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Public Outcry Forces Minnesota to Delay Invasive Species Training Program

Following public outcry from resort owners, anglers and boaters, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will postpone an invasive species training and trailer decal program that was set to go into effect July 1.

In the state legislature, a House committee voted to cancel the law, while a Senate panel has proposed a compromise that would delay implementation and remove charges for the class and decals. As the law was originally enacted, “lake service providers” are required to pay $50 for a three-year permit.

Passed in 2012, the law also requires boaters and others who tow boats and water-related equipment to take classes about how to avoid transporting aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels and milfoil, form one water body to another and then buy decals for their trailers to confirm that they have taken the class (usually online).

The DNR supports the education that would be provided under this law, but recognizes there are some concerns with the way the law is currently written,” the agency said. “For example, people transporting boats on trailers through Minnesota to another destination are required to take the course and display a decal even if they don’t put their boat in Minnesota waters.”

DNR Assistant Commissioner Bob Meier added, “With the legislative interest in this educational program and ongoing discussions about possible changes, we are postponing the launch until we see if the legislature acts this session to modify the program.”

State Sen. Tom Saxhaug said, “Education is critical to this whole aquatic invasive species idea. We are not trying to stop tourism in the state in any way, shape or form, but what we are trying to do is to make sure everyone in the state knows how to clean their boats.”

For funding its Invasive Species Program, Minnesota includes a $5 surcharge on watercraft registered in the state and a $2 surcharge on nonresident fishing licenses. Resort owners say current fees and decal requirements already have cost them business. 


Chipola River Yields Two Florida Records for Shoal Bass

Tucker Martin used a spinnerbait to catch this 4-8 shoal bass, a Florida state record.

Twice in a few months, Florida recorded a new shoal bass record. On March 8, Tucker Martin was the most recent,  using a spinnerbait to take a 4-pound, 8-ounce trophy from the Chipola River in the northwestern part of the state.

In December, Charles Tucker established the first official record for the shoal bass, also from the Chipola, a tributary of the Apalachicola. The Georgia angler caught a 4-pound, 2-ounce fish on a chatterbait.

“The best destination to catch shoal bass in Florida is the Chipola River,” said Chris Paxton, regional fisheries administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

“ Whereas central Florida is especially renowned for trophy largemouth, the Florida Panhandle has numerous species of uniquely evolved black bass that we are proud to promote and manage,” he added. “It was a delight getting to document another state record from this area.”

Florida is home to five species of black bass, including the Choctaw, Suwanee, and spotted, as well as shoal and largemouth. While the bigger largemouth is common throughout the state, all five are found in the Panhandle. The first and second dorsal fins are connected in the four smaller species, but separated in the largemouth by a notch. In addition, the upper jaws of the smaller bass do not extend past the eye, as it does in the largemouth.

“People can distinguish shoal bass from Choctaw, spotted, and Suwannee bass because, unlike those other species, shoal and largemouth basses do not have a patch of teeth on their tongue,” Paxton said.

Also, shoal bass have vertical stripes above the midline on their bodies.

Historically found in the Apalachicola River, the shoal bass has all but been eliminated there because of habitat degradation. As their name implies, these fish favor shoal type habitats, which include shallow, fast-moving riffles and runs containing limestone.

Because the northwestern Florida black basses don’t grow as big as the largemouth and have limited ranges, the FWC is considering new rules to help sustain their populations. The proposed regulations would set a statewide five-fish daily bag limit for all five species, with only one fish 16 inches or longer.

In the Suwannee River, areas north and west of that river and any of its tributaries, shoal, Choctaw, Suwannee, and spotted bass  of less than 12 inches would have to be released immediately, while largemouth bass would have no minimum size restriction.

Depending on public input and a vote by FWC commissioners, the regulations would into effect in July of 2016.


