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Wednesday
Jul292015

Anglers Should Support Improving Magnuson-Stevens

As progress is made to better manage the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery, with the likelihood of more angling opportunities for recreational anglers, the Environmental Defense Fund and others who want to restrict access are stepping up their well-funded opposition.

That's why Jeff Angers at the Center for Coastal Conservation encourages fishermen  to talk to their elected officials  during August, urging them to support improving the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

He also points out that, despite its misleading name, the Charter Fisherman's Association does not represent most charter captains in the Gulf.

Here's more from Angers:

In the last six weeks, we’ve made more progress toward improving the Magnuson-Stevens Act on behalf of recreational anglers than at any time in the last six years. 

When you look at how far we’ve come -- passage by the full U.S. House of Representatives of Magnuson-Stevens modernization, approval by the Senate Commerce Committee of the Rubio-Nelson Fisheries Management bill, and introduction just last week of Rep. Garret Graves’ H.R.3094 bipartisan legislation to recognize the Gulf States’ historic cooperative plan for improved red snapper fishery management -- there’s no question we are gaining major yardage.
 
That’s why the shrill rhetoric of our adversaries is reaching new heights.
 
Vastly unpopular in the Gulf region, the Environmental Defense Fund must operate under pseudonyms. One alias (of many) is the “Charter Fisherman’s Association.” Heavily funded by the Washington mega-lobbyists at EDF, when CFA speaks, it’s EDF money doing the talking -- and this week, they’ve been doing a lot of it.
 
My friend Bob Zales is the well-known president of the Panama City Boatmen Association with real-life bona fides as president of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO).

Bob’s perspective: “If you poll the 1,300 federally permitted charter vessel owners in the Gulf, over two-thirds would support the proposed five Gulf State plan and legislation recently introduced in the House.” 

Zales added, “Charter Fisherman's Association is an Environmental Defense Fund-created and -funded association to help push the EDF agenda.  Their membership does not represent the majority of charter boat owners in the Gulf.  They are heavily financed by EDF so are able to make a lot of noise in key areas.  The grassroots charter boat owners are not able to be heard as loudly since they cannot afford to travel to D.C., all of the Gulf Council meetings, or areas where a few who are financially supported can.”

Zales speaks the truth. Federally permitted charter owners know, just like we do, that federal Gulf red snapper fishery management is badly broken. These hard-working folks are no more supportive of the status quo than we are, and they trust the states to do a better job, just like we do. 

Still, EDF’s money buys a lot of talk and we have to make sure our representatives and senators hear the truth.
 
We’re making progress, but we can’t stop now.  Now is the time to redouble our efforts to seek out our elected representatives when they conduct town hall meetings or hold office hours during the upcoming August Congressional Recess.
 
Tell your elected representatives how important it is to modernize the Magnuson-Stevens Act so recreational anglers like us can have a fair shake.  Remind them of the jobs we create and the money we contribute to fisheries conservation.
 
Tell them, “I fish -- I fish and I vote."

Monday
Jul272015

Florida Bass Stocked in Roosevelt Lake

With assistance from anglers, Arizona continued its efforts to improve one of its most important bass fisheries this spring by stocking 40,000 Florida-strain fingerlings. Release of these three-to-six-inch fish follows stocking of about one million fry since April 2014.

“Although the fingerlings cost around $70,000, their survival rate is exponentially higher than that of fry, which, along with the addition of artificial fish habitats, should help Arizona Game & Fish (AGF) continue its Roosevelt Lake revitalization efforts,” said Don McDowell, conservation director for Arizona B.A.S.S. Nation and host of the “Shake, Rattle & Troll” radio show.

While Florida donated the fry, with AGF paying only for shipping, angler donations helped the state pay for the fingerlings, McDowell added.

With a survival rate of 15 to 20 percent, the fingerlings should start to reach catchable size in 18 months.

“We hope that within the next 5 to 10 years anglers can enjoy higher numbers of trophy bass and memories that come out of Roosevelt Lake,” said Chris Cantrell, fisheries chief. “This effort should also have a positive economic impact on local communities.”

Anglers and fisheries managers hope that the stockings will help reverse an alarming decline in the bass population, noted during electrofishing surveys.  In 2008, biologists caught 44 bass per hour, but only 11 during 2013. Additionally, bluegill and crappie numbers declined as well.

A definitive cause is uncertain, but gizzard shad first appeared in the 13,000-acre reservoir several years ago, and since then the population has exploded. Unlike threadfin, gizzard shad grow too large for many bass to eat, and biologists suspect they are crowding out other fish with both their numbers and biomass. The hope is that larger Florida bass will help take a bite out of the problem.

Monday
Jul272015

Early Warning System Created for Harmful Algal Blooms

Lake Erie algal boom. Photo by Michigan Sea Grant

Four federal agencies have joined forces to create an early warning system for toxic and nuisance algal blooms (HABs) in the Great Lakes and other freshwater systems.

