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Monday
Aug142017

Anglers Paying More to Access Public Waters

Fishermen don't like paying fees to launch their boats, park their vehicles, and participate in tournaments at public facilities on public waters. Even more, they don't like that those fees are increasing in places where they've already been established and being added in locations that once were cost-free.

As  Harvey Craft has learned, however, mostly all anglers want to do is complain about it. For years the Tennessee man who calls Percy Priest his home water has been trying to get fishermen and clubs to speak out in protest at being charged fees to use facilities that were paid for with taxpayer dollars.

But they're "not interested in doing a letter-writing campaign or anything else," he said. "They're willing to either pay the money or go to a (another) public ramp and just take their chances of hopefully not being broken into. Mainly, they just complain to each other."

Media and politicians aren't especially interested either, he said, with the latter adding that there's little they can do about it.

Although Craft had noted costs going up on other waters, what finally stirred him to action was new ownership at Four Corners Boat Dock on Percy Priest, a Corps of Engineers impoundment, which started charging $5 to launch. Now, it's $8.

Additionally, he said, "We've watched 50 to 60 spaces for vehicles/trailers reduced to 13."

Over on Norris Lake, a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) reservoir, an angler on the East Tennessee Fishing Forum was complaining about a $20 launch fee at Stardust Marina nearly eight years ago.

 "Many of the marina operators are shunning local folks, especially fishermen," he said. "They say fishermen don't spend money and they really don't want us. Some of the marinas don't even allow public launch at all."

On Kerr Lake, also known as Buggs Island, the Corps charges non-profit fishing tournaments $25 for under 25 boats, $50 for 26-100 boats, and $75 for more than 100 "to cover costs incurred by the Corps." For-profit competitors must pay $75 regardless of the size of the event on this fishery that straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border. Additionally, each vehicle using a Corps launch ramp must pay $5 per vehicle per day.

"By this point, I assume it will take many folks writing or calling their elected officials in Washington to get this stopped," Craft said.

Sorry to say, I don't think even that will stop it. The sad reality is that the recreational facilities built on Corps- and TVA-managed land require maintenance. Faced with cutting down on their own operating costs to stay within budget or closing public access areas, these agencies have turned over management of marinas, and their associated launch ramps and parking spaces, to commercial operators. The latter are in business to make a profit, and they also have maintenance costs.

"The Corps has allowed marina operators to charge a launching fee since 1993, just as the Corps has authorization by public law to charge a launching fee at its launching ramps," said Corps spokesperson Carolyn Bauer.

"The ramps, roads, and parking at the marina were constructed at federal taxpayer expense. However, ongoing maintenance is the responsibility of the marina operator. The docks and other structures were constructed at the marina operator's expense."

For TVA, it's much the same. "Commercial marina and campground operators can choose to charge for the use of their ramps or include a fee for the ramp use in their camping/marina fees," said Jim Hopson, manager of public relations. "This helps reimburse the commercial marinas for the capital improvements they make."

In sympathizing with Craft, Michael Butler, CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, pointed out that this arrangement is win-win for the agency and the vendors who operate the facilities, "but the public gets screwed."

He added, "Personally, I think this is something that is a deterrent to more use, especially by tourists and others that can bring money into the state and into rural communities to support our economy."

What, then, is the solution for Craft, who is willing to speak out, and the millions of other anglers, who aren't?

Possibly the Corps and TVA should cede management and/or ownership of public access areas to those states willing to accept them. Almost certainly they would be more interested than are federal agencies and commercial vendors in the happiness of their angling constituencies, as well as in keeping costs down to attract business and help local economies.

Realistically, though, even under state management of these areas, fishermen are going to have to pay to play on Corps and TVA impoundments. That's just the way it is.

Friday
Aug112017

Angler Answers Anti-Tournament Criticism in Minnesota

Jake Lee (left) and Jacob Foutz of Bryan College maintain their lead on the second day of the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops on Lake Bemidji out of Bemidji, Minn., with a two-day total weight of 34 pounds, 10 ounces.

Angry that the Bassmaster College Series National Championship is being held on "his" waters, a Bemidji, Minn., area resident wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. That letter is below, followed by a response from guide Jason  Rylander.

His reply to the anti-tournament comments is spot on, and reveals Rylander to be an excellent spokesman for recreational fishing, tournament style and otherwise.

The letter writer asked good questions, but what offended me, and I suspect many others, is that he already has made up his mind that tournaments are a bad thing and really isn't looking for answers to those questions. HIs anti-tournament bias is a commonly held view in the North, often based on the beliefs that the water is theirs and that fish are to keep and eat.

Letter to the editor: How many fishing tournaments can our local waters handle?

