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Entries in conservation (169)

Friday
Sep162016

Recreational Fishing Allowed in New East Coast Marine Monument

 

In what now seems a never-ending struggle to ensure the future of recreational fishing, anglers have won another small victory. The Obama Administration is including it as an allowable activity in the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, approximately 150 miles off the Massachusetts coast.

For years, sports fishing advocates have campaigned to convince politicians and unelected bureaucrats that recreational fishing should not be considered synonymous with commercial fishing in terms of government policy. And too often that message has fallen on deaf ears, especially with the formation of Obama's National Ocean Council, with the purpose of "zoning" uses of public waters.

"For decades, recreational fishermen have generally been an afterthought in ocean resource management," said Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association.

"And when recreational fishing has received attention by mangers and policymakers, it’s usually lumped in with other 'extractive' activities like mining, drilling and commercial fishing.

"Anglers are leading conservationists and fully support reasonable regulations to conserve the environment. But we also don’t want to see bad public policy that bans recreational fishing unnecessarily." 

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument covers a 4,913 square mile area off the Massachusetts coast that contains deep sea corals and other unique and fragile marine habitats. These areas are also popular offshore fishing spots for anglers who target billfish, tuna and mahi mahi near the ocean surface.

During the marine monument designation discussions, the recreational fishing and boating community advocated that recreational fishing should be allowed to continue because, among other reasons, the type of recreational fishing that occurred in these areas has no interaction with the bottom habitats that are being protected.

“Summarily removing the public from public waters is not the way to properly manage our oceans, and it is encouraging that this Administration recognized how critical it is for conservationists to be connected to the environment they work to protect,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association.

“Recreational fishing and marine conservation are not only compatible, but complimentary, and we are glad to see that angling will continue to be managed as a sustainable activity in these areas.”

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is the third marine monument created or expanded by President Obama. The previous two decisions, which designated areas near Hawaii and remote Pacific islands, also allowed for recreational fishing.

Thursday
Jun162016

Catch and Release is 'Cruel'; Yet Another Anti-Fishing Strategy

 

Here is something that you didn’t know: You are a hypocrite if you practice catch and release.

That’s right. If you care enough to turn a fish loose after you catch it, then you should be smart enough to realize that you shouldn’t catch it in the first place.

Don’t laugh. That’s a strategy by animal rights activists in this country to kill recreational fishing. Twice now it’s been used in comments at my Activist Angler website. The latest was in response to a post of mine that ridiculed PETA for distorting facts to support its anti-fishing ideology.

(Go here to see what PETA is saying.)

I was accused of being so steeped in a “pro-fishing, pro-industry dogma” that I have lost perspective. “Attempting to demonize people who are concerned about the ethics of sport fishing is a clear act of bigotry,” said commenter Rob Russell.

“Any thoughtful angler will reach a point where he or she desires to lessen their impacts on fish. When you engage in premeditated C&R, when your only goal is ‘sport’ (gratification), how do you rationalize putting a fish’s life at risk?

“If you are not concerned about this, then you have some thinking to do.”

Well, Rob, I have been thinking about it, and I am concerned. And if you fish, you should be concerned too. As irrational as this ploy seems, it already has worked in Europe.

The Swiss Animal Welfare Act of 2008 makes catch-and-release illegal because “it is in conflict with the dignity of the fish and its presumed ability to suffer and feel pain.” A similar rule has been in place since the 1980s in Germany, where anglers also must take a course in fish handling before they can obtain a license.

“The argument runs (in Germany) that it is legally acceptable to go fishing only if one has the intention to catch fish for food,” say the authors of a disturbing study, “A Primer on Anti-Angling Philosophy and Its Relevance for Recreational Fisheries in Urbanized Societies.”

In other words, you can have fun catching fish in Germany, but don’t tell anyone--- and you must keep the fish. Tournament fishing is not allowed and economic benefits are not a sufficient justification for fishing.

 “It all boils down to the individual benefits experienced by the angler, and here food provision is currently the only acceptable reason,” the authors add.

Think that can’t happen here, a country of nearly 40 million licensed anglers? Think again, and don’t be misled by the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans approve of legal fishing and support using fish for food.

The authors of that study discovered that when people are asked whether they approve of recreational fishing for sport, answers change dramatically. Twenty-five to 30 percent view angling for sport as cruel in more urbanized states such as Colorado and Arizona, while about 20 percent feel the same way in more rural states, including Alaska and the Dakotas.

And then there are the useful idiots. They fish but are so narrow-minded that they support anti-fishing activists in this campaign.

