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Thursday
Jun292017

Mille Lacs Lake Tops Bassmaster List for 2017

Minnesota’s state motto is “Star of the North,” which seems appropriate seeing Bassmaster Magazine has crowned the state’s second largest lake as the best bass fishery in the nation based on the recent release of the publication’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings.

Mille Lacs Lake, a 132,516-acre natural lake located 100 miles north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, soared to the No. 1 spot after months of research unveiled its unbelievable production of smallmouth bass. Mille Lacs was ranked No. 6 in the nation last year.
 
“This fishery really got our attention last September during the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, when 94 limits of smallmouth were weighed in that topped the 20-pound mark,” explained Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall. “Had that been a four-day event, eventual winner Seth Feider may have topped the 100-pound mark with smallmouth, a feat that has never, ever happened before.”
 
But it takes more than one good event to push a fishery to the top of these rankings.
 
“After months of research and processing data from dozens of sources, we realized that the Angler of the Year event was hardly impressive production for the lake. Thirty-pound limits were weighed in during five team events last fall, including two limits breaking the 36-pound mark. Remember, these are limits of smallmouth. Just incredible,” Hall said.
 
This year, the rankings highlight the Top 12 fisheries in the nation regardless of location. The remaining lakes are ranked within one of four regions (Northeastern, Southeastern, Central and Western), so readers can easily identify the Top 25 lakes nearest them.
 
The Central division, which has been dominated by Toledo Bend Reservoir the past two years (it was the first fishery to be ranked No. 1 more than one time), experienced the biggest shakeup of the rankings. As Mille Lacs took over the No. 1 spot here, Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas also jumped ahead of Toledo Bend (which fell to No. 4 in the region). Lake Erie, fishing out of Buffalo, N.Y., took top honors in the Northeastern division (No. 7 nationally). California’s Clear Lake ended up the best in the West (No. 3 in the nation). As for the Southeastern division, North Carolina’s Shearon Harris Lake topped all other fisheries (No. 4 in the nation).
 
“There are a lot of surprises this year,” Hall admits. “Shearon Harris may be one of the biggest. But this lake produced two limits this year that topped 40 pounds. Can you imagine an 8-pound average?”
 
Other highlights include the comeback of Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, a former No. 1 lake on this list that faced a serious downturn two years ago. This smallmouth factory has climbed back to No. 9 in the nation. New Bullards Bar in California (No. 4 in the Western division) has produced several world-record class spotted bass in the past 12 months, including an 11.25-pounder. South Carolina’s Santee Cooper Lakes (Marion and Moultrie) are again producing near-30-pound limits, earning them the No. 8 spot in the nation and top spot in the Southeastern division.
 
As for bragging rights for the individual state with the most lakes making the Top 100, Texas wins by a long shot. The Lone Star State features 11 lakes that made the cut. California was a distant second, with a still-impressive showing of seven lakes being ranked in the Top 100.
 
Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes will be published in an 11-page section of the July/August issue of Bassmaster Magazine. The complete rankings will also be featured on Bassmaster.com.
 
The Top 12 In The Nation
1. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota [132,516 acres]
2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas [114,500 acres]
3. Clear Lake, California [43,785 acres] 
4. Shearon Harris Lake, North Carolina [4,100 acres]
5. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California [1,153 square miles]
6. Lake Berryessa, California [20,700 acres]
7. Lake Erie, New York [30-mile radius from Buffalo]
8. Santee Cooper Lakes, Marion and Moultrie, South Carolina [110,000 acres and 60,000 acres, respectively]
9. Lake St. Clair, Michigan [430 square miles]
10. Falcon Lake, Texas [83,654 acres]
11. Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York [50-mile stretch]
12. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee [36,240 acres]
 
