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Entries in conservation (157)

Wednesday
Jul012015

We're All in this Together for Fisheries Conservation

Bass fishing on the Sabine River. Photo by Robert Montgomery

When it comes to conservation, we're all in this together, and bass fishermen have decided it’s time to start acting that way.

That’s why B.A.S.S. is joining with other industry and angler groups to form a coalition to fight for and defend saltwater access and conservation.

Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation (BASC) was created because professional anglers noticed the need to get more involved in policy discussions and speak up for recreational fishing.

“My theory is that all water flows downstream, and it eventually reaches the ocean,” said Jared Miller, Elite Series pro. “The laws that are damaging recreational saltwater fishing could also eventually affect the freshwater part of the equation.

“It’s so important for us all to work together to protection our national fisheries and our rights to fish. Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation gives us the chance to do just that.”

BASC will center around a website by the same name. In addition to alerting anglers to issues involving access, conservation, economics, and safety, it will provide them with contact information for their members of Congress and even pre-written letters that they can sign and send. The site also will send “action alerts” from the pros so anglers will know when and how to speak out on an issue, and Dean Rojas likely will be one of those spokesmen.

“As recreational anglers, we need to make it our business to be aware of the laws and regulations that govern our fisheries,” said the Elite Series pro who has competed in 13 Bassmaster Classics. “All of us have a responsibility to push for sensible regulations that look out for recreational anglers, as well manage the commercial aspects of fishing.

But one of the biggest challenges for recreational fishermen is to come together as one voice, added Jeff Kriet, also an Elite Series competitor.“Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation gives all anglers the opportunity to represent their interests and protect their rights to fish.

“We need to protect it, we need to make our voices heard, and now is the time. If we don’t advocate now, we will begin to lose the sport we all love.”

Gene Gilliland, national conservation director for B.A.S.S., echoed that sentiment and added that marine fisheries management is at a critical crossroads right now, as Congress debates reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (M-S).

“Recreational interests have long taken a back seat to commercial fisheries so now is the time for anglers to speak up and make their voices heard,” he said.

“The Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation website makes it easy (for anglers) to keep up with the issues and take action when the call comes to contact your representatives in Congress.”

Consequently, one of the first battles for BASC will be to improve M-S. To do that, anglers must convince lawmakers of the importance of marine recreational fisheries, both in terms of popularity and economic benefits. Already the red snapper season has been reduced to just a few days a year, even though many believe that the stock is the healthiest that it has been in decades.

“The current structure of recreational offshore fishing is really limiting and one-sided,” said Bobby Lane, Elite Series pro. “What was once a great family sport has become an activity fewer and fewer anglers are choosing because they are not allowed to catch fish that are obviously abundant.”

If fresh and saltwater anglers don’t stand together, he added, “The outdated regulations that limit saltwater fishing will eventually bleed over into freshwater fishing.”

Fortunately, recreational fishing leaders already have put together a blueprint for improving M-S, entitled “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.” Its recommendations include establishing a national policy for recreational fishing, allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit of the nation, and adopting a revised approach for saltwater recreational fisheries management.”

Under current regulations (for some species), said Elite Series pro Terry Scroggins, “It’s not even worth it to take a trip out to try and catch fish. If recreational anglers decide not to fish, it hurts boat sales, tackle sales, fuel sales . . . and the list goes on. It’s time for us to speak up and keep offshore recreational fishing alive.”

Along with B.A.S.S., American Sport Fishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, these already fishermen have signed on in support of BASC: Cliff Crochet, Kelly Jordon, Jeff Kriet, Mike Iaconelli, Bobby Lane, Jared Miller, Brandon Palaniuk, Dean Rojas, Marty Robinson, and Terry Scroggins.

(A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Thursday
Jun182015

Big Bass Bites Twice

Some bass just don’t mind being caught. That’s the way it seemed, at least for an 8-pound, 11-ounce largemouth that Robert Burnett caught recently while fishing a shiner on Florida’s Lake Rousseau. Fifteen minutes later, he caught her again.

Burnett knew it was the same fish because he had clipped a fin to send to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for genetic analysis as part of the TrophyCatch.

The angler from Inglis has 26 Lunker Club (8 to 9.9 pounds) and 1 Trophy Club entry (10 to 12.9 pounds) in the FWC program, which began in 2012.

Through incentives provided by the state and corporate sponsors, TrophyCatch encourages anglers to catch, document, and release bass of 8 pounds and heavier. While helping anglers discover which lakes are most productive for big fish and providing valuable information for fisheries management, the program also reduces “the need to prohibit harvest with regulations and has proved highly successful,” FWC said.

