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Entries in Salmon (32)

Wednesday
Jun152016

PC War on Fisheries Continues With Bill to Eradicate Bass in California Delta

The attempt by bureaucrats to politicize fish and wildlife management to appease pressure groups and avoid dealing with the real issues continues in Washington, D.C. and California with Senate Bill 1894, which would mandate eradication of  nonnative bass and stripers from the California Delta, where they have been established for more than a century.

As in the Northwest (See PC Insanity Infects Management of Fish, Wildlife; Our Outdoor Heritage at Risk), these popular sport fish are being blamed for the demise of native salmon and other species. The reality is dams, pumps, irrigation, and development are the real reasons. Nonnative species thrive in these altered habitats, while natives decline.

Please sign the petition to get this provision of the "drought" bill removed:

Purposely hidden in section 202 of the 147 page bill SB 1894 is the planned eradication of nonnative species in the California Delta and its tributaries to include largemouth, smallmouth, striped bass, crappie and catfish. The inclusion of these species in this bill MUST be removed. They are being made the scapegoats for the demise of the salmon and Delta smelt when in fact the pumps are the largest non discriminate predator in the Delta.

This eradication mandate will decimate the natural balance that has existed for 140 years, while doing NOTHING for the drought that is what the bill is supposed to address. It will decimate sport fishing on the California Delta, as well as adversely affect many businesses that rely on income directly generated from Delta fishing, i.e., bait and tackle stores, hotels, restaurants, tackle manufacturers etc.

Thursday
Apr142016

As Expected, Washington Joins Oregon in Removing Limits on Bass in Columbia

As expected Washington state joined Oregon in removing limits on bass, walleye, and catfish in the boundary waters portion of the Columbia River.

Inexplicitly, though, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) did not mention the measure in the regulation changes endorsed by the Washington Wildlife Commission (WWC). And because it wasn't listed as approved, bass anglers and others mistakenly believed that the commissioners had declined to approve it.

"This whole business gave me a day of hope," said Lonnie Johnson, Oregon B.A.S.S. Nation conservation director. "Unfortunately it was just a pipe dream."

One publication even praised the WWC for refusing to "jump on the band wagon and follow Oregon's fuzzily thought-out elimination of daily bag limits . . . "

But upon investigation, B.A.S.S. Times discovered that the commissioners did approve the DFW recommendation. It becomes effective July 1.

"Unfortunately, we didn't do a very good job of publicizing it, so I can understand the confusion," said a public affairs spokesman for the agency. "We should have included it in the news release."

The commission received 23 written comments in favor of removing limits on the non-native species that have been in the Columbia for more than a century,  but just 12 from those opposed to the measure.

As salmon and steelhead fisheries have diminished over the years because of habitat loss and altered flows, warmwater species have flourished, especially in the impounded waters behind hydroelectric dams. Although evidence indicates predation by these non-native species has contributed little to this decline, an anti-bass bias has persisted. And in recent years, the federal government joined in putting pressure on both Oregon and Washington to remove limits, despite a lack of science to support the move.

Bass anglers, meanwhile, argue that they also finance fisheries management by buying fishing licenses and that this strategy shows disregard for them as a constituency and will do little to diminish the smallmouth population of the Columbia River. Most of them will continue to practice catch and release.

Tuesday
Apr052016

War on Bass Is Spreading

If you fish for bass outside the Midwest and Southeast, chances are that you are catching "non-native" fish.

"So what?" you ask. I'll tell you.

In the wake of the state of Washington joining Oregon to remove limits on bass on the Columbia River, Congress has just painted a big, red bull's eye on North America's most popular game fish outside its native range. Since it has established populations in 49 states, that covers a broad area--- including Texas.

Following a hearing entitled “The Costly Impacts of Predation and Conflicting Federal Statutes on Native and Endangered Fish Species" in Washington, D.C., you can bet  that environmental groups across the country also will look to portray non-native fish in general, and black bass specifically, as Public Enemy No. 1 in issues related to protection of native aquatic species. It's the old "monkey see, monkey do" corollary.

To put it mildly, B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland was irate in the aftermath, pointing out that those chosen to testify clearly favored "the native species crowd."

An "expert" who received the most speaking time said,  "Bass species are good for the sole purpose of sportfishing and this isn't a good reason to keep them around," according to Melanie Sturm of the American Sportfishing Association.

Additionally, Will Stelle from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration (NOAA)  proved be a "strong proponent that predators (sea lions and birds, along with non-native fish) are a huge problem," Sturm said. She added that Stelle argued "control programs should swiftly be implemented and NOAA welcomes legislation to do that."

And here's the exclamation point: "A lobbyist for ASA talked to Pelosi (House Minority Leader Nancy) face-to-face and she told him these non-native fish have got to go . . . Period," Gilliland said.

In the real world, meanwhile, the black bass'  only crime is its adaptability. But its high profile makes it a convenient scapegoat for opportunistic politicians catering to frustrated native fish advocates and a multitude of other interests who demand that something--- anything--- be done to stop the demise of native species and/or deal with complicated water management issues.

For years, Ground Zero for this issue has been the West Coast. But the groundwork was laid decades before, when the needs of salmon were given little consideration as more and more water was diverted from the California Delta to irrigate farm fields and supply cities and as the Columbia and other Northwest rivers were dammed for hydropower and irrigation.