Central Division
1. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
3. Falcon Lake, Texas
4. Toledo Bend Reservoir, Texas/Louisiana [185,000 acres]
5. Lake Palestine, Texas [25,560 acres]
6. Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin [4,945 acres]
7. Newton Lake, Illinois [1,775 acres]
8. Lake Ray Roberts, Texas [29,350 acres]
9. Lake Oahe, South Dakota/North Dakota [370,000 acres]
10. Lake Amistad, Texas [64,900 acres]
11. Lake Fork, Texas [27,690 acres]
12. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri [54,000 acres]
13. Caddo Lake, Texas/Louisiana [25,400 acres]
14. Squaw Creek Reservoir, Texas [3,275 acres]
15. Table Rock Lake, Missouri [43,100 acres]
16. Lake Texoma, Texas/Oklahoma [89,000 acres]
17. Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas [34,300 acres]
18. Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, Oklahoma [46,500 acres]
19. Lake Waco, Texas [8,465 acres]
20. Millwood Lake, Arkansas [29,500 acres]
21. Lake Bistineau, Louisiana [15,500 acres]
22. Lake Ouachita, Arkansas [40,324 acres]
23. Mississippi River Pools 4-10, Minnesota/Wisconsin [from Lake City past La Crosse]
24. Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas/Missouri [45,000 acres]
25. Okoboji Chain of Lakes, Iowa [12,687 acres]
 
Northeastern Division
1. Lake Erie, New York
2. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
3. Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York
4.  Lake Erie, Ohio [30-mile radius of Sandusky]
5. Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont [490 square miles]
6. Saginaw Bay, Michigan [1,143 square miles]
7. Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan [32 miles long, 10 miles wide]
8. Burt/Mullett lakes, Michigan [17,120 acres and 16,630 acres, respectively]
9. Bays de Noc, Michigan [Escanaba to Little Summer Island]
10. Lake Charlevoix, Michigan [17,200 acres]
11. Cayuga Lake, New York [38 miles long, 3 1/2 miles wide]
12. Oneida Lake, New York [79.8 square miles]
13. China Lake, Maine [3,845 acres]
14. Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia [20,600 acres]
15. Webber Pond, Maine [1,233 acres]
16. Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania [5.8 square miles]
17. Candlewood Lake, Connecticut [5,420 acres]
18. Great Pond, Maine [8,533 acres]
19. Lake Barkley, Kentucky [58,000 acres]
20. Kentucky Lake, Kentucky/Tennessee [160,309 acres]
21. Chautauqua Lake, New York [13,156 acres]
22. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky [65,530 acres]
23. Stonewall Jackson Lake, West Virginia [2,630 acres]
24. Upper Chesapeake Bay, Maryland [The entire bay is more than 64,000 square miles, but the best fishing is in the top one-third.]
25. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire [20 miles long, 9 miles wide]
 
Southeastern Division
1. Shearon Harris, North Carolina
2. Santee Cooper Lakes, South Carolina (Marion and Moultrie)
3. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee
4. Lake Okeechobee, Florida [730 square miles]
5. Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee [43,100 acres]
6. Lake Murray, South Carolina [50,000 acres]
7. Lake Seminole, Georgia/Florida [37,500 acres]
8. Watts Bar Reservoir, Tennessee [39,000 acres]
9. Lake Guntersville, Alabama [69,000 acres]
10. Bay Springs Lake, Mississippi [6,700 acres]
11. Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida (plus Kissimmee Chain of Lakes) [22,700 acres]
12. Cherokee Lake, Tennessee [28,780 acres]
13. Lake Istokpoga, Florida [26,762 acres]
14. Cooper River, South Carolina [30-mile stretch below Lake Moultrie Dam]
15. Stick Marsh/Farm 13, Florida [6,500 acres]
16. Fontana Lake, North Carolina [10,230 acres]
17. Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia/South Carolina [71,000 acres]
18. Wilson Lake, Alabama [15,930 acres]
19. Kenansville Reservoir, Florida [2,500 acres]
20. Lake Wateree, South Carolina [13,250 acres]
21. Lake Hartwell, Georgia/South Carolina [56,000 acres]
22. Kerr Lake, North Carolina/Virginia [50,000 acres]
23. Logan Martin Lake, Alabama [15,263 acres]
24. Lake Lanier, Georgia [38,000 acres]
25. Davis Lake, Mississippi [200 acres]
 