I live on the Mississippi River east of Bemidji. It’s a narrow, serene stretch of water that this morning is crawling with big bass boats. The air smells like gasoline. Promoted by the marketing department at Bemidji State University, the Bassmaster College National Championship fishing tournament is in town.

“Pre-fishing” has begun. Ninety heavy boats. Six full days of fishing ending with the weigh-in on Saturday. So I have questions.

How many fishing tournaments can our local waters handle in one summer? Who decides this? What is effect on water quality of 90 heavy powerboats over six days? What is the relationship of fishing tournaments to the introduction invasive species (zebra mussels, milfoil)? The Bassmaster tourney is catch-and-release, yes, but with what effect on fish kept in live wells the entire day? Do “pro” fisherman ever read studies on delayed fish mortality? And what are the larger messages of the Bassmaster world view?

Expensive boats, high tech equipment, faster-is-better fishing, then leave town? Bemidji State University recently won a major, national award for sustainability. We can do far better by our school, our waters, and our general economic development than these tournaments.

A sign on my dock reads, “Bassmasters Not Welcome.”

------------

Mr. Weaver, you asked a few questions in your letter to the editor in today's Bemidji Pioneer. Let me answer them the best I can.

1. Lake Bemidji, and its connecting waters, typically only host a few local bass club chapter outings. They don't regularly host any large scale bass tournaments.

2.The DNR issues permits for these tournaments upon approval; including all of the local walleye derbies held on Lakes Bemidji and Irvine.

3. The water quality effect of 90 bass boats for 6 days will be minimal. A vast majority of these boats are set up with new motors with higher pollution/efficiency regulations than most of the motors you see go past your dock. The boats are designed for shallow water, and will be forced to respect the no-wake zones.

4. Although I have no research from any studies to back up my opinion here. The tournament anglers will have to follow state laws regarding AIS. In my experience, most avid anglers are more diligent about cleaning their boat, trailer, and live wells than your average boater/pontooner. I'm sure an organization such as Bassmaster is taking all necessary precautions to avoid any spread of AIS.

5. Bass mortality in tournaments is pretty low. They survive very well in livewells, much better than the walleyes. The study I found with the highest delayed mortality rate was 27%. This isn't good, I'll admit that. There wasn't a study available that I could find for MN tournaments though. I was happy to hear that Bassmasters is providing release boats that will be releasing the fish back near the waters they were caught from.

6. I don't know much at all about the Bassmaster larger message, aside from they are promoting angling, getting kids outdoors, and providing an awesome competition for college anglers. Aside from maybe making a few bucks and employing a handful of people, I am unaware of any hidden agendas.

Mr. Weaver, I disagree with your letter to the editor. I believe events like this are great for the community, bring extra income in for local businesses, and the exposure the area will get is far worth it. I've heard that the television airing will be viewed by as many as 5 million people on ESPNU.

These are young people who love fishing, who are promoting the sport of angling, and I think Bemidji is blessed to have them here for a week. Let's have them leave here having felt welcome and with good memories, so that someday they might return with their families to vacation and enjoy all that Bemidji has to offer.

To have them drive past your dock, with your "Bassmasters Not Welcome" sign, is embarrassing. I'm going to make my own sign, "Bassmaster College Anglers Welcome to Bemidji."

Thursday
Aug102017

Ethanol-Related Repairs Increasing, According to Survey

A new survey by Boating Industry magazine says those in the boating industry that manufacture, sell, repair and store recreational vessels are seeing a growing number of problems caused by ethanol-related fuels. Said one Minnesota boat dealer in the survey, “Ethanol fuels are great for our service department but bad for our customers!”

The reader survey results, which appear in the magazine’s July 2017 issue, report that 92 percent of survey respondents said “they have seen damage…caused by ethanol…and more business for the service department.” The most recent results are up from 87 percent from a similar survey last year.

The July feature “Ethanol Still a Significant Challenge, Survey Says,” also reported that “more than 15 percent of readers said that based on what they are seeing in their business, more than half of the necessary repairs are being caused by ethanol-related issues.” Eighty-five percent of survey takers were “very concerned” about the use of E15 (fuel containing up to 15 percent ethanol).

Signed into law in 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires an increasing amount of biofuels, such as corn ethanol, to be blended into the gasoline supply. When it was written, the RFS assumed that America’s use of gasoline would continue to grow. Since 2005, however, gasoline usage has actually declined, which today forces more ethanol into each gallon of gas.

To keep up with the RFS mandate, in 2010 the EPA granted a waiver to allow E15 into the marketplace. However, only fuels containing up to 10 percent ethanol (E10) are permitted for use in recreational boats.

