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Thursday
Jun112015

Seven-Year-Old Casting Carter Wants to Teach Kids to Fish

At just 7 years old, Carter not only casts and catches like a pro. He also gives speeches and shares his love of and wisdom about fishing through a variety of internet outlets. His goal is to "teach kids to fish and get them off video games."

Read more about Casting Carter  and his Kid in Outdoors, LLC in my article at Bassmaster.com.

Wednesday
Jun102015

Will Alabama Close Guntersville And Other State Parks?

Lake Guntersville State Park

If Alabama is unable to solve its budget crisis by the time the state legislative session ends in mid June,  Guntersville and Joe Wheeler state parks, along with 13 others, will be closed. In fact, at least one, Buck’s Pocket, already was scheduled for closure on May 1.

Most likely would shut down on Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

As of right now, $11.4 million is set to be taken away from the 2016 budget for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, with $10.4 million of that coming from the state parks system.

“In anticipation of this loss in revenue, on May 1, 2015, we will implement an Emergency Operations Plan that closes several of our parks and park operations across the state,” said Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks Director.

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State auditor has plan to avoid closing parks

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If closed, the parks will be collateral damage in a debate over whether to implement new taxes.  In response to Lein’s announcement, Rep. Will Ainworth said that he is “concerned that Director Lein’s letter is merely an unnecessary scare tactic that is attempting to build support for Gov. Bentley’s $541 million tax plan.”

Ainsworth added that he intends to introduce a plan to “help balance the General Fund budget without breaking the ‘no new taxes’ pledge that many of my fellow lawmakers and I made to citizens of Alabama.”

Along with Guntersville, Wheeler, and Buck’s Pocket, parks to be closed would include Bladon Springs, Chickasaw, Paul Grist, Florala, Blue Springs, Roland Cooper, Richwood Caverns, Cheaha, Lake Lurleen, DeSoto, Lakepoint (Lake Eufaula), and Frank Jackson.

These parks would remain open: Meaher, Wind Creek, Chewacala, Monte Sano, Cathedral Caverns, Oak Mountain, and Gulf.

“Those 15 parks (to be closed) have not consistently made a profit over the last three years,” Lein said. “The remaining seven parks have. This is a very dynamic financial situation.”

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

Monday
Jun082015

Feds Ban Fishing, Restrict Boating in Biscayne National Park

Not surprisingly, the National Park Service (NPS) has just announced that it intends to eliminate sport fishing and severely restrict boating in more than 10,000 acres of Biscayne National Park, as a part of its General Management Plan. 

“Today’s announcement confirms that Biscayne National Park officials never had any real interest in working with stakeholders or the state of Florida to explore compromise plans,” said Mike Leonard, ocean resource policy director for the American Sportfishing Association.

 “The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, one of the nation’s leading fisheries management agencies, has stated that a marine reserve is far too restrictive, and that other management measures can achieve resource goals while still allowing for public access. The only conclusion that one can draw from this decision is that the public is simply not welcome at Biscayne National Park.”

The move is not surprising because the NPS did much the same thing at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area about five years ago. Extensive areas were closed to the public, with off-road vehicle access severely limited at one of the premier surf fishing locations on the East Coast.

It’s long past time to wake up to the fact that the NPS is not a friend to anglers specificially and outdoor recreationists in general. A Washington, D.C. insider once told Activist Angler that the anonymous bureaucrats in that agency have no regard for fishermen and would like nothing better than to restrict public access in our national parks to auto tours.

Go here to sign a petition opposing the Biscayne fishing ban.

“America’s  recreational fishing community is disheartened by the National Park Service’s decision to implement a marine reserve at Biscayne National Park,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation.

 “We understand the importance of protecting our natural resources and the delicate balance needed to ensure that anglers and boaters are able to enjoy these public waters. However, the National Park Service has shown little interest in compromise and today’s announcement confirms a lack of desire to include the needs of park users and stakeholders in important decisions such as this.”

For the past several years, a large coalition of partners in the recreational boating and fishing community has submitted comments, attended public meetings and organized discussions with the leadership at the National Park Service in an attempt to balance the critical need for conservation with the need for recreational access to the park’s waters. Numerous fisheries management measures were presented to the National Park Service that would balance resource conservation with maintaining public access, including size limits, bag limits, quotas, permits, seasonal closures and gear restrictions.

“Anglers recognize that the condition of the fisheries resources in Biscayne National Park needs to be addressed, but we also know that once an area is closed, the public will never be allowed back in,” said Jeff Miller, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association Florida’s Government Relations Committee.

 “These decisions should happen only when clearly supported by science, and when all other management options have failed. By not giving other, less restrictive options a chance, the National Park Service has put Florida’s reputation as ‘Fishing Capital of the World’ at stake.”

To read the most recent public comments submitted by the recreational boating and fishing community to the National Park Service on this issue, click here.  

