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Entries in fisheries management (178)


Kentucky To Try Less Restrictive Size Limits For Tournaments


The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will study the impact of less restrictive regulations on bass size limits during bass tournaments.

The test will allow anglers to weigh in smallmouth and largemouth bass that are 12 inches or longer. Tournament anglers still will  release them after they are weighed.

The three-year test is limited to two tournaments each on Lake Cumberland and Cave Run Lake.

Current rules say anglers at Cave Run Lake must release all largemouth bass between 13 to 16 inches, and all smallmouth shorter than 18 inches. Lake Cumberland has a 15-inch minimum size limit for largemouth and an 18-inch limit for smallmouth bass.

The study will help biologists determine if the changes would affect the overall fishery in the lake.



Healthy Bass Less Likely To Stockpile At Tournament Weigh-In Sites

Nationwide studies suggest that how far tournament-caught bass disperse from a weigh-in site is directly related to their condition, according to Todd Driscoll, fisheries biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

"In general, it appears that if largemouth bass are released after tournaments in good shape, only short-term stockpiling occurs at release sites, as most fish disperse form release sites within 2 to 3 months and up to 40 percent of these fish may return to original capture sites," he said.

While displaced fish have demonstrated homing abilities up to 13 miles, he added, few make it back to their original territories if they are moved more than 6 miles.

"In contrast, as tournament-related stress increases, bass will disperse less," the biologist explained.

Additionally, specific rates of movement following individual tournaments likely are affected by available habitat, food availability, fish size, water temperature, and location of release, such as main lake or cove.

Meanwhile on one of the country's most popular tournament lakes, Texas' Sam Rayburn, a study indicates "that population-level impacts of tournament-related bass relocation and concentration are likely low.

"No question, stocking at release sites does occur, as we estimated that 31,050 bass were transported to weigh-in sites during the one-year study," Driscoll said.

"But we also estimated that tournament anglers transport only 5 percent of the total largemouth bass population of legal-length in one year. Simply put, only 1 out of 20 bass are subjected to relocation and potential crowding at release sites each year."

Just how popular is tournament fishing at Rayburn? TPWD estimates that 52 percent of that fishery's anglers participate in at least one competition per year, compared to only 6 percent of all Texas fishermen.

"We also estimated that there are over several hundred bass tournaments per year at Sam Rayburn, with tournament fishing comprising 36 percent of the total annual fishing effort (including practice fishing), and 46 percent of the bass fishing effort," Driscoll said.


Tagging Studies Help States Manage Bass Fisheries

Tagged bass from Florida's Lake Eustis

Tagging studies are among the most important management tools for fisheries biologists.

"Biologists primarily use tagging studies to estimate annual catch and harvest rates for fish populations to help managers set regulations that sustain healthy bass populations," said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which is conducting three studies that range from a statewide look at trophy bass to one targeting fish in a single lake. 

"These studies also engage anglers in the scientific process, helping connect researchers and managers to the stakeholders they serve and validate the science on which management decisions are made."

A study begins with researchers collecting, tagging, and releasing fish. Each tag has a phone number on it so anglers can report information about their catch. In some cases, tags also have monetary rewards associated with them to encourage angler response.

In Florida, biologists use 3.5-inch yellow plastic dart tags, attached on the left side near the dorsal fin.

"If you catch a tagged bass, clip the tag close to the fish's back and save the tag," FWC explained. "Anglers are not obligated to release tagged bass, but must comply with harvest regulations.

"When you report the tag, an FWRI (Fish and Wildlife Research Institute) member will ask a few brief questions about your catch and help you claim the monetary reward.

"Remember to check each bas you catch. Sometimes algae covers the tag, making it somewhat difficult to see."

The trophy-size bass study is Florida's most ambitious, designed to evaluate the influence of the TrophyCatch program. One year before the program started in 2012, biologists tagged bass weighing 8 pounds or more in fisheries across the state.

"They used data collected during that period to establish a baseline for catch and harvest rates," FWC said. "Biologists estimate that anglers caught approximately 21 percent of the tagged bass, and harvested 4 percent during the baseline year. "They also found that bass weighing more than 10 pounds were harvested at a higher rate, primarily for taxidermy, than smaller bass."

