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Friday
Feb172017

Will Anglers Land a ShareLunker on Conroe in 2017 Bassmaster Classic?

Renee Linderoth caught this 13.8-pound largemouth in 2009 on Lake Conroe. Seventeen Conroe bass weighing 13 pounds or more have been entered in Texas' Toyota ShareLunker program. The largest weighed 15.93.

Will crowds at Minute Maid Park witness a double-digit bass weighed in during the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods? Considering the trophy potential of nearby Lake Conroe, where 52 of the nation’s best bass anglers will compete March 24-26, they might be treated to more than just a 10- or 11-pound bass — or two or three.
 
“I think we are going to see very big bass come weigh-in time in Houston, maybe a ShareLunker,” said Dave Terre, management/research chief of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD). “At Conroe, March is the prime month for that to occur. We’ll be ready.”
 
Established in 1986, the agency’s Toyota ShareLunker program encourages the catch and release of large fish and uses bass of 13 pounds or heavier for selective breeding, before being returned to the fishery from which they were caught. Of the 17 ShareLunkers caught at Conroe, five were taken during the month of March. The latest, a 13.14-pounder, was caught in early April 2015.
 
Terre explained that Conroe’s rise as a world-class fishery was no accident. “Making big bass and great fishing are products of good fisheries management and partners working together on fish habitat.”
 
B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland added, “For years, Lake Conroe was the poster child for grass carp gone bad. Back then, the bass fishermen thought the world was coming to an end. But a solid long-term management plan that married passionate B.A.S.S. club members with the expertise of Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists, turned Conroe into a top-tier fishery.”
 
Seven Coves Bass Club, a B.A.S.S. Nation club, took a leadership role among those partners, and for its efforts, received a 2013 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, conservation director for the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation. “Every member should be proud to be part of an organization that gives so much back to the sport we all love.”
 
In 2008, following a second round of grass carp introductions to control invasive hydrilla, the club was awarded a grant for about $45,000 from B.A.S.S. and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build a plant nursery on property owned by the San Jacinto River Authority. The latter and TPWD also helped finance the effort.

“With the assistance and advice of TPWD, the San Jacinto River Authority, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility, they started growing native aquatic plants to go into Lake Conroe,” said TPWD biologist Mark Webb. “More people all the time were getting excited about coming in and helping to grow ecologically appropriate native plants to provide the kind of habitat we need for fish and wildlife in Lake Conroe.”
 
The following summer, 150 plants grown in the nursery were placed in the lake; they were shielded from grass carp and turtles with protective cages. Many more were to follow, as Seven Coves expanded its alliances for the betterment of the fishery. In 2010, Seven Coves received an additional $20,000 from the Toyota Texas Bass Classic and Bass Pro Shops as part of the first ever Friends of Reservoirs Foundation grant.

“This project has brought a wide range of stakeholders closer together, which has been positive for the angling community,” said Ron Gunter, a club member and assistant conservation director for the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation.
 
Today, the nursery still produces plants for Conroe, but TPWD and the Corps have taken a larger role in that aspect of the alliance, while Seven Coves members are devoting more time to helping the agency with artificial cover for the fishery.
 
“The plant work is to help propagate the (bass) species, and that definitely has helped on Conroe,” Gunter said. “The attractors will help anglers find a place to fish.”
 
Webb estimates that about 10,000 mature native plants have been added to the 21,000-acre fishery since 2008, with some, particularly water willow, now expanding on their own.
 
Along with good water quality and improved habitat, Conroe’s trophy potential is enhanced by stockings of Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings. The introductions are intended to keep big-bass genes abundant, rather than simply increase numbers.
 
More than 500,000 Floridas were stocked annually in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013, and some almost certainly have reached ShareLunker size.
 
Odds are improving that one of the Bassmaster Classic contenders will weigh in a ShareLunker during the world championship, as Terre predicted might happen. It would be the first 13-pounder in the Classic’s 47-year history and would easily eclipse the existing record, an 11-10 bass caught in Florida’s Kissimmee Chain in 2006.

For information about attending the 47th Bassmaster Classic in Houston, go to Bassmaster.com.

