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Thursday
Jun262014

Northern States Warming Up to Bass Anglers

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Because of climate, management of bass fisheries in the North understandably must be different from management in the South. Northern winters are longer and more severe, while spawning and growing seasons are shorter and often more tenuous. For example, pounding winds and waves during a spring storm can nearly wipe out a year class on Lake Erie.

For decades, though, it also has been different for a myriad of reasons not related to stewardship of the resource, with bass fishing restricted as a consequence. Fortunately, that is starting to change, as evidenced by what happened recently in Wisconsin. Due in no small part to the diligent efforts of Dan Brovarney and Ken Snow in the Wisconsin B.A.S.S. Nation, that state has implemented regulations more friendly to bass anglers, including one that allows culling in permitted tournaments.

Elites Series events in northern waters also have helped. B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland pointed out that the 2012 Elite Series Green Bay Challenge “opened eyes and that allowed biologists to better understand what B.A.S.S. pro level tournaments are all about.”

They’ve also eased concerns that local residents had about possible negative impacts on their fisheries.

In general, Gilliland added, many states are moving toward simplifying regulations, but northern managers especially are warming up to the realization that bass are  popular fish deserving of more enlightened management. Most notably, closed seasons are going away, often replaced by catch-and-release.

For decades, northern fisheries managers believed that closed seasons were necessary to protect reproduction and recruitment. Now, though, evidence has begun to show that while individual nests can be harmed when male guardians are pulled off the nest, overall populations aren’t harmed. On New York’s Lake Oneida, biologist Randy Jackson found that environmental conditions are more likely to determine the success of a year class than whether anglers are pursuing bass during the spawn.  

Additionally, many managers have noted that the majority of bass anglers, no matter where they live, practice catch and release. Thus, overharvest isn’t the threat that it once was assumed to be.

Understandably, though, the farther north a fishery, the smaller the window for reproduction, and the greater the chance that it could be harmed by angling pressure.

Gilliland cited New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, along with Wisconsin, as some of the northern states being the most pro-active adopting regulations more friendly to bass anglers. Minnesota, he added, “is one of the holdouts.”

Traditionally, the conservation director explained, bass management in northern states was dictated by “legacy biology.”  In other words, it just continued to be as it always had been, with resource managers focusing on walleye, muskie, pike, and trout, while bass remained “a kind of unknown.”

“But now that bass tournaments are exposing how tremendous some of the bass fisheries are up north, they have to deal with bass management,” Gilliland said. “Most of the biologists were cold-water trained, and it was easy not to deal with it (bass management). Now, they have to deal with it.”

That assessment is confirmed by the fact that three of the top five fisheries in Bassmaster’s “Top 100 Best Bass Lakes” for 2014 are northern waters: 1. Wisconsin’s Sturgeon Bay in Lake Michigan 3. Lake Erie and 4. Lake Coeur d’ Alene in Idaho.

But Gilliland also is sympathetic to the reality that managing bass is more complicated in the North than in the South. Two of the most obvious reasons are the diversity of user groups and the vast expanses of water.

“When you’re trying to keep everyone happy and keep all of those different fisheries sustainable, it can be difficult,” he said.

A general trend toward warmer winters also “throws a monkey wrench” into the mix, he added.

Plus, tournament fishing is not nearly as popular with local residents in the North as it is in the South. Residents around those northern natural lakes view the waters as their own, and many don’t want to share them fishermen who are just passing through.

“Those people are automatically against new regulations and biology doesn’t matter. They want to limit access,” the conservation director said.

Still, regulation improvements are occurring, and managers of northern waters are to be commended for responding to their bass-fishing constituents.

(This column appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

 

Wednesday
Jun252014

NAPRA Offers Competition for Stream Anglers

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Wading is an inexpensive, productive, and refreshing way to fish, and, if you are so inclined, it also can be competitive. If you’re interested in learning more about the competitive aspect, check out the National Association of Professional River Anglers (NAPRA).

And don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself a “professional.” That’s really not necessary.

The organization’s tournament trails include Elite and its original pro-am, the Dayton Fishing League. Events are staged on streams in Ohio.

“We have independent groups in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and even saltwater flats fishing in Florida,” said CEO Pete Ziehler.

NAPRA also sponsors kids events, helps with river cleanups, honors military veterans, and plays host to a national invitation treaty, the Wade War, in September. 

Tuesday
Jun242014

Prescription Drugs Harm Fisheries

Nearly half of the population took a prescription drug during the past 30 days, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics from 2007-2010. Additionally, more than 20 percent took three or more prescription drugs during that period. I’d wager that both percentages have gone up since because, as a society, we’re taking more drugs, not fewer.

 If they improve our health, what could be wrong with that? Well, consider this: a potent synthetic female hormone used in many of those drugs could be harming fish and other aquatic life.

“We’re finding in our study that it can wipe out fish populations over several generations, and it’s the male fish that are most affected,” says Kristen Keteles, a toxicologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Denver.

