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Congress Considers Future for Gulf Red Snapper Fishery

The future of red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico was on the line yesterday in Washington, D.C, as the House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans will debated HR. 3094--- the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act. This legislation, sponsored by Garret Graves (R-La.), would shift management of red snapper from the federal government and allow the states to manage the entire fishery.

 “We learned a few things in today’s hearing, but the take-home message is that federal management of the Gulf red snapper remains mired in chaos," said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, following the haring.

"We learned that the recreational angling community and all five Gulf States stand united in favor of state management of red snapper. Despite a wave of pre-hearing propaganda, we learned that most charter operators are in favor of the state management because they, too, want an end to the current federal management program of privatization."

Meanwhile, NOAA wants anglers to ignore what they see every day in the Gulf, Angers said, adding that the federal agency "asked Congress to believe that the snapper stock is still only half rebuilt and will not fully recover until 2032."

In other words, the federal government wants to continue to deny reasonable access to recreational anglers, continuing seasons that are 10 days or possibly even shorter. Meanwhile, using  a "catch shares" strategy of divide and conquer in privatizing a public resource, it is supported by the commercial fishing industry and a small group of charter captains who are guaranteed "shares" of the fishery.

"The management agency for every Gulf state has come to the same conclusion as recreational anglers--- federal management of red snapper is a failure," Angers said.

"Recreational anglers--- the people who go fishing on weekends and holidays with their kids and families--- have no voice in federal fisheries management. The recreational community is united in its conviction that the states will bring balance back into the red snapper fishery to do what is necessary to manage it both for the benefit of everyone - commercial, for-hire and recreational anglers--- and for the health of the resource."

Businesses have "relentlessly manipulated the federal system and have already been given personal ownership of a percentage of the red snapper fishery or are on their way to being gifted a share to use as their own, however and whenever they want," said Sport Fishing.

“It is not fair that America’s sportsmen who voluntarily give $1.5 billion annually toward rebuilding fish species and protecting their habitat are being kept at the water’s edge now that the snapper population is healthy again," Angers said.

“Congress should act quickly to pass this important measure that will give legal recognition to the historic cooperative agreement by the Fish and Wildlife agencies of the five Gulf States -- Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas -- to assume management of the Gulf red snapper.”


Century-Old Smallmouth Record Broken in Michigan

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has just confirmed a new state-record smallmouth bass, breaking a standard that was more than a century old.

Greg Gasiciel of Rhodes, Michigan. caught the huge bronzeback while casting  a green grub at Hubbard Lake in Alcona County.

The record of 9.33 pounds was verified by Kathrin Schrouder, a DNR fisheries biologist in Bay City. The fish was 24.5 inches long.

“This is additional evidence that Michigan truly has world-class bass fisheries,” said Jim Dexter, Department of Natural Resources Fisheries chief. "Smallmouth bass is one of the most popular, most sought-after sportfish in North America. Even though the Michigan state record stood for more than 100 years, we're excited to see the bar set even higher for those who set out to land this iconic fish."

The previous state record for smallmouth bass was set in 1906 with a 9.25-pound, 27.25-inch fish taken from Long Lake in Cheboygan County. Records show this fish was caught by W.F. Shoemaker.

State records are recognized by weight only. To qualify for a state record, fish must exceed the current listed state-record weight and identification must be verified by a DNR fisheries biologist.



Banning Fishing Won't Save Coral in Biscayne National Park

Too many in this country, especially anglers, fail to recognize that the anti-fishing movement is strong and going stronger, not only in private organizations such as PETA, but in federal government. Right now, anti-fishing elements in both groups are strategizing together about how to establish National Marine Monuments that would prohibit recreational fishing off the New England coast

The National Park Service (NPS)  already has closed portions of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and now it's going after a recreational fishing ban on part of Florida's Biscayne National Park, under the pretense of protecting coral.

 But because its decisions affect just one part of the country at a time, outrage regarding its actions usually is limited to those personally affected by the loss of access and the fishing industry in general, which tries its best to awaken anglers to this threat.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen exposed how anti-fishing proponents have corrupted NPS management in her recent critique of its proposal.

"Putting a no-fishing zone at the forefront of Biscayne’s coral-protection strategy would seem to suggest that NPS believes fishing is the primary threat to our reefs," she said.

