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Entries in Michigan (44)

Monday
Apr242017

Michigan Offers Big Bucks for Best Way to Keep Carp Out of Great Lakes

Want to earn big bucks? Tell the state of Michigan how to keep Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes and possibly decimating the sport fishery there.

The state has allocated $1 million for the global competition, with most of it going toward a prize for the best idea. The rest will be used to publicize and initiate the campaign, expected to begin this summer.

"Somebody out there possibly could have a really good idea," said Joanne Foreman of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "Maybe they're not in fisheries or hydro-engineering."

Mary Flanagan with the Alliance for the Great Lakes added, "I think in the fight against Asian carp, there aren't really any bad ideas. We have to try a bunch of different things."

As silver and bighead carp spawn ever closer to Lake Michigan, the last barriers of defense are electronic barriers, but they are iffy at best. Officials fear that smaller fish could pass through them in the wakes of barges. Additionally, the best way to prevent invasion, closing the manmade connection between the Great Lakes and the Illinois River, almost certainly never will happen because of opposition from Illinois, Indiana, and power commercial navigation interests. Finally, the federal government, both under Barack Obama and Donald Trump, seems to see no urgency in developing a plan to keep the carp out.

All the other Great Lakes states, meanwhile, have pressed for years for an effective solution, with about $388 million spent since 2010, mostly by the feds. Those states have good reason to be concerned, too, as sport fishing in the Great Lakes region is worth about $7 billion annually. Michigan's tourism industry alone is valued at about $38 billion, with much of it focused on the outdoors.

Thursday
Apr132017

Feds Stall Even More on Plan to Protect Great Lakes From Asian Carp

What had been a slow walk to better protect the Great Lakes from invasion by Asian carp now has been delayed indefinitely.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been scheduled to release draft results of a study that it began in April 2015, with intent of structural or technological upgrades  at Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Illinois River near Joliet. A final version was to be released in 2019. The area is downstream of electrical barriers, intended to repel silver and bighead carp, but which have questionable effectiveness.

But now release of the draft "has been deferred pending further coordination" with government officials and advocacy groups, according to Allen March, Corps spokesman. He added that more consultation is needed "to address things like the range of diverse ecosystems and national economies that could be impacted by outcomes of the study."

In a nutshell, Illinois, especially Chicago, and Indiana oppose any option that would include closing the manmade connection between the river and Lake Michigan or otherwise impede commercial navigation. Fearing what might happen to a billion-dollar sportfishery if the carp enter the Great Lakes, other surrounding states long have lobbied for more aggressive action.

"After a lengthy review process, which included extensive outreach and collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders, it seems that the administration has decided to side with a narrow group of special interests intent on preventing actions to address the movement of Asian carp toward Lake Michigan," said Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

And Molly Flanagan of the Alliance for the Great Lakes added that "no credible reason" exists for additional delay.

The action was announced after 16 Congressional members, mostly from Illinois and Indiana, sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for delay until a new assistant secretary of the Army for civil works is appointed.

In a statement, the lawmakers said the Corps "should not hastily recommend a structural alternative that could negatively impact the economy and the safety of towboat crews."

They also pointed out that 5 million pounds of carp have been removed from the Illinois River and argued that the leading edge of the invasion still is well below Brandon Road. But that amount is but a small fraction of the total biomass in the waterway. Additionally, the leading edge of the invasion by mature carp might not be advancing as rapidly as it once was, but the prolific exotics continue to spawn closer and closer to Lake Michigan. And the younger, smaller fish are much more likely to penetrate the electric barriers, possibly riding through in the wake of barge traffic.

Silver carp (top) and bighead carp.Do You Have a Better Idea?

Want to earn big bucks? Tell the state of Michigan how to keep Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes and possibly decimating the sport fishery there.

The state has allocated $1 million for the global competition, with most of it going toward a prize for the best idea. The rest will be used to publicize and initiate the campaign, expected to begin this summer.

"Somebody out there possibly could have a really good idea," said Joanne Foreman of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "Maybe they're not in fisheries or hydro-engineering."

Mary Flanagan with the Alliance for the Great Lakes added, "I think in the fight against Asian carp, there aren't really any bad ideas. We have to try a bunch of different things."

As silver and bighead carp spawn ever closer to Lake Michigan, the last barriers of defense are electronic barriers, but they are iffy at best. Officials fear that smaller fish could pass through them in the wakes of barges. Additionally, the best way to prevent invasion, closing the manmade connection between the Great Lakes and the Illinois River, almost certainly never will happen because of opposition from Illinois, Indiana, and power commercial navigation interests. Finally, the federal government, both under Barack Obama and Donald Trump, seems to see no urgency in developing a plan to keep the carp out.

