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Entries in fisheries management (128)

Monday
Sep262016

Bass Fingerlings Get 'Early Release' for Arkansas River Stocking

About 100,000 bass fingerlings received early release from Arkansas' Cummins Correctional Facility in June, so anglers could stock them in the Arkansas River during the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza.

As fishermen brought in their bass for hourly weigh-ins at five sites, they were given bags of small fish to take on their return trips for release.

“They’re spreading out and placing the fingerlings in the backwaters and areas they fish,” said Colton Dennis, coordinator of the Black Bass Program for Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). “It’s going to be more favorable habitat than if we backed up a truck at a ramp and released thousands into an area with less complex habitat, less vegetation and more current to fight.”

The river needs a boost because of decline in spawning and nursery habitat in its backwaters, he added.

The project that began in 2001 is a joint effort of AGFC and the Department of Corrections. During spring, agency biologists collect brood fish from weigh-ins at the Dumas pool of the river. They're then placed in ponds at Cummins, once used for raising catfish.

“Roughly 200 bass are stocked into the ponds,” said JJ Gladden, biologist at the Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery. “Our goal is to get about 200,000 fingerlings out of that."

After 100,000 fingerlings are removed for stocking throughout the river, the remainder are released into Dumas.

During the past four years, angler volunteers have stocked 373,000 fingerlings.

“Five of the 15 years suffered no measurable production because the river rose into the ponds before we could get the fingerlings out,” Dennis said.

         

Thursday
Sep222016

New Campaign Launched to Increase Angler Participation

A new national campaign aims to increase the number of anglers in this country from 46 million in 60 million in 60 months (by 2021).

Dubbed "60-in-60," the project is being jointly sponsored by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). Additionally, it is supported by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) as well as members of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus.

"Because of the current angler demographic between ages 52 and 70, we risk declining participation rates in the next decade," said CSF President Jeff Crane.

"In order to effectively recruit enough anglers to sustain the industry's economic impact in the country, as well as the significant contribution anglers and boaters make to conservation, we need a new approach to get people reconnected with one of the nation's most enduring pastimes - fishing."

The Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, a program first established by Congress in 1950, generates revenue for state natural resource agencies through excise taxes paid by anglers and boaters on fishing tackle, marine electronics and motorboat fuels. Currently, the fund distributes $600 million annually to all 50 states for fisheries management, habitat improvement projects, boating access, and aquatic education.

"Boating and fishing are two of the most popular activities in America, and our industries have a significant economic impact throughout the country," said NMMA President Thom Dammrich.

"'60-in-60' is about recruitment, retention and reactivation. It's about partnerships between the industry, state governments, and anglers to focus on what we can do better to grow the sport and improve the fishing experience."

"This new initiative is focused on what the sportfishing community needs to do to be more customer-focused and develop the next generation of anglers," added ASA Vice President Scott Gudes.

Monday
Sep192016

Yet Another Maryland Snakehead Tops World Record

Although the official world record is 17.75 pounds for northern snakehead, at least three that topped 18 pounds have been pulled from the Potomac, disturbing evidence that suggests, if nothing else, that this exotic predator grows larger in U.S. waters than in its native Asian.

Most recently, bowfisherman Emory "Dutch" Baldwin captured and killed a snakehead that weighed 18.42 pounds on May 20. Maryland recognized the fish as a state record because it does not require that this exotic, along with invasive flathead and blue catfish, be captured on rod and reel to qualify.

In 2015,  Dan Moon caught one that weighed 18.8 on an uncertified scale, and, three years before, Juan Duran boated a Potomac snakehead that weighed 18.37.

As snakeheads become an increasingly popular fish for bowfishermen and rod-and-reel anglers alike because of their size, fighting ability, and edibility, resource managers continue to be concerned about their long-term impact on bass and other species.

"Part of the reason we should be worried about it is we don't really know what the impacts are going to be," said Joe Love, tidal bass program manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). "We do know that, in some cases, invasive species cost millions of dollars in damage to the ecosystem."

One concern is that the aggressive and fast-growing predators will outcompete bass for food.

Additionally, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources continues to emphasize that snakeheads can be caught legally in any season and at any size. "We'd like it to be harvested if anyone catches it," Love said.

Wednesday
Sep072016

What's Wrong With Lake Guntersville?

Long noted as one of the nation's best bass fisheries, Lake Guntersville has taken a great fall, failing to earn a spot in the top 10 among Bassmaster's 100 Best Bass Lakes for 2016. Additionally, it ranked just fifth in the southeast, with Santee Cooper claiming the top rating.

