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Entries in conservation (147)

Friday
May162014

Weigh in on Florida's Proposed Changes in Bass Regulations

If you fish for bass in Florida, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants your input regarding a change being considered for the five-bass daily bag limit.

The statewide bag limit of five would not be altered, but each angler would be allowed to keep up to five bass of less than 16 inches each or four less than 16 and one more than 16.

“Limited exceptions for specific fisheries that have special needs or opportunities would still be possible, such as high-profile, catch-and-release fisheries that need such a management approach, or even a few more liberal regulations where bass may be overabundant,” FWC said. “Those would be limited exceptions and generally associated with fish management areas.

“In addition, it is important to note that there is no intent to alter the simple Bass Tournament Exemption Permit process.”

Go here to take the survey.

“The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) takes public opinions very seriously,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. “Combined with the best science and case studies that we have to go on, public input helps us strive for optimal sustained use of these popular and valuable fish.”

As someone who fishes Florida waters as often as I can and knows the biologists at FWC, I respect the job that they do and hope that you will help with this.

Tuesday
Apr152014

Birds, Bears, and Balance

Cormorant photos by Robert Montgomery

Early this spring, hunters killed 11,653 double-crested cormorants on Lakes Marion and Moultrie (Santee Cooper) in South Carolina. Such an event would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. That’s because cormorants are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

But in recent years both federal and state resource managers recognized that these fishing-eating birds are causing problems for our fisheries, as their populations explode. Vocal, angry anglers played no small part in that recognition.

More recently, Florida Fish and Wildlife killed five black bears after a woman was attacked at her home in central Florida.

What do these two incidents have in common? They highlight who we are as a species and what we must do if we are to share land and water with other species.

We are beings who alter our environment to meet our needs. We clear the land to farm and to build cities, homes, and highways. We erect dams to control floods, irrigate formerly arid lands, and generate hydropower.

And when we do those things, we take away the habitat of other species, such as black bears in Florida.

Many think that we manage only domestic animals. In truth, if we are to have healthy populations of most wildlife species, we must manage them as well.

And that means sometimes that we must kill some of them because their numbers are too great to be sustained in their remaining habitat and/or they pose a threat to us.

As they were relentlessly hunted and their habitat destroyed, buffalo, deer, and turkey nearly disappeared. But enlightened management has brought them back, and now regular hunts keep their numbers at sustainable levels for their available habitat.

The cormorant is an interesting exception to the rule. That’s because it habitat has not been diminished by us, but rather greatly expanded by the reservoirs behind all of those dams that we’ve built. That’s why it has become such a nuisance species. Many no longer migrate, but instead stay year-around, feasting on fish and expanding their numbers.

Of course, many of those who call themselves animal lovers do not want to hear such rational arguments. They did not like the killing of so many cormorants in South Carolina, and I’ve no doubt that Florida Fish and Wildlife will endure sharp criticism for killing so many bears.

These people want us to either ignore the problem or attempt to solve it in an impractical way.

For example, the Missouri Department of Conservation decided to do something about the overpopulation of deer in suburban St. Louis awhile back. Its first choice was to have a managed hunt. But bowing to pressures from animal lovers, it went with the much more expensive option of trapping and moving the deer.

The agency later discovered that most of those transplanted deer starved to death because their new habitat contained little to none of the types of plants that they were accustomed to eating in the suburbs.

Moving bears won’t solve the problem in Florida either. Suitable bear habitat in the state already is at peak population. Otherwise the animals wouldn’t have moved in so close to humans in the first place.

Additionally, those that have ventured into civilization now grow fat as they scavenge garbage around homes or are intentionally fed by these same animal lovers who have exacerbated the problem with their compassion. In other words, the bears now associate humans with food and if trapped and moved, they’ll just head for the nearest subdivision.

The reality is that we must live with the consequences of our actions as a species that alters its environment, and one of those consequences is that we must manage the other species that share the land and water.

Sunday
Apr132014

Ensuring Fishing for the Future

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Most who fish just want to be left alone to do so.

Others desire that too, but are not content to leave it at that. They want to ensure quality fishing for future generations. State conservation directors in B.A.S.S. Nation are among those, as are volunteers with Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation.

 My friend Teeg Stouffer is one of those, which is why he founded Recycled Fish, reminding anglers that we all live downstream.

I am one of those as well, which is why I founded the Activist Angler website with the goal of “promoting and protecting recreational fishing.” That’s why I’ve volunteered to be a fishing instructor for the Missouri Department of Conservation this spring.

And it’s why I wrote my new book, Why We Fish, in the way that I did. Most of it celebrates why we keep going back to the water and the benefits that we derive from doing so. But a small portion is devoted to stewardship and the threats confronting recreational fishing.

