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Entries in catch-and-release (27)

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.)

Friday
Jan312014

Threat to Your Right to Fish Grows With Animal 'Rights' Movement

No long after I posted the article below, I learned of this attack against recreational fishing in Australia.

Sooner or later, someone is going to try to stop you or someone you know from fishing. Possibly it will be attempted with legislation. Possibly it will be related to prohibiting catch-and-release because it is “cruel.” Or maybe it will be tied to giving “rights” to fish and wildlife.

This anti-fishing front is part of an aggressive animal rights campaign with origins in Europe, where catch and release already is illegal in places, as is the use of live bait. And the movement is growing here, as a growing percentage of our population is urbanized with little to no direct contact with nature.

Following are some of the latest news stories regarding the animal rights movement on this side of the ocean:

  • In Maine, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) opposes hunting tactics that the state allows for management of its bear population. You remember the HSUS. You’ve seen the commercials. It’s that noble organization dedicated to taking better care of homeless and abused cats and dogs.

The only problem is that very little of that money goes to pet shelters. Rather, it funds radical animal rights campaigns.  Check out this great parody of those misleading tear-jerker commercials: Lawyers in Cages.

Here is what two state representatives have to say about the HSUS campaign in Maine:

 “It was not the Humane Society of the United States that stepped up to protect and elevate the public perception of bears from a pest to one that that should be conserved and protected. Indeed, this was the effort of sportsmen, the Legislature and conservationists through a new license fee that would be used to establish an ongoing revenue stream to guarantee trained, professional biologists and wardens would closely monitor and protect bear populations . . .

“Since 1969, with the oversight of the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife bear biologists, the legislative Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and sportsmen, Maine’s black bears have flourished. The population has grown from 23,000 in 2004 to 31,000 in 2012, with healthy bears found throughout Maine . . .

“Enter the Humane Society of the United States, who, with their team of lawyers and millions of dollars slated for media manipulation, would hijack this success story and replace it with wildlife management based on 30-second emotional TV commercials.”

  • In Oregon, an animal rights activist and eco-terrorist was sentenced to just five years in jail by a sympathetic judge.

"She was a member of a group blamed “for 20 fires across the West from 1996 to 2001 that did $40 million in damage. They burned a ski resort in Colorado, wild horse corrals in Oregon and Northern California, and lumber mills and Forest Service offices in Oregon.”

  • Finally, check out No, Animals Don’t Have Rights, in to a New York Times piece that declared “an era of what might be called animal dignity is upon us.”

“Let me be clear: I'm all in favor of treating animals decently, with special sensitivity to their pain and suffering. By all means, let's pass stricter regulation of factory farming and laboratory experimentation.

“But the basis of these reforms should not be any quality we presume the animals themselves possess. It should grow out of an expansion of the sphere of human concern and sympathy, along the lines of the old aristocratic ideal of noblesse oblige — the notion that one's superiority obliges one to act nobly toward commoners. In other words, we should treat animals decently not because they're just like human beings, but rather because they're not.

“The animal rights movement, by contrast, invariably takes the opposite tack — either reducing us to the level of animals or attempting to raise them up to ours. Both should be resisted.”

Tuesday
Dec172013

Cruelty to Fish

As a complement to my “Catch and Release Is Cruel column in the December issue of B.A.S.S. Times, editor Dave Precht penned “Cruelty to Fish.”

In his opinion piece, he provides some great insights from Protect the Harvest, “an education and advocacy group founded in 2010 by Forrest Lucas of Lucas Oil to help farmers fight back against animal rights activists, especially those from HSUS (Humane Society of the United States).”

And he quoted executive director Brian Klippenstein:

“An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. If we continue to say, ‘It’s a hunter’s problem, or a fisherman’s problem or a cattleman’s problem,’ we’re going to get our clocks cleaned.

“But if we’re formally aligned, there’s no way on earth they can beat us. The key is to get out of our slumber. Spread the word to county commissioners, to congressmen . . . Don’t let the other side control the whole agenda.”

In other words, we can’t be isolationists, allowing the chicken producers, dog breeders, and trappers to fend for themselves, or we become like the appeasers of World War II.

Quoting Winston Churchill, the executive director said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

Precht’s conclusion: “Let’s take on the crocodile now.”

My sentiments exactly.

And one of the best ways to counter-attack is to point out what a scam that HSUS is perpetrating on the public through its commercials about neglected and abused cats and dogs. Go here to learn more and check out the great "Lawyers in Cages" video.