Get Updates! and Search
No RSS feeds have been linked to this section.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entries in fisheries management (65)

Friday
Feb202015

Oregon Chub Is First Fish Species Classified as 'Recovered'

The little Oregon chub is providing big headlines on the fisheries front. It’s the first fish ever to be deemed “recovered” and removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Animals.  

“This milestone demonstrates how the Endangered Species Act can bring people together to accomplish a shared goal,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “This effort succeeded because of an extraordinary partnership between federal and state agencies, landowners and other stakeholders who brought this species and ecosystem back from the brink of extinction in just over 20 years.

“We’re now managing the river in a smarter way, which means better opportunities for recreation, a boost for salmon recovery and improved water quality – all of which are good news for Oregon and its economy.”
  
The Oregon chub, a small minnow found only in the Willamette River Basin in floodplain habitats with little or no water flow, was listed as endangered in 1993 and reclassified as threatened in 2010. Primary factors that led to its listing were loss of habitat and predation by nonnative fishes. Through collaborative partnerships, and aided by outreach to the local communities, these threats have been lessened over the last 21 years with restoration and acquisition of habitat, promotion of natural river flows, and the reintroduction of chub into historical habitat. 
 
Just eight populations totaling fewer than 1,000 fish were known to exist at the time of listing in 1993. Today, the population stands at more than 140,000 fish at 80 locations with a diverse range of habitats. 
 
The Endangered Species Act has helped prevent the slide toward extinction for hundreds of species. The Oregon chub joins 28 other species that have been successfully recovered and removed from the Endangered Species List. Many other species also are experiencing trends toward recovery, including three additional ones from Oregon: the Modoc sucker is currently proposed for delisting, and the Borax Lake chub and the Columbian white-tailed deer are recommended for reclassification from endangered to threatened. 

Thursday
Feb122015

National Policy for Saltwater Fishing Revealed

Advocates for saltwater fishing are applauding the National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy rolled out this week at the Progressive Miami International Boat Show.

“This is a major step in the right direction,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “For the first time, NOAA Fisheries officially acknowledges the inherent differences between recreational and commercial fisheries -- and the need to manage the sectors differently.

“The rubber will meet the road in implementation, but this is a good roadmap,” he added.

“This policy represents a milestone in NOAA Fisheries’ relationship with the recreational fishing community,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman. “While the sportfishing industry and the recreational fishing community have been frustrated with saltwater fisheries management in federal waters, much of it is attributable to the lack of clear guidance within NOAA Fisheries for how to properly manage and consider recreational fishing's interests.

“This new policy sets forth a path for how the agency will elevate recreational fishing in a way that benefits both fisheries resources and public access to them.”

The policy identifies goals and guiding principles related to recreational fishing to be integrated -- top-down -- into NOAA Fisheries planning, budgeting, decision-making, and activities. The goals of the policy include the following:

 1) support and maintain sustainable saltwater recreational fisheries resources, including healthy marine and estuarine habitats

2) promote saltwater recreational fishing for the social, cultural, and economic benefit of the nation; and,

3) enable enduring participation in, and enjoyment of, saltwater recreational fisheries through science-based conservation and management.

Recreational anglers and boaters identified their primary priorities in the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management’s report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.”

The Commission, headed by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats President Scott Deal, highlighted six key policies that would achieve the Commission’s vision. Establishment of a national policy for recreational saltwater fishing was its No. 1 recommendation. Other key elements include adoption of a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management; allocation of marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation, and creation of reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Plastic Better Than Brush for Attracting Bass in Florida Study

FWC places plastic fish attractor in Lake Griffin as part of three-year study.

Aquatic vegetation is abundant in Florida waters, but it doesn’t provide the only cover for bass and other freshwater fish. In fact, more than 150 attractors have been placed in fisheries around the state by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

And now the FWC is trying to determine which types of attractors are the most effective. So far, plastic is winning.

