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Entries in bass fishing (36)

Friday
Apr102015

Grass Carp Gobble Up Lake Austin's Grass, Reputation

 

Gut contents of a Lake Austin grass carp. Photo by Brent BellingerAs grass carp gobbled up all the aquatic vegetation in Texas’ Lake Austin, they also obliterated the reservoir’s reputation as one of the nation’s top bass fisheries.

“When the grass was around 400 to 500 acres for a couple of years, the bass fishing really took off,” said John Ward, marketing director of the Texas Tournament Zone (TTZ). “The fish were fat and healthy. We had a great sunfish and crawfish population, and plenty of ambush spots for the big girls to grab them.

“Now sunfish and crawfish numbers are significantly down. You see more schools of bass chasing shad balls instead. The worst feeling is when you finally get a big girl, and it’s a 10-pound head with a 5-pound body. They just can’t eat like they used to.”

Understandably frustrated anglers blame mismanagement and/or the powerful influence of lakefront property owners who don’t like hydrilla. For example, one said that Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) “grossly overstocked this lake with grass carp.”

He continued, “In less than a year, we have seen complete devastation of this great fishery. The grass is 100 percent gone. Reeds that used to line the lake in places have been uprooted and chewed off at the stalks.”

But the reality is more complex and less malevolent. What happened was the inevitable result of an unavoidable set of circumstances involving weather, two exotic species, and reservoir management priorities.

“This trophy fishery was maintained along with grass carp stockings for many years,” said Texas biologist Marcos De Jesus.

“This extreme drought scenario has thrown a monkey wrench in our management efforts, but we are learning from this experience to avoid a similar outcome in the future.”

Managed by the Lower Colorado River Authority, Austin is a 1,599-acre riverine impoundment on the Colorado River. During normal times, cool discharges into the flow-through fishery combine with a sustained population of grass carp to keep hydrilla in check. Also, less problematic Eurasian watermilfoil thrives, serving as another control. But starting in 2011, drought diminished flow, allowing water to warm and igniting an unprecedented growth spurt in hydrilla. By spring 2013, hydrilla covered nearly a third of the reservoir.

If not kept in check, hydrilla can block flow, pushing water onto highly developed shorelines, De Jesus explained. Consequently, more dramatic control was required, and it could only be done with grass carp. Herbicides are not an option for Austin, which also serves as a municipal water supply.

A stocking of 9,000 carp in May 2013 supplemented 17,000 introduced in 2012, providing 55.5 fish per acre of hydrilla. And, as anglers watched in dismay, the fish quickly gobbled up all of the lake’s aquatic vegetation, except for shoreline plants protected by cages.

“Now we are in a situation where the carp are keeping everything at bay,” said the biologist. “Every time it’s been down to zero, though, it bounces back. We’re now looking at creating habitat (brushpiles) and doing some carp removal.

“Fishing always has been our priority,” he continued, pointing out that electrofishing revealed bass still are plentiful.

“But they’re now suspended in deep water, and people will have to transition to other fishing styles. We were all spoiled. We all loved that lake, and this change was not one that we wanted.”

Brushpiles will help, said Ward, who added that TTZ will help organizes anglers to assist. “But nothing can replace natural habitat. As long as you have 20,000-plus grass carp in a 1,600-acre lake, grass will not grow.

“It’s the aquatic vegetation and the healthy habitat it provides that brings out the potential for big bass in Lake Austin.”

(This article was published originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Monday
Feb232015

International Bass Fishing Center Location Announced

The International Bass Fishing Center – a multi-functional attraction centering on the world of bass fishing, is being planned for construction in Cullman, Ala., the Board of Director of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame Board of Directors announced.

The plans were unveiled during the annual Hall of Fame Induction Dinner on the eve of the Geico Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro in Greenville and on Lake Hartwell, S.C.

Adjacent to I-65 in northern Alabama - the “home state” for bass fishing, the International Bass Fishing Center (IFBC) will be the home of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, which honors and describes the accomplishments of those who have made significant contributions to the sport and the bass fishing industry, and much more.

“Within the Center, anglers young and old can immerse themselves in the “Family Fishing Experience” attraction,” said Dr. C. Hobson Bryan, BFHOF board member and professor emeritus at the University of Alabama. “We’ll have fully-stocked ponds for learn-to-fish excursions for area school children, plus we plan on hosting multi-day ‘Fish Camp’ clinics during the summer months.”

The IBFC will include a “Boat and Tackle Showcase” – a living display of the ingenuity and innovation of the bass fishing industry, along with a variety of interactive displays in the Virtual Fishing area, from simulating catching the big one to a ride in a fast, state-of-the-art bass boat.

The “Discovery Center” will enable visitors to experience the watery world of bass first-hand by observing fish behavior in the 36,000 gallon aquarium designed by Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, known throughout the world as the subject of the hit Animal Planet television show "Tanked". Bass fishing professionals and other instructors will demonstrate the latest lures and techniques used successfully on the tournament trail.

