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Entries in conservation (191)

Monday
Mar202017

Fish Will Receive 'Major League' Care at Upcoming Bassmaster Classic

B.A.S.S. provides "major league" care for fish at every event. But at the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic March 24-26 here, that phrase takes on added and historic meaning. For the first time, in the event's 47-year history, bass will be weighed in at the home field of a professional baseball team.

Anglers and fish alike must remember to "keep off the grass" at the Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. But that won't be an impediment to continue the excellent record of fish survival at Classic venues, which typically is 97 to 100 percent, according to National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. "We certainly expect to achieve the same level of success at Lake Conroe," he added.

Of course, "major league" fish care begins with the 52 anglers competing at 21,000-acre Conroe.

"Our anglers are very conscientious when it comes to keeping their fish alive," the conservation director said. "Dead fish mean penalties and, in the most important bass tournament in the world, they don't want any deductions!"

When competitors return to Lake Conroe Park for afternoon takeout and the 49-mile trip to Minute Maid Park, they will be met  by B.A.S.S. staff, as well as state conservation directors from the B.A.S.S. Nation who have volunteered and been trained to help.

First, they will look for dead fish and make sure bass meet the legal minimum length of 16 inches for largemouth and 14 inches for smallmouth. Also they will check to make sure livewells are full and the recirculating aerators are on full time to maximize oxygen in the water. "If water temperatures are above 70 degrees, we will add a little ice to help stabilize the temperature for the trip to Houston," Gilliland said. "It's not so much to cool the water as it is to maintain it."

Barring a cold front, that's likely to be the case. Lake Conroe water temperatures that time of year typically are in the mid to upper 70s.

Then drivers will take the anglers, their boats, and fish to the ball park, which should take at least an hour. If, as expected, they are allowed to use an inbound HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane on I-45, travel time could be shortened a bit.  An hour's drive is more the norm that the exception for a Bassmaster Classic.

Outside Minute Maid Park, the fish will be checked again by B.A.S.S. staff and volunteers, more ice will be added if necessary, bass will be fizzed if needed (not likely), and the boats will be washed. Anglers will place their bass in mesh bags, which stay in the livewells.

When the weigh-in begins, each boat will enter the stadium from right field. It will drive onto the warning track and, from there, travel on an elevated platform down the right field line, go around home plate, and stop at third base.

"The stage will be set on the baseball infield between second and third base, facing the third-base line and stands," Gilliland said. "There will be a bridge there for anglers to cross over the grass and carry their bags of fish to the stage and scales."

At a Classic, bass typically are kept out of the water less than a minute total from the time the anglers check in at the takeout site until they are released into their home waters after the weigh-in. The longest part of that is as the fisherman carries his catch in a mesh bag to the stage.

"That time out of the water is usually 10 to 20 seconds at a time," the conservation director said. "For the Elite tournaments, the average total time was 49 seconds. We want to handle the fish as little as possible and keep them out of the water as little as possible. At the ramp, they might not even need to be handled and the same goes for the boat yard."

Occasionally, anglers will take bigger fish out of the mesh and hold them up for the crowd and media to see. As the remainder of the bass are passed off so that they can be more quickly placed in water, those photo fish will receive a few extra seconds in the spotlight before being placed in separate bags and moved along in the process.

For this Classic, the bass will be hustled out of Minute Maid Park to hatchery hauling trailers provided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

"The most common question we get is 'Will those fish go home?' and they will," Gilliland said. "People who live around lakes are possessive of their fish and we understand that. For this Classic, the exception would be a ShareLunker (13 pounds or better), which would go to the hatchery in Athens."

TPWD will use those trailers to transport the bass to Conroe each evening where they will be released at undisclosed locations, according to Dave Terre, chief of management/research for Inland Fisheries. "I will staff those with four people.

"I will likely have two other fish transport vehicles as well," he added. "One for transporting fish back for the high school/college tournament and one for dealing with a ShareLunker if one is caught at Lake Conroe during the tournament. Each of those vehicles will have a staff member assigned to them."

Water in the trailers will be oxygenated and temperature maintained as close as possible to that of Lake Conroe, Gilliland said.

The conservation director added that the entire fish care process from takeout to placement in the hatchery trailers requires 10 to 12 B.A.S.S. staff and volunteers.

"Space is tight and time is tight, and that's all we need to keep the process moving, to handle the fish as little as possible and get them back to the lake."

