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Why We Fish

Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies

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Thursday
Jan232014

Sometimes You Have to Make Them Mad

Anglers never should overlook the power of provocation, according to Ray Scott, founder of B.A.S.S. and father of competitive bass fishing. That lesson was emphatically driven home to him while on Alabama’s Lake Eufaula with Harold Sharp, his long-time tournament director.

“I was fishing the front and running the trolling motor,” Ray remembers. “Harold was in the back and yet somehow he was catching twice as many bass as I was. Finally, I asked him what his secret was.

“He said, ‘You’re making them mad and then I’m catching them.’

“There’s no other fish in the world like a bass,” Ray continues, “and many times provocation is more important than ‘Let’s have lunch.’ Yes, bass eat when they’re hungry, but they also strike to protect their territory. I’ve seen a bass hit a bait, then swim a little ways and spit it out. It’s a primary instinct.

“But you have to remember that what provokes that bass won’t stay the same. It could change in 2 minutes or 10 days. And it’s not because they think that we’re trying to catch them. They’re just doing what bass do.

“The guy who slows down and studies the fish, who can put the numbers together to figure them out, will do better than the others.”

(The above is an excerpt from my first book, Better Bass Fishing--- Secrets from Headwaters by a Bassmaster Senior Writer. It's a few years old now, but its information is just as timely today. Focus is on the "big picture" of catching fish by understanding bass behavior, patterns, weather, etc., with lots of short how-to "secrets" added. My more recent book, Why We Fish, explores the many reasons that we live and love to fish through 50 essays. Both are available at Amazon.)

Wednesday
Jan222014

More Free Fishing Days in Florida

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Hoping to encourage more people to try recreational fishing, as well as lure back those who haven’t been for awhile, Florida has added four free fishing days.

That means eight free days in 2014, as authorized by the state legislature. Days for freshwater will be the first Saturday and Sunday in April and the second Saturday and Sunday in June. For saltwater, the dates will be the first Saturday and Sunday in June, the first Saturday in September, and the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

While April is among the best months for freshwater fishing, other dates were chosen to coincide with holiday weekends and events, including National Fishing and Boating Week in June. Additionally, VISIT FLORIDA has designed June as Fishing Month.

The hope is to increase participation, and, as a result, sales of fishing licenses. Those fees support fisheries management in a state where recreational fishing has an $8.9 billion economic impact annually.

No evidence exists that license sales increase immediately after free fishing days, but that’s not surprising, said Bob Wattendorf of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“The big thing is that most of the folks we talk to express a future intent that is not just a day or two away,” he said.

“One major benefit (of the free days) is parents taking kids for the first time and getting kids excited about it (fishing).”

Wednesday
Jan222014

Anglers Pay Their Way--- And More!

It’s too bad that most federal government programs aren’t as financially sound as the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR).

For fishing, this incredible use-pays, user-profits strategy has shown a more than 2,000 percent annual return on monies invested in fisheries and conservation, according to  “The Benefits to Business from Hunting and Fishing Excise Taxes,” a report compiled by Southwick Associates and Andrew Loftus Consulting on behalf of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

How does that happen?

Anglers pay excise taxes on fishing tackle and motorboat fuel. That money goes into a dedicated fund managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which allocates the money as matching funds to the states for fisheries conservation.

“Excise-tax collections and import duties averaged $110 million annually between 1955 and 2006 (equipment only, not motorboat fuels),” revealed the report. “At the same time, wholesale-adjusted purchases of taxable fishing equipment by anglers averaged $2.3 billion per year, resulting in an average annual return of 2,157 percent.”

Not all individual fish and wildlife projects show such huge returns, the authors added. “And the nature of some projects is such that a return simply can’t be quantified.

“However, today’s $30 billion hunting and fishing equipment industries have been built on a foundation of plentiful hunting and fishing opportunities --- thanks to the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration excise tax paid by business.”

Because this program is so profitable, Washington politicians occasionally try to steal these dedicated funds for other purposes. The last time it happened was 1994. Should they ever succeed, results could be catastrophic.

“There is no other funding source that could take up the slack on the scale of our excise-tax-funded Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration programs,” the report said. “Losing that excise –tax investment would literally be the end of hunting and fishing as we know it.”

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

Tuesday
Jan212014

Why We Fish Reminds Anglers of 'Who They Are'

"The book points out how fishing has winners and losers, but there are lessons to learn either way. In the end, angler readers may be reminded of who they are as it relates to fishing and the resource. They may also be influenced by the author to personally promote the magnificent sport of fishing.

"Montgomery takes the reader from Missouri to Florida to Africa and beyond to show how fishing reaches beyond geographical boundaries. He points out similarities and differences in location that serve to underpin the reasons why we fish.

"Those of us who recall turning over rocks for crawdads and catching grasshoppers by hand will be reminded of even more childhood memories of fishing in Montgomery's writing. He obviously enjoys the memories of his childhood and enjoys more the sharing of the pleasures that came in times gone by and why those pleasures need to be passed on to our youth."

(The above is an excerpt from an Amazon review of my book, Why We Fish.)