All the other Great Lakes states, meanwhile, have pressed for years for an effective solution, with about $388 million spent since 2010, mostly by the feds. They have good reason to be concerned, too, as sport fishing in the Great Lakes region is worth about $7 billion annually. Michigan's tourism industry alone is valued at about $38 billion, with much of it focused on the outdoors.

Thursday
Dec012016

Smallmouth Bass Records Broken or Tied in Four States

Michigan's state record smallmouth bass, caught on a nightcrawler.During a year when the smallmouth bass record possibly has been broken or tied in four states, the most recent is arguably the most impressive for a couple of reasons.

First, Bruce Kraemer's catch Sept.11 on Michigan's Indian River nearly reached double digits, checking in at 9.98 pounds. That's more than a half pound heavier than the previous record, 9.33 pounds, caught less than a year before. The latter toppled a mark that was more than a century old, a 9.25-pound smallie caught in 1906.

Meanwhile in neighboring Wisconsin, the record of 9.1 was set in 1950, while Minnesota's record of 8 pounds has stood since 1948.

Second, Kraemer caught the huge fish while fishing with a live nightcrawler on light spinning gear from his backyard. He wouldn't even have known it was record if he hadn't entered it in a fishing contest sponsored by a local business."I usually spend June through the end of September up here at the cottage," said the angler who lives the rest of the year in Treasure Island, Fla. "I've got some great fish stories and some nice fish, but nothing like this."

And he wouldn't have had "this," if his neighbor, Ron Krieg, hadn't convinced him to stay a little longer.

"He also netted the fish for me and talked me into entering it into the fishing contest at Pat and Gary's Party Store," the angler said.

Up in New York, meanwhile, Patrick Hildebrand tied the state record with an 8.25-pound smallmouth that he caught a few weeks earlier out of Cape Vincent on the St. Lawrence River. Taken on a dropshot rig in about 35 feet of water, it equals the mark set in 1995. New York Department of Environmental Conservation hasn't yet officially acknowledged the catch as tying the state record, but likely soon will.

Both of those fish might have grown to record proportions by gorging on gobies, an exotic species common in both Indian River and the St. Lawrence. In fact, Kraemer said that he had rigged the nightcrawler above his sinker to keep it off the bottom and away from the small bottom-dwelling fish.

"When I set the hook, I first thought that I had a goby," he recalled. "But when I pulled, it didn't move and I thought I was snagged on bottom. But then it started moving toward the middle of the river."

Out in South Dakota's Little Horseshoe Lake, Lyal Held caught a pre-spawn smallmouth that checked in a 7.185 pounds (7-3), to surpass the record of 7, taken at the same fishery in 2013.  Captured in late April, Held's fish had a girth of 19 inches that almost equaled its length of 19.5. "I've never seen anything so fat," Held said. "It was so fat its eyes were bulging."

And in Montana, Melvin McDonald might have set the new standard in August at Fort Peck Reservoir with a catch of 6.7 pounds as he was bottom-bouncing a Berkley Gulp! Minnow for walleyes. Montana Department of Natural Resources has yet to confirm the catch. Current record of 6.375 (6-6) was set twice, in 2000 on the Flat River and in 2002 at Fort Peck.

Friday
Nov112016

Chinook Salmon Self-Sustaining in Lake Superior; MDNR Suspends Stocking

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will suspend Chinook salmon stocking in Lake Superior due to the success of the self-sustaining wild population. Department officials called it a very positive development for anglers, salmon populations in the lake and the DNR.

More than 99 percent of angler-caught Chinooks in Michigan waters originate from natural reproduction. This was determined through DNR creel surveys, which documented ratios of unclipped (wild) versus clipped (stocked) Chinook in Lake Superior since 2012.

Consistent harvests of Chinook salmon during the period when creel clerks have collected data provide a strong argument that anglers will continue to catch Chinook salmon, despite the conclusion of stocking efforts.

“By surviving and reproducing, wild salmon have demonstrated a fitness for the Lake Superior environment, and that fitness will be passed on to future generations, ensuring viable fisheries for years to come,” said the DNR’s Lake Superior Basin coordinator, Phil Schneeberger. “From a DNR hatchery perspective, money and effort from Lake Superior Chinook salmon rearing can now be redirected to other important programs.”

These findings were presented earlier in the year to the Lake Superior Citizens Fishery Advisory Committee, the South Shore Fishing Association, the Central Upper Peninsula Sport Fishing Association, the Upper Peninsula Sportsman Alliance and the Upper Peninsula Sportfisherman’s Association. In general, the information received confirmation, agreement and support among the diverse memberships.

