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Entries in ASA (42)

Thursday
Sep222016

New Campaign Launched to Increase Angler Participation

A new national campaign aims to increase the number of anglers in this country from 46 million in 60 million in 60 months (by 2021).

Dubbed "60-in-60," the project is being jointly sponsored by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). Additionally, it is supported by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) as well as members of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus.

"Because of the current angler demographic between ages 52 and 70, we risk declining participation rates in the next decade," said CSF President Jeff Crane.

"In order to effectively recruit enough anglers to sustain the industry's economic impact in the country, as well as the significant contribution anglers and boaters make to conservation, we need a new approach to get people reconnected with one of the nation's most enduring pastimes - fishing."

The Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, a program first established by Congress in 1950, generates revenue for state natural resource agencies through excise taxes paid by anglers and boaters on fishing tackle, marine electronics and motorboat fuels. Currently, the fund distributes $600 million annually to all 50 states for fisheries management, habitat improvement projects, boating access, and aquatic education.

"Boating and fishing are two of the most popular activities in America, and our industries have a significant economic impact throughout the country," said NMMA President Thom Dammrich.

"'60-in-60' is about recruitment, retention and reactivation. It's about partnerships between the industry, state governments, and anglers to focus on what we can do better to grow the sport and improve the fishing experience."

"This new initiative is focused on what the sportfishing community needs to do to be more customer-focused and develop the next generation of anglers," added ASA Vice President Scott Gudes.

Friday
Sep162016

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.

Thursday
Aug252016

Anglers, Bass Win in California Delta Water War

An in-state attempt to wage war on black bass and stripers in the California (Sacramento-San Joaquin) Delta has been repelled  --- at least for now.

Led by agricultural groups, a coalition was calling on the California Fish and Wildlife Commission to changes in size and bag limits for these non-native species that have been established for more than a century.

Translation: They wanted all limits removed  on one of the world's best bass fisheries.

Why?  Native salmon and other fish are suffering because of  drought and growing demand for a limited water supply. But because bass are  predators and high-profile, they're easy to blame for the decline of native species.

The same thing has happened in the Northwest, where both Oregon and Washington wildlife agencies have made management decisions based on politics and science. Up there,  size and bag limits have been removed on the Columbia and other rivers. The feds are involved too, and on the wrong side, of course. Check out War on Bass Is Spreading.

But in California, the petition to wage war on bass was withdrawn by the petitioners before its scheduled review by the Commission. It had been vehemently and vocally opposed by B.A.S.S., California Sportfishing League, and other groups.

“Our coalition had science on our side and we were able to show the Fish and Wildlife Commission that all fish need water and this was simply a water grab that sought to make striped bass and largemouth and smallmouth bass the scapegoats for the status of salmon stocks, said Scott Gudes, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).

Representing millions of sportsmen and women nationwide, including tens of thousands in California, the coalition engaged  supporters who sent a clear message to the Commission that this was a water issue, not a fish issue.
 "This is a real victory for anglers. But we need to be vigilant. No doubt the agricultural industry that pushed this proposal will be back. Anglers need to stay unified," added Gudes.

These are the groups that targeted bass:

The Coalition for Sustainable Delta, California Chamber of Commerce, California Farm Bureau Federation, Kern County Water Agency, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Northern California Water Association, San Joaquin Tributaries Authority, Southern California Water Committee, State Water Contractors and Western Growers were the petitioners.

These are the groups that spoke up for bass and anglers:

American Sportfishing Association, B.A.S.S., California Sportfishing League, Coastal Conservation Association California, Coastside Fishing Club, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Fishing League Worldwide, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Water4Fish.

Sunday
Jun262016

Senate Bill Introduced to Prevent Closure of Sport Fisheries

A bill has been introduced into the U.S. Senate to uphold the authority of state fish and wildlife agencies and prevent unwarranted closures of fisheries, such as already occurred at North Carolina's Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Florida's Biscayne National Park.

“Given the significant economic, social, and conservation benefits that recreational fishing provides to the nation, any decision to close or restrict public access should be based on sound science and strong management principles,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association.

 “While closed areas have a role in fisheries management, they should only come after legitimate consideration of all possible options and agreement among management agencies.

"This bill, which is strongly supported by the recreational fishing industry, will ensure that the voice of state fisheries agencies is not lost in these decisions.”

Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act, also known as S.2807, is similar to legislation already passed in the House as part of the Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act. It requires the National Park Service (NPS) to have approval from state agencies before closing Great Lakes or state marine waters to recreational and/or commercial fishing.

