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Entries in fisheries management (25)

Monday
Apr072014

Iowa's Lake Darling Given New Life

Iowa’s oldest public impoundment has been reborn. Drained six years ago, Lake Darling began coming to life again late this past winter, as the outlet pipe was sealed and six bottles of water were ceremoniously poured onto the expanded 304-acre lake bed.

“Obviously, we get this snow to melt. There is a little water seeping out of the ground already,” said Vance Polton, fisheries technician for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “We expect with a normal spring that by the end of April, the lake will be full.”

Bass and other species will be stocked in early summer, as work is completed on boat ramps, roads, and a campground at the Lake Darling State Park fishery in southeast Iowa.

Named for legendary conservationist Jay “Ding” Darling, the impoundment was considered a showplace when it first opened to the public in 1950. But runoff from surrounding farm lands quickly began to degrade it.

“In the 1970s, it (water) would flow in hot chocolate brown,” said biologist Don Kline.

But in 2008, the lake was drained and a $16-million renovation begun, courtesy of a coalition of landowners, donors, and government agencies. According to DNR, enough muck was trucked out to fill a football field 12 stories high.

Additionally, 162 conservation projects now are in place to help sustain water quality. They include water-control basins, terraces, and soil-holding grasses, with many of them involving two or more landowners working together.

“Without the landowners, we would not have any of this done,” said Stan Simmons, watershed coordinator.

 

Monday
Apr072014

Louisiana Tries New Stocking Strategy

 

Fewer but larger Florida-strain fingerlings are being stocked in Louisiana waters this year.

“Our idea on that is we think we’re going to get more bass into that natural population in the long run because they will survive so much better,” said Mike Wood, Inland Fisheries Director for the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (DWF). “We think fewer large fingerlings (2 inches) will net a higher survival than will a larger number of small fingerlings (3/4 inch).”

The number stocked will depend on spawning success in the state’s four hatcheries, but 2.5 million or more fish could be placed in more than 30 water bodies, according to DWF.

One possible negative for this plan is that bass quickly turn cannibalistic as they grow. “They can’t help it, so they’re going to eat each other and we lose numbers the longer we hold them, and that’s the frustration of our hatchery folks,” Wood added. “Every day we hold them, we have fewer and fewer fish.

“But again, with a larger fingerling, I feel like I can get 10-to-1 better survival than with the very small ones.”

Toledo Bend and Bayou D’Arbonne rank at the top of the list for size of stocking, with 820,880 fingerlings requested for the former and 300,000 for the latter.

Tuesday
Feb252014

Providing Quality Fisheries Is Complicated Challenge

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Fisheries management often is an enigma wrapped inside a riddle, and the more we learn, the more we realize how much we don’t know. That’s why I respect fisheries biologists.

To provide us with quality fisheries, they must “manage” not only the fish, but the fishermen. Plus, they must factor in the effects of development, pollution, water degradation, introduction of exotic species, and many other variables.

Up in Minnesota, anglers and biologists have compiled some impressive statistics regarding the fragility of a fishery.

On a 160-acre private lake this winter, 97 northern pike have been caught and released 431 times. Additionally, 24 measured 30 inches or longer and had been caught an average of 6.83 times each.

“Now think about how long it takes a fish to grow,” said Dallas Hudson, one of the anglers who initiated the idea of not spearing or keeping northern pike caught on hook and line. “A northern in our lake will take six years to reach 24 inches and nine years to reach 30 inches and weigh 7 or 8 pounds.

“So it becomes pretty obvious what happens if people keep not only the bigger fish, but the medium-sized fish, say 24 to 30-inch northern. You end up with what we have in many Minnesota lakes: stunted fish.”

Fisheries supervisor Doug Kingsley added, “Dallas’ work shows us pretty clearly how vulnerable northerns, in particular, are to being caught. When you can catch the same fish 15 times over, and sometimes two times in the same day, it seems clear that in many lakes we need to limit the harvest of larger fish if we want bigger northern pike in our lakes.’’

For example, the work by Hudson and his associates clearly suggests that--- at least on smaller lakes--- larger northern pike can be overharvested. Still, many Minnesota anglers likely would oppose reducing the current harvest regulation, which allows three northern daily, with one longer than 30 inches. Plus, spear fishermen convinced the legislature to pass a law in 2011 that limits the establishment of length-based harvest regulations on 100 state lakes.

Arizona Game and Fish photo

Out in Arizona, fisheries managers are trying to figure out how to reign in an exploding population on non-native gizzard shad that threatens the health of bass and crappie fisheries at Apache and other Salt River impoundments.