Harmful algal blooms have emerged as a significant public health and economic issue that requires extensive scientific investigation,” said Suzette Kimball, acting director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

USGS, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use satellites to gather color dates from freshwater bodies during scans of the Earth. They then will share the findings with state and local agencies so they can provide public health advisories when needed.

“In addition, the project will improve the understanding of the environmental causes and health effects of these cyanobacteria and phytoplankton blooms in the United States,” NOAA said in a press release.

NOAA added that these blooms are a global problem. “Cyanobacteria (blue-green alga)  is of particular concern because it produces toxins that can kill wildlife and domestic animals and cause illness in humans through exposure to contaminated freshwater and consumption of contaminated drinking water, fish, or shellfish,” it said.

HABs have been on the increase since the mid 1990s, according to Michigan Sea Grant College Program. In the Great Lakes, malfunctioning septic systems, products with phosphates (dishwater detergent) and nitrogen (lawn fertilizers), and urban and agricultural runoff likely have contributed.

“Some scientists also link the increase of harmful algal blooms to the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes and the ability of the mussels to filter feed,” Sea Grant said. “Essentially, they eat the good algae and phytoplankton but release organisms like blue-green algae back into the water intact.”

HABs annually cost the nation about $64 million because of loss of recreational usage, additional treatment for drinking water, and decline in waterfront property values. In August 2014, Toledo, Ohio, an algal bloom in Lake Erie forced Toledo, Ohio, officials to temporarily ban consumption of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents.

The new collaborative network will build on previous NASA ocean satellite sensor technologies created to study microscopic algal communities in the ocean, which play a role in climate change, ocean ecology, and the movement of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and ocean.

Thursday
Jul232015

Put Used Baits and Lines Where They Belong--- In the Trash

Great blue heron hanging by monofilament line. Photo by Robert Montgomery

In general, anglers are good stewards. Because they enjoy the outdoors, they understand that it makes good sense to take care of it. This is especially true with fish care and handling.

As a group, however, we've been a little slow to address the need to properly dispose of used plastic baits and monofilament line. Fortunately, that's changing.

B.A.S.S. first started emphasizing proper disposal of baits a few years ago, and Eamon Bolten followed with the founding of a ReBaits program to recycle those baits. Today, we have  Keep America Fishing's national Pitch It campaign, which encourages anglers to pitch their worn-out baits into trash cans or recycling containers.

Additionally, more states, organizations, and companies are providing recycling bins for discarded monofilament line, both in stores and at boat ramps. Florida is one of the leaders, with its Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program and more than 40 counties providing recycling bins.

"Every day, improperly discarded monofilament fishing line causes devastating problems for marine life and the environment," says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

 "Marine mammals, sea turtles, fish and birds become injured from entanglements, or might ingest the line, often dying as a result.  Human divers and swimmers are also at risk from entanglements and the line can also damage boat propellers.

Dolphn crippled by fishing line. FWC photo

"The Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program is a statewide effort to educate the public on the problems caused by monofilament line left in the environment, to encourage recycling through a network of line recycling bins and drop-off locations, and to conduct volunteer monofilament line cleanup events."

FWC researchers note that clumps of monofilament line are the most common foreign objects found during manatee necropsies. They also point out that birds frequenting piers and other fishing hotspots  often are hooked accidentally when trying to grab bait off an angler’s line. Additionally, discarded monofilament line hanging from trees, piers, and other structures can ensnare birds. Once entangled, birds can have a difficult to impossible time flying and feeding.

“It is not uncommon to find dead pelicans entangled with fishing line and hooks,” said FWC biologist Ricardo Zambrano.

Please, properly dispose of both used baits and fishing line, and encourage others to do so as well. It's the right thing to do for fish and wildlife and the future of the sport that we love so much.

Wednesday
Jul222015

Big Catfish for Cameron Takes June Honors in ODU Contest 

Meet Cameron Jackson (right) from Tennessee, the June winner of the Outdoors Unlimited Magazine's youth angling photo contest.

This catfish (probably a blue) that he's holding with his friend, Jeffrey, weighed 42 pounds.

Camping and fishing with his family along the Tennessee River for the weekend, Cameron decided to put out two limb lines baited with bluegill. When he and Jeffrey went to check them on Monday morning, here's what they found, according to Cameron:

"One was empty. And the other, it looked like it was hung on a log or something. So I started pulling it in by hand, and realized it was a fish.

"I told Jeffrey to hold my phone. So I jumped in the water and got the fish so the line wouldn't break.

"We took it back to where our campsite was . . . We weighed it, and it weighed 42 pounds. Being the true fisherman that I am, we turned it loose. That's one day I'll never forget!"

For winning, Cameron will receive tackle packs from Daiichi Hooks(Blakemore) and Snag Proof Lures, as well as a copy of Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies--- Growing Up With Nature.