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Entries in New York (18)

Monday
Sep152014

What's Ailing Susquehanna River Smallmouth Bass?

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission photo

Despite its refusal to declare the Susquehanna River impaired last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) says that it will continue intensive sampling of what was once a world-class smallmouth fishery.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission asked for the designation, as fingerlings continue to die, adults carry ugly lesions, and eggs show up in the testes of male fish. Additionally, an estimated 80 percent of the bass seem to have disappeared from the central part of the state, where the North and West Branches meet, down to Conowingo Dam in Maryland.

The 2014 plan calls for analysis of fish tissue for pesticides, PCBs, and metals. Also biologists will look at insects, mussels, and other invertebrates, as well as sample the water for sediment, pollution, and pesticides.

At 464 miles, the Susquehanna is the largest river to drain into the Atlantic, and its massive watershed of 27,500 square miles includes portions of New York and Maryland, as well as nearly half of Pennsylvania.

“Over the last two years where we tremendously enhanced our examination efforts, DEP has learned a great deal about the health of the Susquehanna River,” said Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo.

 “It is important to continue these efforts so that DEP can create policy and regulation based on facts and sound science.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation believes that a “perfect storm” of conditions have contributed to the sick and declining smallmouth population, with pollution from farms and sewage plants, low dissolved oxygen, rising water temperatures among the contributors. These stressors make the fish more susceptible to bacteria, parasites, and diseases that might not have affected them in the past.

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

Thursday
Jun262014

Northern States Warming Up to Bass Anglers

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Because of climate, management of bass fisheries in the North understandably must be different from management in the South. Northern winters are longer and more severe, while spawning and growing seasons are shorter and often more tenuous. For example, pounding winds and waves during a spring storm can nearly wipe out a year class on Lake Erie.

For decades, though, it also has been different for a myriad of reasons not related to stewardship of the resource, with bass fishing restricted as a consequence. Fortunately, that is starting to change, as evidenced by what happened recently in Wisconsin. Due in no small part to the diligent efforts of Dan Brovarney and Ken Snow in the Wisconsin B.A.S.S. Nation, that state has implemented regulations more friendly to bass anglers, including one that allows culling in permitted tournaments.

Elites Series events in northern waters also have helped. B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland pointed out that the 2012 Elite Series Green Bay Challenge “opened eyes and that allowed biologists to better understand what B.A.S.S. pro level tournaments are all about.”

They’ve also eased concerns that local residents had about possible negative impacts on their fisheries.

In general, Gilliland added, many states are moving toward simplifying regulations, but northern managers especially are warming up to the realization that bass are  popular fish deserving of more enlightened management. Most notably, closed seasons are going away, often replaced by catch-and-release.

For decades, northern fisheries managers believed that closed seasons were necessary to protect reproduction and recruitment. Now, though, evidence has begun to show that while individual nests can be harmed when male guardians are pulled off the nest, overall populations aren’t harmed. On New York’s Lake Oneida, biologist Randy Jackson found that environmental conditions are more likely to determine the success of a year class than whether anglers are pursuing bass during the spawn.  

Additionally, many managers have noted that the majority of bass anglers, no matter where they live, practice catch and release. Thus, overharvest isn’t the threat that it once was assumed to be.

Understandably, though, the farther north a fishery, the smaller the window for reproduction, and the greater the chance that it could be harmed by angling pressure.

Gilliland cited New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, along with Wisconsin, as some of the northern states being the most pro-active adopting regulations more friendly to bass anglers. Minnesota, he added, “is one of the holdouts.”

Traditionally, the conservation director explained, bass management in northern states was dictated by “legacy biology.”  In other words, it just continued to be as it always had been, with resource managers focusing on walleye, muskie, pike, and trout, while bass remained “a kind of unknown.”

“But now that bass tournaments are exposing how tremendous some of the bass fisheries are up north, they have to deal with bass management,” Gilliland said. “Most of the biologists were cold-water trained, and it was easy not to deal with it (bass management). Now, they have to deal with it.”

That assessment is confirmed by the fact that three of the top five fisheries in Bassmaster’s “Top 100 Best Bass Lakes” for 2014 are northern waters: 1. Wisconsin’s Sturgeon Bay in Lake Michigan 3. Lake Erie and 4. Lake Coeur d’ Alene in Idaho.

But Gilliland also is sympathetic to the reality that managing bass is more complicated in the North than in the South. Two of the most obvious reasons are the diversity of user groups and the vast expanses of water.