Burnett noted that he carefully follows FWC handling advice to clip the line if a fish swallows a hook too deeply to remove easily. On fish that he has left the hook in, he as observed specific markings, such as a scar behind the gill cover. Then, within 10 days, he has caught the same fish again and noticed there was no sign of the hook bothering the fish. This type of anecdotal information helps to substantiate and reconfirm the value of releasing trophy-size bass so anglers can enjoy catching them again.

“Perhaps Robert Burnett will be the one that catches it next time, or his wife – another TrophyCatch participant – or one of his two boys, or some other lucky angler,” FWC said.

Since Oct. 1, 2012, TrophyCatch has verified more than 2,350 bass heavier than 8 pounds that anglers caught, documented and released. Included in those, were 556 Trophy Club (10-12.9 pounds) and 19 Hall of Fame (heavier than 13 pounds) catches. Each of these entrants provides valuable data to the FWC through this citizen-science, conservation program. In addition, each verified catch earned a lucky angler at least $100 in Bass Pro Shops or similar gift cards, a Bass King shirt, other rewards, and a certificate for the accomplishment.

“Ultimately, the direct impact of catch-and-release depends on anglers carefully handling the bass and getting it back in the water where it came from as quickly as practical,” FWC added. “To provide the required documentation for TrophyCatch, however, a photo of the entire bass (head to tail) on a scale with the weight showing or official published tournament results is needed.”

People can sign up for free at TrophyCatchFlorida.com to earn a chance to win a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury Marine and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system and electronic charting by Avionics. While on the site, people can explore the photo gallery and search for catches by water body, county, angler or size class.

Monday
Jun082015

Feds Ban Fishing, Restrict Boating in Biscayne National Park

Not surprisingly, the National Park Service (NPS) has just announced that it intends to eliminate sport fishing and severely restrict boating in more than 10,000 acres of Biscayne National Park, as a part of its General Management Plan. 

“Today’s announcement confirms that Biscayne National Park officials never had any real interest in working with stakeholders or the state of Florida to explore compromise plans,” said Mike Leonard, ocean resource policy director for the American Sportfishing Association.

 “The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, one of the nation’s leading fisheries management agencies, has stated that a marine reserve is far too restrictive, and that other management measures can achieve resource goals while still allowing for public access. The only conclusion that one can draw from this decision is that the public is simply not welcome at Biscayne National Park.”

The move is not surprising because the NPS did much the same thing at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area about five years ago. Extensive areas were closed to the public, with off-road vehicle access severely limited at one of the premier surf fishing locations on the East Coast.

It’s long past time to wake up to the fact that the NPS is not a friend to anglers specificially and outdoor recreationists in general. A Washington, D.C. insider once told Activist Angler that the anonymous bureaucrats in that agency have no regard for fishermen and would like nothing better than to restrict public access in our national parks to auto tours.

Go here to sign a petition opposing the Biscayne fishing ban.

“America’s  recreational fishing community is disheartened by the National Park Service’s decision to implement a marine reserve at Biscayne National Park,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation.

 “We understand the importance of protecting our natural resources and the delicate balance needed to ensure that anglers and boaters are able to enjoy these public waters. However, the National Park Service has shown little interest in compromise and today’s announcement confirms a lack of desire to include the needs of park users and stakeholders in important decisions such as this.”

For the past several years, a large coalition of partners in the recreational boating and fishing community has submitted comments, attended public meetings and organized discussions with the leadership at the National Park Service in an attempt to balance the critical need for conservation with the need for recreational access to the park’s waters. Numerous fisheries management measures were presented to the National Park Service that would balance resource conservation with maintaining public access, including size limits, bag limits, quotas, permits, seasonal closures and gear restrictions.

“Anglers recognize that the condition of the fisheries resources in Biscayne National Park needs to be addressed, but we also know that once an area is closed, the public will never be allowed back in,” said Jeff Miller, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association Florida’s Government Relations Committee.

 “These decisions should happen only when clearly supported by science, and when all other management options have failed. By not giving other, less restrictive options a chance, the National Park Service has put Florida’s reputation as ‘Fishing Capital of the World’ at stake.”

To read the most recent public comments submitted by the recreational boating and fishing community to the National Park Service on this issue, click here.  

