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Wednesday
Aug062014

Don't Call It a Hobby

“I have fished through fishless days that I remember happily without regret.” -- Roderick Haig-Brown

There's a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.  -- Steven Wright

Why We Fish--- Reel Wisdom from Real Fishermen

“The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a good fish back, and who knows if the fish that you caught isn’t someone else’s gift to you?” -- Lee Wulff

“Three-fourths of the Earth's surface is water, and one-fourth is land.  It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn.”  -- Chuck Clark

“Calling fishing a hobby is like calling brain surgery a job.” -- Paul Schullery

Wednesday
Aug062014

Maryland Launches Campaign Against Invasive Catfish

Photo from Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has launched a statewide campaign to minimize the impact that invasive blue and flathead catfish are having on state fisheries.

“Increasing in population and range, both blue and flathead catfish now are abundant in the Chesapeake Bay, threatening the natural food chain of our ecosystem and causing concern among fisheries manager,” said DNR Deputy Secretary Frank Dawson.

The new outreach strategy will help anglers identify and catch these invasive species, and, resource officials hope, will encourage them to keep the fish instead of releasing them. As a part of the campaign, more than 150 education/cautionary signs will be placed at access areas and kiosks across the state. Additionally, the state will help promote Maryland’s fledgling commercial catfish fishery.

“Blue and flathead catfish are long-lived, voracious predators,” added Tom O’Connell, DNR fisheries chief. “They grow to enormous size, have many offspring, and dominate other fish populations wherever they take hold.

“We want everyone to aware of this significant problem and to know that it is illegal to transport these fish between bodies of water in Maryland.”

Both species were introduced by anglers into the Chesapeake Bay watershed during the 1970s and 1980s. Today, blues are in most of the bay’s major tributaries. Flatheads are in the Lower Susquehanna and the Occoquan Rivers and recently were identified in the non-tidal Potomac near Willamsport. The state record blue, weighing 84 pounds, came from the Tidal Potomac in 2012.

And they are present in huge numbers. Biologists conducting a survey for stripers in Mattawoman Creek found their nets clogged with catfish. A Port Tobacco commercial fisherman collected 300,000 pounds in one haul.

Also, stomach sampling reveals that the catfish will eat just about anything that they can swallow, including blue crabs.  “Looking in the guts of these fish, we find really astounding differences in the range of species they consume, suggesting that, if left unchecked, they could potentially start to impact our ecosystem,” said Peyton Robertson, director of the Chesapeake Bay office for the National Oceanic and  Atmospheric Administration.

Monday
Aug042014

Scientists Find More Mutated Intersex Fish in Nation's Waters

All scientists have to do is search new waters, it seems, and the mystery of mutated intersex fish grows more disturbing.

Most recently, they’ve found male smallmouth bass carrying eggs in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna, Delaware, and Ohio river basins, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey. Male fish at every site sampled had immature eggs in their testes, with the highest percentage in the Susquehanna. Previously in the Chesapeake Bay drainage, research revealed evidence of the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the Potomac.

Vicki Blazer, lead author of the study, said that the pollutants affecting bass, as well as white suckers, “are most likely complex mixtures form both agriculture sources, such as animal wastes, pesticides and herbicides, and human sources from wastewater treatment plan effluent and other sewage discharges.”

"The prevalence and severity of the immature eggs in smallmouth bass corresponded with the percent of agricultural land use in the watershed above the collection sites," the scientist said. "Chemical compounds associated with estrogenic endocrine disruption, in particular estrone, a natural estrogen, were also associated with the extent and severity of these effects in bass."

Meanwhile, a toxicologist with the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency office in Denver reported that her research on fathead minnows is suggesting that “a very potent synthetic female hormone . . . can wipe out fish populations over several generations, and it’s the male fish that are most affected.”

Previously, Kristen Keteles added, studies had shown that male fish below wastewater treatment plants can lose masculine characteristics and become indistinguishable from females when exposed to estrogen and other endocrine disruptors.

“Our new study found that a potent form of female hormone estrogen used in prescription drugs not only causes the males to look female; it also appears to be toxic to male fish and these effects may impact future generations of fish.”

Fish A is a normal male fathead minnow. Fish C is a normal female. B is a male that was exposed to female hormones in prescription drugs and looks more like a female. Photo by Adam Schwindt

These disturbing discoveries regarding fish, which could portend similar problems for other species, began to emerge in the late 1970s, with anglers fishing wastewater lagoons in Great Britain, according to Whitney Jacobs, a former Conservation Associate at B.A.S.S. who researched the effects of environmental estrogens on male fish while doing graduate work in fisheries at the University of Georgia.

But the first reports of intersex was not documented in scientific literature until 1994 and the first major national assessment of the problem was not published until 2009,  she added.

“Widespread occurrence of intersex in black basses (Micropterus spp.) from U.S. rivers, 1995-2004” revealed intersex in 3 percent of fish collected and in 4 of 16 species--- largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, common carp, and channel catfish.

“However, it was most prevalent in largemouth and smallmouth bass,” Jacobs said. “The study also found the greatest incidence of the condition in the southeastern U.S.”

