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Entries in conservation (138)

Sunday
Mar232014

Maine Fisheries Opposes Plastics Ban, But Anglers Need to Be Better Stewards

Eamon Bolten started the ReBaits program in Florida.

In deciding not to recommend a ban on soft plastic baits to the state legislature, Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) followed the science. Biologist Dana DeGraaf, who is the trout and landlocked salmon specialist, especially deserves recognition for his diligence in compiling data, researching composition of plastic and biodegradable baits, and donning SCUBA gear to get a first-hand look at discarded baits in Maine fisheries.

It remains to be seen, though, whether those in the legislature who pushed for the ban in 2013 will accept the recommendation and alternative actions suggested by IFW. As in the Pacific Northwest, prejudice is strong against bass, an introduced species in many Maine waters. Coldwater anglers argue that if the bass weren’t there, neither would the discarded plastics.

One study cited by those who want the ban involved hatchery brook trout in a laboratory, with 63 percent of the 38 fish eating plastics. But that shouldn’t be at all surprising since the baits were mixed in with pelletized food.

As with bass, only anecdotal evidence exists that wild trout and salmon eat the discards. For example, in nearby Vermont, biologist Shawn Good said that he has received reports of trout with baits in their stomachs, and he’s also seen some abnormally skinny bass.

“I’ve killed a number of them over the years just to open them up and try to see what’s wrong with them,” he said. “A lot of these fish had two or three soft plastics in their stomachs. So we know they can affect individual fish.”

But, as in Maine, no research supports the notion that entire fisheries are being harmed by the discards. “I don’t think banning them is necessarily the right move,” Good explained. “But it’s something we should keep an eye on and let anglers know about, so they can try to reduce the amount that ends up in lakes.”

Which is exactly what DeGraaf and IFW recommended to the Maine legislature. “It’s mostly a littering problem,” the biologist said.

Sad to say, of that there was ample evidence, both from visual checks at launch sites and from underwater observations.

“Many discarded SPLs were readily observed visually from the boat prior to the diver survey,” the report said. “Hundreds of additional discarded SPLs were observed at Tricky Pond but were uncounted outside the initial survey area due to time limitations.

“In addition, multiple piles of discarded SPLs were observed at the toe of the Tricky Pond public boat ramp. This was indicative of anglers purposely dumping used SPLs after fishing and prior to trailering their boat(s) out of the water.”

Some soft plastics unavoidably will be lost while fishing. But, as the IFW discovered, some anglers continue to improperly dispose of their used plastics. In doing so, they needlessly contribute to the litter problem and provide ammunition to those will continue to push for a ban, not only in Maine but in other states as well.

Consequently, IFW’s recommendation of a public education campaign is a good one and something that other states should initiate as well.

“The Department could establish a process for public education and outreach regarding the effects of discarded SPLs and the process by which anglers should discard or recycle used SPLs,” the agency said in the report now posted on its website.

It proposed signs and collections boxes for baits at ramps, as well as media advertisements and printed material in the fishing regulations book. And it recommended that anglers “participate in SPL recycling programs such as the B.A.S.S. ReBaits SPL recycling program. This could include providing collection bags with each purchase of a Maine fishing license and/or advertising the Re-Baits program in print on the Maine fishing license.” (This is my B.A.S.S. Times column about Eamon Bolten starting the ReBaits program in Florida.)

A final reason that IFW does not recommend a ban on soft plastic baits should be of special interest to bass anglers nationwide. It said that a viable biodegradable option doesn’t exist, despite advertising claims to the contrary. “After one week, one month, and eight months post-treatment, the biodegradable SPL showed no signs of degradation,” the report said, adding that no national or international standard exists for “ what constitutes ‘biodegradable plastic’ and SPLs specifically.”

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

Thursday
Mar202014

Angler Leads Way to Protect Dolphins

Dolphins trapped in a tuna net. Photo courtesy of Divine Dolphin, Drake Bay

Some of the most spectacular things that I have ever seen while fishing are the pods of spinner dolphins that swim alongside the boat in the Pacific waters of Costa Rica.  Watching them leap, twirl, and dive just a few feet away, I can’t help but feel the joy that they so enthusiastically exhibit.

Sadly, not enough is being done to protect these marine mammals, which are “collateral damage” when foreign commercial fishermen come into Costa Rica waters to net tuna.