“The sportfishing community wants to see license dollars spent to promote the greatest good for the lake,” said Lake Superior Citizens Fishery Advisory Committee Chair Mylan Koski. “Given the lack of hatchery fish showing up in angler catches, continuation of stocking would be wasteful and poor stewardship. Sportfishing groups look forward to working with the DNR to identify future stocking and/or management actions to benefit recreational opportunities in Lake Superior.”

Beyond Michigan waters, the predominance of wild Chinook salmon in Lake Superior fisheries also has been demonstrated by other agencies around the lake including Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario.

On a related historical note, Michigan ceased the stocking of coho salmon in Lake Superior after 2007, also because populations had become self-sustaining. The coho fishery in the lake has remained reliably strong since that time, supported completely from naturally reproducing fish.

Tuesday
Aug232016

Tropical Fish in South Dakota Highlight Danger Posed by Exotic Species

Imagine buying 3-inch fish for an aquarium, with no idea that they have the potential to reach the size in the photo above. That happens time after time all over the U.S. when hobbyists buy pacu, which resemble their smaller piranha cousins.  They have impressive dentures of their own, but their teeth are flatter and used mostly for cracking nuts and seeds.

And every summer, the consequences of those purchases play out, as anglers report catching pacu released into public waters by irresponsible aquarium owners. For example, this year, two were caught in Michigan's Lake St. Clair and another in the Port Huron area.

Standard response from both anglers and the public in general when this happens is "Well, they wouldn't have survived the winter anyway." In most cases, this is true.

But not always, as I reveal below in a story that I first wrote for B.A.S.S. Times and Activist Angler three years ago.

And one of these days, pacu or piranha, maybe both, just might find welcoming waters where they too can survive in a climate far too cold for them under normal conditions. Those areas might be springs or perhaps warm-water discharges from power plants.

*    *    *    *

What resource managers long have feared would happen because of irresponsible fish hobbyists has become reality: An exotic species has established itself in a waterway far north of where it should be able to survive.

Earlier this summer, biologists confirmed that the Jack Dempsey, a South American cichlid related to the peacock bass, is reproducing in South Dakota’s Fall River.

How it that possible?

“The hot springs in the river makes it perfect for cichlids,” said Mike Smith, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. “We first found a Jack Dempsey there in 2009. Then, two weeks ago, we found multiple-year classes.

“And there’s no way that the fish could have gotten there except aquarium release.”

Water nearest the springs stays at about 70 degrees year around, which allows the exotic fish to survive brutal South Dakota winters.

In this case, the Jack Dempsey’s impact on native species likely will be minimal. Few other predators live in the shallow water, and forage species gobbled up by the aggressive cichlid can be replenished from populations outside the range of the hot spring’s influence.

But the discovery is significant because it confirms that exotics can use thermal refuges provided by springs or warm-water releases from power plants to survive in cold climates.

Jack Dempsey and another popular aquarium species, the red-rimmed melania snail, now live in the hot springs of South Dakota's Fall River because of irresponsible aquarium owners. Photo courtesy of South Dakota Game, Fish & ParksCould the piranha be the next exotic fish to become established? Or its much larger cousin, the pacu? Every summer, media across the country report catches of both fish in ponds, lakes, and reservoirs. For example, a pacu was caught in Illinois’ Lake Lou Yaeger in June. And at Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, piranha captures have been reported several times since 2007.

Fish hobbyists also have contributed to troublesome infestations of plants such as Brazilian elodea, parrot feather, yellow floating heart, and even hydrilla.

“At a lot of our lakes, people just dump their aquariums to get rid of whatever they don’t want anymore,” said Tim Banek, invasive species coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, also has seen evidence of aquarium dumping while serving as monitor of water quality for the city of High Point. He thinks the time is long past for directing blame primarily at anglers, especially bass fishermen.

Much of the problem, he insists, lies squarely with aquarium hobbyists and the pet industry that supplies them, as well as with nurseries that sell exotic aquatic plants.

“I haven’t seen a single trace of any invasive (plant) at the ramps, transferred by boat in 28 years,” he said.

“I know the overall perception is that weeds can be spread by anyone with a watercraft. I am not denying this pathway,” Frazier continued. “I just do not believe it as significant as everyone would have you believe.”

The North Carolina water expert has found parrot feather upstream of a submerged roadbed, where boats can’t go. He has discovered water hyacinth just downstream from a farmer’s market that featured the exotic in a water fountain. And he has seen a discarded aquarium underneath a parrot feather infestation, where the shoreline borders a large apartment complex.

“Some time later, a bank fisherman caught a skillet-sized pacu there,” he added.

And while anglers and the fishing industry pay license fees and excise taxes to finance management of aquatic resources degraded by aquatic invaders, these special interests are allowed to escape responsibility for the damage they do.

“This is what we need to be attacking and taxing,” he said.