“When you’re trying to keep everyone happy and keep all of those different fisheries sustainable, it can be difficult,” he said.

A general trend toward warmer winters also “throws a monkey wrench” into the mix, he added.

Plus, tournament fishing is not nearly as popular with local residents in the North as it is in the South. Residents around those northern natural lakes view the waters as their own, and many don’t want to share them fishermen who are just passing through.

“Those people are automatically against new regulations and biology doesn’t matter. They want to limit access,” the conservation director said.

Still, regulation improvements are occurring, and managers of northern waters are to be commended for responding to their bass-fishing constituents.

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

 

Monday
Mar312014

New Mexico's Conway Honored for Conservation Efforts

New Mexico Conservation Director Earl Conway.

Fisheries in New Mexico are improving because of Earl Conway. And as they are, his efforts have shown other state conservation directors how much can be accomplished through initiative and persistence.

For contributions both to his own state and to B.A.S.S. Nation, Conway was honored as Conservation Director of the Year during Bassmaster Classic Week here.

That award and four others were presented at the Conservation Awards Banquet sponsored by the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Foundation and the Aquatic Plant Management Society.

“Earl has done a really great job of working with agencies, cities, schools, and others,” said Gene Gilliland, new National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. “He has run into roadblocks everywhere he has turned and found ways around them.

“He has leveraged grants to get more grants and found outside sources for funding in places conservation directors would never think to look. And he has built partnerships.”

Conway said that he was “surprised and humbled” by the award.

“There are so many others that I know worked harder, sacrificed time with their families, and gave up many days on the water to accomplish real ‘boots on the ground’ projects while dealing with policy issues in their region,” he said.

The New Mexico director added that he is motivated by his passion for both conservation and fishing and “equally tenacious when it comes to funding and executing challenging and innovative projects that address the problems we have with our irrigation reservoirs.”

The New York B.A.S.S. Nation (NYBN) and the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation (CBN), meanwhile, received Berkley Conservation Institute awards.

NYBN won the Conservation Award for its Ramp Monkeys and water chestnut removal, while New Mexico earned honorable mention for its floating islands project and Florida for ReBaits, a program for recycling used plastic baits.

Ramp Monkeys were members of youth clubs who removed plant debris from launch areas and cleaned, drained, and dried boats and trailers as they left the water.

CBN earned the Angler Recruitment/Retention Award for innovative marketing strategies to gain new members.  They included an Uncle Sam poster with the words “The BN Wants You,” maps to help potential members find the clubs nearest them, and a PowerPoint explaining what the organization is all about.

The New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation won the FishAmericaFoundation/B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Fund Award and will use the $5,000 prize for a radio telemetry study. Simms Fishing provided the funds with a 2012 donation.

“The results will be used to evaluate appropriate bass tournament rules as well as provide the public with a better understanding of the effects of tournaments on their resource,” said Gilliland. “The project has potential far beyond New Hampshire.”

Georgia’s Lake Oconee Bassmasters received $1,500 for winning the Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Foundation/Aquatic Plant Management Society/B.A.S.S. Conservation Aquatic Vegetation Management Award. The money will be used to help establish native aquatic vegetation in that fishery, as well as Lake Richard B. Russell and Lake Jackson.

Additionally, Nationwide Insurance announced its donation of $5,000 to the FishAmericaFoundation/B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Fund. That money will be distributed in grants to clubs and chapters, based on project merit.

Thursday
Feb202014

Berkley Honors New York, Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nations

The Berkley Conservation Institute (BCI) announced the award of the 2013 Berkley Conservation Award to the New York B.A.S.S. Nation. The award, worth $2,000 in cash, will be presented at the B.A.S.S. Conservation Awards banquet February 22nd in Birmingham during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

"The New York B.A.S.S. Nation is a role-model for other organizations to follow," said Jim Martin, BCI Conservation Director.

"Their members are making a difference. They have a great plan, are organized and dedicated. The Ramp Monkeys concept is something that every state B.A.S.S. Nation should emulate. Getting youth involved in conservation efforts is vital to the future of our aquatic resources. I salute the New York B.A.S.S. Nation for their commitment to the principles that the Berkley Conservation Institute holds dear."

In winning the Conservation Award, the New York B.A.S.S. Nation took a multi-pronged approach to battling invasive species in the Empire state. State Conservation Director Barb Elliott worked with NYBN youth clubs to form "Ramp Monkeys." These groups attend area bass tournaments and first remove plant debris from launch areas, then as anglers pull their rigs out, the Ramp Monkeys use kid-power to "Clean, Drain and Dry" each boat and trailer. The operation is an opportunity for outreach to anglers and boaters and an educational experience for the youth members.

The NYBN members also continued to battle invasive water chestnuts by physically removing the plants from lakes, canals and rivers and worked with state agencies, lake associations, universities and watershed alliances to distribute educational/outreach materials to increase awareness of invasive species.

"The New York B.A.S.S. Nation is honored to receive this award," said Fred Blom, NYBN President. "I am proud of the accomplishments of the whole organization. We are all working hard to make a difference."

*         *         *

The Berkley Conservation Institute (BCI) announced the award of the 2013 Berkley Angler Recruitment/Retention Award to the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation. The award, worth $1,500 in fishing tackle, will be presented at the B.A.S.S. Conservation Awards banquet February 22nd in Birmingham during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

"The Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation is to be commended for utilizing an approach that highlights the many activities in which their members are involved," said Jim Martin, BCI Conservation Director.

"All 26 clubs exhibit a willingness to get involved in activities that benefit youth, their communities and the aquatic resources that our sport depends on. We at the Berkley Conservation Institute are proud to honor the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation with our Berkley Angler Recruitment/Retention Award. In winning the award, the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation increased awareness of their organization and increased membership by utilizing a multi-media approach at outdoor shows and other public events.

A poster using the image of Uncle Sam was created with the slogan "The CBN Wants You" to attract attention to their booth. A large state map was displayed to help potential members locate clubs near their homes. Brochures were distributed which contained information about the CBN, contact information for joining, and examples of the CBN at work. A continuous-looping PowerPoint presentation was shown to provide a visual representation of CBN activities and projects such as Toys for Tots, The Bryan Kerchal Memorial Fund, The Robert S. Malloy Scholarship Fund, Riverfront Recapture’s Sporting Chance for Youth Day, CastingKids, Wounded Warriors Foundation, Youth Tournaments, the 26-Angels Event, as well as the CBN Tournament Trail.

"The Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation would like to thank the Berkley Conservation Institute and B.A.S.S. for this honor and we want to recognize our members who worked hard on this project," said Bob Nelson, CBN Vice President.

Silvia Morris, CBN President added, "We feel that this was beneficial not only because it increased membership in 2013 but if gives up a plan to follow and we are confident it will pay dividends in the future."

BCI is a division of the Pure Fishing Company, the world’s largest tackle company headquartered in Columbia, SC. The brand names of Pure Fishing include Abu Garcia, All Star Rods, Berkley, Fenwick, Mitchell, Penn, Pflueger, Shakespeare, Spiderwire and Stren.

Thursday
Dec192013

Brown Trout Can Interfere With Brook Trout Conservation

Photo of brook trout by Mark Sagan

No big news here: Brook trout populations throughout the East long have been damaged by stocking of non-native rainbow and brown trout. Brook trout have more specific habitat needs and they are less aggressive, both negatives in a world where species are moved about and ecosystems altered. And they are not trout, but char, related to Lake trout, bull trout, Dolly Varden, and Arctic char.

But this study by USGS does provide interesting insights into the brook trout/brown trout dilemma in New York.

Brown trout introductions could hamper the conservation of declining native brook trout populations, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.

Brook and brown trout are valuable sport fish that co-exist in many parts of the world due to stocking introductions. USGS researchers found that, in New York State, direct interactions between the two species, such as competition for food, have minor effects on diminishing brook trout populations compared to human-caused habitat disturbances. However, repeated, disproportionate stocking of brown trout in brook trout habitats could drastically decrease brook trout numbers.

"There is great potential for brown trout stocking to reduce native brook trout populations," said James McKenna, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. "But brown trout aren’t necessarily causing the current brook trout declines, and managers may be able to develop sustainable scenarios to support both fisheries."

The USGS study found that human-induced degradation (from dams and roads, among other causes) of the habitats of both species can affect the populations of either. However, because brook trout do better in forested watersheds, whereas brown trout can thrive in more agricultural environments, degraded watersheds and/or the elimination of forests may affect brook more than brown trout. Improper brown trout management could further threaten vulnerable brook trout populations.

Fisheries managers in New York use stocking to maintain brook trout—a native species—and/or brown trout—a non-native species stocked in New York for over 100 years—in some streams. Brook trout have been declining within its native range in recent decades, and there has been concern that the stocking of brown trout has caused these declines.

The report is published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management and is available online.

For more information on USGS Great Lakes ecosystem research, please visit the USGS Great Lakes Science Center website.