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Entries in Florida (149)

Thursday
Jul302015

Exotic Catfish Are in Our Waters Too

Asian carp are the exotic fish species that we hear the most about, but plenty of others are established in our waters as well, mostly because of an under-regulated exotic pet industry and irresponsible aquarium owners. Clinton Richardson recently caught this unusual catfish while fishing the lower Susquehanna River.  Biologists identified it as a hybrid catfish from the aquarium trade, a cross between a redtail catfish and a tiger shovelnose catfish. Both grow large in their native South America.

"Irresponsible aquarium owners continue to introduce exotic and at times invasive fish to our waterways when their pet fish become too large or they tire of them," noted the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "The introduction of the northern snakehead is a perfect example."

The big question now is whether climate is too cold for such exotic catfish to establish breeding populations that far north, if they haven't already.

USGS photo

In Florida, meanwhile, the suckermouth armored catfish, also from South America, is firmly entrenched over much of the peninsula. And almost certainly it came from the aquarium trade as well, as it often is labeled a "plecostomus" or "algae eater."

The burrows that they make for spawning likely cause or exacerbate erosion on shorelines of canals and rivers, although no quantitative data is available on that. Additionally, they have been observed browsing on the algae that frequently grows on the backs of manatees.

"Manatee responses varied widely; some did not react visibly to attached catfish whereas others appeared agitated and attempted to dislodge the fish. The costs and/or benefits of this interaction to manatees remain unclear," said the U.S. Geological Survey.

Thursday
Jul232015

Put Used Baits and Lines Where They Belong--- In the Trash

Great blue heron hanging by monofilament line. Photo by Robert Montgomery

In general, anglers are good stewards. Because they enjoy the outdoors, they understand that it makes good sense to take care of it. This is especially true with fish care and handling.

As a group, however, we've been a little slow to address the need to properly dispose of used plastic baits and monofilament line. Fortunately, that's changing.

B.A.S.S. first started emphasizing proper disposal of baits a few years ago, and Eamon Bolten followed with the founding of a ReBaits program to recycle those baits. Today, we have  Keep America Fishing's national Pitch It campaign, which encourages anglers to pitch their worn-out baits into trash cans or recycling containers.

Additionally, more states, organizations, and companies are providing recycling bins for discarded monofilament line, both in stores and at boat ramps. Florida is one of the leaders, with its Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program and more than 40 counties providing recycling bins.

"Every day, improperly discarded monofilament fishing line causes devastating problems for marine life and the environment," says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

 "Marine mammals, sea turtles, fish and birds become injured from entanglements, or might ingest the line, often dying as a result.  Human divers and swimmers are also at risk from entanglements and the line can also damage boat propellers.

Dolphn crippled by fishing line. FWC photo

"The Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program is a statewide effort to educate the public on the problems caused by monofilament line left in the environment, to encourage recycling through a network of line recycling bins and drop-off locations, and to conduct volunteer monofilament line cleanup events."

FWC researchers note that clumps of monofilament line are the most common foreign objects found during manatee necropsies. They also point out that birds frequenting piers and other fishing hotspots  often are hooked accidentally when trying to grab bait off an angler’s line. Additionally, discarded monofilament line hanging from trees, piers, and other structures can ensnare birds. Once entangled, birds can have a difficult to impossible time flying and feeding.

“It is not uncommon to find dead pelicans entangled with fishing line and hooks,” said FWC biologist Ricardo Zambrano.

Please, properly dispose of both used baits and fishing line, and encourage others to do so as well. It's the right thing to do for fish and wildlife and the future of the sport that we love so much.

Friday
Jul032015

What's the Best Way to Handle a Big Bass? Help Researchers Find Out

Whether on a weigh-in stand or in front of a camera, holding a fish up for display has become an integral part of angling. But what’s the best way to handle that bass during the short, but critical time it is out of the water, especially if it weighs 5 pounds or more?

Surprisingly, despite the immense popularity of bass fishing, no research has been conducted to determine that --- until now. Scientists at the Florida Bass Conservation Center are investigating the question during a short, but precedent-setting project co-sponsored by the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program at the University of Florida (UF), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the Fisheries Conservation Foundation (FCF).

