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Entries in plastic baits (30)

Sunday
Mar232014

Maine Fisheries Opposes Plastics Ban, But Anglers Need to Be Better Stewards

Eamon Bolten started the ReBaits program in Florida.

In deciding not to recommend a ban on soft plastic baits to the state legislature, Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) followed the science. Biologist Dana DeGraaf, who is the trout and landlocked salmon specialist, especially deserves recognition for his diligence in compiling data, researching composition of plastic and biodegradable baits, and donning SCUBA gear to get a first-hand look at discarded baits in Maine fisheries.

It remains to be seen, though, whether those in the legislature who pushed for the ban in 2013 will accept the recommendation and alternative actions suggested by IFW. As in the Pacific Northwest, prejudice is strong against bass, an introduced species in many Maine waters. Coldwater anglers argue that if the bass weren’t there, neither would the discarded plastics.

One study cited by those who want the ban involved hatchery brook trout in a laboratory, with 63 percent of the 38 fish eating plastics. But that shouldn’t be at all surprising since the baits were mixed in with pelletized food.

As with bass, only anecdotal evidence exists that wild trout and salmon eat the discards. For example, in nearby Vermont, biologist Shawn Good said that he has received reports of trout with baits in their stomachs, and he’s also seen some abnormally skinny bass.

“I’ve killed a number of them over the years just to open them up and try to see what’s wrong with them,” he said. “A lot of these fish had two or three soft plastics in their stomachs. So we know they can affect individual fish.”

But, as in Maine, no research supports the notion that entire fisheries are being harmed by the discards. “I don’t think banning them is necessarily the right move,” Good explained. “But it’s something we should keep an eye on and let anglers know about, so they can try to reduce the amount that ends up in lakes.”

Which is exactly what DeGraaf and IFW recommended to the Maine legislature. “It’s mostly a littering problem,” the biologist said.

Sad to say, of that there was ample evidence, both from visual checks at launch sites and from underwater observations.

“Many discarded SPLs were readily observed visually from the boat prior to the diver survey,” the report said. “Hundreds of additional discarded SPLs were observed at Tricky Pond but were uncounted outside the initial survey area due to time limitations.

“In addition, multiple piles of discarded SPLs were observed at the toe of the Tricky Pond public boat ramp. This was indicative of anglers purposely dumping used SPLs after fishing and prior to trailering their boat(s) out of the water.”

Some soft plastics unavoidably will be lost while fishing. But, as the IFW discovered, some anglers continue to improperly dispose of their used plastics. In doing so, they needlessly contribute to the litter problem and provide ammunition to those will continue to push for a ban, not only in Maine but in other states as well.

Consequently, IFW’s recommendation of a public education campaign is a good one and something that other states should initiate as well.

“The Department could establish a process for public education and outreach regarding the effects of discarded SPLs and the process by which anglers should discard or recycle used SPLs,” the agency said in the report now posted on its website.

It proposed signs and collections boxes for baits at ramps, as well as media advertisements and printed material in the fishing regulations book. And it recommended that anglers “participate in SPL recycling programs such as the B.A.S.S. ReBaits SPL recycling program. This could include providing collection bags with each purchase of a Maine fishing license and/or advertising the Re-Baits program in print on the Maine fishing license.” (This is my B.A.S.S. Times column about Eamon Bolten starting the ReBaits program in Florida.)

A final reason that IFW does not recommend a ban on soft plastic baits should be of special interest to bass anglers nationwide. It said that a viable biodegradable option doesn’t exist, despite advertising claims to the contrary. “After one week, one month, and eight months post-treatment, the biodegradable SPL showed no signs of degradation,” the report said, adding that no national or international standard exists for “ what constitutes ‘biodegradable plastic’ and SPLs specifically.”

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

Monday
Mar102014

Anti-Fishing, Anti-Hunting Movement Spread by 'Transplants'

Up in Maine, one outdoorsman is angry that “transplants” are attacking his state’s rich hunting and fishing heritage.

 “In Maine, Secretary of State Mathew Dunlap certified more than 63,500 petition signatures, more than enough to qualify a ballot measure for the fall election that will ask voters if they favor prohibiting hunting black bears over bait, with hounds or using traps,” he said.

“In 2004, Mainers rejected an identical ballot measure by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent. I can guarantee you that most of the signatures are from transplants who have moved here from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York.

Maine also is the state where some want to ban plastic baits, although no scientific evidence suggests that fisheries are being harmed by their use.

Of course, evidence is irrelevant. These types of measures are being pushed by a well-funded animal-rights movement that is adamantly anti-fishing and anti-hunting, and it has found a supportive base among urban populations whose only knowledge of nature is what they see on television.

Unfortunately for those of us who fish and hunt, these people also are moving out of the cities to improve their “quality of life.” In the process, they threaten ours as they attempt to impose their values on us.

