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Entries in tournament fishing (20)

Tuesday
Mar082016

Is Stockpiling a Problem for Bass Fisheries? It Depends . . . 

Live-release boats prevent stockpiling of bass in the weigh-in areas.

Prompted by B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott,  anglers of the 1970s began to release their fish instead of kill them. During those early years, only the big picture was in focus, and it revealed bass fishermen to be stewards who cared about conserving the resource.

Then we began to closer examine our actions and their consequences, and we realized that not all of those released bass survived, including many caught in tournaments. We recognized that improper handling led to delayed mortality. We worked to increase survival rates by devising and promoting better ways to handle bass from lake to livewell to weigh-in stand and finally to release. In 2002,  B.A.S.S. compiled a "Keeping Bass Alive" handbook for anglers and tournament organizers.

We're not there yet, and likely never will be in terms of keeping all bass alive after they are released, but we've dramatically lowered delayed mortality rates through innovation and education.

And as we've responded to that challenge, we've noted yet another, this one specifically related to tournament fishing: Stockpiling.

Traditionally, the term referred to what the United States and USSR did with nuclear weapons during the Cold War or what survivalists continue to do with food, firearms, and precious metals. But during the past two decades or so, fisheries managers have recognized it as a phenomenon that occurs when all the bass are released near the weigh-in site following a tournament or two or three . . .

What's the problem with stockpiling? At a meeting last fall with Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) biologists, concerned anglers suggested that when bass are collectively released at a weigh-in site they become more susceptible to meat fishermen who catch and kill, as well as easier targets for future tournament anglers, resulting in increased  chances of stress, injury, and delayed mortality.

MDNR agreed that stockpiling can damage the overall health of a fishery, and Tony Prochaska, Inland Fisheries division manager, added that the issue likely is a national one. As evidence, he pointed out that 6 of 10 northeastern states that responded to questions about this issue said it is a concern.

Telemetry work conducted in the North East and Potomac rivers decades ago revealed that some fish will leave the release area, but about half may remain for a month or more. Out in California, a study conducted during the 1990s on Lake Shasta showed that largemouth bass moved less than three miles from where they were released. 

MDNR's tidal bass manager, Joe Love, says that the issue comes down to two questions:

1) Are too many fish being taken from one area, such as isolated streams and then released at a distant weigh-in site?

2) Are too many fish being released at a weigh-in area?

"We've found that the answer to both of these questions is that it depends on the weigh-in area," he said. "Specifically, it depends on the number of shore anglers fishing the weigh-in area, water quality in the area, and the distance of the weigh-in area from streams where the fish were taken."

Additional variables include the numbers and sizes of the fish weighed and the sizes and timing of the tournaments

Anglers and fisheries managers alike agree that there's an acceptable  loss or mortality of fish, Love added.  Otherwise there wouldn't be limits. But how much does stockpiling add to that loss, especially at popular sites where multiple weigh-ins are staged each season?

"Pinpointing the relative impact of a single factor is nearly impossible, making successful mitigation of that single factor improbable," the biologist said. "In combination with other factors affecting a fishery, though, stockpiling may affect a fishery if it increases the number of fish caught and released at the weigh-in site and the number of fish caught and eaten at the weigh-in site, both of which increases fishing mortality and reduces the proportion of big fish in a population."

Unlike habitat loss and other factors affecting the quality of a bass fishery, stockpiling likely can be managed. MDNR hopes to do that by having tournament directors specify what management practices they intend to use, such as spreading around weigh-in areas during a tournament trail and/or reducing possession limits.

"We also are working with some tournament organizations such as B.A.S.S. and PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America) to redistribute fish when they request assistance because of otherwise significant, undue harm to bass survival," Love said.

Because of so many variables, stockpiling is a more complex problem than delayed mortality, but fisheries managers and concerned anglers are working on it to better protect and enhance the nation's bass fisheries.

Wednesday
Dec302015

Speed Trap . . . Slow Down

 

This blind worship at the altar of speed bleeds into every aspect of our lives, especially for our children. Because we’ve learned we don’t have to wait, we dart recklessly in and out of traffic, cutting in front of other cars so we can launch from a stoplight one second before they do. We have no patience for waiting in lines, common courtesy, or even listening.

That’s why the attention span of students grows progressively shorter. That’s why movies must contain explosions, car chases, and gun battles if they expect to succeed at the box office. That’s why print media are on the decline, and that’s also why participation in fishing flattened in some states and declined in others during the first decade of the 21st century.

Actually “wait” for a fish to bite? No thank you!