“Preliminary results, from the first year of a three-year study indicate the plastic attractors typically are yielding more bass than brush structures,” said FWC’s Bob Wattendorf. “So, despite the additional material cost, they may be the wave of the future, especially if they prove as durable as hoped, because brush attractors need to be frequently refurbished.”

According to angler surveys, the four attractors with the highest catch rates were plastic. Additionally, fishermen took the most bass near plastic in four of six sample areas. Overall, anglers caught more fish around plastic than brush during 15 of the 22 weeks sampled.

Additional findings:

  • 78 percent of the 197 bass caught were taken on crankbaits.
  • 99 lures were lost in the attractors, but only 10 percent of those were in plastic.
  • Brush attractors with 50 trees had catch rates similar to those with 100, suggesting that more smaller ones might be preferred, at a cost and effort similar to what’s needed for fewer large ones.

 Electrofishing results, meanwhile, revealed that bass and black crappie abundance was similar at plastic and brush.

“Therefore, plastic and natural trees may concentrate similar numbers of bass, but the bass near plastic attractors may be more vulnerable to angling,” Wattendorf said.

Whether brush or plastic, attractors are marked with white or yellow buoys, and he cautioned that anglers should not anchor too near. “This is to prevent damage to the attractor by the anchor and to prevent brush or attractor panels from being dragged away from the main attractor site, reducing effectiveness.”

Both materials work by providing surfaces for algae growth. That draws in insects and other invertebrates, which supply forage for small fish. In turn, minnows and small sunfish attract larger bass and other predator species.

As FWC assesses the effectiveness of brush and plastic, it also continues to create gravel and shell attractors to provide spawning substrate for bass, bluegill, and crappie.

“These are especially effective at concentrating fish during spring in areas that otherwise have mostly muddy bottoms,” Wattendorf said.

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

Thursday
Jan082015

DNA Research Reveals Trophy Bass Parentage at Guntersville

Contrary to popular belief, Guntersville trophy bass are not pure Florida strain, according to DNA research conducted during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic at that northern Alabama fishery.

From a scientific standpoint, however, that really isn’t surprising. Between 1981 and 1994, an estimated 500,000 Florida bass were released into Guntersville, but few have been added since.

“The population, instead, consists largely of hybrid crosses,” said Dr. Eric Peatman, an associate professor in Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences.

Eight-pound-plus fish are 52 percent Florida and 48 percent northern. That’s in keeping with the assessment of Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director, who said that bass with 50 percent or more Florida genes have enhanced trophy potential. “Below that, and it’s no greater than for native fish,” he added.

Peatman and his team also found that the “lakewide average genetic composition” is about 70 percent northern and 30 percent Florida.

“Four to five-pound fish do not vary significantly from the lakewide average in their genetic make-up,” he explained. “However, seven-pound-plus fish show an increase in Florida percentage to 42 percent of their genome.”

These findings suggest that stocking Guntersville with Florida bass has been effective in shifting the genetic baseline of the population and that trophy-size fish are bunched around a rough 50:50 genetic split, said Peatman, adding that more samples are needed to reach definitive conclusions.

“One of the missing components in this analysis is age,” the scientist said, adding that multiple ages likely are represented among those samples of larger bass. “Ultimately, we want to know what is the genetic composition of the largest size fish within each year class, or what mix of Florida and northern alleles produces the fastest growing fish.”

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) will with this aspect during its spring sampling.

“A final component in the mix is obviously habitat,” Peatman said. “The best performing genotype in one reservoir is not necessarily the best genotype in a different reservoir with different environmental parameters. “So we have plans to include different reservoirs and habitats in the analysis in the coming year as well.”

All of this work is part of a statewide project funded by ADCNR to better understand the impacts of the state’s Florida bass stocking program on the quality of its bass fisheries.

“The Classic and other tournaments throughout the year in Alabama represent an excellent opportunity to take non-lethal DNA samples from larger bass brought in by anglers,” Peatman said.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to use these genetic tools to help ALDCNR make proactive stocking and management decisions to ensure the highest quality bass fisheries for our anglers for years to come.”

