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Entries in fisheries management (100)

Friday
Feb052016

Catch-and-Release Fishing During Spawn Doesn't Hurt Population, Florida Study Reveals

Ongoing research by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), suggests that fishing  beds for the Florida strain of largemouth bass has little, if any, impact on populations--- if those fish are not harvested.

Results "indicated that fish captured during the spawning period contributed significantly to fall recruitment, despite being removed from their nests," reported Nick Trippel and other biologists who participated in two projects.

They added, "Genetic analysis of over 3,249 Florida bass fall recruits collected over two years provided evidence that nest fishing may not significantly impact the number of adults contributing to reproduction or the average number of recruits produced per adult."

In this study, researchers set up hatchery ponds, each stocked with 10 pairs of mature Florida bass. For two years, half of the ponds were fished and the other half were not. If caught, fish were held for one hour and then released. Biologists snorkeled the ponds every other day to document the number of nests made and confirm that the nests in the fished ponds were being pressured.

After the spawn, the ponds were left alone until October, when they were drained and the number of young produced in each was counted. Using fin clips to obtain DNA, biologists determined the parental contribution from each pond.

Genetic results  revealed that fish that were caught off nests still contributed as many juveniles to the recruited year class as did fish that were not caught, they reported. "These results reveal that fishing for nesting Florida Bass likely does not have any negative population level impacts."

In the other study, conducted  on three lakes during the spring of 2012 and again in 2015, they observed nests that were randomly placed in three test groups: never fished, catch-and-immediate release, and catch and hold for one hour, before being released 1,000 meters down the shoreline.

"There were no statistical differences in nest success rates between the three treatment groups: 32 percent for controls, 27 percent for catch-and-release, and 27 percent for catch and hold," the biologists said. "Lake, male size, and brood stage were better predictors for nest success rates than angling treatments were. Nest success was higher for smaller males than larger males."

The length of the spawning season likely helps explain why fishing for bedding bass has little if any negative impact.  Mike Allen, a fisheries expert at the University of Florida, reported graduate student Stephanie Shaw found the average male raises at least two broods a year.

"The long spawning season in the southern states makes this feasible," he said. "It's less likely that males can successfully raise more than one brood in the northern states, where total spawning duration may be only a period of two to three weeks."

Allen added that bass are not "total spawners," as are trout and salmon. Rather, they are "batch spawners," which means their eggs are spread over multiple spawning events yearly. "Genetic studies have confirmed that female bass spawn with multiple males across a given spawning season," he said.

Still, all of this is not to say that bed fishing could not have an negative impact on bass populations in some cases. "Bed fishing that involves a high harvest component may display results significantly different than this experiment (test ponds)," the FWC biologists said.

"However, we feel that results are applicable to bass fisheries around Florida, as the majority of bass being caught, 70 to 99 percent, are voluntarily released and harvest rates are less than 10 percent."

Additionally, they cautioned, the pond study was not designed to measure "deleterious impacts" that might be associated with fishing specifically for trophy bass. 

"However, this study was designed to simulate a worst case scenario in which every nest created throughout the entire spawning season was vulnerable to angling. This is likely not the case in larger public waterbodies with higher habitat complexities."

And finally, here's a revelation that will not surprise many anglers who have been frustrated in their attempts to entice bedding bass: "We also saw that catch rates of Florida bass while on nests were lower than expected, suggesting that Florida bass are less vulnerable to angling than previously thought," the biologists said.

Thursday
Jan282016

Gulf States Should Manage Gulf Red Snapper Fishery

Under this administration, recreational fishing for red snapper in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico has been diminished to a fraction of what it once was, as the feds have turned over more and more of it to a few commercial operations.

It's time for a change. The Gulf states have better data regarding the health of the fishery and are for more likely to manage based on science than politics. That's why HR 3094, the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act, needs to be passed by Congress. Here's what its sponsor, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, has to say:   

As Ben Raines’ weekend article in the Times Picayune and AL.com illuminated, the federal government has hand-picked dozens of multi-millionaire “Sea Lords” by allowing them to control the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. While these select few “Sea Lords” are making millions from our fish, the season for recreational anglers – who used to be able to fish for red snapper all year long – has been absurdly diminished. In 2015, the recreational red snapper season was 10 days.

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As it stands today, the right to catch 77 percent of the annual red snapper harvest is controlled by just 55 people, according to an AL.com analysis of hundreds of pages of federal documents, reports and websites--- AL.com

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The agency charged with managing our national fishery, the National Marine Fisheries Service, conducted a study on the health of red snapper fish stocks in the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll be shocked to learn that federal government’s methodology and results were grossly inadequate.

