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Entries in tournament fishing (24)

Friday
Jul012016

Happy Fourth of July from Activist Angler

Thursday
Jun162016

Catch and Release is 'Cruel'; Yet Another Anti-Fishing Strategy

 

Here is something that you didn’t know: You are a hypocrite if you practice catch and release.

That’s right. If you care enough to turn a fish loose after you catch it, then you should be smart enough to realize that you shouldn’t catch it in the first place.

Don’t laugh. That’s a strategy by animal rights activists in this country to kill recreational fishing. Twice now it’s been used in comments at my Activist Angler website. The latest was in response to a post of mine that ridiculed PETA for distorting facts to support its anti-fishing ideology.

(Go here to see what PETA is saying.)

I was accused of being so steeped in a “pro-fishing, pro-industry dogma” that I have lost perspective. “Attempting to demonize people who are concerned about the ethics of sport fishing is a clear act of bigotry,” said commenter Rob Russell.

“Any thoughtful angler will reach a point where he or she desires to lessen their impacts on fish. When you engage in premeditated C&R, when your only goal is ‘sport’ (gratification), how do you rationalize putting a fish’s life at risk?

“If you are not concerned about this, then you have some thinking to do.”

Well, Rob, I have been thinking about it, and I am concerned. And if you fish, you should be concerned too. As irrational as this ploy seems, it already has worked in Europe.

The Swiss Animal Welfare Act of 2008 makes catch-and-release illegal because “it is in conflict with the dignity of the fish and its presumed ability to suffer and feel pain.” A similar rule has been in place since the 1980s in Germany, where anglers also must take a course in fish handling before they can obtain a license.

“The argument runs (in Germany) that it is legally acceptable to go fishing only if one has the intention to catch fish for food,” say the authors of a disturbing study, “A Primer on Anti-Angling Philosophy and Its Relevance for Recreational Fisheries in Urbanized Societies.”

In other words, you can have fun catching fish in Germany, but don’t tell anyone--- and you must keep the fish. Tournament fishing is not allowed and economic benefits are not a sufficient justification for fishing.

 “It all boils down to the individual benefits experienced by the angler, and here food provision is currently the only acceptable reason,” the authors add.

Think that can’t happen here, a country of nearly 40 million licensed anglers? Think again, and don’t be misled by the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans approve of legal fishing and support using fish for food.

The authors of that study discovered that when people are asked whether they approve of recreational fishing for sport, answers change dramatically. Twenty-five to 30 percent view angling for sport as cruel in more urbanized states such as Colorado and Arizona, while about 20 percent feel the same way in more rural states, including Alaska and the Dakotas.

And then there are the useful idiots. They fish but are so narrow-minded that they support anti-fishing activists in this campaign.

The second commenter at my website said this: “Sport fishing for catch-and-release should be outlawed! We are working to keep fish for real fishermen who enjoy the taste and food. We need to keep these so called ‘sport fishermen’ out of Minnesota lakes!”

How do we combat this strategy? We don’t engage in the false argument that catch-and-release is just one step on the road to enlightenment and that, if we really care, we must stop fishing for sport. That’s like trying to answer the question “Do you still beat your wife?” and not sound guilty. An attempt to answer either instantly puts the responder on the defensive.

The reality is that catch-and-release is a conservation practice, not an action prompted by concern for the welfare of an individual fish. Since B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott popularized the practice during tournaments in the 1970s, it has been embraced by anglers worldwide as a way to sustain fisheries. And it’s working. For example, Florida anglers keep less than 10 percent of the bass that they catch, with the vast majority released so that they can continue to reproduce, as well as be caught again.

And let’s not forget the value that we derive from catching and releasing those fish.  Yes, fish as food nourishes the body, but fishing for fun nourishes the spirit. During this chaotic and angry time in our nation’s history, nothing is more important.  

Wednesday
Jun012016

BASSFest Offers Family Fun and Outdoors Expo June 8-12

Thousands of fishing fans are expected to gather in Durant, Okla., to celebrate summer during the third annual GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest presented by Choctaw Casino Resort June 8-12.
 