About the 2017 Bassmaster Classic

The 47th world championship of bass fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will host 52 of the world’s best bass anglers competing for more than $1 million, March 24-26 in Houston, Texas. Competition and takeoff will begin each day at Lake Conroe Park (146 TX-105, Montgomery, Texas) at 7:20 a.m. CT. There will be off-site parking and shuttles for fans wanting to attend the takeoff. Weigh-ins will be held daily March 24-26 at 3 p.m. in one of Major League Baseball’s Top 20 largest stadiums, the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park (501 Crawford Street, Houston, Texas). 


In conjunction, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will be open daily only a block from Minute Maid Park at George R. Brown Convention Center, (1001 Avenida de las Americas, Houston, Texas) the largest in Classic history. Expo hours are Friday, March 24, noon – 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 25, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sunday, March 26, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

Thursday
Feb162017

That's Not a Goby . . . THIS Is a Goby!

Fish in the top photo is a round goby, an exotic fish introduced to the Great Lakes in the ballast water of ocean-going ships. They grow to about 6 inches maximum, but 3 to 4 inches is the norm. Also, they have proven to be among the favorite forage for smallmouth bass, and anecdotal evidence suggests that they are growing faster and larger on a goby diet.

Fish in the bottom photo is the world record marbled goby, caught in Thailand by John Merritt. It checked in at 5 pound, 3 ounces. IGFA says that it is "likely the largest of gobies." And with a mouth like that, it likely could turn the tables on some of those smallmouth bass that are eating its smaller, globe-trotting cousin.

You can see more "weird world records" at Sport Fishing.

The International Sport Fishing Association (IGFA) is the official record keeper for both fresh and saltwater species. You can see the full list here. For line class records and additional information, you must become a member.

Monday
Feb132017

Young Angler Chases 'Bucket List' of 71 Species

 

At just age 11, Tristan Hill already has a "bucket list." That's what he calls the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Saltwater Fish Life List. His goal is to catch all 71 species,  and he is already off to a great start.

Last fall, Tristan submitted photos of himself with 10 of the species on the list, allowing him to join the first tier of the Saltwater Fish Life List Club rewards program. He received a T-shirt and certificate for his efforts.

For Tristan though, participating is about more than earning prizes and recognition.

“I hate seeing fish wasted. When I saw my first fish, it was gorgeous and my mind was blown,” said Tristan. “I don’t think I can give up on that. I think it would be amazing to catch all of them with my family.”

Tristan caught his first fish when he was 2 ½ years old in Fairbanks, Alaska. Living in Colorado at the time, his father, Josh, noticed that when Tristan wasn’t fishing, he just wasn’t happy. So Josh took matters into his own hands and began looking for a job near the water.

The family of four, including Tristan’s little sister, moved to the Florida Keys in June 2016, purchased a boat and Josh began working at Lower Keys Tackle in an effort to learn more about the sport his son had taken such an interest in. Shortly afterward, they found out about the FWC’s Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs via Facebook.

“Tristan has a love and respect for fish, and is very passionate about them,” said his father. “He is the real deal. He is a master of fishing.”

Today, they fish every chance they get, and Tristan continues to mark fish off his list.

“It is way more fun than video games, and it is free food right off the water,” Tristan said.

So far, he has caught a bonnethead shark, blue runner, black grouper, white grunt, cero,   great barracuda,  tarpon, and reef shark, as well as gray, lane, yellowtail and mutton snapper.

FWC hopes you will join Tristan in participating in not only the Life List, but also two other Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs: Saltwater Reel Big Fish, which celebrates memorable-sized catches, and Saltwater Grand Slams, which awards anglers for catching three different specified fish species within a 24-hour period.

You can keep track of Tristan’s pursuits on his Facebook page or at the Catch a Florida Memory Facebook page.      

Sunday
Feb122017

Tie on Storm's new 360GT Searchbait to Find Fish

Stingy fish staying hidden? Tie on a search party. Throw ‘em the 360GT Searchbait, a versatile new bait from Storm.

“A search bait is a lure designed to be retrieved horizontally, imparting fish-attracting action over a large area in which fish have many places to hide,” explains legendary Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame angler Al Lindner. “You basically cast and retrieve the bait to cover lots of water and when you find fish, it allows you to slow down your presentation to make the most of your opportunities. That’s what fishing a search bait is all about."

Once rigged, the Storm 360GT Searchbait didn’t take long to earn a top shelf in Lindner’s tackle box, proving its searching stripes and living up to the promise “GT” provides in its name.