More recently, a 2014 report from scientists at the University of Georgia revealed these mutations aren’t confined to rivers. In “Survey of Intersex Largemouth Bass from Impoundments in Georgia USA,” they said that 48 percent of male largemouth bass collected from 11 reservoirs without direct municipal or agricultural wastewater inputs were intersex. Additionally, they found the condition in nine of the fisheries.

“The high incidence of intersex males in small impoundments demonstrates the condition is not confined to rivers and suggests that factors other than those previously associated with intersex (i.e., municipal wastewater) may be involved,” the researchers concluded.

Scientists hope that future research will reveal those additional factors. Meanwhile, they believe that fish that live downstream of wastewater treatment plants are most at risk, because of chemicals that can’t be filtered out of discharges.

“Humans excrete hormones and medications, which often end up in our rivers and streams from sewage,” said Keteles, adding that flushing medications also contributes to the problem.

“The water is treated, but many hormones and pharmaceuticals are not completely removed by wastewater treatment plants,” she said.

“My team is trying to determine what this means for fish, and ultimately for people, too.”

How to dispose of medicines properly

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

Friday
Aug012014

'I Am Haunted by Waters'

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” --- Norman Maclean

“By the time I had turned thirty, I’d realized two important things. One, I had to fish. Two, I had to work for a living.” --- Mallory Burton

Why We Fish --- Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen

  “Even eminent chartered accountants are known, in their capacity as fishermen, blissfully to ignore differences between seven and ten inches, half a pound and two pounds, three fish and a dozen fish.” --- William Sherwood Fox, Silken Lines and Silver Hooks, 1954

“Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught. ---Author unknown

“The only reason I ever played golf in the first place was so that I could afford to hunt and fish.” --- Sam Snead

Thursday
Jul312014

Sport Fishing Advocate Retires With Warning for Anglers

Gordon Robertson, retiring vice president and lead for government affairs at American Sportfishing Association

First, I was saddened to learn that recreational fishing’s champion in Washington, D.C., was retiring, effective June 30. Then he told me something that disturbed me even more.

“The angler’s image as a conservationist needs to be rescued,” said Gordon Robertson, who officially stepped down June 30 from his post as a vice president and lead for government affairs at the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).

“Conservation once meant wise use of our natural resources,” he continued. “The word ‘conservation’ has been hijacked by the preservationist community and now policy makers don’t see anglers as conservationists.”

Instead, many politicians now view groups such as the Ocean Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council as having “conservation” agendas. Unless we reclaim what is ours through vocal activism, we will suffer loss of access and angling opportunities. As a consequence, the health of aquatic resources will suffer, because recreational fishermen are the nation’s first and foremost conservationists.

On the positive side, Robertson, who spent a dozen years at ASA, pointed out that recreational fishing continues to enjoy “an enormously positive image” among the public. We must capitalize on that, he added, “to make better habitat, more anglers, and an even stronger image.”

The West Virginia native also cautioned that we should not neglect working with the environmental community when we do share common interests on broad issues, such as water quality. “We need to strike a relationship that fosters those bigger accomplishments while gaining recognition for the role of the angler in conservation,” he said.

What I’ll remember Robertson most for was his leadership in creation of the Keep America Fishing (KAF) program in 2010. It’s now the largest angler advocacy group in the country, representing more than one million.

As KAF coordinated efforts to combat efforts to ban lead fishing tackle and restrict access, Robertson learning something that helped convince him that the image of the angler as a conservationist needs to be revitalized. “Too many anglers are apathetic and geographic,” he said.

“Some issues, like lead, resonate better than others. But collectively we need to think about the future of the sport.”

That’s just what Robertson did during his years with ASA, according to those who worked with him, including two former national conservation directors for B.A.S.S.

“Gordon Robertson has done more for anglers and sportfishing in this country than most will ever know,” said Noreen Clough. “Among other things, in his quiet but extremely effective way, he guided the last reauthorization of federal legislation that provides funding for Wallop-Breaux federal (Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program), which makes significant grants to states to manage their fisheries and fishing programs.”

She added that his ability “to work effectively on Capitol Hill, even in this climate, is testimony to his political savvy and patience.”

Bruce Shupp added, “Gordon, and his predecessors, were always the first, best, and most important contact for me to get B.A.S.S. engaged in the most effective way to advocate and/or combat issues affecting the resource and industry.”

Both during his time at B.A.S.S. and as New York fisheries chief, Shupp said, “Gil Radonski, Norville Prosser, and Gordon filled the same ASA role. They were all excellent at their jobs, served the industry very well, and are among the most respected professionals I had the pleasure of working with. I hope ASA will find a similar caliber replacement.”

In that regard, ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman pointed out that Robertson “set a high bar when it came to professional excellence, which had a significant influence on everyone with whom he worked. His ability to work with Congress and federal and state agencies on complex resource issues is unparalleled.”

Fortunately for anglers, Robertson won’t step away immediately from ASA. Working a reduced schedule, he will continue to assist with on-going projects, as well as in the search for his replacement.

Whoever is selected to replacement him, however, certainly will have big boat shoes to fill.

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