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Entries in catch-and-release (36)

Monday
Feb082016

This Time, Anglers Are Attacked

Anglers who caught a huge tiger shark off the coast of Australia have been attacked with the same indignant outrage as that heaped on the Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion.

Never mind that the two incidents are vastly different. That doesn't matter to the name-calling know-nothings whose comments highlight their colossal ignorance regarding wildlife and nature. What matters to these "animal lovers" is that they want to heap abuse on those who fish and hunt.

And in doing so, the implication should be clear to all of us who hunt or fish and occasionally keep what we catch: They don't want us doing it either, and, if they have their way, one day we won't be able to. They've already scored victories on this front in western Europe, where catch-and-release isn't allowed in some countries because its "cruel" and in others where live bait can't be used because it's equally offensive.

How ignorant are these people? Here's one comment on Facebook, where the photo of the  nearly 1,400-pound shark and the anglers originally was posted:

"WTF is wrong with these people leave the Sharks alone without them out ocean would be a lot more polluted." (Comment is reprinted just as it was written.)

And here's an excerpt from another:

". . . you went into another's place of residence and fought an unfair battle, you were armed with a weapon that has placed this creature in an unfair situation. To me you are cowards . . . "

That's called anthropomorphizing, and that's what these people do. In other words, they attribute human qualities, needs, emotions, etc. to animals. In fact, a primary objective of the most radical is achieve legal "personhood" for animals.

The same types of comments and attacks surfaced on social media against hunters and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in the wake of last fall's bear hunt, which the agency deemed an appropriate management tool to help control the state's exploding bear population.

With the shark, meanwhile, we know little about the circumstances of the catch and why the anglers decided to keep the fish instead of release it. What we do know, though, is that their catch was legal.

And we know that they were using light line (15 kg-pound test, or the equivalent of about 30-pound). What that suggests is that they probably were not targeting sharks, and that a long fight was required to bring it to the boat.  And the longer the battle, the more likely that the shark was too exhausted to survive afterward. That sometimes happens when large fish are caught on light line.

Of course, that's of absolutely no importance to the know-nothings who say things like this:

"You are just as bad as poachers in Africa."

They are relentless too, and not in the least bit troubled by their ignorance, as they are fueled entirely by emotion.

And as we become an increasingly urbanized society, where more and more people spend little time outdoors and have no clue as to how nature works, this is only going to get worse for those of us who fish and hunt.

Thursday
Jan212016

Not All Hunters, Anglers Are Conservationists. Are You?

As anglers and hunters, we like to pat ourselves on our collective back about what great conservationists we are. We do that  because state fish and wildlife management is funded primarily by license fees and the excise taxes that we pay on the fishing and hunting equipment we buy. Those hundreds of millions of dollars annually benefit all species, not just those we like to catch and hunt.

But contributing to conservation is not the same as being a conservationist.

That realization came to me recently when I saw a post from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) on its Facebook page, thanking those whose comments "led to a vote to oppose the release of wolves in Colorado."

I also saw other comments that leave no doubt that many hunters want the elk for themselves.  Here's just one: "I hate wolves and I hate the people who love them, too."

Additionally, I saw  the above poster, explaining "why hunting is conservation."

No it's not. Hunters and anglers contribute to conservation. And, yes, some of them are conservationists, including me. I write about my conservation lifestyle in "I Am a Steward," an essay in Why We Fish.

Also, elk, bison, whitetail, and turkey all are thriving once again because of financial contributions made by hunters, through license fees, excise taxes, and great organizations like RMEF and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

But many hunters are not conservationists. They are hunters. Period. And, like selfish children, they don't want to share.

That's what prompted me to leave this comment on the RMEF Facebook page:

"RMEF has done great things to bring back the elk, and I am grateful for that. But I do wonder how large the elk population was long before 1907, before greedy commercial hunters nearly wiped them out, along with bison and wolves.

"And I am troubled by the anti-wolf rhetoric here. Those who want the elk back but not the wolves are not conservationists. Rather, they are not a whole lot different than those commercial hunters who didn't want to share either. They wanted all the elk for themselves.

"Wolves are just as much a part of the wilderness as elk and to deny them that place is not conservation. It's game management for the benefit of hunters, who, like other predator species, do not want competition.

"With proper management, we can have both species and a wilderness that once again is truly wild."

I don't want to leave anglers out of this sermon either.  Yes, many practice catch-and-release, and, most times, that's good conservation. But for some, it also leads to an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality. In other words, the logic goes, "If the fish swims away, then I've done my part."

Never mind that far too many fish die of delayed mortality because of mistreatment prior to release.

And whether you hunt or fish, you should leave the places you frequent better than how you found them if you call yourself a conservationist. Pack out not just your own trash, but that left behind by others.

Respect the land and water, as well as all of the fish and animals that live there, recognizing that each is a integral part of the natural system. Asian carp, Burmese pythons, and other harmful exotic species are notable exceptions. Introduced into  systems with no natural limits on their numbers, they destroy the balance, just as commercial hunters did more than a century ago.

Thursday
Jan072016

Florida'sTrophyCatch Numbers for Big Bass Continue to Grow

"TrophyCatch Season 3 ended on a very positive note, and Season 4 is off to an even better start, with peak fishing time right around the corner," according to the Florida Fish and Widllife Conservation Commission (FWC).

 TrophyCatch is the citizen-science program that allows FWC to collect data on largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds. In return, corporate partners reward anglers for properly documenting the catch with a photo of the entire bass (head to tail) on a scale with the weight showing, and releasing it.

