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Entries in Mississippi River (40)

Monday
Aug272012

Four More Years Would Be Disaster for Recreational Fishing

 

Many in the outdoor media are critical of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for cutting or attempting to cut funds for various federal conservation programs.

I’m not one of them.

Yes, I would like that funding to continue. Yes, I believe that we could continue to finance those programs despite the budget deficit --- if we could eliminate the billions in fraud and waste perpetrated by corrupt politicians who are so adept at spending other people’s money. But that is as likely to happen as teaching pigs to fly so that we can save shipping costs for ham and bacon.

Republicans elected to the House in 2010 --- many of them supported by Tea Party affiliates --- went to Washington, D.C., with the intent of shrinking government, reducing taxes, and cutting back on spending.

I support that agenda and, sadly, realize that enacting it will mean reduced budgets for all if we are to avoid the collapse of our economy because of insurmountable debt.

On the other hand, four more years of Obama will push us to the precipice of economic collapse, with Greece providing us with a preview of what could happen here.

Meanwhile, many of those same folks in the outdoor media have been ignoring the threat that four more years of this president also will pose for recreational fishing.

Let’s start with funding. States finance their fisheries programs primarily with license fees and money collected as excise taxes on tackle, equipment, and motorboat fuel through the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program. If the first four years are any indication --- and I believe that they are --- a second term would be catastrophic for our economy and, by extension, the fishing industry. That could mean less money for fisheries management, as anglers cut back on discretionary spending to make ends meet. 

The National Ocean Policy is the 500-pound gorilla in the room. By-passing Congress with an Executive Order, Obama has created a massive bureaucracy that will tell us where we can and cannot fish through a strategy called “marine spatial planning.” In reality, it is death by a thousand cuts for angling, as one fishery after another will be shut down by nameless bureaucrats.

Catch Shares is a second strategy pushed by this administration to limit access. Supposedly, it is being done for conservation. In reality, it is a scheme to privatize a public resource, as “shares” of an ocean fishery are allotted to individuals and/or companies. Right now, mostly it is directed at species harvested commercially. But if incorporated into “mixed” (commercial and recreation) fisheries, it will limit participation, as the sport sector will be limited to the same fixed amount each year.

The National Ocean Policy and Catch Shares are brought to us by preservationists from environmental groups that Obama has brought into his administration. Special interests aren’t just influencing public policy; they are setting it. 

If this President gets a second term, look for de-emphasizing of sport fisheries programs within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies, attempts to reduce access for anglers and hunters by establishment of land and marine preserves, and renewed boldness by anti-fishing groups that want to ban lead fishing tackle.

Also, look for this administration to continue “searching” for a solution that will keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, as it sides with Illinois in opposing the obvious solution --- closing the manmade connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. Eliminating that entry/exit not only would help keep carp out, but it would prevent other invasives from moving between the two systems.

I don’t know if Romney/Ryan would be any better about policy regarding this last issue. But I suspect that they would, given that Ryan, now a representative from Wisconsin, is both an angler and a hunter and would have a better appreciation of the value of the Great Lakes sport fishery. He also is a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

What I do know is that this President is not a friend of angling. He might not be personally against it, but many in his administration either have no regard for it or they do oppose it. That, combined with four more years of economic hardship for this country, would be crushing for recreational fishing.

Please keep that in mind when you go to the polls in November.  And if you are an angler who usually does not vote, I hope that this will motivate you to do so. 

Friday
Aug242012

Carp Are Doing Damage Even When You Don't See Them

These bighead carp were damaging a Missouri pond without the owner even knowing they were there. USGS photo.

The Journal Sentinel offers an in-depth look about the search for techniques to track Asian carp. But first, it presents this anecdote that typifies damage that invasive species can cause with little or no realization of what’s going on:

A fish pond in Missouri reveals just how stealthy Asian carp can be.

Maybe an acre in size, the pond had been stocked with catfish, bass and bluegills. The owner was pumping it full of fish food, yet the fish appeared to be starving. So in early 2010 the owner called in a consultant. 

"They came out with electrofishing gear, caught some fish and looked at them," said Duane Chapman, one of the country's leading Asian carp experts and a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "The fish were emaciated and he didn't know why. He said, 'There's something wrong here. We need to start over again.' They brought in rotenone and completely killed the pond."

Over the next week, the rotting carcasses of about 300 bighead carp surfaced. The smallest were 20 pounds. The big ones were a border collie-sized 35 pounds. Poisoned Asian carp, Chapman explained, are different from many fish species in that they typically don't surface unless the water is warm enough for gases to build up in their bellies, a process that can take a week.

"It was quite amazing there could be that much poundage in one small pond," Chapman said.

It turned out that a decade earlier the previous property owner had stocked the pond with bighead. They had flourished right under the nose of the new owner, who had smelled trouble - but couldn't see a thing.

I found the story especially interesting because grass carp --- illegally introduced by lakefront property owners who should be arrested --- have done the same thing to the small lake behind my house. Those carp, most of them 20 pounds and more, make up the majority of the biomass.

And just as an acre of land can grow only so many bushels of corn, a lake can sustain only so many pounds of fish. As a result, the bass and catfish in my little lake grow slowly, if at all, with the bulk of the bass being 12 inches or less.

Will what has happened in that pond and my lake also occur if/when Asian carp move into the Great Lakes?

Do we really want to wait and see what happens, endangering a billion-dollar sport fishery? The time is long past due to close the manmade connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. Right now, it provides an open door for invasive species to migrate from one system to another.

Friday
Aug172012

Carp Threat Spreads East

Asian carp aren’t migrating only north and west, threatening the Great Lakes and inland waters in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.

They’ve also moving east, via the Ohio River system. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports that they invaders are reproducing in Kentucky’s Markland Pool, “almost midway between the Mississippi and Pittsburgh’s Point.”

Read the full story here.

Friday
Jul202012

Carp Threat Intensifies as President Plays Politics 

Bighead and silver carp populations dominate rivers in the Mississippi River basin. Will they do the same to the Great Lakes because elected officials failed to act?

DNA from Asian carp recently was confirmed in Lake Erie for the first time. Just as disturbing, though, is that the number of samples testing positive in the Chicago canal system also spiked, meaning that the likelihood increases that the exotic fish are in or about to enter Lake Michigan.

The future of a multi-billion-dollar sport fishery lies in the balance, as does the economic welfare of U.S. and Canadian communities all around the Great Lakes.

In response, our federal government will expedite its study of the problem. Meanwhile, a pathway --- the canal system that connects Lake Michigan to the Illinois River --- remains open for carp to enter the Great Lakes and for an estimated 185 species of exotics to migrate out of the Great Lakes and into the river, which is a part of the massive Mississippi River basin.

But, hey, we shouldn’t worry about it. The feds are “studying” the situation.

This editorial from The Cleveland Plain Dealer does a great job of assessing the situation. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“The latest nonevent in President Barack Obama's attempt to buy time while failing to act to stop the threatened Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes was his administration's announcement Tuesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would expedite its action plan.”

“This week's announcement seems more like an election-year ploy to mollify critics furious over Obama's failure to recognize the gravity of the carp threat. These plankton predators are in the Chicago Area Waterway System that connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan. Without urgent action, it is only a matter of time until they lay waste to the Great Lakes' multibillion-dollar commercial and sports fishing industry and the 800,000 jobs it supports.”

Friday
May182012

Asian Carp Using New Route to Threaten Minnesota Fisheries

Minnesotans are justifiably concerned about Asian carp migrating into their inland fisheries from the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

And now these exotic fish seem to have found a new invasion route --- a back door if you will.

Flooding along the Missouri River last year allowed the carp entry into many new waters, including Iowa’s Great Lakes, in the northwestern portion of that state. Those fisheries connect with lakes and streams in southwestern Minnesota.

“We view it as a big threat. These fish don’t recognize political boundaries,” said Ryan Doorenbos of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Read the full story here.

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