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Entries in slot limits (5)


Texas Considers Simplifying Bass Regs.

Texas fisheries managers are considering simplifying bass regulations statewide.

“Largemouth bass are one of the first species we started managing in the state, and we’ve done a great job managing our bass fisheries through time,” said Dave Terre, chief of Inland Fisheries for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

“Our process has been to use different kinds of regulations for bass to accomplish specific management goals. With these potential changes, we still hope to attain the same management goals, but we are trying to reduce the number and kinds of special regulations with the goal of making them less complicated, more easily understood and enforceable.”

Under the recommendations that TPWD recently previewed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, 12 of 18 lakes with special regulations would revert to the statewide 14-inch minimum length limit, which governs nearly 80 percent of the state's waterbodies. The other six would see changes appropriate to the population dynamics of those fisheries.

Granbury, Possum Kingdom, Ratcliff, Bryan, Cooper, Old Mount Pleasant City, Bridgeport, Burke-Crenshaw, Georgetown, Madisonville, San Augustine, and Sweetwater would be managed under the statewide length limit.

Meanwhile, TPWD is considering a change from the 14-to-24-inch slot length limit to a 16-24 slot for Fayette County Reservoir, Gibbons Creek Reservoir, and Lake Monticello. Additionally, Grapevine Lake would change to no minimum length limit with a bag limit of five fish of which only two can be less than 18 inches. Purtis Creek State Park Lake and Lake Raven would change from catch and release only to a five-fish daily bag and a 16-inch maximum length limit. The 16-24 slot and 16-inch maximum limits include provisions for anglers to possess bass 24 inches or longer for possible submission to the Toyota ShareLunker program.

“Our goal is for anglers to see less variation of the largemouth bass rules when they visit Texas lakes,” Terre said. “But we are doing this without sacrificing our standards of making the bass fishing great. We hold that high and true for our fisheries.”

Before these changes were considered, he added, district fisheries biologists looked carefully at the special regulations to determine if they met current largemouth bass goals and objectives at each reservoir. In some cases, such as those lakes with 14-18 slot length limits and  16- and 18-inch minimum length limits, biologists found the regulations had little or mixed results on the bass population when compared to the statewide limit. Reservoirs having a 14-24 slot length limit or catch and release only were moved to other successful regulation types to reduce regulation complexity without compromising fishery management goals.

Early in 2018, Inland Fisheries staff  officially will present these possible changes to the commission. If the commission approves, the proposed changes will be published in the Texas Register, which begins the process of official public comment.


Should Florida Change Its Bass Regs? Your Input Needed

If you’re a Florida angler who fishes for bass, you should attend a public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, in Tavares. The future of bass fishing in your state is at stake and your opinion is vital as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) considers regulation change.

FWC is looking for input regarding a proposal for a statewide daily bag limit of five fish, with only one of 16 inches or longer allowed. In other words, you could keep four bass of less than 16 inches and one kicker.

If I were attending this meeting, I’d want to know what FWC wants to achieve with this regulation. Is it intended to simplify regulations? Protect the largest bass? Will it increase harvest of larger bass by meat fishermen? And if that happens, how would that impact the state’s bass fishery?

Current statewide regs are as follows:

Black bass Not a Mobile-Enabled Link (largemouth Not a Mobile-Enabled LinkSuwannee Not a Mobile-Enabled Linkspotted Not a Mobile-Enabled Link, and shoal Not a Mobile-Enabled Link bass, individually or in total), only one of which may be 22 inches or longer in total length. (SeeMap Adobe PDF for zones).

  • In south Florida: only one bass may be 14 inches in total length or longer. (SeeMap Adobe PDF for zones).
  • South and east of the Suwannee River: black bass less than 14 inches in total length must be released immediately. (See  Map Adobe PDF for zones).
  • In the Suwannee River, areas north and west of the Suwannee River, and in any tributary river, creek or stream of the Suwannee River: black bass less than 12 inches in total length must be released immediately. (See Map Adobe PDF for zones).

Right now, Florida has specific regulations for quite a few individual fisheries. For example, Lake Okechobee has a five-fish bag, with an 18-inch minimum and only one of 22 inches or more allowed. Lake Walk-in-Water (Weohyakapka) has a protective slot of 15 to 23 inches and a three-fish bag, with one of 24 inches or longer allowed. Others are listed here.

The May 7 meeting will be in the Lake County Board Chambers of the Round Administration Building, 315 W. Main St.

And in Salt Water . . . 

FWC wants assistance:

Volunteer anglers in northern Florida are encouraged to catch and collect a DNA sample from every tarpon they catch that is 30 inches or longer. Since 2006, scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) have partnered with Mote Marine Laboratory to use DNA fingerprinting as a way to track the movements, habits and recapture rates of Atlantic tarpon in coastal and inshore waters.