In Lake Havasu, however, the combination of two introduced species seems to have ignited a premiere fishery for redear sunfish, also known as “shellcracker.”  Just recently, Hector Brito caught a 5.8-pound lunker, which likely will be declared a world record. In 2011, Bob Lawler caught the previous record --- 5.55 pounds--- also at Lake Havasu.

In the Northwest, meanwhile, champions of native species have been blaming bass for decades for the decline of salmon fisheries. In truth, dams destroyed salmon habitat and blocked habitat, while creating impoundments where bass have thrived.

Still, nature is resilient. That’s why this year’s projected spawning run of fall-run Chinook (king) salmon on the Columbia could be the largest since 1938. That was the year after the Bonneville Dam was completed, blocking their migration route and enabling the fish to be counted.

Fisheries managers suspect that the healthy run is attributable to good ocean conditions for the salmon while they are out at sea, as well as a mandated  water releases from spill gates at dams on the Columbia and Snake River dams, allowing small salmon to move downstream.

Wednesday
Jan222014

Anglers Pay Their Way--- And More!

It’s too bad that most federal government programs aren’t as financially sound as the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR).

For fishing, this incredible use-pays, user-profits strategy has shown a more than 2,000 percent annual return on monies invested in fisheries and conservation, according to  “The Benefits to Business from Hunting and Fishing Excise Taxes,” a report compiled by Southwick Associates and Andrew Loftus Consulting on behalf of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

How does that happen?

Anglers pay excise taxes on fishing tackle and motorboat fuel. That money goes into a dedicated fund managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which allocates the money as matching funds to the states for fisheries conservation.

“Excise-tax collections and import duties averaged $110 million annually between 1955 and 2006 (equipment only, not motorboat fuels),” revealed the report. “At the same time, wholesale-adjusted purchases of taxable fishing equipment by anglers averaged $2.3 billion per year, resulting in an average annual return of 2,157 percent.”

Not all individual fish and wildlife projects show such huge returns, the authors added. “And the nature of some projects is such that a return simply can’t be quantified.

“However, today’s $30 billion hunting and fishing equipment industries have been built on a foundation of plentiful hunting and fishing opportunities --- thanks to the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration excise tax paid by business.”

Because this program is so profitable, Washington politicians occasionally try to steal these dedicated funds for other purposes. The last time it happened was 1994. Should they ever succeed, results could be catastrophic.

“There is no other funding source that could take up the slack on the scale of our excise-tax-funded Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration programs,” the report said. “Losing that excise –tax investment would literally be the end of hunting and fishing as we know it.”

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

Thursday
Dec192013

Brown Trout Can Interfere With Brook Trout Conservation

Photo of brook trout by Mark Sagan

No big news here: Brook trout populations throughout the East long have been damaged by stocking of non-native rainbow and brown trout. Brook trout have more specific habitat needs and they are less aggressive, both negatives in a world where species are moved about and ecosystems altered. And they are not trout, but char, related to Lake trout, bull trout, Dolly Varden, and Arctic char.

But this study by USGS does provide interesting insights into the brook trout/brown trout dilemma in New York.

Brown trout introductions could hamper the conservation of declining native brook trout populations, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.

Brook and brown trout are valuable sport fish that co-exist in many parts of the world due to stocking introductions. USGS researchers found that, in New York State, direct interactions between the two species, such as competition for food, have minor effects on diminishing brook trout populations compared to human-caused habitat disturbances. However, repeated, disproportionate stocking of brown trout in brook trout habitats could drastically decrease brook trout numbers.

"There is great potential for brown trout stocking to reduce native brook trout populations," said James McKenna, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. "But brown trout aren’t necessarily causing the current brook trout declines, and managers may be able to develop sustainable scenarios to support both fisheries."

The USGS study found that human-induced degradation (from dams and roads, among other causes) of the habitats of both species can affect the populations of either. However, because brook trout do better in forested watersheds, whereas brown trout can thrive in more agricultural environments, degraded watersheds and/or the elimination of forests may affect brook more than brown trout. Improper brown trout management could further threaten vulnerable brook trout populations.

Fisheries managers in New York use stocking to maintain brook trout—a native species—and/or brown trout—a non-native species stocked in New York for over 100 years—in some streams. Brook trout have been declining within its native range in recent decades, and there has been concern that the stocking of brown trout has caused these declines.

The report is published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management and is available online.

For more information on USGS Great Lakes ecosystem research, please visit the USGS Great Lakes Science Center website.