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Entries in shoal bass (9)

Wednesday
Jan102018

Florida Shoal Bass Record Broken Again

The Florida shoal bass record has been broken once again, this time by a 14-year-old angler from Alabama.

Fishing from a kayak, Sheldon Grace caught the 5.95-pound trophy  in the Chipola River.

“I fought him for about 30 minutes and then when I got him close to the kayak, the jig popped right out of his mouth,” said Grace. “I quickly reached into the water and grabbed him because he was the biggest I’d caught all day.”

In 2016, Jimmy Ray Tice claimed the previous record with a 5.2-pound fish, the fourth in little more than a year to be taken in the Apalachicola River.

But it is the Chipola, a tributary of the Apalachicola, that seems most likely to produce bragging-size bass in the near future. Starting in 2006, three low-water years produced big year classes that are now moving into and past the 5-pound range, with the stretch below Marianna typically the best.

“You can definitely tell that the quality and quantity of the shoal bass in the Chipola River are getting better,” said Grace, who often fishes there with his father. “I had caught about six or seven 2- to 3-pounders and then right at the end of the day, I caught the record.”

Additionally, the Chipola, a spring-fed system with a unique range of habitats, is the only fishery in Florida with a population of naturally reproducing, genetically pure shoal bass, a species that Steven Sammons of Auburn University's School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences ranks at the top for stream fishing.

"I used to think smallmouth bass were the ultimate river bass, but shoal bass have completely changed my mind," he said. "They grow faster, consistently reach larger sizes, and may be the most aggressive black bass we have."

The biologist who also is an avid angler said shoal bass "set up like salmon or trout. They are not behind a rock or in an eddy. They set up in that fast water, the first big drop in a shoal."

Tuesday
Nov212017

Florida Shoal Bass Record Broken . . . Again

A 14-year-old angler from Alabama now owns the latest Florida shoal bass record, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).  

Sheldon Grace of Headland, Ala., caught the 5.95-pound fish while kayak fishing on the Chipola River near Altha. It measured 22.4 inches long.

“I fought him for about 30 minutes and then when I got him close to the kayak, the jig popped right out of his mouth,” said Sheldon. “I quickly reached into the water and grabbed him because he was the biggest I’d caught all day.”

Sheldon and his father often fish for shoal bass, one of the five black bass species in Florida.

“You can definitely tell that the quality and quantity of the shoal bass in the Chipola River are getting better,” said Sheldon. “I had caught about six or seven 2- to 3-pounders and then right at the end of the day, I caught the record.”

The former state record shoal bass weighed 5.20 pounds and was caught in 2016 by Jimmy Ray Tice on the Apalachicola River.

The Chipola River is a spring-fed system with a unique range of habitats and is the only water body in Florida with is a population of naturally reproducing, genetically pure shoal bass. The FWC has implemented several conservation projects to enhance this unique fishery. A video highlighting the charm of the Chipola River and the partnerships forged to protect it can be viewed on YouTube by searching “FWC Chipola River.”

To properly certify a new Florida state record, a FWC biologist must identify the fish species and witness its weighing on a certified scale. Anglers can check current state records at BigCatchFlorida.com by clicking on “State Record,” and should notify the nearest FWC regional office if they believe they have caught a record fish. Contact information for FWC regional offices can be found at MyFWC.com/Contact by clicking on “Contact Regional Offices.”

The FWC recognizes other memorable freshwater catches through its Big Catch program, which provides certificates commemorating trophy catches of 33 different freshwater species. Largemouth bass catches are recognized by the TrophyCatch program, which is a citizen-science program that partners with industry leaders, such as Bass Pro Shops, to offer rewards for the catch, documentation and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier.

Tuesday
Oct112016

Georgia Record Shadow Bass Caught in Flint River

Famous for its shoal bass, Georgia's Flint River has just added to its notoriety by yielding a state record for another species--- the shadow bass.

If you haven't heard of this member of the sunfish family, you are not alone.  It's range is limited. It's frequency mistaken for close cousins, two species of rock bass found in Missouri and Arkansas. And all three are known collectively as "goggle-eye."

Kristen Brown caught the first Georgia state record shadow bass--- 10 ounces and 9 1/4 inches long--- while fishing with a plastic worm for shoal bass in the southwestern part of the state.

“We are excited to add the shadow bass to the many species of fish that are eligible as state records in Georgia,” says John Biagi, chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Resources Division. ”This is our second state record of 2016 and I hope it encourages all new and experienced anglers to get outdoors and go fish Georgia!” 

