This area does not yet contain any content.
Get Updates! and Search
No RSS feeds have been linked to this section.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

Entries in catch-and-release (29)

Wednesday
May212014

More on Wisconsin's World-Class Smallmouth Fishery

Guide Dale Stroschein with two of the many quality smallmouth bass that we caught in a small bay on the Lake Michigan side of Door County. Photo by Robert Montgomery

The waters of eastern Wisconsin have been garnering lots of attention these days for their spectacular smallmouth bass fishing.

First, Bassmaster ranked the Sturgeon Bay portion of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay as its No. 1 fishery for 2014. It’s on the western side of the Door County peninsula, which separates Green Bay from the rest of the lake.

Reinforcing that designation this month, a smallie weighing 8.29 pounds was caught in Green Bay.

Additionally, angler Ben Royce caught and released what could have been a state record bass in an unnamed lake in the Milwaukee area. Record is 9.1, caught in 1950. Based on measurements, Royce’s fish could have weighed 9.6 pounds.

Now here’s the rest of the story: The eastern side of that peninsula isn’t bad either. In fact, seven years ago, I experienced my best day of bass fishing ever in the shallow waters of a little bay there. Guide Dale Stroschein and I were forced to the eastern side by unrelenting westerly winds that made fishing the western side difficult and dangerous.

Since I’ve been a B.A.S.S. Senior Writer for nearly 30 years and have fished for bass all over the United States, as well as in Mexico and Canada, that’s saying something.

In Why We Fish, I write about that day in an essay entitled, appropriately enough “The Best Day.”

Activist Angler with a Wisconsin smallmouth bass on "The Best Day."

Here’s an excerpt:

But they also hammered spinnerbaits and wallowed all over surface baits. They struck so hard on the former that they nearly pulled the rod from my hands a couple of times.

The setting --- calm, shallow water --- and the bite reminded me of fishing for cruising redfish in Louisiana or Florida.

The smaller ones were 3 pounds, and we weighed several that checked in at 5 ½ pounds or more. Doubles were common, and we often caught three, four, or even five fish on successive casts. We didn’t keep count, but we certainly caught more than 50 quality smallmouths in just three to four hours of fishing.

Even for my veteran guide, the bite was extraordinary. He took a break from the action to call a friend and tell him about it.

As the bite finally slowed a bit, Dale wrestled a smallmouth that clobbered a topwater while I battled another on a spinnerbait. When his fish neared the boat, I grabbed the net with one hand as I clung to my rod with the other.

Thursday
May012014

Time to Take a Look at the Big Picture of Animal Rights Movement

Generally, we don’t take the animal rights movement literally. That’s because we’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted from the big picture by the relatively small skirmishes, including the movement to ban lead fishing tackle and, more recently, the campaign to portray catch and release as cruel.

But it’s time for a harsh reality check. The animal rights movement is about giving “rights” to fish, fowl, and furry critters. It’s also about giving rights to trees, grass, and water. And it’s coming closer and closer to a waterway near you, possibly in the guise of a Trojan horse that its devotees hope you won’t recognize for what it is.

Consider the good folks of Upper Mount Bethel Township in Pennsylvania. Some don’t want fertilizers made with human waste being spread on local farm fields, and they’ve voiced their concerns.

Enter the Community Environmental Legal Defend Fund (CELDF) to “help” these residents. It is proposing a community bill of rights for the right to water, self-governance, and sustainable farming, with a ban on spreading sludge by corporations.

Sounds great, huh? Until you check out the CELDF’s pedigree. Here is what it proclaims on its website:

“The Legal Defense Fund has assisted communities in the United States to craft first-in-the-nation laws that change the status of natural communities and ecosystems from being regarded as property under the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities.

 “Those local laws recognize that natural communities and ecosystems possess an inalienable and fundamental right to exist and flourish, and that residents of those communities possess the legal authority to enforce those rights on behalf of those ecosystems.  In addition, these laws require the governmental apparatus to remedy violations of those ecosystem rights.”

