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Saturday
May092015

I'm field testing some great looking Snag Proof frogs. Sure wish that I had some grass in waters close to home. But as you can see, grass isn't always necessary! Here are some tips from Snag Proof on fishing its baits:

Fish the lures slowly… in most cases, the slower you fish them the better.

Twitch your rod tip frequently, even with lures such as the minnow with built-in action. This breaks up the retrieve and makes the lure behave erratically, often enticing fish strike.

Pause frequently on the retrieve. Let lure settle down, then begin retrieve again. This imitates a live animal cautiously moving through the water. Fish will often hit just at the moment you stop or start the retrieve.

If the fish misses the lure, cast right back to the spot where he struck, he’ll hit again. Same methods work along brushy shorelines and stump-filled inlets. Try it!

Cast lure on top of rocks, stumps, pads, brush or shoreline… let it fall into the water like a lizard, or small animal or bug.

Cast Past the Bass — casting directly to lone stumps, stick-ups or other structures can often startle resting bass lying near the surface. Cast your lure well beyond the structure, then use the pause/retrieve method to bring your lure right past the stick-up for better results.

When fish strikes… hold on! Lower your rod tip and wait 2 seconds, reel ‘til you feel the fish, then strike back! This gives the fish a chance to sort the lure out of the weeds, or moss that it may have grabbed along with the lure. The soft lure body completely fools the fish. They’ll run with it like live bait! Fish won’t spit it out like hard plugs.

Positive Hooking. The Double hook is exposed when the lure is hit from any angle. It won’t turn sideways or pull out like a single hook and weedguard. Keep your hooks sharpened and ready for action.

 

Thursday
May072015

No Surprise: Big Bass Are Lazy

 

While researching the genetic influence of introduced Florida bass on a small fishery in East Texas, scientists noted something unexpected and especially interesting for bass anglers.

Bass seem to grow bigger when they have a small home range and don’t move much.

“We had lots of variability within the bass population,” said Dr. Brian Graeb, a biologist at South Dakota State University and part of the research team for 125-acre Grand Lake at Eagles Nest Preserve east of here. “We began studying why. We started to look at habitat use and movement by putting radio telemetry into 40 bass and did an 18-month study on home ranges of movement.”

As he tracked the bass, Ph.D. student Jason Breeggeman discovered that some areas of the lake were heavily used, while others were not. He also noted a wide variance in how far bass swam.

“The smallest mover had a home range of about 50 yards, and this is what we would normally expect,” Graeb explained. “But we began to see bass the used the entire lake, routinely zipping over a mile to each end of the lake. In 24 hours, one bass swam 1.4 miles and we had one go more than 2 miles.

“These were very unexpected results.”

In trying to figure out why some stayed home and others didn’t, they scanned the bottom of the lake, seeing that much of the woody cover had disintegrated. With remaining habitat limited and occupied, some bass had no choice but to move to find food.

“We determined habitat was the most limiting factor in this lake,” Graeb said. “It was like we had a bunch of marathon runners and we wanted couch potatoes. The bass were skinny by having to swim so far.”

Researchers now have added artificial habitat from Mossback to form “fish cities” throughout the lake and will monitor the results.

“The goal is to try and decrease fish activity, decrease their home range and increase consumption,” the biologist said. “Our target is between 20- and 40-percent coverage of the lake. Currently, we have 22 fish cities and 13-percent habitat coverage with a plan to increase annually. We want to see if too much habitat begins to be too much of a good thing.”

The project began in 2011, with a goal of determining how best to grow a 15-pound bass by maximizing genetic potential and other variables.

“We came up with a strategy for trophy fish management based on age, habitat, nutrition and genetics,” Graeb said. “These are all barriers that must be overcome to grow big fish.”

After learning that genetics were favorable, scientists noted that bass diet consisted of nearly an equal amount of crawfish and forage fish. They also observed that the fish first put on weight quickly, but then leveled off as they aged. Eventually, they saw that some of the fish were fat, while others were skinny, which led to the discovery about movement.

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

Wednesday
May062015

Support Research About How to Properly Handle Bass

 We need to know more about how to properly handle bass, especially big bass. The following provides some compelling evidence.

On March 18, Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPW) posted this on its ShareLunker Facebook page:

“Three of this year’s five ShareLunkers have come in with broken jaws.Two have died. The other has been returned to the lake.The only explanation we have for the broken jaws is fish being held vertically by the lower jaw. 

“Broken jaws can kill fish in two ways. An infection can start at the break and invade other organs. Or, the fish may not be able to feed and will starve.”

TPW offers good advice on how to properly handle these trophy fish, but we need to know more about how to properly handle bass of all sizes and then we need to spread the word. If you doubt that, just consider the many photos you see of anglers improperly holding bass horizontally by the lower jaw. Even much smaller fish can be hurt this way.

Want to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem? Don’t hold bass horizontally unless you place one hand under the belly to support its weight. And donate to this important research in Florida.

The main objective is to test whether different handling techniques influence the jaw function of Florida largemouth bass. “We hypothesize that improper handling could influence feeding effectiveness and jaw mechanics, as well as fish survival.”

Your support is needed to fund a scholarship through the Fisheries Conservation Foundation for a graduate student to conduct the experiment in the research lab at the Florida Bass Conservation Center near Webster, Florida. “Your support also will go towards travel expenses to the hatchery for the student and outreach materials so we can communicate our results to the bass angling community.

