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Entries in Florida (191)

Tuesday
Aug162016

Nearly 10,000 Lionfish Harvested in Florida Waters

With little more than a month left to go in Florida's Lionfish Challenge, divers have removed 9,216 of the exotic predator from state waters.

Since the May 14 kickoff, 68  have participated in the program that rewards divers for taking 50 or more lionfish. Of those, 23 also qualified for the Panhandle Pilot Program, which rewards participants for every 100 lionfish removed from Escambia through Franklin counties, where lionfish densities tend to be higher.

 David Garrett is in the lead for the Lionfish King title, with 1,262 harvested so far, followed by John McCain at 380.

Why the war on lionfish? Although about 18 inches is the maximum size in its nonnative range, the lionfish is a versatile, voracious predator that is gobbling up smaller native species, as well as juveniles of highly prized sport fish species. Additionally, as its population grows, it crowds native species out of their habitat.

Lionfish Challenge

Remove 50 or more lionfish between Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (May 14, 2016) and the end of September to enter the Lionfish Challenge.

Rewards include the following:

  • a commemorative coin to mark membership
  • an event T-shirt
  • Lionfish Hall of Fame recognition on the MyFWC.com website
  • being entered in drawings to win prizes including fishing licenses, lionfish harvesting equipment, fuel cards and dive tank refills
  • and, the person who “checks in” the most lionfish will be crowned Florida’s Lionfish King or Queen and will receive a lifetime saltwater fishing license, have his or her photograph featured on the cover of the FWC’s January 2017 Saltwater Regulations publication, be prominently featured on MyFWC.com’s Lionfish Hall of Fame, and be recognized at the November 2016 FWC Commission meeting

How to Enter

Email photos of your first 50 qualifying lionfish to Lionfish@MyFWC.com and include the name of the harvester, the date harvested, your signature in the photo (written on a piece of paper next to the fish, for example) and your mailing address. You can also submit your first 50 at an FWC-approved checkpoint.

Go here to learn more.

Saturday
Aug132016

When You Throw Out That Bait . . . You Just Never Know!

Catching two bass on one cast with a crankbait is rare, but does happen occasionally, especially if bass are schooling and/or in a feeding frenzy. After all, the bait has at least two sets of trebles, increasing the potential for hookups.

On Mexico's Lake El Salto when big fish were in such a frenzy during an all-day rain, I caught a 5-pounder and 7-pounder together on a Magnum Fat Free Shad. And years ago, I wrote an article for Bassmaster Magazine about a tournament anglers who caught his limit--- 5 bass!--- on one cast.

But two bass on a single hook?  The odds for that have to be infinitesimal.

Yet that is just what Jake, a Florida angler, did recently on a pond in central Florida. Using a Yum craw bait rigged Texas style on a 3/0 hook, and using 12-pound Trik Fish line, he hooked a small bass.

He says that he "was playing with him next to the boat in very clear water when I saw the big bass come up from the bottom and nail it.

"I let him take it for like three seconds and then I nailed him!"

Jake estimates that the  bass weighed 7 to 8 pounds.

Was the lunker going after the soft plastic or the smaller bass? My guess is that it wanted the Yum craw.

But who knows? As the success of large swimbaits have shown us, sometimes big bass prefer a mouthful to an appetizer. It might have been trying to eat the smaller fish.

Sadly, that doesn't always turn out so well for either.  With the spines on its dorsal fin providing resistance, the  smaller bass, bluegill, or crappie can get stuck in the mouth/throat of the larger predator,  and both fish die. Also on Lake El Salto, I've seen large, dead bass floating on the surface, with tilapia lodged in their mouths. My partner and I found one before it died, removed the tilapia, and the bass swam away.

Meanwhile, check out what happened to bass pro Greg Hackney while fishing for crappie a couple of years ago.

Incidents like this are why we fish, and why I wrote Why We Fish, including the essay "You Just Never Know." Here's an excerpt:

"Finally, way back during my college years, I was bringing in a small bass that had eaten my topwater. As I reeled it the last couple of feet to shore, a tremendous explosion showered me with water and a fierce yank nearly pulled the rod from my hands. I never saw what ate the little bass and nearly hooked itself on my lure, but that brief moment in time will be forever with me.