Got that? Its objective is to give legal rights to rivers, lakes, forests, and fields.

Fortunately, at least one Pennsylvania resident did his homework and explained his concerns in a letter to the Express-Times newspaper.

“I listened to the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund lecture on the Constitution and individual rights, only to breeze over the part of the proposal that subjugates individual rights to the rights of the collective and worse, to an imagined ‘natural community,’” said James Kaleda.

“This proposal is extreme environmentalism masquerading as local sovereignty.  It has UMBT residents declare their sovereignty and then immediately subjugate their rights to the rights of a rock.

“Make no mistake about it. This bill is anti-hunting, anti-fishing, anti-wood-burning stove. It is anti-freedom . . .”

And he’s correct. A community that buys into this scam is just a heartbeat away from placing itself in a situation in which it can be coerced into prohibiting fishing because it disrupts the natural harmony and thus violates the rights of a “natural community.”

Think that can’t happen?  It already has in Europe, where animal rights groups have enjoyed so much success that they no longer try to hide their true objectives. In several countries, they’ve established political parties, with the most notable being in the Netherlands.

In 2006, the Dutch Party for Animals won two seats in Parliament. Among its successes is a ban on round goldfish bowls because they are too stressful.

“Their goal is to move away from human-centered thinking and create a society that treats animals with respect,” reported The Economist.

Meanwhile in Italy, a terminally ill veterinary student posted support on her Facebook page for animal research, explaining that it helped keep her alive. In response, she was bombarded with hate mail and death threats.

One message said, “You could die tomorrow. I wouldn’t sacrifice my goldfish for you.”

And let’s not forget that use of live bait already is prohibited in several European countries because it’s viewed as cruel, while Switzerland has banned catch-and-release fishing for the same reason.

In the U.S., sport fishing still is solidly supported by a vast majority of the people, and state wildlife agencies have done a good job of recruiting new anglers through urban fishing programs and other innovative strategies.

But let’s not forget that animal rights advocates don’t care about how many millions enjoy/support fishing or how important it is historically, culturally, and economically. They are blindly devoted to imposing their will on the rest of us, and they are not reluctant to use Trojan horses in doing so.

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

Thursday
Apr102014

Predation Can Be Quick When Male Bass Removed from Bed

Bluegills and other predators can eat bass eggs and fry within 5 minutes of the male being removed from the nest, according to recent research at the University of Illinois.

The fact that they move in when the protector is caught and pulled out is not news. But this recent finding about how fast it can occur is something that anglers should remember.

“One of the main conclusions of the study was that in a lake where there are very few brood predators, when you angle a male away from his nest and then immediately release him, the change of a negative impact is less,” said Jeff Stein, a University of Illinois fisheries scientist.

“But if the nest is located in a part of a lake where there is a high density of brood predators, once the male is removed, predators get into the nest very quickly. On average, the time it took brood predators to begin eating bass young was less than 5 minutes in cases where the nest was located near schools of brood predators.”

Stein added that his message to anglers is that it’s best to get the fish back in the water as soon as possible if they are catch-and-release fishing for nesting bass early in the year, especially if the lake is known to have a high number of bluegill and other predators.

Of course, the debate remains never-ending about whether to fish for bedding bass because of what happens when they are removed from the nest and the fear by some that it will harm productivity.  I don’t do it, but that’s a matter of personal choice. I don’t think that it generally is harmful to bass populations. And fisheries managers have found no evidence that it is.

The bottom line is this: Southern fisheries aren’t nearly so vulnerable because they have longer spawning seasons. Northern fisheries are more vulnerable because seasons are shorter. That’s why spring bass fishing often is catch-and-release in the Upper Midwest and Northeast.

But no matter what lake or stream you are on, if you are catch-and-release fishing, it’s always a good idea to get that bass back in the water as quickly as possible.