Their analysis failed to include reef areas – the actual habitat of red snapper, a reef fish. Think about that. It’s like looking for polar bears in Louisiana, finding none, and declaring the population to be at risk of extinction.

Let me be clear, the sustainability of our fisheries is paramount. It is critical that we employ the best science to responsibly manage them and to support their long-term viability.  It’s no secret that Louisiana is home to some of the nation's top restaurants that rely on the supply of fresh, wild seafood to meet demand. Some argue that expanding recreational access would lead to overfishing and threaten commercial interests.

This mentality has bred the current system of a government sanctioned oligarchy that monopolizes a public resource. And it has punished tens of thousands of families across the Gulf Coast that enjoy fishing in Sportsman’s Paradise. Luckily, there is another way.

In July of last year, I introduced HR 3094, the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill simply gives the five Gulf states’ wildlife departments the authority to manage the red snapper that live offshore their coast. This approach favors local control and would transfer management decisions to the professionals who are closest to the fishery.

In Louisiana for example, our Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has demonstrated a commitment to using the best science to sustainably manage our fisheries through efforts like the agency's LA Creel program, which helps to provide an accurate count of red snapper fish stocks in our coastal waters. Today, HR 3094 has nearly 30 bipartisan sponsors from across the nation.

The fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico are public property and should be enjoyed by all - not managed like a long-abandoned "sharecropper" model that enriches a select few.  Sometimes all it takes is a little sunshine on bad policy to fix things.  To quote Herbert Hoover, “all men are equal before fish.”  Let's enact HR 3094 so we can ALL enjoy the Gulf's bounty.

 

Tuesday
Jan262016

IWLA Helped Save Black Bass From Overharvest in 1920s

Many in the industry recognize that B.A.S.S. played a pivotal role in the growth of recreational fishing as an economic powerhouse. But what most do not know is the important part played by the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) nearly 90 years ago.

If not for IWLA’s successful crusade to protect black bass from commercial harvest, it’s conceivable that largemouth and smallmouth populations would have been so depleted by the late 1960s that B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott would have stayed in the insurance business instead of founding his conservation and tournament fishing organization.

“That was an issue vitally important to our organization and sport fishing in general,” said Scott Kovarovics, executive director of one of the nation’s oldest conservation organizations. “It ranks very, very highly in our list of accomplishments because it goes to the roots of our organization supporting conservation and outdoor recreation.

“We wanted to protect a resource that was under threat and being rapidly depleted.”

Meeting in Chicago in 1922, sportsmen concerned about  the nation’s waters and wild places decided to form “a federation of fishing clubs” and name it after Izaak Walton, a 17th century fisherman/conservationist who wrote The Compleat Angler. Almost immediately, the goal became to protect outdoor America, as concern focused on how commercial harvest was depleting black bass populations.

By the late 19th century, market hunting had pushed some wildlife species to the brink of extinction. State laws couldn’t prevent overharvest because wildlife simply could be acquired in one state and shipped to another. Passage of the federal Lacey Act in 1900 stopped that trade, but it did nothing to protect fish.

Sounding the alarm, IWLA’s Outdoor America Magazine said this in its February 1926 issue:

“Scientists state that the yearly toll of black bass in this country is so great compared with the yearly hatch that this greatest of American game fishes is certain to become extinct within 10 years unless extraordinary efforts are made to protect it.”

In response to this threat, IWLA worked with Rep. Harry Hawes of Missouri to introduce into Congress the Black Bass Act of 1926, which was the fish equivalent of the Lacey Act. Speaking on behalf of the bill in the Senate, James Watson of Indiana said, “The bass is undoubtedly the great American game fish and the favorite of millions of the rank and file of American anglers. It is found all American fresh waters, ponds, lakes, and streams.”

And in its July 1926 issue of Outdoor America, the organization proudly proclaimed, “Great Waltonian measure becomes a law May 20.”

In concluding an article about the historic event, E.H.R. said, “This measure is perhaps the greatest ever passed in the interest of game fish.”

The Black Bass Act was expanded in 1947 to include all game fish and in 1952 to apply to all fish. In 1982, it was repealed, with its provisions incorporated into the Lacey Act, which protects fish, birds, and wildlife.

Thursday
Jan212016

Partnership Begins Enhancing Habitat for Indiana Fisheries

Georgia cubes, like this one being dropped in Kansas' Lake Wilson, will be used to improve fish habitat in Indiana reservoirs.

In the years to come, a unique partnership will help revitalize bass habitat in Indiana's aging reservoirs.

The Reservoir Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Program will be directed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), with assistance from the Bass Unlimited Foundation, Jones and Sons Concrete, Sullivan County Parks, and Sullivan County Jail.