Monday
Jun012015

Bass Anglers Urged to Join Battle to Protect Saltwater Fishing

B.A.S.S. announced today, along with a large coalition of angler groups, the official launch of Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation (BASC), a new intuitive online advocacy system that allows fishing enthusiasts to write, call or tweet their legislators through prewritten engagements online.

“Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation is, at its core, an opportunity for fans of bass fishing and B.A.S.S. to channel their passion for all things fishing into good public policies that concern our sport,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO.

“Right now, the fisheries policy battles in Congress are focused on saltwater fishing, but tomorrow these issues could spread to freshwater lakes, rivers, or countless other fisheries we love to fish.

“Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation was designed to give all anglers a voice and platform by which to contact lawmakers and advocate for the preservation and growth of recreational angling, and we are proud to support it. Through this new advocacy system, we hope to create a brotherhood of anglers that defends fisheries access for all anglers, regardless of where they fish.”

By accessing Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation, BassforSalt.com, fishing enthusiasts can simply fill out their constituent information and contact their legislators through the method they choose. BASC then automatically identifies the appropriate legislators and provides users with talking points for a call, a pre-written letter, or even a pre-written tweet based on the user’s preferences.

The timing of the debut of the website is appropriate, said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. He noted that the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act — the nation’s primary marine fisheries law — along with three key amendments to benefit recreational fishing.

“Opportunities to change federal fisheries management policy don't come along very often,” Gilliland said. “In this case the thousands of bass anglers who also fish in saltwater need to contact their congressmen today! Encourage them to vote in favor of greater recreational fishing opportunity.”

Professional bass anglers also are joining the push to get freshwater fishermen more involved on issues that threaten all types of sportfishing.

“Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation isn’t just for bass anglers,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jeff Kriet. “Many of the anglers I know fish in both salt and freshwater. The issues our coastal fisheries currently face could easily translate into freshwater if we do not take action.
 

“In order to ensure that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the same fishing experiences as the anglers of today, regardless of what they fish for or where they like to fish, we must raise a unified voice to the nation’s legislators. When the 33 million anglers in the U.S. come together for positive change, we are a force that cannot be ignored.”

The primary threat to the future of saltwater fishing is lack of access to thriving fish stocks. One example of this is the current situation with red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. Once considered one of the most prized fish in the Gulf, red snapper’s federal season was reduced to a mere nine days in 2014, and only 10 days in 2015. However, according to the National Marine Fisheries Services’ own numbers, the population of Gulf Red Snapper is nearing its highest level in decades.

Those who oppose recreational fishing are driving situations exactly like that of red snapper throughout America’s oceans, and may soon bring the battle to freshwater fisheries. If anglers stand idly by while this happens, the opportunities to continue the sport will be greatly endangered.

Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation provides a simple, easy-to-use tool for anglers to stand up against misguided policies. As policy battles move through Congress and the federal bureaucracy, anglers and recreational fishing enthusiasts will have the ability to contact their senators and representatives, as well as cabinet members and even the President of the United States with the click of a mouse. BASC will send action alerts to anglers who sign up for the newsletter, so that anglers everywhere can stay up-to-date on the policies that affect sportfishing.

Wednesday
May062015

Support Research About How to Properly Handle Bass

 We need to know more about how to properly handle bass, especially big bass. The following provides some compelling evidence.

On March 18, Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPW) posted this on its ShareLunker Facebook page:

“Three of this year’s five ShareLunkers have come in with broken jaws.Two have died. The other has been returned to the lake.The only explanation we have for the broken jaws is fish being held vertically by the lower jaw. 

“Broken jaws can kill fish in two ways. An infection can start at the break and invade other organs. Or, the fish may not be able to feed and will starve.”

TPW offers good advice on how to properly handle these trophy fish, but we need to know more about how to properly handle bass of all sizes and then we need to spread the word. If you doubt that, just consider the many photos you see of anglers improperly holding bass horizontally by the lower jaw. Even much smaller fish can be hurt this way.

Want to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem? Don’t hold bass horizontally unless you place one hand under the belly to support its weight. And donate to this important research in Florida.

The main objective is to test whether different handling techniques influence the jaw function of Florida largemouth bass. “We hypothesize that improper handling could influence feeding effectiveness and jaw mechanics, as well as fish survival.”

Your support is needed to fund a scholarship through the Fisheries Conservation Foundation for a graduate student to conduct the experiment in the research lab at the Florida Bass Conservation Center near Webster, Florida. “Your support also will go towards travel expenses to the hatchery for the student and outreach materials so we can communicate our results to the bass angling community.