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Friday
Mar132015

What Is Life All About? Go Fishing And Find Out

A friend once told me that when his father was questioned or criticized by his non-hunting friends about his fondness for fishing and hunting, he responded that his pursuits had “much more of an ecological integrity and a biological and cultural basis than their golfing or even attendance at professional sporting events.”

Those wise words have led me to the realization that fishing is just as important as a means as it is an end. Yes, fishing is synonymous with relaxation, catching fish, having fun, and spending time with friends and family. Those are all valuable “ends” that make life better.

But fishing also is the means by which we connect with both our humanity and nature as we pursue those ends. In the outdoors, only hunting and possibly farming are comparable.

Sure, running, biking, swimming, and playing tennis are healthful pastimes, as are hiking, kayaking, and a variety of other pursuits in nature. But none of them transport us so completely into the web of life as fishing and hunting. We might no longer fish or hunt to feed our families, but these pastimes takes us closer to what life is all about than anything else I can think of --- except for maybe getting lost in the wilderness or being pursued by a grizzly bear.

And in getting closer to what life is all about, we implicitly recognize our place in it and, as a consequence, are healthier and happier in our everyday existence.

What is life all about? Go fishing and find out.

Read more in Why We Fish--- Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen.

You also might like Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies--- Growing Up With Nature.

Wednesday
Mar112015

Lionfish Are Malicious But Delicious

Can we eat enough lionfish to keep them from damaging native species and marine ecosystems? Probably not.

But it won’t hurt to try.

Last month, the first “Celebrity Chef Lionfish Challenge” was presented during the annual SeaWeb Seafood Summit, the world’s premier conference on sustainable seafood. Co-hosted by SeaWeb and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF), the Challenge brought together seven top regional chefs to prepare their signature lionfish dishes.

Some of the recipes that they came up with include lionfish succotash, lionfish wreckdriver style, and lionfish with crawfish sauce piquant and creole cream cheese grits. Check out all of them here.

According to NMSF, “While visually stunning, the lionfish is an invasive species plaguing marine ecosystems in U.S. waters, particularly the southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

“As conventional population reduction methods have proven unsuccessful, organizations are innovating. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation  and SeaWeb hope a secret weapon – America’s chefs – will spread the word that lionfish are malicious but delicious.”

Lionfish were first confirmed in U.S. waters in the 1980s and, with few natural predators and a fast breeding cycle, their presence is now permanent. They have had significant impact in the Flower Garden Banks, Florida Keys, and Gray’s Reef national marine sanctuaries.

Reduction of the lionfish population is a priority throughout the ocean community and, among their many functions and services, the sanctuaries serve as sentinel sites for control efforts. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has just released its Lionfish Response Plan. At Flower Garden Banks, NMSF-funded expeditions have removed quantities of the predators and provided data used to improve population control techniques. 

Tuesday
Mar102015

Corps Suspects Anglers, Hunters of Spreading Hydrilla at Kerr lake

Kerr Lake hydrilla

A management plan for hydrilla control at Kerr Lake (Buggs Island) incorporates a “get tough” approach to those who intentionally introduce the fast-growing exotic plant. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of violators.

That’s because rangers and biologists suspect that anglers and waterfowl hunters are intentionally spreading the invasive.

“It is a crime to knowingly or unknowingly spread noxious and invasive vegetation like hydrilla,” said Mike Woman, project manager for the reservoir on the Virginia-North Carolina border.

He added that the notion that introducing the plant is a good idea is “short-sighted.”

Yes, hydrilla attracts bass and ducks, but it rarely can be contained or controlled. It smothers native plants, as it diminishes oxygen levels and water quality with its biomass. Additionally, recent research has revealed that it can play host to an alga that is deadly to waterfowl and predatory birds that eat them, including eagles.

Hydrilla coverage in the 50,000-acre fishery increased by 230 acres to 1,116 in 2014, puzzling biologists. But then a Corps staffer happened upon internet blogs that extolled the benefits of hydrilla for anglers and hunters. That discovery prompted the agency to conclude that a small number of misguided sportsmen are spreading the plant.

In addition to pursuing these violators, the Corps also has incorporated public education, herbicide application, and sterile grass carp into its strategy.

With assistance from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, the agency stocked 13,320 carp during 2013. Another 4,200 were added in 2014, to make up for an estimated 30 percent mortality with the initial stocking and to address the increase in hydrilla.

The Corps also intends to plant colonies of native, beneficial plants. They will be started in cages to prevent predation by carp and turtles.

