Winter Conditions Present Unique Challenges

Winter Conditions Present Unique Challenges for Fishery Management

By MDIFW Fisheries Biologist Kevin Dunham
from The Fishing Wire

Winter fisheries management is chilly


The fall of 2018 was a challenging one meteorologically for conducting some fishery management activities. After all, a large portion of fisheries biologists’ daily duties takes place outdoors (Yes!) and, somewhat perversely, most don’t mind working in adverse weather and actually find it “relaxing”. To a point.

Trap netting efforts in Maine this year, which began during the end of September, were fairly uneventful other than viciously windier than normal conditions on the water. Nothing we’d never dealt with during normal day to day working situations though. However, mid-November quickly turned abnormally snowy and cold and brought a few extra challenges to our annual Nesowadnehunk Lake trap netting operation.

Originally a planned four-day effort, in which the Enfield Hatchery crew would arrive on the fourth day to strip eggs from captured female brook trout to incubate and raise for future trout stocking efforts. There was a layer of half-inch shell ice when we launched our boat on the first day, but no ice in the areas we set the nets. Then things turned interesting. Overnight temperatures plummeted and a snow storm moved in, while launching the boat on the second day in even thicker ice with slush on top, our hopes of this being a four-day operation evaporated.

The day quickly turned into an icy, snowy scramble to capture enough brook trout before the air temperature again dropped enough to prevent the hatchery from successfully spawning them. Oh, and as an added incentive we really didn’t want the slush-ice, which now spread to one of our net locations, to freeze our nets in place! Providence was with us, we captured the bare minimum number of female brook trout we wanted for the number of eggs needed.

Despite the swirling snowstorm, temperatures held just above freezing and the crew from Enfield Hatchery was able to strip the eggs, though in less than ideal conditions lake-side. Getting one of the nets free from the slush-ice was a time-consuming, laborious task that was a new experience for all and will forever be linked in our minds to the 2018 Nesowadnehunk Lake trap netting operation.

The historically cold temperatures did not let up and created more challenges in late November. Fish stocking access was hindered throughout the region by unplowed logging roads and ice covered ponds. One pond in particular, Flatiron Pond in Cedar Lake Twp., was to be stocked with fall yearling brook trout but Mother Nature caught up with the hatchery’s busy stocking schedule. Deep snow covered every possible route in to the pond and Flatiron became inaccessible to the stocking truck.

In most circumstances we would have suspended stocking until next year, but this is the winter where we had planned to evaluate the stocking program and conduct aerial angler counts. Two opportunities that would not come around again for several years. We quickly hatched a plan to use snowmobiles and tag sleds to haul coolers full of brook trout to be released in the pond.

This was a first for us, using snowmobiles to stock fish. After breaking a trail from the closest plowed road to the pond we were ready to meet the stocking truck to load up with fish. Ironically, the bitterly cold November weather worked in our favor this time. Temperatures had been so cold all November that a covering of solid, seven-inch black ice had formed on Flatiron Pond and we were able to drive our snowmobiles onto the ice which saved us from having to hand-carry all the fish from shore. After cutting a sufficiently sized hole in the ice we stocked 220 brook trout which will provide a great ice angling opportunity this winter. Those are just a couple examples of challenging environmental conditions fisheries biologist sometimes encounter. I’m not complaining however, as a wise, retired fisheries biologist often said (usually during the worst of conditions) “we have the best job in the world”.

Excuses For Not Catching Fish

I can always come up with lots of excuses when I don’t catch bass. But fishing tournaments and looking at results from other tournaments on the same lake the same day tell me they are just excuses.

The fish just didn’t bite, it was a bad day. The water was too muddy, or it was too clear. The weather was too sunny, or it was too cloudy. I fished the wrong depth, lure, place or speed. There was no current or there was too much current.

The water level was too low, or it was too high. The water was rising, or it was dropping. I didn’t spend enough time on the lake. I just don’t fish this lake enough. I’m getting old and can’t fish hard like I used to.

All are good excuses, but they don’t seem to apply to everybody else that fished the same day, for some reason. When I do everything I can think of for eight hours and catch only two bass in eight hours, like I did last Sunday, its hard to admit I am just not that good a fisherman.