"But scientists have determined that poor water quality and periodic extreme water temperatures are responsible for most coral losses in Biscayne over the last two decades. Furthermore, overfishing is just one of five major threats to Biscayne’s coral reefs that NPS has identified, including reduced freshwater flows into Biscayne Bay, invasive species, water quality/pollution and climate change.

"Knowing this, how can NPS propose that eliminating fishing in 7 percent of park waters will vastly improve the state of park reefs?"

She also correctly contrasts that political move to impose an preservationist ideology with how NPS managers at Everglades National Park properly developed a management.

" Everglades’ GMP (general management plan) has gone through the same tortured process that Biscayne’s has, yet when the final plan was recently released, it was rightly praised by fishermen and environmental groups alike because it was grounded in a consensus-based plan that balanced ecological protection and public access. The plan vastly expands pole/troll zones across Florida Bay to protect vital seagrass beds from boat motors while allowing folks to enjoy fishing and boating in their public waters via dozens of new, marked access routes."

That plan, she correctly pointed out, supports both fish habitat and fishing.

"In Biscayne, the plan lays out a false choice between fish habitat or fishing," she said. "It’s not too late for the Park Service to develop a GMP for Biscayne that can actually deliver the conservation benefits it’s designed to provide, and do so with the support of all stakeholders in our community — the type of GMP that neighboring Everglades National Park recently proposed."


'Under the Bed' Celebrates a Simpler Time

This book isn't about fishing. Rather, it's about growing up during a simpler time, when kids spent most of their free time outside, fishing, riding bicycles, playing baseball, sleigh riding, and enjoying other physical activities instead sitting in their rooms, glued to electronic devices.

Under the Bed: Tales From an Innocent Childhood is the third book of mine published by NorLights Press, and joins Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen and Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature. All are available at Amazon and from other booksellers.


Here's more about the new book:

As young children we were certain a monster lived under the bed, waiting to nibble our bare toes. Another monster lurked inside the closet after dark. This book is about that time in our lives—but not about the monsters. The essays in Under the Bed refer to the bittersweet loss of innocence that occurs as we grow up.

Collectively, this book of essays is a celebration of childhood innocence; a mixture of nostalgia and humor. It’s about visits to Grandma’s house and chasing chickens. It’s about collisions with immovable objects, ill-advised pyrotechnics, and the exquisite agony of discovering the opposite sex.

Under the Bed is about growing up during a time when parents had to call you inside at the end of long summer evenings, instead of trying to make you close the online games and go out. It’s about growing up during a time when kids left the phone at home and devoted all their attention to what they were doing and who they were with. If you grew up during a simpler era, these essays will help you recall, relive, and enjoy the humor and innocence of childhood. If you didn’t, they will help you understand what life was like for your parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and teachers.


Fishing Leads Children to Love of Outdoors, Active Lifestyle

 More than  2.4 million people enjoyed their first angling experiences in 2014, while 46 million overall went fishing, according to the recently released 2015 Special Report on Fishing.

"Recreational fishing is an essential piece of America's outdoor tradition, often leading children to love of the outdoors and a healthy, active lifestyle, said Chris Fanning, executive director of the Outdoor Foundation, which co-authored the report with the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF).

"We hope this report will help the fishing industry--- and the entire outdoor industry--- engage young fishing participants and ultimately create the next generation of passionate outdoor enthusiasts."

Reflective of how important it is to take kids fishing, the report revealed that more than 85 percent of adult anglers were introduced to the sport before age 12. Additionally, 4.3 million youth said that they would like to try fishing.

While running/jogging remains the most popular outdoor activity for adults, as measured by total participants and total number of annual outings, recreational fishing remains a strong second.

Other findings include the following:

  • More than 47 percent of first-time participants were female
  • Nearly 82 percent of fishing trips involved more than one person
  • 81 percent of fishing trips are spontaneous or planned within a week of travel
  • Hispanic fishing participants average 25.8 days on the water per year,  six days more than the average for all fishing participants (19.4 days)
  • Spending time with family and friends continue to be the largest reason to participate in fishing

"Fishing remains a popular outdoor activity and with increasing numbers of newcomers, we look to growing overall participation in the future, securing critical support for state conservation efforts," said Frank Peterson, president and CEO of RBFF.