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Iowa's Crystal Lake Suffers Fish Kill, But Should Recover

A "substantial"  kill, which included bass, crappie, and catfish, occurred this past summer on one of the most popular fisheries in north central Iowa. According to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the die-off of an algae bloom depleted Crystal Lake's oxygen, causing the kill.

"Boaters reported a nuisance algae bloom over the Fourth of July weekend," said biologist Scott Grummer. "However, anglers were still coming in with nice catches of fish."

But then abnormally cool temperatures and overcast days prompted the rapid death and decomposition of the bloom. "If that algae would have died off over a week or two period, we likely wouldn't have had an oxygen issue," Grummer said.

"The loss is certainly substantial," he added. "However, it is too early to tell how it will impact fishing in the immediate future."

As with many of Iowa's manmade fisheries, this 244-acre impoundment is shallow and algae are common, fed by nutrients in agricultural and urban runoff. Several days of warm temperatures and light winds made this blue-green bloom unusually heavy.

"It just shows how nutrient rich Iowa waters are," the biologist said.

Although Crystal Lake is equipped with an aerator to keep the lake from freezing solid during winter and provide an open-water refuge for fish, the biologist said its use during summer would have minimal impact  because oxygen depletion was so abrupt.

While dramatic, the kill is not expected to have a lasting impact on the fishery, Grummer added, and no changes in regulations are planned.

"The setback is the loss of the current fish," he said. "A new population will develop and grow well."

DNR plans to survey the population this fall by netting and electrofishing to determine if supplemental stocking will be needed.

"Management decisions are going to be based on what we have left and how we move forward from that point," Grummer said.


Minnesota Allows Culling for Mille Lacs Bass Tournaments

In hopes of attracting larger tournaments that will generate more  revenue for local economies, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) will allow culling of bass at Mille Lacs. It already is legal in other lakes around the state.

"This is one of the ways DNR is actively responding to the economic needs of the Mille Lacs Lake area," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. "The change has potential economic benefits and will not hurt bass populations."

John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism, added, "Eliminating one of the hurdles to attracting more national bass fishing tournaments gives the Mille Lacs area another tool to draw national attention and help improve its economy."

The lake already is known nationally as one of the best bass fisheries, especially for smallmouths, with Bassmaster Magazine ranking it 10th in its top 100. But a regulation that forced competitors to keep their first six bass deterred tournament circuits, especially larger ones, from going there.

The rule restricting an angler to one bass of 18 inches or longer remains in effective. But now a tournament fisherman can cull smaller bass until he puts a limit in his livewell. Then he must stop fishing.

"A difference of only a few ounces often determines the winner of a bass tournament," MDNR said. "Having the ability to cull allows tournament anglers to keep the biggest fish that weigh the most."


Fishing's Future Brings Families Together for Fun in the Outdoors

Fishing's Future is a terrific organization, and I urge you to learn more about it. Possibly you will want to contribute or start a chapter. This non-profit is not just about taking kids fishing. It's about bringing families together through fishing, mostly by one-day events known as "Family Fish Camps."

Everyone involved with this organization is a volunteer and  the founder is a first-grade teacher in Texas. Former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight in on the advisory board, as is Legendary fly fishing angler Flip Pallot.

Please, check it out and pass the word.


Snakeheads Growing Bigger, Spreading Farther Up the Potomac

Dan Moon caught this monster snakehead on a Booyah spinnerbait.

As state and federal resource managers revealed that the northern snakehead has spread into the Upper Potomac River, a local angler provided yet more evidence that these exotic predatory fish grow larger here than anywhere else in the world. That's a potential double whammy for bass and other native species.

"Part of the reason we should be worried about it is we don't really know what the impacts are going to be," said Joe Love, tidal bass program manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). "We do know that, in some cases, invasive species cost millions of dollars in damage to the ecosystem."

With the population of snakeheads in the tidal Potomac now an estimated 20,000, one concern  is that  aggressive snakeheads will outcompete bass for food, a fear that is heighted by the fact that they are growing to world-record proportions. In late June, Dan Moon boated the latest giant, which weighed 18.8 pounds on an uncertified scale.  The official world record checked in at 17-12, and was caught last year within two miles of where Moon caught his fish.

With both adult snakeheads and fry confirmed in the C&O canal above Great Falls, it seems almost certain that the invaders will spread up the non-tidal Potomac, as well as into its tributaries.

"Eradication is not possible once these fish become established in an open river system such as the Potomac," said MDNR biologist John Mullican. "We expect that these fish will eventually become a permanent part of the Upper Potomac fish community. Confronting snakeheads in the canal system is the best way to mitigate their emigration into the Upper Potomac.

