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Entries in Lake Michigan (43)

Sunday
Feb122017

Tons of Plastic Degrade Great Lakes, Potentially Harmful to Fish, Widlife 

Nearly 22 million pounds of plastic debris enter the Great Lakes annually from the United States and Canada, according to a recent study by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

"This study is the first picture of the true scale of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes," said Matthew Hoffman, an assistant professor in mathematics and the lead author of "Inventory and Transport of Plastic Debris in the Laurentian Great Lakes."

Hoffman used computer simulations to follow the volume of plastic debris moving across both state and international boundaries, with nearly half going into Lake Michigan. Lake Erie followed a distant second with 5.5 million pounds, while Lake Ontario had 3 million, Lake Huron 1.3, and Lake Superior the least at about 70,000 pounds.

To put that into perspective, annual pollution in Lake Michigan is the equivalent of 100 Olympic-size pools full of plastic bottles, while that for Ontario equates to about 28.

While bottles and other plastic pollution accumulate in gigantic "garbage patches" in the oceans, winds and currents mostly carry them to shore in the Great Lakes.

"Plastic accounts for approximately 80 percent of the litter on the shorelines of the Great Lakes," RIT said in announcing the report. "The study quantifies dense plastic that quickly sinks and surface plastics like microbeads, fragments and pellets, plastic line, and Styrofoam, which could be consumed by wildlife and potentially enter the food chain."

Estimates of these tiny plastic particles floating or suspended in the lakes range from nearly 10,000 pounds in Erie to 436 pounds in Superior.

"We know some of the plastic sinks. But when we input the numbers, this is the amount that's floating near the surface," Hoffman said, adding that these microplastics are most likely to end up in fish and other aquatic life. "But we also don't know a lot about what happens to the plastic that doesn't float and where it ends up."

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Superior warned that these pollutants could pose a serious threat to aquatic ecosystems in 2013. And both the United States and Canada are working toward stopping production and sale of personal care products that contain tiny plastic beads, which wash down drains, pass unfiltered through treatment plants and enter the Great Lakes and other waterways.

Not surprisingly, Hoffman and his team revealed that major population centers are the primary sources of pollution, with Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland, and Detroit releasing more plastics than accumulate on their adjoining shorelines.

"Most of the particles from Chicago and Milwaukee end up accumulating on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, while the particles from Detroit and Cleveland end up along the southern coast of the eastern basin of Lake Erie," Hoffman said. "Particles released from Toronto appear to accumulate on the southern coast of Lake Ontario, including around Rochester and Sodus Bay."

Thursday
Feb092017

Asian Carp Spawning Closer to Great Lakes

Asian carp have moved no closer to the Great Lakes during the past few years. They remain about 50 miles away. But they are spawning closer, and that's bad news.

"The bottom line is that the juvenile front is advancing, and made a big jump last year," said Joel Brammeier of the non-profit Alliance for the Great Lakes. "And we still don't have a permanent solution in place that's going to solve the problem."

That "big jump" was 90 miles.

Two electrical barriers and three locks and dams on the canal/river system serve as the final protection for Lake Michigan. Thus far, they have effectively blocked adult silver and bighead carp. But the smaller ones are much more likely to slip through in the wake of commercial barge traffic, which also can disrupt the effectiveness of the barriers.

"It seems like the wolves are at the door, and the door is still opening and closing," said Daniel O'Keefe of Michigan Sea Grant.

Meanwhile, a third electrical barrier is being constructed upstream of the other two, which are about 35 miles south of Lake Michigan. Intent is to make it more effective against juvenile fish, according to Charles Wooley, deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Great Lakes Region.

"There are no fish that are probing these electrical barriers on a daily basis," he added. "The closest these fish are is about 15 to 20 miles downstream, and that leading edge hasn't really changed much in the past five or six years."

 

Thursday
Jan222015

The Best Day

I caught this 5-pound-plus smallmouth during my best day of fishing. Read about it in Why We Fish.

We say that bad fishing days don’t exist. But that’s not true. What we really mean is that we never have bad days on the water, no matter how uncooperative the fish are.

Exploring the reason for that is one of the reasons that I decided to write this book, and you can check elsewhere in these pages for what I’ve discovered from my own experience and that of fishing friends and acquaintances.

