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Entries in conservation (151)

Monday
Mar092015

Support Conservation With a Donation in Memory of Noreen Clough

If you're a bass fisherman and care about conservation and the future of our fisheries, please consider making a donation to the Noreen Clough Memorial Scholarship for Females in Fisheries.

Noreen was National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. and died recently of pancreatic cancer. She was a role model for many, including the B.A.S.S. Nation state conservation directors.

"Noreen was inspiring to me, and I challenge all of you to make a donation. Do it in the name of your club, your state B.A.S.S. Nation organization, your family, or just you, but do it," said Lonnie Johnson, Oregon conservation director, who made a generous donation.

Whitney Jacobs, who served an internship at B.A.S.S. under Noreen, added, "My family also made a donation. Noreen would absolutely love this scholarship. I'm happy to support her the way she supported me!" 

Monday
Feb092015

Senate Tries Again to Enact Sportsman's Act

Legislation beneficial to anglers has been introduced in Congress by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators

"The number one issue for sportsmen and women across the country is access. This widely supported, bipartisan bill will open more areas to hunting and fishing and grow America's thriving outdoor recreation economy,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

"The bipartisan Sportsman's Act is not only an access bill, but also a way to promote economic growth in our country. Sportsmen and women across the country spend billions of dollars each year on outdoor activities,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.  

"This commonsense, bipartisan legislation supports conservation efforts while also improving access to recreational hunting and fishing on federal lands."

The Sportman’s Act of 2015 includes 14 provisions, several similar to those within the  Sportsmen's Act of 2014 from the 113th Congress. Importantly, the bill makes the existing exemption from EPA regulation for lead shot permanent, and adds lead tackle to the exempted products, leaving regulatory authority to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fish and wildlife agencies.

Also, the bill requires federal land managers to consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing and recreational shooting; enables states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands; and directs 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to enhancing public recreational access for hunting, angling, and recreational shooting, otherwise known as Making Public Lands Public (MPLP).

“This bipartisan package contains many important provisions that are largely non-controversial and that will advance fisheries conservation and recreational fishing access for the benefit of the nation’s 60 million anglers,” said American Sportfishing President and CEO Mike Nussman. “Recreational fishing supports 828,000 jobs and contributes $115 billion to the economy annually. This monumental legislative package will greatly enhance recreational fishing’s social, economic and conservation benefits to the nation.”

Previous versions of the Sportsmen’s Act failed to pass the U.S. Senate in 2012 and 2014, primarily due to partisan disputes unrelated to the merits of the bill. With strong commitments from leadership on both sides of the aisle, ASA expressed optimism about the bill being enacted in the 114th Congress.

“Our community remains dedicated to the passage of the Sportsmen’s Act, and we are hopeful that the third time will be the charm,” said Nussman. “We want to give special thanks to Senators Murkowski and Heinrich and their staffs for swift bipartisan progress, and we look forward to working with them and the other original co-sponsors as this legislation goes through the committee process and ultimately to the floor of the U.S. Senate.”

Nussman added, “We believe the Sportsmen’s Act could be greatly strengthened by the addition of the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act. This bipartisan bill has strong support from the sportfishing community and it would bring tremendous value to the overall package by adding a much needed fisheries habitat component. ASA will actively support inclusion of this measure into the package during the coming legislative process.”

More information on Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, as well as an action alert to contact Senators in support of the bill, can be found at Keep America Fishing

Wednesday
Jan072015

Would Florida-Strain Bass Improve Your Fishery? Maybe . . . Not

In southeastern Oklahoma one winter, hatchery ponds for the state’s Florida bass stocking program were covered by ice for three weeks. One hundred miles to the south, at Lake Fork, just three days were below freezing.

Anglers at Fork during that time probably found the bite tough, but the world-class fishery suffered no long-term damage. In those ponds, meanwhile, 60 percent of the Florida bass brood stock died.

Yes, Florida bass grow faster and larger than their northern counterparts. And stocking them outside their native range has resulted in the creation of some spectacular trophy fisheries in states such as Texas, California, Georgia, and Alabama.