As fishing director at Crocodile Bay Resort, my friend Todd Staley is trying his best to gain protection for the spinner dolphins, by forcing the commercial netters farther offshore. In a letter to Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla, he said this:

“Most people have no idea how tuna are captured. More often than not in Costa Rica, large ships encircle schools of tuna swimming below massive pods of dolphins. Since 1950, more than 6 million dolphins have died at the hands of the tuna industry.

“Today they claim they have methods to release the dolphins before taking the tuna onboard the ship. Even though the majority of these dolphins may be released alive, the panic and stress put on these animals is horrendous while they are held prisoner in the nets. When released, the pods of dolphins are separated, often leaving mothers and young apart.

“Commercial and sport fishermen who have spent lots of time on the ocean see firsthand how these tuna ships operate. They have helicopters to spot the dolphins. Then they drop explosives on top of the dolphins to drive the tuna toward the ship. This practice is illegal in Costa Rica but often used . . .

“By moving the tuna boats out to at least 100 miles, which is only another 40 miles in an ocean of territorial water, you can effectively protect an entire subspecies of dolphins. In a country famous for its protection of natural resources, this is little for the Costa Rican people to ask.”

Todd Staley with Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla.

For his tireless efforts to educate about sustainable fishing practices and to keep Costa Rica’s fish, dolphin, and sea turtle populations healthy and robust, Todd has been nominated for the IGFA Chester H. Wolfe Sportsman of the Year Award by the Redbone@Large Tournament Group.

Thursday
Mar202014

Potash Tournament Benefits Fishery, as Well as Charity, Kids

Tournament competitors dropped Fishiding "Safehouses" to improve habitat at Strom Thurmond Reservoir.

Activist Angler note: Teaming with Fishiding, PotashCorp introduced a conservation component to its benefit tournament last year and plans to include it again this year. I hope that other tournament organizers will take note and follow the leader because these kinds of projects actually could improve fisheries.

A few have had competitors release fry during one of the competition days, but all that really does is provide an opportunity for promotion of the event. It does little or nothing to help the fishery. If bass have sufficient habitat, they will reproduce just fine on their own. If they don't, adding more fish to compete for already limited forage and cover is pointless.

The following article about the Potash tournament appears in the April issue of B.A.S.S. Times:

In regard to bass tournaments, Joey Bruyninckx had a better idea.

“I wanted to do something that benefits charity, kids, and the environment,” said the environmental specialist for PotashCorp, who added that he likes to fish and has ties to fishing. “From there, it just all came together.”

Thus was born the PotashCorp Fishback Tournament, set for June 6-7 at J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir (also known as Clark Hill) on the Georgia-South Carolina border.

But it’s possible that this year’s team event, unlike the inaugural last year, might be changed to one day instead of two.

“A lot of the fishermen are older and the two-day tournament was rough on them,” Bruyninckx said. “And it was exhausting for the volunteers. Changing it to one day should increase participation while lessening work.”

Still, last year’s two-day tournament, with a $12,000 payout for first place, was a “huge success,” said the employee of the world’s largest fertilizer company. With 135 teams competing, $6,000 was raised for the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance and $4,000 for the North Augusta Fishing Team, a youth organization. Volunteers from the latter performed much of the labor, including returning bass to the lake.

What made this event different from most others, meanwhile, was the conservation component. On Day One, each team placed habitat in the reservoir on its first or second stop.

“I was worried that there would be a lot of fussing and grumbling,” the environmental specialist said. “But afterward, a number of them told me how much they appreciated what we were doing. There were way more positive comments than negative.”

Had competitors been asked to load a brushpile with cinder blocks onto the deck of their bass boats, the reaction might not have been so positive. But instead PotashCorp provided them with self-contained habitats made from reclaimed vinyl siding by Fishiding (a supporter of Activist Angler). All anglers had to do was unfold and drop the “Safehouse,” which boasts a 7-foot diameter when opened.

Fishiding owner Dave Ewald said the units “sink to the bottom and land upright to resemble a bush. The wide limbs create maximum shade, often preferred by bass and forage fish. Nutrients then stick to the vinyl and start the food chain.”

Bruyninckx sought and received approval from Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before implementing the habitat-improvement component of the tournament. Orginally, he had considered having each team release bass fry, but DNR biologists convinced him that adding habitat would be more beneficial.