Tuesday
Mar112014

Florida Angler Catches, Releases Three TrophyCatch Bass

How would you like to catch a 14-, a 13-, and and an 11-pound bass in one month? That's just what Joseph "Brooks" Morrell did recently on Florida's Lake Kingsley in Clay County.

Here's the story about the TrophyCatch fish from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC):

These included the second and third Hall of Fame entries for the program’s second season (Oct. 1, 2013 to Sep. 30, 2014). The bass weighed 13 pounds, 12 ounces,  and 14 pounds, 9 ounces, and were caught March 1 and 8, respectively.

The third bass he caught on March 9 weighed 11 pounds, 13 ounces.

All three of his trophy bass were caught sight-fishing with a soft-plastic Berkley crawfish bait.

On March 1, he located the 13-pounder on a bed guarded by a male. After working the male off the bed, he landed her using the artificial crawfish bait and called the FWC. Conservation officers Jason Bryant and Christiane Larosa were able to help measure the bass and even photographed its successful release, which allowed it to return to the bed.

A week later, Morrell was back on Kingsley Lake and landed the 14-pounder. It was 27.75 inches long with a 21-inch girth. Various formulas used for estimating bass weights (see MyFWC.com/Bass-Formula) project a bass with those dimensions would be between 13.5 and 16.2 pounds, further substantiating the catch. This is now the biggest bass of TrophyCatch season two, and we are right in the middle of peak fishing time for big bass – so the challenge is on.

“Fishing has been awesome this spring,” Morrell said. “I’m so glad that I could get these documented and then release the females alive right back on their beds. Next weekend, on March 15, I’m putting on a ‘Relay for Life’ fishing tournament on Lake Santa Fe to support the fight against cancer (see bit.ly/RFL-bt) but will be back fishing myself as soon as possible.”

TrophyCatch is the FWC’s premier angler-recognition program that encourages anglers who catch largemouth bass over 8 pounds to photo-document them on a scale showing the entire fish and its weight. Once documented, a fish must be live-released in the same water system from which it was caught.

In return for documenting and releasing these big female bass that typically are at least 8 years old and relatively rare, the FWC’s partners provide valuable rewards. FWC posts the images on the TrophyCatchFlorida.com website and provide a full-color certificate and club decal. Corporate partners provide additional incentives including the following:

  • Lunker Club (8-9.9 pounds): $100 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting goods, and a club T-shirt from Bass King Clothing.
  • Trophy Club (10-12.9 pounds): $150 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting goods, and a long-sleeve club shirt from Bass King Clothing.
  • Hall of Fame (13 pounds or heavier): Free fiberglass replica from New Wave Taxidermy ($500 value), $200 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting goods, and a duffle bag and custom hoody, with other goodies, from Bass King Clothing.
  • The biggest bass of the year also receives a TrophyCatch championship ring from the American Outdoors Fund, and if the winning bass is from one of the major lakes in Osceola County, Experience Kissimmee adds a $10,000 check.

However, for many anglers more than the value of the rewards or the bragging rights associated with the program, the biggest thrill is releasing their catch to fight another day and knowing the information provided about the catch helps the FWC ensure trophy bass for future generations. Information reported to TrophyCatch is used by the FWC to determine what management programs such as habitat enhancement, aquatic plant management, fish stocking or regulations are most effective. Moreover, the information is very valuable for promoting Florida bass fishing, which generates significant economic benefits to local communities and encourages additional angling –including getting more youth involved.

For more information, visit TrophyCatchFlorida.com and follow FaceBook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida.

Monday
Feb032014

Keep Smaller Bass to Grow Bigger Ones

Protective slot limits have proven a good tool for improving bass fisheries during their more than 30 years of use. But arguably they would have been --- and still could be --- far more effective if anglers followed them as fisheries managers intended.

But about the same time as slots were recognized by wildlife agencies as a strategy for growing larger bass, anglers began to embrace catch-and-release. Too often, those two work at cross purposes, which has prompted managers to rethink how and when to use protective slots, if at all.