Tournament angling has helped keep the sport vital, through its emphasis on faster boats and the need to cover as much water as possible during the hours of competition. Anglers “burn” spinnerbaits. Tackle innovators create reels with higher and higher gear ratios to speed retrieves even more. ESPN and other cable networks glamorize fishing events with helicopter coverage and heart-pounding music.

Am I a tournament angler? No, I am not. Competitors must put their fish in the boat as quickly and efficiently as possible. I like to play with mine, to watch them jump and tail-walk and, yes, sometimes throw the bait. If anything, I am the un-tournament angler.

I certainly do recognize the many contributions tournament fishermen have made to the sport, ranging from boat and tackle innovations to creation of a vocal constituency that finances and promotes conservation of our natural resources. I am an ardent supporter of fishing tournaments and happy to share the water with them.

Still, I believe faster is not always the best way in fishing, and from that I’ve learned it isn’t always the best way in life either. Those who don’t see that miss out on the many pleasures of the journey, as they focus single-mindedly on the destination. We each have only a limited amount of time in this life. Why rush it?

Excerpt from the essay "Speed Trap . . . Slow Down" in Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen.

Thursday
Dec032015

Inside Story on Michigan Monster Bronzeback

Greg Gasiciel wasn't expecting much in the way of fishing success when he made the 90-minute drive up to Michigan's Hubbard Lake to partner with long-time friend Scott Somerfield in a club tournament on Oct. 18. He had fished the 8,850-acre lake in Alcona County just once before, and that was for walleye through the ice. Plus, weather in that northern portion of lower Michigan already was cold and blustery.

"I just wanted to spend the day with my friend," said Gasiciel, a pharmacist in Standish. "It didn't matter where we were fishing."

As it turned out, though, it did matter. Late in a day that featured temperatures in the 20s, wind, rain, and light snow, Gasiciel felt a "punch to the shoulder" of his tired and aching body as the largest smallmouth ever caught in Michigan grabbed his Yamamoto green grub.

On a certified scale, the monster bronzeback weighed 9.33 pounds and measured 24.5 inches in length, breaking a record that was more than a century old. In 1906, W.F. Shoemaker claimed the previous record with a 9.25-pound smallie that he caught in Cheboygan County's Long Lake.

Gasiciel was throwing the grub with a 7-foot Bass Pro Shops XTS baitcasting rod, a Shimano Citica reel, and 14-pound Trilene XL green monofilament line. "If I had been using spinning gear, I think that I'd still be fighting it," he said.

The big bass grabbed the grub as Gasiciel and Somerfield were fishing a deep flat. The pharmacist wouldn't reveal what type of retrieve he was using, how deep he was fishing, or where in the lake they were. "I'm doing that out of respect for my fishing partner," he said, explaining that his long-time friend fishes that area regularly, while he was just there as a guest.

Following the jolting hit, which suggests the Gasiciel might have been swimming the bait, the fish "went down and would not stop stripping line," he recalled. "It just kept digging. I couldn't turn it or do anything. It was kicking my butt."

Even after he tightened the drag, the smallmouth kept taking line.

Thinking that the fish  was just a good-size keeper, Somerfield put down his rod and went for the net.

"But I said that we have to go after this fish," Gasiciel said. "He told me to stop messing around."

Finally, they did go after it.

"Once we closed the distance and were more vertical, then I finally could bring the fish up. When he netted the fish, all I heard was 'Holy Cow!'

"Then he told me that I had the new state Michigan record, and there was this eerie silence. We were freezing, snot was frozen to our noses, and we both just stood there processing what had happened.

"Then we snapped three quick photos, put the fish in the livewell and went back to fishing. That's the tournament mindset."

At the weigh-in site, tournament officials help Gasiciel get the fish weighed on a certified scale, and then he contacted Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The next day, a biologist verified the size of the fish bass that the Michigan angler decided to mount.

That record fish was the only smallmouth Gasiciel caught that day and his partner managed just one, meaning they didn't finish among the leaders in the Bass Anglers of the Sunrise Side tournament.  "There were two or three limits," the pharmacist said. "But, hey, I got big bass."

"This is additional evidence that Michigan truly has world-class bass fisheries,” said Jim Dexter, fisheries chief for the  Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "Smallmouth bass is one of the most popular, most sought-after sportfish in North America. Even though the Michigan state record stood for more than 100 years, we're excited to see the bar set even higher for those who set out to land this iconic fish."

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

Monday
Oct122015

Minnesota Allows Culling for Mille Lacs Bass Tournaments

In hopes of attracting larger tournaments that will generate more  revenue for local economies, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) will allow culling of bass at Mille Lacs. It already is legal in other lakes around the state.

