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New Plan 'a Good Start' for Improving Louisiana Coastal Habitat

A 2017 Coastal Master Plan that will "improve coast-wide habitat for wild crawfish, largemouth bass, alligator, and mottled duck . . . " has been approved by the Louisiana State Legislature. This updated state blueprint prioritizes $50 billion in coastal restoration and risk reduction work during the next 50 years to address land loss, as well as sea level rise and encroachment into marshes.

In arguing for the plan earlier this year, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said, "Save coastal Louisiana, and you save 37 percent of all the coastal marshes in the continental United States. You save the habitat that produces 21 percent of all commercial fisheries' landings by weight in the lower 48 states and is home to approximately 75 percent of all commercially harvested fish species in Louisiana that use our wetlands for at least one stage of their life cycle."

Already, he added, important progress has been made since Hurricane Katrina's devastation in 2005, with more than 31,000 acres of land reclaimed, using more than 115 million cubic yards of material dredged from rivers and the Gulf of Mexico. Also, more than 274 miles of levees have been improved and 52 miles of barrier islands and shorelines restored in a more sustainable fashion.

"It's a good start," he said. "But just a start."

Approval of the 2017 plan received enthusiastic praise from a coalition of local and state conservation organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

In a joint statement, they said, “The 2017 Coastal Master Plan process is truly an innovative, unparalleled effort that all Louisianans can be proud of--- and our state desperately needs to implement the plan as quickly as possible. The master plan is grounded in science, balances coastal restoration with protection, and is publicly-informed. Louisiana has again provided a model for how coastal communities around the world can adapt to land loss, rising seas, increased storms and other climate change challenges.

“With sediment diversions as a cornerstone of the master plan, Louisiana stands ready to harness the power of the strongest tool available to build and sustain land – the Mississippi River. The state should continue this momentum by constructing sediment diversions as quickly as possible and take advantage of this amazing resource that is being wasted."


Trik Fish Introduces Fluorocarbon For Flipping, Pitching

Stealth fishing just got stealthier with new Flippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon line by Trik Fish, a company in Clermont, Fla., owned by my good friend Dave Burkhardt.

 Just introduced at the ICAST show in Orlando, the new line is tough enough to fish in the heaviest cover, yet, unlike braid, it "disappears" in the water. That makes it especially effective on bright days, in clear water, or when bass have lockjaw.

"I like to use the 20- or 25-pound test when I have to fish slower and they are looking at the bait longer," said Florida tournament angler Uby Rosell. "Bass are more likely to see the braid than the fluorocarbon."

Additionally, fluorocarbon keeps baits in the strike zone longer. Because it is more dense, it sinks faster than monofilament and copolymers, but not as fast as braid, allowing the bait a slower and more natural fall. That's another plus when the bite is tough.

Also available in 15-pound test, this is the first fluorocarbon packaged specifically for bass anglers who flip and pitch cover. "It's on 150-yard spools so this German-engineered line is perfect for the bass guy with low-profile reels," said Burkhardt.

Rosell added that he uses the 15 for flipping and pitching to grass edges with a smaller bait. "Also, I'm a co-angler," he said. "While the guys up front are using braid, I'm using fluorocarbon to get the bites they miss, especially when the fish are sensitive."

FLW pro Troy Gibson especially likes the 15-pound line. "I really am pleased with the minimum stretch that is delivered by Trik Fish and the super stealth that this line provides," he said.

" I cannot say enough about this line and will not use anything else when the money is on the line."  

Besides minimum stretch, Trik Fish Flippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon doesn't absorb water, meaning it won't lose strength when wet. It is extremely UV resistant. Plus it has great knot strength and is highly abrasion-resistant with virtually no memory.

Finally, braid, no matter its color,  has a distinct visual presence, meaning fish can see it in even the dingiest of waters. On the other hand, Trik Fish Flippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon refracts light nearly the same as water, meaning it disappears. That translates into more takes, especially when the bite is tough.  

"More and more of the pros are rigging with Trik Fish Fippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon to get more bites," said Burkhardt.

(You also can check out Trik Fish on Facebook.)


Bizarro Bass Really Exist

You might not know Blinky by name, but almost certainly you've seen his image on television or the Internet. A victim of radioactive pollution from Mr. Burns' nuclear power plant, he's the orange fish with three eyes on "The Simpsons."

But such bizarro fish don't exist only in the fevered imaginations of those who created the long-running animated TV series. A wolf fish caught in Argentina, a walleye taken in Ontario, and a largemouth bass caught in a Missouri farm pond all had three eyes as well.