Consequently, Maryland is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service to develop control strategies.

MDNR emphasized that the snakehead can be caught legally in any season and at any size. "We'd like it to be harvested if anyone catches it," Love said. "We'd like it if they took it home and possibly ate it. Anglers and archers enjoy fishing for them, which is great. And they enjoy eating them, which is great."


Angler Drop-Out Rate Lower in Midwest, Northeast

Anglers in the Midwest and Northeast have a lower drop-out rate than anglers in the Southeast and West, according to a new report about recreational fishing.

This and other findings related to fishing participation are explained in "A Snapshot of the U.S. Angler Population by Region," the second in a series of studies produced for American Sportfishing Association (ASA) by Southwick Associates, which sheds new light on anglers’ fishing habits and loyalty to the sport. 

The study reveals that close to half of all fishing license buyers in any given year do not renew their licenses the following year.  But overall number of participants remains stable from year to year, at around 46 million, because about the same number of people both drop-in and drop-out of the sport from year to year.

“The new report underscores some of the challenges we already know about, but it also gives us more specific information to help pinpoint factors that keep people fishing, and that’s what we need going forward,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman.  “What keeps anglers fishing in the Midwest and not in the Southeast is information we can use to improve our marketing efforts to anglers who tend to lapse more.” 

Using this information, state agencies and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation plan to use a strategy called “R3” for targeted marketing to recruit, retain, and reactivate anglers. The overall goal is to reduce the amount of “churn,” a term that refers to anglers’ transitioning in and out of the sport from year to year.

What’s new?
The analysis includes a closer look at sportfishing participation, churn rates among various demographic groups, and fishing license purchasing habits among recruited, retained, and reactivated anglers.  

While  some significant differences exist among regions, findings in each region  were consistent with what was found nationally:  women, young people, and those who live in urban communities are more likely to lapse in their fishing from year to year.

Report highlights

Participation is growing slightly in about one-third of the states.  Between 2004 and 2013, 17 states experienced growth in the number of licensed anglers while the rest showed reductions.  Most of the states showing growth are in the West and Southeast. 

The West attracts the most non-resident anglers. Nonresidents comprise as much as 29 percent (West) and as little as 19 percent (Midwest and Southeast) of the licensed angler population (it’s 20 percent in the Northeast). Regardless of region, roughly 70 percent of all licensed non-resident anglers will buy a license in the same state in just one out of five years, though they may buy in other states in these other years.

Anglers are more avid in the Northeast and Midwest. More than 20 percent of anglers purchased a license five out of five years in the Northeast and Midwest—compared to just 8 percent and 16 percent of anglers in the Southeast and West, respectively.

The annual churn rate is highest in the Southeast and lowest in the Midwest. In the Southeast, the average annual churn rate is highest, at 53 percent, while its lowest, 28 percent, in the Midwest, considerably less than the national rate of 46 percent.  The rate is 39 percent in the West and 33 percent in the Northeast.

Regardless of region, the churn rate is highest among younger anglers.  The average annual churn rate is highest, with a range of 37-63 percent across all four regions, among licensed anglers between the ages of 18 and 24.  Licensed anglers aged 55 to 64 years old have the lowest churn rate of all age groups, with a range of 22-46 percent across all four regions. Nationally, annual churn rates by age group fall within these regional ranges.  

Regardless of region, the churn rate is higher among women.  The average annual churn rate among women is highest in the Southeast, where 64 percent of female anglers lapse in their fishing license renewals from year to year.  It’s lowest among women in the Midwest, at 41 percent.  The rate is 48 percent in the Northeast and 50 percent in the West. Nationally, the rate is about 55 percent—about 13 percent higher than the churn rate for men. 

Regardless of region, urban anglers have a higher churn rate. The churn rate ranges from 34-60 percent for urban anglers across all four regions, from 30-55 percent for those residing in suburban communities, and from 24-46 percent for those in rural communities. The national churn rate in urban communities falls within this regional range; however, rural anglers’ churn rate ranges lower than the national rate in the Midwest, Northeast, and West.     

Southwick Associates compiled and studied fishing license data over a 10-year period, from 2004-2013, and a five-year period, from 2009-2013, from 12 states (CO, FL, GA, ME, MI, MN, MS, MT, NH, NY, UT, and WI) to provide a regionally and nationally representative portrait of anglers for this and future reports in the series.  Three states were selected from within each of the four geographic areas of the country—the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, and West—to provide regional representation.