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Entries in North Carolina (28)


North Carolina Adds More Fishing Trails

North Carolina now has its second Educational Fishing Trail, with a third on its way to completion.

In March, volunteers worked with staffers from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) to build fish attractors for installation in Union County's Cane Creek Reservoir. By April 9, the trail should have been "unofficially ready to fish," according to Bill Frazier, North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation (NCBN) conservation director. He added that completion of the trail at Thom-a-Lex in Davidson County should not be far behind.

Starting with the Oak Hollow trail, which opened last year, Frazier has been the guiding force those these unique projects that allow anglers to learn about habitat needs of bass as they fish a variety of cover placed sequentially according to season.

"We hope this is the next level of reservoir habitat enhancement and a new avenue to building the sport with younger anglers," said the member of the Archdale Bass Club who also is a regulatory manager for environmental programs in a regional water utility.

NCBN teams up with the commission and local governments to plan and place the trails, with a special emphasis on youth involvement.

"Youth members of N.C. B.A.S.S. played a huge role in the creation of the Oak Hollow Educational Fishing Trail by helping us design, build and install the structures for each fishing site, using leftover materials from a previous Boy Scout fish attractor project,” said Mark Fowlkes, a NCWRC aquatic habitat coordinator. “Likewise, youth from Riley’s Catch (a B.A.S.S. affiliate youth club in the Charlotte area) have helped design the Cane Creek Fishing Trail and will be there to help build and install structures."

Youth anglers also raised funds to purchase materials and the commission used money from the Sport Fish Restoration Program to purchase buoys, he added.

Frazier pointed out that the trails, thus far, have involved no cost to local communities. "We want them to see this as a huge asset for them," he said. "We need the tourism folks at the state level to step up and share the vision of how big this can really be."

Small, municipal lakes are "hugely underutilized resources that need just a little help to be stellar resources," he added.

Meanwhile, anglers like what they see at Oak Hollow. Following a March competition there, marina manager Lamar Lee said, "This was the best tournament we'd had in years, both in number of participants and fish caught. Now that the word has gotten out, it should be a busy season for us." 


Tournament Anglers Boat Big Bass at North Carolina's Shearon Harris Lake

North Carolina's Shearon Harris Lake claimed legendary status as a bass fishery in 1996, when Dennis Reedy won a tournament with a 10-fish limit that weighed 72 pounds. Since he finished a distant third with 35 pounds, Shane Burns well remembers that day.

But Burns and fiance Bonnie Kelly made an even more spectacular splash on the 4,100-acre reservoir in early March when they won back-to-back tournaments with 40-pound-plus limits of 5 fish.

"I just seem to keep figuring it out better every year," said Burns. "Not many weigh in a limit with five fish overs out there."

By "overs," Burns means bass above the 16- to 20-inch protected slot on  the fishery that boasts hydrilla and provides cooling water for the Harris Nuclear Plant.

"It is not specifically managed as a trophy fishery but is in a cluster of ponds in the Capitol area that seems to persistently breed above average fish," said Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation. "Hydrilla is managed pretty extensively but other weeds have gotten a foothold. Notably alligator grass and primrose."

In the first event, competing against 88 other teams, Burns estimated that he and Kelly caught about two dozen overs, as they weighed in 41.93 pounds. "Everything we caught was an over," he said.

In a smaller event the following weekend, they managed an even more impressive 46.89 pounds.

"The fishing wasn't as fast and furious," the veteran angler said. "But we had a limit of 32 to 34 pounds within the first 45 minutes. I caught a 10.38 later and then a 10.91. We had eight fish over 7 pounds and I counted 30 overs."

Even more incredible, Burns went back out with a friend on the day after each tournament and enjoyed equal success.

How did he do it? Just before the first tournament, Burns found a transitional spot. "I intercepted those fish on the way to spawn," he said.

His primary area was about 100 yards long, and featured a main lake point that dropped out and then rose back up to a hump. "I was marking fish in 30 feet of water," he said. "But they wouldn't bite that deep. We caught them in 23 to 26 feet."

