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Entries in fisheries management (51)

Wednesday
Oct152014

Minnesota Considers Expanding Bass Season

Minnesota is proposing to increase bass fishing opportunities.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to open the season statewide two weeks earlier, at the same time that the walleye season begins. Those two weeks would be for catch-and-release only, except in the northeast, where the bass season already opens two weeks before the rest of the state.

Additionally, anglers would be allowed to keep smallmouth bass during the fall in the northeast. At present, all smallmouths must be released from mid September through February.

Warming winters and expanding bass populations are primary reasons for the changes. Traditionally, the opener was delayed to protect spawning bass, even though largemouth and smallmouth bass account for just 5 percent of fish caught and kept.

“When you look at the facts, we have no recruitment issues with bass. Our electrofishing numbers are extremely high, and the changes will have no impact on that,” said Eric Altena, a DNR fisheries supervisor and member of the Technical Bass Committee.

“We are way above recruitment in most parts of the state, and most waters have an abundance of bass.”

Bass tournaments, however, would not be allowed during the catch-and-release season. Under the proposal, all bass caught until Saturday of Memorial Day weekend must be released immediately.

“The proposal probably could have gone even more liberal, but there wasn’t as much support for more liberal framework,” said Henry Drewes, regional fisheries manager. “But we can do this and still protect the (bass) population statewide.”

Following a public-comment period, the proposals will be reviewed by DNR staff before a final decision is made. If approved, the regulations will go into effect for the 2015 fishing season.

Wednesday
Oct082014

Florida's TrophyCatch 'Huge Success' in Second Year

TrophyCatch at Lake Istokpoga. Photo provided by FWC

Season two of TrophyCatch was a "huge success," according to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

In season two alone, we documented about 1,000 trophy-sized bass caught in Florida and released to continue growing, spawning and challenging anglers,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

Five anglers caught Hall of Fame bass weighing more than 13 pounds each. They will receive  hand-painted replicas of their catches (a $500 value), as well as $200 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Another 229 anglers joined the Trophy Club in season two by submitting photos documenting bass 10 to 12.9 pounds that they caught and released. Each earned $150 in gift cards, plus a long-sleeve custom shirt from Bass King Clothing.

A remarkable 758 bass weighing 8 to 9.9 pounds were entered in the Lunker Club, and each generated $100 in gifts cards and a short-sleeve Bass King T-shirt. Finally, 386 bass over 8 pounds were submitted that did not have the required information to be accepted into TrophyCatch but received certificates as Big Catches.

Although all bass must have been caught between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sep. 30, 2014, to be included in the season two competition, anglers have until Oct. 15 to get their catch submitted and approved. After that the annual champion will be announced and win the Championship Ring, provided by the Americans Outdoor Fund. The current leader is Joseph Morrell, who caught, documented’ and released a 14-pound, 9-ounce Florida largemouth on March 8 in Kingsley Lake, Clay County.

Every angler who registered, free of cost, at TrophyCatchFlorida.com is entered into an annual drawing for a $40,000 bass boat package. Phoenix boats donated a 619 Pro, powered by Mercury Marine and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system. In addition, every time an angler has a TrophyCatch verified, he or she earned 10 more chances to win the boat.

To see who the finalists are for this year’s random drawing and to learn when and where the boat will be given away, go to FaceBook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida. By subscribing to YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida you can check out the winners from the first year and be notified when the new winners’ videos are posted.

“Year two produced five times as many winners as the first year,” said KP Clements, TrophyCatch director. “We know there are many more trophy bass that were caught and released but not documented because anglers did not have the necessary tools to verify the weight or didn’t yet know about the program.”

Remember, season three (Oct.1, 2014 – Sep. 30, 2015) is underway, so take a camera and scale fishing with you. Be sure to get the required photo of the entire bass, head-to-tail on the scale, with the weight legible, and the scale held properly by the handle. The photo of the whole fish on the scale is critical to being approved for rewards, so the higher the resolution and sharper the image the better.

You also may submit supplemental photos that aren’t required. Consider including a close-up of the scale to make it easier to read the weight, a photo of the length and maybe girth, and a photo of the angler holding or releasing the catch. You can upload up to five photos or an MP4 video with each submission.