“This is truly a ‘Go-To’ bait,” Lindner says. “This is the closest thing that I could think of to what you’d call a universal bait. Fish love it. Love it, love it!”

Expert and novice anglers alike will love it too.

“I’m always looking for a search bait that I can throw out there that looks realistic and can cover a lot of water,” says Jacob Wheeler, winner of FLW’s 2012 championship tournament. “The 360GT Searchbait does just that with an amazing, lifelike action. It’s crazy — this bait is in a league all its own.”

1999 Bassmaster Classic Champ Davy Hite agrees.

“This swimbait will catch every fish that swims all over the world,” says Hite, a two-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

Creating the ultimate illusion of natural movement, the 360GT Searchbait pairs a lifelike, single-ball rattling jig head with a realistic, phthalate-free soft body with 3D holographic eyes and a toe-in boot tail that elicits incredible action at any retrieve speed.

 “The boot tail design does a couple things,” Hite says. “First, it makes the bait vibrate — so the fish can feel it in the water. Second, its slim tail going to the boot makes the bait move side to side, just like a fish trying to propel through the water.”

 Ease of use will ensure this bait becomes the go-to choice for anglers of all skill levels.

“There’s no need to make it pause and jump at things,” Lindner says. “The idea is to cast it out and turn the reel handle — that’s it.”

 Not only are 360GT Searchbaits affordable, but anglers don’t need high-end rods and reels to catch fish with them. “Anybody can fish it with any type fishing equipment that you want to throw,” Hite says. “You can fish this bait on spinning tackle, baitcasting, open-faced, closed-face. It really doesn’t matter.”

 Just be sure to throw it in all directions until those stingy fish show themselves. “Basically, cast it in any direction — 360 degrees around where you’re standing,” says Storm 360GT Searchbait development lead Mark Fisher, explaining more inspiration for the bait’s name.

 For more information on Storm’s latest innovation, visit www.Storm360GT.com.

Sunday
Feb122017

Tons of Plastic Degrade Great Lakes, Potentially Harmful to Fish, Widlife 

Nearly 22 million pounds of plastic debris enter the Great Lakes annually from the United States and Canada, according to a recent study by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

"This study is the first picture of the true scale of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes," said Matthew Hoffman, an assistant professor in mathematics and the lead author of "Inventory and Transport of Plastic Debris in the Laurentian Great Lakes."

Hoffman used computer simulations to follow the volume of plastic debris moving across both state and international boundaries, with nearly half going into Lake Michigan. Lake Erie followed a distant second with 5.5 million pounds, while Lake Ontario had 3 million, Lake Huron 1.3, and Lake Superior the least at about 70,000 pounds.

To put that into perspective, annual pollution in Lake Michigan is the equivalent of 100 Olympic-size pools full of plastic bottles, while that for Ontario equates to about 28.

While bottles and other plastic pollution accumulate in gigantic "garbage patches" in the oceans, winds and currents mostly carry them to shore in the Great Lakes.

"Plastic accounts for approximately 80 percent of the litter on the shorelines of the Great Lakes," RIT said in announcing the report. "The study quantifies dense plastic that quickly sinks and surface plastics like microbeads, fragments and pellets, plastic line, and Styrofoam, which could be consumed by wildlife and potentially enter the food chain."

Estimates of these tiny plastic particles floating or suspended in the lakes range from nearly 10,000 pounds in Erie to 436 pounds in Superior.

"We know some of the plastic sinks. But when we input the numbers, this is the amount that's floating near the surface," Hoffman said, adding that these microplastics are most likely to end up in fish and other aquatic life. "But we also don't know a lot about what happens to the plastic that doesn't float and where it ends up."

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Superior warned that these pollutants could pose a serious threat to aquatic ecosystems in 2013. And both the United States and Canada are working toward stopping production and sale of personal care products that contain tiny plastic beads, which wash down drains, pass unfiltered through treatment plants and enter the Great Lakes and other waterways.

Not surprisingly, Hoffman and his team revealed that major population centers are the primary sources of pollution, with Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland, and Detroit releasing more plastics than accumulate on their adjoining shorelines.

"Most of the particles from Chicago and Milwaukee end up accumulating on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, while the particles from Detroit and Cleveland end up along the southern coast of the eastern basin of Lake Erie," Hoffman said. "Particles released from Toronto appear to accumulate on the southern coast of Lake Ontario, including around Rochester and Sodus Bay."