Wednesday
Mar152017

Pick Up Fishing Line That Others Leave Behind

Fellow anglers: Please, as spring approaches, remember to pick up discarded fishing line that you see in the water, on the land, and, when possible, in trees. Left behind, it can kill fish and wildlife, especially birds. The people who toss it  aren't going to read this or don't care. Probably both.

It's up to the responsible majority to counter the actions of the irresponsible few. And you'll feel better for doing it. If you belong to a fishing club, make line and trash pickup a regular part of your organizaiton's activities. Also, consider installing recycled line bins at piers and ramps.

Here's a note recently sent to Activist Angler about this issue:

"I read your article here http://www.activistangler.com/journal/tag/fishing-line while searching to know what to do about my issue. We love birds. We do not fish. We do not buy fishing line.

"We have tall trees and live in northern Utah. We have big windstorms. Last year, a big windstorm blew a whole bunch of fishing line into our trees. We got rid of what was low enough. However, these trees are tall. One fishing line which is clear, not white, goes from the branch of one tree to the branch of another tree.

"I know birds get injured by this. We took one injured bird into the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Birds sometimes make 'danger' sounds in large groups near there. I am glad they are figuring it out. I do not know how to get this line out of our trees because it is up so high. Do you have any ideas?"

My response:

I’m so sorry to hear about your situation and wish that I could offer a solution. Sadly, I don’t know of any options other than to climb the trees (if possible) and cut out the line or hire a tree-trimming business to do it for you.

The kind of fishing line that you describe probably is monofilament, and it will deteriorate over time with exposure to sun. But that likely will take years. Meanwhile, it could kill birds. I’ve seen it happen. I took that photo you saw on my website of a great blue heron hanging from a dead tree.

Anglers break lines from time to time and can’t always retrieve all of it because it’s hung on something they can’t reach, either in the water or, worse, in a tree. But that line is attached is something and doesn’t blow all over the place.

What you describe is the result of thoughtless and irresponsible people who discarded that line on the ground or in the water, with no regard for the harm it could do, instead of disposing of it properly. 

I live in an area with several small lakes, and, especially in spring and summer, I often pick up discarded line along the shorelines as I walk with my dog. And every time I do, I have some not-so-nice words for the people who tossed it there.

Wednesday
Jan112017

Seven Coves Bass Club Helps Bring Classic to Lake Conroe

HOUSTON, Tex. --- Seven Coves Bass Club has received some impressive recognition for its conservation efforts.

In 2013, the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation (TBN) affiliate was awarded the Texas Environmental Excellence Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “This is probably the highest recognition our conservation program has received to date,” said Tim Cook, TBN conservation director. “Every member of the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation should be proud to be part of an organization that gives so much back to the sport we all love

And now, Lake Conroe, a  Houston-area bass fishery that the club has helped shepherd to world-class status during the past eight years, will be the site of the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic March 24-26.

"We're pretty pumped about it," said Ron Gunter, a past president and conservation director for the club. "It's an opportunity to showcase what we, with all our partners, have done."

But, he was quick to add, bringing to Classic to Conroe wasn't the priority, or even a consideration. "We just wanted to protect and enhance the fishery."

In doing so, though, they helped create a fishery worthy of the Classic, according to Tim Cook, TBN conservation director. "It's been producing 30-pound stringers all summer long," he said. "The lake has a significant number of 8-pound fish and I'm expecting that six to ten over 8 pounds will be caught each day. We've had five Toyota Texas Bass Classics on that lake, so anglers know how good it can be."

Read the rest of my story at Bassmaster.com.

Monday
Jan022017

TrophyCatch Adds Prize Incentives as Program Continues to Grow

TrophyCatch program has seen a staggering increase in the number of participating anglers and qualifying catches during the past four seasons. This citizen science partnership has led to more than 5,325 approved catches, which is instrumental in ensuring that FWC biologists make informed decisions for the management and improvement of Florida’s lakes and rivers.

As we start the New Year, the TrophyCatch team is excited to reward anglers for their first Lunker Club submissionx and all of their Trophy Club and Hall of Fame submissions. It also is introducing new  monthly prizes,  and new championship prizes for the biggest bass caught during Season 5, as well as adding a new grand prize category for the heaviest total weight of approved catches for the season. This means that the weight of all of your approved catches per season will be totaled at the end of the season in December, with the winner taking home the prize pack of a lifetime.