“Some studies have found that male fish below wastewater treatment plants, and exposed to female hormones, can lose their masculine characteristics and become indistinguishable from females. Our new study found that a potent form of the female hormone estrogen used in prescription drugs not only causes the males to look female, it also appears to be toxic to male fish and these effects may impact future generations of fish.

“Where do these hormones and medications come from? All of us. Humans excrete hormones and medications, which often end up in our rivers and streams from sewage.

“Disposing of medications by flushing can also contribute to pharmaceuticals in the environment.

“A growing human population, combined with effects of climate change like decreasing precipitation, has resulted in many streams containing higher concentrations of waste water. In fact, some streams in the west are 90% waste water. Not a nice thought if you like to kayak and fish, like I do.”

 Read more here. 

And here is how to properly dispose of medications.

Monday
Jun232014

Weigh in on Florida's Proposed Changes for Bass Limits

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) originally intended to close its survey regarding proposed changes in bass regulations on June 30. But it has decided to keep it up through the deliberation process and take a “data snippet” on June 30. Go here to participate in the survey.

The first change in the state’s bass length limits in 20 years would keep the creel limit at five, but allow just one of 16 inches or longer. In other words, anglers could keep smaller fish for the table.

At present, different parts of the state have 12- and 14-inch minimum length limits.

Some anglers might think that these regulations are intended to change the size structure by removing smaller bass, which would boost growth of remaining fish to trophy size. But that is not the case.

Actually, biologists want anglers to know that it’s all right to keep smaller bass, since spawning and recruitment aren’t issues for healthy fisheries in Florida.

Current minimum length limits don’t convey that message. Rather, they seem to suggest that smaller fish must be protected, but it’s okay to keep larger bass.

Yes, the proposed changes will protect larger fish and probably improve the odds for anglers to change quality and trophy bass. But that likely will occur because those fish are being “recycled” through catch and release.

“We are also continuing to pursue our TrophyCatch program and will be rolling out a new website in the near future,” said FWC’s Bob Wattendorf.

 “It is a great way of incentivizing anglers to release bass heavier than eight pounds, without passing stricter laws. Meanwhile, it provides biologists valuable data for research and marketing, and engages anglers in both citizen-science and active resource stewardship.”

 

Friday
Jun202014

Rapala as a Confidence Bait

Every angler should have a confidence bait or maybe two. Doing so improves his odds, and I explain why in Better Bass Fishing.

Mine is a lipless crankbait, preferably a Spot or Rat-L-Trap. I’ve caught bass up to 12-4 with it.

For my neighbor across the lake, it’s a small, floating Rapala. Unless he is using live bait, it’s the only thing that he throws in our little clear-water fishery. He catches plenty of bass on it, too. One evening last summer, he handed the rod to me, and I immediately caught a 5-pound channel catfish with the bait.

Also, I’ve tried other swimming minnows while he is catching fish with the Rapala. No luck. For whatever reason, fish in this lake want the “wounded minnow” developed by Finnish fisherman Lauri Rapala back in 1936.

And based on the bait’s success worldwide, I’m guessing that it is the preferred forage of lots of other fish around the world as well.

Lauri's original Rapala.

Here’s a little background on the bait from the Rapala company:

The brand was unofficially founded in 1936 when Finnish fisherman Lauri Rapala made one simple, yet genius observation: Big fish eat little fish, particularly the wounded ones. As he fished the waters of Finland’s Lake Paijanne, he noticed how predator fish would dart into a school of minnows and attack the one that swam with a slightly off-centered wobble again and again.

This elegant insight led Lauri to pick up a carving knife to whittle, shave and sand the original Rapala fishing lure. With makeshift household materials such as cork, tinfoil and melted photographic negatives, he crafted and painstakingly tested a lure that perfectly mimicked the action of a wounded minnow and would ultimately become the forefather of the legendary Original Floating™ Rapala.

From these humble origins, the greatest fishing story ever told began. As anglers around the globe began to catch more and bigger fish with the lure, the legend of Rapala grew. It became clear that the Rapala’s groundbreaking ‘wounded minnow’ action was the key to triggering strike after strike from fish of all species in nearly any application.

In 1959, Normark Corporation was established and set out to increase distribution of Rapala lures to U.S. fishing enthusiasts, helping to offer the brand’s innovative designs to more people than ever before.

Since the inception of Lauri Rapala’s original lure, Rapala has become a market leader known to anglers worldwide as the standard in functionality and high quality.

Today, more anglers put their faith in Rapala lures and accessories than any other brand. In fact, Rapala now consists of such world-known brands as VMC, Blue Fox, Williamson, Luhr-Jensen, Storm, Terminator, Sufix, Trigger X and ICE FORCE.

Confidence in the company’s ever-growing selection of products has spread to more than 140 countries worldwide and is validated with approximately 20 million lures sold annually and the prestigious claim that more world-record fish have been caught on Rapala lures than any other brand of fishing lures.