But desired outcome from the expensive effort is not a guarantee.

“In Oklahoma, we finally decided that stocking Florida bass was a waste of time in some places, no matter what fishermen want,” said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director and former assistant chief of fisheries for that state.

Still, anglers continue the drum beat to stock Florida bass in waters that biologists say are inappropriate, as Ron Brooks knows all too well.  And in their arguments for stocking, they cite “evidence” that really isn’t evidence at all, explained the Kentucky fisheries chief.

“We receive requests to stock the Florida strain fairly regularly, and they always site Tennessee’s stockings in Kentucky Lake and the larger bass there as a result,” he said, echoing the experiences of fisheries managers in several states.

But biologists haven’t verified that those large bass are the result of Florida strain stockings. “The truth of the matter is that Kentucky Lake is a very fertile lake with very abundant forage species,” Brooks added.

Recently, some wanted Kentucky to stock Florida bass in Cave Run Lake, an infertile fishery east of Lexington, with limited forage and almost no habitat in the lower end. And, oh yeah, muskies, fish that like cold water, do quite well there.

Still, Brooks said, explanations for why Cave Run is inappropriate fell on deaf ears.

In a nutshell, here’s what introduced Florida bass need to thrive: mild climate, abundant forage, and plentiful habitat, preferably vegetation. Originating in subtropic Florida, they’re most at home in shallow water with a long growing season and plenty to eat.

Simply for survival, climate is the most critical of the three. Temperature drop of just a few degrees can stress Florida bass, and rapid and/or severe drop can kill them. Unfortunately, a clear geographic boundary for determining where Florida bass can live and where they can’t does not exist.

 “It’s not a north/south thing,” Gililland said. “It’s a diagonal, with cold moving from the northwest to the southeast.”

To thrive, meanwhile, Florida bass require plenty of food both throughout the year and during all stages of their life cycle. In their native range, that means mostly golden shiners, shad, and sunfish. But they will grow large and fat on other species, including trout in California and tilapia in Mexico’s Lake El Salto.

Shallow-water, vegetated habitat is the least critical of the three components, especially if the climate is mild and food plentiful.

Okay, some of you say, “I understand that. But what’s the big deal if you stock Florida bass in a lake and they don’t do well. No harm, no foul. Right?”

Wrong.

Introducing Florida bass is not the same as a supplemental stocking to enhance a depleted fishery. There’s only one reason to stock them: To grow trophy fish. If a water body isn’t conducive for that, then Florida genes mixed into the native strain actually can harm the fishery, making them less hearty, at least in the short term. Eventually, Florida genes will disappear from the population.

But the money wasted to maintain brood stock, spawn them, and stock the offspring still will have been wasted.

Additionally, as Florida bass breed with native bass, the potential for growing to trophy size is lost over time. “You can’t just stock and leave them,” Gilliland said. “As long as you have 50 percent or greater Florida genes, there’s still the potential. Below that, it’s no greater than with just native fish.”

Still, many anglers who want big bass in their home waters continue to lobby for something that is not in the best interests of their fisheries.

“Believe me, if past research projects indicated that Florida strain bass would produce lunker bass in Kentucky, we would have stocked them years ago,” said Brooks, voicing the frustration of many fisheries managers. “We strive to produce the best fisheries possible within the limits of our resources.”

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

Monday
Dec222014

Shimano Grants Offered to Help Improve Your Fishery

Members of the Lake Oconee Bassmasters were among volunteers who potted, transported and planted 2,000 water willows in West Point Lake as habitat for bass.

Back in the Dark Ages, the Texas-rigged plastic worm was the go-to bait for competitive and recreational anglers alike. And most “habitat projects” by bass clubs consisted of dropping bundles of Christmas trees, which attracted fish but did little to improve the fishery.

Departure from the former is evident. Check out the baits that tournament anglers use to win. Look in any serious fisherman’s tacklebox.  Texas-rigged worms still are popular, but they’re not the go-to bait anymore.