The second commenter at my website said this: “Sport fishing for catch-and-release should be outlawed! We are working to keep fish for real fishermen who enjoy the taste and food. We need to keep these so called ‘sport fishermen’ out of Minnesota lakes!”

How do we combat this strategy? We don’t engage in the false argument that catch-and-release is just one step on the road to enlightenment and that, if we really care, we must stop fishing for sport. That’s like trying to answer the question “Do you still beat your wife?” and not sound guilty. An attempt to answer either instantly puts the responder on the defensive.

The reality is that catch-and-release is a conservation practice, not an action prompted by concern for the welfare of an individual fish. Since B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott popularized the practice during tournaments in the 1970s, it has been embraced by anglers worldwide as a way to sustain fisheries. And it’s working. For example, Florida anglers keep less than 10 percent of the bass that they catch, with the vast majority released so that they can continue to reproduce, as well as be caught again.

And let’s not forget the value that we derive from catching and releasing those fish.  Yes, fish as food nourishes the body, but fishing for fun nourishes the spirit. During this chaotic and angry time in our nation’s history, nothing is more important.  

Sunday
May152016

Kids First Cast Helps Grow Fishing and Enrich Lives; You Should Too

"At a young age, I was fortunate to have grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts and friends who have shared their passion of fishing with me.  Through the years, this passion for fishing would sustain me through the good and the bad times. It became my “lifeline."  This lifeline brought me experiences that helped give me knowledge, happiness, physical and mental health. But best of all, it allowed me to always learn more about myself."

When I read those words by Diane Aspiazu, president of Kids First Cast, Inc., I knew that we were kindred spirits. Of course, we are not alone. Many of us who fish know this, and that intangible value is what prompted me to write Why We Fish.

But not everyone is doing what Diane and other volunteers up in Idaho are doing to "pass it on," and that is why I encourage you to learn more about this great organization, contribute to it, and think about starting a similar organization in your area.

Recreational fishing is under siege as never before and, if we are to turn the tide we much show those who don't fish--- especially children---- how it can enrich their lives in ways that they can't even imagine until they give it a try and get hooked.

Here's what Kids First Cast, Inc. is doing in 2016:

  • Assisting Idaho Fish and Game with the “Take Me Fishing” trailer schedule by doing 26 fishing outings from April through June.
  • Annual field trip with Sawtooth Middle School to teach 350 kids about the basics of casting and tying fishing knots.
  • Week of the Young Child, teaching 300 kids about casting.
  • Annual VFW Fishing Derby, helping disabled veterans fish for a day.
  • Annual Babe Ruth Jamboree, host casting pools for baseball teams.
  • Annual Scales of Justice Tournament for troubled youth.                                               
  • Annual Conservation Day Clinic.
  • Canyon Military Kids Fishing Derby.
  • VFW Kids Fishing Derby.
  • Wish to Fish Christmas Program. providing Christmas with a “fishing flair” for kids economically challenged.
  • Annual Canyon County Night Light Parade.

Here is the organization's mission statement

Build and sustain healthy communities by providing education, conservation, and outdoor recreation in a safe and inviting environment for kids and their families while enjoying the sport of fishing.

Friday
May132016

Maryland Modifies New Regulations to Accommodate Potomac Tournaments

Responding to strong opposition from tournament anglers and organizations, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) quickly altered its new creel regulation for events on the Potomac River and Upper Chesapeake Bay, avoiding potentially catastrophic consequences for local economies.

But fishermen still are shaking their heads. They wonder about the wisdom of the agency's decision, even with a modification that is acceptable to  tournament organizations, including B.A.S.S. for its Elite Series event in August out of Charles County.

"It (original rule) caught us off guard. We were blind-sided," said Scott Sewell, conservation director for the Maryland B.A.S.S. Nation. "I started getting all kinds of calls from people wondering what was going on.

"Since I'm the conservation director, they thought that I was involved in the decision. I wasn't."

Long-time Potomac River guide Steve Chaconas added, "I don't feel the regulations are really needed. This action is blaming tournament anglers for a perceived issue."

For MDNR, the issue was more than three years of poor catch rates, it announced on March 15. Consequently, it intended to limit competitors fishing Maryland-based tournaments to a 5-fish bag with a 12-inch minimum, only one of which could be more than 15 inches, between June 16 and Oct. 31. "Heavy bass tend to die more than smaller bass in tournaments," the agency explained.

Backlash from B.A.S.S. and other organizers of major events was immediate.  "Although we understand Maryland DNR's desire to address a decline in the bass fisheries of the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay, obviously we could not conduct an Elite Series event on waters where anglers cannot weigh in their biggest catches," said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin.

"That would not be fair to the anglers, the fans, the hosts, or the sportfishing community." 

