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Monday
Nov072016

For the Future of Fishing . . . 

Support these great volunteer organizations that teach about conservation and stewardship and share our love of fishing with kids, families, and those with special needs.

You also can find Kids First Cast, Inc., an Idaho-based organization,  and Fishing's Future, a Texas-based organization, on Facebook.

 

Friday
Nov042016

Books Reveal Why Fishing, Nature Are Good for You

 

I was hooked the first time that I went fishing, even though I didn’t catch a fish. Just seeing another Cub Scout pull in a bluegill with a cane pole was enough for me.

Until well into my teens, I fished to catch fish. Period. I didn’t just love to fish. I lived to fish.

That began to change in college, when I intuitively went fishing to relieve stress. But still I didn’t think about. Nor, as a young outdoors writer, did it occur to me to wonder why when I met fishing guides, bass pros, and folks in the fishing industry.

But then my best friends died in a tragic murder/suicide.

If fishing didn't save my life in the aftermath of that, it--- at the very least--- preserved my sanity. For a year, it provided my only respite from thinking about the horrific way they died. Being on or along the water with a rod in my hand kept me tethered to the simple but profound pleasure of angling, allowing my mind to escape persistent mental visions of what their bloody bedroom must have looked liked.

Eventually, the nightmares stopped and I healed. Still, I will need a "maintenance" dose of fishing to bring me peace and joy for the rest of my life.

Why? Fishing is good for me. In fact, if I may be so bold to say this, it's good for everyone.

Soldiers stationed in Iraq have shared with me that fishing over there made them feel closer to home. A father with an autistic child revealed how his son is happier on the water. And the organizer of a fishing event for children with terminal illness told me about how a little girl screamed with joy to feel the wind in her hair as she rode in a bass boat.

And now, with decades of experience, I've also come to realize that going fishing as an adult awakens in me so many wonderful memories of angling trips with friends and family when I was younger. With that hindsight, I understand that fishing is an evolutionary trip that begins with a youthful quest to keep and eat, and it ends with… Well, I’m not sure where it ends, since I’m still enroute.

What I do know that these discoveries inspired me to write a book, Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen. As I recalled my days on the water as both an adult and a child, but especially the latter, I also recognized that fishing was something much more--- the gateway to a love and respect for nature and the outdoors.

That, in turn, prompted a sequel, Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up with Nature, a book that many parents and a grandparents have told me that they share with their children as a way of motivating them to put down their electronic devices and go outside.

And, yes, the second inspired a third, Under the Bed: Tales From a Innocent Childhood, about life during a simpler time, when children needed no encouragement to go outside.

Still today, time spent out of doors takes me back to my childhood, even as relaxes and empty my mind as surely as if I were sitting with crossed legs on a mountain in the Himalayas.

Although I also enjoy canoeing, camping, and wildlife photography, fishing was my first love, and remains so. Nothing relaxes me like being on the water. For some reason I can’t explain, the worry synapses stop firing in my brain when I hold a rod, and my hands take over. My mind snaps to respectful attention and is right there with the rest of me on that lakeshore or in that boat, living in the now.

As I’ve come to consciously recognize this blessing the Angling Gods bestowed upon me, I’ve also realized the key to happiness— even survival—in the increasingly hectic pace of modern life is to participate regularly in an activity that frees the mind and restores the soul. Angling was given to us by a higher power for exactly that reason.

 

Friday
Nov042016

'Freaky Fat' Smallmouth Ties New York State Record

First Patrick Hildenbrand's "freaky fat" smallmouth bass missed the New York state record by less than 2 ounces.

And then it didn't.

The scales used to weigh it during a tournament sponsored by the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce indicated that the fish weighed 8.15 pounds. But they proved slightly inaccurate, and, when recertified,  officials realized that Hildenbrand's smallie actually weighed 8.25, which tied a record set in 1995.

Girth of the record fish, 20 3/4 inches, is only slightly less than its length, 21 1/2 inches. During pre-spawn, the bass arguably could weigh at least a few ounces more with an even larger girth.

The 37-year-old angler from Tivoli noticed a big fish arc on his Hummindbird fishfinder in 35 feet of water  as he fished the St. Lawrence River about 7 a.m. on Aug. 28. He then provoked the bite with a Berkley Powerbait Dropshot Minnow in goby color on his dropshot rig, which was tied to 15-pound line with 6-pound fluorocarbon leader.

