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Battling the Big Ones

With the fish so well hooked, Dance understandably thought that he was about to land the biggest smallmouth bass of his young life, possibly even a world’s record. Based on mounts that he had seen at a taxidermist, he was certain that this bass weighed more than 10 pounds.

Excerpt from "The Big Picture," about Bill Dance and other notable anglers who tangled with trophy fish in Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen.


Bright Lures Catch Bigger Fish in Canada Study

Lure color might play a role that most bass anglers hadn't considered, according to researchers at Ontario's Carleton University.

Lure color does not significantly affect the number of fish caught or whether hooking-related injuries are sustained, they revealed. But the right color choice could make the difference in whether you catch a 1-pound bass or a 5-pounder.

In a report entitled "Does Lure Color Influence Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE), Fish Capture Size, and Hooking Injury in Angled Largemouth Bass?", they said, "Bright colors appeared to selectively capture larger fish than either dark or natural lure colors . . .

"Our study reveals that while different lure colors might capture the imagination and wallet of the angler, they do not influence CPUE (catch per unit effort) or hooking injury in bass, but appear to have a small influence on the size of captured fish."

In an experiment on Lake Opinicon, a popular bass fishery, they tested six different colors of worms: leech black and bream blue (dark) , natural cigar red and wasp (natural), and sherbert orange and pearl white (bright). During July and August, the baits "were fished quite passively" by anglers with intermediate skill, who caught a total of 119 bass

Each color was fished for 20-minute intervals, and each angler fished all six before repeating a color. Bass were caught all over the lake, with a special focus on shoreline areas.

Blue caught the most bass, with 25, followed by black 23, white 22, wasp 17, orange 16, and red 16.

"When lure color was grouped into the dark, natural, and bright categories, there was a significant relationship detected between the color categories and the total length in millimeters of captured fish," the scientists said. "The bright lure color category caught fish that were significantly longer (mean total length of 349 mm)  than fish captured on the dark (318 mm) and natural (318 mm) color categories."

Based on those findings, they concluded, "It is unlikely that there is any management value in regulating lure color. Nonetheless, we expect that anglers will continue to experiment with different colors of lures in their quest for the most and biggest fish."


Asian Carp Spawning Closer to Great Lakes

Asian carp have moved no closer to the Great Lakes during the past few years. They remain about 50 miles away. But they are spawning closer, and that's bad news.

"The bottom line is that the juvenile front is advancing, and made a big jump last year," said Joel Brammeier of the non-profit Alliance for the Great Lakes. "And we still don't have a permanent solution in place that's going to solve the problem."

That "big jump" was 90 miles.

Two electrical barriers and three locks and dams on the canal/river system serve as the final protection for Lake Michigan. Thus far, they have effectively blocked adult silver and bighead carp. But the smaller ones are much more likely to slip through in the wake of commercial barge traffic, which also can disrupt the effectiveness of the barriers.

"It seems like the wolves are at the door, and the door is still opening and closing," said Daniel O'Keefe of Michigan Sea Grant.

Meanwhile, a third electrical barrier is being constructed upstream of the other two, which are about 35 miles south of Lake Michigan. Intent is to make it more effective against juvenile fish, according to Charles Wooley, deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Great Lakes Region.

"There are no fish that are probing these electrical barriers on a daily basis," he added. "The closest these fish are is about 15 to 20 miles downstream, and that leading edge hasn't really changed much in the past five or six years."



It's Not Just Monofilament That Kills

I’ve seen first-hand that fishing line kills. This is my photo of the blue heron hanging from a tree. It was heart-breaking to see.

When left in the aquatic environment, because of snags or improper disposal,  fishing line creates potential traps for unsuspecting wildlife that can become entangled and snared, leading to injury and death.

Monofilament is the most common type of fishing line, but it's not the only threat. Modern advances have produced several other varieties with higher tensile strength, reduced visibility and greater abrasion resistance. These newer, non-monofilament lines, such as braid and fluorocarbon, are fairly popular, but not all of them can be recycled like monofilament fishing line, and they are commonly disposed of improperly.

How you can help

To help reduce the negative environmental impacts from improper disposal of all fishing line and tackle, anglers can follow these general guidelines:

  • Check line frequently for frays that may break easily.
  • Don’t leave bait unattended since pelicans, herons and other birds may attempt to take the bait from the line, which may result in entanglements.
  • Cast away from trees, utility lines, wildlife and areas where line may get caught.
  • If you see improperly discarded fishing line while you are out, pick it up and stow it to be disposed of later.

Anglers can purchase or make their own fishing line storage bins to keep with them while they are fishing so that line can be stored securely and out of the way. Products such as the Monomaster and Line Snatcher are designed to help anglers store their unwanted fishing line; however, homemade versions can also be made by cutting an “X” in the lid of something as simple as a tennis ball container or coffee can.

Monofilament recycling

Once on shore, monofilament and fluorocarbon line can be recycled in designated bins found at most boat ramps, piers and tackle shops. However, anglers should not use these bins to discard any other type of fishing line or leader material such as braid or wire. Also, the bins should not be used to discard any type of tackle, such as hooks, lures or soft plastics, which can injure other anglers discarding their fishing line or the individuals who empty the bins for recycling.

 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provided the above information, as well as the following:

 You can learn how to make your own monofilament recycling bin by visiting FWC Saltwater Fishing YouTube  channel or by participating in the statewide Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program.


Christmas Trees Bolster Fish Habitat Across Country

From coast to coast and border to border, Christmas trees are the holiday gifts that keep on giving for fish and fishermen. Bass clubs, municipalities, and power companies participate in this giant, annual attractor/habitat enhancement project, along with state and federal agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service.

“A lot of lakes we work with are manmade and there’s not much fish cover in them, so we have to figure out how to put fish habitat in those lakes,” said Kevin Meneau, a fisheries biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).  “Christmas trees are one of the best ways to do that in winter.”

In the St. Louis area alone, trees are submerged in 60 lakes, with each fishery receiving them every three years. Shenango River Lake, meanwhile, is but one of many lakes targeted in Pennsylvania, as the Corps teams with local communities. To the South, the Lake Wedowee Property Owners Association has worked with Alabama Power for six years to anchor trees in more than 70 locations.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife collects hundreds of trees each January for placement in Three Springs, Shanty Hollow, Barren River, and Green River Lakes, among others. And in California, the Corps sinks trees in Pine Flat Lake.

"We put them in the water here until they basically disintegrate and it gets a full life cycle out of the tree,"  said Adam Thompson, Corps senior park ranger, adding that discarded Christmas trees are the most cost effective way to sustain fish habitat annually.

"These trees create a perfect safe haven for the fingerling bass to hide from the larger predator bass," he said.

Additionally, the trees provide woody cover that makes excellent habitat for invertebrates, ideal forage for these smaller bass, along with panfish, added Missouri's Meneau. Of course, larger fish follow, as the entire food chain gets a boost.

Ideally, the trees are anchored with cement blocks and submerged in at 4 to 7 feet. This typically gives newly spawned bass in shallow water quick access to cover.

Of course, predatory bass and other species also are attracted to the brush piles, which provide cover for ambush, as well as a source of food. In turn, that makes them magnets for anglers.

Eventually, the trees become water logged and sink completely. But Meneau said that the tops usually are visible for five to six weeks after placement. This gives anglers time to mark them with GPS.