With its proximity to such world-class fisheries as Smith Lake and TVA lakes Guntersville, Wheeler, and Wilson, the IBFC will be a tournament headquarters and conference center. According the BFHOF board president Sammy Lee, the location makes it a natural meeting place for fishing industry related events.  These can include national tournament organizations and angling research symposia, as well as bass tournament weigh-ins. The adjacent Cullman Civic Center will enable partnering with the City on a wide range of activities, including non-fishing related events as well.

Currently in the midst of a major fundraising effort – already supported by leading tackle industry names including PRADCO, Zebco, Shimano, G. Loomis, T-H Marine and Strike King, the BFHOF Board anticipates groundbreaking for the IBFC in fall 2016.

###

About The Hall of Fame -- The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization dedicated to all anglers, manufacturers, tackle dealers, media and other related companies who further the sport of bass fishing. In February 2013 the board of directors announced the completion of a decade-long, exhaustive quest to secure a permanent home with the selection of Cullman, Alabama as the future site of the Hall – and what will now be the International Bass Fishing Center. The IBFC site will be constructed as a joint project with the City of Cullman, Cullman County and the City of Good Hope – a project that includes an adjacent civic/convention center, all of which will be housed on the 110-acre parcel known as the Burrow property. The Hall will enjoy a dedicated 30 acres of the property, which will include ponds, gardens and an aquatic-education center. The entire project is estimated to cost in excess $17 million with structures that will encompass 101,000 square feet. Dependent on fundraising efforts, the BFHOF Board hopes 

Tuesday
Jun032014

Electrofishing Surveys Reveal Virginia's Top Bass Fisheries

Western Branch, Briery Creek, Gatewood, and Pelham rank at the top for largemouth bass populations in Virginia’s four regions, according to recent electrofishing surveys.

“Those lakes ranked at the top will provide excellent opportunities for anglers to catch quality largemouth bass,” said Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF).

The agency cautioned, however, that “some of the large reservoirs are ranked lower than you might expect. Smaller reservoirs normally have higher sampling efficiency and will thus rank higher based on this evaluation.”

VDGIF based its rankings on the number of bass 15 inches and longer that biologists collected during one hour, as well as relative stock density, which is the proportion of bass in a population  over 8 inches  that are also at least 15 inches.

In Region I, Chesdin, Gardy’s Millpond, Prince, and Chickahominy Lake join Western Branch as the best, while Lake Burton, Smith Mountain, Conner, and Fairystone join Briery Creek in Region II.

For Region III, North Fork Pound Reservoir, Lake Whitten, Rural Retreat, and South Holston rank behind Gatewood, while Germantown, Occoquan, Burke, and Frederick follow Pelham in Region IV.

Wednesday
Jul242013

Fishing Is 'a Perpetual Series of Occasions for Hope'

Photo by Dave Burkhardt

(Dave Precht  is vice-president of editorial and communications for B.A.S.S. He also is a great editor and good friend. This is an excerpt from his wonderful essay in my new book, Why We Fish. Click on the button at the right side of page to see more about the book at Amazon, including 11 five-star reviews.)

My favorite thought is from John Buchan, the Scottish author: “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”

That is the reason I fish. It’s an occasion for hope. I hope to catch a limit of bass, or to outfish my buddies. To catch a 10-pounder. To not get skunked. The more elusive the goal, the more rewarding its attainment. Put another way, it’s the challenge of catching bass that drives me and, I believe, most bass anglers.

A couple of years ago, our own www.bassmaster.com website posted a weekly poll — unscientific but interesting — which found that bass anglers have different motivations from many other fishermen. Relaxation, contact with nature and camaraderie ranked at the bottom. Nearly half (48 percent) picked “the challenge,” while another 22 percent checked “the competition.”

Tuesday
May142013

Izaak Walton League Was Champion for Recreational Fishing

Many in the industry recognize that B.A.S.S. played a pivotal role in the growth of recreational fishing as an economic powerhouse. But what most do not know is the important part played by the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) nearly 90 years ago.

If not for IWLA’s successful crusade to protect black bass from commercial harvest, it’s conceivable that largemouth and smallmouth populations would have been so depleted by the late 1960s that B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott would have stayed in the insurance business instead of founding his conservation and tournament fishing organization.

“That was an issue vitally important to our organization and sport fishing in general,” said Scott Kovarovics, executive director of one of the nation’s oldest conservation organizations. “It ranks very, very highly in our list of accomplishments because it goes to the roots of our organization supporting conservation and outdoor recreation.

“We wanted to protect a resource that was under threat and being rapidly depleted.”

Meeting in Chicago in 1922, sportsmen concerned about  the nation’s waters and wild places decided to form “a federation of fishing clubs” and name it after Izaak Walton, a 17th century fisherman/conservationist who wrote The Compleat Angler. Almost immediately, the goal became to protect outdoor America, as concern focused on how commercial harvest was depleting black bass populations.

By the late 19th century, market hunting had pushed some wildlife species to the brink of extinction. State laws couldn’t prevent overharvest because wildlife simply could be acquired in one state and shipped to another. Passage of the federal Lacey Act in 1900 stopped that trade, but it did nothing to protect fish.