For the nation’s largest advocacy, services and safety group, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), the survey’s results add to urgency to fix the RFS. Said Manager of Government Affairs David Kennedy, “For the people who know boats best, the readers of Boating Industry magazine who work on boats and keep them running so we can all enjoy a great day on the water, ethanol continues be concern. It will remain this way until we fix America’s broken ethanol policy.”

Go to BoatUS.com/gov/rfs.asp for more information on the Renewable Fuel Standard. BoatUS is a member of the Smarter Fuel Future coalition.

Tuesday
Aug082017

New Plan 'a Good Start' for Improving Louisiana Coastal Habitat

A 2017 Coastal Master Plan that will "improve coast-wide habitat for wild crawfish, largemouth bass, alligator, and mottled duck . . . " has been approved by the Louisiana State Legislature. This updated state blueprint prioritizes $50 billion in coastal restoration and risk reduction work during the next 50 years to address land loss, as well as sea level rise and encroachment into marshes.

In arguing for the plan earlier this year, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said, "Save coastal Louisiana, and you save 37 percent of all the coastal marshes in the continental United States. You save the habitat that produces 21 percent of all commercial fisheries' landings by weight in the lower 48 states and is home to approximately 75 percent of all commercially harvested fish species in Louisiana that use our wetlands for at least one stage of their life cycle."

Already, he added, important progress has been made since Hurricane Katrina's devastation in 2005, with more than 31,000 acres of land reclaimed, using more than 115 million cubic yards of material dredged from rivers and the Gulf of Mexico. Also, more than 274 miles of levees have been improved and 52 miles of barrier islands and shorelines restored in a more sustainable fashion.

"It's a good start," he said. "But just a start."

Approval of the 2017 plan received enthusiastic praise from a coalition of local and state conservation organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

In a joint statement, they said, “The 2017 Coastal Master Plan process is truly an innovative, unparalleled effort that all Louisianans can be proud of--- and our state desperately needs to implement the plan as quickly as possible. The master plan is grounded in science, balances coastal restoration with protection, and is publicly-informed. Louisiana has again provided a model for how coastal communities around the world can adapt to land loss, rising seas, increased storms and other climate change challenges.

“With sediment diversions as a cornerstone of the master plan, Louisiana stands ready to harness the power of the strongest tool available to build and sustain land – the Mississippi River. The state should continue this momentum by constructing sediment diversions as quickly as possible and take advantage of this amazing resource that is being wasted."

Friday
Aug042017

Trik Fish Introduces Fluorocarbon For Flipping, Pitching

Stealth fishing just got stealthier with new Flippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon line by Trik Fish, a company in Clermont, Fla., owned by my good friend Dave Burkhardt.

 Just introduced at the ICAST show in Orlando, the new line is tough enough to fish in the heaviest cover, yet, unlike braid, it "disappears" in the water. That makes it especially effective on bright days, in clear water, or when bass have lockjaw.

"I like to use the 20- or 25-pound test when I have to fish slower and they are looking at the bait longer," said Florida tournament angler Uby Rosell. "Bass are more likely to see the braid than the fluorocarbon."

Additionally, fluorocarbon keeps baits in the strike zone longer. Because it is more dense, it sinks faster than monofilament and copolymers, but not as fast as braid, allowing the bait a slower and more natural fall. That's another plus when the bite is tough.

Also available in 15-pound test, this is the first fluorocarbon packaged specifically for bass anglers who flip and pitch cover. "It's on 150-yard spools so this German-engineered line is perfect for the bass guy with low-profile reels," said Burkhardt.

Rosell added that he uses the 15 for flipping and pitching to grass edges with a smaller bait. "Also, I'm a co-angler," he said. "While the guys up front are using braid, I'm using fluorocarbon to get the bites they miss, especially when the fish are sensitive."

FLW pro Troy Gibson especially likes the 15-pound line. "I really am pleased with the minimum stretch that is delivered by Trik Fish and the super stealth that this line provides," he said.

" I cannot say enough about this line and will not use anything else when the money is on the line."  

Besides minimum stretch, Trik Fish Flippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon doesn't absorb water, meaning it won't lose strength when wet. It is extremely UV resistant. Plus it has great knot strength and is highly abrasion-resistant with virtually no memory.

Finally, braid, no matter its color,  has a distinct visual presence, meaning fish can see it in even the dingiest of waters. On the other hand, Trik Fish Flippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon refracts light nearly the same as water, meaning it disappears. That translates into more takes, especially when the bite is tough.  

"More and more of the pros are rigging with Trik Fish Fippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon to get more bites," said Burkhardt.

(You also can check out Trik Fish on Facebook.)