Good fishermen don’t make excuses, they just figure out how to catch bass. Even though everyone, even the top pros, have bad days and don’t do well, they are much more consistent than I am, and that is true of most club fishermen. There are different levels of expertise.

I get to fish with some of the top pros in the US doing “research” for magazine articles. The BASS Elite Series and FLW Tour have some of the best bass fishermen in the world on them. Of those pros, I have spent the day in the boat with 11 guys on the Elite Series and seven of the Tour guys.

I have written about 275 Map of the Month articles in Georgia Outdoor News magazine in the past 23 years and about 100 in Alabama Outdoor News over the past eight years since it started. Not only do I go out with the top pros, I do those articles with other good fishermen, including local tournament fishermen, college and high school fishermen and men and women that guide on the lake.

Looks like I would learn how to catch fish. And I do learn and pick up tips and skills from them. But all of them have one thing in common, they go out and figure out what the fish are doing that day and are adaptable. They do not keep doing the same thing and getting the same bad results as I tend to do.

I think the really good fishermen have some “sixth sense“ for finding and catching bass. I get little glimmers of it some days, just knowing if I do certain things they will work even before I go fishing. But it is not consistent.

Some say that sixth sense comes from time on the water and experience. Maybe for some, but it has not worked that way for me.

Way back in 1983 I almost qualified for the BASS Classic through the federation route, missing going by one two-pound bass in a three day Regional tournament. I thought I was pretty good, so I signed up for the Redman Trail, the BFL now, the next year. After fishing all six in 1984 without getting a check I thought it was first year jitters.

I fished all six the next year and again did not get a check. That made me decide I am a pretty good club fisherman but not above that level. Some trips make me wonder about being good even at that level, as the results below show.

Lake Guntersville Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Lake Guntersville Fishing Report

Check out these weekly updated reports for selected lakes in Georgia and Alabama Lakes Fishing Report. If any guides or fishermen do weekly reports and would like them published on my site please contact me: ronnie@fishing-about.com

Captain Mike with nice Guntersville bass

Captain Mike with nice Guntersville bass

ishing Report, Lake Guntersville 1-12-19

If you think the fishing is tough these guys will beg to differ as they put a stringer of 5 best of
32 lbs. in the boat on 1-11-19. The weather has just been perfect for the winter bite, some
cold, some rain and the bass are roaming and feeding like its March and the big fish are doing
there thing. This might be the best fishing for a January we have seen in many years.

We have continued to fish about 4 different baits, Picasso A-Rigs, Picasso spinner baits, SPRO
Aruka Shad rattle baits and SPRO Little John 60 square bills. Bring yourself 4 rods and you will
have a chance to hang some big fish. It is a location thing as you can go a few hours before
you find a group of them but when you do its on. Fishing 4 to 10 ft. of water scattered grass
or cover, and you will eventually find the fish.

Come fish with me I have guides and days available to fish with you, I am booking up for the
spring act now and let’s get you scheduled. No one will treat you better or work harder to see
you have a great day on the water. We fish with great sponsor products, Duckett Fishing,
Lowrance Electronics. T&H Marine, Boat Logix mounts Vicious Fishing, Ranger Boats,
Navionics mapping, Tight-Line jigs and more.

Email: bassguide@comcast.net
Phone: 256 759 2270
Captain Mike Gerry

Robinson Preserve

Florida Preserve Transformed to Host Juvenile Snook

From Bay Soundings
from The Fishing Wire

Bald Eagles


Robinson Preserve, located on Tampa Bay, is designed for both humans and wildlife. Photo by Becky Young

Most restoration projects in the Tampa Bay region are designed to do just that – restore natural systems that had been damaged by humans over the decades.

Manatee County is taking a different tack at the second phase of enhancements at Robinson Preserve, one of the county’s most popular parks. Instead of trying to rebuild the native pine flatwoods that once dominated western portions of Manatee County, they’re creating a rich mosaic of habitats specifically to meet the needs of juvenile snook while evolving into future habitats.

“We could probably build the most beautiful pine flatwoods in the world – which is a very difficult job – but they wouldn’t be particularly useful,” says Damon Moore, manager of the county park system’s ecological and marine resources division. Due to development and habitat fragmentation there aren’t viable migratory pathways from other pine flatwoods for many species to naturally repopulate. Sea level rise would also threaten pine flatwoods in the future.