Friday
Jun052015

Oregon May Remove Limits on Smallmouth Bass in Columbia River

Oregon may be about to make a major fisheries management decision based on politics instead of science, Activist Angler has learned.

Sources reveal that unless loud public outcry forces it to reconsider, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) likely will remove limits on smallmouth bass in the Columbia River. In doing so, it will cave to pressure from the federal government, neighboring Washington state, and native species advocates, not only within the state but within the agency.

The announcement could come as early as June 19, when the state’s Warmwater Working Group (WWG) meets. Ostensibly, the WWG is a coalition of fisheries biologists and representatives of warmwater angling groups who meet to discuss issues related to management of bass and other non-native species.  In reality, it is little more than window-dressing for a feeble attempt to hide the agency’s anti-bass bias.

That bias exists because of the continued demise of salmon fisheries in the Northwest. In reality, they are in decline because the rivers have been altered and degraded through dams, irrigation, and development. The water is warmer and slower than it would be if free-flowing, and the dams block salmon migrations.

But smallmouth bass are blamed because they thrive in this altered habitat and because they are predatory. No evidence exists, however, to show that they substantially harm salmon populations.

If ODFW does bow to political pressure and removes limits on smallmouth bass in the Columbia, it will alienate a large portion of its constituency, which pays for its operation through purchase of fishing licenses. And nearly all bass fishermen will continue to catch-and-release smallmouth bass in the Columbia as they have for decades.

All that will change is removal of the façade that ODFW manages  fisheries based on science instead of politics and that it does so on behalf of all anglers.

Thursday
Jun042015

Less Habitat --- Not More --- Might Help Asian Carp Spread

Who would have believed that you could catch a largemouth bass, or much less a spotted bass, on a 9-inch swimbait? And how about that crazy looking Alabama rig? No way would that work.

But it’s not only in bass fishing that nature constantly reminds of how little we know.

Perhaps the coelacanth provides the best example. The primitive fish was thought to be extinct for about 65 million years when one was pulled from the depths in 1938 off the coast of South Africa. Since then, several more have been caught, including some 6,000 miles from the original location.

More recently, scientists say that they believe that a reservoir 400 miles below our feet contains enough water to fill our oceans three times. If true, this suggests that our surface water actually came from within, instead of being deposited by icy comets striking Earth billions of years ago. It also makes one wonder what the planet would look like if all that water were up here instead of down there. Those who are religious might say it would look much like it did shortly after Noah built his arc--- and they might add that explains where the water came from.

Exotic species, meanwhile, provide some of the greatest--- and costliest--- of nature’s mysteries. And, as speedier transport and improved technology facilitate their spread, they will continue to do so. That’s because the consequences of their introductions can’t truly be determined until it’s too late. Yes, we can theorize based on their size, needs, breeding habitats, etc., and the niches that they filled in their native habitats.

But as we’ve learned in recent years, zebra mussels, Asian carp, and other invaders are not subject to the same limiting factors--- predation, disease, climate, habitat--- as they were in their native ecosystems. In other words, what it was there is not what it is here.

Yes, we knew that zebra mussels would filter the water in the Great Lakes. But we had no idea that this process would contribute to a resurgence in blue-green toxic algae blooms or that the shellfish would link with another invader, the round goby, to cause fish-eating birds such as loons to die of botulism poisoning. Yes, we knew that Asian carp would compete with native species for food and habitat. But we had no idea that the silver would become a serious navigation hazard on some waters because of its leaping when frightened.

Which brings us to a recent revelation by a scientist at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Her proposal turns on its head the idea that Asian carp and other exotic species require an abundance of suitable habitat to thrive and spread. And if she’s correct, that means total lockdown of the Great Lakes from its manmade connection with the Illinois River is more important than ever.

“We recently found that only 10 Asian carp are needed to establish a population in the Great Lakes,” said Kim Cuddington, an ecology professor. “But then we asked, if there are so few individuals initially, how do they find a mate and create an ecological disaster?”

The answer is “landmarking.” And it works this way: Where is it easier for you to locate bass, in a pond with one laydown or a pond with a dozen? Yes, fishing might be better overall in the latter, but that’s not what we’re talking about.

We’re talking about a “hook up” --- forgive the pun--- in a non-angling sense. Whether a lonely male is an Asian carp or a butterfly, he instinctively knows to hightail it to the nearest preferred landmark habitat--- or "hangout"--- of his species to find a mate. This strategy allows species to reproduce even when population densities are low.

"With an endangered species, if the number of landmarked sites is increased, the individuals will have a lower chance of finding a mate," said Cuddington. "By contrast, decreasing the number of landmarked sites in an effort to keep invasive species from reproducing has the opposite effect, and ensures individuals have a near certain chance of finding a mate.”

Asian carp use river water quality and flow rate as landmarks to find mates more easily than originally thought, she explained.

"For species like Asian carp, precautionary measures have to be extraordinary to prevent establishment in the Great Lakes," said Cuddington. "When we see Asian carp use landmarking, officials need to worry."

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