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Thursday
Apr102014

Predation Can Be Quick When Male Bass Removed from Bed

Bluegills and other predators can eat bass eggs and fry within 5 minutes of the male being removed from the nest, according to recent research at the University of Illinois.

The fact that they move in when the protector is caught and pulled out is not news. But this recent finding about how fast it can occur is something that anglers should remember.

“One of the main conclusions of the study was that in a lake where there are very few brood predators, when you angle a male away from his nest and then immediately release him, the change of a negative impact is less,” said Jeff Stein, a University of Illinois fisheries scientist.

“But if the nest is located in a part of a lake where there is a high density of brood predators, once the male is removed, predators get into the nest very quickly. On average, the time it took brood predators to begin eating bass young was less than 5 minutes in cases where the nest was located near schools of brood predators.”

Stein added that his message to anglers is that it’s best to get the fish back in the water as soon as possible if they are catch-and-release fishing for nesting bass early in the year, especially if the lake is known to have a high number of bluegill and other predators.

Of course, the debate remains never-ending about whether to fish for bedding bass because of what happens when they are removed from the nest and the fear by some that it will harm productivity.  I don’t do it, but that’s a matter of personal choice. I don’t think that it generally is harmful to bass populations. And fisheries managers have found no evidence that it is.

The bottom line is this: Southern fisheries aren’t nearly so vulnerable because they have longer spawning seasons. Northern fisheries are more vulnerable because seasons are shorter. That’s why spring bass fishing often is catch-and-release in the Upper Midwest and Northeast.

But no matter what lake or stream you are on, if you are catch-and-release fishing, it’s always a good idea to get that bass back in the water as quickly as possible.

Thursday
Apr102014

States to Receive $1.1 Billion to Manage Fish and Wildlife 

States will receive $1.1 billion this year to manage fish and wildlife, courtesy of the nation’s anglers and hunters. During my nearly 30 years as a conservation writer, one of the things that saddens me the most is how little this program is understood and appreciated by the public. Additionally, every few years Washington politicians try to steal the money for other uses, even though it is "dedicated" to fish and wildlife management.

The money is collected as excise taxes on hunting gear, fishing tackle, and motorboat fuel by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FW) and then apportioned, based on land and water acreage and number of licenses sold.

States receive it at a 3-to-1 match, meaning FWS pays 75 percent for each eligible project.

“Anyone who enjoys our nation’s outdoor heritage should thank hunters, anglers, recreational boaters, and target shooters,” said Dan Ashe, FWS director. “Through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, these individuals have created a 75-year legacy for conservation of critical wildlife habitat and improved access to the outdoors for everyone.”

That’s right. Even if you don’t fish or hunt, you benefit if you spend time in nature. That’s because funds go to acquire and improve habitat for all species, not just those pursued by anglers and hunters. It’s also used for research, as well for restoration projects and increasing public access.

 The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs have generated more than $15 billion since their inception – 1937 for the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program and 1950 for the Dingell-Johnson (also known as Wallop-Breaux)  Sport Fish Restoration Program – to conserve fish and wildlife resources. The recipient fish and wildlife agencies have matched these program funds with more than $5 billion. This funding is critical to sustaining healthy fish and wildlife populations and providing opportunities for all to connect with nature.

Go here to find your state’s apportionment for fiscal 2014.

Tuesday
Apr082014

Enjoy the Warmth, But Protect Your Skin

Sun masks help anglers protect their skin from damage. Photo by Robert Montgomery

Especially following a long, cold winter, nothing feels quite as good as the warmth of sun on bare skin. For a bass angler, enjoyment of that harbinger of spring is as much a part of fishing as spooling on new line.

Preston Clark, an Elite Series angler from Florida, knows and appreciates that feeling.

He also recognizes the danger of too much of a good thing: More than 90 percent of skin cancers are caused by sun exposure.

 “It really hits home when you see someone that you’ve known forever have to give up something they love (fishing) because of skin cancer,” he said.

  “I have another good friend who has had several spots removed. He’s 45, the same age as me, and we’re right in the demographic of the guys who are most likely to see signs of actinic keratosis (AK).”