When I’m on the water, I’m not thinking about such things, and I’m not asking you to either. But when you’re not fishing, I’ll hope that you think about stewardship and the importance of passing on healthy fisheries to future generations.

And I’ll hope that you’ll take the Recycled Fish Stewardship Pledge:

  • I pledge to live a lifestyle of stewardship on and off the water. Living as a steward means making choices throughout my daily life that benefit lakes, streams and seas - and the fish that swim in them - because my Lifestyle Runs Downstream.
  • I will learn the fish and game laws where I hunt or fish and always abide by them.
  • I will practice catch and release and selective harvest faithfully and responsibly.
  • I will "police my resource" by turning in poachers and reporting polluters.
  • I will make up for "the other guy" by cleaning up litter wherever my adventures take me.
  • I will boat safely and responsibly, never trespass, and treat other enthusiasts respectfully.
  • I will inspect, clean and dry my boat, boots and waders when moving between waters to prevent the spread of invasive species.
  • I will provide my time, money, or other resources to support stewardship efforts.
  • I will take steps to see that my home, lawn, vehicle, workplace and everyday lifestyle are as fish-friendly as I can make them by reducing my water, energy, material and chemical footprint.
  • I will encourage others to take on this ethic and will connect others with the outdoors to grow the stewardship community.
  • I choose to serve as a role model in protecting what remains and recovering what’s been lost of our wild and natural places.
  • I am a steward.
Thursday
Apr102014

Predation Can Be Quick When Male Bass Removed from Bed

Bluegills and other predators can eat bass eggs and fry within 5 minutes of the male being removed from the nest, according to recent research at the University of Illinois.

The fact that they move in when the protector is caught and pulled out is not news. But this recent finding about how fast it can occur is something that anglers should remember.

“One of the main conclusions of the study was that in a lake where there are very few brood predators, when you angle a male away from his nest and then immediately release him, the change of a negative impact is less,” said Jeff Stein, a University of Illinois fisheries scientist.

“But if the nest is located in a part of a lake where there is a high density of brood predators, once the male is removed, predators get into the nest very quickly. On average, the time it took brood predators to begin eating bass young was less than 5 minutes in cases where the nest was located near schools of brood predators.”

Stein added that his message to anglers is that it’s best to get the fish back in the water as soon as possible if they are catch-and-release fishing for nesting bass early in the year, especially if the lake is known to have a high number of bluegill and other predators.

Of course, the debate remains never-ending about whether to fish for bedding bass because of what happens when they are removed from the nest and the fear by some that it will harm productivity.  I don’t do it, but that’s a matter of personal choice. I don’t think that it generally is harmful to bass populations. And fisheries managers have found no evidence that it is.

The bottom line is this: Southern fisheries aren’t nearly so vulnerable because they have longer spawning seasons. Northern fisheries are more vulnerable because seasons are shorter. That’s why spring bass fishing often is catch-and-release in the Upper Midwest and Northeast.

But no matter what lake or stream you are on, if you are catch-and-release fishing, it’s always a good idea to get that bass back in the water as quickly as possible.

Thursday
Apr102014

States to Receive $1.1 Billion to Manage Fish and Wildlife 

States will receive $1.1 billion this year to manage fish and wildlife, courtesy of the nation’s anglers and hunters. During my nearly 30 years as a conservation writer, one of the things that saddens me the most is how little this program is understood and appreciated by the public. Additionally, every few years Washington politicians try to steal the money for other uses, even though it is "dedicated" to fish and wildlife management.

The money is collected as excise taxes on hunting gear, fishing tackle, and motorboat fuel by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FW) and then apportioned, based on land and water acreage and number of licenses sold.

States receive it at a 3-to-1 match, meaning FWS pays 75 percent for each eligible project.

“Anyone who enjoys our nation’s outdoor heritage should thank hunters, anglers, recreational boaters, and target shooters,” said Dan Ashe, FWS director. “Through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, these individuals have created a 75-year legacy for conservation of critical wildlife habitat and improved access to the outdoors for everyone.”

That’s right. Even if you don’t fish or hunt, you benefit if you spend time in nature. That’s because funds go to acquire and improve habitat for all species, not just those pursued by anglers and hunters. It’s also used for research, as well for restoration projects and increasing public access.

 The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs have generated more than $15 billion since their inception – 1937 for the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program and 1950 for the Dingell-Johnson (also known as Wallop-Breaux)  Sport Fish Restoration Program – to conserve fish and wildlife resources. The recipient fish and wildlife agencies have matched these program funds with more than $5 billion. This funding is critical to sustaining healthy fish and wildlife populations and providing opportunities for all to connect with nature.

Go here to find your state’s apportionment for fiscal 2014.