'It Is Not the Fish They Are After'

“The difference between fly fishers and worm dunkers is the quality of their excuses.” Anonymous

“Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher’s salary.” Patrick F. McManus

Why We Fish--- Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

"I've gone fishing thousands of times in my life, and I have never once felt unlucky or poorly paid for those hours on the water." William Tapply 

“For the supreme test of a fisherman is not how many fish he has caught, not even how he has caught them, but what he has caught when he has caught no fish.” John H. Bradley


Volunteers Help FWC Improve Habitat at Lake Harris

Click photo to see more.

For the third time in recent years, volunteers from a Hawthorne retirement community assisted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with construction and deployment of artificial fish attractors in Lake Harris.

According to spokesman Todd Reader, nearly 70 workers, many of them from the Hawthorne Boat Club, put together 300 “trees” and placed them in three ¼-acre sites on the Harris Chain fishery.

“The site must be deep enough so that there is at least 4 feet of water over the top of the trees, even at low water,” Reader said. “In addition, each site is marked with a large white/orange marker designating that the site is a fish attractor location.

“An additional 400 trees are being constructed at Hickory Point by different groups of volunteers for deployment in that end of the lake,” he added.

“These fish attractors are making a big difference in lakes like the Harris Chain,” said Eamon Bolten, conservation director for the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation. “They are very effective.”

Each tree is made of a PVC pipe with multiple “branches” attached. It is anchored with a cinder block, while a round float tied to the top helps keep it upright. The branches provide surface areas for the growth of algae, which attract invertebrates and small fish. Bass, crappie, and other predatory fish follow to feed and use the cover for ambush and protection.

Unfortunately, those branches also made placing them more difficult than in the past, as the weather was “fairly uncooperative,” Reader explained.

“It is very hard to transport and deploy the attractors when the wind blows in excess of 10 miles per hour, although they are constructed of rigid materials and are held together with a cable,” he said.

But he added, “It was evident to all who participated that the spirit of volunteerism is alive and well at Hawthorne, and I think most of us who participated are looking forward to hearing about the first big fish caught from one of these attractor sites.”

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


'Waters to Watch' Benefit From Partnerships

Sun Creek, Oregon

The National Fish Habitat Partnership  has unveiled its list of 10 “Waters to Watch” for 2015, a collection of rivers, streams, estuaries, lakes and watershed systems that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition. These voluntary, locally-driven projects represent conservation actions in progress implemented under the National Fish Habitat Partnership by 19 regional Fish Habitat Partnerships throughout the country.

The conservation actions implemented through these projects are designed to conserve freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats essential to the many fish and wildlife species that call these areas home. These examples of conservation have been fundamental to the overall success of the National Fish Habitat Partnership since 2006.

Throughout the year, these projects will demonstrate how conservation efforts are reversing persistent declines in our nation’s aquatic habitats. Having featured 90 partnership projects since 2007, these “Waters to Watch” are proving that science-based on-the-ground conservation efforts are truly making a difference in improving fish habitat across the United States.

“Success in conservation often doesn’t happen overnight,” said Kelly Hepler, Chair of the National Fish Habitat Board. “We are highlighting these projects today with both long and short-term goals in mind. We are working through our regional partnerships in an effort to conserve these great waterways, and reverse declines in suitable fish habitat. In our 9th year of this annual campaign, we are beginning to see many of our previous projects named to this list making a real difference. For our 10th Anniversary of the “Waters to Watch” in 2016, we will highlight some of these dynamic past projects that are making a positive impact both regionally and nationally.”

The 2015 “Waters to Watch” list and associated Fish Habitat Partnerships:

1) Alexander Creek Watershed, AK
Partnership: Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership

Objective: Project goals are to restore Alexander Creek drainage Chinook salmon numbers in what was previously very productive habitat and a vibrant fishery. Partners are working to do this through large scale invasive pike removal and monitoring, as well as detection, education and eradication of Alaska's first invasive aquatic plant Elodea.