The angler who caught the latter said that he didn't even notice the extra eye on the top of the gill plate until he was taking the fish's photo. It responded to touch, according to "eye" witnesses, but whether it actually functioned as a visual organ remains to be seen.

One-eyed fish are out there too but, if anything, even more rare than the real-life Blinkies. One of them was a bull shark pup found inside a pregnant female caught by a Mexican commercial fisherman. The condition is called "cyclopia," in honor of the legendary monster from Greek mythology, and results from a birth defect in which the embryo's eyes fail to split into two.

"This is extremely rare," said shark expert Dr. Felipe Galvan Magana, who examined the pup. "As far as I know, less than 50 examples of an abnormality like this have been recorded."

Birth defects, or congenital disorders, are among the most common reasons for physical abnormalities in bass and other fish. Hatchery workers are the most  likely to see these mistakes of nature. In the wild, they aren't  nearly as likely to survive and grow to catchable size as their normal counterparts. Even among normal fry, the survival rate to adulthood is only 5 to 10 percent.

"For the most part, abnormalities in fish are pretty rare," said Gene Gilliland, National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. and a fisheries biologist. "Nature takes care of those things.

"If it's not severe enough for the fish to die or get eaten, that's when a fisherman might see it. The fish has compensated for its handicap. But that's very, very rare."

Injuries also can cause abnormalities.

"The strangest I ever saw was a bass with a big, red circle on its side," said Nick Trippel, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

At first he thought it was an open sore or wound. "But when I got a closer look, I saw that a gill plate was missing."

Trippel added that he's also seen bass with notches in their backs and/or chunks of flesh missing, likely the result of attacks by osprey or other predators. "They healed just fine," he said.

"But injuries can cause growths that look a lot like tumors."

Misshapen backs and snub noses are the abnormalities that anglers are most likely to see.

"Injuries, malnutrition, and genetics can cause curvature of the spine in fry," the Florida biologist said.

Back-breaking injuries, meanwhile, can be caused in a number of ways, ranging from trauma during stocking to banging against an angler's boat.

"In electrofishing, muscle contractions can break their backs," Gilliland said. "That happens more with trout than bass. But over the years, we've learned to use safer electricity and pulses.

Even with broken backs, though, adult fish usually recover, as long as they have enough fat reserves to get them through the healing process.

Likewise, those with snub noses or shortened upper lips can survive, as long as they can adapt to the handicap and feed.

A snub nose can result from injury, such as the bass being hooked when small. Unlike other animals, fish continue to grow as long as they live, meaning any abnormality enlarges along with bone, cartilage, and muscle.

It also "can be caused by an injury to the fish during its larval stage or it could also be from a genetic problem during its embryonic development," according to the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

"Most of it is genetic," said Trippel, adding that albinism and xanthism are two more examples. With the former, the fish are white. With the latter, the fish are orange.

Just like Blinky.

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


More than 5,000 Lionfish Removed From Florida Waters

Already this year, more than 5,000 invasive lionfish have been removed from Florida waters as part of the annual  campaign that runs from Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day on May 20 and ends Sept. 4.

"There’s still plenty of time to compete in this year’s Lionfish Challenge," said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"Over 5,000 lionfish have been removed from Florida waters thanks to the program, including nearly 3,700 recreational fish removals and more than 1,200 pounds commercially (equates to about 1,400 fish)."

The challenge rewards lionfish harvesters with prizes such as T-shirts, tumblers, heat packs for stings, pole spears, an extra spiny lobster per day during the two-day sport season, and much more. It only takes 25 lionfish (or 25 pounds commercially) to qualify for the program and the more lionfish you enter, the more prizes you will receive. Plus, all participants are entered into a raffle to win even more prizes such as Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium gift bags, ZombieStickz pole spears and customized ZooKeeper Lionfish Containment Units.

The persons with the most lionfish at the end of the competition will be crowned the Lionfish King or Queen (recreational category) and the Commercial Champion at the Lionfish Safari tournament in St. Petersburg the weekend of Sept. 9.

To find out how to participate in the challenge, go here.


Please, Pick Up That Line!

Pippa found some fishing line this morning. It was spread across about 10 yards of shoreline. As it tangled her feet, she wasn't happy about her discovery. If left there, the line could have been far more harmful or even fatal to a turtle, bird, or small mammal.

A special "thanks" and a one-finger salute to those who left it there.

Such thoughtless jerks aren't going to change. It's up to the rest of us to pick up after them because we are better human beings than they are. Please join me in doing so whenever you are on or near the water.