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Entries in bass fishing (33)

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 .)

Thursday
May022013

Bassmaster Lists Best Bass Lakes

 

Bassmaster Magazine has released its list of the top 100 bass lakes.

Following are the top 10:

1. Lake St. Clair, Michigan

2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas

3. Clear Lake, California

4. Lake Guntersville, Alabama

5. Lake Erie, Michigan/Ohio/New York/Pennsylvania

6. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee

7. Falcon Lake, Texas

8. Lake Okeechobee, Florida

9. San Joaquin Delta, California

10. Toledo Bend Reservoir, Texas/Louisiana

Click here to see the story.

Then click on “Photo Gallery," and you can see photos of the top 100, as well as the comments.

Oh, yes, the comments. If there’s anything that anglers don’t agree on, it’s the best place to go fishing.

 
Thursday
Mar282013

Bass Bring in Bucks for Lake Guntersville Communities

Photo by George W. Ponder III

Bass are the best when it comes to generating income through recreational fishing at Lake Guntersville, according to preliminary findings from a study by Auburn University.

For the first 10 months of 2012, more than 200,000 angler fishing days translated into $13.4 million in directed related expenditures. Of this effort, 66 percent of anglers targeted bass, with crappie accounting for 19 percent, sunfish 6, catfish 3, and “anything” or other fish 5.

“We estimated the economic impact of recreational fishing expenditures and tax revenues generated for the four major recreational fisheries at Lake Guntersville to the local towns, counties, and state,” explained graduate student Chris McKee.

“Bass dominated during all seasons,” he said, adding that data was collected through monthly creel surveys and aerial counts of boat anglers.

More than 500 of the nearly 700 anglers interviewed said that they were fishing for bass, 125 for crappie, 29 for sunfish, and 10 for catfish.

Of the 1.29 million hours spent fishing at the 69,000-acre reservoir in northern Alabama, 965,000 of them were devoted to bass.

Tournaments of all kinds accounted for 21 percent of those hours, with 56 percent of competitive anglers coming from Alabama and 32 percent from border states.

Thirty-four percent of bass trips were related to tournaments, with more than half of those for pre-fishing.

Bass anglers traveled an average of 13.5 miles one way to fish Guntersville, but 39 percent of them came from out of state, and 40 percent of those stayed overnight. Average extended stay was 4.4 days.

Overall, 42 percent of Guntersville anglers were residents of the three counties surrounding the reservoir, while 27 percent were nonlocal Alabama residents, 15 percent were from border states, and 16 percent were from nonborder states.

When finalized, these results “should demonstrate that the Lake Guntersville fishery contributes significant funds to local and state businesses and to government tax bases,” McKee said. “In turn, this could help secure funding for projects that will maintain and improve the recreational fishery at Lake Guntersville, as well as the supporting infrastructure.”

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

Monday
Feb042013

ESA Protection for Clear Lake Minnow Could Threaten Bass Fishery

Photo from Lake County Marketing Program

Those who fish and live near California’s Clear Lake have good reason to fear a proposal to list the hitch, a type of native minnow, under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Passed with the best of intentions in 1973, the ESA has proven to be a poorly worded, over-reaching federal mandate often used --- and abused --- by environmental organizations. They wield it to push a preservationist ideology, with saving plants and animals from extinction simply a convenient front for raising funds.

By contrast our rights to use both public and private lands and waters are the collateral damage, with little recourse except years of expensive litigation, an option that few of us can afford.

At Clear Lake, one of the best bass fisheries in the nation could be threatened by this listing, as well as the well being of communities that rely on the economic engine of recreational fishing.

How good is this 43,785-acre natural lake? Well, until it was surpassed by Texas’ Falcon in 2008, Clear Lake owned all of the heavyweight B.A.S.S. tournament records. In 2007, it surrendered a four-day weight of 122 pounds, 14 ounces to Steve Kenney.

It is ranked as the 10th best bass fishery in the country by Bassmaster Magazine.

Additionally, agriculture around the lake could be a casualty.

“The one fact that surprised many in the audience was that local economic conditions can't be taken into consideration while determining if a species is endangered,” said the Lake County Record-Bee newspaper, reporting on a public meeting about the listing proposed by the Center for Biological Diversity.

 “In other words, even if the listing of a species as endangered would have devastating consequences on a local community it would have no effect on the listing process.

“That did not sit well with many at the meeting. Many worry if the hitch is declared endangered it would impact the use of the lake by fishermen and boaters. The local farming community, which uses water from the lake, is also worried about the consequences of the hitch becoming an endangered species.”

What is used to determine whether a species is appropriate to list as endangered or threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service?

“The best scientific information available,” reports the FWS in its “ESA Basics” fact sheet.

As many critics are quick to ask, what if the best available isn’t very good? The spotted owl controversy provides the perfect example.

In 1991, FWS gave the northern subspecies of the owl ESA protection as a “threatened” species. “Best scientific information available” suggested it was declining because of habitat loss. As a consequence, much of the Northwest’s logging industry was forced to shut down on both private and public lands, killing thousands of jobs and collapsing local economies.

But the spotted owl population continued to decline.

Today, that “best evidence” suggests the spotted owl is threatened by its more aggressive cousin, the barred owl, moving into its territory. And wildlife managers are developing plans to kill thousands of barred owls.

If the hitch should be listed, it’s entirely plausible to think that largemouth bass might be similarly targeted. After all, it is not native to Clear Lake, or even California for that matter.

Yes, bass have been in the fishery for more than a century and the lake has been altered dramatically over time by development, which has contributed to the hitch’s decline. But because of their high profile, bass are a favorite target in the West. Preservationists also insist on blaming them for the decline of salmon in rivers that have been altered almost beyond recognition by dams and diversions.

On the other hand, a restoration plan for the hitch might not be directed at diminishing the bass population. Maybe it will be about habitat improvement, and that even could be good news for bass and other Clear Lake species.

But the history of the ESA and its enforcement is full of examples where common sense does not prevail, including the ordeal of Montana rancher John Shuler. He shot a grizzly bear from his porch in self defense, although the FWS didn’t see it that way and fined him $7,000. Fortunately, the Mountain States Legal Foundation agreed to represent him at no charge in the eight-year battle that would have cost him $250,000.

A federal judge finally ruled in Shuler’s favor. But how many others, like the timber industry, lost out and continue to lose out to “best scientific information available” with no recourse?

Those who fish and live around Clear Lake should keep that in mind as they consider whether to support an ESA listing for the hitch.

(This opinion piece appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)