The bass with a huge belly earned Hildenbrand second place and the big fish award and then was released. Additionally, the angler will receive an engraved plaque, certificate of achievement, and lapel pin from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), according to tournament sponsors. NYDEC hasn't yet officially announced the record catch.

Using a grub, Andrew Kartesz caught the original state record smallmouth in June 1995 on Lake Erie. Its girth is not included in NYDEC records.

Remarkably, New York's biggest smallies weigh just 3 pounds less than the state record largemouth, 11-4. John Higbie caught that fish in September 1987 on a spinnerbait in Buckhorn Lake.

Friday
Nov042016

Idaho Removes Bass from Hawkins Trout Fishery

Using a two-step strategy, Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) hopes that it has removed illegally stocked largemouth bass from little Hawkins Reservoir in the southeastern part of the state.

"There are so many now that, if you walk the shoreline, it is littered with bass," said regional fisheries manager David Teuscher before removal was begun. He added that the introduced species  eats fingerling trout and competes with larger trout for forage.

"We had largemouth bass that were introduced at another location and studies there show that almost every bass tested had a trout in its stomach," the biologist said. 

Bass likely were dumped into the put-and-take trout fishery three or four years ago, and Teuscher estimated that they now outnumber trout 100 to 1.

B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland opposes anglers moving fish both because of the illegality and possible consequences to the ecosystem where they are introduced. But for fisheries like Hawkins, where bass are self-sustaining and trout are not, he questioned the bass eradication strategy.

"There are many cases where bass have been put where they do not, and will never belong," he said. "But our world, our climate, our aquatic environments are changing.

"At what point do we conclude that these invasive black bass are indeed better suited and more adaptable to altered environments than are preferred native species that must be maintained with expensive stocking programs?"

One angler, in responding to the plan, said, "I don't get it. Yes, big fish eat little fish, but, as long as people like catching them, what difference does it make? Bass are a fighting sport fish that everyone likes to catch."

At Hawkins, first bag and size limits were removed and anglers encouraged to harvest bass. Then the reservoir was chemically treated to kill remaining fish, and trout stocked two weeks after that.

IDFG estimated that stocked fish won't become "sizable" until the fall of 2017.

 

Wednesday
Nov022016

Walleye Will Decline as Bass Expand With Climate Change 

Warming winters and waters will encourage largemouth bass to expand their range in northern states, while walleye populations will diminish and retreat, according the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) researchers and fisheries scientists in the Upper Midwest.

In a recent study about the effects of climate change, USGS revealed that walleye numbers have been declining and bass numbers increasing in Wisconsin during the past 30 years. It added, "This downward trend in walleye populations is likely to continue as climate change will cause lakes to get warmer over time. Researchers identified characteristics of lakes where walleye or largemouth bass were most likely to thrive and found that both species were strongly influenced by water temperature.

"While walleye populations thrived in cooler, larger lakes, largemouth bass were more abundant in warmer lakes."

In other words, what's best for bass is not best for walleye, added Gretchen Hansen, an author of the study and research scientists for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources."Going forward, we predict that many Wisconsin lakes are going to become more suitable for largemouth bass, and less suitable for walleye."

The trend will be most notable, she added, in smaller inland lakes.

Larger fisheries are not immune, however, with Minnesota's Mille Lacs a notable example. Biologists believe that warming water is a primary reason for walleye decline in this 132,516-acre lake.

But it's not just that the walleye don't thrive in warmer water. Neither do forage, such as cisco, which they rely on to stay fat and healthy. Also known as tullibee, these baitfish seek refuge in the coldest parts of lakes during summer.

"I liken them to sticks of butter swimming around, a pretty fatty fish with high energetic content," said Paul Venturelli, an assistant professor in fisheries at the University of Minnesota.

In looking at 2,100 lakes in Wisconsin, USGS scientists considered not just water temperatures from 1979 to2014, but acreage, depth, water clarity, and historical weather. "Wisconsin's lakes are going to get warmer in the future, but how much warmer they will get varies among lakes," said Luke Winslow, a research hydrologist.

Scientists estimated that the percentage of lakes with conditions conductive to high largemouth bass abundance will increase  from 60 to 89 percent by mid century. In contrast, the percentage of lakes likely to support natural reproduction of walleye is predicted to decline from 10 to less than 4 percent.

On a positive note for walleye, the percentage of lake acreage likely to support natural reproduction should decline by a much smaller amount, from 46 to 36 percent. "Walleye populations in large lakes appear to be more tolerant of warming than walleye populations in small lakes," said Hansen, who added increasing stocking rates could help mitigate the decline.