And just as anglers adapted their tactics to keep catching bass, they recognized that habitat work needs to be more about enhancing fisheries than temporary fixes that congregate fish to make them easier to find. But projects that actually improve a lake long-term are more involved and consequently more expensive. To make them happen, conservation-minded fishermen need financial assistance.

Enter the Shimano/B.A.S.S. Youth Conservation Initiative, started early in 2014 and accepting grant applications through Jan. 15 for 2015. Both state chapters and B.A.S.S. Nation clubs can apply for assistance with conservation projects that will involve Junior clubs or high school and college fishing teams. One project in each of the six B.A.S.S. Nation divisions is eligible for assistance ranging from $500 to several thousand dollars.

Projects chosen for 2014 in New Mexico, Georgia, and Connecticut typify how habitat work has matured over the years, as they teach youth the importance of stewardship, help ensure the sustainability of habitat and ecosystem functions long-term, and enlist support by management agencies and other organizations.

“The New Mexico project really typifies what we hope to achieve with this program,” said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director.

“They’re thinking along the lines of improving an entire reservoir, not just putting in fish attractors. They’re using both plants and artificial habitat. They’re working with BOR (Bureau of Reclamation), Game and Fish, state parks, and other organizations.”

And this ambitious effort to make Elephant Butte a better fishery now has $40,000 in funding, thanks to Conservation Director Earl Conway, who also secured assistance from Audubon/Toyota TogetherGreen, and the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Program.

“They hit some snags with permitting, which delayed things,” Gilliland explained. “But they’re buying materials, they’re doing a pilot study, and refining what they want to do next spring, so they will be ready.”

That work tentatively will include establishing shoreline vegetation, floating wetlands, suspended spawning beds, and submerged habitat, both permanent and portable. Additionally, Conway has enlisted nothing short of a small army of adult and youth volunteers to assist with the effort.

In Georgia, meanwhile, the B.A.S.S. Nation is using Shimano funds to help restore West Point Lake to its former glory.

“I hear people talking about how great the fishing was back in the 80s,” said Jake Mims, a member of the Chapel Hill High School fishing team. “Maybe this is the first step to making it great again.”

Thus far, volunteers from four B.A.S.S. Nation clubs, six high schools, and the University of West Georgia have planted 2,000 water willows. The Lake Oconee Bassmasters grew the willows from cuttings taken from plants that the club helped establish in Lake Oconee six years ago.

State Conservation Director Tony Beck said the habitat is needed to help largemouths survive predation from an expanding population of smaller, but more aggressive spotted bass.

Ideally, the plants will spread on their own, once they are established.

“We’re hoping that nature takes over to make the project much larger,” Gilliland explained. “It increases the return on investment.”

Up in Connecticut, the goal is not only to improve fisheries in community lakes, but, in doing so, get more people involved by increasing their chances for success.

Echo Lake was chosen as the first of several enhancement projects because of the town’s interest and because the Mohawk Valley Basscasters had worked previously with the Watertown Fishing Club. Volunteers assembled spiderblock structures and then placed them in eight areas accessible by shoreline anglers.

Additionally, the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation produced a video guide and installation plan for other clubs to follow.

Besides spawning long-term benefits, these Shimano-funded projects “give adult club members the opportunity to be mentors in more than just fishing,” Gilliland said. “And they get kids involved in conservation in a meaningful way to develop an appreciation for the resource.”

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

 

 

Sunday
Nov302014

Clermont Chain Filling Up --- Again

A rainy fall has helped the Clermont Chain of Lakes in central Florida start filling up again, following half a dozen years of decline. The lower photo of Cresent Lake was taken in fall 2012, the upper in November 2014. The angler came into Crescent by canal from Minnehaha, something impossible to do just a few months before. That's because the canal had become a foot path.

But likely more than just precipitation was involved, as water started rising before the rains came. Public outcry and pressure just might have forced politicians to listen and act. While the Clermont has been drying up, other chains were not suffering the same fate, suggesting withdrawals and diversions were in play. Some of them likely were illegal and possibly even intentionally overlooked by the decision makers.

Whether the water levels return to "normal" and stay there remains to be seen.

Check out my Janury 2013 post about the issue here.