Fishing and hunting is under siege as never before, and it’s only going to get worse.

Go here to read what else the Maine outdoorsman has to say.

Wednesday
Jan292014

Maine Biologists Say 'No' to Proposed Ban of Soft Plastic Baits

Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will not recommend that use of soft plastic baits be banned in the state’s waters. That doesn't mean the legislature can't ignore the agency and go ahead with the ban, but the agency's stance is encouraging.

In a report presented yesterday to the state’s legislators, the agency said the following:

“Requiring the sale and use of only biodegradable SPLs (soft plastic baits) is currently not a solution. There is currently no standard national or international definition for what constitutes ‘biodegradable plastic” and SPLs specifically. Based on the information presented in this report, the Department does not recommend any legislation at this time.”

Instead, it appears that emphasis will be on education, encouraging anglers to properly dispose of used baits to minimize impacts to fish and fisheries.

That’s the right course of action, and I applaud Inland Fisheries for its efforts on this issue. (The entire report eventually will be posted on its website.)

No question that anglers should do a better job of cleaning up after themselves, but a ban of plastic baits, as proposed last year in the Maine legislature, was not the proper response. It would have been impossible to enforce and likely would have hurt the state’s economy because of reduced tourism. Additionally, while some individual fish do eat discarded baits, no evidence exists that populations are being harmed as a consequence.

A particularly interesting finding by the agency was that baits advertised as 100 percent biodegradable show no signs of degradation after one week, one month, or even eight months. “The SPL retained the same observable physical characteristics and elasticity of a new, identical SPL,” the report said.

Learn more here.

Here is the originally proposed bill.

And here is an earlier post at Activist Angler.

Sunday
Dec222013

Anglers Win Access Battle in Australia

Good news for anglers everywhere: Our brothers and sisters in Australia won a huge victory for public access.

And there’s an important message here for U.S. fishermen: Get involved in the political process. Aussie anglers wouldn’t have won if they had just gone fishing instead of fighting back.

Here’s an excerpt from the report in Fishing World, and please note the mention of Pew:

“We are pleased the Coalition Government has listened to Australia’s recreational fishers and are conducting a scientific review of the proposal, which will give a sensible balance for Australia’s unique marine environment,” said Allan Hansard of the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation.

“It was clear that the decisions to ‘lock’ recreational fishers out of vast areas of our seas by the previous government was not scientifically based and was done to meet a political agenda.”

The Government’s marine parks announcement marks an historic win by the recreational fishing sector against powerful international environment groups, including the US-based Pew organisation which spent millions of dollars in its failed attempt to ban fishing across huge swathes of Australian territorial waters.

Meanwhile, here’s things are not going so well in the United States. President Obama’s National Ocean Council is moving ahead with plants to “zone” uses of our oceans, telling us where we can and cannot fish. And in Maine, officials are considering a proposal by anti-fishing advocates who want to ban plastic baits.

Down in Georgia, a fishing editor said this:

Fishing is a way of life for millions of Americans. It’s a pastime all can enjoy, as well as a multi-billion-dollar industry through the sale of boats and motors, fishing tackle and even live bait.

The state of Maine, though, seems hell-bent on becoming the nation’s first anti-fishing state, according to a news release from Keep America Fishing.

Not long ago, the state legislature voted to impose restrictions and downright bans on the use of lead-headed jigs and lead sinkers, claiming the loon population was being adversely affected by ingesting that tackle while diving for bait fish.

Earlier this year, Maine’s Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife called for a study to determine the effects of soft plastic lures on fish. Maine’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department is using online research, ice angling reports and litter assessments to determine if there are adverse effects on fish . . . 

Legislation introduced during early 2013 legislative sessions called for the outright ban of soft plastic lures.

The state study also includes the impact of hooks! What a waste of time! If soft baits are banned, what’s next?

I’m glad I live where I live!

Monday
Jul012013

Don't Toss Those Baits; Recycle or Dispose of Them Properly

Please remember to properly dispose of your used plastic baits. They don’t belong in the water or on the shore.

Yeah, you’re going to lose a bait occasionally. It happens.

But anecdotal evidence suggests that far too many soft plastics still are carelessly tossed overboard or dropped on the ground.  

Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation, reeled in this chunk trailer (photo above) as he was throwing a crankbait along a long point at High Rock Lake.

Note the trailer’s size.  Frazier estimated it at 7 to 8 inches long and about an inch thick. Plastics swell in the water, and if a bass eats enough of them, they can block its digestive tract, leading to emaciation and maybe even death.

On the positive side, B.A.S.S. members are making a difference, since Eamon Bolton, Florida’s conservation director, initiated a collection and recycling program for plastic baits.

“I think the pro (Elite), Open, and Weekend Series guys are taking it seriously,” Frazier said. “But there appear to be some gaps.

“Maybe a reminder?”

Here it is: Please don’t toss those baits.