Anglers can collect a DNA sample by scraping the outer jaw of the tarpon with a small, abrasive sponge. Immediately after collecting the DNA sample, the sponge should be placed in the prelabeled vial. DNA vials can be mailed to FWRI with the accompanying data slip so that geneticists can analyze and compare the DNA sample with cataloged samples to determine if someone caught and sampled the tarpon previously. This recapture information provides evidence of long-term survival and insight into the seasonal and regional movements of individual fish.

As of today, biologist have catalogued more than 22,060 samples and identified 217 recaptured tarpon.

“Remember, even if you catch only one tarpon all year, collecting that single DNA sample can help advance our understanding of tarpon,” said FWRI research scientist Kathy Guindon. “We have received the majority of our samples from southern Florida, and we want to encourage our northern anglers to submit more samples,” Guindon explained.

Biologists are grateful for the ongoing support of volunteer anglers and look forward to continued help from these citizen scientists to make 2014 a banner year for tarpon samples received from our north Florida waters. Anglers in south Florida should continue to use up their supplies on fish over 30 inches. All samples will still be accepted. Just remember that tarpon more than 40 inches fork length must remain in the water throughout the capture, sampling and release process. Anglers who would like to participate in this study can obtain a free, easy-to-use tarpon DNA sampling kit by emailing or by calling 800-367-4461.

Participants will receive an annual newsletter with updates on the recapture study and will receive information about the specific fish they caught as it becomes available. There is also an end-of-year raffle for those volunteers who have returned a sample.

For more information on the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study or to watch a video demonstration of how to genetically sample your tarpon, visit this FWC link.


Keep Smaller Bass to Grow Bigger Ones

Protective slot limits have proven a good tool for improving bass fisheries during their more than 30 years of use. But arguably they would have been --- and still could be --- far more effective if anglers followed them as fisheries managers intended.

But about the same time as slots were recognized by wildlife agencies as a strategy for growing larger bass, anglers began to embrace catch-and-release. Too often, those two work at cross purposes, which has prompted managers to rethink how and when to use protective slots, if at all.

“If anything, slots are used less,” said Bill Pouder, a fisheries biologist and regional administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “In Florida, we’ve had one new one in the last 10 years.”

Jason Dotson, an FWC section research leader, added, “Harvest rates are low, usually less than 10 percent. Fisheries managers in the Southeast are not as concerned about overfishing as they were in the 1980s.

“Now, we’re more concerned about growing trophies and providing goods numbers than being sustainable.”

In Texas, meanwhile, fisheries managers have added just three protective slot limits during the past 10 years, according to Craig Bonds, a region director for Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW). Additionally, seven have been removed in favor of minimum or maximum length limits and a catch-and-release regulation, while six have been modified to shift protection to longer fish.

“Texas fisheries managers have not substantially increased the use of SLLs (slot-length-limits) over the past 20 years,” Bonds said.

“We have maintained SLLs where they have been successful at restructuring largemouth bass populations to make fishing better for our constituents. We’ve removed or modified them where they were not successful in achieving our management goals.”

Why have they sometimes been unsuccessful, not only in Texas but in bass waters across the nation?

A protected slot’s purpose is twofold. First, it is intended to shield a certain size of fish, say 14 to 18 inches, from harvest. Second, it is intended to encourage harvest of fish smaller than 14 inches to reduce competition for forage and habitat brought about by excess recruitment. When anglers follow both practices, theoretically the number of bass above 18 inches increases.

But because of the popularity of catch-and-release, reality often has trumped theory.

“Slots haven’t worked,” said Jeff Slipke, a fisheries expert with Midwest Lake Management, Inc., in Missouri. “For one reason or another, folks are reluctant to keep small bass. So what you’re doing when you use a slot is creating an artificially high minimum length limit. A 12- to 15-inch slot is really a 15-inch minimum.”

In a worst case scenario, that can result in a fishery with an overpopulation of small to medium size fish.

“A lot of the time, there’s ample food for young bass to 8 to 10 inches,” Slipke continued. “Where you start to see stockpiling is at 10- to 14-inch bass because there’s a lack of 3- to 4-inch bluegill for them to eat. When that happens, bass hit a wall and won’t grow anymore.”

When working as intended, the slot reduces the number of bass moving into that protected slot and, thus, the competition for food.

All of this is not to say that slots have not worked. Some of them have, especially when managers closely monitor not only the bass population but angler behavior.

For example, Florida managers replaced a 14-inch minimum with a 15-24 slot in 2000.

“Prior to that, harvest was pretty high, up to 30 percent,” Pouder said. “We wanted to try to redirect effort, to protect the females.”