Tuesday
Jan212014

Angler Aid Needed to Revitalize Reservoirs

Dale Hollow photo by Robert Montgomery

Exclusive of the Great Lakes, more than 84 percent of freshwater anglers fish in lakes and reservoirs. With about 10,000 of them larger than 250 acres, manmade impoundments are especially important.

“Our generation has never known an America without reservoirs,” said Alton Jones, 2008 Bassmaster Classic winner.

But for far too long, reservoirs have been enduring a quiet death. As a result, the number who fish them, as well as natural lakes, has declined from about 45 million during the mid 1980s to 23 million in 2011.

What’s going on?

“Reservoirs may look like natural lakes, but they were created by people, and they must be cared for by people,” said Jones, a Texan well acquainted with the value of manmade waters.  “As they age, the quality of fish habitat declines, and so does the quality of fishing.”

Additionally, few reservoirs are being built anymore.

That’s why Jones is helping spread the word to anglers about the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership (RFHP) and its ambitious goal to revitalize these fisheries, most of which are 50 years old or more.

Aging degrades reservoirs, just as it does natural lakes. But the process is much more accelerated in manmade waters. Flooded timber decays and dissolves. Upstream sedimentation fills in backwaters and shallow areas. Water quality declines because of nutrient runoff and other pollution.

“We’re way behind in addressing these issues,” said Jeff Boxrucker, RFHP coordinator.

That opinion is echoed not only by Jones, but by Dave Terre, chief of fisheries management and research for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

“Fishing is still great,” Terre added. “But we need to restore habitat for now and future generations to keep the reservoirs functioning. And there’s no way that funding from state agencies is sufficient to tackle these problems.

“We need anglers and the fishing industry to be more pro-active. We need to all work together to improve fishing and water quality.”

A couple of notable examples, Table Rock in Missouri and Arkansas and Conroe in Texas, highlight how it can be done.

Work on Table Rock began in 2007, as a pilot program of sorts for National Fish Habitat Partnership, which spawned the reservoir partnership two years later. Partners include the Missouri Department of Conservation, Arkansas Game and Fish, Bass Pro Shops, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, assisted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Thus far, 1,869 cedar and hardwood structures have been sunk in the reservoir, along with 114 rock structures and 76 stump fields. Twenty-six rock fences also have been added, as have 11 piles of stumps and rocks.

Assessment of what works best and where has been ongoing, according to Missouri’s Mike Allen.

“We have seen slight improvement (in the fishing), but we only have three years of sampling and we need more.”

Both creel and internet surveys revealed that 95 to 99 percent of anglers support the $4 million project, which is scheduled to end in December.

“We hope to do continuing work, but not through the current structure,” Allen said. “We are working to become a member of Friends of Reservoirs (FOR).”

FOR was created to provide non-profit funding and  grassroots manpower for reservoir restoration projects, with Seven Coves Bass Club at Lake Conroe the first chapter. Work there has focused on establishing native vegetation while controlling invasive hydrilla. The club even established its own nursery for growing beneficial plants, and it serves on the Lake Conroe Habitat Improvement Project Coalition with TPWD and other others.

Earlier this year, the coalition was honored with the Texas Environmental Award by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.”

“Members are committed, passionate, and respected,” Terre said.

Serving as an adopt-a-lake program with individuals, non-government groups, and agencies all working together, FOR now has 13 chapters involving 11 organizations, 35 individuals, and 3 corporate sponsors. Additionally, 35 states have expressed support for the program, while five projects have been proposed and all of them funded. Financing comes from tax deductible donations, as well as grants, mostly from NFHP funds administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We would love to have lots of groups operating like Seven Coves Bass Club,” Terre said. “So far, we have seven FOR chapters in Texas. We want to see them in as many states as possible.”

Participating groups can expect to do habitat work, such as sinking brushpiles. But that’s not all they are needed for, according to Boxrucker.

“Of the top seven impairments, only one is happening with the reservoirs themselves,” he said. “The other problems come from outside.”

Based on a nationwide survey of resource managers, RFHP determined that sedimentation is the top problem, with 25 percent  of reservoirs having moderate to high impairment. Insufficient aquatic plants and structural habitat are next, followed by non-point source pollution, excessive nutrients, excessive inorganic turbidity, and “excessive levels of agriculture.”

“We hope to get angling groups started with the habitat work,” Boxrucker explained. “But once we get them involved and have momentum, we want to move upstream, to address other issues.

“We’re treating these reservoirs as parts of river systems. Most of the other partnerships (under the NFHP umbrella) are watershed-oriented, and we’re going to work with them too.”

These collaborative efforts not only will improve fishing, Classic winner Jones added.

“Good fish habitat is the foundation for healthy aquatic life and clean water supplies,” he said. “Water fish live in is the same water you drink. What’s good for the fish is good for you.”    

Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership

The RFHP’s stated mission is “to protect and improve healthy aquatic habitat in reservoir systems for the benefit of fish and wildlife and the enhancement of quality of life for people and their communities.”

Its executive committee includes representatives from B.A.S.S., Bass Pro Shops, state agencies, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Geological Survey.

For more information:

RFHP

Friends of Reservoirs

National Fish Habitat Partnership

Table Rock fish attractor map and survey