The same is planned for this year’s event, which its creator hopes will have more sponsors. PotashCorp donated $25,000 last year and is expected to increase that to $30,000 this year.

Those interested in participating in the tournament should contact Jon Hair at the Tackle Shop in Martinez, Ga. Phone numbers are (706) 432-8225 and (706) 723-6292.

Companies interested in being a sponsor should contact Bruyninckx at (706) 469-1239. 

Wednesday
Mar192014

Lake Kingsley Leads Way for Trophy Bass in Florida

Len Andrews with TrophyCatch bass caught at Lake Kingsley.

North Florida’s Lake Kingsley is yielding an abundance of big bass this spring. Unfortunately, most of us can’t fish it. On the east, access is limited to military personnel from Camp Blanding and, on the west, with permission of private homeowners.

Still, it’s indicative of what many of the Sunshine State’s public waters are capable of producing, especially during the pre-spawn and spawn. And with the introduction of Florida’s TrophyCatch program a couple of years ago, we’re now getting a better idea of that what they are producing.

 The latest news from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is that Len Andrews caught and released a dozen largemouth bass that weighed 10 pounds or more during a two-week period at Lake Kingsley. Previously, FWC reported that Joseph Morrell caught three double-digit fish in early March. Morrell’s largest weighed 14-9 and Andrews’ 13-12.

Here’s more from FWC about 74-year-old Andrews and his big bass:

Andrews discovered north Florida’s Lake Kingsley 17 years ago and now routinely visits for three months every year, generally fishing seven days a week. His very first cast with a Zoom 6-inch lizard on a Shimano baitcasting reel and G. Loomis rod yielded a 14-pound, 8-ounce Florida largemouth back in 1999. He has been hooked ever since, and always uses the same lure while sight-fishing for bass in the shallows.

Andrews grew up fishing with friends, and in the 1960s and ’70s he tried his hand tournament fishing, but said he “nearly starved,” even after adding guiding on Rodman Reservoir to his repertoire. Ultimately, he relied on being a union carpenter and supervisor until he retired.

TrophyCatch is an incentive-based conservation program that rewards anglers for legally catching, documenting and releasing trophy largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds in Florida. The second season of this very successful effort to gather information on elusive trophy bass while encouraging anglers to release them began Oct. 1, 2013, and ends Sep. 30 this year. The program itself is ongoing, but having seasons allows the FWC to award a championship ring annually, which is donated by the American Outdoors Fund, and to draw for the Phoenix bass boat, which is powered by a Mercury outboard and equipped with a Power-Pole. Simply registering at TrophyCatchFlorida.com makes you eligible for the random boat drawing.

Andrews’ 13-pounder, which he caught on March 11, was verified on a certified scale by FWC biologists Allen Martin and Steven Hooley as the fourth Hall of Fame entry this season. Van Soles recorded the first, a 13-pound, 2-ounce tournament-caught bass from Lake Kissimmee. Joseph Morrell followed earlier this month with two catches a week apart, weighing, 13 pounds, 12 ounces and then our current leader – a 14-pound, 9-ounce bass. Both of Morrell’s catches were also caught and released on Lake Kingsley.

Hall of Fame entries receive a free fiberglass replica mount ($500 value) from New Wave Taxidermy; $200 worth of gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Dick's Sporting Goods and/or Rapala; a Bass King duffle bag with customized hoodie, shirt and hat; and a Glen Lau DVD. In addition, their names are entered into the Florida Bass Hall of Fame at the Florida Bass Conservation Center .

The other two clubs that are part of TrophyCatch are the Lunker Club for bass between 8 and 9.9 pounds, and Trophy Club for bass between 10 and 12.9 pounds. Verified Lunker Club entries receive $100 in gift cards from our partners and a club T-shirt. Trophy Club entries earn $150 in gift cards and a long-sleeve club shirt. All three groups also get a club decal and customized certificate.

