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Entries in bass tournaments (11)

Wednesday
Oct152014

Minnesota Considers Expanding Bass Season

Minnesota is proposing to increase bass fishing opportunities.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to open the season statewide two weeks earlier, at the same time that the walleye season begins. Those two weeks would be for catch-and-release only, except in the northeast, where the bass season already opens two weeks before the rest of the state.

Additionally, anglers would be allowed to keep smallmouth bass during the fall in the northeast. At present, all smallmouths must be released from mid September through February.

Warming winters and expanding bass populations are primary reasons for the changes. Traditionally, the opener was delayed to protect spawning bass, even though largemouth and smallmouth bass account for just 5 percent of fish caught and kept.

“When you look at the facts, we have no recruitment issues with bass. Our electrofishing numbers are extremely high, and the changes will have no impact on that,” said Eric Altena, a DNR fisheries supervisor and member of the Technical Bass Committee.

“We are way above recruitment in most parts of the state, and most waters have an abundance of bass.”

Bass tournaments, however, would not be allowed during the catch-and-release season. Under the proposal, all bass caught until Saturday of Memorial Day weekend must be released immediately.

“The proposal probably could have gone even more liberal, but there wasn’t as much support for more liberal framework,” said Henry Drewes, regional fisheries manager. “But we can do this and still protect the (bass) population statewide.”

Following a public-comment period, the proposals will be reviewed by DNR staff before a final decision is made. If approved, the regulations will go into effect for the 2015 fishing season.

Thursday
Jun262014

Northern States Warming Up to Bass Anglers

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Because of climate, management of bass fisheries in the North understandably must be different from management in the South. Northern winters are longer and more severe, while spawning and growing seasons are shorter and often more tenuous. For example, pounding winds and waves during a spring storm can nearly wipe out a year class on Lake Erie.

For decades, though, it also has been different for a myriad of reasons not related to stewardship of the resource, with bass fishing restricted as a consequence. Fortunately, that is starting to change, as evidenced by what happened recently in Wisconsin. Due in no small part to the diligent efforts of Dan Brovarney and Ken Snow in the Wisconsin B.A.S.S. Nation, that state has implemented regulations more friendly to bass anglers, including one that allows culling in permitted tournaments.

Elites Series events in northern waters also have helped. B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland pointed out that the 2012 Elite Series Green Bay Challenge “opened eyes and that allowed biologists to better understand what B.A.S.S. pro level tournaments are all about.”

They’ve also eased concerns that local residents had about possible negative impacts on their fisheries.

In general, Gilliland added, many states are moving toward simplifying regulations, but northern managers especially are warming up to the realization that bass are  popular fish deserving of more enlightened management. Most notably, closed seasons are going away, often replaced by catch-and-release.

For decades, northern fisheries managers believed that closed seasons were necessary to protect reproduction and recruitment. Now, though, evidence has begun to show that while individual nests can be harmed when male guardians are pulled off the nest, overall populations aren’t harmed. On New York’s Lake Oneida, biologist Randy Jackson found that environmental conditions are more likely to determine the success of a year class than whether anglers are pursuing bass during the spawn.  

Additionally, many managers have noted that the majority of bass anglers, no matter where they live, practice catch and release. Thus, overharvest isn’t the threat that it once was assumed to be.

Understandably, though, the farther north a fishery, the smaller the window for reproduction, and the greater the chance that it could be harmed by angling pressure.

Gilliland cited New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, along with Wisconsin, as some of the northern states being the most pro-active adopting regulations more friendly to bass anglers. Minnesota, he added, “is one of the holdouts.”

Traditionally, the conservation director explained, bass management in northern states was dictated by “legacy biology.”  In other words, it just continued to be as it always had been, with resource managers focusing on walleye, muskie, pike, and trout, while bass remained “a kind of unknown.”

“But now that bass tournaments are exposing how tremendous some of the bass fisheries are up north, they have to deal with bass management,” Gilliland said. “Most of the biologists were cold-water trained, and it was easy not to deal with it (bass management). Now, they have to deal with it.”

That assessment is confirmed by the fact that three of the top five fisheries in Bassmaster’s “Top 100 Best Bass Lakes” for 2014 are northern waters: 1. Wisconsin’s Sturgeon Bay in Lake Michigan 3. Lake Erie and 4. Lake Coeur d’ Alene in Idaho.

But Gilliland also is sympathetic to the reality that managing bass is more complicated in the North than in the South. Two of the most obvious reasons are the diversity of user groups and the vast expanses of water.

“When you’re trying to keep everyone happy and keep all of those different fisheries sustainable, it can be difficult,” he said.

A general trend toward warmer winters also “throws a monkey wrench” into the mix, he added.

Plus, tournament fishing is not nearly as popular with local residents in the North as it is in the South. Residents around those northern natural lakes view the waters as their own, and many don’t want to share them fishermen who are just passing through.

“Those people are automatically against new regulations and biology doesn’t matter. They want to limit access,” the conservation director said.

Still, regulation improvements are occurring, and managers of northern waters are to be commended for responding to their bass-fishing constituents.

