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Wednesday
Jan112017

Seven Coves Bass Club Helps Bring Classic to Lake Conroe

HOUSTON, Tex. --- Seven Coves Bass Club has received some impressive recognition for its conservation efforts.

In 2013, the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation (TBN) affiliate was awarded the Texas Environmental Excellence Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “This is probably the highest recognition our conservation program has received to date,” said Tim Cook, TBN conservation director. “Every member of the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation should be proud to be part of an organization that gives so much back to the sport we all love

And now, Lake Conroe, a  Houston-area bass fishery that the club has helped shepherd to world-class status during the past eight years, will be the site of the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic March 24-26.

"We're pretty pumped about it," said Ron Gunter, a past president and conservation director for the club. "It's an opportunity to showcase what we, with all our partners, have done."

But, he was quick to add, bringing to Classic to Conroe wasn't the priority, or even a consideration. "We just wanted to protect and enhance the fishery."

In doing so, though, they helped create a fishery worthy of the Classic, according to Tim Cook, TBN conservation director. "It's been producing 30-pound stringers all summer long," he said. "The lake has a significant number of 8-pound fish and I'm expecting that six to ten over 8 pounds will be caught each day. We've had five Toyota Texas Bass Classics on that lake, so anglers know how good it can be."

Read the rest of my story at Bassmaster.com.

Monday
Jan092017

South Dakota Tries New Strategy for Growing Bigger Bass

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department (GFP) began an experimental program this past summer, in hopes of growing bigger bass in the small prairie lakes of central and western part of the state.

Borrowing a strategy often employed in private waters in the South, they used electrofishing to remove smaller, skinner fish. By doing so, resource managers hope, remaining bass will benefit from reduced competition for forage.

"Ultimately, we'd like to see growth rates increase," said Mark Fincel, senior fisheries biologist.

Additionally, biologists tagged some of the healthier fish with transmitters so they can monitor their growth, while smaller bass were moved to lakes where surveys showed more predators are needed.

They used electrofishing to survey 21 lakes, removing fish from 14. The remaining seven will be used as control lakes to gauge results during the two-year study.

If bass in test lakes grow better than those in the control waters, "we could actually do something to actively manage these lakes," Fincel said.

He cautioned, though, that evidence would not suggest a one-and-done solution because bass in the test lakes likely would repopulate and the population again grow stunted over time.

"Bass are notorious for stunting," he said, adding that overpopulation will hinder growth even if the fish have genes that might allow them to reach trophy size.

And resource managers suspect that is what has happened in many of the prairie lakes, possibly aided by the popularity of catch-and-release.

Friday
Jan062017

Restoration of Lake Apopka Continues With Stocking

With recent stocking of one million largemouth bass, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) continues its decades long efforts to restore Lake Apopka as a sport fishery.

"The FWC’s Richloam Fish Hatchery staff spawned the genetically pure Florida largemouth bass at two separate times a year, instead of just once, specifically for Lake Apopka," the agency said.

"Pure Florida largemouth bass tend to grow bigger than other species found in other parts of the country. Stocking the lake earlier than usual ensures that larger bass are going into the lake, which allows them a better chance of survival, as there is a more abundant food source available."

Fifty years ago, the 31,000-acre lake was considered one of the nation's best bass fisheries. But municipal and agricultural pollution, along with muck farming that destroyed much of the lake's filtering system, sent it into steep decline.  Still today, it has a large organic sediment layer, dense algae blooms, and limited plant growth.

But significant strides have been made to improve water quality, including a marsh flow-way system, restoration of wetlands, and a commercial gizzard shad harvest program  that helps limit re-suspension of phosphorus from bottom sediments. Additionally, the Florida Legislature appropriated $4.8 million in 2012 for re-establishing beneficial aquatic plants and placing brush attractors, as well as dredging of access channels and bank fishing sites.

Since the early 1990s, FOLA has been dedicated to educating the public about Apopka's plight and generating support for restoration and conservation of Florida's third largest lake.