On the other hand, the expansion at Robinson Preserve is the perfect location to build juvenile snook habitat, a highly charismatic species that has very specific needs to survive its first – and most critical – year after spawning.

Starting from scratch on land that is currently uplands allowed the county and its multiple partners to resculpt the property to meet those specific needs. At the same time, creating wetlands also provided fill material to build higher land that will stay above water as sea level inches higher, Moore said.

“We’re creating upland habitats now that we expect to evolve as sea levels rise while still providing maximum ‘edges’ and gentle slopes that will become habitat for juvenile fish as well as birds now,” Moore said.

It’s not the first time habitat hasn’t been replaced by “like with like” because scientists are focusing on the oligohaline – or low-salinity – habitat that is most at risk with sea level rise, notes Stephanie Powers, staff environmental scientist with the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s SWIM (Surface Water Improvement and Management program). “Those low-salinity habitats are critical to juvenile fish,” she notes.

Another advantage to starting from scratch was the ability to build two acres of oyster reef habitat using trucks rather than volunteers carrying bags of oyster shell, Moore adds. “We got weeks or months of work done in a half-day because we were working on dry land before we opened the channel and let the water in the new wetlands area.”

Trees growing in the uplands being transformed to wetlands were very carefully placed in the project area to provide the detritus that fuels the growth of fish at the bottom of the food chain as well as hiding places for snook and other juvenile fish that will grow up to become recreationally valuable resources.

Working with Tim McDonald, a research scientist at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as well as fisheries experts from Mote Marine Laboratory, Manatee County hopes to quantify the benefits of improving habitat specifically for fisheries.

“If we can add to the quantity of snook available for fishermen later on, it will be a boon to the economy of the entire county,” Moore said. “Charlie (Hunsicker, the county’s director of parks and natural resources) has a very clear view that our work should also improve the region’s economy.”

Along with benefits to wildlife through carefully planned habitats, multiple human enhancements aimed at the 300,000 yearly park goers are planned. Multiple trails, including separate areas for bicyclers and walkers or runners, are planned along with kayak launches conveniently located near the parking lot. A giant treehouse – called the NEST or Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology Center – is open for educational programs and private events.

Birders already abound at the park, which features nesting eagles and multiple species of herons, storks, ducks and pelicans – along with occasional rarities including bald eagles and roseate spoonbills.

The $17 million expansion is underway with funding and support from multiple regional and national agencies. The land was purchased by the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, restoration funded through the SWFWMD, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (in part through RESTORE Act dollars awarded to the Tampa Bay Estuary Program) and the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund, as well as several county agencies including the tree trust fund, general revenues and phosphate severance fund.

Volunteers also play a major role in the reconstruction and maintenance of native plants. It’s been the site for multiple events hosted by the Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay Estuary Programs. When a “champion” gumbo limbo tree at De Soto National Memorial Park blew down in Hurricane Irma, volunteers rooted pieces of the 80-year-old tree and transplanted them to higher ground at Robinson.

The goal is to replace coastal wetlands that once existed but can’t be rebuilt now because they’re housing developments,” Powers said. “This project shows how we can all work together as a team to create ecosystems that will last for generations.”

Quick Snook Facts

While adult snook are considered major predators, juvenile snook are less likely to survive their first year without very specific habitat:

Proximity to open waters. Adult snook spawn in the Gulf, and the juveniles instinctively search for nearby low-salinity backwaters.
Food sources. Shoreline vegetation and woody debris boost the abundance of fish like minnows, small shrimp, mosquito fish and small crustaceans that feed on detritus – which then become food for snook.
Energy conservation. Because juvenile snook can grow as quickly as 0.15 millimeters per day, they need to turn food into body weight. Their ideal habitat is protected from wave and wind energy.
Thermal refuge. Snook of all ages are very temperature sensitive and will die if temperatures drop to below about 50 degrees. To keep them warm, the preserve will include holes where water temperatures are less likely to fluctuate and variable bottom colors that reflect or absorb heat.
Protection from predators. Snook are dominant predators once they’re adults, but as juveniles, they’re easily eaten by other fish. The waterfront entrance to the preserve is designed to provide physical barriers for large fish as well as places for the smallest fish to hide because they can be cannibalized by larger juveniles.
Eye protection. Juvenile snook have sensitive eyes and need vegetation to shade themselves. The preserve’s vegetation is being planted to meet this need, with artificial shade provided as necessary.