Brown added, “I wanted that (record shoal bass), but I got this,” Brown said of her record shadow bass. “Now I want the shoal bass record even more.”

Weighing 8-3, the state record shoal bass was caught on the Flint in 1977.

Not knowing what she had caught, the angler sent an image to Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which identified it as a shadow bass and officially recognized it as a state record. The world record weighed 1-13 and was caught in 1999 from the Arkansas' Spring River, according to the International Game Fish Association.

Shadow bass are found in streams from Louisiana to Georgia, as well as in isolated pockets on the Missouri/Arkansas border. They are characterized by distinctive mottled patterns on their sides, which include an irregular series of dark blotches. The latter distinguish them from rock bass, which have regular lines of black dots (northern) or irregularly scattered black speckles (Ozark).

Monday
Sep052016

Put These Bass on Your Bucket List!

Shoal bassIf you think largemouths, smallmouths, and spots are the only fish worth pursuing, you don't know your bass.

As  the most adaptable and widespread species in the black bass family, they certainly have earned their fame and your loyalty. But if you enjoy catching hard-fighting fish in scenic rivers and streams, you should meet their stay-at-home cousins, most notably shoal and Guadalupe bass.

"I used to think smallmouth bass were the ultimate river bass, but shoal bass have completely changed my mind," said Steven Sammons, an avid angler as well as fisheries scientist and research fellow in Auburn University's School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences.

"They grow faster, consistently reach larger sizes, and may be the most aggressive black bass we have. I routinely fish for them with topwater lures most suited to peacock bass and they usually are up to the challenge!"

Guadalupe bass (left) and largemouth bassAnd the Guadalupe? Tim Birdsong, a fisherman who also happens to be Habitat Conservation Branch Chief for Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW), feels much the same way about this smaller river fish.

"It fights harder than any other species I've caught," he said. "Guadalupes know how to move their bodies in current, and they are inextricably linked to flowing water. They hang out just behind the current and move out into it to ambush."

With such glowing recommendations, then, why don't more anglers know about and fish for these moving water brawlers? Unlike largemouths, smallmouths, and spots, they can't tolerate reservoir conditions, and consequently mostly are restricted to free-flowing waters in their historic ranges. That means anglers must go to the Hill Country of central and south Texas to fish for the Guadalupe, the state's official fish, and to the Apalachicola River drainage (Chattahoochee and Flint tributary systems) in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida to fish for the shoal bass.

But a little travel time is well worth it, according to Sammons, who caught three 5-pound-plus shoal bass one day this past spring. "Those who know what they are doing --- and there are many better than I --- routinely catch 5-pound shoal bass every spring," he said. "The better anglers' number of fish in those sizes is in the dozens annually. Not many smallmouth rivers can produce fish like that."

Additionally, he added, they are not difficult to catch just about any time if you are in the right place. And where is that for the shoal bass?

Shoal bass fishingThe "epicenter" for big shoal bass, Sammons explained, is the Flint River west of Thomaston, Ga.. "There are five or six places that you can access for float trips," he said. "And you can canoe or wade fish."

The Flint River between Albany and Lake Seminole, meanwhile, can accommodate larger boats and seems to hold bigger, but fewer, fish.

In Florida, the Chipola River, especially below Marianna, offers some of the best shoal bass fishing. Fisheries biologist Andy Strickland said that three low-water years, starting in 2006, produced big year classes of shoal bass that now are moving into the 4- and 5-pound range. But Ray Tice recently caught a new state record (5.2 pounds), the fourth in little more than a year,  from the Apalachicola River in Gadsden County.

Where do you find shoal bass in those rivers? "They set up like salmon or trout," Sammons explained. "They are not behind a rock or in an eddy. "They set up in that fast water, the first big drop in a shoal. They're in front of the 'push' water."

Guadalupe bass fishingIn Texas, meanwhile, the lower Colorado River below Austin boasts a trophy fishery for Guadalupe bass, and, in fact,  that's where Bryan Townsend caught the record, 3.71-pounds, on a crawfish-pattern fly in 2014. Birdsong added that about 60 percent of anglers targeting the state fish cast flies as they wade or drift.

The Llano River, a tributary of the Colorado, is another good choice. "Around Kingsland, you have a different kind of river channel with granite outcrops," Birdsong said. "It's a great area to wade fish."

Sadly, the Guadalupe no longer is found in some of its range, mostly because of development. "We see this as an urgent time to do something meaningful to protect the species," the biologist said, pointing out that population in the Hill Country has increased by one million people during the past decade.