Considered a “pre-cancer,”AK is a visible sign of sun damage caused by years of sun exposure. AKs are small, red, sometimes scaly or rough spots, most often occurring on the face, bald scalp, hands, shoulders, and arms. When caught early, they are easily treated with a variety of methods, including excision, laser therapy, topical creams, and freezing with liquid nitrogen

Left untreated, they can develop into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), one of three types of skin cancer. Medical experts say that 40 to 60 percent of squamous cell carcinomas begin as untreated AKs, with 2 to 10 percent of SCCs becoming invasive and life-threatening.

“I wanted to help get the word out about this,” Clark continued, “and ‘Is It AK or OK?’ was exactly what I was looking for.”

The Florida angler is a spokesman for the educational effort sponsored by the Skin Cancer Foundation and Graceway Pharmaceuticals. During 2009, he helped promote the program at tournaments and encouraged screenings on site from a dermatologist.

“We did 100 screenings at one,” he said. “I think that some people changed their lives because of this.”

While annual screenings and treatment are important, preventative actions can help keep away the AKs and skin cancer, according to Dr. Neil Fenske, professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of South Florida.

 “You don’t develop skin cancer because of a one-time shot of sun,” he said. “You need multiple hits, which eventually cause DNA damage and genetic changes. The skin goes from normal to abnormal to cancerous.”

With enough unprotected exposure, you still can develop AKs and/or cancer even if you don’t burn, he added.

The good news is that, given the opportunity, skin can repair itself. “I have patients that I’ve been seeing for 30 years whose skin is better today than it was years ago,” Fenske said. “There’s still much to be gained by protecting yourself, even when older.”

The best way to protect skin is to stay out of the sun, he continued. Next best is clothing, followed by sun blocks and screens. “A tan doesn’t protect you from skin cancer,” he added. “It’s a sign of skin injury.”

Anglers on the Elite Series trail know the dangers of too much sun, Clark said, adding that many “cover up” when the cameras aren’t around.

 “But there’s still a lot of work to be done to educate people.”

(I wrote this article for B.A.S.S. Times several years ago, shortly after I was treated for skin cancer.)

Monday
Apr072014

Iowa's Lake Darling Given New Life

Iowa’s oldest public impoundment has been reborn. Drained six years ago, Lake Darling began coming to life again late this past winter, as the outlet pipe was sealed and six bottles of water were ceremoniously poured onto the expanded 304-acre lake bed.

“Obviously, we get this snow to melt. There is a little water seeping out of the ground already,” said Vance Polton, fisheries technician for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “We expect with a normal spring that by the end of April, the lake will be full.”

Bass and other species will be stocked in early summer, as work is completed on boat ramps, roads, and a campground at the Lake Darling State Park fishery in southeast Iowa.

Named for legendary conservationist Jay “Ding” Darling, the impoundment was considered a showplace when it first opened to the public in 1950. But runoff from surrounding farm lands quickly began to degrade it.

“In the 1970s, it (water) would flow in hot chocolate brown,” said biologist Don Kline.

But in 2008, the lake was drained and a $16-million renovation begun, courtesy of a coalition of landowners, donors, and government agencies. According to DNR, enough muck was trucked out to fill a football field 12 stories high.

Additionally, 162 conservation projects now are in place to help sustain water quality. They include water-control basins, terraces, and soil-holding grasses, with many of them involving two or more landowners working together.

“Without the landowners, we would not have any of this done,” said Stan Simmons, watershed coordinator.

 

Monday
Apr072014

Louisiana Tries New Stocking Strategy

 

Fewer but larger Florida-strain fingerlings are being stocked in Louisiana waters this year.

“Our idea on that is we think we’re going to get more bass into that natural population in the long run because they will survive so much better,” said Mike Wood, Inland Fisheries Director for the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (DWF). “We think fewer large fingerlings (2 inches) will net a higher survival than will a larger number of small fingerlings (3/4 inch).”

The number stocked will depend on spawning success in the state’s four hatcheries, but 2.5 million or more fish could be placed in more than 30 water bodies, according to DWF.

One possible negative for this plan is that bass quickly turn cannibalistic as they grow. “They can’t help it, so they’re going to eat each other and we lose numbers the longer we hold them, and that’s the frustration of our hatchery folks,” Wood added. “Every day we hold them, we have fewer and fewer fish.

“But again, with a larger fingerling, I feel like I can get 10-to-1 better survival than with the very small ones.”

Toledo Bend and Bayou D’Arbonne rank at the top of the list for size of stocking, with 820,880 fingerlings requested for the former and 300,000 for the latter.