To enroll in any of the three clubs and support conservation, anglers should register at TrophyCatchFlorida.com, where they will also log in to submit their catches. A verified catch must be properly documented by one of the following means:

  • Photo of entire fish on the scale with the weight showing (if not perfect, be sure to supplement with a closeup showing the scale and at least part of the fish, a shot of entire fish on a tape-measure, and maybe a girth photo);
  • Link to a tournament website with official results, or to a publication that includes your name and verified weight of the individual fish;
  • A copy of an official printed tournament weigh slip, with tournament information that includes your name and the verified weight of the individual fish, or;
  • Provide the name and contact information for an FWC official who saw the actual fish being weighed and can verify the entry (e.g., creel clerks, conservation officers, event volunteers).

Other anglers can view the gallery and map on the TrophyCatch website to see where all the great catches are being made, and follow us at Facebook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida

Thursday
Feb202014

Berkley Honors New York, Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nations

The Berkley Conservation Institute (BCI) announced the award of the 2013 Berkley Conservation Award to the New York B.A.S.S. Nation. The award, worth $2,000 in cash, will be presented at the B.A.S.S. Conservation Awards banquet February 22nd in Birmingham during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

"The New York B.A.S.S. Nation is a role-model for other organizations to follow," said Jim Martin, BCI Conservation Director.

"Their members are making a difference. They have a great plan, are organized and dedicated. The Ramp Monkeys concept is something that every state B.A.S.S. Nation should emulate. Getting youth involved in conservation efforts is vital to the future of our aquatic resources. I salute the New York B.A.S.S. Nation for their commitment to the principles that the Berkley Conservation Institute holds dear."

In winning the Conservation Award, the New York B.A.S.S. Nation took a multi-pronged approach to battling invasive species in the Empire state. State Conservation Director Barb Elliott worked with NYBN youth clubs to form "Ramp Monkeys." These groups attend area bass tournaments and first remove plant debris from launch areas, then as anglers pull their rigs out, the Ramp Monkeys use kid-power to "Clean, Drain and Dry" each boat and trailer. The operation is an opportunity for outreach to anglers and boaters and an educational experience for the youth members.

The NYBN members also continued to battle invasive water chestnuts by physically removing the plants from lakes, canals and rivers and worked with state agencies, lake associations, universities and watershed alliances to distribute educational/outreach materials to increase awareness of invasive species.

"The New York B.A.S.S. Nation is honored to receive this award," said Fred Blom, NYBN President. "I am proud of the accomplishments of the whole organization. We are all working hard to make a difference."

*         *         *

The Berkley Conservation Institute (BCI) announced the award of the 2013 Berkley Angler Recruitment/Retention Award to the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation. The award, worth $1,500 in fishing tackle, will be presented at the B.A.S.S. Conservation Awards banquet February 22nd in Birmingham during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

"The Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation is to be commended for utilizing an approach that highlights the many activities in which their members are involved," said Jim Martin, BCI Conservation Director.

"All 26 clubs exhibit a willingness to get involved in activities that benefit youth, their communities and the aquatic resources that our sport depends on. We at the Berkley Conservation Institute are proud to honor the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation with our Berkley Angler Recruitment/Retention Award. In winning the award, the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation increased awareness of their organization and increased membership by utilizing a multi-media approach at outdoor shows and other public events.

A poster using the image of Uncle Sam was created with the slogan "The CBN Wants You" to attract attention to their booth. A large state map was displayed to help potential members locate clubs near their homes. Brochures were distributed which contained information about the CBN, contact information for joining, and examples of the CBN at work. A continuous-looping PowerPoint presentation was shown to provide a visual representation of CBN activities and projects such as Toys for Tots, The Bryan Kerchal Memorial Fund, The Robert S. Malloy Scholarship Fund, Riverfront Recapture’s Sporting Chance for Youth Day, CastingKids, Wounded Warriors Foundation, Youth Tournaments, the 26-Angels Event, as well as the CBN Tournament Trail.

"The Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation would like to thank the Berkley Conservation Institute and B.A.S.S. for this honor and we want to recognize our members who worked hard on this project," said Bob Nelson, CBN Vice President.

Silvia Morris, CBN President added, "We feel that this was beneficial not only because it increased membership in 2013 but if gives up a plan to follow and we are confident it will pay dividends in the future."

BCI is a division of the Pure Fishing Company, the world’s largest tackle company headquartered in Columbia, SC. The brand names of Pure Fishing include Abu Garcia, All Star Rods, Berkley, Fenwick, Mitchell, Penn, Pflueger, Shakespeare, Spiderwire and Stren.