Biologists also are conducting a reward-based tagging study in 16 lakes in northwestern Florida to measure catch and harvest rates and a stock assessment tagging study in Lake Eustis on the Harris Chain.

"Biologists will use data from tag reports (on Eustis) to estimate the percentage of bass caught and harvested each year," FWC said.

"They will combine this information with other data and provide it to mangers, who can then determine if the current length and bag limits are appropriate or need to be adjusted.

"As a secondary objective," it continued, "biologists are using what they learn from the tag returns, along with data from creel surveys and other information, to determine the best way to estimate the total number of bass in a lake."


The Black Bass: America's No. 1 Sport Fish And Problematic Invader

Its aggressiveness alone makes the largemouth bass deserving of its status as the No. 1 sport fish in North America.

Dr. James A. Henshall, author of Book of the Black Bass, solidified that reputation more than a century ago when he wrote, "I consider him (black bass), inch for inch and pound for pound, the gamest fish that swims."

Today, its pugnacious nature and cooperative attitude fuel a multi-billion-dollar recreational fishing industry.

But that status is about more than just its aggressiveness and fighting ability. The largemouth--- and, to a lesser extent its smallmouth and spotted bass cousins--- also is pervasive, with established populations in 49 of the 50 states, as well as Mexico and Canada. No other predator species come close to being as hardy and adaptable to a variety of climates and conditions.

The angler who lives more than a few hours' drive from a bass fishery is the exception rather than the rule.

But that strength has become a liability as well in recent years, as highlighted by the ongoing "war on bass" in the West, with size and creel limits removed in some Oregon and Washington waters.

"I consistently run into salmon and steelhead anglers who are willing to break out in fisticuffs over bass," said Lonnie Johnson, conservation director for the Oregon B.A.S.S. Nation. "When I attempt to reasonably and calmly explain about the science and the studies, they suddenly get that glazed look in their eyes.

What's going on? Why the war?

Despite being established in 49 states, bass aren't native to the West, or New England and much of the Mid-Atlantic either, for that matter. In fact, their original natural range included little more than 20 states, from the Upper Midwest to Florida and over into eastern Texas.

"We don't believe that largemouth bass were in Chesapeake Bay originally," said Joe Love, Tidal Bass Manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "Their range was the Great Lakes and the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. We suspect that they were introduced to the Potomac and the Eastern Shore in the late 1800s. We refer to them as 'introduced' or 'non-native' species."

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, resource managers paid little or no attention to a fish's native range, as they moved bass, rainbow trout, and other species all over the country, as well as introduced the common carp and brown trout from Europe.

"Largemouth bass were originally introduced by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) in 1890, likely via railroad," said Craig Walker, Aquatics Section Assistant Chief for the UDWR.

Bass thrived almost everywhere they were stocked, including the rivers of Washington and Oregon. Trout and other species often did not.

Waters across the country became even more hospitable for bass as dams were built and impoundments created during the first half of the 20th century.

Dams on the Columbia and other rivers in the Northwest, meanwhile, were as harmful to salmon as they were beneficial to bass. With spawning migrations hindered and/or blocked, their numbers began to plummet, which brings us to today and the ongoing war on bass. Although studies doesn't support the claim, many believe that the introduced species harms native salmon because of its predation on smolts migrating downstream through the gauntlet of dams.

On the other hand, many bass fishermen believe that state agencies are playing politics instead of managing the resource based on science.

"Now, of course, all bag limits on the Columbia have been removed," said Johnson. "ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) has stated that although they are a science-based agency, and there is no science that says bass are overly predating on salmon and steelhead smolts, they are making a policy change, and using regulation simplification as the reason. Washington is now taking the same approach.

 "I feel this has irreparably harmed the relationship between ODFW and warmwater anglers," he continued. "I still receive e-mails, texts, and forwarded messages from anglers asking when we plan on burning down the ODFW."

