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Entries in fisheries management (79)

Wednesday
Jun242015

New Challenges Face America's Trout, Says TU

America’s native trout have declined dramatically over the last century thanks to a number of threats ranging from hatchery fish stocking to logging and mining to poorly designed roads and livestock grazing practices. Now a new suite of threats, from energy development to a changing climate, poses even greater challenges.   

According to a new Trout Unlimited report titled, “State of the Trout,” these threats are greater than ever, and they make for an uncertain future for coldwater fish if steps are not taken to protect and restore habitat, reconnect tributaries to mainstem rivers and keep native trout populations viable for the benefit of anglers and the country’s riparian ecosystems.

The report notes that, of the nation’s 28 unique species and subspecies of trout and char, three are already extinct. Of the remaining 25 species, 13 occupy less than 25 percent of their native ranges.

Trout across America are dealing with the cumulative effects of resource extraction, climate change and the introduction and persistence of non-native fish into native trout waters. But, according to the report, there is hope for trout and for those who fish for them all across the nation. The report lays out a roadmap for native trout recovery and persistence, but it will require a host of advocates playing vital protection and restoration roles for years to come.

“It’s daunting when you consider the scope of the threats facing coldwater fish in the United States,” said Chris Wood, TU’s president and CEO. “But if you step back and look at the work that TU and our partners are already doing all across the country, it’s encouraging to see progress and to know that, with help from volunteers, private industry, government agencies and elected officials, we can replicate that progress and keep trout in our waters.

“And that’s why this report isn’t just for anglers or for biologists,” Wood continued. “This is a report for all Americans, because trout require the cleanest and coldest water to survive—and we all need clean water.”

Like Wood, report author Jack Williams, TU’s senior scientist, believes all Americans have a stake in this report, and that it will require a collective effort to ensure a future for native trout in America.

“The reasons many populations of native trout are on the ropes is because of our growing human population and the increasing demand on water resources,” Williams said. “For eons, the great diversity of trout genetics and life histories coupled with their widespread distribution allowed them to thrive. The changes we’ve made to their habitat over time, just by pursuing our lifestyle, has had a huge impact on water quality, connectivity and trout habitat. We’ve also stocked non-native trout on top of native populations, to the point where even well-adapted native trout are overcome by repeated stockings.”

Williams notes that common-sense conservation measures in the years to come can help native trout recover. But, restoration needs to take place across entire watersheds and be sustained over decades.

For instance, in Maggie Creek in northwest Nevada, collaborative restoration has been underway since the late 1980s. TU’s work with ranchers, the Bureau of Land Management and mining companies have restored 2,000 acres of riparian habitat and today native Lahontan cutthroat trout have been completely restored in 23 miles of Maggie Creek and its tributaries.

In Maine, where TU and its partners helped negotiate the removal of two dams and construction of fish passage on a third, more than 1,000 miles of the Penobscot River has been reopened to Atlantic salmon, striped bass, herring and shad.

In the West, in states like Idaho and Colorado, sportsmen and women have mobilized and helped protect millions of acres of intact, functional habitat that is vital to trout and the waters in which they swim. Broad-scale restoration work on streams in the Driftless Area of the Midwest has translated into waters that once held only 200 fish per mile to holding 2,000 fish per mile.

TU’s public and private partners are key to the report’s findings. Without help from government, private entities and volunteers, trout truly do face an uncertain future.

"The health of America's trout is directly connected to the health of our nation's watersheds—watersheds that provide clean drinking water, drive economic growth and support recreational fishing opportunities for millions of people across the nation," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "The ‘State of the Trout’ report provides a valuable overview of the health of these fisheries, helping Trout Unlimited, the Fish and Wildlife Service and our partners identify priority areas for conservation."

 

Thursday
Jun182015

Big Bass Bites Twice

Some bass just don’t mind being caught. That’s the way it seemed, at least for an 8-pound, 11-ounce largemouth that Robert Burnett caught recently while fishing a shiner on Florida’s Lake Rousseau. Fifteen minutes later, he caught her again.

Burnett knew it was the same fish because he had clipped a fin to send to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for genetic analysis as part of the TrophyCatch.

The angler from Inglis has 26 Lunker Club (8 to 9.9 pounds) and 1 Trophy Club entry (10 to 12.9 pounds) in the FWC program, which began in 2012.

Through incentives provided by the state and corporate sponsors, TrophyCatch encourages anglers to catch, document, and release bass of 8 pounds and heavier. While helping anglers discover which lakes are most productive for big fish and providing valuable information for fisheries management, the program also reduces “the need to prohibit harvest with regulations and has proved highly successful,” FWC said.

Burnett noted that he carefully follows FWC handling advice to clip the line if a fish swallows a hook too deeply to remove easily. On fish that he has left the hook in, he as observed specific markings, such as a scar behind the gill cover. Then, within 10 days, he has caught the same fish again and noticed there was no sign of the hook bothering the fish. This type of anecdotal information helps to substantiate and reconfirm the value of releasing trophy-size bass so anglers can enjoy catching them again.

“Perhaps Robert Burnett will be the one that catches it next time, or his wife – another TrophyCatch participant – or one of his two boys, or some other lucky angler,” FWC said.

Since Oct. 1, 2012, TrophyCatch has verified more than 2,350 bass heavier than 8 pounds that anglers caught, documented and released. Included in those, were 556 Trophy Club (10-12.9 pounds) and 19 Hall of Fame (heavier than 13 pounds) catches. Each of these entrants provides valuable data to the FWC through this citizen-science, conservation program. In addition, each verified catch earned a lucky angler at least $100 in Bass Pro Shops or similar gift cards, a Bass King shirt, other rewards, and a certificate for the accomplishment.

