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

 

 

 

 

 

Entries in fisheries management (106)

Thursday
Apr142016

As Expected, Washington Joins Oregon in Removing Limits on Bass in Columbia

As expected Washington state joined Oregon in removing limits on bass, walleye, and catfish in the boundary waters portion of the Columbia River.

Inexplicitly, though, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) did not mention the measure in the regulation changes endorsed by the Washington Wildlife Commission (WWC). And because it wasn't listed as approved, bass anglers and others mistakenly believed that the commissioners had declined to approve it.

"This whole business gave me a day of hope," said Lonnie Johnson, Oregon B.A.S.S. Nation conservation director. "Unfortunately it was just a pipe dream."

One publication even praised the WWC for refusing to "jump on the band wagon and follow Oregon's fuzzily thought-out elimination of daily bag limits . . . "

But upon investigation, B.A.S.S. Times discovered that the commissioners did approve the DFW recommendation. It becomes effective July 1.

"Unfortunately, we didn't do a very good job of publicizing it, so I can understand the confusion," said a public affairs spokesman for the agency. "We should have included it in the news release."

The commission received 23 written comments in favor of removing limits on the non-native species that have been in the Columbia for more than a century,  but just 12 from those opposed to the measure.

As salmon and steelhead fisheries have diminished over the years because of habitat loss and altered flows, warmwater species have flourished, especially in the impounded waters behind hydroelectric dams. Although evidence indicates predation by these non-native species has contributed little to this decline, an anti-bass bias has persisted. And in recent years, the federal government joined in putting pressure on both Oregon and Washington to remove limits, despite a lack of science to support the move.

Bass anglers, meanwhile, argue that they also finance fisheries management by buying fishing licenses and that this strategy shows disregard for them as a constituency and will do little to diminish the smallmouth population of the Columbia River. Most of them will continue to practice catch and release.

Tuesday
Apr122016

Potomac, Chesapeake Bay Fisheries Face Threats on Several Fronts

 With the second largest drainage, the Potomac River is but a part  of Chesapeake Bay. In terms of largemouth bass, however, it is the heart of this massive estuary, as well as Maryland's most popular fishery.

And in recent years, it hasn't been beating as strong and vibrantly as once it did, mirroring the findings of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBN) in its biennial State of the Bay Report for 2014. It rated the Bay's overall health as D+ and noted that fisheries, which include striped bass, blue crab, oysters, and American shad, are "a concern."

"The bass fishery (in Potomac River) is not in great shape,  and not as good a shape as it has been in the past 15 years," said Joe Love, tidal bass manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).

"We've seen a decline both in numbers and in the weights in tournaments," he added. "And electrofishing fishing numbers have been down during the past four years."

On the positive side, the river has seen a rise in recruitment recently, possibly tied to resurgence of grasses, the biologist noted.

That too mirrors findings by CBN, which noted that underwater grasses increased roughly 24 percent from 2012 to 2013 and "this recovery appears to have continued into 2014. In addition, many of the observed beds are dense and healthy, also a positive sign for recovery."

Polluted runoff from agricultural lands and urbanized areas, though, still is a significant concern, with the foundation noting no diminishment of nitrogen and toxins flowing into the Bay and only a slight decrease in phosphorus. In fact, nutrient runoff  fed the algal bloom that MDNR says was responsible for killing 200,000 bass and other fish in the Middle River on the Upper Bay last November.

For the Potomac, meanwhile,  anglers and others who love the river fear toxins from a power plant will do irreparable harm to bass and other aquatic life if discharge is allowed by Virginia.

Coal Ash Controversy

Those poisons could be introduced as permitted discharge from slurry ponds at Dominion Virginia Power's Possum Point Plant, situated on a peninsula between the Potomac and Quantico Creek. The facility burned coal from 1955 to 2003, before switching to natural gas, with ash from the process stored in five ponds that now hold more than a billion gallons of toxic coal ash and contaminated water.

In 2014, Potomac Riverkeeper Network reported, it discovered "that all five ponds at Possum Point were seeping directly into the creek or leaching coal ash waste into local groundwater . . ." And it gets worse.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality recently issued a permit allowing for the dilution and legal discharge of coal ash water, which typically contains a variety of metals that are toxic at high levels, including lead, chromium, selenium, and vanadium, as well as arsenic.

In response, the state of Maryland has filed an appeal, calling for an official review of the decision by the Virginia Circuit Court in Richmond. The Maryland and Virginia B.A.S.S. Nations also oppose the permit, as do other sportsmen and environmental groups.

