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Entries in conservation (146)

Wednesday
Oct082014

Florida's TrophyCatch 'Huge Success' in Second Year

TrophyCatch at Lake Istokpoga. Photo provided by FWC

Season two of TrophyCatch was a "huge success," according to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

In season two alone, we documented about 1,000 trophy-sized bass caught in Florida and released to continue growing, spawning and challenging anglers,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

Five anglers caught Hall of Fame bass weighing more than 13 pounds each. They will receive  hand-painted replicas of their catches (a $500 value), as well as $200 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Another 229 anglers joined the Trophy Club in season two by submitting photos documenting bass 10 to 12.9 pounds that they caught and released. Each earned $150 in gift cards, plus a long-sleeve custom shirt from Bass King Clothing.

A remarkable 758 bass weighing 8 to 9.9 pounds were entered in the Lunker Club, and each generated $100 in gifts cards and a short-sleeve Bass King T-shirt. Finally, 386 bass over 8 pounds were submitted that did not have the required information to be accepted into TrophyCatch but received certificates as Big Catches.

Although all bass must have been caught between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sep. 30, 2014, to be included in the season two competition, anglers have until Oct. 15 to get their catch submitted and approved. After that the annual champion will be announced and win the Championship Ring, provided by the Americans Outdoor Fund. The current leader is Joseph Morrell, who caught, documented’ and released a 14-pound, 9-ounce Florida largemouth on March 8 in Kingsley Lake, Clay County.

Every angler who registered, free of cost, at TrophyCatchFlorida.com is entered into an annual drawing for a $40,000 bass boat package. Phoenix boats donated a 619 Pro, powered by Mercury Marine and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system. In addition, every time an angler has a TrophyCatch verified, he or she earned 10 more chances to win the boat.

To see who the finalists are for this year’s random drawing and to learn when and where the boat will be given away, go to FaceBook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida. By subscribing to YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida you can check out the winners from the first year and be notified when the new winners’ videos are posted.

“Year two produced five times as many winners as the first year,” said KP Clements, TrophyCatch director. “We know there are many more trophy bass that were caught and released but not documented because anglers did not have the necessary tools to verify the weight or didn’t yet know about the program.”

Remember, season three (Oct.1, 2014 – Sep. 30, 2015) is underway, so take a camera and scale fishing with you. Be sure to get the required photo of the entire bass, head-to-tail on the scale, with the weight legible, and the scale held properly by the handle. The photo of the whole fish on the scale is critical to being approved for rewards, so the higher the resolution and sharper the image the better.

You also may submit supplemental photos that aren’t required. Consider including a close-up of the scale to make it easier to read the weight, a photo of the length and maybe girth, and a photo of the angler holding or releasing the catch. You can upload up to five photos or an MP4 video with each submission.

Tournament anglers can participate by submitting a photo of themselves with their catch and a link to the official tournament results showing their name, the weight of the individual bass, date and water body. Another option for large-tournament anglers is to include a photo of a digital scale printout that has that data imprinted on it.

Fishing guides around the state are finding this a great way to promote their business by helping customers get the required weight photos and telling them how easy it is to register and submit their catch.

All of this activity helps achieve the TrophyCatch goals, which are to preserve these valuable fish, learn how to enhance their abundance, and promote recreational fishing.

To see all the catches, go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com and click on “View Gallery” or “Search.” The latter allows you to narrow down results by angler, county, water body or date. 

Monday
Sep152014

What's Ailing Susquehanna River Smallmouth Bass?

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission photo

Despite its refusal to declare the Susquehanna River impaired last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) says that it will continue intensive sampling of what was once a world-class smallmouth fishery.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission asked for the designation, as fingerlings continue to die, adults carry ugly lesions, and eggs show up in the testes of male fish. Additionally, an estimated 80 percent of the bass seem to have disappeared from the central part of the state, where the North and West Branches meet, down to Conowingo Dam in Maryland.

The 2014 plan calls for analysis of fish tissue for pesticides, PCBs, and metals. Also biologists will look at insects, mussels, and other invertebrates, as well as sample the water for sediment, pollution, and pesticides.

At 464 miles, the Susquehanna is the largest river to drain into the Atlantic, and its massive watershed of 27,500 square miles includes portions of New York and Maryland, as well as nearly half of Pennsylvania.

“Over the last two years where we tremendously enhanced our examination efforts, DEP has learned a great deal about the health of the Susquehanna River,” said Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo.

 “It is important to continue these efforts so that DEP can create policy and regulation based on facts and sound science.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation believes that a “perfect storm” of conditions have contributed to the sick and declining smallmouth population, with pollution from farms and sewage plants, low dissolved oxygen, rising water temperatures among the contributors. These stressors make the fish more susceptible to bacteria, parasites, and diseases that might not have affected them in the past.

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

Monday
Sep012014

Nursery-Raised Coral Spawning to Build Reef Habitat in Keys

Staghorn coral photo from Southeast Fisheries Science Center

In August, researchers at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) observed transplanted nursery-raised staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) spawning for the first time at Tropical Rocks, about 4 miles offshore of Marathon.

These corals were supplied by the Coral Restoration Foundation and Mote Marine Lab nurseries and outplanted by FWC. The project was made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act via The Nature Conservancy.

The FWC and the Conservancy are reseeding coral reefs in efforts to aid recovery of wild staghorn populations, which contributes significantly to reef growth, island formation, and coastal protection, while providing essential habitat for a number of important reef fish.

“This is the first time that we have seen staghorn coral spawning at the reef tract that included corals grown as part of our nursery program,” said Caitlin Lustic, coral recovery coordinator for the Conservancy in Florida.

