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Wisconsin Law Encourages Volunteer Habitat Projects

A new law in Wisconsin is intended to encourage volunteers to place more permitted fish habitat projects in state waters. Its sponsors say it will do so by protecting those who do from the civil liability associated with damage or injury caused by placement of certain types of structures in navigable waters and wetlands.

"During this legislative session, my office was contacted by a number of property owners who were hesitant to pursue a DNR (Department of Natural Resources) permit for placing a fish crib or other coarse woody habitat due to liability," said state Rep. Rob Swearingen.

"After working closely with officials at the DNR, I am confident that Senate Bill 315 will protect Wisconsin property owners and promote fish and wildlife habitat."

Carrying the lengthy title of "An Exemption From Civil Liability Related to the Placement of Certain Structures in Navigable Waters and Wetlands," the law provides immunity  if the structures were placed  for the creation, protection, or improvement of fish and wildlife habitat. Additionally, it affords protection for non-commercial net pens used to hold and rear fish for stocking into the body of water in which they are located.

DNR must have approved placement of the habitat or determined that

a permit or approval was not required. Also, the law specifies that those placing habitat are not required to inspect or maintain the structure or to give warning of the existence of the structure.


Ethanol-Free Fuel Could Become Even Scarcer

As if finding ethanol-free (EO) gasoline for marine engines weren't difficult enough already, BoatUS is warning that it could become even scarcer this summer.

Gas stations aren't required by federal law to carry fuel with ethanol added. But the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program mandates that an increasing amount of biofuel, primarily corn ethanol, be blended into America's gasoline supply annually. In other words, stations might not be able to buy EO gasoline, despite consumer demand.

"Correcting the RFS before it wipes out the availability of EO for boating families and wreaks additional havoc on marine engines is the responsibility of our next president," said Margaret Bonds Podlich, BoatUS president.

"It is now time to fix this broken law. Thankfully, there are bipartisan ideas to fix the ethanol mandate in Congress, but the question remains whether our elected leaders will act and solve the problem."

As of right now, it appears that EO fuel supply will be reduced from more than 8 billion gallons in 2014 to just 200 million, possibly as early as mid-year. Already, more than 90 percent of fuel contains 10 percent ethanol, with 15 percent becoming more prevalent, even though federal law prohibits its use in marine engines, ATVs, motorcycles, lawnmowers, and cars made before 2001.

"When gasoline containing ethanol and boats mix, boat owners lose," Podlich added. "That's because of something called 'phase separation'--- think oil and vinegar--- that can turn fuel stored in a boat's gas tank into a corrosive, water-soaked ethanol mixture, unusable in any engine."

Half of those who responded to a recent BoatUS survey said they have had to replace or repair a boat engine or fuel system parts because of suspected ethanol-related damage. Average cost for repairs was $1,000.

Ethanol Damage Increasing

Additionally, Boating Industry says this:

Ethanol appears to be playing an even bigger role in service issues than it was just a year ago.

Eighty-seven percent of our respondents reported that their business has seen engine damage caused by ethanol. That was up from 73 percent in the same survey in April 2015.

While it may be helping drive service department business, frequent issues run the risk of driving more people out of boating.

As one New York boat dealer bluntly put it: “Ethanol makes us money … it sucks for the consumer.”

A Florida-based manufacturer echoed that:

“Ethanol is a boom for the service departments. Ethanol is a HUGE drag on our industry because it negatively affects the customers. It makes them hate boating. It ruins their day, their boat, and their entire boating experience.”

And it is no small problem, either, representing a significant portion of repairs based on what our survey respondents are seeing. Fourteen percent said that ethanol-related problems are responsible for more than half of all engine repairs, while 60 percent said it represents at least 20 percent of the repair issues. Those numbers are basically unchanged from 2015.


Great Books for Father's Day Gifts

Stories about fathers and grandfathers figure prominently in Why We Fish and Fish, Frogs, and fireflies, while Under the Bed will help remind them of the pleasures of growing up during a simpler time.

From Why We Fish:

I don’t think children’s fishing rods and reels existed when I was little. Maybe that’s why Grandpa handed me a full-size saltwater rod equipped with an open-faced reel at age 6. Yes, 6. Some adults struggle to master open-faced reels. Mean old Grandpa (so I thought) told me to put my thumb on the reel line when my bait neared the water so it wouldn’t backlash. I didn’t listen. He was nice enough to untangle the first dozen backlashes but eventually I heard “The next time you don’t listen to me, you’re on your own.”

Guess I called his bluff and there I was red-faced and sobbing “I can’t do this!”  Eventually, when no one babied me, the tangles came out and I was praised for doing it myself.  I learned that day to listen or pay the consequences in life.  And that no matter how messed up something in life seems, it eventually straightens out --- if you just keep working on it.

From Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies:

My mother didn’t close the refrigerator. My father didn’t hang up the phone. They usually weren’t so irresponsible, but someone from the hospital had just called to tell them that their twelve-year-old son had been rushed into the emergency room “with blood streaming down his face.”