And it worked, harvest declined to 10 percent, and Istokpoga now is one of the best trophy lakes in the Sunshine State, the biologist said.

Other times, fisheries have improved when the protective slot is replaced with a higher minimum length, as happened in Texas’ Lake Nacogdoches. With a 14-21 protective slot in place, managers noted that too many bass longer than 21 inches were being harvested.

By changing to a 16-inch minimum in 2008, TPW allowed anglers to keep more small to intermediate fish to eat, and, simultaneously, increased the odds of catching a trophy. The latter occurred because remaining bass had less competition for bigger and more desirable forage, allowing them to grow both faster and larger.

A volunteer trophy bass reporting program “revealed exceptionally high catches” of trophy bass following the regulation change,” Bonds said.

What does the future hold for the use of protective slots? Fisheries managers continue to believe that they are an effective management tool, but they also know that how effective depends largely on angler behavior.

The key, Bonds believes, is educating anglers about how harvest of bass below a protected slot improves their chances of catching bigger fish.

“Simple manipulations of consumptive variables (changing the slot and/or the bag limit) will not likely motivate bass anglers to harvest more fish,” he said, adding that TPW has produced a video, “Eat More Bass: Slot Limits Help Grow Bigger Fish,” in hopes of convincing fishermen to do that.

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


Live a Little: Eat a Bass

My name is the Activist Angler, and I eat bass.

That’s right. I kill them, clean them, and eat them. In fact, I had bass for dinner last night. Sauteed in a lime and jalapeno sauce. Yum.

A few years ago, a bass fishing friend from South Africa came over here to fish a tournament. I took him fun fishing too, and then we ate some of our catch.

My friend was mortified at the prospect of eating bass. In South Africa, he and his friends mostly learned about bass fishing from reading Bassmaster and they adhered to “catch-and-release,” as popularized by B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott, with no exception.

But he quickly admitted that bass are great-tasting fish. “Just don’t tell anyone that I ate them,” he added.

The fact is that catch-and-release is a great idea --- most of the time. But some fisheries actually can be improved by removing small bass from the population, and those are the fish that I target when I want a meal.

I live on a small lake that has a protected slot of 12 to 15 inches. That means anglers can keep bass under 12 inches and over 15, but must release those in between.

Typically, fisheries managers impose slots because their surveys show too many small fish, and they want to encourage anglers to catch and keep them. By eliminating a few mouths, they hope, remaining bass will have more food to eat and, thus, grow larger faster.

The problem is that most anglers, like my friend from South Africa, have been so indoctrinated by the catch-and-release ethic that they never keep bass for the table. The result is that protected slot regulations often don’t work. Smaller bass just keep stockpiling, competing for limited forage, and anglers see no improvement in the quality of the fish that they are catching.

Keep that in mind the next time that you fish a lake with a protected slot.

By the way, I also caught a 5-pound bass in my little lake two days ago. That’s the first one that I’ve seen in five years of living here.

And, yes, I turned it loose.


Stocking Usually Not Solution for Improving Bass Fisheries

Grass carp can be fun to catch. But they often cause great damage to sport fisheries, especially in smaller lakes.

I recently was asked how to improve the fisheries in the community where I live. Following is what I said. No matter where you live, you probably will be interested in what I have to say about the benefits of stocking and the problems caused by grass carp. Read on.

In Terre Du Lac, we’ve been fortunate regarding the health of our 15 lakes. They are decades old, but still maintain good clarity and water quality.

Sadly, the fisheries in those lakes have not fared so well. And in attempting to improve them every third year by stocking bass and bluegill, we are only making them worse.

I realize that some will not believe that. I’ve been dealing with the controversy regarding stocking for more than 25 years and am all too familiar with those who insist putting more fish into a lake will make the fishing better.

But that’s not true, unless a catastrophic fish kill has occurred and stocking is needed to restore the population.

Our lakes were built in the thin, rocky soil of the eastern Ozarks. That makes them infertile. That’s why they continue to have such good clarity and quality. And it’s also why stocking more bass and bluegill will not make the fishing better.

Whether fertile or infertile, a lake can support only so much fish “biomass,” just as a farm field can grow only so much corn. Not surprisingly, an infertile lake can’t support as much biomass as a fertile one. Plus, fish don’t grow as fast in infertile lakes.

Spend any time on our lakes and you easily can see that they have well established populations of bass and bluegill that reproduce naturally. In fact, the bluegill spawn two or three times a year.

If you fish for bass, what else do you notice? Most of them are small.

In short, our lakes have too many mouths eating too little food, and, when you stock more on top of the existing populations, you just make the situation worse.  You add more competition for an already limited food supply.