Learn more about Tampa Bay at Bay Soundings here:

Griffin Club Results for 2018

Final results from local clubs are compiled for 2018. In the Flint River Bass Club, Potato Creek Bassmasters and Spalding County Sportsman Club members compete all year for points at monthly tournaments, and the top six at the end of the year are awarded plaques and bragging rights. All three use a point system rather than total weight but we keep up with both.
In the Flint River club we award 100 points for first place in each tournament down to 10 for tenth place. There are also 20 tournament attendance points and ten meeting attendance points for each month. After 12 tournaments, I won with 1440 points weighing in 62 bass with as total weight of 112.03 pounds. I was the only member to fish all 12 tournaments so that made a big difference.

Alex Gober placed second with 670 points, 25 bass and 40.81 pounds and his grandfather Don Gober was third with 650 points and 34 bass weighing 45.3 pounds. Niles Murray was fourth with 590 points, 17 bass, 28.39 pounds, fifth was Chuck Croft with 550 points, 18 bass, 24.47 pounds and Doug Acree placed sixth with 470 points, 11 bass and 22.21 pounds. Brandon Bailey had big fish for the year with a 6.29 pounder.

In Potato Creek the same point system is used. Lee Hancock placed first with 920 points weighing in 56 bass at 98.97 pounds, Kwong YU was second with 880 points, 48 bass and 84.57 pounds and Raymond English was third with 805 points, 49 bass and 81.46 pounds.

Doug Acree placed fourth with 780 points, 49 bass, 94.47 pounds, I was fifth with 730 points, 49 bass, 83.78 pounds and Tom Tanner came in sixth with 610 points, 35 bass and 68.38 pounds. Jack Ridgeway had big fish for the year with a 5.90 pounder.

In Spalding County, points are different, with 25 for first down to one for 25, and bonus points are awarded for meeting and tournament attendance as well as big fish and limits in each tournament. Raymond English placed first with 300 points weighing in 69 bass at 116.32 pounds.

Jay Gerson placed second with 281 points, 58 bass, 88.29 pounds, I was third with 272 points, 57 bass, 107.45 pounds, Kwong Yu came in fourth with 241 points, 48 bass, 93.7 pounds, Wayne Teal was fifth with 219 points, 46 bass, 85.21 pounds and Billy Roberts was sixth with 238 points, 51 bass and 76.23 pounds. Wayne Teal had big fish with a 5.91 pounder.

If those results seem low, join one, two or all three clubs and show us how to do it. Entry fees and dues are low, and we do not pay out much money in the tournaments, but we have a lot of fun and share information after each tournament.

All three clubs are starting our year now. Flint River meets the first Tuesday of each month at Bryans, Potato Creek the Monday after the first Tuesday at Panda Bear and Sportsman Club the third Tuesday at Bryans. Potato Creek fishes the Saturday after the meeting and the other two on the Sunday after the meeting. All three clubs fish some two day tournaments, too.

Flint River met this week and is fishing this Sunday at Lanier, Potato Creek meets Monday and fishes next Saturday at Sinclair and Sportsman Club meets on the 15th and fishes the following Sunday at Jackson. You can fish alone or with a partner of your choosing that is a member of the club. And we welcome fishermen with no boats, we have more than enough to find you someone to fish with.

I joined the Sportsman Club in 1974, Flint River in 1978 and Potato Creek three year ago. I love club fishing and try to fish every tournament in all three. I will keep fishing all three as long as I am able!

New York’s Finger Lakes Country

A Visit to New York’s Finger Lakes Country
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from the Fishing Wire

Fall is a great time to be in Upstate New York. The cool breezes are blowing off the giant lakes, the leaves are turning, and the yard-long salmon and steelhead are pushing out of the open water and up into the tributary rivers where they provide some amazing action and draw some amazing crowds.

If that’s not enough, 40-inch muskies are coming out of their summer doldrums, and smallmouth bass are stuffing themselves into football proportions prior to getting iced in for the winter.