Wednesday
Jan042017

Record 'Atomic Sunfish' Caught in Florida

Freshwater fishing in South Florida is unique. Largemouth bass share canals and small lakes not only with peacock bass, but with many of their smaller cousins from Central and South America.

Using a lipless crankbait in a Collier County canal, Jonathan Johnson recently established the first state record for one of the latter, a 2.37 pound Mayan cichlid.

“I looked up the record about six months ago and saw that it was vacant,” said Johnson. “I have caught hundreds of Mayan cichlids but only a couple that I thought were large enough. I was targeting them specifically that day and caught about 25, this being the largest one by about half a pound."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) made the Mayan cichlid, a nonnative species from Central America, eligible for state record status in 2012. But the record has remained vacant until now.

It was first reported in Florida in the early 1980s. During the mid-1990s, the fish began expanding its range and has become common throughout south Florida’s freshwater lakes and canals. Both local and out-of-state anglers target the now-popular fish. Its bright red coloration and scrappy disposition when caught prompted FWC biologists to nickname it the “atomic sunfish.”

In fact, the Mayan is equivalent of a bluegill or crappie in more ways than one. Neither largemouths or peacocks are true bass, but the largest members of fish families with lots of relatives, cichlids for the former and sunfish for the latter. Another of the peacock's cousin, the Oscar, is the No. 1 fish caught in portions of the Everglades and the No. 2 fish sought, behind largemouth. Although reputed to grow to a weight of 3 pounds or more, the state record is 2.34 pounds, caught in 1994 in Lake Okeechobee.

The state record butterfly peacock bass, meanwhile, weighed 9.08 pounds, and was taken in Kendall Lakes during 1993.

Following thorough study to determine that this subspecies of peacock would have little impact on the largemouth population, it was intentionally introduced into the canal system around Miami in 1984. Biologists hoped that it would join the bass in gobbling up smaller cichlids that had been released by irresponsible aquarium owners and could threaten native species via their sheer numbers. While doing just that, it also provides an increasingly popular sport fishery.

Many of the 34 species of nonnative fish now established in Florida are cichlids, including the jaguar guapote. As with the Mayan, FWC requires a minimum of 2 pounds to qualify for a state record.

Fortunately, none of these invaders seemed to have caused major disruptions in native ecosystems "or reduced harvest of native sport fishes," said the FWC. But it encourages anglers to keep all cichlids that they catch, except for the legally-introduced peacock.   

"Most exotic fishes provide excellent table fare," the agency said. "In addition, releasing fish from aquariums or moving them between water systems is illegal and could produce detrimental effects."  

Monday
Jan022017

TrophyCatch Adds Prize Incentives as Program Continues to Grow

TrophyCatch program has seen a staggering increase in the number of participating anglers and qualifying catches during the past four seasons. This citizen science partnership has led to more than 5,325 approved catches, which is instrumental in ensuring that FWC biologists make informed decisions for the management and improvement of Florida’s lakes and rivers.

As we start the New Year, the TrophyCatch team is excited to reward anglers for their first Lunker Club submissionx and all of their Trophy Club and Hall of Fame submissions. It also is introducing new  monthly prizes,  and new championship prizes for the biggest bass caught during Season 5, as well as adding a new grand prize category for the heaviest total weight of approved catches for the season. This means that the weight of all of your approved catches per season will be totaled at the end of the season in December, with the winner taking home the prize pack of a lifetime.

Also, Phoenix Boats has upgraded the Season 5 TrophyCatch boat to the sleek 819 Pro, powered by Mercury and anchored by PowerPole. The lucky TrophyCatch boat winner will be drawn at the end of Season 5 in December, and all of your approved submissions throughout the season increase your chance of winning the boat!

Be sure to follow TrophyCatch on Facebook and Instagram (@FishReelFlorida) to keep updated on the new Grand Prize and monthly rewards.