Only three teams fished deep in the first tournament, he added, and they finished first, second, and third.

Burns and Kelly used 3/4-ounce willowleaf spinnerbaits and football head jigs for the first win.  For the second, they needed only jigs.

"These were the most unbelievable days of my life and getting to share them with Bonnie was extra special," he said.


Robotic Casting Competition Explores Ways to Help Disabled Anglers, Honors Memory of Young Angler


Four years following his tragic death in a truck accident, Riley Laymon's vision endures with innovative ways to provide a brighter, more inclusive future for sport fishing.  In its latest endeavor, Riley's Catch sponsored a robotic casting competition for engineering students at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

"The four levels of competition were design, build, compete, and sell," said Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation and the tie that binds it to Riley's Catch, a youth fishing club based in the Charlotte area. "It was not just some machine bouncing a ball or running an obstacle course. It provided a product connected to a real need from the beginning."

And that need is a casting device that can be mounted to wheelchairs, piers, or other props to help make fishing possible for the disabled. (Video on Riley's Catch Facebook page.)

"The one thing every team absolutely nailed was the need for fully or partially handicapped users," Frazier added. "They considered everything from Bluetooth to voice activation from both laptops and smart phones."

The 14 teams also factored in dexterity issues and even multiple rod options, as they competed for both accuracy and distance. With a cast of 106 feet, The Outcasters were declared the winner.

"Almost every team saw the ultimate best application and opportunity as a resource for wounded warriors," said the conservation director. "This really got my attention. Developed the right way, I can see these devices becoming a whole new outlet, and I can see a marriage with B.A.S.S. Conservation's lake enhancement projects."

And Riley would have liked that. Before his untimely death, he was working on a plan to start a fishing club at Weddington High School. In a letter to his favorite teacher, he wrote, "I think it would be cool to get our school and maybe some other schools to get teams for friendly competition. These guys that wanna help are both strong Christian men and are all for students getting out and fishing and think it's a good way to keep all of us out of trouble and have a good time."

Founded by his parents, Tom and Lisa, Riley's Catch "exists to empower students to live greater lives by using the outdoors in building strong hearts, minds, and bodies. "

Its four pillars are fun, friendship, faith, and fishing. For two years, it has sponsored the "Life of Impact Leadership Experience & Riley's Cup Fishing Tournament," which highlights creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication skills, along with mentoring by outdoor professionals.

"These are the same kids who hosted the state championship last year," Frazier said. "The group acquired a large YMCA camp, housed, and fed them (competitors) for the entire weekend. They even got youth teams from out of state to come visit. And their technology project was the film of the B.A.S.S.Trail project (habitat/fishing course at Oak Hollow) that is out there on YouTube."

Riley's Catch kids fish, he added, "but that is the least they do. They seek to engage young people at an early age and provide them with a platform to grow as individuals and citizens. They provide events that expose them to technology and mentors that show them how life is integrated and gives them opportunities to think about what they want to do and how to get there.

"They are not a traditional group. They are thinking much bigger."


Aussie Report Reminds Us We Must Do More Than Sink Brushpiles

An Australian fisheries scientist visited the United States recently to acquire strategies and techniques for improving reservoir fishing in his own country.  But recreational fishing Down Under won't be the sole beneficiary of his research.

What Dr. Andrew Norris learned from stops in Arizona, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina,  Oklahoma, and Texas likely will benefit reservoir bass fishing from coast t coast.

How can we profit even more from what's already being done here? We read Norris'  98-page report, "Increasing Australian Impoundment Fisheries Potential: Habitat Enhancement to Improve Angling and Productivity in Impoundments." He provides arguably the best overview and analysis of habitat work ever compiled for U.S. reservoirs, much of which was not documented in fishery literature.

For example, the report "can be very useful to us as an idea book for conservation directors, and clubs can look at for inspiration and ideas," said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. national conservation director (CD).

Additionally, it will serve as a reference for the Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership, as it compiles a handbook on what works where and investigates what types of habitat simply attract fish and kinds might actually increase productivity.  Revelations also likely will  help the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society Reservoir Committee produce a how-to manual.