"Fourteen species of fish are found in the Hill Country and nowhere else in the world," he added. "We're really concerned about urbanization and demand on our spring-fed rivers."

That's why TPW initiated the 10-year Guadalupe Bass Restoration Initiative in 2010, with the hope that a public-private conservation partnership can help sustain and/or restore the rivers.

In addition, populations of the shoal and other black bass species mentioned below seem to be slowly declining due to habitat degradation and hybridization with illegally introduced non-native bass, especially spots. That why Sammons and other fisheries scientists in state agencies and universities within their native ranges have stepped up conservation efforts.

The Rest of the Family

Generally speaking, nine species of black bass now are recognized by the scientific community: northern largemouth bass, Florida largemouth bass, Alabama spotted bass, northern spotted bass, smallmouth bass, Guadalupe bass, shoal bass, redeye bass, and Suwannee bass.

Until 1999, the shoal was considered a subspecies of the redeye, which is why the 8-12 caught in the Apalachicola River in 1995 is recognized as the all-tackle record by the International Game Fish Association, but not by Florida as a state record. The Georgia record, meanwhile, is an 8-3 caught in 1977 on the Flint River and the Alabama record is a 6-11 caught from Halawakee Creek in 1996.

Although similar in overall appearance to the shoal, the redeye is a smaller fish and prefers skinnier waters in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and small portions of North Carolina and Tennessee. The Georgia state record, 3-7, came from Lake Hartwell in 2004.

 "It's not found in the fast water," said Sammons. "It doesn't need boulders like the shoal. Mostly you catch them in small pools with 6-pound line and small crankbaits."

As scientific investigative methods improve and conservation efforts for native species intensify, it's possible that the redeye will be subdivided into several different species in the years to come, including Coosa, Tallapoosa, Chattahoochee, Cahaba, and Warrior.

Because of its association with a song written by Steven Foster, the Suwannee bass is the most recognized black bass outside the big five. But it has the smallest range of the family--- the Suwannee, Santa Fe, Wacissa, Wakulla,  and several other free-flowing Florida rivers, as well as the Alapaha, Ochlockonee, and Withlacoochee shared by Florida and Georgia. Current IGFA record is 3-14, taken from the Suwannee in 1985.

During the next few years, Choctaw and the Bartram's likely will be the next bass to be recognized as separate species, Sammons said.

"The genetics is really strong on the Choctaw," he explained. "It looks like a spotted bass, but it's geographically isolated."

In fact, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission already includes the Choctaw in its fishing regulations.

The Bartram's, meanwhile, "should be a slam dunk" to be recognized, the Auburn scientist said. "It's found only in the Savannah and Broad River drainages  and it's the only one (outside the big five) to survive in reservoirs. You can catch it in lakes, and it gets a little bigger, 2 to 2 1/2 pounds."

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

Friday
Jul012016

New Bass Regs. in Effect for Florida

New black bass regulations now are in effect in Florida. Here's  a summary:

  • The previous three black bass fishing zones and 40 areas with special bass regulations have been eliminated.
  • All species of black bass are included in the five fish daily aggregate black bass bag limit. This is the same as the previous statewide rule.
  • Largemouth bass: Only one may be 16 inches or longer in total length per angler, per day, with no minimum length limit.
  • Suwannee, shoal, Choctaw and spotted basses: 12-inch minimum size limit, only one may be 16 inches or longer in total length.

Before developing proposals for amending current regulations, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) staff received input from thousands of bass anglers, and blended angler desires and opinions with decades of fish population research.

“We are confident that these new regulations meet the desires of our bass anglers, ensuring that Florida lakes will continue to produce high quality fisheries,” said Tom Champeau, director of FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries.

“Florida’s reputation for trophy bass is one reason we are known as the Fishing Capital of the World and these new regulations will help provide our anglers with unforgettable fishing experiences.”

Florida is home to five species of black bass: largemouth, Suwannee, shoal, Choctaw and spotted bass. Largemouth bass are the state freshwater fish and are found throughout Florida, while the other species are found only in rivers in the north central and northwest regions.

Visit MyFWC.com/fishing and click on “Freshwater,” then “Regulations” for a copy of the complete regulations.

One of the primary goals of the new regulations is to protect larger trophy bass desired by most anglers. The TrophyCatch program offers great prizes for anglers who document and release largemouth bass weighing eight pounds or heavier. Visit TrophyCatchFlorida.com for more details and to register for the program.