I had the opportunity to make a brief tour through the area thanks to an invitation from the Western New York Regional Development Council and Buffalo-based Hart Hotels to take a look at a public/private partnership being touted as a way to bring economic development, including recreational fishing and boating jobs as well as tourism, to the less-developed areas of the state. Over a week’s visit, we toured three prime fishing/tourism locations. Today, we have a look at Watkins Glen and the Seneca Lake region, southwest of Syracuse.

Watkins Glen, located on the south end of Seneca Lake, is part of the Finger Lake Country, a bear-claw scratch deep into the rolling hardwood terrain. There are lakes everywhere in this country, and most of them are stiff with fish. I met with guide Mark Moskal here, who operates not only a guide service but also a kayak rental operation on Seneca.

“We depend on visitors here for our income about 8 months a year,” he told me. “When the tourists leave in November, I look for odd jobs until spring—the hotel operation has been huge for us at bringing in more customers.”

Moskal works not only Seneca but also Cuyuga, Owasco, Waneta and Keuka lakes and the streams that feed them, depending on what’s biting where.

“Come at the right time and you can choose between brown and rainbow trout, lake trout, Atlantic salmon, muskies, smallmouth, largemouth and walleye,” says Moskal. “There’s outstanding fishing for all of them within 20 miles of Watkins Glen.”

He said one of his favorite fisheries occurs in October when Atlantic salmon and lunker browns run out of Cuyuga Lake into the Fall River, offering fly-rodders a shot at athletic, leg-long fish in some of the prettiest surroundings of the area, including a 100-foot waterfall that terminates their upstream journey just below the campus of Cornell University.

Muskie fishing is also impressive here—many anglers have fished for them for years without putting one in the boat, but Moskal says if you visit at prime time—late fall—on Lake Waneta, a heavily stocked 3-mile-long impoundment just west of town, you’re highly likely to get at least one fish in for a hero photo, and many are better than 40 inches long, a few over 50 inches.

New York Muskie


Monster muskies like this one are part of the angling action in the Finger Lakes Region, particularly on Lake Waneta, which is heavily stocked with the predatory pike. (Mark Moskal Photo)

“We get most of the fish trolling—we put out a spread of Rapala X-Raps, Williams Wobblers and Evil Eye Spoons, spacing them at 6 feet, 8 feet, 10 feet and 12 feet, and pull them fast enough to bring out a strong vibration. It’s a very dependable way to fish, and it doesn’t require the angler to fling those huge lures for hours.”

He said trolling is also the preferred tactic for lakers in Seneca, which typically hang at 70 feet and more and are reached via downrigger gear–the fish average 5 to 8 pounds, but 15 pounders are possible.

For more, contact Mark Moskal at www.summittostream.com.

Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel here is a big part of bringing not only anglers and boaters but travelers of all interests to the Finger Lakes. The upscale 104-room hostelry, recently voted one of the top waterfront hotels in the nation by USA Today, sits at the southern tip of Lake Seneca, with al fresco dining overlooking the city harbor. It’s got all the usual amenities including an exercise room, indoor pool and a business center where road warriors will appreciate the jumbo iMac all-in-one computers.

Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel is the result of a public/private partnership that helped bring the upscale facility to a small upstate town where jobs are at a premium. The result is a great spot for anglers, boaters and tourists to hang their hat, as well as a big boost for the local economy.

The world-class (but pricey) Blue Pointe Restaurant offers an impressive variety–as an old waterfowler, I enjoyed the duck with andouille sausage risotto. The miso glazed salmon was also particularly good, all washed down with some good wine that not too long ago had been inside grapes growing on the surrounding hills—the area is famed as wine country.

Steelhead run into Catherine Creek at Watkins Glen in spring, providing great action for lunker fish in its narrow flow. (Mark Moskal Photo)
The hotel is within walking distance of Mark Moskal’s kayak operation, where you can rent a ‘yak to get out on the lake and have a really good shot at catching some quality smallmouths over 18 inches long, particularly during the spring spawn in May and early June when they move to the flats along the shorelines—soft plastic tubes are one of the favorite lures.

It’s also within a couple long casts of the Barge Canal, which leads spawning steelhead right into Catherine Creek in late March and early April. You can access the creek directly from State Route 14, which runs alongside it south of town for miles. Salmon egg imitations, and the real thing, do most of the damage.