This winter, Sullivan Lake in Sullivan County will be the first to benefit, as inmates from the jail join with the parks department to cut lumber from green poplar  to build fish cribs. Later in the year, at a date yet to be determined, anglers and the general public will be invited to help as well.

IDNR said that the cribs will resemble small log cabins, "creating refuge for fish."

Sullivan Lake was chosen first because it holds little aquatic vegetation and has been awarded a grant for shoreline stabilization project through the Indiana Lakes and Rivers Enhancement Program.

“There are a lot of positive things going on at Sullivan Lake, and these improvements will make fishing better,” said Sandy Clark-Kolaks, DNR southern fisheries research biologist. “We hope to put more than 100 structures into Sullivan Lake in 2016, and it will take many hands to build them all.”

The Bass Unlimited Foundation, meanwhile, has pledged both materials and volunteers. “Because Bass Unlimited is funded by anglers and conservationists, it is a natural fit to partner with Indiana DNR and assist in this type of project,” said Wil Newlin, president of the non-profit based in Terre Haute.

Sullivan and other reservoirs also will be enriched with brushpiles, nesting platforms, and Georgia cubes, made from PVC and corrugated pipe.

Thursday
Jan072016

Florida'sTrophyCatch Numbers for Big Bass Continue to Grow

"TrophyCatch Season 3 ended on a very positive note, and Season 4 is off to an even better start, with peak fishing time right around the corner," according to the Florida Fish and Widllife Conservation Commission (FWC).

 TrophyCatch is the citizen-science program that allows FWC to collect data on largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds. In return, corporate partners reward anglers for properly documenting the catch with a photo of the entire bass (head to tail) on a scale with the weight showing, and releasing it.

During Season 3, the FWC verified 1,744 TrophyCatch bass, with more than 70 percent of the submissions being approved. The previous season, 993 bass heavier than 8 pounds were verified, which was about 60 percent of submissions. The first season, 185 were verified, which was less than 40 percent of submissions.

“This reflects an increasing awareness by anglers of the TrophyCatch program and how to document their catches, but also shows how prolific the trophy bass fishery is in Florida,” said KP Clements, director of TrophyCatch.

By going to TrophyCatchFlorida.com anglers can register, submit fish, and examine other catches from around the state. Just registering makes you eligible to win a $40,000 boat package. Ed Prather was the lucky winner of the third Phoenix Bass Boat given away by TrophyCatch. The boats are powered by Mercury and equipped with a PowerPole shallow-water anchoring. To be eligible for the random drawing at the end of Season 4, simply ensure you are registered and your information is up-to-date.

Data has shown FWC biologists that while there are hot lakes, like Kingsley Lake in Clay County (which has limited access to the military and homeowners), numerous catches come from small urban or rural ponds or even golf course ponds. Large popular public lakes like Istokpoga, Tohopekaliga, Okeechobee and Kissimmee provide equal opportunity for all anglers and are popular tourist destinations.

At TrophyCatchFlorida.com you can search for catches by county or water body to determine how your favorite area is doing or where to try next.

 Last season about 50 TrophyCatch bass were verified in December, which doubled to more than 100 in January, then increased to about 150 in February and peaked in March with almost 400 approved submissions. Trophy bass catches then declined through November before picking up again, in a typical annual cycle. Of course, this is keyed to the bass’ spawning cycle and anglers’ enthusiasm for finding bass during early spring.

March panned out very well for the 15 Hall of Fame winners from Season 3, who were honored in December at an event at Bass Pro Shops, Orlando. Those anglers caught, documented and released 17 bass over 13 pounds, five of which were caught in March. This included Seth Chapman, who earned the TrophyCatch championship ring, donated by the American Outdoors Fund, for a 15-pound, 11-ounce bass submitted from Kingsley Lake. The ring goes to the biggest verified bass of the season.

Porschia Gabrielse was the first angler with three Hall-of-Fame bass — a 13-, 14-, and 15-pounder — all from small Polk County ponds. She has contributed a total of 41 TrophyCatches to the program.

“TrophyCatch provides significant data to help manage our valuable, ensuring that Florida remains the ‘Fishing Capital of the World’,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

Each Hall-of-Fame fish would be a state record in 28 states, and Florida has had 23 documented in three years. A 15-pounder exceeds the records in all but 12 other states.

To become a TrophyCatch winner yourself, catch, document and release a largemouth bass legally that is 8 pounds or heavier in Florida. To enter a trophy bass, take a photo of the entire bass on a scale with the weight visible, and release it alive. Being legal includes having a Florida freshwater fishing license or approved exemption, so make sure you are covered.

For more information , check out Facebook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida, and YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida.