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Entries in Mississippi River (47)

Friday
Aug112017

Angler Answers Anti-Tournament Criticism in Minnesota

Jake Lee (left) and Jacob Foutz of Bryan College maintain their lead on the second day of the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops on Lake Bemidji out of Bemidji, Minn., with a two-day total weight of 34 pounds, 10 ounces.

Angry that the Bassmaster College Series National Championship is being held on "his" waters, a Bemidji, Minn., area resident wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. That letter is below, followed by a response from guide Jason  Rylander.

His reply to the anti-tournament comments is spot on, and reveals Rylander to be an excellent spokesman for recreational fishing, tournament style and otherwise.

The letter writer asked good questions, but what offended me, and I suspect many others, is that he already has made up his mind that tournaments are a bad thing and really isn't looking for answers to those questions. HIs anti-tournament bias is a commonly held view in the North, often based on the beliefs that the water is theirs and that fish are to keep and eat.

Letter to the editor: How many fishing tournaments can our local waters handle?

I live on the Mississippi River east of Bemidji. It’s a narrow, serene stretch of water that this morning is crawling with big bass boats. The air smells like gasoline. Promoted by the marketing department at Bemidji State University, the Bassmaster College National Championship fishing tournament is in town.

“Pre-fishing” has begun. Ninety heavy boats. Six full days of fishing ending with the weigh-in on Saturday. So I have questions.

How many fishing tournaments can our local waters handle in one summer? Who decides this? What is effect on water quality of 90 heavy powerboats over six days? What is the relationship of fishing tournaments to the introduction invasive species (zebra mussels, milfoil)? The Bassmaster tourney is catch-and-release, yes, but with what effect on fish kept in live wells the entire day? Do “pro” fisherman ever read studies on delayed fish mortality? And what are the larger messages of the Bassmaster world view?

Expensive boats, high tech equipment, faster-is-better fishing, then leave town? Bemidji State University recently won a major, national award for sustainability. We can do far better by our school, our waters, and our general economic development than these tournaments.

A sign on my dock reads, “Bassmasters Not Welcome.”

------------

Mr. Weaver, you asked a few questions in your letter to the editor in today's Bemidji Pioneer. Let me answer them the best I can.

1. Lake Bemidji, and its connecting waters, typically only host a few local bass club chapter outings. They don't regularly host any large scale bass tournaments.

2.The DNR issues permits for these tournaments upon approval; including all of the local walleye derbies held on Lakes Bemidji and Irvine.

3. The water quality effect of 90 bass boats for 6 days will be minimal. A vast majority of these boats are set up with new motors with higher pollution/efficiency regulations than most of the motors you see go past your dock. The boats are designed for shallow water, and will be forced to respect the no-wake zones.

4. Although I have no research from any studies to back up my opinion here. The tournament anglers will have to follow state laws regarding AIS. In my experience, most avid anglers are more diligent about cleaning their boat, trailer, and live wells than your average boater/pontooner. I'm sure an organization such as Bassmaster is taking all necessary precautions to avoid any spread of AIS.

5. Bass mortality in tournaments is pretty low. They survive very well in livewells, much better than the walleyes. The study I found with the highest delayed mortality rate was 27%. This isn't good, I'll admit that. There wasn't a study available that I could find for MN tournaments though. I was happy to hear that Bassmasters is providing release boats that will be releasing the fish back near the waters they were caught from.

6. I don't know much at all about the Bassmaster larger message, aside from they are promoting angling, getting kids outdoors, and providing an awesome competition for college anglers. Aside from maybe making a few bucks and employing a handful of people, I am unaware of any hidden agendas.

Mr. Weaver, I disagree with your letter to the editor. I believe events like this are great for the community, bring extra income in for local businesses, and the exposure the area will get is far worth it. I've heard that the television airing will be viewed by as many as 5 million people on ESPNU.

These are young people who love fishing, who are promoting the sport of angling, and I think Bemidji is blessed to have them here for a week. Let's have them leave here having felt welcome and with good memories, so that someday they might return with their families to vacation and enjoy all that Bemidji has to offer.

To have them drive past your dock, with your "Bassmasters Not Welcome" sign, is embarrassing. I'm going to make my own sign, "Bassmaster College Anglers Welcome to Bemidji."

