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Entries in American Sportfishing Association (40)

Tuesday
Jan232018

U.S. Fishing Facts

 • There are approximately 60 million anglers in the U.S. of which 46 million are estimated to fish in a given year.

•  Anglers generate $48 billion in retail sales.

•  Recreational fishing has a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy.

 •  Recreational fishing generates $15 billion in state and federal taxes.

•  More than 828,000 jobs are supported through recreational fishing.

•  One of every four anglers fishes in saltwater.

 •  Fishing tackle sales grew over 16 percent in the past five years.

•  Since 2006, angler numbers grew 11 percent.

Many more facts and insights in Sportfishing In America--- An Economic Force For Conservation.

Sunday
Oct082017

Reef Fish Mortality Reduced by Angler Education, Conservation Measures

A cooperative effort among the recreational fishing industry, anglers and state and federal agencies has resulted in reduced mortality for thousands of red snapper and other reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic.

Throughout 2015-2017, the FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project, coordinated through the FishAmerica Foundation, engaged more than 1,100 anglers in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions to improve the survival of angler caught-and-released fish. Participants in the project were provided with information on best practices for handling and releasing fish and with SeaQualizer descending devices. They were then asked to evaluate their experience.

Through the FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project, anglers collectively reported releasing 16,000 – 28,000 red snapper and 13,000 - 22,000 other fish by applying best practices techniques and using the SeaQualizer when needed. Based on the most recent research on the benefits of descending fish under conditions typically encountered in the Gulf of Mexico, an estimated 3,000 - 9,000 red snapper survived during this project period through the use of the SeaQualizer alone, plus an unknown number of fish that survived as a result of improved handling techniques.

“Through the FishSmart project, the recreational fishing industry is leading the way to improve the survival of caught-and-released fish and help ensure the future of our sport” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “The FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project represents the continued growth and evolution of this program, which reflects anglers’ and the industry’s longstanding and continued commitment to fisheries conservation.”

One of the key findings of the four regional workshops was that returning saltwater fish caught in deep water to the depth at which they were caught – or as close as possible – can significantly improve their chances of survival. In the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic, many reef fish such as red snapper are being released due to increasingly shorter seasons and higher rates of encounter. Without proper handling techniques, such as use of descending devices, a significant percentage of released fish die, to the detriment of fisheries conservation and future fishing opportunities.

However, since release mortality in recreational fisheries is the culmination of millions of individual encounters between anglers and fish, true conservation benefits will be achieved by empowering individual anglers with information, training and tools to improve the survival of each individual fish that they return to the water.

“Some of the key findings of the project involved the changes that anglers voluntarily made in the way that they released fish,” remarked Mike Leonard, ASA’s Conservation director. “The vast majority of project participants found that information provided on how to properly handle fish improved the way that they release fish.”

Leonard added, “Nearly 75 percent had little or no knowledge of descender devices prior to participating in this project and indicated that are now likely to use a descender device to release most or all fish when needed. This reinforces the well-known fact that anglers are true conservationists at heart: provide them with the tools and techniques to do the right thing and they readily embrace it.”

Additional information about the results of the project are included in this information sheet.

This FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project was the result of numerous partnerships. Major funding support was provided through the American Sportfishing Association, the Brunswick Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NOAA Fisheries, SeaQualizer, LLC, and Grizzly Smokeless Tobacco.  Educational materials and descending devices were distributed through the assistance of partners including Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association. International Game Fish Association, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Georgia Coastal Resources Division, Florida Sea Grant, South Carolina DNR, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Alabama Department of Conservation, and Texas A&M/Harte Research Institute.

Wednesday
Nov182015

Anti-Fishing Movement on the Rise

Recreational fishing as we know it no longer exists in portions of Western Europe.

Even more disturbing, the seeds of its destruction are well established here, especially in the anti-hunting movement,  as you can see by the "photo" above.  Of course, anyone who hunts and fishes knows that the photo was staged and that the comments are a lie. No state allows hunting during the spring, when fawns are that size. And if a poacher illegally shot the doe, he wouldn't leave it there for an animal rights activist to photograph it. Likely, the doe was killed on the highway. But truth means nothing to these zealots. For them, the end--- banning fishing and hunting--- justifies the use of any means, including dishonesty.

And don’t be misled by the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans still approve of legal fishing and support using fish for food.

When people are asked whether they approve of recreational fishing for sport, answers change dramatically. Twenty-five to 30 percent view angling for sport as cruel in more urbanized states such as Colorado and Arizona,  while about 20 percent feel the same way in more rural states, including Alaska and the Dakotas.

