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Cue the 'Jaws' Theme and Take a Look at What These Florida Anglers Caught

Florida great white shark

Thinking of heading down to Florida to escape this never-ending winter? Maybe do a little sunning and swimming at the beach?

I’d confine my swimming to daylight hours, and, even then, I might think twice about doing it. That’s because a nearly 10-foot great white and a nearly 11-foot mako shark were caught from shores of northern Florida during the past two weeks.

Appropriately enough, the mako was caught from the pier at Navarre Beach, where much of “Jaws 2” was filmed during the 1970s. The great white came from the surf off Panama City Beach to the east.

And, oh yeah, Joey Polk and his cousins caught an even larger mako at Navarre back in April.

The trio who caught the great white tagged and released it. Polk usually does as well with the sharks he catches.

"We're definitely more on the conservation side of everything," Gabriel Smeby said. "We use big tackle and mainly circle hooks so it puts as little stress on the fish as possible and we can get a tag in them and get them on their way.

"I would say we probably release between 95 and 98 percent of all the sharks we catch."

Florida mako shark

Polk usually releases his sharks as well. But scientists wanted a closer look at a large mako. Anglers kept the meat, while researchers took the backbone, organs, and stomach contents.

No bathers or boats were found inside.

Bighorn River northern pike

Meanwhile, up in Montana . . .

A  Kansas City man caught a 38-inch, 16-pound northern pike while fly fishing for trout on the Bighorn River.

Northern pike are rare for that stretch of the river, especially ones that big. For about 30 miles below Yellowtail Dam - the stretch where the pike was caught - the Bighorn flows cool and clear, making it a productive and popular trout fishery, well-known around the world for rainbows and brown.

How did the non-native pike get in the river? Learn more here.


Fish, Frogs and Fireflies has joined with OutDoors Unlimited Magazine, Daiichi Hooks, and Snag Proof Lures to sponsor a monthly photo contest for young fishermen, ages 17 and under. Prizes for each winner include $50 in Daiichi Hooks, Snag Proof Lures tackle pack, and a copy of the book.


Climate Change Complicates Fisheries Management

Photo taken March 1 by Activist Angler near neighbor's dock on lake in Missouri Ozarks.

The history of our planet is defined by climate change. One hundred million years ago, dinosaurs roamed a temperate land that we now know as Antarctica. Then, a warm Earth turned frigid and glaciers covered much of North America.

Thousands of years later, a warming planet allowed black bass to flourish on this continent and Viking culture to expand in Europe. But then came the Little Ice Age. By the time that Columbus set sail in 1492, frozen seas had forced the Vikings to abandon settlements in Greenland, while those in Iceland struggled to survive.

Of course, we can see these dramatic shifts only through the lens of history. Pinpointing definitive start and end dates is impossible. And those who lived during those frigid times knew nothing of climate change. They knew only that it was cold.

Today, we recognize that climate’s only constant is perpetual change. What we don’t know is where today’s changes are in context with what occurred before and what will come tomorrow. Are we on the precipice of a major shift? Are we in the midst of a long, gradual change? Are we experiencing an anomaly?

Today, we also know that our climate --- the prevailing weather conditions, which include temperature and precipitation, averaged over a series of years --- is moderating. (The “causes” of that change have become a political issue, only slightly less controversial than abortion, and I won’t get into that here.)

“The underseas world is on the move,” says National Geographic. “Climate change is propelling fish and other ocean life into what used to be cooler waters, and researchers are scrambling to understand what effect that is having on their new neighborhoods.”

On the sportfishing front, that’s demonstrated by the fact that the snook, a cold intolerant species, is expanding its range up the east coast of Florida. In freshwater, northern fisheries are experiencing warmer year-around temperatures. For example, Lake Champlain annually freezes over two weeks later than it did in the early 1800s.

At a glance, that might seem like good news for bass and bass anglers, with cold-water species as the only casualties.

That’s not the case, and that’s why fisheries managers will find their jobs increasingly difficult, as well as complicated, in the years to come. One of the reasons for that is not because bass will expand their range, but because they are likely to become more dominant in fisheries where they now are marginal. That’s a formula for friction among users regarding management strategies.

As to the negatives for bass, remember Largemouth Bass Virus? Scientists found that outbreaks were most lethal in warm water.

And a longer growing season for bass also is conducive to larger and longer blooms of algae, some of them toxic. Additionally, warmer temperatures could invite invasion by parasites, diseases, new exotic species, and problematic, invasive plants.

“Giant salvinia and hyacinth that are now limited by freezing winters will spread north,” said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director and a former fisheries biologist. “The result will be the need for expensive control to prevent them from causing ecosystem chaos. Ask Texas or Louisiana what they spend on weed control each year! That could be Oklahoma or Kansas or Nebraska in the future.”

Southern waters, meanwhile, might become too warm for healthy bass fisheries.  “You don’t see great bass populations at the equator and it would likely get even warmer there and other parts of the tropics and subtropics. Maybe even Mexico and peninsular Florida,” he explained.

The conservation director also is concerned about climate fluctuations that seem to accompany warming waters. Short-term droughts can degrade or destroy until precipitation returns and those fisheries recover, probably with assistance from resource managers.

Up in Wisconsin, study of a lake during drought revealed that shoreline species lose refuge areas, forcing them into open water where they become more vulnerable to predation, and, as a consequence, the entire ecosystem is altered.

 Also, excessive rains can flush systems and deplete nutrients, causing changes in the food chain that bass and other species may not adapt well to.

What can managers do to help fisheries cope with climate change?

“As waters warm and cool-water species decline, it will be imperative that agencies adapt quickly to avoid getting behind the curve,” Gilliland said. “Although it will be difficult for them to persuade older/traditional constituents that the past cannot be revived, they will need to move on and adopt new technologies, new protocols, learn new science, and manage evolving warmer-water ecosystems.” 

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


Valuable Life Lessons With Humor in Fish, Frogs and Fireflies

"Robert Montgomery has a knack for inserting humour into an otherwise somber tale, sharing the sad moments from a life outdoors, and how they were turned into valuable life lessons. He also shares the fun and joyful moments, the observations that make long-lasting memories and cause people to smile at their remembrance."

Excerpt from review of Fish, Frogs and Fireflies--- Growing Up With Nature at Argosgirl Outdoors.


Michigan DNR Sets Up Online System for Bass Tournaments

Organizers for bass tournaments in Michigan now can use an online system to schedule their events at state-managed access sites and to report catch results.

According to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Michigan Fishing Tournament Information System will help minimize scheduling conflicts, as directors can view dates for other competitions on specific waterbodies.

In addition to alleviating scheduling concerns, this application will make it easier for directors to share catch data with DNR.

“Fisheries Division encourages bass tournament directors to enter their scheduled tournaments into this system as well as voluntarily contribute their tournament catch results to help us manage Michigan’s bass fisheries,” the agency said.

“The scientific value of tournament catch and effort data will be greater if more tournament directors participate in reporting their bass tournament results. This information will be used by state fisheries biologists, in combination with data from other sources, as a basis for informed fisheries management decisions.”

While organizers must set up an account to schedule events, the general public will be free to check tournament calendars at their favorite access sites.

But the public won’t be able to view catch results, nor will organizers be able to view data other than their own.