"It used to be that just about anybody with a reasonable knowledge of bass fishing could come here and catch a nice bunch of fish once they learned the basics of the lake," said guide Mike Carter. "Now, it's almost impossible for people without inside knowledge here to catch much of anything."

That's a far cry from 2011, when Alabama pro Aaron Martens said Guntersville was his favorite fishery in the spring "because you catch 100 fish a day and they're big . . . If you can find grass and stumps, you're really looking good. Once you find them, you can catch a lot."

What's going on at Guntersville in 2016?  Theories abound, as guide Mike Carter and his wife Sharon have formed the Lake Guntersville Conservation Group to examine the decline and seek  solutions. State representatives, as well as biologists from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and Auburn University are involved.

Auburn fisheries scientist Matt Catalano said that an absence of big fish is not the problem, pointing out that the impoundment has more bass over 20 inches now than in any previously surveyed years. Rather, the number of 15- to 18-inch fish has fallen 30 to 40 percent below its 2011 peak.

"The lake had an outstanding year class in 2008 when a huge number of the fish that were hatched survived to eventually become adults, and by 2011, anglers were seeing the results of this year class in their catches. There were more 15- to 18-inch fish than ADCNR had ever recorded in a continuing study of over 20 years at the lake," he explained.

"But as fish get older, there's a natural mortality as well as some fishing mortality, and not only that the larger fish are harder to catch. They're more wary because they've been caught and released, and they're not in the same places that the smaller fish are most of the time."

As a guide who spends many days on the lake, Carter, meanwhile, sees other possible contributors to the decline, including intense  pressure from both tournament and recreational anglers, as well as illegal harvest of bass in the spring by bowfishermen.

"Particularly in summer, a good number of the fish that go through the weigh-in process just don't make it because of the heat and the low oxygen," Carter said. "When you have thousands of fish being weighed in every weekend in these big events, even though most survive release, the ones that die have an impact."

Tightening harvest restrictions likely would not help, Catalano said. "We tag a lot of bass on this lake and the number of returns we get give us some idea of what the harvest is relative to the number of fish. It's pretty minimal. We think natural mortality is a far larger factor here. That means tighter harvest rules probably would not have a measurable impact."

Stocking with Florida strain bass holds more promise, but even that is not guaranteed to help. "Stocking a lot of young fish on top of a healthy native population usually doesn't have much of an impact because the habitat is already full," the Auburn biologist said, adding that it could be beneficial during a year when the natural spawn is down.

Quite possibly, he explained, Guntersville simply is experiencing a natural downturn following the bountiful year class of 2008.

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

Thursday
Aug252016

Anglers, Bass Win in California Delta Water War

An in-state attempt to wage war on black bass and stripers in the California (Sacramento-San Joaquin) Delta has been repelled  --- at least for now.

Led by agricultural groups, a coalition was calling on the California Fish and Wildlife Commission to changes in size and bag limits for these non-native species that have been established for more than a century.

Translation: They wanted all limits removed  on one of the world's best bass fisheries.

Why?  Native salmon and other fish are suffering because of  drought and growing demand for a limited water supply. But because bass are  predators and high-profile, they're easy to blame for the decline of native species.

The same thing has happened in the Northwest, where both Oregon and Washington wildlife agencies have made management decisions based on politics and science. Up there,  size and bag limits have been removed on the Columbia and other rivers. The feds are involved too, and on the wrong side, of course. Check out War on Bass Is Spreading.

But in California, the petition to wage war on bass was withdrawn by the petitioners before its scheduled review by the Commission. It had been vehemently and vocally opposed by B.A.S.S., California Sportfishing League, and other groups.

“Our coalition had science on our side and we were able to show the Fish and Wildlife Commission that all fish need water and this was simply a water grab that sought to make striped bass and largemouth and smallmouth bass the scapegoats for the status of salmon stocks, said Scott Gudes, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).

Representing millions of sportsmen and women nationwide, including tens of thousands in California, the coalition engaged  supporters who sent a clear message to the Commission that this was a water issue, not a fish issue.
 "This is a real victory for anglers. But we need to be vigilant. No doubt the agricultural industry that pushed this proposal will be back. Anglers need to stay unified," added Gudes.

These are the groups that targeted bass:

The Coalition for Sustainable Delta, California Chamber of Commerce, California Farm Bureau Federation, Kern County Water Agency, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Northern California Water Association, San Joaquin Tributaries Authority, Southern California Water Committee, State Water Contractors and Western Growers were the petitioners.

These are the groups that spoke up for bass and anglers:

American Sportfishing Association, B.A.S.S., California Sportfishing League, Coastal Conservation Association California, Coastside Fishing Club, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Fishing League Worldwide, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Water4Fish.