Later that day, after they had learned that appearances can be deceiving, my dad offered advice that I have followed ever since. He wasn’t an angler or interested in most anything related to the outdoors. But he knew what he was talking about when he looked me in my one good eye and said, “Always take a pocket knife with you.”

And another from Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies:

Dad doesn’t pick up a rod to cast.  He steadies the boat, and he watches.

No profound words are spoken. This is about being there in the moment, about doing.

The fish is at the boat. I grab it by the lip and lift it out of the water. It’s healthy but not huge. I unhook it. I turn it toward Dad.

“Nice one,” he says, and smiles.

Nobody gets out a camera. There is no iPhone. There is no GoPro. Those are decades away. We will have just this memory. The fish goes back in the water. It is free.

We paddle on.

We are free. Easing across this lake, untethered, no expectation, no competition, no obligation. Floating at peace. Under the control of both nature and our own choices, nosing the boat where we want to go.




Pensacola Tournament Takes a Bite out of Lionfish Population


Participants removed 8,089 lionfish  in only two days at the May 14-15 Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition Tournament out of Pensacola.

 More than 7,000 people (more than double last year’s numbers) attended the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival , where visitors got to taste lionfish, see filet demonstrations, check out art and conservation booths and much more.

And if that wasn’t enough, Charles Meyling of Montgomery broke the state record for longest lionfish caught in Gulf waters when he brought in a 445-millimeter lionfish (about 18 inches. Previous record was 438 millimeters.

At FWC-supported events statewide that weekend and leading up to that weekend, another 5,978 lionfish were removed for a total of 14,067 statewide. By contrast, 2,975 lionfish were removed in 2015.

“These numbers are a great example of the agency’s efforts to get the public educated about and involved in lionfish removal,” said Jessica McCawley, Division of Marine Fisheries Management director. “Events like this one will encourage continued involvement in proactively and successfully removing lionfish.”

On a more cautious note, this huge increase in harvest also could reflect that populations of this voracious predator are rapidly growing, posing even more of a threat to native species, including snapper, grouper, and other sports fish.

Thanks to the growing interest in lionfish as a food fish, many lionfish harvested around the state will be sold commercially in places like New Orleans, Atlanta, Destin, in Florida Whole Foods, and by Edible Invaders in Pensacola.

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (first Saturday after Mother’s Day) was created by FWC commissioners to raise awareness about lionfish – nonnative, invasive species that have a potential negative impact on native species and

If you want to participate in the 2016 Lionfish Challenge or the Panhandle Pilot Program, remove lionfish, and get rewarded, go here.

Lionfish and other exotic pets that can no longer be cared for should never be released into Florida waters or lands. To learn more about how and where to surrender an exotic pet for adoption go here.

Statewide Lionfish Event Removal Totals:

655 – FSDA Lionfish Calcutta – St. Petersburg

3,478 – Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast – Jacksonville

727 – Lion Tamer Tournament – Panama City Beach

25 – Reef Environmental Education Foundation – Key Largo

31 – Sebastian Lionfish Fest – Sebastian

1,062 – Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition Pre-Tournament - Pensacola


Kentucky Wants to Grow Its Own Trophy Bass

Responding to anglers' desires for more opportunity to catch big bass in state, Kentucky has initiated the Trophy Bass Propagation Program.

But while its neighbor to the south, Tennessee, seems to have found success by introducing Florida-strain bass into its lakes, Kentucky is not going that route. Over the years, fisheries biologists have learned that just a few miles north or south can make the difference between whether introduced Florida bass thrive or just barely survive.

"If we had the same kind of year-round temperatures as Florida, then we'd we would be stocking Florida-strain bass," said Ron Brooks, fisheries chief for the Kentucky Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Resources (DWF).

Instead, DWF intends to use offspring of trophy native bass donated by anglers who catch them, with 8pounds the minimum for females and  6 pounds for males.

"I wanted to figure out how we could do a better job of propagating larger bass in Kentucky," Brooks added. "So this kind of program just makes sense. People have been breeding animals forever to optimize the size of the animal, so why not do this with largemouth bass?"

Anglers who wish to help grow bigger bass in Kentucky can take their fish to participating bait shops from Oct. 1 to May 31, when weather typically is mild enough to reduce stress. Employees at those shops will hold the fish in aerated tanks until they can be picked up and taken to a hatchery by DWF staff.

"We don't want anglers to leave their trophy bass in a livewell or keep it in a fish basket on the bank for an extended period of time because we don't want the fish to succumb to stress," Brooks explained. "We're asking people to handle these fish with kid gloves and bring them to a participating bait shop as soon as possible."

After the bass spawn, hatcheries will raise the fish until they are 5 inches long. Then they will be stocked in fisheries around the state, including the lakes where their parents were caught.

"This won't mean that every largemouth bass spawning in Kentucky will have trophy bass genes," the fisheries chief said. "That would be a long way off.  But n the immediate future, it will mean the fish we're stocking to augment the natural spawning will be a higher quality of fish as far as growth potential."

Anglers can find out more and see a list of participating bait shops by plugging in "Trophy Bass Propagation Program" in the search window on the DWF website.