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Entries in ASA (40)

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But in California, the petition to wage war on bass was withdrawn by the petitioners before its scheduled review by the Commission.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.)

Friday
Nov062015

Who Fishes and Why?

The overall number of fishing participants remains quite stable from year to year, at around 33 million, but not because most anglers are avid. Rather it’s because about the same number of people joins and leaves the angling population each year.

Younger, female, urban dwellers are more likely to be among the ranks of newly recruited anglers compared to retained anglers, who are much more likely to be male, rural residents, and over 35 years of age. Yet over the long term, there has been limited shift in the overall angler population towards those newcomer demographics due to the higher churn rates among them.

More than 80 percent of recruited anglers reported having fished previously in their lives, typically when they were quite young. They are frequently prompted to fish by family and friends, who also serve as their most common source of fishing information and instruction.

These and other findings related to motivational factors tend to reassert previous research from the American Sportfishing Association and Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. However, this report reveals significant differences between new anglers’ intentions and their actions; while the vast majority think they will fish every year, only a small proportion actually do.

Other highlights include:  

Women make up one-third of new anglers. When it comes to recruited anglers, 65 percent are male and 35 percent are female. However, only 18 percent of retained anglers are female.  

Newcomers are younger. More than one-half of recruited anglers are under age 35, compared to 28 percent of retained anglers. Conversely, only 12 percent of recruited anglers are between the ages of 55 and 64, compared to 22 percent of retained anglers.  

Recruited anglers tend to live in more populous communities. The largest portion of recruited anglers, about 47 percent, lives in suburban neighborhoods. However, the proportion of recruited anglers between the ages of 18-24 years is greatest in rural areas while the proportion of recruited anglers between the ages of 25-34 years is greatest in urban areas.  

Recreational togetherness is a strong appeal. The top three reasons people fish are to spend time with family and friends, to relax, and for the sport or recreation. For new recruits, the opportunity for relaxation is a strong driver while avid anglers tend to be in it for the excitement.  

Age of introduction matters. More than 80 percent of recruited anglers in the survey year reported it was not the first year they’d ever fished. Among those, more than a third tried the sport when they were five years old or younger. In fact, more than half of anglers who fish year after year say they first started fishing when they were five years old or younger.

Tuesday
Oct062015

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.