"This is a real demon for us to deal with, both the process and the outcome," said Marty Gary, executive secretary of the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. "This is a really sensitive area for bass. Arkendale Flats and Mattawoman Creek are there. And its right in the middle of the striped bass spawning reach.

"Our issue is the uncertainty and the risk to both aquatic resources and human health."

Hardened Shorelines

The largest tributary on the Maryland side, Mattawoman Creek also is one of the more productive and popular portions of the Potomac, as well as one of the most threatened.

"It's an important ecological system  in terms of grass, diversity, decent water quality, and coves for spawning," said Love.  "It's also enjoyed by a lot of user groups."

And it's also one of the areas around Chesapeake Bay most in demand for construction of homes, offices, marinas, and bike paths. With them would come hardening of the shorelines with walls to protect from erosion and rising water levels.  In rivers of the Upper Bay, such as Severn, Magothy, and Middle, where this has been going on for decades, fish and other aquatic life have suffered. Studies show beneficial grasses diminish along such shorelines. And impervious surfaces increase runoff of both nutrients and toxic pollutants. Some of those nutrients combined with unusually warm waters to cause the massive kill on the Middle River, according to MDNR investigators, although some anglers suspect poisonous chemicals might also have been a factor.  

"Some of those rivers have 18 to 23 percent impervious surfaces," Gary said. "That means a lot of pollutants are running in, along with sediment.

"Mattawoman didn't have that for years, but now, despite efforts to control the growth, impervious surfaces have crept up to 7 or 8 percent."

Susquehanna Contaminants

The Susquehanna River, the largest drainage, also  is sending a witch's brew of chemicals into Chesapeake Bay. Flowing in mostly off agricultural lands, they  are the same pollutants that have contributed to a dramatic decline in the smallmouth population of that once world-class fishery.

But the dams on that river could be helping diminish their impacts, according to Love, who cautioned that he's just making an educated guess. "Because it's heavily dammed, that river gets periodically flushed. It's not a continuous feed," he said, suggesting that the intense flow could push the contaminants quickly through the system.

He added that the growing problem of intersex bass is not being investigated in the Bay, as it is in the river, both because smallmouths seem more at risk, thus far, than largemouths and funding for such research isn't available. 

Sinking a reef ball for Smoots Bay reef project

But the Good News Is . . .

The bass fisheries of Chesapeake Bay in general and the Potomac River specifically are part of a highly dynamic system by virtue of the tidal component. Thus far, they have proven resilient, as productivity has ebbed and flowed, much like the tides. Grass abundance, turbidity, water quality, and salinity all vary from year to year depending on environmental conditions.

"And you can't control mother nature," Gary said.

Additionally, Love and MDNR are responding to angler  concerns about how to sustain the fishery in the face of development, pollution and increasing angling pressure. For example, the agency is considering adding six tidal catch-and-return areas. And it is revamping its permitting system for tournaments, with an emphasis on improving fish care.

Echoing Gary, the Maryland tidal bass manager added, "But we have less control of reproduction."

Still efforts are being made. With the help of the Maryland B.A.S.S. Nation (MBN), the Middle River will be restocked with bass, since the area has limited spawning habitat and bass typically don't migrate into such waters. Additionally, MDNR and MBN are building the first tidal reef for bass in Smoots Bay, near National Harbor.

"This once was a prime spawning area, but not anymore," Love said. "We're hoping that this will help.

They will sink large trees, as well as concrete reef balls, which have proven successful for attracting marine species, in 4 to 6 feet of water, aiming to improve reproduction, as well as attract fish for anglers.

Sunday
Apr102016

FWC Simplifies Bass Creel Regulations for Florida

Bass regulations in Florida will be simpler, effective July 1. Most importantly, the statewide limit remains at five, but with no minimum length for largemouths and only one fish of 16 inches or longer allowed.

“The intent is to simplify existing rules and increase abundance of larger bass statewide,” said fisheries chief Tom Champeau.

"Anglers are practicing voluntary catch-and-release at record levels," added the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). "While reduced harvest of large bass is beneficial, allowing more bass under 16 inches to be kept may improve some fisheries by reducing competition so other individuals grow faster and larger."

The new regulations will replace a three-zone system for size limits, as well as 42 site-specific regulations.

Under the new rules, those five bass can be any combination of largemouth, spotted, shoal, Suwannee, and Choctaw bass. But for the latter four, the 12-inch minimum remains in effect. Additionally, a catch-and-release-only zone has been established for shoal bass in the Chipola River.