But while bass anglers have a legitimate complaint about the removal of limits on bass in the Columbia and other rivers, wildlife agencies and native species advocates have just cause for concern about the irresponsible actions of "bait-bucket biologists." They illegally stock bass in waters where they pose a threat to native species.

In New York, illegal introductions of largemouth and smallmouth bass have done irreparable harm to native brook trout populations in the Adirondacks. "Brook trout evolved with minimal to no competition from other fish species and do not do well when other fish are introduced," explained Ed Woltmann with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

"Bucket biologists are a growing problem for us," said Utah's Walker, who added that his state is trying several approaches to minimize the problem.

"First, we are trying to address the movement of these species, though outreaching and messaging, highlighting the negative consequences of illegal fish movement and equating the impacts to those of human-caused catastrophic forest fires," he added.

Also Utah is trying to proactively provide fishing opportunities desired by anglers to preclude illegal stockings and it is working toward development of sterile fish for stocking to minimize their impact if they are illegally moved. And it is using tagged fish contests to remove unwanted species where use of rotenone and other fish toxicants is not practical.

In Oregon, the B.A.S.S. Nation is a partner in the Turn In Illegal Introductions project, which offers rewards up to $3,000 for those who report illegal stockings of bass.

"What ODFW thinks of the program is that it is meant to educate the 'bubba' warmwater anglers about moving bass around," said Johnson. "The facts are that the single most illegally introduced species in Oregon is the rainbow trout. ODFW admits it, but still feels that the warmwater community needs education. It is just species bias in action."

The bottom line is that a century ago we didn't know that moving fish could have a detrimental effect on native species, and that is how the largemouth bass became the nation's most widely established sport fish. Today, we do know, and anglers should leave the stocking to their state fisheries managers.

What's It Mean?

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), "an exotic species is any species, including its seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to that habitat."

Other terms sometimes used for exotic species include “non-native.” “non-indigenous,” and “alien.”

A native species is a species that, other than as a result of an introduction, historically occurs/occurred in that particular habitat.

In other words, bass are exotics in much of their established range today.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that they are invasive.

"An invasive species is an exotic species whose introduction into an ecosystem in which the species is not native causes or is likely to cause environmental or economic harm or harm to human health," FWS said. "It is important to note that when we talk about a species being invasive, we are talking about ecosystem or environmental boundaries, not political ones."

In states where bass aren't native, wildlife agencies often classify them as "introduced" species, unless they are problematic, usually because of illegal stocking. In those cases, they are classified as "invasive."

Most Popular Species

The black bass was the most popular species among 27.1 million anglers who fished freshwater, other than the Great Lakes, according to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

More than 10.6 million anglers spent 171 million days fishing for bass. Panfish were second, with 7.3 million fishing 97 million days. Walleye, meanwhile, slightly edged out bass for the top spot in the Great Lakes

Altogether, freshwater anglers numbered 27.5 million, fished 456 million days, and spent $25.7 billion on fishing trips and equipment.

(This article was published originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Habitat Added For Tiger Bass At Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake received much needed shallow-water habitat enhancement this past fall, just in time to benefit the first spawn of F-1 Tiger bass in the 20,000-acre impoundment this spring.

For the past three years, private funds have paid for the state-approved stocking of the Tiger, a cross between Florida bass and a strain of northern largemouth bred especially for its aggressive feeding behavior. The Tiger begins reproducing in its third year, so offspring from that first stocking likely will find shelter from predation in the 105 Mossback fish structures.

"In most areas, shorelines at Smith Mountain Lake do not have much cover for these small fish anymore so they are more vulnerable to predation and the survival of some species of young fish has declined since they require places to hide while they are young," said Dan Wilson, fisheries biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF).

Assisted by volunteers from the Smith Mountain Lake Association, staffers from VDGIF and Appalachian Power, which funded the project, placed clusters of the structures in 4 to 10 feet of water. 

Wilson said that rocks and pilings in the shallows are not intricate enough to protect young-of-the-year bass that need spaces to hide in and evade larger fish.

“With projects like this, we can provide needed habitat that works well for the fish without restricting the usage by lakes residents and others who enjoy recreating on the lake," he said.