buras, Louisiana. “Right now, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get this ecosystem back on its feet, but we need to make sure we use the money from BP’s penalties on projects that will improve the health of the Gulf in the long run. That’s the best way to restore our economy, and it is the best way to make sure our children have the opportunity to enjoy this region as we have for decades.”