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Entries in Michigan (40)

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.

Wednesday
Mar092016

Animal Rights Activists Say 'Deer Lives Matter' and Push for Criminalizing Fishing

More insanity by animal rights activists, this time in Michigan. Cull of herd was necessary for benefit of both humans and deer. But here's their response:

"Let's pray for peace and work for change."

"Deer lives matter, and all lives matter."

"We are all one in spirit."

"When we kill the deer, we kill ourselves."

Most of these people are just useful idiots, but this growing movement is all about giving legal rights to animals, which inevitably will lead to bans on hunting and fishing. This is the direct result of more and more people living in urban areas, with no direct contact with nature and no clue about habitats and ecological balance.

Meanwhile in Canada, a bill has been introduced that could make catching and keeping a couple of fish for dinner a crime. Here's what Keep Canada Fishing says:

"Provisions in Bill C-246 clearly make it possible for someone who catches a fish to face criminal prosecution for cruelty to animals. Even the act of baiting a hook with a worm would be considered an act of cruelty according to the bill."

Monday
Jan182016

Lake Erie Algae Bloom Worst on Record

The algae bloom that smothered much of Lake Erie this past summer was the worst on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

That means it was even more severe than the 2011 bloom, which stretched along the shoreline from Toledo to Cleveland, and considerably larger than the 2014 bloom that contaminated the water supply for nearly a half-million people.

The 2015 bloom also was more dense, but fortunately migrated toward deep water. "Fortunately, the bloom moved into the center of the central basin rather than along the shore, resulting in less impact along both coasts," said NOAA's Rick Stumpf.

Fueled by heavy rains, it covered an area of about 300 square miles with a thick, paint-like scum by mid August. But the actual bloom was larger, NOAA said, adding just how big is still being determined.

Rains notwithstanding, the bloom's severity suggests that resource managers haven't been doing enough to minimize runoff pollution.

 "It would be hard to find much evidence of progress based on what we saw this year," said Jeff Reutter, former director of the Ohio Sea Grant Program.

On the positive side, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario recently agreed to sharply reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing into western Lake Erie by 40 percent in 10 years. Changes already implemented included limiting when farmers can spread fertilizers and manure on their fields.

With much of that pollution flowing in from the Maumee River in western Ohio, many would like Ohio to pursue a federal impairment designation for the lake. A similar designation for Chesapeake Bay brought in $2.2 billion to help mitigate damage and reduce the amount of algae-feeding nutrients that flow into the bay.

 

Sunday
Dec062015

Lethal Parasite Investigated in Minnesota Fish

Infected flesh looks as if it has freezer burn or has been cooked.

An aquatic parasite that can be lethal to multiple species of sport fish is a top priority these days for Minnesota fisheries scientists.

"Heterosporis has a very broad host range, and is in at least 15 fish species from at least 26 lakes," Dr. Nick Phelps told B.A.S.S. Times, adding that the largemouth bass is one of 11 species known to be susceptible via laboratory exposure.

"You have to be cautious with laboratory exposure as it may not necessarily reflect the real world," said the assistant professor who is leading investigation of the pathogen at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC). "But some of these species clearly are highly susceptible."

In Minnesota fisheries, meanwhile, walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, rock bass and five other species are naturally susceptible to this infectious, muscle-dissolving parasite, known scientifically as Heterosporis sutherlandae. It also has been found to a lesser extent in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario.

"We are in the process of working up hundreds more fish from known-positive lakes to add more clarity to the list of both susceptible and resistant species," Phelps explained, adding that he has received several "suspect-positive" reports from anglers since they learned about the parasite and the disease it causes.

"When you have lakes that have 30 percent (of the fish population) infected, you can imagine how big of an impact this may have to fishermen trying to catch fish," he said. "When you have something that liquefies tissue and you don't know a lot about the biology and ecology of it, that is a cause for concern."

According to a MAISRC fact sheet, as the parasite dissolves tissue, it gives muscles a freezer-burned or cooked appearance. And that tissue is soft to the touch. "In severe infections, the fish will appear to curve inward due to muscle loss," the center said.