In addition to cheering on their favorite professional anglers competing in the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Lake Texoma, BASSfest visitors will be able to enjoy an outdoors expo, where the newest boats, motors, fishing tackle, lures and other sporting goods will be on display and for sale. On Saturday, June 11, Bassmaster University will be in full swing, offering more than 20 must-attend seminars taught by Bassmaster Elite Series pros and B.A.S.S. staff.
 
Fishing fans and their families are invited to discover everything BASSfest — all free and open to the public. Following are 30 things to see and do at BASSfest in Oklahoma.
 
1. Watch the competitors take off. On Wednesday and Thursday, June 8-9, the full field of 108 competitors will take off from Burns Run East Campground at 6:15 a.m. to fish Lake Texoma. The field will be cut to the Top 50 anglers on Friday, and on Sunday, the Top 12 anglers will take off from the same dock in hopes of earning the $100,000 first prize.

2. Cheer on your favorite college team. Anglers from more than 40 universities will compete on Lake Murray in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Wild Card presented by Bass Pro Shops on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The College Series weigh-in on Saturday will take place on the main event stage at Choctaw Casino Resort and will determine which teams will earn a berth in the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship.

3. Be social. Tell us you’re here! Use the hashtag #BassElite on Twitter, Instagram and Vine to share your photos and videos, and on Facebook join the discussion at https://www.facebook.com/bass/. On Saturday, take a photo with our Snapchat filter and share it with BASS_Nation. We’ll share the photos on Bassmaster.com!

4. Get out on the water. Find out what it’s like to cruise in a new bass boat by experiencing the free demo rides offered after takeoff Friday, Saturday and Sunday by the Skeeter Performance Boats Demo Tour, Yamaha’s Demo Tour, Mercury ProXS Demo Tour, the Triton Demo Tour and the Nitro Boats Demo Tour. Free shuttles will be available from the Choctaw Casino.
 
5. Win a chance to fish with Randy Howell. Enter for a chance to fish with 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion Randy Howell! The trip includes a fishing trip with Howell, hotel, rental car, airfare for one, plus $500 cash. The winner will also take home a Triton 17TX bass boat with Mercury 60HP 4-Stroke engine and some of Howell’s gear, including items from companies such as Lowrance, Power-Pole, Gamma lines, Daiwa and Bass Pro Shops! The prize is worth approximately $30,000! Enter at the B.A.S.S. booth or online at Bassmaster.com.
 
6. Hone your fishing skills. The Berkley Bass Tank will be at the outdoors expo with free seminars about how to use different types of lures, including Berkley’s new David Fritts-designed crankbaits. Also, be sure to check out the Berkley Experience trailer for interactive skill challenges, knot-tying competitions and Berkley bait demonstrations.
 
7. Honor our military. Friday is Military Appreciation Day at the outdoors expo. Show your military ID at the B.A.S.S. booth for a free, limited edition hat. GEICO will also be giving away special sunglasses; Berkley and Academy Sports + Outdoors will also have a free gift for active military and veterans; and A.R.E. Accessories will be offering an additional $25 coupon to all military members with their IDs. All while supplies last.

8. Score lots of freebies. Make your way through the expo, as many booths will offer free giveaways. Minn Kota will be registering fans to win a great Minn Kota product. And, Carhartt will offer chances to win Carhartt-branded prizes at its booth.
 
9. Enjoy Bassmaster LIVE! Get updates from Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders on the Jumbotron, as well as live shots from the expo with Dave Mercer on Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
 
10. Spend time at the outdoors expo. More than 40 national and local exhibitors, including a variety of food and beverage vendors, will be on site. Children can also enjoy inflatables, canvas art and appearances by "Frozen" and "Star Wars" characters at the Choctaw Event Center.
 
11. Class is in session. Bassmaster University will convene on Saturday, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., offering how-to seminars. Learn secrets from the Elite Series pros and Bassmaster staff to improve your skills. Topics include bait techniques, lure presentations, electronics and motors, flipping, pitching and more. New topics begin every half-hour. Visit Bassmaster.com/Bassfest for Bassmaster University details, including seminar topics, locations and times.

12. Build your own bait. Sign up at the Toyota booth to build your own bass lure. You can also play the Toyota puzzle challenge for a chance to win a Bass Pro Shops gift card. While you’re there, check out all of the options on the newest Tundras, Tacomas and Camrys.
 