"When you throw out that bait . . . you just never know."

Sunday
Aug072016

Line Reycling Programs Increase; More Needed 

Following Florida's lead in 1999,  monofilament line recycling programs have been initiated in at least two dozen states, and the public image of anglers nationwide would be greatly enhanced if more stepped up to participate. 

That's because Berkley estimates  it has recycled more than 9 million miles worth of fishing line since it began accepting it in 1990. That's enough to fill two reels for every angler in America. Had it been discarded in the water or on the shore, far more fish, fowl, and other wildlife likely would have died. Also it could have caused considerable damage to boat engines by becoming entangled in props or sucked in by intakes.

Initiation of a program requires one key ingredient, according to Chris Dunnavant, angling educator coordinator with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and long-time member of B.A.S.S.

"Staffing is a big issue so volunteers contact us. They might be a Scout group or an association," he said, adding that VDGIF coordinates and approves placement of line recycling bins across the state. On its website, it also provides instruction and diagrams for building the bins, which now are in place at about 150 access areas in Virginia.

"They (volunteers) do it all," he continued. "They are responsible for emptying the bins and taking the line to recycling centers, including at Bass Pro Shops and some of our regional offices. From there it goes to Berkley."

Regular monitoring is a must, he explained, because some put trash in the bins, and birds and other wildlife sometimes go into them, get tangled, and die, if baffles are not included.

Why is discarded monofilament a problem? Here's what the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says at its Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program (MRRP) website page:

"Most monofilament is non-biodegradable and can last hundreds of years, depending on environmental conditions.

"Because it is thin and often clear, it is very difficult for birds and animals to see and they can easily brush up against it and become entangled in it. Once entangled, they may become injured, may drown, may become strangled, or may starve to death.

"Many animals also ingest fishing line. One recovered sea turtle was found to have consumed 500 feet of heavy duty fishing line."

But when the line is sent to Berkley, it is made into fish habitat structures, as well as raw plastic pellets, which can be used to make tackle boxes, spools for line, and toys. Discarded monofilament , however, is not used to make more fishing line.

"By recycling line, we are enhancing fishing," Dunnavant said.

For more information, check out VDGIF, FWC's MRRP, Texas Monofilament Recovery & Recyling, and the Berkley Conservation Institute online.

Sunday
Jul312016

Hot-water Stress a Killer for Big Fish, Whether Sharks or Bass

The great hammerhead shark is a magnificent animal. It's also one of 24 shark species illegal to harvest in Florida waters, up to 9 miles off the coast.

Sadly,  four of them washed up on Sarasota beaches in late June and July, according to the Bradenton Herald.

What happened to them? Most likely, they were caught and released, but didn't survive the trauma of the fight and handling.

"This particular species of hammerhead is just so fragile that they go into physiological stress," said Robert Hueter, director of shark research at Mote Marine Laboratory.

One of those stressors during this time of year is the temperature.

Whether shark, catfish, or bass, a fish's metabolism  speeds up in warm water because it is cold-blooded. That means it burns more energy and, as a consequence, must consume  more food to fuel sustain itself. It also means that its oxygen needs are intensified. But . . .

"The hotter the water is, the less oxygen it can hold," Hueter said.

Now factor in the energy and oxygen expended in a struggle to escape once hooked,  and fish die, especially larger fish, which simply cannot recover no matter how carefully they are handled once they are brought to the shore or boat. In essence, they die of exhaustion, unable to gain the oxygen they need to recover.

That's why delayed mortality increases for bass tournaments during summer. And that's why those great hammerheads did not survive.

This dead great hammerhead was hauled back out to sea after recently washing up on a Sarasota beach.Hueter added that hammerheads  likely are especially vulnerable because their mouths are so small in comparison to their bodies.

 “As soon as it’s obvious that it is a hammerhead, the better thing to do would be just to cut the line or cut the leader, get as close as you can to the animal without spending a lot of time pulling it in,” he said. “Cut it and let it go.”