Tuesday
Aug082017

New Plan 'a Good Start' for Improving Louisiana Coastal Habitat

A 2017 Coastal Master Plan that will "improve coast-wide habitat for wild crawfish, largemouth bass, alligator, and mottled duck . . . " has been approved by the Louisiana State Legislature. This updated state blueprint prioritizes $50 billion in coastal restoration and risk reduction work during the next 50 years to address land loss, as well as sea level rise and encroachment into marshes.

In arguing for the plan earlier this year, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said, "Save coastal Louisiana, and you save 37 percent of all the coastal marshes in the continental United States. You save the habitat that produces 21 percent of all commercial fisheries' landings by weight in the lower 48 states and is home to approximately 75 percent of all commercially harvested fish species in Louisiana that use our wetlands for at least one stage of their life cycle."

Already, he added, important progress has been made since Hurricane Katrina's devastation in 2005, with more than 31,000 acres of land reclaimed, using more than 115 million cubic yards of material dredged from rivers and the Gulf of Mexico. Also, more than 274 miles of levees have been improved and 52 miles of barrier islands and shorelines restored in a more sustainable fashion.

"It's a good start," he said. "But just a start."

Approval of the 2017 plan received enthusiastic praise from a coalition of local and state conservation organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

In a joint statement, they said, “The 2017 Coastal Master Plan process is truly an innovative, unparalleled effort that all Louisianans can be proud of--- and our state desperately needs to implement the plan as quickly as possible. The master plan is grounded in science, balances coastal restoration with protection, and is publicly-informed. Louisiana has again provided a model for how coastal communities around the world can adapt to land loss, rising seas, increased storms and other climate change challenges.

“With sediment diversions as a cornerstone of the master plan, Louisiana stands ready to harness the power of the strongest tool available to build and sustain land – the Mississippi River. The state should continue this momentum by constructing sediment diversions as quickly as possible and take advantage of this amazing resource that is being wasted."

Sunday
Aug212016

Grass Carp Invasion Also Threatens Great Lakes Fisheries

Most don't know one carp from another. All are exotic.The photo above is a 30-pound-plus grass carp illegally stocked in a small lake.

Common carp have been in this country for so long (more than a century) that many think they are native. They are not. They were imported by the federal government. Rooting around on the bottom, they have destroyed and degraded many fisheries.

Fish farms in the South and Mid-South imported Asian carp (bighead and silver), and they escaped into rivers, spreading throughout much of the country. Through filter feeding, they gobble up forage needed by many native species, including juvenile sport species.

Grass carp were imported to eat problematic aquatic plants, including hydrilla and Eurasian watermilfoil, also exotic species. Often they were overstocked. Sometimes. they were stocked where they were not needed. Often they were stocked illegally. And they too have escaped and spread.

To add to the confusion, Canadian media and fisheries officials frequently refer to grass carp as Asian carp.

*    *    *    *

Although silver and bighead are the Asian carp of most concern these days for the Great Lakes and its tributaries,  disturbing discoveries have been made lately regarding a third--- the grass carp.

First, a graduate student at the University of Toledo found eggs in the Sandusky River, which flows into Lake Erie. That confirms the existence of a reproducing population of this fast-growing species, which doesn't compete with native fish, but does obliterate beneficial aquatic vegetation.

Additionally, Canadian commercial fishermen recently netted a grass carp weighing more than 60 pounds from the St. Lawrence River, far above Lake Ontario.

Anthony Ricciardi, a biology professor at McGill University, doesn't think that the river has a reproducing population, but suspects that others are in the St. Lawrence as well.

"We actually thought the Asian carp was confined," added Quebec biologist Michel Legault. "But we know that in recent years the grass carp has been found in a small section of Lake Erie. And last summer, nine grass carp were caught in the Toronto area. This is not good news."

On the Sandusky, meanwhile Toledo researchers intend to learn more about the grass carp spawning there, in hopes of finding a way to minimize it.

"Given the similarities in reproductive strategies, this ongoing research on grass carp spawning may help us minimize the risk of bighead carp and silver carp from establishing a foothold in the Great Lakes, said Patrick Kocovsky, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "What we learn here also might apply to potential control strategies in tributaries to the Mississippi River.