13. Try your hand at bean bag toss. The Academy Sports + Outdoors tent will house promotional giveaways, a ‘Text to Win’ contest for great prizes including a $500 Academy Sports + Outdoors gift card and a spot to test your bean bag toss skills.
 
14. Tech talk. Stop by the Livingston Lures booth to learn about its sound-producing lure technology and to check out lures for purchase.
 
15. Test your luck. Play the Guess the Gecko dice game at the GEICO booth for a chance to win a $200 gas card. And, be sure to meet all of the GEICO pros available for autographs Saturday!
 
16. Shallow-water savvy. Power-Pole will display various models of shallow-water anchors at the outdoors expo, including the Pro Series and the Micro.

17. Play Fantasy Fishing. Fans can choose their Top 5 Elite anglers for a chance to win the first-place event prize of a $2,500 Bass Pro Shops gift card, second-place event prize of a GoPro Hero 4 Black camera, or the grand prize (for the full season) that includes a Triton boat and Yamaha motor. Visit Bassmaster.com/Fantasy to learn more.

18. Follow the competition. Fans can keep up with the tournament all during BASSfest by visiting Bassmaster.com, downloading the Bassmaster News App or keeping up with BASSTrakk. All platforms offer fans up-to-the-minute information. 

19. Cheer on the 2016 class of Bassmaster High School All-Americans. The Bassmaster All-American Fishing Team has been invited to participate in a special tournament Saturday on Lake McGee. Each All-American angler will be paired with an Elite Series pro for the one-day derby with weigh-in at Choctaw Casino Resort.

20. Spin to win. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the B.A.S.S. expo booth, visitors can win Bassmaster branded prizes by taking a turn at the Spin ‘N’ Win wheel.
 
21. Get some new swag. Stop by the HUK Performance Fishing trailer to buy official Bassmaster branded clothing, as well as your summer fishing attire. Check out the latest line of fishing wear from Huk Performance Fishing that includes UV protection for those sunny days, moisture wicking capabilities to keep you comfortable and anti-microbial technology to keep you from smelling like your catch. Also on display will be Huk rain gear, headwear and its newly released women’s clothing line.
 
22. Celebrate Father’s Day early. Visit the Shimano trailer to sign up for a special Father’s Day contest where the grand prize includes an interview with Dave Mercer on the Elite Series stage before the final day’s weigh-in. Dads can also have their favorite Shimano reels serviced free.
 
23. Upgrade your truck. Stop by the A.R.E. Accessories booth to see what a new truck cap can offer you. After that, head over to Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels to enter for a chance to win a free set of Dick Cepek tires.
 
24. Keep your Bassmaster Magazines coming. Stop by the B.A.S.S. Membership booth to become a B.A.S.S. member or renew to get a selection of all types of free gifts.
 
25. Prepare for camping season. Head over to Go RVing to check out various options for your next camper. You can also get your picture on a cover of Bassmaster Magazine and enter to win a free cooler.
 
26. Fill your autograph book. Celebrity bass pros will be on hand for autograph sessions, courtesy of the expo exhibitors.
 
27. Get into the drama of Elite Series weigh-ins. Cheer on your favorite anglers in person as they weigh in their day’s catch beginning Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Find a seat, then sit back, relax and enjoy!
 
28. Fan Frenzy. Get a seat close to the stage and you may catch some freebies thrown out by GEICO right before the weigh-in starts on Sunday.
 
29. Make your wish list. Head over to the Nitro, Triton and Skeeter tents to see the latest models of bass fishing boats. Stop by the Costa booth to try on the latest eyewear from Costa Del Mar sunglasses.
 
30. Watch the champion crowned. Come to the final weigh-in Sunday to see who will earn the trophy and a berth in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic.

Friday
May132016

Maryland Modifies New Regulations to Accommodate Potomac Tournaments

Responding to strong opposition from tournament anglers and organizations, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) quickly altered its new creel regulation for events on the Potomac River and Upper Chesapeake Bay, avoiding potentially catastrophic consequences for local economies.

But fishermen still are shaking their heads. They wonder about the wisdom of the agency's decision, even with a modification that is acceptable to  tournament organizations, including B.A.S.S. for its Elite Series event in August out of Charles County.