Following talks with Sewell  and others, MDNR, to its credit, quickly added an "Option 2" to the regulation. It does not restrict a competitor to one fish of more than 15 inches.

"The Department appreciates the input and has made modifications to the original possession restriction," the agency said.

"Option 2 requires directors to adhere to special conditions that minimize fish stress, thereby reducing fishing mortality. These special conditions have been modeled after those used in Florida bass fisheries."

Conditions include requiring directors to recover exhausted bass following a tournament and redistribute them to approved locations, as well as other actions to improve survival of large bass.

B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland said,  "I believe MDNR had the interest of the fishery at heart but took a few missteps when they tried to implement protective measures.

"They should have involved the tournament organizations more, early in the process, since they were the target audience and I think they might have avoided some of the conflict that we saw. 

"But they listened and adapted and came up with some options that will allow tournaments to continue under a special set of fish care protocols.  That's good for the resource and good for tournaments."

What mystifies Sewell, though, is why MDNR seemed to act unilaterally on this. "We have an outstanding relationship with them," he said. "I was really taken aback when they didn't consult us. I could have told them that they would be lighting a firestorm with this."

Additionally, the conservation director said little mention was made of a possible regulation change at the annual Black Bass Roundtable in February. "We talked about an aggressive stocking program, areas for catch-and-release only, and educating anglers on how to better care for their catch," he said.

Also at the roundtable, Chaconas added, "Keep in mind this action is not the way Maryland has been managing this fishery. They have previously managed by committee. That is, they send out surveys and take a lot of feedback before acting. In this case, the regulation was barely discussed with no outcome."

Both Sewell and Chaconas, meanwhile, pointed out that other factors  are having a more profound impact on the bass fishery than tournaments, with pollution and changes in submerged aquatic grasses among the foremost. They also believe that the bass fishery is healthier than MDNR has determined from its electrofishing surveys.

"The loss of milfoil and the increase in hydrilla are affecting surveys and the fishing," the guide said. "Anecdotally, the last two years have been my best. I have modified my tactics, which include avoiding grass and targeting hard cover and channel edges. This is successful for me until the hydrilla covers everything. I also target hard hydrilla edges at low tides, or deeper edges at any tide, or areas with scattered grass in front of hydrilla edges."

But even though rationale for and implementation of the regulation are questionable, Gilliland said that Option 2 could be helpful.

"We at B.A.S.S. have preached better fish care for years, but unfortunately there are still a lot of anglers and clubs that don't believe there is a need to follow our proven procedures because they don't believe delayed mortality exists, or they just don't care, which is even more sad," he said.

"Given the relatively low level of adoption of best management practices, these new rules will force the issue. Do it right or don't get the exemption from the new length limit."

While impact from tournaments on bass populations may be minimal, he added, "the negative social aspects of tournaments and fish kills that result are things that agencies have to deal with."

With non-tournament anglers often looking for ways to shut down competitions, MDNR's actions actually could benefit tournaments in the long-term, the national conservation director said. They force better fish-care practices and, thus, reduce chances that bad things will happen, as well as opportunities for critics to find fault.

"I think, over time, organizations will adopt and adapt and realize that a little pain was worth the gain," Gilliland said.

Wednesday
Mar302016

I Am a Steward

I  love to fish. I live to fish. And I want to ensure future generations have many opportunities to spend quality time on the water. That’s why I’m a steward.

Here’s how I live my life: ƒƒ

  • I recycle everything I possibly can recycle—newspaper, junk mail, plastic, glass, and cardboard.
  • I accumulate one small bag (Walmart size) of trash about every month or so. ƒƒ
  • I compost. Fruit and vegetable wastes go onto my land to enrich the soil. ƒ
  • I don’t use fertilizer or pesticides on my lawn. In fact, “lawn” might not be the proper word for my yard. A portion of it gets mowed every couple of weeks, but the rest remains natural. ƒƒ
  • Along my lakeshore, I maintain a buffer zone to prevent erosion. ƒƒ
  • When branches occasionally break off the big oak trees on my property, I place them on brush piles I have scattered around as refuges for birds and small animals. If they fall into the water, I leave them there as habitat for fish and turtles.ƒƒ
  • I conserve energy by turning off lights, closing doors, etc. ƒƒ
  • I fix dripping faucets promptly, and I don’t leave the water running as I brush my teeth.
  • I drive a car that gets 36 miles per gallon. ƒƒ
  • I pick up other people’s trash. ƒƒ
  • I report polluters. ƒƒ
  • I am a member of Recycled Fish, a conservation organization devoted to living a life of stewardship because we all live downstream.

From Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen.