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Entries in state record (19)

Wednesday
Jan042017

Record 'Atomic Sunfish' Caught in Florida

Freshwater fishing in South Florida is unique. Largemouth bass share canals and small lakes not only with peacock bass, but with many of their smaller cousins from Central and South America.

Using a lipless crankbait in a Collier County canal, Jonathan Johnson recently established the first state record for one of the latter, a 2.37 pound Mayan cichlid.

“I looked up the record about six months ago and saw that it was vacant,” said Johnson. “I have caught hundreds of Mayan cichlids but only a couple that I thought were large enough. I was targeting them specifically that day and caught about 25, this being the largest one by about half a pound."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) made the Mayan cichlid, a nonnative species from Central America, eligible for state record status in 2012. But the record has remained vacant until now.

It was first reported in Florida in the early 1980s. During the mid-1990s, the fish began expanding its range and has become common throughout south Florida’s freshwater lakes and canals. Both local and out-of-state anglers target the now-popular fish. Its bright red coloration and scrappy disposition when caught prompted FWC biologists to nickname it the “atomic sunfish.”

In fact, the Mayan is equivalent of a bluegill or crappie in more ways than one. Neither largemouths or peacocks are true bass, but the largest members of fish families with lots of relatives, cichlids for the former and sunfish for the latter. Another of the peacock's cousin, the Oscar, is the No. 1 fish caught in portions of the Everglades and the No. 2 fish sought, behind largemouth. Although reputed to grow to a weight of 3 pounds or more, the state record is 2.34 pounds, caught in 1994 in Lake Okeechobee.

The state record butterfly peacock bass, meanwhile, weighed 9.08 pounds, and was taken in Kendall Lakes during 1993.

Following thorough study to determine that this subspecies of peacock would have little impact on the largemouth population, it was intentionally introduced into the canal system around Miami in 1984. Biologists hoped that it would join the bass in gobbling up smaller cichlids that had been released by irresponsible aquarium owners and could threaten native species via their sheer numbers. While doing just that, it also provides an increasingly popular sport fishery.

Many of the 34 species of nonnative fish now established in Florida are cichlids, including the jaguar guapote. As with the Mayan, FWC requires a minimum of 2 pounds to qualify for a state record.

Fortunately, none of these invaders seemed to have caused major disruptions in native ecosystems "or reduced harvest of native sport fishes," said the FWC. But it encourages anglers to keep all cichlids that they catch, except for the legally-introduced peacock.   

"Most exotic fishes provide excellent table fare," the agency said. "In addition, releasing fish from aquariums or moving them between water systems is illegal and could produce detrimental effects."  

Thursday
Dec292016

More States Look to Grow Trophies With Florida-Strain Bass

Tennessee state record bass caught in 2015 at Lake Chickamauga.Can Tennessee biologists turn Chickamauga into another Lake Fork?

Probably not.

That Texas lake is the gold standard for trophy bass fisheries, and duplicating the success there is not a reasonable expectation, especially for a state with a less hospitable climate.

But resource managers are hopeful that they can grow bigger bass in Chickamauga through the introduction of Florida-strain largemouths into the population.

“I’m convinced that Florida bass will grow big in Tennessee,” says Bobby Wilson, assistant director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “I hope that can happen in Chickamauga. And, if it does, we’ll move to other lakes with it.”

So far, Wilson has two very persuasive pieces of evidence to support his conviction: In October of 2009, biologists electroshocked a 16-15 largemouth at Browns Creek Lake, where Floridas also have been stocked. And in 2015, Gabe Keen caught a 15.2 in Chickamauga, good enough to establish a new state record.  

By contrast, the previous record was just 14.5, caught in 1954 at Sugar Creek.

 “We’ve had a few 13-pounders reported by fishermen (from agency lakes),” Wilson adds. “They probably were Florida bass.”

But the verdict still is out on Chickamauga.

The same goes for Lake Guntersville, just to the south in Alabama.

 “We haven’t stocked them (Florida bass) on a regular basis,” said Keith Floyd, a fisheries supervisor for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “It’s been periodically in one or two embayments, to see if we can incorporate Florida genomes into the population.”

Tennessee, however, has been much more deliberate in its approach. After stocking 200,000 fry annually for five years throughout Chickamauga failed to show much of a genetic shift, biologists decided to focus on three creeks for the next five.

“Anglers (at Chickamauga) are saying they are catching bigger bass,” Wilson explains. “And they say that the bass look different from what they are used to seeing.”

Anglers also are catching bigger bass at Lake Atkins in adjacent Arkansas, where the fishery was rehabilitated and then stocked with Floridas. In 2011, anglers caught at least three 12-pound bass in that 752-acre fishery.

Wilson says that his state used criteria from Arkansas and Oklahoma in deciding where Florida-strain bass could be stocked successfully in Tennessee. That turned out to be south of a line from Dyersburg in the west to Chattanooga in the east.

But as Virginia proved during the early 1990s, bass with Florida genes can do well even farther north than that. After being stocked in the late 1980s, Briery Creek Lake yielded a 13-4 trophy in 1992. It followed with a 16-3 (one ounce shy of the state record) in 1995 and 16-2 in 2002. And from 1994 to 2002, it produced the largest bass in the state annually.

“A lot of people are excited about this,” Wilson says about Tennessee’s Florida bass program. “But some don’t want them because they have heard that they are finicky than northern bass.”

And there’s the argument that native bass populations are weakened when Florida bass are added.  “But these aren’t native systems,” the Tennessee fisheries chief points out. “These are manmade impoundments.”

Texas’ long-term success with Florida bass in Lake Fork and other reservoirs provides a strong argument in support of Wilson. And the fact that more than 500 largemouth bass of 13 pounds and more have been entered in its Sharelunker program seems to dispel the “finicky” fear as well.

From my own decades of experience with Florida bass in Florida, Texas, and Mexico, I’ve noted that they can turn off when temperature drops just a degree or two. But I do not believe them more difficult to catch than northern bass. When cold and/or high pressure turns them off, you just have to slow down and adjust your tactics. Instead of throwing a spinnerbait, flip a soft plastic along the edge of a weedline.

Also, I’ve found Florida bass to be, pound for pound, much more challenging fighters than northern bass. A big Florida is like a mean smallmouth with a belly. And I’ve seen 12-pounders tail walk.

Count me as one who is not troubled by the occasional finickiness of Florida bass or the fact that they are being introduced into manmade fisheries in Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and perhaps other states outside their native range. I’ve been blessed to catch a few double-digit Floridas, and I’d like to see more opportunities for other anglers to do so as well.

Whether Chickamauga and Guntersville are two of the fisheries capable of growing those genetically enhanced big fish likely will be revealed in the years ahead.

Monday
Dec192016

Another Double-Digit Spotted Bass Caught in California

 

What may be a world record for spotted bass was caught Friday by Cody Meyer on Califorinia's Bullards Bar Reservoir. This is from his Facebook page:

"What an amazing day. I went fishing with my buddy JR Wright, and ended up catching a 10.80 spotted bass today. It has the potential to be a World Record. I am really thankful that I have sponsors who make the best gear in fishing. A fish like this on light line took every bit of technology I had in the boat. I was using one of my prototype Daiwa Corporation - USA Tatula rods which is a signature series coming out soon, and a Daiwa Exist reel, 6-lb Seaguar Fluorocarbon Tatsu line, a Strike King Lure Company Ocho. I spotted it suspended over 100-feet of water using Garmin Panoptix. Being able to see them out in front of us before we moved over them made it possible. In total, our best 5 went for over 40 pounds."

Right now, the IGFA record is 10.5 (10 pounds, 6 ounces). But California recognizes an 11-pound, 3-ounce fish (about 11.2) caught in 2015 as the state record. Additionally, a couple of more unofficial 11 pounders have been caught in California waters recently.

Like the largemouth and smallmouth, the spotted bass is an introduced species in California.

Saturday
Dec032016

New State Record for Florida: Mayan Cichlid

Florida has a new state record fish, a 2.37-pound Mayan cichild. Jonathan Johnson caught the fish in a Collier County canal on a lipless crankbait, and says that his record catch was not by accident.

 

“I looked up the record about six months ago and saw that it was vacant,” said Johnson. “I have caught hundreds [of Mayan cichlids] but only a couple that I thought were large enough. I was targeting them specifically that day and caught about 25, this being the largest one by about half a pound,” he said.

 

Johnson took the fish home where his scale confirmed that it was eligible for the vacant state record, which had a minimum submission weight of 2 pounds. Johnson then called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) offices to get his record fish certified.

 

With one state record in his pocket, however, Johnson is not resting on his laurels.

 

“I am also targeting the blue tilapia and peacock bass records, but since I use only artificials it will be a challenge,” he said.

 

The FWC made the Mayan cichlid, a cousin of the peacock bass and nonnative species from Central America, eligible for state record status in 2012. But, the record has remained vacant until now. It was first reported in Florida in the early 1980s. During the mid-1990s, the fish began expanding its range and has become common throughout south Florida’s freshwater lakes and canals. Both local and out-of-state anglers target the now-popular fish using methods similar to those used for sunfish. The bright red coloration and scrappy disposition of the Mayan cichlid when caught caused FWC biologists to nickname it the “atomic sunfish.”

 

There are 34 nonnative freshwater fish species that have become established in Florida. Although these species have not caused major disruptions in native ecosystems or reduced harvest of native sport fishes, the FWC strongly encourages anglers not to release them (except legally-introduced peacock bass and triploid grass carp). Most exotic fishes provide excellent table fare. In addition, releasing fish from aquariums or moving them between water systems is illegal and could produce detrimental effects.

 

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 the 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.”

 

Thursday
Dec012016

Smallmouth Bass Records Broken or Tied in Four States

Michigan's state record smallmouth bass, caught on a nightcrawler.During a year when the smallmouth bass record possibly has been broken or tied in four states, the most recent is arguably the most impressive for a couple of reasons.

First, Bruce Kraemer's catch Sept.11 on Michigan's Indian River nearly reached double digits, checking in at 9.98 pounds. That's more than a half pound heavier than the previous record, 9.33 pounds, caught less than a year before. The latter toppled a mark that was more than a century old, a 9.25-pound smallie caught in 1906.

Meanwhile in neighboring Wisconsin, the record of 9.1 was set in 1950, while Minnesota's record of 8 pounds has stood since 1948.

Second, Kraemer caught the huge fish while fishing with a live nightcrawler on light spinning gear from his backyard. He wouldn't even have known it was record if he hadn't entered it in a fishing contest sponsored by a local business."I usually spend June through the end of September up here at the cottage," said the angler who lives the rest of the year in Treasure Island, Fla. "I've got some great fish stories and some nice fish, but nothing like this."

And he wouldn't have had "this," if his neighbor, Ron Krieg, hadn't convinced him to stay a little longer.

"He also netted the fish for me and talked me into entering it into the fishing contest at Pat and Gary's Party Store," the angler said.

Up in New York, meanwhile, Patrick Hildebrand tied the state record with an 8.25-pound smallmouth that he caught a few weeks earlier out of Cape Vincent on the St. Lawrence River. Taken on a dropshot rig in about 35 feet of water, it equals the mark set in 1995. New York Department of Environmental Conservation hasn't yet officially acknowledged the catch as tying the state record, but likely soon will.

Both of those fish might have grown to record proportions by gorging on gobies, an exotic species common in both Indian River and the St. Lawrence. In fact, Kraemer said that he had rigged the nightcrawler above his sinker to keep it off the bottom and away from the small bottom-dwelling fish.

"When I set the hook, I first thought that I had a goby," he recalled. "But when I pulled, it didn't move and I thought I was snagged on bottom. But then it started moving toward the middle of the river."

Out in South Dakota's Little Horseshoe Lake, Lyal Held caught a pre-spawn smallmouth that checked in a 7.185 pounds (7-3), to surpass the record of 7, taken at the same fishery in 2013.  Captured in late April, Held's fish had a girth of 19 inches that almost equaled its length of 19.5. "I've never seen anything so fat," Held said. "It was so fat its eyes were bulging."

And in Montana, Melvin McDonald might have set the new standard in August at Fort Peck Reservoir with a catch of 6.7 pounds as he was bottom-bouncing a Berkley Gulp! Minnow for walleyes. Montana Department of Natural Resources has yet to confirm the catch. Current record of 6.375 (6-6) was set twice, in 2000 on the Flat River and in 2002 at Fort Peck.