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Entries in bass fishing (34)


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.)


Follow the Shad for Bass Fishing Success in Fall

Mike Iaconelli and Pete Gluszek share insights into how and where to catch bass in fall at Keep America Fishing.

Here’s an excerpt:

“In order to understand the bass migration, you must first understand the bait migration. In most lakes across the country, shad are the main forage for the bass. After summer, the colder water brings the baitfish out in search of food of their own. The main source of food for the shad is plankton, and this brings them out of the main lake and into channels and creeks.

“The most important part of bass fishing in the fall is knowing where to find these schools of bait. If you can find the schools, you can also find the bass.”

Read the full story here.

But Don't Forget . . .

Secret: Many pros believe that most of our reservoirs have two distinct populations of bass. One population stays offshore except to spawn, relating more to deep-water structure and feeding primarily on shad. The other might migrate into deeper water during summer and winter, but prefers to feed in shallow water during spring and fall. What this means is that you almost always can find fish deep, and deep fish receive far less pressure from anglers than do those in the shallows.

--- From my book, Better Bass Fishing, available here or at Amazon.


Dredging Next Strategy in Attempt to Restore Florida's Lake Apopka

A new chapter in the decades-long request to restore Lake Apopka will begin next spring, with a $4.8 million dredging project.

To date, about $187 million has been spent trying to correct the environmental abuse heaped upon Florida’s fourth largest lake and once one of the nation’s best bass fisheries.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) are teaming up on this effort, which will suck about an estimated 50 acres of muck from areas near Newton Park in Winter Garden and Magnolia Park near Apopka.

Along with enhancing water clarity and quality, the dredging should improve navigation in the 30,000-acre lake.

“The state can’t afford to dredge the whole lake, but removing patches of the puddinglike black goo from strategic areas could aid fish populations and accelerate the lake’s recovery by helping eel grass and other native plants re-establish roots on the lake bottom,” said Tom Champeau, FWC fisheries chief.

Improving access is important too, added David Walker, SJRWMD’s basin program manager. “The idea is to carve some sort of channel that gives access out to the lake, even in low water conditions, and clean out the muck,” he said.

As of right now, the muck will be removed in a couple of ways. A much more expensive approach, termed “experimental,” involves quickly drying the muck and stuffing it into “geotubes.”  The latter then will be anchored around the dredged area, in hopes of preventing fluid muck from surging back into the cleaned area.

Additionally, muck will be pumped out via pipeline and spread on public land, where it will dry into an organic cap, intended to protect wildlife from pesticides in the dirt below it.

Lake Apopka declined and its bass fishery crashed because of nutrient overload from citrus processors, sewage plants, and runoff from “muck” farms. Shoreline development aided its demise, as filtering wetlands were destroyed. Fed by nitrogen and phosphorus, algae blooms turned its dying waters pea green.

(Reprinted from B.A.S.S. Times.)



Activist Angler Finds Better Luck at Lake Eufaula

Troy Gibson with Lake Eufaula largemouth. Photo by Robert Montgomery

My friend Troy Gibson was disappointed that we didn’t catch more fish when he showed me Alabama’s Lake Eufaula Tuesday.

But considering the slow fishing that I had experienced for several days in Arkansas, I was delighted. Our largest five weighed 15 pounds or better. Plus, we caught several chunky spotted bass in the 1- to 2-pound range.

Additionally, Troy caught a white bass/striped bass hybrid and a channel catfish, which I solemnly promised to reveal to no one. As a tournament angler and one of the nation’s foremost designers of soft plastic baits for bass, he didn’t want that information to get out.

We caught most of our fish on Strike King XD Sexy Shad crankbaits, as we positioned in channels and ditches and threw up onto submerged points and flats in 6 to 17 feet. This was the first time that I had used the Strike King crankbaits, and I was impressed by their action in deeper water and retrieve consistency.

Before we fished Eufaula, Troy took me to Southern Plastics (SP), where he is marketing and sales manager. SP has been making plastic baits for about 40 years, and, since my friend joined Terry Spence’s team, its role as a major player in the fishing industry has grown even more. Terry said fiscal 2012 was their best year ever for the company that produces about 50 million pieces annually, with Bass Pro Shops among its clients.

Here’s an interesting observation from Terry, who knows as much about soft plastic baits as anyone:

“We sell more green pumpkin than anything. Previously, it was pumpkinseed and before that it was electric grape.”

I’ll post more about Southern Plastics later. 


A Touch of Mink --- and Catfish

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Seeing this mink with its catfish breakfast was the highlight of my morning in the White River National Wildlife Refuge. Fishing for us humans was slow, as two of us managed just three fish.

For the afternoon, I moved to the Arkansas River and caught about 20 spotted and largemouth bass, with largest just under 3 pounds.

It was a long, long day, starting at 4:30 a.m. and ending about 8 p.m., but any day in the outdoors, and especially on the water, is a good one.