But for now, let’s just say that is the reality: A bad day of fishing is an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp” and “living dead.”

Some days, however, are superior to others, and one of the primary explanations for that is the fish are biting.They’re even better when the bite is extraordinary. And the best when that bite is totally unanticipated, which leads me to my best day of fishing ever.

I’ve had a few other extraordinary days, including several on Mexico’s Lake El Salto, as well as a couple in Canada and Costa Rica. But hopeful expectations accompanied those days on the water.

That certainly was not the case for this early summer day angling for smallmouth bass out of Door County, Wisconsin. With several different guides who gave it their best, I had been trying to fish the Green Bay side of Lake Michigan for several days. But an unusually cold and brutal wind for June persisted out of the west, blowing right into our faces.

In short, we worked hard to avoid and/or navigate the rough waters and catch a few bass. Going into my last day, the trip had been most unmemorable in terms of angling success.

 (This is an excerpt from “The Best Day,” an essay in my book, Why We Fish--- Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen.)

Friday
Oct172014

Ground Zero for Asian Carp Invasion

Havana, Ill., is Ground Zero for the Asian carp invasion, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. On the Illinois River, it’s about 200 miles south of Lake Michigan and 120 miles north of the Mississippi.

“You find more carp per acre, per mile of river, tan nearly anyplace else in the world,” says Kevin Irons, DNR’s Asian carp program director.

If you doubt that, check out this video.

Based on electrofishing surveys, bighead and silver carp now account for about 60 percent of the fish biomass in that stretch of the river. That means native species have declined dramatically because the exotics outcompete them for food and habitat.

And peaceful boat rides are a thing of the past because of silver carp, which go airborne when startled.

“People have been hit and seriously injured,” says DNR’s Matt O’Hara. “I know there have been some cases of broken noses and jaws.

“Pretty distressing when you come out here and you’re looking for native fish, and all you see is invasive Asian carp,” he adds.

Wednesday
May212014

More on Wisconsin's World-Class Smallmouth Fishery

Guide Dale Stroschein with two of the many quality smallmouth bass that we caught in a small bay on the Lake Michigan side of Door County. Photo by Robert Montgomery

The waters of eastern Wisconsin have been garnering lots of attention these days for their spectacular smallmouth bass fishing.

First, Bassmaster ranked the Sturgeon Bay portion of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay as its No. 1 fishery for 2014. It’s on the western side of the Door County peninsula, which separates Green Bay from the rest of the lake.

Reinforcing that designation this month, a smallie weighing 8.29 pounds was caught in Green Bay.

Additionally, angler Ben Royce caught and released what could have been a state record bass in an unnamed lake in the Milwaukee area. Record is 9.1, caught in 1950. Based on measurements, Royce’s fish could have weighed 9.6 pounds.

Now here’s the rest of the story: The eastern side of that peninsula isn’t bad either. In fact, seven years ago, I experienced my best day of bass fishing ever in the shallow waters of a little bay there. Guide Dale Stroschein and I were forced to the eastern side by unrelenting westerly winds that made fishing the western side difficult and dangerous.

Since I’ve been a B.A.S.S. Senior Writer for nearly 30 years and have fished for bass all over the United States, as well as in Mexico and Canada, that’s saying something.

In Why We Fish, I write about that day in an essay entitled, appropriately enough “The Best Day.”

Activist Angler with a Wisconsin smallmouth bass on "The Best Day."

Here’s an excerpt:

But they also hammered spinnerbaits and wallowed all over surface baits. They struck so hard on the former that they nearly pulled the rod from my hands a couple of times.

The setting --- calm, shallow water --- and the bite reminded me of fishing for cruising redfish in Louisiana or Florida.

The smaller ones were 3 pounds, and we weighed several that checked in at 5 ½ pounds or more. Doubles were common, and we often caught three, four, or even five fish on successive casts. We didn’t keep count, but we certainly caught more than 50 quality smallmouths in just three to four hours of fishing.

Even for my veteran guide, the bite was extraordinary. He took a break from the action to call a friend and tell him about it.

As the bite finally slowed a bit, Dale wrestled a smallmouth that clobbered a topwater while I battled another on a spinnerbait. When his fish neared the boat, I grabbed the net with one hand as I clung to my rod with the other.