"It (original rule) caught us off guard. We were blind-sided," said Scott Sewell, conservation director for the Maryland B.A.S.S. Nation. "I started getting all kinds of calls from people wondering what was going on.

"Since I'm the conservation director, they thought that I was involved in the decision. I wasn't."

Long-time Potomac River guide Steve Chaconas added, "I don't feel the regulations are really needed. This action is blaming tournament anglers for a perceived issue."

For MDNR, the issue was more than three years of poor catch rates, it announced on March 15. Consequently, it intended to limit competitors fishing Maryland-based tournaments to a 5-fish bag with a 12-inch minimum, only one of which could be more than 15 inches, between June 16 and Oct. 31. "Heavy bass tend to die more than smaller bass in tournaments," the agency explained.

Backlash from B.A.S.S. and other organizers of major events was immediate.  "Although we understand Maryland DNR's desire to address a decline in the bass fisheries of the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay, obviously we could not conduct an Elite Series event on waters where anglers cannot weigh in their biggest catches," said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin.

"That would not be fair to the anglers, the fans, the hosts, or the sportfishing community." 

Following talks with Sewell  and others, MDNR, to its credit, quickly added an "Option 2" to the regulation. It does not restrict a competitor to one fish of more than 15 inches.

"The Department appreciates the input and has made modifications to the original possession restriction," the agency said.

"Option 2 requires directors to adhere to special conditions that minimize fish stress, thereby reducing fishing mortality. These special conditions have been modeled after those used in Florida bass fisheries."

Conditions include requiring directors to recover exhausted bass following a tournament and redistribute them to approved locations, as well as other actions to improve survival of large bass.

B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland said,  "I believe MDNR had the interest of the fishery at heart but took a few missteps when they tried to implement protective measures.

"They should have involved the tournament organizations more, early in the process, since they were the target audience and I think they might have avoided some of the conflict that we saw. 

"But they listened and adapted and came up with some options that will allow tournaments to continue under a special set of fish care protocols.  That's good for the resource and good for tournaments."

What mystifies Sewell, though, is why MDNR seemed to act unilaterally on this. "We have an outstanding relationship with them," he said. "I was really taken aback when they didn't consult us. I could have told them that they would be lighting a firestorm with this."

Additionally, the conservation director said little mention was made of a possible regulation change at the annual Black Bass Roundtable in February. "We talked about an aggressive stocking program, areas for catch-and-release only, and educating anglers on how to better care for their catch," he said.

Also at the roundtable, Chaconas added, "Keep in mind this action is not the way Maryland has been managing this fishery. They have previously managed by committee. That is, they send out surveys and take a lot of feedback before acting. In this case, the regulation was barely discussed with no outcome."

Both Sewell and Chaconas, meanwhile, pointed out that other factors  are having a more profound impact on the bass fishery than tournaments, with pollution and changes in submerged aquatic grasses among the foremost. They also believe that the bass fishery is healthier than MDNR has determined from its electrofishing surveys.

"The loss of milfoil and the increase in hydrilla are affecting surveys and the fishing," the guide said. "Anecdotally, the last two years have been my best. I have modified my tactics, which include avoiding grass and targeting hard cover and channel edges. This is successful for me until the hydrilla covers everything. I also target hard hydrilla edges at low tides, or deeper edges at any tide, or areas with scattered grass in front of hydrilla edges."

But even though rationale for and implementation of the regulation are questionable, Gilliland said that Option 2 could be helpful.

"We at B.A.S.S. have preached better fish care for years, but unfortunately there are still a lot of anglers and clubs that don't believe there is a need to follow our proven procedures because they don't believe delayed mortality exists, or they just don't care, which is even more sad," he said.

"Given the relatively low level of adoption of best management practices, these new rules will force the issue. Do it right or don't get the exemption from the new length limit."

While impact from tournaments on bass populations may be minimal, he added, "the negative social aspects of tournaments and fish kills that result are things that agencies have to deal with."

With non-tournament anglers often looking for ways to shut down competitions, MDNR's actions actually could benefit tournaments in the long-term, the national conservation director said. They force better fish-care practices and, thus, reduce chances that bad things will happen, as well as opportunities for critics to find fault.

"I think, over time, organizations will adopt and adapt and realize that a little pain was worth the gain," Gilliland said.

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.