Those disturbing revelations come from researchers in Germany, Switzerland, and the United States, who recently compiled their findings in a report entitled, “A Primer on Anti-Angling Philosophy and Its Relevance for Recreational Fisheries in Urbanized Societies.”

Such attitudes, the authors say, raise the possibility “that extremist positions (or elements thereof) influenced by animal liberation or animal rights arguments might find their way into nongovernmental organizations, science, politics, and ultimately legislation.

“Such a development is particularly challenging for recreational fishers when it occurs where they have little political support. Without sufficient support, radical claims portraying anglers as cruel sadists who play with fish for no good reason can be rhetorically effective.”

Why is this happening?

Basically, the answer is that attitudes change regarding fish and wildlife as people move away from nature and into more urban settings. Their beliefs become guided more by what they see on television and in the movies than what they personally experience.

Anglers and hunters view fish and wildlife as resources to be used, while being managed wisely and treated with respect. Traditionally, most Americans have agreed with that “utilitarian” philosophy.

But as people become more urbanized (and often more affluent), some begin to favor a “mutualism wildlife value orientation, viewing wildlife as capable of relationships of trust with humans, as if part of an extended family, and as deserving of rights and caring.”

Mutualists, the authors say, “are more likely to view fish and wildlife in human terms, with human personalities and characteristics.”

______________________________________________________

How ignorant are many of those who oppose hunting and fishing? Awhile back, some of these mental giants viciously attacked Steven Spielberg after Jay Branscomb posted a photo with this caption on his Facebook page:

“Disgraceful photo of recreational hunter happily posing next to a Triceratops he just slaughtered. Please share so the world can name and shame this despicable man.”

By the way, triceratops, along with all other dinosaurs, have been extinct for about 65 million years. And Branscomb was having a little fun in the wake of the outrage expressed by these same people after Kendall Jones posted photos of African big game that she had shot.

But the obvious obviously wasn’t so obvious for the true believers. Here are some of the comments:

 “Steven Spielberg has absolutely no respect for animals. Posing infront [sic] of this poor dead animal like that. Barbaric.”

 “if these animals are so rare they should be moved to a reservation where it’s illegal to kill them.”

 “He’s a disgusting inhumane [bleep] Id love to see these hunters be stopped…I think zoos are the best way to keep animals safe…[bleep]holes like this piece of [bleep] are going into these beautiful animals HOME and killing them… its no different than someone coming into your home and murdering you…” 

_____________________________________________________

What’s coming down the road in the United States if mutualism prevails?

The Swiss Animal Welfare Act of 2008 highlights the nightmarish possibilities. The legislation makes catch-and-release illegal because “it is in conflict with the dignity of the fish and its presumed ability to suffer and feel pain.”

A similar rule has been in place since the 1980s in Germany, where anglers also must take a course in fish handing before they can obtain a license.

“The argument runs that it is legally acceptable to go fishing only if one has the intention to catch fish for food,” the study says.

“Wider economic benefits created by angling are usually not considered a sufficient justification --- it all boils down to the individual benefits experienced by the angler, and here food provision is currently the only acceptable reason.” 

In other words, recreational fishing as millions of Americans now enjoy it is not allowed.

What would imposition of such a system in the United States mean?

 It would mean that a majority of the nation’s more than licensed 30 million anglers would stop fishing.

It would mean an end to family outings and buddy tournaments, and depressurizing for a few hours after work at a local lake or pond.

It would mean the collapse of economies for coastal communities and cities along the Great Lakes, as well as hundreds of towns near popular inland lakes and reservoirs.

In the United States, more people fish than play golf and tennis combined, and, in doing so, they support more than one million jobs.

Through license fees and excise taxes, recreational anglers contribute $1.2 billion annually “to preserve, protect, and enhance not just their sport, but also the environment that makes such sportfishing possible,” the American Sportfishing Association says. “Across much of the country, angler dollars are the primary source for improving fish habitat, public access, and environmental education.”

All that could be gone if we allow a minority who believe fishing is cruel to dominate the conversation and dictate policy.

“Powerful intervention is needed to counterbalance such tendencies in a society where hunting and fishing are becoming less prominent and where an increasing percentage of the public has lost contact with wildlife and nature,” say the authors of the study.

What do we do about this? We go fishing, of course, and, at every opportunity, we introduce someone new to the sport. We practice good stewardship through individual actions, as well as club activities --- and we publicize accomplishments. Also, we make certain that decision makers at every level of government know about both the calculable and incalculable value of recreational fishing to individuals, families, and society.

