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Forage Production Boosted to Aid Ailing Fishery at Greers Ferry

As biologists continue to investigate why most of the sport fishery is in decline at Greers Ferry, they’re also taking steps to address what they suspect is the cause.

In short, they believe, the lake has too much of a good thing --- too many bass, crappie, and walleye. And not enough forage to feed them.

Thus, fisheries managers “are going to start culturing forage (minnows, bluegill, and threadfin shad) through the Greers Ferry Lake nursery pond,” said the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). “This year, they will raise bluegill and fathead minnows through the summer and release them in the fall. This will give the bluegill several opportunities to spawn prior to release.”

Next year, they will use the spawn for threadfin shad production. Additionally, AGFC will not stock predators until the forage population recovers.

“This includes black bass species, walleye, and hybrid striped bass,” AGFC said. “Once the forage base recovers, biologists will stock these species in a manner that lends itself to a more sustainable fishery that can withstand a series of low-water years.”

Low or even normal water levels for six of the past seven years might have contributed to the imbalance in the aging reservoir. “We know that, historically, low-water years results in a reduction in productivity in lakes such as Greers Ferry,” AGFC explained.

By contrast, high water “feeds” the lake through increased runoff and flooding of shoreline vegetation.

Additionally, cold weather during recent winters likely contributed to the decline of threadfin shad, the most dominant forage species in the lake. The threadfin is a subtropical and southern temperate fish, and water temperatures in the low 40s can cause significant die-offs.

“Threadfin shad may still exist in Greers Ferry,” AGFC said. “But their abundance appears to be very low.”



Share a Recyling Location for Plastic Baits

Do you know of a recycling location or container for soft plastic baits? If so, mark it on the Fishidy map. Just click here or on the map to go to the link sponsored by Keep America Fishing.

Identified locations will feature the Pitch It logo, making it easy to find on a phone, tablet or PC.

While you are at the site, also please take the pledge to properly dispose of your used plastic baits. In othe words, "Pledge to pitch it!"


Kentucky's Cave Run Gets Big Habitat Boost

KDFW photo

Fisheries managers are hopeful that anglers are enjoying better fishing for bass, muskie, and other species at Cave Run Lake this summer, courtesy of about two-miles of shoreline habitat added in 2014.

“We heard reports within a month of anglers pulling bigger fish off that structure,” said Tom Timmerman, a fisheries biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (DFWR).

“This spring, the water was 30 feet above summer pool, but it’s back to normal pool now, and we’ll see what happens.”

Timmerman explained that two more miles of shoreline cover are being added this summer, with a final objective of eight miles for the 8,270-acre fishery that was created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1970s. Since then, much of the originally flooded timber and brush have rotted away.

“Cave Run Lake still has a lot of timber standing in some areas, but they’ve basically become telephones,” the biologist said. “It’s not what it was when it was impounded decades ago.”

That’s the same situation for many of the reservoirs in Kentucky, especially in the eastern part of the state. But if the Cave Run effort proves successful, similar projects will follow on some of those fisheries.

“The lakes all have good fisheries,” said Ron Brooks, fisheries chief. “It’s just that fish are not always accessible. This kind of habitat work will make it easier for anglers to find the fish.”

At Cave Run, the state, Corps, U.S. Forest Service, Department of Juvenile Justice, Friends of Cave Run Lake Bass Club, and a small army of volunteers placed between 1,500 and 2,000 “individual units,” in 8 to 20 feet of water, according to Timmerman. Those units included cedar and Christmas tree bundles and pallets, some with trees and some left open. Using a barge and about a dozen small boats, workers placed the cover tighter along one shore and spaced it looser on the other.

That’s because the project is a “learning experience,” Timmerman said.

“Bass won’t be there all of the time either,” he added. “But anglers will figure it out.”


Florida Fishery Restored by Dedicated Volunteers

The way it used to be: Gator sunning in the muck at Lake Trafford. Photo by Naples Daily News

Those who doubt that hydrilla can destroy a fishery need look only to Florida’s Lake Trafford.  Nearly 40 years ago, the invasive plant covered its 1,500 acres, and efforts to control the plant with herbicides resulted in a buildup of muck that reached 6 feet deep in places. 

That organic debris smothered native plants and hard bottom, fed algal blooms, and led directly to several fish kills, culminating with a massive die-off in 1996.Less than 20 years later, however, Lake Trafford also is a testament to what anglers and other involved citizens can do to make a difference. The fishery once again is vibrant and healthy, as evidenced by three TrophyCatch bass (8 pounds or better) being caught there earlier this year.

“A number of dedicated people, past and present, put in a lot of effort and energy to help bring this fishery back,” said Jon Fury, deputy director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “Seeing a largemouth bass entered into TrophyCatch from this lake is very gratifying.”

