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Entries in conservation (172)


Good News for the Arapaima

Conservation efforts are paying off for the arapaima, the world's largest scaled freshwater fish, according to a recent study in Brazil's Amazon River basin.

Here's the important takeaway:

The study looked at protected freshwater lakes along the Juruá River in Brazil, a tributary spanning about 2,081 miles. Efforts to preserve these freshwater ecosystems are often hindered by conflicts with commercial fishing. Patterns of community management accounted for almost 72 percent of the variation in arapaima population sizes across 83 lakes studied along the river. 

Each lake managed by residents had an average of about 305 arapaimas, while open-access lakes had only nine, according to the study.

“What we’re documenting, I think for the first time in a freshwater fishery, is that if you move these lakes from an open-access ‘tragedy of the commons’ to the stewardship of a local community, and you regulate the fishing by bringing in the community-based management, these stocks just go through the roof,” Peres told TakePart. “It’s like if you put your money in a bank account, and it earns not 3 or 4 percent a year but 200 or 300 percent a year.”


Report Released to Improve Recreational Access for Saltwater Fisheries

Fishing conservation organizations and trade associations recently released recommendations that they hope the incoming Administration and Congress will follow to improve access to saltwater recreational fishing, create economic growth, and enhance the conservation of marine fish stocks.

"While our highly successful model of inland recreational fisheries management is often envied by countries around the world, in many cases federal management of our marine recreational fisheries continues to struggle in meeting the needs of the angling public," said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation.

 "The Vision document provides recommendations that will bring federal fisheries management into the 21st Century, enhancing both the conservation and economic contributions of America's anglers."

A Vision for Marine Fisheries Management in the 21st Century: Priorities for a New Administration recommends a shift away from using the same tools to manage commercial fishing and recreational fishing at the federal level. New approaches should reflect the reality of demand for recreational access to our marine fishery resources, the current economic activity associated with that access, and the scientific data of the light footprint recreational access has on our fishery resources.

 “While progress has been made in recent years to improve saltwater recreational fisheries management, many important opportunities and challenges remain,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman.

 “We look forward to working with the next Administration to fully develop our outdoor economy including embracing the important role that saltwater recreational fishing plays in creating jobs and promoting sustainable enjoyment of our nation’s fisheries resources.”
The report points out antiquated federal policies that have inhibited a vital source of economic growth and a proud American tradition.  It highlights the economic value of recreational fishing in coastal waters. Today, 11 million American anglers fish for recreation in saltwater. From license sales to retail sales, the recreational saltwater fishing industry contributes more than $70 billion annually in economic activity and generates 455,000 jobs.

However, outdated federal management policies threaten to stem this positive economic trend.
“Fishing is a treasured pastime and tradition for millions of Americans and needs to be treated as such,” said Jeff Anglers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation.

“The new Administration and Congress should take steps to keep this tradition alive – for the benefit of all those who enjoy fishing, for the hundreds of thousands employed in the recreational fishing industry, and for future generations of anglers who will fall in love with the sea.”


Does Catch-and-Release Help Sustain Bass Fisheries?

Releasing a bass makes us feel good. But does catch-and-release really help sustain fisheries?

Based on results from a tagging study a few years ago at Texas’ Amon Carter, a 1,539 acre fishery north of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Sixty-three percent of 786 tagged bass were taken. In other words, fishermen caught nearly 500 of those fish.

 Forty-three percent were weighed in by tournament anglers. Another 16.3 percent was caught and released by recreational fishermen, with just 3.7 percent harvested.

There’s plenty more evidence too.

Nearly 75 percent of tagged fish were caught at Florida’s Lake Santa Fe.

“Another study we did on Rodman years ago was 40 percent caught by anglers,” said Mike Allen, professor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Florida.

On Tennessee’s Norris Reservoir, meanwhile, the “adjusted annual angler catch rate” for tagged largemouth bass was 47 percent in 1996 and 34 percent in 1997.

And Jacob Westhoff encountered some powerful anecdotal evidence while doing a smallmouth telemetry study on the Jacks Fork River for the Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit. Eighteen of the 33 bronzebacks with transmitters were caught by anglers.

“Also of note, is that eight of our fish were caught by a single angler in one day during the winter at the confluence of Alley Spring and the Jacks Fork River,” he said.

Clearly, the evidence is there to support the wisdom of catch-and-release--- and more.

“Those findings highlight the importance of proper fish care,” said Randy Myers, a fisheries biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife.

But he is quick to add that not all bass fisheries reveal such dramatic findings. For example, just 38 percent of more than 6,000 tagged fish were caught on Sam Rayburn, a lake more than 70 times the size of Carter.

Allen added that the statewide estimate for Florida lakes is about 20 percent.

“It obviously varies widely among water bodies and probably among regions,” he added. “In Florida, we have so many lakes. It’s probably higher in states without as many fishing sites.”

Allen’s point is important. The percentage of a bass population caught ties directly to angling pressure. At Amon Carter, tournament and recreational effort was a combined 14 hours per acre, while it was 5.2 at Rayburn. And in Florida, drought had reduced accessible areas at other fisheries, likely forcing more anglers than normal to fish Santa Fe.

Other factors can influence how great a percentage is caught as well.

“Rayburn has better habitat than Carter,” Myers said. “Overall, it’s a better lake for bass production.”

Still, angling pressure is a top consideration for resource managers in maintaining healthy bass fisheries. That’s why Myers is hopeful that removal of a protective slot at Ray Roberts will attract tournaments away from Carter.

“At Carter, more than half of the effort was from tournament anglers,” he said. “Because they are so popular, we have to think long and hard about restrictions that would limit tournaments. But if 50 percent of tournament-retained fish die (at Carter) it would have some impact on the fishery.”

Consequently, how fish are cared for before they are released also is a concern for Myers and other fisheries managers.

“If a fish is gilling, lots of experienced anglers still assume that it will live,” Myers said. “But that’s not always true. Some of those fish do die.”

The Texas biologist pointed to statistics gathered as part of a fizzing study during five tournaments at Lake Amistad in 2009.

On days when the water temperature was in the 50s and 60s, mortality, both immediate and delayed, was less than 10 percent. On a day when the temperature was 79 to 80, total mortality was 23 percent and delayed 18.3. And, most sobering, when the temperature was 83, total mortality was 50.8 percent and delayed 42.1.

“What we saw at Amistad is that 75 degrees is the critical temperature for bass health in a livewell,” he said. “That high mortality was strictly related to water temperature.”


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.


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.