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Monday
Aug222016

Legendary Fish

I caught this medium-sized peacock bass on Venezuela's Lake Guri a few years back. That same day, I battled a giant that I write about in the essay "Legendary Fish" in Why We Fish. Here's an excerpt:

A frayed piece of leader owns a place of honor at my desk. It was left to me by a “legendary fish.”

That’s my own term so I’m not surprised if you haven’t heard it before. For me, “legendary fish” is one rung up the ladder from “big,” “trophy,” and even “fish of a lifetime.”

Sunday
Aug212016

Grass Carp Invasion Also Threatens Great Lakes Fisheries

Most don't know one carp from another. All are exotic.The photo above is a 30-pound-plus grass carp illegally stocked in a small lake.

Common carp have been in this country for so long (more than a century) that many think they are native. They are not. They were imported by the federal government. Rooting around on the bottom, they have destroyed and degraded many fisheries.

Fish farms in the South and Mid-South imported Asian carp (bighead and silver), and they escaped into rivers, spreading throughout much of the country. Through filter feeding, they gobble up forage needed by many native species, including juvenile sport species.

Grass carp were imported to eat problematic aquatic plants, including hydrilla and Eurasian watermilfoil, also exotic species. Often they were overstocked. Sometimes. they were stocked where they were not needed. Often they were stocked illegally. And they too have escaped and spread.

To add to the confusion, Canadian media and fisheries officials frequently refer to grass carp as Asian carp.

*    *    *    *

Although silver and bighead are the Asian carp of most concern these days for the Great Lakes and its tributaries,  disturbing discoveries have been made lately regarding a third--- the grass carp.

First, a graduate student at the University of Toledo found eggs in the Sandusky River, which flows into Lake Erie. That confirms the existence of a reproducing population of this fast-growing species, which doesn't compete with native fish, but does obliterate beneficial aquatic vegetation.

Additionally, Canadian commercial fishermen recently netted a grass carp weighing more than 60 pounds from the St. Lawrence River, far above Lake Ontario.

Anthony Ricciardi, a biology professor at McGill University, doesn't think that the river has a reproducing population, but suspects that others are in the St. Lawrence as well.

"We actually thought the Asian carp was confined," added Quebec biologist Michel Legault. "But we know that in recent years the grass carp has been found in a small section of Lake Erie. And last summer, nine grass carp were caught in the Toronto area. This is not good news."

On the Sandusky, meanwhile Toledo researchers intend to learn more about the grass carp spawning there, in hopes of finding a way to minimize it.

"Given the similarities in reproductive strategies, this ongoing research on grass carp spawning may help us minimize the risk of bighead carp and silver carp from establishing a foothold in the Great Lakes, said Patrick Kocovsky, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "What we learn here also might apply to potential control strategies in tributaries to the Mississippi River.

Today, most grass carp used to control invasive aquatic plants are triploid, meaning they can't reproduce. But fertile grass carp are believed to have first escaped from  an aquaculture facility in Arkansas back in the 1960s. They since have migrated throughout the Mississippi River drainage, as well as spread through authorized, illegal, and accidental introductions to 45 of the 50 states.

Friday
Aug192016

Secrets That You Should Know About 'The Bite'--- Part 4

These are but a few of the secrets in "The Bite" from Better Bass Fishing: Secrets From the Headwaters by a Bassmaster Senior Writer. Also, here's a link to the book at Barnes & Noble

Secret: Bass don’t see artificial baits the same way that we do. That new shad-shaped crankbait that you bought might look so lifelike that you expect it to flop off the table. But what makes it lifelike--- and attractive--- to bass is how it moves through the water. Yes, a realistic appearance helps, but good action that imitates an injured or fleeing baitfish probably is more important. That’s why spinnerbaits, which don’t resemble any kind of living creature when motionless, are such effective bass catchers.

Secret: With soft plastics, however, sometimes action isn’t important at all. Rather the fish need time to approach and examine. On several occasions, I’ve spent a minute or two picking out a backlash and then found a bass on the end of my line. Others have told me of similar experiences. This tells me that, too often, we fish too quickly with soft plastics.

Secret: In fact, lure designer and tournament angler Troy Gibson recommends letting a soft plastic sit for 120 seconds after you cast it.