Thursday
Jul312014

Sport Fishing Advocate Retires With Warning for Anglers

Gordon Robertson, retiring vice president and lead for government affairs at American Sportfishing Association

First, I was saddened to learn that recreational fishing’s champion in Washington, D.C., was retiring, effective June 30. Then he told me something that disturbed me even more.

“The angler’s image as a conservationist needs to be rescued,” said Gordon Robertson, who officially stepped down June 30 from his post as a vice president and lead for government affairs at the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).

“Conservation once meant wise use of our natural resources,” he continued. “The word ‘conservation’ has been hijacked by the preservationist community and now policy makers don’t see anglers as conservationists.”

Instead, many politicians now view groups such as the Ocean Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council as having “conservation” agendas. Unless we reclaim what is ours through vocal activism, we will suffer loss of access and angling opportunities. As a consequence, the health of aquatic resources will suffer, because recreational fishermen are the nation’s first and foremost conservationists.

On the positive side, Robertson, who spent a dozen years at ASA, pointed out that recreational fishing continues to enjoy “an enormously positive image” among the public. We must capitalize on that, he added, “to make better habitat, more anglers, and an even stronger image.”

The West Virginia native also cautioned that we should not neglect working with the environmental community when we do share common interests on broad issues, such as water quality. “We need to strike a relationship that fosters those bigger accomplishments while gaining recognition for the role of the angler in conservation,” he said.

What I’ll remember Robertson most for was his leadership in creation of the Keep America Fishing (KAF) program in 2010. It’s now the largest angler advocacy group in the country, representing more than one million.

As KAF coordinated efforts to combat efforts to ban lead fishing tackle and restrict access, Robertson learning something that helped convince him that the image of the angler as a conservationist needs to be revitalized. “Too many anglers are apathetic and geographic,” he said.

“Some issues, like lead, resonate better than others. But collectively we need to think about the future of the sport.”

That’s just what Robertson did during his years with ASA, according to those who worked with him, including two former national conservation directors for B.A.S.S.

“Gordon Robertson has done more for anglers and sportfishing in this country than most will ever know,” said Noreen Clough. “Among other things, in his quiet but extremely effective way, he guided the last reauthorization of federal legislation that provides funding for Wallop-Breaux federal (Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program), which makes significant grants to states to manage their fisheries and fishing programs.”

She added that his ability “to work effectively on Capitol Hill, even in this climate, is testimony to his political savvy and patience.”

Bruce Shupp added, “Gordon, and his predecessors, were always the first, best, and most important contact for me to get B.A.S.S. engaged in the most effective way to advocate and/or combat issues affecting the resource and industry.”

Both during his time at B.A.S.S. and as New York fisheries chief, Shupp said, “Gil Radonski, Norville Prosser, and Gordon filled the same ASA role. They were all excellent at their jobs, served the industry very well, and are among the most respected professionals I had the pleasure of working with. I hope ASA will find a similar caliber replacement.”

In that regard, ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman pointed out that Robertson “set a high bar when it came to professional excellence, which had a significant influence on everyone with whom he worked. His ability to work with Congress and federal and state agencies on complex resource issues is unparalleled.”

Fortunately for anglers, Robertson won’t step away immediately from ASA. Working a reduced schedule, he will continue to assist with on-going projects, as well as in the search for his replacement.

Whoever is selected to replacement him, however, certainly will have big boat shoes to fill.

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

Wednesday
Oct162013

A Look at Lead: Miracle Metal or Environmental Evil?

Is lead a miracle metal or an environmental evil?

It is neither. It is a naturally occurring element that anglers have used to make sinkers for thousands of years.

Today, it’s also the preferred material for jigheads and as ballast in hard lures and spinnerbaits. The sinker business alone is worth $100 million annually and jigheads $75 million, according to the American Sportfishing Institute.

But because of its toxic nature in some applications, such as paint and plumbing, lead also is a material demonized with hyperbole and distortion of facts by some environmentalists who want to ban its use by fishermen.

Ground zero for this assault is New England, where defenders of the loon claim that lead weights threaten survival of the iconic bird. Loons, they assert, ingest sinkers and then die of lead poisoning.

This does happen to a few birds annually. But studies and statistics don’t support their argument that populations are in any way threatened. Degradation of shoreline habitat for these reclusive birds poses a far greater danger.

Additionally, loons are ingesting tiny pieces of lead, not bullet weights or jigheads, which also are targeted in this emotion-driven propaganda effort in which misinformation is rampant.