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

 

Wednesday
Jun042014

Change in Regulations Opens Stonewall Jackson to Tournaments

For the first time since it was flooded in the late 1980s, Stonewall Jackson Lake will play host to bass tournaments during 2014.

The move was made possible by a change in regulations. Catch-and-release has been replaced by a six-fish limit, with only one of more than 18 inches allowed. Whether that latter restriction will deter tournaments, especially some of the larger ones, remains to be seen.

West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) decided to remove the catch-and-release requirement because biologists saw signs of decline in the fishery.

“Overall, the condition of the lake’s largemouth bass has diminished, and there are far more spotted bass in the fishery than there used to be,” said Bret Preston, fisheries chief. “We believe the new regulations will help to counter those trends and maintain really good bass fishing at Stonewall Jackson.”

He added, “We wanted the new regulations to encourage the harvest of smaller fish, but, at the same time, allow someone who catches a really nice bass to keep it. We don’t think allowing people to keep one trophy bass will have any adverse impact on the lake’s ability to produce trophy fish.”

DNR biologists recommended the change last year. Following public meetings and surveys of anglers at Stonewall Jackson, it was approved by the agency’s commission.

 

Friday
May162014

Weigh in on Florida's Proposed Changes in Bass Regulations

If you fish for bass in Florida, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants your input regarding a change being considered for the five-bass daily bag limit.

The statewide bag limit of five would not be altered, but each angler would be allowed to keep up to five bass of less than 16 inches each or four less than 16 and one more than 16.

“Limited exceptions for specific fisheries that have special needs or opportunities would still be possible, such as high-profile, catch-and-release fisheries that need such a management approach, or even a few more liberal regulations where bass may be overabundant,” FWC said. “Those would be limited exceptions and generally associated with fish management areas.

“In addition, it is important to note that there is no intent to alter the simple Bass Tournament Exemption Permit process.”

Go here to take the survey.

“The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) takes public opinions very seriously,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. “Combined with the best science and case studies that we have to go on, public input helps us strive for optimal sustained use of these popular and valuable fish.”

As someone who fishes Florida waters as often as I can and knows the biologists at FWC, I respect the job that they do and hope that you will help with this.

Tuesday
Apr162013

On a Fish Care Mission . . .

Most bass anglers believe that they practice effective catch and release, but many are mistaken.

That realization is what motivates Carl Wengenroth to travel the vast expanses of Texas, teaching fish care to bass clubs. It is what motivates him to educate whoever will listen at The Angler's Lodge, a resort that he owns on Lake Amistad. And it is why he will give presentations during 2013 at National Marine Manufacturers Association boat shows.

“Guys tell me that their boats never kill a fish,” said Wengenroth, conservation director for the Anglers Bass Club of Del Rio. “But when I ask them if they’ve ever been back to the weigh-in site two or three days later, they say, ‘No.’

“They just don’t understand delayed mortality. But if we’re going to preach catch and release, we need to do it right.”

Wengenroth first realized that “we have a problem” when he saw the consequences of improper handling of bass during tournaments at Amistad and other lakes. When released after weigh-in, the fish swam away, but their carcasses littered the surface days later.

Many of the fatalities were the result of barotrauma (inflated bladder) and the fish could have been saved if they had been fizzed, Wengenroth learned, as he worked with Texas Parks and Wildlife and state Conservation Director Tim Cook to improve survival rates.

“Tim’s ethic has inspired me,” the lodge owner said. “The fire underneath his butt has put one under mine.”

Consequently, Wengenroth now conducts fish care classes from Del Rio to Conroe and down to Zapata, asking only that clubs pay for his hotel room and pass the hat for gas money.

During the 1 ½ hour-class, he shows anglers how to improve water quality in their livewells and in tournament holding tanks, as well as explains the why and how to vent bass through their sides.

With an oxygenation system for the boat’s livewell, an angler can turn off the aerator and will need to change the water only two or three times a day, Wengenroth explained. “Those who don’t want to install one “should put the aerator on and leave it on,” he said.

Keeping livewell water 5 to 8 degrees cooler than surface water is important too and that can be done by ice, with chemicals added to knock out the chlorine. A cheap floating thermometer allows for monitoring of temperature.

But no matter how good the water quality, if fish are suffering from barotrauma they are likely to die. “I teach them when you put a fish in the livewell, check it in 15 minutes and then again in 30 minutes,” the club conservation director said. “If it’s still down, then you are good to go.”

Wengenroth added that many are surprised to learn what contributes to barotrauma. “High temperatures in a foot of water can cause it as well as deep water,” he said.

And needle phobia is a common theme among anglers in his classes. To deal with that, he uses small filleted fish to teach bass anatomy and show where the needle goes when it is inserted under a side scale.

“This way, the can see that the needle will go where it is supposed to go (into the bladder), and they lose their fear of killing the fish,” said the lodge owner.

Following his classes, he added, anglers often tell him “I had no idea” and express their gratitude for his instruction.

“I am proud to say I believe in my heart I have made a difference,” Wengenroth said.

Clubs that would like to learn more about fish care from Wengenroth can contact him at AnglersLodge1@yahoo.com or (830) 719-9907.

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