Additionally, bass and other warmwater species were stocked by both the states and federal government, and, as they thrived, salmon declined. Today, an argument actually could be made that salmon  are the non-natives in these highly altered systems, which more closely resemble the warm waters and lake environments where bass evolved.

Do bass prey on young salmon? Yes, they do, but the numbers are insignificant in the "big picture" of declining salmon stocks. Study after study shows it. And they do so only because altered ecosystems facilitate the predation.

"I suppose the numbers can say whatever you want them to say if you put on your 'bias pants' when you go to work," said Lonnie Johnson, conservation director for the Oregon B.A.S.S. Nation. "Is there predation. Yes. Is it significant? Highly questionable."

Those in Congress who now want to wage war against bass in a futile attempt to bring back salmon would be well advised to acquaint themselves with Peter Moyle, a professor in the University of California- Davis’s Wildlife Fish and Conservation Biology Department and an honest broker on this issue.

"The historic Delta ecosystem cannot be restored," he said. "The Delta of today bears almost no resemblance to the Delta of 100 years ago. . .  Only three percent of the historical wetland acreage exists today. About the only familiar features would be the main sloughs and river channels, and even they have high levees on both sides."

Although specific alterations are different, the same is true for the Columbia and other rivers of the Northwest.

Preserving native species requires intensive management of human-dominated ecosystems  that contain a mixture of native and non-native species, Moyle added. "We humans decide by our actions which of these species are desirable and worth preserving often without making a conscious choice.qqq"

That's exactly what happened during the early 20th century, when governments and developers decided irrigation, water supply, and hydropower were more important than healthy salmon runs.

But that won't stop the bass blame-game by native fish and environmental groups and the politicians who are all too eager to curry their favor.

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

Sunday
Jan032016

Oregon Bass Anglers Work to Prevent Illegal Introductions

In the Pacific Northwest, salmon, trout, and steelhead are taken care of first, then the remainder follow along. Meanwhile, warmwater (bass, walleye, crappie, catfish) folks are thought to be responsible for the majority of illegal fish introductions.

Oregon B.A.S.S.  Nation, The Bass Federation, and Oregon Black Bass Action Committee founded the Turn In Illegal Introductions (TI3) program to counter this image and prevent the spread of non-native species.

Founded four years ago, it has evolved into a mainstream program, which helps prevent illegal transporting by all anglers, not just those who fish warmwater.  And it shows that bass fishermen are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Oregon State Police Game Enforcement has embraced the program, and has allowed TI3 to use the same telephone number  used by the TIP (Turn In Poachers), a program introduced and funded by the Oregon Hunters Association.

Thus far, no reward has been paid out. The money is held in escrow, and the desire is that any convicted offender be charged with the responsibility of repaying any funds expended in his conviction.

Tuesday
Nov102015

Oregon Removes Limits on Smallmouth Bass; Angry Anglers Consider Options

Following a disappointing decision by fisheries managers, Oregon bass anglers are considering their options--- and sounding off about the removal of limits on smallmouth bass in the Columbia, John Day, and Umpqua Rivers.

The ruling by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, they argue, was based more on politics than science.

"Needless to say, it's very frustrating," said Lonnie Johnson, conservation director for the Oregon B.A.S.S. Nation, who believes that the decision was pre-ordained because of pressure by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, neighboring Washington, tribes,  and preservationist groups who do not like the "non-native" fish.

"To me, it devalues the resource,” added Bud Hartman, a long-time member of the Oregon Bass and Panfish Club. “It says to the angling public that these fish don’t mean anything.”

B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland attended the commission meeting to voice the organization's opposition to removing limits. In the aftermath, he said this:  "In my opinion it sends a poor message, that warmwater species are of little value and that the agency's priorities are so focused on native species (i.e. endangered salmon stocks) that even a world-class smallmouth bass fishery can be sacrificed."

And writing in the Oregonian newspaper, veteran outdoor writer Bill Monroe theorized that the move threatens "a long history of support from about a quarter of their constituency."

Johnson acknowledged that support for the Department of Fish and Wildlife by warmwater anglers likely will be damaged, because they're paying license fees to an agency that disrepects them. At a meeting following the decision, he said, "At first the consensus was that we needed to separate ourselves from ODFW permanently. Just walk way.

"But as the initial visceral response eased, the rhetoric eased also. My feeling is that, however distasteful, it is easier to work from within the system than from outside. Several folks probably will step away, but most will grit their teeth and persevere."

Gilliland, meanwhile, hopes to rebuild a relationship with the agency, while making it clear "that a great deal of trust was lost during this process and both sides will need to work at it."

Preservation and native fish groups have been pushing for removal limits on bass and other warmwater non-native species for some time, arguing they are harming native salmon by predation. But little evidence supports that. Habitat loss and degraded water quality are the primary causes of declines in these coldwater species. Consequently, ODFW framed its action as "simplifying" regulations.

“There are lots of confusing regulations and conservation needs,” said Mike Gauvin, recreational fishing program manager. “First and foremost, though, we’re doing this to simplify and streamline the regulations.”

But on behalf of bass anglers, Johnson offered an option that was just as simple: Make the statewide bag limit 5, with one over 15 inches.

Of course, the recommendation was rejected, as the commission removed limits for bass, walleye, and catfish. As it did so, though, Johnson said that one commissioner acknowledged that the action was going to anger a large constituency. Gauvin responded that it sends a good message to the salmon recovery community.

"That sort of wraps the whole thing into a single sentence," said Johnson.

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