"I feel like I got as much out of it (the visit) as Mr. Norris did," said Bill Frazier, B.A.S.S. Nation conservation director for North Carolina. "We chatted back and forth on a wide range of topics to start with and then narrowed it down to the details that he wanted for the report."

Frazier and the Australian scientist discussed the innovative Educational Fishing Trail at Oak Hollow Lake. It allows anglers to learn about habitat needs of bass as they fish a variety of cover placed sequentially according to season.

The North Carolina CD added that some similarities exist in the challenges that both nations face regarding management of fisheries in reservoirs, but Australia's challenges are more extreme. Water levels there can fluctuate hundreds of feet annually. And funding can be tough to come by.

"If they get stockings of anything, bait or bass, the anglers have to raise the money," Frazier said. "That is before they ever get to a discussion about the habitat to support and propagate it into a lasting resource."

Following is one little nugget from Norris that reminds us that if we want a lasting resource, we must do more than sink brushpiles. Every fishery manager and bass club should consider this before starting a project:

"A range of factors need to be considered when selecting where to install fish habitat enhancements in a reservoir to achieve the best success.

These include the biological and behavioral characteristics of the target fish species, habitat type, presence of existing structure, angler access, availability of materials, material transport, available deployment equipment, substrate type, water level fluctuation, sedimentation, thermocline depths, boat traffic and other recreational waterway use and water conditions." 

Also, Norris makes 29 recommendations regarding Management Structure and Planning, Habitat Location, Fluctuating Water Levels, Economics and Future Research. Here are three:

  • If natural materials are used, they should be as freshly cut as possible. Fresh vegetation has a higher moisture content, making it denser, and therefore requires less weight to sink and anchor in place. Additionally, if trees are felled for habitat, older and dead trees are more prone to explode when they hit the ground, reducing their effectiveness as habitat.
  • Careful consideration needs to be given to the size of the interstitial spaces in fish habitat structures and the types of fish that will utilize them. In general, structures with smaller interstitial spaces should be used to benefit small fish species or juveniles of larger species. More open structures are more suitable  for attracting large fish and are preferred to fish by anglers because they are less prone to snagging hooks.
  • The majority of habitat should be installed above the thermocline to ensure it can be accessed by fish throughout the year. Some structure can be placed in deeper water to provide habitat during winter when the thermocline is deeper or non-existent.

And here's something that both states and local communities should consider in regard to the benefits of habitat projects for the economy: "The cost of rehabilitation is often recovered after only a few years, but benefits continue to persist.

Gilliland agrees. "All of this fits together and will make future projects more effective and efficient and pay off with more fish on the end of anglers' lines," he said.

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


Intersex Bass Found in North Carolina Streams, Rivers

During the 2012 spawning season, North Carolina State University scientists checked 20 of the state's streams and rivers for bass with reproductive problems that could potentially threaten populations, as well as for contaminants known as endocrine disruptors. They found that 60 percent of 81 bass tested were intersex, meaning males showed signs of developing eggs in their testes.

“Males guard the nest, create spawning nests for young, and guard fertilized eggs,” researcher Crystal Lee Pow said. “ Males are crucial for hatching success, and their male behavior could be altered by exposure to contaminants and the presence of the intersex condition.”

They also detected 43 percent of the 135 pollutants that they were looking for, because of the belief that exposure to them are feminizing male fish in waters across the country. These compounds include hormones, as well as drugs, chemicals, and pesticides that mimic estrogen, which enter the water via runoff or wastewater treatment plants.

Because differences between waterways are still being analyzed, researchers haven't yet revealed which rivers contain bass that have been affected. One of those might be the Catawba, which feeds Lake Norman, site of the 2014 Bass Pro Shops Southern Open and 2015 Carhartt College Eastern Regional.  Just a few miles to the east,  scientists found that the Pee Dee River had the highest rate of intersex fish in nine U.S. river basins during a 2009 study.

Here's another story about this growing problem for our fisheries: Scientists Find More Mutated Intersex Bass in Nation's Waters.