Get Updates! and Search
No RSS feeds have been linked to this section.











Entries in bass tournaments (14)


Michigan Considers Opening Some Waters to Bass Tournaments During Spawn

With catch and release now allowed year around in most state waters, Michigan is considering opening 16 of its fisheries in the lower peninsula to bass tournaments during the spawn.

That means catch-and-delayed-release (CDR) would be permitted for registered tournaments from the last Saturday in April through the Saturday before Memorial Day.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources played host to public meetings about this and other proposed regulation changes during July. In addition, spokesman Nick Popoff said, "We will take input electronically as well for four or five months."

The proposed CDR fisheries would include Lake Charlevoix, Houghton Lake, Burt Lake, Mullett Lake, Hardy Dam Pond, White Lake, Muskegon Lake, Gull Lake, Gun Lake, Kent Lake, Portage Chain, Cass Lake, Half Moon Chain, Pontiac Lake, Wixom Lake, and Holloway Reservoir.

DNR said, "There is a limited biological uncertainty with liberalizing bass seasons. But, it added, "Most U.S. states allow bass fishing during the spawn without negative population impacts. Limiting the lakes will allow the DNR and public to gauge biological and social implications."

The agency also pointed out that local communities "could see economic boosts with more tournament activity."

Michigan had been considering allowing catch and release during the spawn for years, before initiating it this past April. The Michigan B.A.S.S. Nation was at the forefront of a campaign to make it happen.

 "Throughout that time, we had six test lakes, and did a lot of research to determine does CIR (catch-and-immediate-release) negatively affect spawning bass, versus CDR," Popoff said. "All of our research has shown there is no negative impact on spawning bass populations to target and catch those fish and immediately return them to the water." 


Michigan DNR Sets Up Online System for Bass Tournaments

Organizers for bass tournaments in Michigan now can use an online system to schedule their events at state-managed access sites and to report catch results.

According to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Michigan Fishing Tournament Information System will help minimize scheduling conflicts, as directors can view dates for other competitions on specific waterbodies.

In addition to alleviating scheduling concerns, this application will make it easier for directors to share catch data with DNR.

“Fisheries Division encourages bass tournament directors to enter their scheduled tournaments into this system as well as voluntarily contribute their tournament catch results to help us manage Michigan’s bass fisheries,” the agency said.

“The scientific value of tournament catch and effort data will be greater if more tournament directors participate in reporting their bass tournament results. This information will be used by state fisheries biologists, in combination with data from other sources, as a basis for informed fisheries management decisions.”

While organizers must set up an account to schedule events, the general public will be free to check tournament calendars at their favorite access sites.

But the public won’t be able to view catch results, nor will organizers be able to view data other than their own.


Michigan to Start Online Scheduling for Bass Tournaments

Photo by Ron Kinnunen

Beginning Jan. 1, if you want to schedule a bass tournament at a state-managed access site in Michigan, you can do so online. The Michigan Tournament Fishing Information System web application is intended to reduce scheduling conflicts. But it also could improve management of the state’s bass fisheries if organizers will use it to report catch data.

Here’s more from Michigan DNR:

"This system is designed to help both tournament organizers and recreational anglers and boaters avoid ramp conflicts. In addition, tournament organizers can electronically report their catch data and help Fisheries Division effectively manage our valuable fisheries resources.

"By policy, Fisheries Division will not assist nor become involved in promoting fishing tournaments. However, Fisheries Division recognizes that bass tournament catch and effort data can provide important information about bass populations across the state of Michigan."


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.


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.)