That effort began with Annie Olesky, who started a campaign to raise money to remove the muck.  Sadly, the wife of Ski Olesky, owner of Lake Trafford Marina, died just before the multi-million-dollar project began in 2005. Financed by Friends of Lake Trafford, FWC, the South Florida Water Management District, and the Collier County Tourist Development Council, the project began with 6.4 million cubic yards of muck being dredged from the lake.

“The removal of the muck was a key step,” said FWC biologist Barron Moody. “It impacted the ability of fish to spawn. It also reduced nutrient loading and improved water clarity so sunlight can get to submerged vegetation.

Plantings of bulrush, pondweed, and other native plants followed, as did stocking of 500,000 largemouth fingerlings by FWC. But those recent TrophyCatch bass weren’t the result of those 2010 and 2011 stockings. They were a few of the hearty survivors.

“In our sampling, we’ve seen that the hatchery fish aren’t that large,” Moody said. “They’re more in the 2- to 3-pound range.”

Additionally, hydrilla remains in the lake, but FWC and the water district are hopeful that they can keep it under control this time.

“I am so very proud of the partnership built between our local community, Collier County, the FWC, and partner agencies,” said FWC Commissioner Liesa Priddy, “The grassroots efforts by the local community, businesses and the people of Collier County set in motion the process that brought us to this successful conclusion -- this celebrated catch.”


Oregon Poised to Remove Bag Limits on Smallmouth Bass

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Barring considerable public protest during the next month, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is poised to remove all bag limits for smallmouth bass on the Columbia, Umpqua, and John Day Rivers. It is doing so even though this non-native species has been established in portions of these watersheds for more than a century and negligible evidence exists that bass harm native salmon and trout through predation.

Also, it is doing so even though most bass anglers will continue to catch-and-release, just as they have been doing for decades. That being the case, even if bass were harming native fish populations, the regulation will have little or no impact.

But so what, right? The move is a gesture of good faith, an affirmation that ODFW is doing all it can to help salmon and trout. What harm can it do?

A self-described "multi-faceted angler" from the Northwest recently contacted me to ask that very question.  I suspect that he is representative of many in Oregon, for many of us, no matter where we live, are multi-faceted anglers who fish for whatever is biting.

 "I think it's a pretty tough sell to defend an introduced species in a system with a protected salmon population," he said.

He pointed out that "plenty of evidence from both ends" provide convincing talking points. "I honestly don't have an opinion on the matter other than I don't  see it making a difference either way," he added. " All of that being said, if the impact of harvest anglers is so minimal, why not allow it?"

I told him that it's not about allowing harvest. Bass anglers buy licenses, which help finance the ODFW.  It's about the agency alienating a significant constituency and, in the process, achieving nothing.

"How are they alienating them, though?" he asked. "Do you mean that bass anglers oppose lifting the harvest limits and collectively feel like their fishery is not valued because ODFW is putting a bull's-eye on bass?

"It's a lot of disagreement over something I think is honestly irrelevant either way."

I'll let Lonnie Johnson, conservation director for the Oregon B.A.S.S. Nation field this one.

"The message is that warmwater fish, and, in turn, warmwater anglers just don't matter," said Johnson, who attended a recent meeting in which ODFW announced its intent to the Warmwater Working Group.

Johnson added that the agency was forthright enough to explain that the change is not a "scientific plan," but rather a policy change. And that change clearly is coming about because of pressure from the federal government, neighboring Washington,  and an anti-bass bias that is deeply ingrained in many Northwest anglers, as well as fisheries managers.

Bass and other warmwater species are easy targets for them to vent their frustrations at the decline of trout and salmon fisheries because of habitat altered and degraded by dams, development, and irrigation. Those same changes make traditionally coldwater fisheries more hospitable to bass and walleye.

When ODFW was asked why the John Day was included, "the reply was that smallmouth were moving into the upper reaches and it needed to be stopped," Johnson said, adding that no mention was made of warming water due to alterations in flow and riparian removal. "It was just that the fish were moving, and the department is going to attempt to destroy a world class smallmouth fishery."

Anglers who want to voice their opposition to the plan can do so by letters, e-mails, and phone calls to ODFW. (E-mail addresses are at bottom of page.) They also can attend the Aug. 7 meeting in Salem, where the plan will be explained to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. Johnson will testify at that meeting and he emphasized, "I need help. If we sit on our hands, we are stuck with this purely political move."

At a Sept. 4 meeting in Seaside, the commission will announce whether it approves or disapproves.

Johnson's mention of "political" reminded me of another aspect of this, one that I think that multi-faceted anglers, the ODFW, and the commission should consider. For decades, fish and wildlife have been managed in this country based on science, and the United States is a model for the world in how to do it right because of this.

Politicians and special-interest groups have tried their best to corrupt this strategy,  but, to this point, state wildlife agencies, to their credit, largely have resisted.  Sadly, the state of Washington already has caved on this one. Will Oregon be next? And, if so, what does that presage not only for the Northwest but nationwide?

(This opinion piece appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)