Western Division
1. Clear Lake, California
2. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
3. Lake Berryessa, California
4. New Bullards Bar Reservoir, California [4,790 acres]
5. Saguaro Lake, Arizona [1,264 acres]
6. Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho [25,000 acres]
7. Diamond Valley Lake, California [4,500 acres]
8. Lake Havasu, Arizona/California [19,300 acres]
9. New Melones Lake, California [12,500 acres]
10. Apache Lake, Arizona [2,568 acres]
11. Dworshak Reservoir, Idaho [17,090 acres]
12. Columbia River, Oregon/Washington [191 miles from Portland to McNary Dam]
13. Siltcoos Lake, Oregon [3,164 acres]
14. Roosevelt Lake, Arizona [21,493 acres]
15. Potholes Reservoir, Washington [27,800 acres]
16. Sand Hollow Reservoir, Utah [1,322 acres]
17. Tenmile Lake, Oregon [1,626 acres]
18. Moses Lake, Washington [6,800 acres]
19. C.J. Strike Reservoir, Idaho [7,500 acres]
20. Lake Mohave, Nevada/Arizona [26,500 acres]
21. Brownlee Reservoir, Idaho/Oregon [15,000 acres]
22. Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona [108,335 acres]
23. Elephant Butte Reservoir, New Mexico [36,500 acres]
24. Lake Mead, Nevada/Arizona [158,080 acres]
25. Noxon Rapids Reservoir, Montana [7,700 acres]

Thursday
Jun292017

Council Appointments Show Recreational Fishing, Boating Priorities for Trump Administration

Members of 2017 Regional Fishery Management Council confirm that recreational fishing and boating are important to the Trump Administration, according to advocacy groups.

“Today’s appointments to the Regional Fishery Management Council are exactly what the recreational fishing and boating community needed from the Trump Administration,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy.

“America’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers have been an afterthought for too long, but thanks to the leadership of President Trump and Commerce Secretary (Wilbur) Ross, the tide is changing. It is clear the Administration is committed to making sure America’s public resources remain public and that healthy natural resources are available for future generations.”

Appointments include Steve Heins of New York to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Chester Brewer of Florida to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and Phil Dyskow of Florida, Dr. Bob Shipp of Alabama, and Dr. Greg Stunz of Texas to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

“The recreational fishing community along the Gulf Coast has found itself at a severe disadvantage in recent years due to an unbalanced Gulf Council,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “The Administration heard our calls for action and they have delivered. We look forward to the progress to come and better access to healthy marine resources for America’s recreational anglers.”

 “The Trump Administration understands the need for balance in our fishery management system because they care about jobs,” said Mike Nussman, president of the American Sportfishing Association.

“Saltwater recreational fishing in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico is the backbone of our industry and supports almost twice as many jobs there as the commercial industry. Creating more balanced Councils in these regions in particular was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Heins is a life-long angler who has worked with both sectors of New York’s fisheries. After 29 years of service, he recently retired from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Heins has a track record of working with the New York fishing community to build consensus and achieve management and policy decisions that are in the best interest of fisheries resources and the people who depend on them.
 
Brewer has more than 35 years of experience with recreational fisheries issues. As a member of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) and Chairman of the Advisory Panel Selection Committee, he has broad knowledge regarding the fisheries in the Southeast region and brings with him experiences from the recreational fishing sector. In addition to his work on the SAFMC, he  serves as Chairman Emeritus for the Florida state chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association, a board member of the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, and a member of the board of the Palm Beach County Fishing Foundation. Previously, he served 10 years as Recreational Advisor to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna - U.S. Section.
 
With diverse knowledge of marine fisheries issues and proven business leadership, Dyskow retired following a successful career with the Yamaha Marine Group, culminating in his 13-year tenure as President. Dyskow has now devoted much of his free time toward fisheries conservation and management efforts. He has served on the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee and on the National Boating Safety Advisory Council.
 
Dr. Shipp is considered one of the foremost experts on red snapper, triggerfish ,and other species of concern to Gulf Coast anglers. He has served on the Gulf Council for 18 years, including as Chairman of the Council, and also has served on the Council’s Science and Statistical Committee. As Chair Emeritus of the Department of Marine Science at the University of South Alabama, he brings a scientific and pragmatic perspective to difficult fishery management issues.
 