“It’s only logical that any decision affecting fishing access in state waters should have the approval of that state’s fish and wildlife agency,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “We applaud Sens. Cassidy (Bill of Louisiana) and Rubio (Marco of Florida) for introducing this common-sense legislation, and urge other members of the Senate to co-sponsor and help ensure this bill’s passage.”

In 2015, NPS implemented a 10,000-acre marine preserve in one of the nation's most popular urban fishing areas, despite protests by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The state agency said that it would be overly restrictive and not biologically effective, adding that less punitive management tools could rebuild the park's fisheries and conserve habitat.

NPS's decision to ignore Florida input and force new regulations in state waters revealed a loophole in current law that could affect any state with coastal or Great Lakes waters managed by the federal agency.

Tuesday
Apr052016

War on Bass Is Spreading

If you fish for bass outside the Midwest and Southeast, chances are that you are catching "non-native" fish.

"So what?" you ask. I'll tell you.

In the wake of the state of Washington joining Oregon to remove limits on bass on the Columbia River, Congress has just painted a big, red bull's eye on North America's most popular game fish outside its native range. Since it has established populations in 49 states, that covers a broad area--- including Texas.

Following a hearing entitled “The Costly Impacts of Predation and Conflicting Federal Statutes on Native and Endangered Fish Species" in Washington, D.C., you can bet  that environmental groups across the country also will look to portray non-native fish in general, and black bass specifically, as Public Enemy No. 1 in issues related to protection of native aquatic species. It's the old "monkey see, monkey do" corollary.

To put it mildly, B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland was irate in the aftermath, pointing out that those chosen to testify clearly favored "the native species crowd."

An "expert" who received the most speaking time said,  "Bass species are good for the sole purpose of sportfishing and this isn't a good reason to keep them around," according to Melanie Sturm of the American Sportfishing Association.

Additionally, Will Stelle from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration (NOAA)  proved be a "strong proponent that predators (sea lions and birds, along with non-native fish) are a huge problem," Sturm said. She added that Stelle argued "control programs should swiftly be implemented and NOAA welcomes legislation to do that."

And here's the exclamation point: "A lobbyist for ASA talked to Pelosi (House Minority Leader Nancy) face-to-face and she told him these non-native fish have got to go . . . Period," Gilliland said.

In the real world, meanwhile, the black bass'  only crime is its adaptability. But its high profile makes it a convenient scapegoat for opportunistic politicians catering to frustrated native fish advocates and a multitude of other interests who demand that something--- anything--- be done to stop the demise of native species and/or deal with complicated water management issues.

For years, Ground Zero for this issue has been the West Coast. But the groundwork was laid decades before, when the needs of salmon were given little consideration as more and more water was diverted from the California Delta to irrigate farm fields and supply cities and as the Columbia and other Northwest rivers were dammed for hydropower and irrigation.

Additionally, bass and other warmwater species were stocked by both the states and federal government, and, as they thrived, salmon declined. Today, an argument actually could be made that salmon  are the non-natives in these highly altered systems, which more closely resemble the warm waters and lake environments where bass evolved.

Do bass prey on young salmon? Yes, they do, but the numbers are insignificant in the "big picture" of declining salmon stocks. Study after study shows it. And they do so only because altered ecosystems facilitate the predation.

"I suppose the numbers can say whatever you want them to say if you put on your 'bias pants' when you go to work," said Lonnie Johnson, conservation director for the Oregon B.A.S.S. Nation. "Is there predation. Yes. Is it significant? Highly questionable."

Those in Congress who now want to wage war against bass in a futile attempt to bring back salmon would be well advised to acquaint themselves with Peter Moyle, a professor in the University of California- Davis’s Wildlife Fish and Conservation Biology Department and an honest broker on this issue.

"The historic Delta ecosystem cannot be restored," he said. "The Delta of today bears almost no resemblance to the Delta of 100 years ago. . .  Only three percent of the historical wetland acreage exists today. About the only familiar features would be the main sloughs and river channels, and even they have high levees on both sides."

Although specific alterations are different, the same is true for the Columbia and other rivers of the Northwest.

Preserving native species requires intensive management of human-dominated ecosystems  that contain a mixture of native and non-native species, Moyle added. "We humans decide by our actions which of these species are desirable and worth preserving often without making a conscious choice.qqq"

That's exactly what happened during the early 20th century, when governments and developers decided irrigation, water supply, and hydropower were more important than healthy salmon runs.

But that won't stop the bass blame-game by native fish and environmental groups and the politicians who are all too eager to curry their favor.

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