“I will find the fish by power fishing with spinnerbaits and crankbaits,” he says. “And sometimes this is all I need to fill the livewell.

“But when I come across an area that looks as if it will produce 3- to 5-pound fish, then I will slow down with a fluke or worm and be very patient. I will present my lure to a tree, bush, or creek channel and let the bait sit still for at least 120 seconds.

“The bass is just like an old cat that can not leave well enough alone and will pick up, move, eat, or play with the fluke or sinking worm. It can’t help itself, for that is its nature. Understanding that, along with patience, will make you a much better fisherman.

“By doing this, I am more likely to cull the first five fish with larger fish. To me, the smaller fish that I caught by power fishing are the locator fish for areas that are holding the larger fish.” 

 Secret: To obtain the most up-to-date information on bass biology and behavior, as well as new strategies for catching them, read Bassmaster Magazine and BASS Times. These are the most authoritative sources on bass fishing in the world. Many of today’s young pros say that they grew up reading Bassmaster and the knowledge they gained from the magazine was critical to their success. 

Check out all my books at Amazon.

Wednesday
Aug172016

Anglers Help Stock Florida Bass at Mississippi's Ross Barnett

Concurrent with a recent regulation change, anglers recently helped improve the gene pool at Mississippi's Ross Barnett Reservoir, as they assisted with the stocking of 101,000 Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings.

"We're not trying to increase catch rates by stocking bass," said Ryan Jones, a fisheries biologist with Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "We're trying to maintain that gene in the population. What you have in the Florida strain is a fish that has a longer grow period, so they grow bigger, faster."

For this third stocking in three years, fish were transported from the agency's Turcotte Fish Hatchery to two ramps on the 33,000-acre Pearl River impoundment. Then anglers used their boats to transport them in ice chests filled with water to backwater areas, in hopes of improving survival rates.

"Before, we dropped them at the ramp and they (bass) to disperse from there," Jones said. "Now, you're talking about dropping them everywhere.

"I can't tell you what the survival percentage is, but I can tell you it's better than dropping them at the ramp. It's a much better process. It's just great to have the anglers."

The minimum size limit, meanwhile, has been raised from 12 to 14 inches, after fisheries managers noted a decline in the number of bass between 15 and 20. "It's been in decline for about four years," Jones said.

"It could be a natural change in the population, but we want to be on the front end of it in case it's not natural."

Tuesday
Aug162016

Nearly 10,000 Lionfish Harvested in Florida Waters

With little more than a month left to go in Florida's Lionfish Challenge, divers have removed 9,216 of the exotic predator from state waters.

Since the May 14 kickoff, 68  have participated in the program that rewards divers for taking 50 or more lionfish. Of those, 23 also qualified for the Panhandle Pilot Program, which rewards participants for every 100 lionfish removed from Escambia through Franklin counties, where lionfish densities tend to be higher.

 David Garrett is in the lead for the Lionfish King title, with 1,262 harvested so far, followed by John McCain at 380.

Why the war on lionfish? Although about 18 inches is the maximum size in its nonnative range, the lionfish is a versatile, voracious predator that is gobbling up smaller native species, as well as juveniles of highly prized sport fish species. Additionally, as its population grows, it crowds native species out of their habitat.

Lionfish Challenge

Remove 50 or more lionfish between Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (May 14, 2016) and the end of September to enter the Lionfish Challenge.

Rewards include the following:

  • a commemorative coin to mark membership
  • an event T-shirt
  • Lionfish Hall of Fame recognition on the MyFWC.com website
  • being entered in drawings to win prizes including fishing licenses, lionfish harvesting equipment, fuel cards and dive tank refills
  • and, the person who “checks in” the most lionfish will be crowned Florida’s Lionfish King or Queen and will receive a lifetime saltwater fishing license, have his or her photograph featured on the cover of the FWC’s January 2017 Saltwater Regulations publication, be prominently featured on MyFWC.com’s Lionfish Hall of Fame, and be recognized at the November 2016 FWC Commission meeting

How to Enter

Email photos of your first 50 qualifying lionfish to Lionfish@MyFWC.com and include the name of the harvester, the date harvested, your signature in the photo (written on a piece of paper next to the fish, for example) and your mailing address. You can also submit your first 50 at an FWC-approved checkpoint.

Go here to learn more.