Tournament anglers can participate by submitting a photo of themselves with their catch and a link to the official tournament results showing their name, the weight of the individual bass, date and water body. Another option for large-tournament anglers is to include a photo of a digital scale printout that has that data imprinted on it.

Fishing guides around the state are finding this a great way to promote their business by helping customers get the required weight photos and telling them how easy it is to register and submit their catch.

All of this activity helps achieve the TrophyCatch goals, which are to preserve these valuable fish, learn how to enhance their abundance, and promote recreational fishing.

To see all the catches, go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com and click on “View Gallery” or “Search.” The latter allows you to narrow down results by angler, county, water body or date. 

Friday
Sep262014

Battling --- And Besting --- The Big One

Once again the huge fish bulled for deeper water. And once again I pumped and reeled to regain line.

If frogs croaked or birds sang on this cool evening in early fall, I didn’t hear them. The only sounds that I remember are the “Whap! Whap! Whap!” of the monster’s broad tail as it slapped the surface of the still, shallow water, and the “Zsst! Zsst! Zsst!” of the drag on my spinning reel as it protected my 12-pound line from breaking.

The fight lasted 15 minutes at least, probably more. I knew that I had to weaken the grass carp to have any chance of wrestling it ashore, but I also realized how perilous our connection, with light line and small hook. That’s why I eased off on the drag each time I brought it close to my dock. At close range, one hard headshake from a fish that size, even a tired one, would part the line.

Finally, I judged it ready to be landed, knelt on one knee, held the rod with my right hand and scooped with my left. Only my net was far too small to get much more than its head in it. And as I belatedly realized that, a barb on the little treble snagged in the mesh. Now, a foot or so below the side of the dock,  I had the huge carp half in and half out of the net, and there was no way I could lift the fish with one hand, even if it all did fit.

Suddenly, the once tired fish became manic, thrashing wildly, and I all but acknowledged that I had lost the fight.  I was certain that the line would break as the carp jerked against the resistance of the hook embedded in the net.

Hook on right is the one that I removed from carp and net.

But I pushed the net as deep as I could, and the fish bolted farther into it instead of away from it. Nearly simultaneously, I dropped the rod, grabbed the handle with both hands and heaved.

And finally there it was, a 40-pound-plus grass carp half in and half out of the net on my dock. Somehow, someway, I had managed to land the beast with a net that likely was better suited for butterflies than fish of this size.

I know that it was 40 plus because it was far heavier than my previous best, which had bottomed out a 30-pound scale.

During the nine years that I’ve lived on this 10-acre semi-private lake, I’ve caught about 20 of the illegally stocked grass carp, which have suppressed the bass, bluegill, and catfish populations and degraded the water quality.

Aquatic vegetation never has been a problem in this normally clear, spring-fed lake, but ignorant property owners stocked the carp, thinking that they were filter feeders that would improve the water quality. One of them actually told me that.  In truth, grass carp are the equivalent of aquatic cows, adding to the nutrient load as they grow to massive size, and contributing to algae blooms as they stir up the bottom.

But they are fun to catch, fighting a lot like big redfish, and I’ve perfected the technique --- at least for my little lake. I fish only for the carp that I can see. Once I’ve spotted one, I toss a bread ball under a bobber in front of it. Sometimes, I have to increase the depth of the bait to get the fish to take. Last night, I had to do that three times.

When I go back out there this evening to look for the three others that saw with the one that I caught, I should have it at the proper depth on the first try.

And I will have a larger net.

To read about the 30-pound carp that I caught and learn more about why grass carp generally are bad news for sport fisheries, go here. I'm not suggesting that grass carp can't be used to manage aquatic vegetation in certain circumstances, but they're tools that only fisheries biologists should consider.

Monday
Sep222014

Smallmouth Bass Moved to Improve Fishery at Flaming Gorge

Anglers teamed with state and federal agencies late this spring in an innovative effort to improve numbers of smallmouth bass on the north end of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, a Green River fishery on the Utah-Wyoming border.

“Since burbot became established in Flaming Gorge, the numbers of smallmouth bass have declined on the Wyoming side of the reservoir due to predation on small bass and competition for food,” explained Ryan Mosley of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR).