“This spawning event shows that outplanted corals have the ability to reproduce just like a natural colony and furthers our goal of creating breeding colonies of coral that can repopulate reefs on their own.”

The FWC, in collaboration with the Conservancy and other American Recovery and Reinvestment Act partners, began construction on the Middle Keys coral nursery in late 2009 but suffered setbacks due to a coldwater kill and, later, a warm-water bleaching event. The goal of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project was to expand the current nurseries, develop new nurseries and outplant high numbers of nursery-grown corals throughout the Florida reef tract and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“With this project, we developed excellent working relationships with the Conservancy and the rest of our partners,” said Kerry Maxwell, coral researcher with the FWC.

“Together we boosted threatened staghorn populations and realized the ultimate goal of the project: spawning. Even though the project backed by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is complete, I anticipate we will all continue to collaborate toward the common goal of coral reef restoration.”

To learn more about corals go here.

To learn more about Conservancy efforts to protect Florida’s coast, including coral reef habitat, go here.

Friday
Aug292014

Vote to Help Fund Bass Conservation Programs

 

Cast your votes daily through Oct. 13 to help bass conservation --- and B.A.S.S. Conservation --- at Nationwide Insurance. The winning organization will receive $45,000.

B.A.S.S. has more members than the two leading organizations combined, and certainly more people fish than hunt elk and turkey.

“Are we not as passionate about conservation and what it means to our sport?” asks Gene Gilliland, national conservation director for B.A.S.S.

I know that I am. I hope that you are as well.

To vote, click on the B.A.S.S. Conservation logo and it will change from gray and white to color. You then will type in the two “secret” words to cast your vote. If you can’t read them (and I couldn’t) click on the speaker below and the words will be spoken for you.

You can vote once daily from each device (computer, cell phone, etc.) with internet access. 

Wednesday
Aug272014

Future Bright for Trophy Bass in Florida, Texas

The best is yet to come for anglers who pursue big bass in Florida and Texas. Even though they have decidedly different approaches, each sponsors a program that optimizes opportunities provided by the Florida strain of largemouth.

Of course, it’s only logical that the two have differing strategies, since one manages for non-native fish in manmade impoundments, while the other focuses on native fish in natural lakes. As a consequence, Texas constantly researches methods for growing more and ever larger bass, while Florida has set up a system that both helps anglers find the state’s biggest fish and encourages catch-and-release.

Implemented just two years ago, the Sunshine State’s TrophyCatch still is in its “infancy stages,” according to Bill Pouder, a freshwater fisheries administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). It was borne out of the state’s Long-Term Black Bass Management Plan, with the intent of ensuring “Florida is the undisputed bass fishing capital of the world.”

Word of mouth, Pouder added, has helped considerably in motivating fishermen to report catches of 8 pounds and larger. “If I’m an angler who catches an 8-pound bass and all I have to do is provide a photo and measurements in exchange for $100 in gift cards and prizes, then I’d be very encouraged to do it,” he said.

Statistics certainly bear out that assessment, too. From Oct. 1, 2012, through September 2013, fishermen entered 206 fish in TrophyCatch. But 679 bass were logged in during the eight months that followed. Of those 885 fish, 244 weighed between 10 and 12.99 pounds and 5 weighed 13 pounds or more.

As possibly the biggest surprise of the program thus far, three of those latter fish, including the largest at 14-9, came from Kingsley Lake, a semi-private fishery in Clay County. That discovery goes to the heart of how TrophyCatch will enhance opportunities for Florida anglers to catch lunkers: It tells them where they are.

Not so surprising is that Lake Istokpoga tops the list of public waters, followed by Okeechobee, Toho, Kissimmee, and St. Johns River. But 235, or more than 25 percent, of those fish have been caught in small, unnamed waters, including private ponds, golf course ponds, retention ponds, and undisclosed public lakes.

“Those types of waters aren’t typically managed,” Pouder said. “But that suggests we might look into that for the future.”

Also worthy of note is that TrophyCatch has given lie to the notion that anglers must use shiners to catch big bass in Florida. More 60 percent of entries were caught on artificials.

More of that kind of helpful information will be available to anglers soon, as FWC develops a more in-depth website for TrophyCatch, which will allow each entrant to have his or her own page.

In Texas, meanwhile, managers continue to look for new ways to improve the state’s trophy bass fisheries through ShareLunker, a program built around stocking Florida strain largemouths. Before the Lonestar State introduced the larger variety of black bass, its state record of 13.5 remained unchallenged for 37 years. Since stocking began in the 1970s, the record has been broken six times, and three since ShareLunker began in 1986.

Current Texas record is 18.2, larger even than the biggest bass documented in Florida at 17.27.

Courtesy of ShareLunker, Florida bass now swim in 62 Texas impoundments. They are spawned in hatcheries from the ShareLunker entries of 13 pounds or more that Texas fishermen donate to the program.Incredibly, 51 percent of ShareLunker entries are pure Florida bass, with the rest being hybrids. Yet sampling reveals that Florida bass typically make up only about 7 percent of a fishery’s bass population.

“A real value of the program has been that it has convinced anglers that they do not have to kill their catch to get a trophy,” said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.

In exchange for donating their fish, anglers are given replica mounts.

Right now, focus is on DNA and how tracking it might help produce a fish that could rival the world record of 22-4. While breeding ShareLunker entries to male ShareLunker offspring, biologists have developed a technique to identify both parents in future trophy bass.

Tagging already has revealed that sometimes entries are caught more than once. In fact, one was caught three times.

“I was a pessimist when we first started this program,” Forshage said. “We had no idea that one day we’d have 62 lakes producing these lunker fish.”

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