Sounding the alarm, IWLA’s Outdoor America Magazine said this in its February 1926 issue:

“Scientists state that the yearly toll of black bass in this country is so great compared with the yearly hatch that this greatest of American game fishes is certain to become extinct within 10 years unless extraordinary efforts are made to protect it.”

In response to this threat, IWLA worked with Rep. Harry Hawes of Missouri to introduce into Congress the Black Bass Act of 1926, which was the fish equivalent of the Lacey Act. Speaking on behalf of the bill in the Senate, James Watson of Indiana said, “The bass is undoubtedly the great American game fish and the favorite of millions of the rank and file of American anglers. It is found all American fresh waters, ponds, lakes, and streams.”

And in its July 1926 issue of Outdoor America, the organization proudly proclaimed, “Great Waltonian measure becomes a law May 20.” In concluding an article about the historic event, E.H.R. said, “This measure is perhaps the greatest ever passed in the interest of game fish.”

The Black Bass Act was expanded in 1947 to include all game fish and in 1952 to apply to all fish. In 1982, it was repealed, with its provisions incorporated into the Lacey Act, which protects fish, birds, and wildlife.

Sadly, today it might not be enough to protect bass populations in New York and its surrounding states. Despite fierce opposition from angling advocates, that state recently approved sale of hatchery-raised bass in restaurants and markets, with no requirement that those fish be marked to confirm their origin.

“It’s rather disheartening to see the state’s absolute unwillingness to impose a regulation that would have required individualized tagging (serial numbers),” said Mike Cusano, former president of the New York B.A.S.S. Nation (NYBN) and chairman of the Onondaga County Fisheries Advisory Board.

“This regulation is going to impact bass populations across the state as market owners realize that wild-caught black bass are a much cheaper alternative than the hatchery-raised fish,” he continued.

Yes, the regulation stipulates that the fish must be hatchery-raised, but the words of Seth Gordon, the first conservation director for IWLA, serve as a chilling reminder of what once was and what could again be when we don’t learn from history.

 “So long as there is a legal market anywhere, you may bank on it that thousands of pounds of illegally caught bass will be sold,” he said during the campaign on behalf of the Black Bass Act.

 IWLA Today

 With the majority of IWLA’s membership from the Middle Atlantic through the Ohio Valley and into the Upper Midwest, sale of hatchery-raised bass in New York isn’t an issue that the organization is involved in.

“But our members everywhere practice common sense conservation,” Kovarovics emphasized. “They want to enjoy the outdoors while preserving the resource for the future.”

On the national front, strengthening the federal Clean Water Act is one of the IWLA’s top priorities.

“New EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) numbers are just out that show 55 percent of our rivers and streams are in poor condition,” he said. “And even though that‘s the latest, it’s based on random samples from 2008 and 2009. We don’t have quality information about how bad it is right now.”

IWLA also promotes healthy, sustainable agriculture and clean energy and air, as well as focuses on introducing children to the outdoors through fishing and other activities.

On the agricultural front, IWLA is concerned because market policy (high prices) is pushing more and more acreage into crops, Kovarovics said.  That translates into less land for wildlife and as buffer strips to protect water from agricultural runoff pollution. “We support voluntary conservation programs and cooperative compliance, but, unfortunately, that’s beginning to erode,” he said.

Additionally, IWLA pushes for restoration of large ecosystems, the executive director added, pointing specifically to improving water quality and fish habitat in the Upper Mississippi and Upper Missouri Rivers.

“The goal (in the Upper Missouri) is to bring back the endangered pallid sturgeon, the least tern, and the piping plover,” he said. “But when you improve habitat for them, you provide a multitude of benefits for other species.”

The organization’s 41,500 members, meanwhile, belong to 250 chapters, which sponsor conservation work and youth activities in their local communities. They monitor water quality and restore habitat, as well as organize cleanups. They provide hunter safety training for children.

“We connect kids to fishing through spring and summer events that were developed organically by the chapters over the years,” Kovarovics said. “And at the same time the kids are fishing, they are learning about habitat conservation. We mix fun with a bit of education.”

In its chapter manual, the organization provides members a variety of ways to get children and families outdoors, including the following:  hunter education, family day outings, scouting, national hunting and fishing day, wildlife habitat improvement, youth fishing events, youth hunting events, and youth conservation camp/outdoor classroom.

Also, IWLA keeps its members informed and involved through e-mail blasts, monthly newsletters, and, of course, its quarterly magazine, Outdoor America, which led the charge to protect America’s No. 1 sport fish, the black bass, nearly 90 years ago.

“The lakes, rivers, and streams where these fish are found are public property, open to the rich and poor alike,” IWLA said in the February 1926 issue, as urged its members to support the Black Bass Act. “Fishing is the least expensive of all sports. It gives the youngest boy his first contact with nature, his first feeling of mastery . . .

“This is not a sportsman’s bill. It is for the rich and poor alike. It is to preserve for those that come after us the things we have enjoyed.”

(This article appeared originally in Fishing Tackle Retailer .)