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Entries in conservation (158)


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.


Join the Pitch It Campaign to Keep Plastics Out of Our Waters


Please pledge to “pitch it” in Keep America Fishing’s (KAF) new campaign to prevent used plastic baits and other trash from littering our waters and  shorelines.

KAF says this:

“What happens when soft baits get torn or worn out? Too often, they are ending up as litter at the bottoms of ponds, lakes and rivers and that’s causing problems. Recently in Maine, a bill was introduced that would have banned the sale and use of soft plastic lures.

“That’s why Keep America Fishing created the Pitch It campaign to talk to fishermen about the proper disposal of worn out soft baits. By standing up against litter, we can protect our precious natural resources while taking away a powerful argument from those who want to regulate the contents of our tackle boxes. That’s a win-win!”

Go here to take the pledge and hear a short video by Kevin VanDam in support of the effort.

By the way, I started warning about the problems caused by discarded plastic baits back in 2011, first in B.A.S.S. Times and then at Activist Angler. Angler Joe Ford, who caught a large bass with a stomach full of discarded baits, and Carl Wengenroth at The Angler's Lodge on Lake Amistad first brought this issue to my attention. Here are a couple of those early articles:

Discarded Baits Could Be a Killer; Put Them in the Trash

We Have a Problem


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!" 


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


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?”


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.)