Also, Phoenix Boats has upgraded the Season 5 TrophyCatch boat to the sleek 819 Pro, powered by Mercury and anchored by PowerPole. The lucky TrophyCatch boat winner will be drawn at the end of Season 5 in December, and all of your approved submissions throughout the season increase your chance of winning the boat!

Be sure to follow TrophyCatch on Facebook and Instagram (@FishReelFlorida) to keep updated on the new Grand Prize and monthly rewards.

Tuesday
Dec272016

Early Conservation Efforts And Black Bass Act Saved American's No. 1 Sport Fish

“So long as there is a legal market anywhere, you may bank on it that thousands of pounds of illegally caught bass will be sold,” he said during IWL’s all but forgotten campaign during the 1920s to save black bass from decimation by commercial harvest."--- Seth Gordon, first conservation director for Izaak Walton League (IWL)

*     *     *     *

Well into the 20th century, black bass were commercial, as well as sport fish. Even as government agencies stocked fish anywhere and everywhere and closed seasons limited sport fishing, commercial fishermen harvested largemouth and smallmouth bass with pound and fyke nets, as well as other means, for sale in the fish markets of many cities.

Yet today, New York and other states once again allow sale of "hatchery-raised" black bass in markets and restaurants. And more, under pressure from fish farmers, are considering doing so.

“Eulogy on the Black Bass” read the headline in a 1927 issue of Forest and Stream, and another in 1930 screamed, “Defrauding Ten Million Anglers.” In the latter article, Edward Kemper slammed the Bureau of Fisheries for “overseeing the slaughter of millions and millions of black bass” and he included a “role of dishonor,” naming 10 states that continued to allow sale of bass in markets.

IWL was the prime mover for passage of the Black Bass Act of 1926, which was introduced into Congress by Rep. Harry Hawes of Missouri. As the law prohibited shipment of bass across state lines, IWL also worked within those states to outlaw commercial harvest.

I learned about this little known chapter in bass history from Jim Long, assistant unit leader of the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Oklahoma State University. He came across this and other long forgotten information as he prepared a presentation on the history of black bass management for a Black Bass Diversity Symposium at a Southern Division Meeting of the American Fisheries Society.

“I’ve read some histories of fisheries but I’ve never seen one for black bass,” he told me. “I wanted original newspaper clippings, not third-hand accounts, and data bases made that possible,” he said.

Pouring through archives, Long found a headline from the 1920s that proclaimed “Hoover Laments Decline of Fishing.” And he discovered that the New York Times listed black bass regulations during the 1870s. “That’s something you don’t see today,” he said.

As he divided his search into major time periods, starting with the 1800s, what surprised Long the most were the influential roles played by the IWL and, before that, by Dr. James A. Henshall.

Author of the 1881 Book of the Black Bass, Henshall was a medical doctor and passionate bass angler. The most quoted line in bass fishing literature belongs to him: “I consider him (black bass), inch for inch and pound for pound, the gamest fish that swims.”

Henshall’s passion, said Long, was to promote black bass as “a pre-eminent gamefish.” But the doctor also was a “lumper,” countering decades of science that preceded him.

Long coined that phrase as the opposite to “splitters,” which describes those who recognize multiple bass species.

“Henshall did a lot of really good work, but he considered the spotted bass a smallmouth, the Guadalupe a largemouth, and the Florida a largemouth,” Long explained. “And he was the authoritative voice.”

So, even though the smallmouth bass and then largemouth bass were identified in 1802, the spotted bass in 1819, the Florida bass in 1822, and the Guadalupe bass in 1874, Henshall’s lumping successfully countered their acknowledgement as separate species until the 1940s.

By the way, no one knows where that first smallmouth was caught before it was shipped to France to be analyzed and given its Latin name. But what Long discovered is that the black bass’s keystone designation as Micropterus was based on a damaged dorsal fin. “It looked like it had a second, smaller dorsal,” he said. “And that word means small fin or wing.”

With improvement in science over the decades, especially in genetics, Henshall’s lumping has fallen out of favor and we’re not likely to name any new species based on an imperfection. Also, we’ve become much more selective about how and when we stock, and we’re focused on improving habitat as never before as a way to sustain fisheries.

All those are good things. But I am troubled by our politicians and their propensity for repeating harmful chapters in our history.