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

Monday
Mar092015

Support Conservation With a Donation in Memory of Noreen Clough

If you're a bass fisherman and care about conservation and the future of our fisheries, please consider making a donation to the Noreen Clough Memorial Scholarship for Females in Fisheries.

Noreen was National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. and died recently of pancreatic cancer. She was a role model for many, including the B.A.S.S. Nation state conservation directors.

"Noreen was inspiring to me, and I challenge all of you to make a donation. Do it in the name of your club, your state B.A.S.S. Nation organization, your family, or just you, but do it," said Lonnie Johnson, Oregon conservation director, who made a generous donation.

Whitney Jacobs, who served an internship at B.A.S.S. under Noreen, added, "My family also made a donation. Noreen would absolutely love this scholarship. I'm happy to support her the way she supported me!" 

Sunday
Mar082015

'Environmental Extortion' Used in Attempt to Destroy Rodman Reservoir

 

Over the years, environmental groups have tried many tactics to destroy Rodman Reservoir, a world-class bass fishery and popular outdoor recreation area in Florida.

Their latest, however, arguably is the most creative. They have enlisted the aid of the Jacksonville business community to help them put pressure on Florida’s legislature to remove the dam on the Ocklawaha River, a tributary of the St. Johns.

Terms of their odd-couple alliance do not sit well with many, including Save Rodman Reservoir (SRR), which accuses the St. Johns Riverkeeper of using the 9,000-acre impoundment in Putnam County as ransom.

SRR spokesman Kae Andry said, “It is also very troubling and inexcusable that no one in the Putnam County Commission or Putnam County Chamber of Commerce was included in the discussions that led to this coalition of business and environmentalists. Do Palatka and Putnam County not count because they are poor?”

Veteran outdoor writer and Jacksonville resident Bob McNally added this at Jacksonville.com:

“To me, this type of political deal-making is nothing short of environmental extortion, using Rodman Reservoir as a pawn to appease those who want the dam removed, while business and political forces get their way by dredging the lower river from 40 to 47 feet.”

Business interests in Jacksonville want that dredging done so that the city’s port can accommodate new and larger mega-container ships coming through the Panama Canal. The Riverkeeper, however, threatened to sue to prevent the dredging because of environmental concerns.

Discussions followed, and the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville Port Authority, and the City of Jacksonville agreed to work with environmentalists to destroy Rodman in exchange for a go-head on dredging. In other words, taking out the impoundment will be “mitigation” for the damage done on the lower river.

One of the first to sound the alarm about this new threat was Roger Weaver, president of the Jacksonville Johns Bass Trail, a club for jon boats only. He and his members made phone calls and sent e-mails sounding the alarm, including to SRR and B.A.S.S.

“We also went to the Rally for Rodman at the dam,” he said. “And we are putting on a tournament at Kenwood boat ramp on Feb. 15, with 80 percent as prize money and 20 percent going directly to Save Rodman.”

Additionally, the 19th annual Ed Taylor SRR Bass Tournament is set for April 18 at Kenwood Landing, and, with this new attack on Rodman, robust attendance is critical for this annual fund-raiser.

The tournament is named in honor of SRR’s long-time leader, who died in late 2013. Larry Harvey, the new president admits that filling Taylor’s shoes as Rodman champion will be difficult, but he looks forward to the challenge.

“We are reorganizing many areas of Save Rodman,” he said. “We have a great board and great support people ready for us to call when the battle begins.

“The battle that I am speaking of is the battle to stop those who want to tear up this wonderful ecosystem . . . The reservoir is vital to the residents of Florida, Putnam County, and Marion County. It provides jobs, recreation, food, a beautiful place to live, and a peaceful existence.”

Additionally, he added, Rodman features abundant wetlands that act as a filter for the water before it flows through the dam and into the St. Johns River.

More than 50 years ago, Rodman was built as part of an ill-conceived Cross Florida Barge Canal, which was intended as a shortcut for ships going from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico. The project was killed well before completion, but the reservoir on the Ocklawaha River remained.

For more than two decades, environmental groups have lobbied and petitioned for the dam to be destroyed and the river “restored.” SRR was created to defend the impoundment which has become a wildlife magnet, one of the state’s most popular recreation areas, and  a trophy bass fishery. Additionally, it appears more and more likely that reservoir will be needed for public water supply as the state’s population continues to grow.

But all of those benefits mean nothing to the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Defenders of the Environment, and now, evidently, the City of Jacksonville.

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