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Entries in Texas (73)

Thursday
Sep082016

TTBC Helps Texas Introduce More People to Fishing

Following this year's Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) on Lake Ray Roberts, organizers once again donated $250,000 to help Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) introduce more people to fishing, specifically through its Neighborhood Fishin' program.

To characterize the10-year partnership as a success might be a bit of an understatement, according to Dave Terre, TPW's chief of fisheries management and research.

"It's been huge," he said of the $2.5 million overall contribution that TTBC has made. "We've been highly successful at attracting youth and families into fishing. And now we have people calling us all the time saying 'Do my lake. Do my lake.'"

What the callers want is for TPW to stock their nearby urban lakes with 12- to 16-inch catfish biweekly during spring, summer, and fall, and 9- to 12-inch rainbow trout during winter.

TTBC funds have enabled the agency to expand the program from 9 to 18 lakes in the city and county parks of major metropolitan areas. Possibly others will be added in the future, but potential lakes must be studied carefully before a commitment is made. Terre estimated that  stocking a 3-acre lake with catchable size fish costs about $30,000 annually.

"All of the lakes are strategically picked," he said, pointing out that good facilities and shoreline access are important considerations. "By now, we have a pretty good idea of which ones work and which ones don't."

The ones that do are doing so in a big way, with an estimated 100,000 anglers participating annually. "About 50,000 of those are new to fishing and 25,000 of them are youths," Terre added. "The others are lapsed angers (who returned to fishing because of the program).

"Most people tell us that these lakes are the only places that they fish."

The annual Classic donation also helps with marketing of the program as well as supports the agency's Take Me Fishing trailer, which provides instruction in fishing basics at events all over the state, and an annual fish art competition for students. The latter now is averaging more than 1,000 entries annually.

At the lakes, meanwhile, residents have the opportunity to fish when they want to, with few, if any, derbies or events scheduled. Also, they can borrow tackle through some local parks and TPW offices.

"Stocking usually is done on a Thursday or Friday, with the best fishing a day or two after that," said Terre, adding that about 200 fish per acre are stocked in fisheries that average 1 to 6 acres.

The fisheries chief added that a special effort is being made to attract the state's growing Hispanic population to fishing."We're trying to put fish in lakes in neighborhoods that will engage nontraditional anglers," he said. "Largely, Hispanics are under-represented in license sales. But this program is working. (In areas with stocked lakes) we're seeing higher license buying than in traditional neighborhoods."

In addition to TTBC, Terre emphasized that cities, counties, local businesses, and the federal Sport Fish Restoration program also have contributed to the success of Neighborhood Fishin'. At the newest lake, Kingfisher in Austin, sponsors include Travis County, Bass Pro Shops, and Gulf States Toyota.

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
Aug262016

Bass Fisherman Brings Clean Water, Life to Thousands

Three hundred thousand people in Africa now have clean water, thanks to Global Water Partners, which bass fisherman Bruce Whitmire founded in 2009. Since 1996, he's helped drill wells that supply clean water for 12 million.

Think about that.

"Every one of us had a gift that makes the picture complete," he says. "This is where I fit--- lovin' on people and helping them have a better life."

He uses bass tournaments to help solicit support for GWP and spread the word that an estimated 2 billion people still lack access to clean water.

"When parents send their children out to a mud hole to bring home water, that water is supposed to bring life. But what it brings is death and disease," says the Texas angler. "They need clean water for life and health."

Read Whitmire's inspiring story here.

Sunday
Aug072016

Line Reycling Programs Increase; More Needed 

Following Florida's lead in 1999,  monofilament line recycling programs have been initiated in at least two dozen states, and the public image of anglers nationwide would be greatly enhanced if more stepped up to participate. 

That's because Berkley estimates  it has recycled more than 9 million miles worth of fishing line since it began accepting it in 1990. That's enough to fill two reels for every angler in America. Had it been discarded in the water or on the shore, far more fish, fowl, and other wildlife likely would have died. Also it could have caused considerable damage to boat engines by becoming entangled in props or sucked in by intakes.

Initiation of a program requires one key ingredient, according to Chris Dunnavant, angling educator coordinator with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and long-time member of B.A.S.S.

"Staffing is a big issue so volunteers contact us. They might be a Scout group or an association," he said, adding that VDGIF coordinates and approves placement of line recycling bins across the state. On its website, it also provides instruction and diagrams for building the bins, which now are in place at about 150 access areas in Virginia.

"They (volunteers) do it all," he continued. "They are responsible for emptying the bins and taking the line to recycling centers, including at Bass Pro Shops and some of our regional offices. From there it goes to Berkley."

Regular monitoring is a must, he explained, because some put trash in the bins, and birds and other wildlife sometimes go into them, get tangled, and die, if baffles are not included.

Why is discarded monofilament a problem? Here's what the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says at its Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program (MRRP) website page:

"Most monofilament is non-biodegradable and can last hundreds of years, depending on environmental conditions.

"Because it is thin and often clear, it is very difficult for birds and animals to see and they can easily brush up against it and become entangled in it. Once entangled, they may become injured, may drown, may become strangled, or may starve to death.

"Many animals also ingest fishing line. One recovered sea turtle was found to have consumed 500 feet of heavy duty fishing line."

But when the line is sent to Berkley, it is made into fish habitat structures, as well as raw plastic pellets, which can be used to make tackle boxes, spools for line, and toys. Discarded monofilament , however, is not used to make more fishing line.

"By recycling line, we are enhancing fishing," Dunnavant said.

For more information, check out VDGIF, FWC's MRRP, Texas Monofilament Recovery & Recyling, and the Berkley Conservation Institute online.

Wednesday
Jul202016

Volunteers Bring Texas' Lake Livington 'Back to Life'

Too often, fisheries habitat projects by non-government groups are limited or even shut down because of a lack of funding. With that in mind, bass clubs and other organizations would do well to follow the example of Lake Livingston Friends of Reservoirs (LLFoR).

The goal is "to bring this lake back to life," according to Tom McDonough, project director for. "This used to be one of the best bass lakes in the United States, and we want to make it that again."

But McDonough realized that sustaining a 10-year commitment to establish aquatic vegetation on the 83,000-acre water supply impoundment near Houston will require more than occasional grants from Friends of Reservoirs and others. A funding-raising raffle helped some, but it was formation of a Business Leaders Council (BLC) that likely will sustain the project.

 

In just two months, LLFoR is a quarter of the toward its goal of recruiting 20 companies, local governments, and even individuals to donate $500 a year for the nine remaining years of the project.

"The BLC donations will be key going forward, as we most likely cannot apply to FoR for a grant every year," McDonough said. "This will provide us bridge funding and gives us the flexibility to do some funding of items that the federal government will not allow grant funds to be used for."

Thus far, work has focused on propagating and planting water willows for the coalition that has 23 partners, including six school districts, Texas Black Bass Unlimited (TBBU), Onalaska Bass Club, and Polk County Hookers, as well as Trinity River Authority, Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW), and Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership severing as advisers.

Plantings by volunteer students and teachers were planned for May and August of this year, while McDonough hoped that anglers and others would wade into the action in between those two months. The goal is to put in 10,000 plants a year, with TBBU paying for production of a video, both to promote LLFoR's work and to provide guidance for volunteers.

All of the vegetation to this point has been water willows, but McDonough said that other species might be added as well, including bulrush.  "This plant is  grass carp resistant and can grow from the shoreline into three to five feet of water," he said.

Both the natural aging of the lake and the illegal introduction of grass carp contributed to the fishery's decline.