The tournament permit program will continue to allow anglers temporary possession of five bass of any size.  "This successful program has been in place for over 20 years and allows delayed-release bass tournaments to remain viable, but requires proper care, handling, and release of all bass caught during the tournament," FWC said.

The agency will publicize the changes in its new regulations summary, as well as online, on signs at boat ramps and fish management area kiosks, and at local bait and tackle stores. "The FWC will monitor the results, but anticipates the simplification will make it easier for anglers, while resulting in more bass longer than 16 inches being caught and released routinely by anglers in the future," it said.

Wednesday
Feb242016

Texas Becomes 19th State to Guarantee Right to Fish and Hunt

 

In 1777, Vermont became the first state to include the right to fish and hunt in its constitution. In November, Texas became the 19th overall and the 18th since 1996, as more than 80 percent of voters approved Proposition 6.

As we've become an increasingly urbanized society in recent years, sportsmen have recognized the need to protect their rights from an aggressive animal rights movement. Its members view the pastimes as "cruel" and ignore the immense importance of fishing and hunting for conservation, as well as its historic and cultural significance. That was made abundantly clear last fall, when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)  faced a firestorm of criticism for its decision to address an exploding bear population with a managed hunt.

Here's what one enlightened anti-hunting activist told FWC: "The world watched the barbaric massacre of the majestic black bears and is disgusted. They should have a 'harvest' for hellbound rednecks."

And how about what happened to angler Ed Loughran last July, during the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open on the James River? As he legally fished a tidal area, he was harassed, threatened and sprayed with a hose. In August, meanwhile, Elite Pro Mark Menendez was insulted and threatened on the St. Lawrence River.

With its considerable political clout, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been a leader in the movement to enshrine hunting and fishing as state constitutional rights. And the Texas victory, it said, "brings us one step closer to our goal of incorporating this critical protection across the country."

In addition to confirming those rights, the Texas amendment also designates fishing and hunting as the preferred methods for managing and controlling wildlife. And it specifies that this provision does not affect laws relating to trespass, property rights, or eminent domain.

Texas B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Director Tim Cook said that bass anglers helped spread the word about the importance of this proposal in the weeks before the election.

"Other than social media, forums, and word of mouth, we didn't feel the need to do much else," he said. "I was told that the outdoor community was pretty confident it would pass.

"While we always have had this right," he added, "adding it to our state constitution may help prevent infringing on our rights in the future."

In Texas alone, almost three million annually fish and hunt, spending $4.1 billion, generating 65,000 jobs and contributing more than $415 million in tax revenue. Across the country, anglers generate more than $48 billion in retail sales each year, with a $115 billion impact on the nation's economy, creating employment for more than 828,000 people, according to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Association Recreation.

Additionally, license fees paid by anglers and hunters are what finance state wildlife agencies, not general tax revenue. And that funding is bolstered by the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, which collects excise taxes on fishing tackle and hunting gear and then redistributes the money to the states.

Anglers and hunters also contribute billions to private conservation programs. Protecting their rights provides for the continued existence of science-based fish and wildlife management and habitat programs that benefit all species, not just those pursued by sportsmen.

Sunday
Feb142016

New, Simplified Black Bass Regulations Set for Florida

New Florida regs. could help yield more large bass like this Okeechobee largemouth for anglers to enjoy.

Effective July 1, anglers fishing Florida waters statewide can keep smaller, more abundant largemouth bass, with the creel limit remaining at five and one fish of 16 inches or longer allowed.  Additionally, many specific rules for different water bodies will be eliminated, according to changes approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“The intent is to simplify existing rules and increase abundance of larger bass statewide,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

The new rules will eliminate the three zones that currently regulate bass harvest along with 42 site-specific regulations for largemouth bass. This simplification has been a long-standing desire of anglers and resource managers.

For Suwannee, shoal, Choctaw and spotted basses, the current 12-inch minimum size limit will remain in effect, but there will be no minimum length limit on largemouth bass. In addition, the proposed changes include a catch-and-release-only zone for shoal bass in the Chipola River.

Anglers are practicing voluntary catch-and-release at record levels, report biologists. While reduced harvest of large bass is beneficial, allowing more bass under 16 inches to be kept may improve some fisheries by reducing competition so other individuals grow faster and larger.

The existing bass tournament permit program will continue to allow anglers participating in permitted tournaments temporary possession of five bass of any size. This successful program has been in place for more than 20 years and allows delayed-release bass tournaments to remain viable, but requires proper care, handling and release of all bass caught during the tournament (even those that could otherwise be legally harvested).