“Ultimately, the direct impact of catch-and-release depends on anglers carefully handling the bass and getting it back in the water where it came from as quickly as practical,” FWC added. “To provide the required documentation for TrophyCatch, however, a photo of the entire bass (head to tail) on a scale with the weight showing or official published tournament results is needed.”

People can sign up for free at TrophyCatchFlorida.com to earn a chance to win a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury Marine and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system and electronic charting by Avionics. While on the site, people can explore the photo gallery and search for catches by water body, county, angler or size class.

Tuesday
Jun162015

Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation Endorsed by CCC

The Center for Coastal Conservation has endorsed Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation (BASC), a new online advocacy system that allows fishing enthusiasts to write, call, or tweet their federal officials easily and intuitively.  The BASC site -- BassforSalt.com -- was launched on June 1 by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, B.A.S.S.

“It is more important than ever that America’s 46 million anglers make our voices heard, and Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation will make it easy for us to do so,” said Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers, calling the new B.A.S.S. initiative “a powerful new advocacy tool.”

“Whether you fish in saltwater or freshwater, I encourage you to visit BassforSalt.com today and speak out about the sport we love,” Angers added.

At BassforSalt.com, fishing enthusiasts can contact their members of Congress by email, call, or Tweet.  The site provides both informational talking points and prewritten materials, so that anglers can reach out with ease to their federal officials.

Angers said he is hopeful the fishing community will use BassforSalt.com to urge Congress and President Obama to protect recreational access to thriving fish stocks.

“With Congress considering the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the primary legislation affecting recreational fishing in federal waters , and with Washington imposing unrealistic restrictions on fishing from the Carolinas to Biscayne Bay and the Gulf of Mexico,  it’s time we as anglers make our voices heard,” Angers said.  

Friday
Jun052015

Oregon May Remove Limits on Smallmouth Bass in Columbia River

Oregon may be about to make a major fisheries management decision based on politics instead of science, Activist Angler has learned.

Sources reveal that unless loud public outcry forces it to reconsider, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) likely will remove limits on smallmouth bass in the Columbia River. In doing so, it will cave to pressure from the federal government, neighboring Washington state, and native species advocates, not only within the state but within the agency.

The announcement could come as early as June 19, when the state’s Warmwater Working Group (WWG) meets. Ostensibly, the WWG is a coalition of fisheries biologists and representatives of warmwater angling groups who meet to discuss issues related to management of bass and other non-native species.  In reality, it is little more than window-dressing for a feeble attempt to hide the agency’s anti-bass bias.

That bias exists because of the continued demise of salmon fisheries in the Northwest. In reality, they are in decline because the rivers have been altered and degraded through dams, irrigation, and development. The water is warmer and slower than it would be if free-flowing, and the dams block salmon migrations.

But smallmouth bass are blamed because they thrive in this altered habitat and because they are predatory. No evidence exists, however, to show that they substantially harm salmon populations.

If ODFW does bow to political pressure and removes limits on smallmouth bass in the Columbia, it will alienate a large portion of its constituency, which pays for its operation through purchase of fishing licenses. And nearly all bass fishermen will continue to catch-and-release smallmouth bass in the Columbia as they have for decades.

All that will change is removal of the façade that ODFW manages  fisheries based on science instead of politics and that it does so on behalf of all anglers.

Monday
May112015

Lawmakers Recognize Recreational Fishing Priorities, But Not Call to Transfer Red Snapper Management to States

A bill that addresses top priorities of the recreational fishing community has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources. Sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), H.R. 1335, also reauthorizes  the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

But lawmakers failed to include an amendment offered by Congressman Garret Graves (R-Louisiana) that would transfer management Gulf of Mexico red snapper to the five Gulf states failed to be included. Several committee members agreed, however, that Gulf red snapper management is broken and in need of significant changes.

“We hope that as MSA moves forward there will be additional opportunities to enact the Gulf states' plan,” said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association. “MSA’s reauthorization surely has a long road ahead, but H.R. 1335 provides the recreational fishing community with a very solid first step.”

The priorities addressed originally were identified by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, also known as the Morris-Deal Commission in honor of co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boats.

Recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission include the following:

  •  Establishing a national policy for recreational fishing
  • Adopting a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management
  • Allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation
  • Creating reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines
  • Codifying a process for cooperative management
  • Managing for the forage base

“The nation’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers have a $70 billion economic impact annually and support 450,000 jobs,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association.

“However, federal marine fisheries management has never sufficiently acknowledged the importance of recreational fishing to the nation. H.R. 1335 would enact many of the necessary changes to elevate saltwater recreational fishing to the level it deserves.”

One of the recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission was addressed by an amendment offered by Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-South Carolina) that would prompt a review of quota allocations in fisheries in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico with both a commercial and recreational component. Despite the tremendous importance that allocation decisions have in maximizing the benefits that our fisheries provide to the nation, federal fisheries managers have not revisited allocations – most of which were determined decades ago – primarily because of a lack of clear guidance on how decisions should be made and because these decisions are inherently difficult.

“Congressman Duncan's amendment is a significant achievement for ensuring that the benefits of our nation's fisheries are maximized,” said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “For far too long, allocations have been rusted shut, and we applaud Congressman Duncan for his leadership on this critically important issue.”