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Entries in Virginia (20)


Meet These Lesser Known Cousins of Black Bass

As bass anglers, we tend to develop tunnel vision as we focus on the fish that we love to catch. We might know that black bass are members of the sunfish family, along with bluegill and "perch" (green sunfish), but that's about it.  The family, however, is considerably larger than that, as this report from Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries reveals:

This summer, biologists returned to sample the acidic, dark-water swamps and beaver ponds in southeast Virginia.  Their quarry: a 2-inch cousin of the black bass and state endangered species known as the blackbanded sunfish (Enneachanthus chatedon). 

Blackbanded sunfish occurs in beaver ponds and swamps of southeastern Virginia.The sunfish prefers shallow portions of ponds that are thick with submerged aquatic vegetation, including bladderwort, watermilfoil, and coontail. By dragging a dipnet in this vegetation, biologists found the sunfish, as well as other members of a unique fish community adapted to these waters.  They include bluespotted sunfish (E. gloriosus), redfin pickerel (Esox americanus), mud sunfish (Acantharchus pomotis), and warmouth (Lepomis gulosus).

Biologists sampled 11 sites and found a new population of blackbanded sunfish and also new site for banded sunfish (E. obesus), one of three members of the genus Enneachanthus. Sampling over the last four years has increased the number of known blackbanded sunfish sites from 2 to the current 10. 


Virginia Stream Yields Potential World Record for 2-Pound Tippet

Curtis Fleming potentially set the new men’s 2-pound tippet-class world record for brown trout ( on May 28 with this 17-pound, 4-ounce fish he caught and released while fishing a feeder stream of the Big Cedar Creek in southwestern Virginia.

Fleming took the trout on a  woolly bugger and needed only 5 minutes to bring it to net. He released it after it was properly documented and weighed. The current IGFA record is 12 pounds, 8 ounces.


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.


Critics Fear Desalinization Plant Would Damage Chickahominy River

A proposal by James City County to build a desalinization plant  near the Chickahominy River's confluence with the James is not sitting well with many who fear adverse consequences for the bass fishery and the ecosystem in general.

Critics suggest that the plant, which probably wouldn't be built for a decade at Waterfront Park, likely would force closing of a public launch and restrict access to Gordon's Creek. It also would result in dumping of thousands of gallons of brine daily into the river as potable drinking water is created through reverse osmosis.

In other words, a tidal river already retreating before saltwater intrusion would die a much quicker death.

"How is it we can spend millions, tens of millions on storm water 'To Save the Bay (Chesapeake Bay)' and yet you are willing to kill this river for the absolute reverse logic?" asked Joe Swanenburg, who has lived near the river for nearly 40 years.

His comments came in response to a public meeting presentation in which cost was given as one of the considerations for choosing the Chickahominy for the $128 million plant instead of the James and the York.

"We could catch largemouth bass all day long," Swanenburg said, in recalling how the river already has changed. "Now we catch flounder and put out crab pots. Lily pads covered and provided cover in all the shallows. Now saltwater marsh grass grows."

But if water supply is to remain adequate for the area's growing population, a desalinization plant seems the only option, as the state tightens restrictions on withdrawals from the aquifer.

Regional groundwater levels have declined by two to four feet on average every year for roughly 100 years, according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Although precipitation feeds groundwater, only about an inch of Virginia's 40 inches of annual rainfall actually enters the aquifer. Human consumption is outpacing regeneration, creating the need for another water supply source.


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.