Tuesday
May052015

Pitch Those Plastic Baits Properly

I never tossed used plastic baits into the water. It just didn’t make sense to me. They are no more food for fish than the wrapper from peanut butter crackers or a soda can.

But I saw other people do it, including friends and even some professional anglers. If those discarded baits were in reach before they sank, I’d nonchalantly pick them up and stow them to throw away later on shore. Yet I never said anything to them for a number of reasons, including the fact that often I was fishing out of their boats.

Others, I suspect, have had similar experiences with their fishing buddies.

Why do people who wouldn’t otherwise litter think that it’s okay to pitch used baits into our lakes and rivers? I don’t think that they do. I believe that they just don’t think about it at all. It’s part of the age old problem that we have with using our public waters for trash receptacles--- out of sight, out of mind.

But those discarded baits show up eventually. They’re washed ashore. They’re exposed on the lake bottom during low water. Or, less commonly, they’re found in the stomachs of fish.

When people who don’t fish see this plastic litter, they shake their heads in disgust and view all of us as thoughtless slobs, even though in reality, only a few are responsible.

Still, this is an anglers only problem. We are the only ones who use those baits, and, consequently, we are the only ones who discard them.

And if we don’t take care of the problem on our own, non-anglers will, with possibly catastrophic consequences for those of us who love to fish. Foreshadowing of what could lie ahead nationally occurred in Maine last year, with an attempt to ban soft plastic baits.

Here and there, a few conscientious anglers have addressed the problem in recent years. Up in Minnesota, Mickey Goetting of the Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation melts and molds used baits into new ones. Carl Wengenroth at Lake Amistad does the same with River Slung Lures.  And in Florida, state conservation director Eamon Bolten has founded ReBaits, a recycling program that he hopes to expand.

But we’ve needed more, and now we have it, thanks to Keep America Fishing (KAF), the grassroots angler advocacy arm of the recreational fishing industry. The new national campaign is labeled, appropriately enough, “Pitch It,” and it has no less than Kevin VanDam as a spokesman.

“There’s no excuse for throwing anything in the water that isn’t going to break down immediately,” said VanDam. “A crusty sandwich is one thing, but old plastics, fishing line, or any tackle should be carried to shore at the end of the day.

“We have to lead by example.”

Industry leaders at the American Sportfishing Association recognized the need for a national effort because of what happened in Maine, according to Liz Ogilvie, KAF director.

“However, we would like to extend the campaign beyond soft plastic baits to address trash of any type littering our nation’s waterways.

“Our industry has stepped up to take the initiative to tackle this problem head-on and demonstrate that recreational anglers are --- as always--- the best stewards of our nation’s waterways.”

Anglers also buy more than $490 million worth of soft plastic baits a year, nearly double the amount of the next most widely sold lure type, according to Southwick Associates. Additionally, more than 57 percent of those who bought lures in 2014, included soft plastics in their purchases. In other words, plastic baits are indispensable for both fishermen and industry.

On the negative side, University of Wisconsin students in 2009 calculated that 25 million pounds of baits end up in lakes, rivers, and streams annually, while Maine Inland Fisheries put the amount at 20 million pounds.

Both the positive and the negative stats underscore the importance of anglers supporting the Pitch It campaign. Please, go to www.pledgetopitchit.org and pledge to dispose of your used baits in a recycling canister or the trash, instead of the water.

And if you see someone throwing baits in the water or on the ground, speak up. We’ve been silent about this long enough.

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

Monday
May042015

Lionfish Threat Continues to Spread

As harmful invasive fish species, Asian carp seem to garner most of the headlines, mostly because of the threat that they pose to the Great Lakes.  But the lionfish, a marine invader from the Pacific Ocean, is decimating native species through much of the Caribbean, as well as spreading up the Atlantic coast and across the Gulf of Mexico. (See previous post.)

And now it’s been discovered off the coast of Brazil, which suggests the entire  coast of South America likely will be invaded.

“When the researchers analysed the fish’s DNA, they found that it matched the genetic signature of the Caribbean lionfish population, and not that of specimens from their native Indo-Pacific region. This suggests that the fish may have reached Brazil through natural larval dispersal from the Caribbean, the study’s authors say,” reports Nature.

“But Mark Hixon, a marine ecologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, says that ocean currents typically flow in the wrong direction for larval dispersal from the Caribbean to the southeastern Brazilian coast. He says that it is just as likely that the lionfish was brought to Brazil by humans. ‘Lionfish are easy to capture and make beautiful pets,’ says Hixon. ‘It’s easy to imagine boaters carrying lionfish as short-term pets in bait tanks or other containers on their vessels.’”

The Invasive Species Action Network adds this:

“Lionfish are vicious predators that eat any fish or invertebrate they can fit in their mouth. They reproduce easily and the rate at which they have expanded their range shows that they are thriving in this environment. With no predators in our waters they are rapidly impacting many habitats.

“Humans can have an impact. Fortunately, lionfish are very tasty and many restaurants have added them to the menu. In many areas concentrated spearfishing is keeping local populations in check but this is not a practical method of control across their range. In the USA, NOAA is the lead agency on this problem and they are the best source for lionfish information and research.

“NOAA has recently released the draft National Invasive Lionfish Prevention and Management Plan While the plan is still in draft form, it is scheduled to be approved at the next meeting of the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force meeting scheduled for the first full week in May.”