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Yet Another Maryland Snakehead Tops World Record

Although the official world record is 17.75 pounds for northern snakehead, at least three that topped 18 pounds have been pulled from the Potomac, disturbing evidence that suggests, if nothing else, that this exotic predator grows larger in U.S. waters than in its native Asian.

Most recently, bowfisherman Emory "Dutch" Baldwin captured and killed a snakehead that weighed 18.42 pounds on May 20. Maryland recognized the fish as a state record because it does not require that this exotic, along with invasive flathead and blue catfish, be captured on rod and reel to qualify.

In 2015,  Dan Moon caught one that weighed 18.8 on an uncertified scale, and, three years before, Juan Duran boated a Potomac snakehead that weighed 18.37.

As snakeheads become an increasingly popular fish for bowfishermen and rod-and-reel anglers alike because of their size, fighting ability, and edibility, resource managers continue to be concerned about their long-term impact on bass and other 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."

One concern is that the aggressive and fast-growing predators will outcompete bass for food.

Additionally, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources continues to emphasize that snakeheads can be caught legally in any season and at any size. "We'd like it to be harvested if anyone catches it," Love said.


Recreational Fishing Allowed in New East Coast Marine Monument


In what now seems a never-ending struggle to ensure the future of recreational fishing, anglers have won another small victory. The Obama Administration is including it as an allowable activity in the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, approximately 150 miles off the Massachusetts coast.

For years, sports fishing advocates have campaigned to convince politicians and unelected bureaucrats that recreational fishing should not be considered synonymous with commercial fishing in terms of government policy. And too often that message has fallen on deaf ears, especially with the formation of Obama's National Ocean Council, with the purpose of "zoning" uses of public waters.

"For decades, recreational fishermen have generally been an afterthought in ocean resource management," said Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association.

"And when recreational fishing has received attention by mangers and policymakers, it’s usually lumped in with other 'extractive' activities like mining, drilling and commercial fishing.

"Anglers are leading conservationists and fully support reasonable regulations to conserve the environment. But we also don’t want to see bad public policy that bans recreational fishing unnecessarily." 

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument covers a 4,913 square mile area off the Massachusetts coast that contains deep sea corals and other unique and fragile marine habitats. These areas are also popular offshore fishing spots for anglers who target billfish, tuna and mahi mahi near the ocean surface.

During the marine monument designation discussions, the recreational fishing and boating community advocated that recreational fishing should be allowed to continue because, among other reasons, the type of recreational fishing that occurred in these areas has no interaction with the bottom habitats that are being protected.

“Summarily removing the public from public waters is not the way to properly manage our oceans, and it is encouraging that this Administration recognized how critical it is for conservationists to be connected to the environment they work to protect,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association.

“Recreational fishing and marine conservation are not only compatible, but complimentary, and we are glad to see that angling will continue to be managed as a sustainable activity in these areas.”

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is the third marine monument created or expanded by President Obama. The previous two decisions, which designated areas near Hawaii and remote Pacific islands, also allowed for recreational fishing.


Georgia Trophy Fishery Set to Re-Open in Spring

Georgia anglers are eagerly awaiting re-opening in the spring of a small, but prolific big-bass fishery that has been closed for nearly four years.

In November 2012,  the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shut down the 106-acre lake at Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area so that it could be drained and leaks sealed in the bed. Repairs began in March but were delayed by spring rains, with completion now expected sometime this fall.

Additionally, DNR has been growing bass at several hatcheries as well as at a three-acre pond near the lake so Ocmulgee will have an immediate population of adult fish for anglers to enjoy. If not for that, it probably wouldn't have re-opened until 2018, said biologist Tim Bonvechio.

"It was really coming on as a high profile trophy bass fishery in the state of Georgia," he added. "We hope to bring that recipe back again."

That recipe involved stocking a lower density  population of female-only bass while allowing catch-and-release only for the fishery that first opened in 2006. By all indications, it was working too.

Angler surveys from February and March of 2012 revealed that 46 bass weighing 8 pounds or more were caught and released, with 10 of more than 10 pounds and one checking in at 12-4. Additionally,  biologists logged in a 13-4 while doing an electrofishing survey.

Repairs  included rerouting the stream that runs through the middle of the impoundment and then removing two feet of lake bed where leaks were occurring. After that, the area was covered with a rugged fabric similar to what is used to prevent runoff at construction sites, with three-feet of red clay pressed on top.

Previously, the lake had been stocked with bluegill, crappie, and catfish, as well as bass. This time around, DNR won't add catfish, which would compete with bass for forage. The hope is that this will help Ocmulgee's bass grow bigger even faster.

"We want to put someone on the fish of a lifetime," Bonvechio said.


We Do We Fish?

Fishing is mystery and anticipation: We cast a line in hopes of connecting to an unseen creature in an alien world. Even better, the mystery --- the thrill --- renews with every cast.

From Why We Fish, available at Amazon.


Angler Assistance Needed to Help Improve Fish Habitat in Potomac

Volunteers are needed to help Sept. 16-18 with a bass habitat project for the Smoots Bay area of the Potomac River.

“The submerged grasses in this largemouth bass nursery have virtually disappeared over the past decade and the spawning success of these fish has consequently declined,”  said Joe Love, Tidal Bass Program Manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).

“These reef balls will provide important protective habitat for juvenile fish.”

Eighty small concrete balls will be constructed as an initiative of a taskforce that includes MDNR, Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), and National Harbor.

The work will involve mixing and pouring concrete into  molds, the “hatching” of the balls after the concrete has cured, and a general cleanup. CBF is providing the molds and expertise, since it has done this for other areas of the Bay.

This is a hands-on event suitable for anyone over the age of 16. Lunch and water will be provided.

“We’re also planning on sinking some wood with concrete anchors.  The wood washes up at National Harbor and the folks there are beginning to stockpile wood for us,” said Love. “I’m hoping the combination of concrete and natural wood will replace the submerged grasses that were once in Smoots Bay.”

The Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Wetland Studies and Solutions Inc., Fish America Foundation, Pro-Formance Fishing, and the Maryland B.A.S.S. Nation are supporting partners in this project.