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Wednesday
Oct112017

Bullards Bar Spot Finally Recognized as Record By Both California and IGFA

California and the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) finally are in agreement. The 11-pound, 4-ounce (11.25)  Alabama spotted bass caught by Nick Dulleck in February 2017 on Bullards Bar Reservoir is both a world and state record.

For IGFA, which recognized the catch in May, the previous world record had been 10.38 pounds, also taken at Bullards Bar. But a 10.95-pound fish caught at the same fishery in 2015 had been recognized by California. IGFA had disqualified that fish because its original weight was reported as 11.2.

In recent years, reports have surfaced regularly of other fish being caught that would have been state records, but the reporting process was so cumbersome that anglers didn't want to participate. In particular, they didn't want to kill the fish, either for DNA sampling or because a biologist wasn't immediately available to certify the catch.

Dulleck, however, was prepared, rolling video from cast to release, including weighing the fish on a certified scale in front of witnesses. He is now working with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to make state certification easier for other anglers.

"I didn't want this record to just be about me," he said. "I've worked with the IGFA and the California DFW a lot through this whole process. They have been great to work with. If I can help make the whole process better for all anglers, then I really want to do that. Then I will have done something that matters." 

Sunday
Oct082017

Reef Fish Mortality Reduced by Angler Education, Conservation Measures

A cooperative effort among the recreational fishing industry, anglers and state and federal agencies has resulted in reduced mortality for thousands of red snapper and other reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic.

Throughout 2015-2017, the FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project, coordinated through the FishAmerica Foundation, engaged more than 1,100 anglers in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions to improve the survival of angler caught-and-released fish. Participants in the project were provided with information on best practices for handling and releasing fish and with SeaQualizer descending devices. They were then asked to evaluate their experience.

Through the FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project, anglers collectively reported releasing 16,000 – 28,000 red snapper and 13,000 - 22,000 other fish by applying best practices techniques and using the SeaQualizer when needed. Based on the most recent research on the benefits of descending fish under conditions typically encountered in the Gulf of Mexico, an estimated 3,000 - 9,000 red snapper survived during this project period through the use of the SeaQualizer alone, plus an unknown number of fish that survived as a result of improved handling techniques.

“Through the FishSmart project, the recreational fishing industry is leading the way to improve the survival of caught-and-released fish and help ensure the future of our sport” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “The FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project represents the continued growth and evolution of this program, which reflects anglers’ and the industry’s longstanding and continued commitment to fisheries conservation.”

One of the key findings of the four regional workshops was that returning saltwater fish caught in deep water to the depth at which they were caught – or as close as possible – can significantly improve their chances of survival. In the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic, many reef fish such as red snapper are being released due to increasingly shorter seasons and higher rates of encounter. Without proper handling techniques, such as use of descending devices, a significant percentage of released fish die, to the detriment of fisheries conservation and future fishing opportunities.

However, since release mortality in recreational fisheries is the culmination of millions of individual encounters between anglers and fish, true conservation benefits will be achieved by empowering individual anglers with information, training and tools to improve the survival of each individual fish that they return to the water.

“Some of the key findings of the project involved the changes that anglers voluntarily made in the way that they released fish,” remarked Mike Leonard, ASA’s Conservation director. “The vast majority of project participants found that information provided on how to properly handle fish improved the way that they release fish.”

Leonard added, “Nearly 75 percent had little or no knowledge of descender devices prior to participating in this project and indicated that are now likely to use a descender device to release most or all fish when needed. This reinforces the well-known fact that anglers are true conservationists at heart: provide them with the tools and techniques to do the right thing and they readily embrace it.”

Additional information about the results of the project are included in this information sheet.

This FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project was the result of numerous partnerships. Major funding support was provided through the American Sportfishing Association, the Brunswick Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NOAA Fisheries, SeaQualizer, LLC, and Grizzly Smokeless Tobacco.  Educational materials and descending devices were distributed through the assistance of partners including Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association. International Game Fish Association, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Georgia Coastal Resources Division, Florida Sea Grant, South Carolina DNR, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Alabama Department of Conservation, and Texas A&M/Harte Research Institute.

Saturday
Oct072017

What the Second Amendent Really Is All About

As an argument for gun control, the Left likes to tell us that the Founding Fathers never envisioned the Second Amendment applying to weapons that we have today.

Horse hockey.

Actually, our Founding Fathers never envisioned full-time politicians and  a permanent political class.

They created the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, to protect inalienable rights for citizens, reserve most governing decisions to the states, and restrict federal government to specific enumerated powers.  

How do you think the Founding Fathers would feel about a federal income tax? About the IRS, which targets the political opposition of those in power? About a Supreme Court that no longer just interprets law, but redefines words, including "marriage"?