Today, most grass carp used to control invasive aquatic plants are triploid, meaning they can't reproduce. But fertile grass carp are believed to have first escaped from  an aquaculture facility in Arkansas back in the 1960s. They since have migrated throughout the Mississippi River drainage, as well as spread through authorized, illegal, and accidental introductions to 45 of the 50 states.

Tuesday
May242016

Islands, Other Habitat Created in Mississippi River's Pool 9

Armored with rocks to prevent erosion, nearly 100 acres of new islands will provide prime habitat for smallmouth bass when an $11.8 million restoration project on Pool 9 of the Mississippi River is completed in 2018.

Additionally, dredged areas that provided fill for the islands will offer valuable overwintering areas at least 8 feet deep for fish.

"This will be great for fish, waterfowl, shorebirds, and the people who enjoy them," said Karen Osterkamp, a fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, as seasonal work resumed recently on this portion of the river that separates northeastern Iowa from Wisconsin.

The ambitious rehabilitation was planned cooperatively by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Departments of Natural Resources in both Iowa and Wisconsin, with funding through the Army Corps of Engineers' Upper Mississippi River Restoration/Environmental Management Program.

Since Lock and Dam No. 9 was built in 1937, channelization has resulted in the loss of many natural islands and flood plain forests, reducing habitat for both fish and migratory birds. Seven islands and three emergent wetlands are being constructed in the 2,200-acre Harpers Slough backwater  between river miles 650 and 653 at the lower end of the pool to help restore the ecological balance.

"One of the main goals is to maintain habitat for  tundra swans and canvasback ducks that stop on Pool 9 during their migrations," said Mike Griffin, the Iowa's Mississippi River wildlife biologist.

He expects the new wetlands to bear large crops of arrowhead plants, whose underwater tubers, known as duck potatoes, are a preferred food for the thousands of tundra swans that visit the pool each year.

Monday
Feb022015

Sturgeon Recovery Prompts Less Restrictive Regulations in Minnesota

Bruce Holt of G.Loomis (front) and guide John Garrett, briefly hold a white sturgeon for photos

Arguably the Columbia River is the nation’s premier fishery for large sturgeon.

Fishing with guide John Garrett a few years ago, G.Loomis’ Bruce Holt, former PGA golfer Johnny Miller and I caught five white sturgeon , each measuring 9 feet long or more and weighing at least 300 pounds. We could have caught more, but wind and high waves finally chased us off the river.

With the three of us battered and beaten by the huge fish and rough conditions, Miller asked the guide, “Have you ever killed a fisherman out here?”

“Not yet,” said Garrett. “Not yet.”

Will Spychalla and Carlin Salmela caught this 75-inch sturgeon Jan. 1, 2015, on the St. Croix River. The fish, estimated to weigh 115 pounds, could have easily bested the Minnesota record of 94 pounds, 4 ounces, but had to be immediately released because it was out of season. New state rules will allow anglers to target lake sturgeon throughout much of the year. (Photo courtesy of Blue Ribbon Bait & Tackle)

Minnesota’s lake sturgeon aren’t that large--- 6 feet long and 100 pounds is a trophy. But they’re becoming more and more abundant, highlighting the impressive recovery of an ancient species once nearly wiped out by overfishing. Reflecting that recovery, the state is introducing liberalized regulations beginning March 1, as reported by Twincities.com.

“At the center of the changes are catch-and-release seasons that will run for most of the year on the St. Croix, Mississippi and St. Louis rivers, the Red River of the North and all inland waters, including the Kettle River, where the official state record -- 94 pounds, 4 ounces -- was caught in 1994.

“The Kettle, which flows into the St. Croix in St. Croix State Park, is among a number of inland waters where sturgeon fishing has been closed for years as populations declined. Under the new rules, all inland waters will be open to catch-and-release fishing from June 16 to April 14.

“Sturgeon well over 100 pounds and longer than 6 feet likely have been caught in the St. Croix River between Taylors Falls and its mouth at the Mississippi River, according to anglers and biologists, with some angler-caught specimens weighing perhaps as much as 150 pounds. Previously, that stretch of water was open to sturgeon fishing for only a month and a half in the fall. The new season will allow fishing throughout the year except from March 2 to June 15.”