Heterosporis, which is not known to infect humans or other animals, is most often observed when a fish is filleted.

The parasite can be spread by moving infected fish or contaminated water.  Unlike many other fish parasites, this one does not require an intermediate host. It is transmitted directly from one fish to another through consumption of spores or an infected fish. First noted in 1990, its origin is unknown, although related species have been found in marine fish of the West Pacific and Arabian Sea.

"As far as diseases go, this is a nasty one," Phelps said.

"Our understanding of this important pathogen is far from complete and we hope, through the work at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, to fill in the gaps and provide the important information needed to guide recommendations for management."

Thursday
Dec032015

Inside Story on Michigan Monster Bronzeback

Greg Gasiciel wasn't expecting much in the way of fishing success when he made the 90-minute drive up to Michigan's Hubbard Lake to partner with long-time friend Scott Somerfield in a club tournament on Oct. 18. He had fished the 8,850-acre lake in Alcona County just once before, and that was for walleye through the ice. Plus, weather in that northern portion of lower Michigan already was cold and blustery.

"I just wanted to spend the day with my friend," said Gasiciel, a pharmacist in Standish. "It didn't matter where we were fishing."

As it turned out, though, it did matter. Late in a day that featured temperatures in the 20s, wind, rain, and light snow, Gasiciel felt a "punch to the shoulder" of his tired and aching body as the largest smallmouth ever caught in Michigan grabbed his Yamamoto green grub.

On a certified scale, the monster bronzeback weighed 9.33 pounds and measured 24.5 inches in length, breaking a record that was more than a century old. In 1906, W.F. Shoemaker claimed the previous record with a 9.25-pound smallie that he caught in Cheboygan County's Long Lake.

Gasiciel was throwing the grub with a 7-foot Bass Pro Shops XTS baitcasting rod, a Shimano Citica reel, and 14-pound Trilene XL green monofilament line. "If I had been using spinning gear, I think that I'd still be fighting it," he said.

The big bass grabbed the grub as Gasiciel and Somerfield were fishing a deep flat. The pharmacist wouldn't reveal what type of retrieve he was using, how deep he was fishing, or where in the lake they were. "I'm doing that out of respect for my fishing partner," he said, explaining that his long-time friend fishes that area regularly, while he was just there as a guest.

Following the jolting hit, which suggests the Gasiciel might have been swimming the bait, the fish "went down and would not stop stripping line," he recalled. "It just kept digging. I couldn't turn it or do anything. It was kicking my butt."

Even after he tightened the drag, the smallmouth kept taking line.

Thinking that the fish  was just a good-size keeper, Somerfield put down his rod and went for the net.

"But I said that we have to go after this fish," Gasiciel said. "He told me to stop messing around."

Finally, they did go after it.

"Once we closed the distance and were more vertical, then I finally could bring the fish up. When he netted the fish, all I heard was 'Holy Cow!'

"Then he told me that I had the new state Michigan record, and there was this eerie silence. We were freezing, snot was frozen to our noses, and we both just stood there processing what had happened.

"Then we snapped three quick photos, put the fish in the livewell and went back to fishing. That's the tournament mindset."

At the weigh-in site, tournament officials help Gasiciel get the fish weighed on a certified scale, and then he contacted Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The next day, a biologist verified the size of the fish bass that the Michigan angler decided to mount.

That record fish was the only smallmouth Gasiciel caught that day and his partner managed just one, meaning they didn't finish among the leaders in the Bass Anglers of the Sunrise Side tournament.  "There were two or three limits," the pharmacist said. "But, hey, I got big bass."

"This is additional evidence that Michigan truly has world-class bass fisheries,” said Jim Dexter, fisheries chief for the  Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "Smallmouth bass is one of the most popular, most sought-after sportfish in North America. Even though the Michigan state record stood for more than 100 years, we're excited to see the bar set even higher for those who set out to land this iconic fish."

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