How do you think the Founding Fathers would feel about a bloated federal government with nearly 3 million employees, including thousands of unelected, career bureaucrats in control of so much of our lives, including education and health care? Since the founding of this country, the federal government has grown inexorably, like a cancer, moving ever closer to the tyrannical authority that our Founding Fathers hoped to prevent, but realized was almost an inevitability. That's why they included the Second Amendment. It had nothing to do with the specifics of the firearms themselves.

If Thomas Jefferson could see what's happening today, I think that he would say, "An AR-15? You're worried about an AR-15? Hell, I think that every citizen should have a tank in his garage."

Tuesday
Oct032017

Challenge Takes Bite Out Of Lionfish Threat To Fisheries

Recreational participants removed 8,901 lionfish, and  commercials took 15,800 pounds (about 17,420 lionfish) in the 2017 Lionfish Challenge, sponsored by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). That's 26,321 exotic predators eliminated.

Ken Ayers Jr. of Panama City took home the recreational Lionfish King award with a total of 1,250 lionfish harvested. Joshua Livingston of Destin became Florida’s first Commercial Champion for his efforts in removing 4,560 pounds of lionfish (poundage equates to about 5,027 fish). On top of other prizes earned throughout the Challenge, the two winners were presented with a custom-made Fish Bone Design trophy and a “No Shoes Reefs” Engel 85 cooler.

A total of 120 recreational and commercial harvesters participated in the statewide lionfish removal incentive program, which ran from Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day May 20 (first Saturday after Mother’s Day annually) through Sept. 4.

FWC's partners in this effort included  34 dive shops that served as checkpoints for recreational submissions, as well as Engel Coolers, ZombieStickz Lionfish Eliminator and Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium.

"While this year’s Lionfish Challenge may be over, there are still plenty of other great programs that encourage lionfish removal," FWC said.

Check out the new  Reef Rangers website, which launched in early September. Participants who adopt a reef soon will receive a Reef Rangers Lionfish Control Team T-shirt and tank sticker.

Learn more about lionfish  at MyFWC.com/Lionfish.

Monday
Oct022017

Toyota ShareLunker Program Goes New Year Around, Starting Jan. 1

After more than 31 years of collecting and spawning 13 pound or larger "lunker" largemouth bass, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) Toyota ShareLunker Program is announcing big changes and an expanded mission in an effort to better engage the public in the promotion and enhancement of lunker bass fishing in Texas public waters.

The ShareLunker participation season will now run each year from Jan.1 through Dec. 31; a change from previous seasons. But similar to last year, only those entries collected between Jan. 1 – March 31 will be accepted as broodstock for spawning.

"This provides the greatest opportunity to obtain eligible fish for spawning while minimizing the risk of additional handling and possible mortality," said Kyle Brookshear, ShareLunker program coordinator.

Outside of the spawning window, the new year-round participation season will allow for anglers catching bass 8 pounds or larger to submit information about their catch through a web application in four categories: 8 pounds or larger, 10 pounds or larger, 13 pounds or larger and 13 pounds or larger with a spawning donation.

The goal is to increase the number of participants in the Toyota ShareLunker program and expand large fish catch rate data for fisheries biologists, Brookshear said. As a bonus, the new size categories open up more ways for anglers to receive prizes and incentives for participating.

"This citizen scientist initiative will allow fisheries biologists to better monitor the impact of ShareLunker stockings across Texas and provide more incentives and opportunities for Texans to help us make our bass fishing bigger and better than ever," Brookshear said.

Other spawning program changes include converting the entire hatchery broodstock to pure-Florida ShareLunker offspring. Genetically pure offspring will be maintained on the hatchery, grown to adulthood, then distributed to production hatcheries and used as broodstock. Eventually, all hatchery-held Florida largemouth bass broodstock will be descendants of ShareLunkers, Brookshear said.

Additionally, attempts will be made to spawn all donated eligible ShareLunkers — regardless of the degree of genetic introgression. Offspring of female genetic intergrades will be combined and stocked back to the source locations for all ShareLunker entries for the year.

"People come to Texas from all over the country for our lunker bass fishing, and it's still very rare to catch a 13 pounder," said Mandy Scott, Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center director. "So that's why ShareLunker is special. We learned a long time ago that these fish were important and we wanted to try to capitalize on the big fish that we have in Texas already and make fishing even bigger and better."

Brookshear said the program will announce the full list of changes and the new prizes closer to the beginning of the season, but anglers can also look forward to a complete rebranding of the program to include a new logo, graphics, and eventually more ShareLunker Weigh Stations to aid in the weigh-in process. Additionally, education and outreach specialists at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center are developing ShareLunker science curriculum for Texas classrooms.

For complete information and rules of the ShareLunker program, tips on caring for big bass and a recap of last year's season, go here. The site also includes a searchable database of all fish entered into the program. Or follow the program on social media.

The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a long-time supporter of the Foundation and TPWD, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.