Dr. Stunz, one of the foremost authorities on Gulf of Mexico marine science, brings a balanced perspective to federal fisheries issues. Dr. Stunz is the endowed chair for Fisheries and Ocean Health and executive director of the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation at the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. He is also a professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi College of Science and Technology and is an author of more than 40 scientific papers in national and international journals.

Tuesday
Jun272017

Okeechobee Water Storage Reservoir Receives Funding Boost

A bill signed into law by Florida Gov. Rick Scott will provide additional funding and accelerate the strategy to build a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, with the goal of reducing harmful, nutrient-laden releases into coastal estuaries.

"With today's signing of Senate Bill 10, Governor Scott has shown his strong commitment to advancing Everglades restoration," said Kellie Ralston, Florida Fishery Policy Director of the American Sportfishing Association.

Directing excess water south also will help replenish the Everglades and provided much needed freshwater flow into Florida Bay. That occurred naturally before the lake was impounded decades ago to protect towns and farm lands on the south side from flooding, especially during hurricanes.

Enacting Lake Okeechobee Water Resources Legislation has been a top priority of Senate President Joe Negron.

"Thank you to Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their leadership in preserving and protecting Florida's natural resources," said Gary Jennings, Director of Keep Florida Fishing. "This will ensure that Florida remains the 'Fishing Capital of the World' for generations to come."


Meanwhile, plans to build a storage reservoir north of Lake Okeechobee continue to be advanced as well. Late last year, the project team for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project (LOWP) evaluated possible sites for storage and treatment of the nutrient-rich water that flows into the lake from the Kissimmee River watershed.

LOWP is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which is focused on restoration from the Kissimmee River to Florida Bay. CERP was authorized by Congress in 2000 "to restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem, while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection." It's a $10.5 billion project expected to require 35 years for completion.

In addition to considering location options for a reservoir, the project team also is considering aquifer storage and recovery wells. Wetlands restoration is a part of the plan as well, but the emphasis is on storing water, not water quality.

“At the end of the day, we want a project that ultimately will result in Congressional authorization,” said John Campbell, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers. “We know we can do that by focusing on storage.”

He added that the public will invited to review options sometime during 2017. "By 2018, we would select one of those alternatives and start developing details," Campbell said.

Environmental and sportsmen groups argue that a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, with a return to more natural flow, is best way to deal with excess water that has caused algae blooms and fish kills on both coasts. Communities and agricultural interests to the south of the lake generally favor storage on the north end.

Sunday
Jun252017

Sunday
Jun252017

Florida Anglers Asked to Help Monitor Fish Health, Report Kills

With summer here, now more than any other time of year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) needs your help in monitoring fish health by tracking marine and freshwater fish kills in Florida.

Hot weather can cause fish kills, in part because warm water holds less oxygen than cold water. In addition, a lack of rain during hot-weather months can lower water level in lakes and ponds, resulting in poor water quality, increased density of animals and faster use of dissolved oxygen.

Heavy rains can compound the situation by suspending sediments in the water column and by washing vegetation, such as leaves and grass clippings, into the system where they  decompose, burning up oxygen.

Sudden temperature fluctuations or extreme temperatures, meanwhile, can result in fish kills any time of the year. The good news is that most natural water bodies are resilient to fish kill events.

FWC scientists monitor and document these kills and related diseases, as well as other aquatic animal health issues and associated environmental events.

“The public’s involvement is critical to locate, monitor and understand the extent of fish kills. Reporting observations to the hotline ensures a coordinated response to incidents and alleviates public concern,” said Theresa Cody, associate research scientist. “All the data collected from fish kill events are used in conjunction with directed research to further understand the causes of fish kills and disease incidences.”

You can report fish kills at MyFWC.com/FishKill or by calling the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511. You also can submit a report through the “FWC Reporter” app on your iOS or Android mobile devices. It is not necessary to report fish kills in man-made retention or private ponds to the FWC. The Fish Kill Hotline is sponsored in part by a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program grant.