2) Kasilof and Anchor River Watersheds, AK
Partnership: Kenai Peninsula Fish Habitat Partnership

Objective: The Kenai Peninsula Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project will help restore physical and biological processes within the Kasilof and Anchor River Watersheds in order to contribute to a healthy, productive and biologically diverse ecosystem for the benefit of injured species and services. The project will eliminate four barriers to aquatic species passage on the Anchor and Kasilof Rivers.

3) Kilchis Estuary, OR
Partnership: Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership

Objective: Restore freshwater and tidal connections, provide off-channel rearing habitat for salmonids, and restore historic spruce swamp habitat. The site provides habitat for coho, Chinook and chum salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout as well as a myriad of other wetland species, including colonial nesting waterbirds, migrating waterfowl, juvenile marine fishes and resident mammals.

4) Lake Livingston, TX
Partnership: Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership

Objective: The overall goal of the project is to reestablish Lake Livingston as a destination for anglers and other outdoor recreationists. As such, the project has support from a host of community leaders. A dedicated core group of volunteer leaders are in place to ensure that the project continues to move forward garnering additional local support along the way.

5) Lower Heeia Stream Habitat Improvement Project, Oahu (HI)
Partnership: Hawaii Fish Habitat Partnership

Objective: This project will restore native vegetation in the tidally influenced portion of Heeia Stream and its adjacent estuary. Project implementation will involve removal of a large stand of invasive riparian trees, followed by soil preparation, erosion control and riparian forest restoration using native plant species.

6) Mill Creek Restoration, WV
Partnership: Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture

Objective: The WV Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) is mitigating the negative impacts of Super Storms that occurred in 2012 on Mill Creek, WV, one of the state’s four intact brook trout populations, by implementing a strategic Large Woody Material “chop and drop” program within Kumbrabow State Forest, which encompasses approximately 6 stream miles. This project is being completed utilizing the principles of natural stream restoration to place, and in some instances modify and anchor, currently hanging trees in the stream as habitat for fish.

7) Pinole Creek, CA
Partnership: California Fish Passage Forum|

Objective: The purpose of this project is to restore access to the upper reaches of Pinole Creek for the current population of Central California Coast Steelhead by modifying the existing box culverts where Pinole Creek passes under Interstate Highway 80 (I-80). Habitat assessments conducted on Pinole Creek in 2009 indicate sufficient habitat to support anadromous steelhead spawning and rearing if passage issues at the I-80 culvert are remedied. This project will improve access to nearly 7 miles of documented quality steelhead spawning and rearing habitat on the main stem of Pinole Creek.

8) Shoshone Springs Pupfish Habitat Project, CA
Partnership: Desert Fish Habitat Partnership

Objective: The project secured the existence of Shoshone pupfish in their native range far into the future, and will educate the public about their importance. The project quadrupled the habitat area occupied by endemic Shoshone pupfish, benefiting the entire known population in the one spring, springbrook, and spring supported riparian system where they naturally occur.

9) Sun Creek, OR
Partnership: Western Native Trout Initiative

Objective: To reestablish redband trout and migratory populations of bull trout to Sun Creek through improved connectivity, habitat quality and stream and riparian function. Due to poor connectivity between Sun Creek and the Wood River, overall habitat degradation, and interactions with non-native salmonids, redband trout were extirpated from Sun Creek and bull trout populations were restricted to a short headwater reach. Similar to other Cascade tributaries in the Upper Klamath Basin, Sun Creek likely supported widespread and abundant populations of both species. Reconnecting Sun Creek to the Wood River will allow redband trout to recolonize Sun Creek and access high quality spawning and rearing habitat. It will also provide a migratory corridor for the isolated bull trout population to expand its range, occupy new habitat within Wood River watershed, and improve overall population resilience.

10) Ulele Springs on the Hillsborough River, FL
Partnership: Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership

Objective: The restored Ulele Springs is providing native wetland vegetation and provide habitat for fish and mammals. To date, numerous native fish and wildlife has been observed within the basin, which is staring to mimic the anticipated species richness and diversity of a natural spring run entering an estuarine ecotone.