Dragging a shark, or any other large fish, such as a Goliath grouper, onto shore always is stressful for the animal, but especially so during summer. Meanwhile, inshore and beach fishing for sharks is more popular than ever.

"We're seeing more (sharks) than we've seen before washing up on beaches," Hueter said.

The fish is much more likely to survive if kept in shallow water for dehooking and photos.

In addition to hammerheads, bull and black tip sharks also are especially vulnerable to stress. At the other extreme, nurse and lemon sharks are among the hardiest.

Here are some handling tips to help ensure survival. They apply specifically to sharks, but are good tips for handling big fish of many species when caught on bait.

  • Use heavy tackle and non-stainless circle hooks
  • Use a dehooker
  • Cut the leader or line quickly, leaving as little as possible attached to the hook
  • Do not bring sharks out of water
  • Leave shark in enough water so that it can breathe through its mouth and gills
  • Shoot photos in process of releasing

 

Thursday
Jul212016

Speak Out to Help Stop Destruction of Florida Coastal Fisheries

Florida's coastal fisheries are being destroyed, as the Everglades and Florida Bay are starving for water.

Fed by polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, toxic blue-green algae are coating Florida’s east and west coasts, causing fish kills and closing businesses.

This most recent crisis in South Florida reinforces the need to clean and send the water south, as it would naturally flow, to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay that are starving for freshwater.

The State of Florida and the Army Corps of Engineers need to initiate planning this year for water storage, treatment, and flow south of the lake, through the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Edit and send this message to Florida's Governor Scott for a comprehensive evaluation of water storage needs that could benefit the Everglades.

Ten things to know about Florida's harmful algae blooms

 1. What It Is and Where It Came From 

The algae is a cyanobacteria found in Lake Okeechobee, which comes from the runoff containing human waste and fertilizers from nearby farms and ordinary neighborhoods, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as other nutrients in the polluted runoff, can act like fertilizer for the algae, creating large and extensive blooms. 

2. Eager Developers Changed Florida's Waterways

In an attempt to spur the economy years ago, Florida land developers and government officials broke up the natural flow of the state's rivers, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades to redirect water south from central Florida, according to the Associated Press. The economy did grow as the land was reclaimed from the Everglades for development, but now the unnatural water flow has periodically left rivers and lagoons so toxic with HAB that fish die off, residents become ill and tourists are turned off.

3. The Risks to Humans

If ingested, water contaminated with toxic cyanobacteria can cause nausea, vomiting and, in severe cases, acute liver failure, according to Florida's FWCC. While there have been no documented cases of anyone becoming ill from drinking water containing these toxins, it remains a concern. The Centers for Disease Control says coming in direct contact with the algae can cause a rash and some research indicates a link between long-term inhalation of toxic algae fumes and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

*   *   *   *

'This is our Deep Water Horizon!' 

"It's time the federal and state government understand how God-awful the problem is here," said Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith, referencing the 2010 oil spill that devastated wildlife along the Gulf of Mexico. 

When the algae blooms die, they release toxins that cause rashes and could endanger wildlife.
The foul-smelling problem - which has closed beaches along the Treasure Coast - stems in part from stopgap measures put in place by the feds.

To preserve the aging earthen dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers routinely releases water to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.

After floods devastated the area around the lake in the wake of a massive 1928 hurricane that killed 2,500 people, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began regulating lake water levels to minimise the risk of a dike breach.

Now, local officials are citing the lake discharges as the cause of the spreading blooms - although the South Florida Water Management District said that septic tanks and storm water runoff can also play a role

This season's high temperatures and heavy rainfall have only exacerbated the problem.


Florida algae and politics stink like sh . . . ugar

With a state of emergency covering four Florida counties, the stench and slime from toxic blue-green algae blooms in the state are covering the international media. It’s not a sweet sight, but it smells conspicuously like sugar. Big Sugar, to be exact.

Environmental scientists and experts tirelessly point to agricultural pollution and climate change as major contributors to the monster algae epidemic, but, incredulously, Florida’s political leaders just haven’t figured it out.

*    *    *    *

Eight manatee deaths reported in Florida lagoon plagued by algae