“If anything, slots are used less,” said Bill Pouder, a fisheries biologist and regional administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “In Florida, we’ve had one new one in the last 10 years.”

Jason Dotson, an FWC section research leader, added, “Harvest rates are low, usually less than 10 percent. Fisheries managers in the Southeast are not as concerned about overfishing as they were in the 1980s.

“Now, we’re more concerned about growing trophies and providing goods numbers than being sustainable.”

In Texas, meanwhile, fisheries managers have added just three protective slot limits during the past 10 years, according to Craig Bonds, a region director for Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW). Additionally, seven have been removed in favor of minimum or maximum length limits and a catch-and-release regulation, while six have been modified to shift protection to longer fish.

“Texas fisheries managers have not substantially increased the use of SLLs (slot-length-limits) over the past 20 years,” Bonds said.

“We have maintained SLLs where they have been successful at restructuring largemouth bass populations to make fishing better for our constituents. We’ve removed or modified them where they were not successful in achieving our management goals.”

Why have they sometimes been unsuccessful, not only in Texas but in bass waters across the nation?

A protected slot’s purpose is twofold. First, it is intended to shield a certain size of fish, say 14 to 18 inches, from harvest. Second, it is intended to encourage harvest of fish smaller than 14 inches to reduce competition for forage and habitat brought about by excess recruitment. When anglers follow both practices, theoretically the number of bass above 18 inches increases.

But because of the popularity of catch-and-release, reality often has trumped theory.

“Slots haven’t worked,” said Jeff Slipke, a fisheries expert with Midwest Lake Management, Inc., in Missouri. “For one reason or another, folks are reluctant to keep small bass. So what you’re doing when you use a slot is creating an artificially high minimum length limit. A 12- to 15-inch slot is really a 15-inch minimum.”

In a worst case scenario, that can result in a fishery with an overpopulation of small to medium size fish.

“A lot of the time, there’s ample food for young bass to 8 to 10 inches,” Slipke continued. “Where you start to see stockpiling is at 10- to 14-inch bass because there’s a lack of 3- to 4-inch bluegill for them to eat. When that happens, bass hit a wall and won’t grow anymore.”

When working as intended, the slot reduces the number of bass moving into that protected slot and, thus, the competition for food.

All of this is not to say that slots have not worked. Some of them have, especially when managers closely monitor not only the bass population but angler behavior.

For example, Florida managers replaced a 14-inch minimum with a 15-24 slot in 2000.

“Prior to that, harvest was pretty high, up to 30 percent,” Pouder said. “We wanted to try to redirect effort, to protect the females.”

And it worked, harvest declined to 10 percent, and Istokpoga now is one of the best trophy lakes in the Sunshine State, the biologist said.

Other times, fisheries have improved when the protective slot is replaced with a higher minimum length, as happened in Texas’ Lake Nacogdoches. With a 14-21 protective slot in place, managers noted that too many bass longer than 21 inches were being harvested.

By changing to a 16-inch minimum in 2008, TPW allowed anglers to keep more small to intermediate fish to eat, and, simultaneously, increased the odds of catching a trophy. The latter occurred because remaining bass had less competition for bigger and more desirable forage, allowing them to grow both faster and larger.

A volunteer trophy bass reporting program “revealed exceptionally high catches” of trophy bass following the regulation change,” Bonds said.

What does the future hold for the use of protective slots? Fisheries managers continue to believe that they are an effective management tool, but they also know that how effective depends largely on angler behavior.

The key, Bonds believes, is educating anglers about how harvest of bass below a protected slot improves their chances of catching bigger fish.

“Simple manipulations of consumptive variables (changing the slot and/or the bag limit) will not likely motivate bass anglers to harvest more fish,” he said, adding that TPW has produced a video, “Eat More Bass: Slot Limits Help Grow Bigger Fish,” in hopes of convincing fishermen to do that.

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