"This is one of the ways DNR is actively responding to the economic needs of the Mille Lacs Lake area," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. "The change has potential economic benefits and will not hurt bass populations."

John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism, added, "Eliminating one of the hurdles to attracting more national bass fishing tournaments gives the Mille Lacs area another tool to draw national attention and help improve its economy."

The lake already is known nationally as one of the best bass fisheries, especially for smallmouths, with Bassmaster Magazine ranking it 10th in its top 100. But a regulation that forced competitors to keep their first six bass deterred tournament circuits, especially larger ones, from going there.

The rule restricting an angler to one bass of 18 inches or longer remains in effective. But now a tournament fisherman can cull smaller bass until he puts a limit in his livewell. Then he must stop fishing.

"A difference of only a few ounces often determines the winner of a bass tournament," MDNR said. "Having the ability to cull allows tournament anglers to keep the biggest fish that weigh the most."

Monday
Oct052015

Millions of Kids Want You to Take Them Fishing

Most who fish started as children younger than 12. That's confirmed by a "2015 Special Report on Fishing" from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation that pegs the number at "more than 85 percent."

More often than not, a parent, grandparent, or some other relative took them, not once but regularly. They developed passion for the sport because it was fun, as well as a challenge. It was  a connection to a mysterious underwater world inhabited by wondrous creatures. But they also embraced it because they shared those experiences with loved ones and, over time,  wonderful memories accumulated.

Of course, there are exceptions, and I am one of them. No one in my family fished. But at age 8, I went with my Cub Scouts pack on outing to a farm pond. I didn't catch a fish, but I was hooked for life. Two years later, we moved to a subdivision near a small lake, and the first thing on my wish list that Christmas was a rod-and-reel set that I saw in a comic book ad. I can't help but wonder, though, if  I would have found my way to fishing if we had not made that move. And what about other kids on other Cubs Scouts trips who never had a second opportunity to wet a line?

On the other hand, I made it a point to take my nieces fishing when they were young, yet none of them have much interest in the sport today. Either we embrace the sport, or we don't, for a myriad of reasons. But the more opportunities that we provide for participation, the better the future of fishing will be for all of us. As the study suggests, starting when kids are young is the best strategy. But we're also finding other ways, including high school and college fishing programs, such as those sponsored by B.A.S.S., and how-to classes, such as the Discover Nature series offered by the Missouri Department of Conservation. These activities benefit not just children who grew up fishing with family but those like me, who hunger for mentors to fish with them and share their knowledge of the sport.

And I'm not just saying that. The report reveals that 4.3 million kids want to try fishing.

Trevor Lo, meanwhile, is someone who learned young from his father, but was hungry for more. "I started competitively fishing local tournaments around the age of 14. I got involved in a local tournament trail hosted by other Hmong fishermen."

Later, he joined the University of Minnesota bass fishing team "in hopes of learning more about fishing different parts of the country, as well as seeing how I could do against other fishermen around my age."

Laura Ann Foshee

And it's not just boys who want more opportunities to fish either. The study reveals that half of first-time anglers are female, which is not a surprise to Laura Ann Foshee or Allyson Marcel.

Foshee helped start the Gardendale Rockets Bass Fishing Club in Georgia after seeing a high school competition at Smith Lake. "We had 60 people to show up at our first information meeting and ended up with a team of 18 anglers," said the only female member of the Bassmaster High School All-America Fishing Team.

"I love the challenge and the rush I get when I hook into a bass," she said. "In fishing, you are constantly trying to figure out the ever-changing patterns of the fish and learn new lakes, seasons, and techniques."

Thanks to her father, Marcel started fishing as soon as she was old enough "to hold a pole," and she was a charter member of the Nicholls State University's bass fishing team in Louisiana.

"I just love being on the water," she said. "There's no place I would rather be.

"Usually I fish with my Dad, brother, or boyfriend so not only am I doing something I love, but I'm doing it with someone I love."

And what do young anglers say is the best way to grow the sport?

"I would encourage parents to take their children fishing, as well as educate them in regards to wildlife and the outdoors," said Lo, who also urged students to join fishing clubs.

Foshee added, "When it comes to girls getting into fishing, I think the biggest obstacle isn't physical strength . . . but a perception that fishing is a boys sport . . . I can't tell you how much of an inspiration it is to see female anglers like Trait Crist catching the big bass in the Open and Allyson Marcel win the College National Championship. My dream is to be the first to win the Bassmaster Classic!"

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