Photo by Woody Hagge at www.learner.org

“The public hears about this anti-lead campaign and you’d be amazed at the phone calls I get,” said Gordon Robertson, ASA vice president.

“I get college students who think lead is like an aspirin. You drop it in the water, it dissolves, and the water becomes toxic.”

“We came by lead honestly,” he continued. “It’s cheap, easy to work with, and ubiquitous. And we don’t make lead, we move it around. But mistaken ideas like that make discussion difficult.”

In fact, lead does not dissolve in water. Yes, visualizing the accumulation of weights at the bottom of a lake or river is not aesthetically appealing, but that’s not the same as posing an environmental hazard. The soft, heavy metal is harmful only when ingested or inhaled (as dust from lead-based paint, for example).

“Lead is not a population problem for loons or any other bird,” Robertson said. “Yes, it kills a few individuals, but we manage for populations. Legislators don’t understand the management process. They don’t understand the realities.

“That’s why regulations about lead should come from fish and wildlife agencies, not legislatures. And bans should occur only where there are documented problems. Legislatures are much more likely to go for statewide bans.”

And while lead is not the environmental evil that its detractors claim it to be, it is more than a preferred material for sinkers and other fishing tackle; it is essential. Yes, some alternatives --- tungsten, steel, brass, tin, bismuth --- exist. But as with green energy options, much research will be necessary before they are commercially viable on a large scale.

“I like tungsten weights,” said Stephen Headrick, who makes Punisher jigs. “But I tried to go with tungsten (for jigheads) and it was too expensive. Also, most anything to do with tungsten is made in China. You buy tungsten and you are sending American jobs overseas.

“My jigheads are made in the U.S.”

T.J. Stallings of TTI-Blakemore echoed Headrick’s appraisal. “We looked at tungsten, but it’s cost prohibitive,” he said, adding that the higher melting points of tungsten, steel, and glass can destroy the temper of a hook.

“We’re working on a non-lead option so we will stop losing business in New England,” he added. “But fishermen are conservationists by default. The problem with lead is that we’re living in the age of misinformation and liars. That’s why we have this fear of lead.”

Alternatives for weights, meanwhile, are more practical than they are for jigheads, and that’s why Bullet Weights and other companies offer them. Still, tungsten, brass, steel, and tin make up only a fraction of the market.

“With tungsten, you are paying a higher price for performance, and it’s still only a small portion of our business,” said Joe Crumrine, president of the company. “Our Ultra Steel continues to grow in popularity, but we still sell more lead than anything.”

That includes split shot, the largest segment of the sinker market, but tin is making inroads, Crumrine said.

“No other material is soft enough,” he explained. “It costs twice as much as lead, but we sell a lot of it, even in areas where there are no lead bans.”

What’s most important, Robertson said, is that anglers themselves are able to choose whether they want to use lead or tin or tungsten. Among fishing advocates, the greatest fear is that lead bans will discourage participation, and that will mean the loss of critical revenue for state fish and wildlife agencies. That’s because they are funded primarily by anglers through license fees and excise taxes on fishing tackle, including lead sinkers.

“The more barriers that are put up, the more it hurts the industry and the resource,” he said. “And we’re not making lead. We’re simply using what exists.”

 

What’s the Alternative?

 As someone not afraid to call himself an environmental steward as well as an angler, Teeg Stouffer understands the practicality of lead use in the fishing industry.

“I don’t think that lead is the worst thing facing our waters and I don’t think we should ban it,” said the executive director of Recycled Fish, a conservation organization.

But he would like to see the industry move more aggressively toward development of  practical alternatives.

“We know that lead is a toxic substance, and nobody goes fishing with the intention to spread a toxic substance,” he said.

“If we have non-toxic alternatives available, why not use them? We don’t advocate for bans, but we do advocate for angler education. We believe that people want to do the right thing when they know what the right thing is, and most people don’t have information about alternatives. We want to help provide that information.”

Stouffer added that he’s caught hundreds of fish on lead-free jigheads, most of them made of tin-bismuth. He also owns some made of tungsten, which he admits are costly, and even some glass ones. “They’re really cool, but not super practical,” he said.

With the lead-free jigheads, he explained, “I have not experienced any issues with longevity or fishability, nor have I heard those objections from anyone else who is using lead-free products.”

What Stouffer wants to see is a consumer-driven switch from lead to alternatives.

“Would fishing tackle manufacturers be willing to spool up production to make a non-toxic  product to satisfy this market?” he asked. “Many manufacturers, both small and large, already are.”

(A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)