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

Wednesday
Jan072015

Would Florida-Strain Bass Improve Your Fishery? Maybe . . . Not

In southeastern Oklahoma one winter, hatchery ponds for the state’s Florida bass stocking program were covered by ice for three weeks. One hundred miles to the south, at Lake Fork, just three days were below freezing.

Anglers at Fork during that time probably found the bite tough, but the world-class fishery suffered no long-term damage. In those ponds, meanwhile, 60 percent of the Florida bass brood stock died.

Yes, Florida bass grow faster and larger than their northern counterparts. And stocking them outside their native range has resulted in the creation of some spectacular trophy fisheries in states such as Texas, California, Georgia, and Alabama.

But desired outcome from the expensive effort is not a guarantee.

“In Oklahoma, we finally decided that stocking Florida bass was a waste of time in some places, no matter what fishermen want,” said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director and former assistant chief of fisheries for that state.

Still, anglers continue the drum beat to stock Florida bass in waters that biologists say are inappropriate, as Ron Brooks knows all too well.  And in their arguments for stocking, they cite “evidence” that really isn’t evidence at all, explained the Kentucky fisheries chief.

“We receive requests to stock the Florida strain fairly regularly, and they always site Tennessee’s stockings in Kentucky Lake and the larger bass there as a result,” he said, echoing the experiences of fisheries managers in several states.

But biologists haven’t verified that those large bass are the result of Florida strain stockings. “The truth of the matter is that Kentucky Lake is a very fertile lake with very abundant forage species,” Brooks added.

Recently, some wanted Kentucky to stock Florida bass in Cave Run Lake, an infertile fishery east of Lexington, with limited forage and almost no habitat in the lower end. And, oh yeah, muskies, fish that like cold water, do quite well there.

Still, Brooks said, explanations for why Cave Run is inappropriate fell on deaf ears.

In a nutshell, here’s what introduced Florida bass need to thrive: mild climate, abundant forage, and plentiful habitat, preferably vegetation. Originating in subtropic Florida, they’re most at home in shallow water with a long growing season and plenty to eat.

Simply for survival, climate is the most critical of the three. Temperature drop of just a few degrees can stress Florida bass, and rapid and/or severe drop can kill them. Unfortunately, a clear geographic boundary for determining where Florida bass can live and where they can’t does not exist.

 “It’s not a north/south thing,” Gililland said. “It’s a diagonal, with cold moving from the northwest to the southeast.”

To thrive, meanwhile, Florida bass require plenty of food both throughout the year and during all stages of their life cycle. In their native range, that means mostly golden shiners, shad, and sunfish. But they will grow large and fat on other species, including trout in California and tilapia in Mexico’s Lake El Salto.

Shallow-water, vegetated habitat is the least critical of the three components, especially if the climate is mild and food plentiful.

Okay, some of you say, “I understand that. But what’s the big deal if you stock Florida bass in a lake and they don’t do well. No harm, no foul. Right?”

Wrong.

Introducing Florida bass is not the same as a supplemental stocking to enhance a depleted fishery. There’s only one reason to stock them: To grow trophy fish. If a water body isn’t conducive for that, then Florida genes mixed into the native strain actually can harm the fishery, making them less hearty, at least in the short term. Eventually, Florida genes will disappear from the population.

But the money wasted to maintain brood stock, spawn them, and stock the offspring still will have been wasted.

Additionally, as Florida bass breed with native bass, the potential for growing to trophy size is lost over time. “You can’t just stock and leave them,” Gilliland said. “As long as you have 50 percent or greater Florida genes, there’s still the potential. Below that, it’s no greater than with just native fish.”

Still, many anglers who want big bass in their home waters continue to lobby for something that is not in the best interests of their fisheries.

“Believe me, if past research projects indicated that Florida strain bass would produce lunker bass in Kentucky, we would have stocked them years ago,” said Brooks, voicing the frustration of many fisheries managers. “We strive to produce the best fisheries possible within the limits of our resources.”

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