During Season 3, the FWC verified 1,744 TrophyCatch bass, with more than 70 percent of the submissions being approved. The previous season, 993 bass heavier than 8 pounds were verified, which was about 60 percent of submissions. The first season, 185 were verified, which was less than 40 percent of submissions.

“This reflects an increasing awareness by anglers of the TrophyCatch program and how to document their catches, but also shows how prolific the trophy bass fishery is in Florida,” said KP Clements, director of TrophyCatch.

By going to TrophyCatchFlorida.com anglers can register, submit fish, and examine other catches from around the state. Just registering makes you eligible to win a $40,000 boat package. Ed Prather was the lucky winner of the third Phoenix Bass Boat given away by TrophyCatch. The boats are powered by Mercury and equipped with a PowerPole shallow-water anchoring. To be eligible for the random drawing at the end of Season 4, simply ensure you are registered and your information is up-to-date.

Data has shown FWC biologists that while there are hot lakes, like Kingsley Lake in Clay County (which has limited access to the military and homeowners), numerous catches come from small urban or rural ponds or even golf course ponds. Large popular public lakes like Istokpoga, Tohopekaliga, Okeechobee and Kissimmee provide equal opportunity for all anglers and are popular tourist destinations.

At TrophyCatchFlorida.com you can search for catches by county or water body to determine how your favorite area is doing or where to try next.

 Last season about 50 TrophyCatch bass were verified in December, which doubled to more than 100 in January, then increased to about 150 in February and peaked in March with almost 400 approved submissions. Trophy bass catches then declined through November before picking up again, in a typical annual cycle. Of course, this is keyed to the bass’ spawning cycle and anglers’ enthusiasm for finding bass during early spring.

March panned out very well for the 15 Hall of Fame winners from Season 3, who were honored in December at an event at Bass Pro Shops, Orlando. Those anglers caught, documented and released 17 bass over 13 pounds, five of which were caught in March. This included Seth Chapman, who earned the TrophyCatch championship ring, donated by the American Outdoors Fund, for a 15-pound, 11-ounce bass submitted from Kingsley Lake. The ring goes to the biggest verified bass of the season.

Porschia Gabrielse was the first angler with three Hall-of-Fame bass — a 13-, 14-, and 15-pounder — all from small Polk County ponds. She has contributed a total of 41 TrophyCatches to the program.

“TrophyCatch provides significant data to help manage our valuable, ensuring that Florida remains the ‘Fishing Capital of the World’,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

Each Hall-of-Fame fish would be a state record in 28 states, and Florida has had 23 documented in three years. A 15-pounder exceeds the records in all but 12 other states.

To become a TrophyCatch winner yourself, catch, document and release a largemouth bass legally that is 8 pounds or heavier in Florida. To enter a trophy bass, take a photo of the entire bass on a scale with the weight visible, and release it alive. Being legal includes having a Florida freshwater fishing license or approved exemption, so make sure you are covered.

For more information , check out Facebook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida, and YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida.

Thursday
Jun182015

Big Bass Bites Twice

Some bass just don’t mind being caught. That’s the way it seemed, at least for an 8-pound, 11-ounce largemouth that Robert Burnett caught recently while fishing a shiner on Florida’s Lake Rousseau. Fifteen minutes later, he caught her again.

Burnett knew it was the same fish because he had clipped a fin to send to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for genetic analysis as part of the TrophyCatch.

The angler from Inglis has 26 Lunker Club (8 to 9.9 pounds) and 1 Trophy Club entry (10 to 12.9 pounds) in the FWC program, which began in 2012.

Through incentives provided by the state and corporate sponsors, TrophyCatch encourages anglers to catch, document, and release bass of 8 pounds and heavier. While helping anglers discover which lakes are most productive for big fish and providing valuable information for fisheries management, the program also reduces “the need to prohibit harvest with regulations and has proved highly successful,” FWC said.

Burnett noted that he carefully follows FWC handling advice to clip the line if a fish swallows a hook too deeply to remove easily. On fish that he has left the hook in, he as observed specific markings, such as a scar behind the gill cover. Then, within 10 days, he has caught the same fish again and noticed there was no sign of the hook bothering the fish. This type of anecdotal information helps to substantiate and reconfirm the value of releasing trophy-size bass so anglers can enjoy catching them again.

“Perhaps Robert Burnett will be the one that catches it next time, or his wife – another TrophyCatch participant – or one of his two boys, or some other lucky angler,” FWC said.

Since Oct. 1, 2012, TrophyCatch has verified more than 2,350 bass heavier than 8 pounds that anglers caught, documented and released. Included in those, were 556 Trophy Club (10-12.9 pounds) and 19 Hall of Fame (heavier than 13 pounds) catches. Each of these entrants provides valuable data to the FWC through this citizen-science, conservation program. In addition, each verified catch earned a lucky angler at least $100 in Bass Pro Shops or similar gift cards, a Bass King shirt, other rewards, and a certificate for the accomplishment.

“Ultimately, the direct impact of catch-and-release depends on anglers carefully handling the bass and getting it back in the water where it came from as quickly as practical,” FWC added. “To provide the required documentation for TrophyCatch, however, a photo of the entire bass (head to tail) on a scale with the weight showing or official published tournament results is needed.”

People can sign up for free at TrophyCatchFlorida.com to earn a chance to win a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury Marine and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system and electronic charting by Avionics. While on the site, people can explore the photo gallery and search for catches by water body, county, angler or size class.

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.