During the coming months, they will test three different methods of holding bass, all of which weigh between 4 and 9 pounds. One is by the lower jaw with one hand, while the other is placed near the pelvic fin to fully support the fish’s weight. Another is by a Boga Grip, with the fish hanging vertically. And the third is horizontally by the lower jaw.

The main objective is to determine whether these techniques influence jaw function, and to assess if one is more harmful than another. Many fisheries managers suspect that improper handling can influence feeding effectiveness and jaw mechanics, as well as fish survival.

Evidence to support that is provided by Texas’ ShareLunker Program. This year, three of the first five fish brought in had broken jaws. “The only explanation we have for the broken jaws is fish being held vertically by the lower jaw,” Texas Parks & Wildlife officials said.

“Anglers were expressing concern to FWC about how some big bass were being handled,” said UF’s Mike Allen, who is leading the research. “Studies have been done on other species, such as barramundi in Australia, but we were surprised to find out there is no science on this issue (for bass).

“Now we are hoping that people will get behind this and help support it,” he added. “Also, RocketHub allows us to educate anglers and raise awareness during the project.”

At this fund-raising site, anglers can donate to a scholarship through FCF for a graduate student to help with the laboratory work. Donations also will help with his travel expenses to and from the hatchery, as well as outreach materials to better communicate findings to the public.

A rare opportunity arose to do this work because the hatchery was rotating out about 100 of its brood stock, averaging about 5 pounds each. “That got us on a fast track because the hatchery needs to move those fish,” Allen said.

With cameras recording everything, researchers will test 30 bass at a time, 10 with each method, holding the fish for 60 seconds. The bass then will be placed in raceways for five days to allow them recover from the stress, before they are fed for two days. Finally, they will be moved to a pond to look at long-term survival. Each bass is identified by a bit of colored yarn tied to its dorsal fin. During feeding, scientists will analyze the number of effective strikes on prey, the jaw movement rate (time required to open and close the mouth in feeding), and the behavior of the fish around the feeding process (for example, the time it takes to consume the minnow).   

“We want to see if there’s any harm to the jaw musculature, any damage to the feeding mechanism,” Allen said.

“What’s really going to take some time is looking at all the videos, watching how the fish hold their jaws, seeing if they ‘yawn’ more, looking at whether there’s any effect on the percentage of time that strikes are successful, and how they do long term.”

Tuesday
Jun232015

Possible World Record Seatrout Caught in Florida

Florida Today photo

Must be a nice snook, thought Luke Ledbetter of Boaz, Alabama, holding tight as line ripped from his spinning reel.

Suppose it could be a redfish, he concluded, upon seeing the broad headwake the fish pushed as it neared the boat.

A 3-foot seatrout? No way.

"I had no idea speckled trout got that big," said Ledbetter, after Captain Peter Deeks of Merritt Island gently scooped up the trout with a homemade, sling-style landing net.

With the trout cradled beside the boat, Deeks took measurements. Growing up and guiding on the Space Coast, Deeks knows a truly big trout when he sees one.

"Every so often we'll catch a fish that really impresses me, and this one did," said Deeks, who runs Native Sons Fishing Guides. "I've caught longer fish before, but the girth on this one was just incredible."

The trout taped out at 34.25 inches, or 87 centimeters. The International Game Fish Association's record for length currently stands at 79 centimeters. Pending approval, Ledbetter's spotted seatrout will be recognized by the IGFA's new All-Tackle Length record program, which awards catches based on length rather than weight and requires that fish be released alive and in good health.

They kept the fish out of the water for just moments to measure it and snap a few photos. They did not weigh it, but Deeks estimates the trout weighed about 14 pounds.

"The largest trout I've ever weighed was a 33-inch trout that was 13.9 pounds, but this one was even fatter," Deeks said. "But I hate weighing them, hate hanging them by the jaw. They're really sensitive fish."

After documenting the catch, Deeks immediately called the IGFA to report the catch.

Read more at Florida Today.

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.