“Although burbot are found in the canyon (Utah) portion of the reservoir, their numbers remain relatively low,” he added. “As a result, smallmouth bass are very abundant, with bass hiding behind almost every rock during the summer months.”

On May 30, forty anglers from Utah B.A.S.S. Nation and other angling groups teamed with UDWR, Wyoming Game and Fish (WGF), the U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management to take advantage of this abundance on the south end. They caught 359 smallmouths by hook and line and transferred them to transport boats. After they were measured and tagged, the fish were moved to one of two sites 30 to 40 miles uplake for release.

“Both UDWR and WGF are interested in assessing growth, movement, and survival of these tagged smallmouth bass in Flaming Gorge, assisting the agencies in monitoring the success of the transplants and future management of the fishery,” Mosley said.

While in Colorado . . . 

Under a plan proposed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), regulations regarding harvest of smallmouth bass will be relaxed as part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery program. It must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies before being implemented.

“We developed the management plan with input we received at a public meeting in 2010 and comments we have received since then,” said aquatic biologist Lori Martin. “Public feedback was critical to form what we feel is a very good vision for future fisheries management of Rifle Gap.”

Present regulation includes a two-fish limit and a 15-inch minimum size, with a spawning closure. Under the new management plan, the limit would be five, with no minimum size and no spring catch-and-release only season.

The plan was developed to diminish predation and thus aid in recovery of the native razorback sucker, bonytail chub, humpback hub, and the Colorado pikeminnow, found only in the Upper Colorado basin. As part of the strategy, an in-stream fish screen was built in Rifle Creek, downstream of the reservoir, to prevent non-native sport fish from escaping.

Smallmouth bass and walleye have been self-sustaining in the reservoir since they were stocked by the former Colorado Division of Wildlife in 1972. No additional bass, walleye or any other cool/warm water species have been added since.

Northern pike were illegally introduced between 1993 and 1999, causing conflict among anglers, CPW said. “Some anglers covet the northern pike and the opportunity to catch a trophy-size fish in western Colorado. Anglers fishing for smallmouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, and trout are adamantly opposed to CPW managing Rifle Gap for northern pike.”

The proposed plan would keep unlimited bag and possession limits for pike, with bowfishing and spearfishing as methods of legal take.

(These articles appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

 

Wednesday
Sep172014

Rubio Fisheries Bill Praised by Saltwater Community

Representatives of the nation’s 11 million saltwater anglers and the industries they support, which collectively have a $70 billion annual economic impact, commended Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for his work on the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act, introduced today.

The bill creates a strong base to ensure that the recreational fishing and boating community’s priorities are addressed during reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act, the overarching law managing the nation’s saltwater fisheries.

“Sen. Rubio worked closely with our community to understand our needs and concerns,” noted Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “We know it will take a bi-partisan commitment to enact this into law, and we have been equally impressed with the work of Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) to include our priorities in his draft Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act reauthorization.”

Rubio said, “Florida’s fisheries deeply impact the economic well-being of our state, as well as many Floridians whose way of life depends on them. But our fisheries are also a national treasure that feed Americans across the country, provide jobs across the food industry chain, and have become a favorite pastime for millions who provide direct and indirect benefits to our local, state and national economies.

 “This legislation ensures necessary improvements to management and data collection are made to fully optimize our fisheries and help advance Florida’s interests when it comes time to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act. However, I know there is more work to be done, and I will continue to work with Floridians and my colleagues in Congress to prioritize reauthorization of the MSA in the next Congress.”

Recreational anglers’ primary priorities are identified 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, identifies six key policies that would achieve the Commission’s vision, including adoption of a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management; allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation, and creating reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines.

“We are pleased to see many of the Morris-Deal priorities addressed in Sen. Rubio’s legislation, reflecting his commitment to give long overdue attention to improving recreational fisheries management,” said Angers.

“We look forward to continuing our engagement with Sen. Rubio and Sen. Begich to incorporate several other priorities in the final version of any legislation, including a fix for the broken management of the red snapper fishery in the Gulf.”

Contributors to the work of the Commission include American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Berkley Conservation Institute, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and The Billfish Foundation