It’s just over a half-mile stroll from spectacular Watkins Glen State Park, a must-see in this area, with 19 waterfalls over its 2-mile, 400-foot plunge through a gorge down to lake level.

The hotel also puts on a jumbo Ice Bar event fund raiser each winter—they carve an entire bar out of block ice, set up on the hotel patio—given the late January date of the event, thawing is not a problem—bring your long johns.

See full Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel details here: https://www.watkinsglenharborhotel.com

Other Attractions at Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen International Raceway is worth a visit if you’re an auto racing fan—many classic races have taken place here over decades. You can actually drive the family vehicle for a few hot laps on the track for a fee—I didn’t think my Pathfinder or my driving skills were up to it.

The western shore of Seneca has one of the densest wine tasting operations in the country—there are about 30 wineries and breweries with tasting facilities on the east shore, over 20 more on the west side, in the 30 plus miles from Watkins Glen to Geneva on the Lake, at the north end. Every winery has a half-dozen or more vintages they will insist you try—YOU NEED A DESIGNATED DRIVER. But that said, it’s a pleasant way to while away a rainy afternoon when you can’t fish—tasting fee is about $6 for a variety of “flights”, and most throw in some great local cheeses, as well. Learn more here: www.senecalakewine.com.

Rain and Lakes

All the rain in December has really affected lakes. Most are usually several feet low this time of year, making them ready to fill up in the spring from rain to control flooding, but they filled early, with most above full pool right now.

Millers Ferry is south of Selma, Alabama on the Alabama River. Rain really changes river lakes like it, with flooding common. It is a beautiful lake with a main river run and miles of shallow sloughs and creeks off it that are full of grass and wood cover.

I went there the day after Christmas to get information for my February Alabama Outdoor News Map of the Month article with local fisherman Billy Black. He warned me the river was “blown out” from rain, bad conditions for catching fish. But we went anyway to meet my deadline.

The ramp we used had a dock about six inches above the water and water came to the top of the ramp. We had to idle over a mile through shallow water out to the river. Both were full of floating wood and the water was heavily stained. He caught one nice bass and a big catfish, and I got the information and pictures I needed for the article.

The next week he sent me a picture of the ramp, saying it was a good thing we went when we did. The water completely covered the dock and came half way up in the parking lot. Floating wood covered everything, and the water was very muddy. The land is so flat down there a couple feet of water rise really floods a lot of land.

The lakes like Millers Ferry are fun to fish and the scenery is beautiful, and you can catch big Alabama spots as well as largemouth, but you have to plan your trip more carefully than on the lakes around here!

Winter Fishing Tips

Winter Fishing Tips and Tricks from Georgia DNR
from The Fishing Wire

Fishing is good in Georgia in winter


Whether you’re fishing for largemouth bass on Ocmulgee WMA or brown trout in the Chattahoochee River, fishing in the cooler months is relatively the same for any fish species. You’ll want to fish a smaller bait with a slower action. Fish are cold-blooded, so cooler water temperatures make them lethargic. Cooler temperatures will also slow their metabolism so they don’t feed as often or on as large of prey.

Bait and Action

You’ll need to consider the type of bait you will be using. Many food sources available in the spring and summer months aren’t in the winter. Frogs, grasshoppers, and leeches aren’t seen much during winter, so fishing with these lures will be unnatural to the fish. The same goes for fishing stream fish with larger dry flies. For stream fish try using small midge and nymph flies behind split shot weights. Drop them behind strike indicators so you can tell when you get a strike. On lakes and rivers, use lures that resemble crayfish or small baitfish such as minnows and shad. Soft plastics like small plastic worms, skirted jigs, and tube baits can be successful if fished slowly and patiently. The hardest part about fishing with artificial bait in the winter is slowing your action down to a crawl. If you think you are fishing too slow then you’re close to the speed that will get a response from your target. Live bait works well because it will move naturally with the water conditions. Minnows and shad will move slowly and provide their own action same as a nightcrawler or red wriggler. This way you don’t have to worry as much about bait size and action.

Location, location, location!

No matter what you choose to fish with, you have to know where these fish are going to be when the water temperature drops. You can use the perfect bait with marvelous presentation but it wouldn’t matter if you can’t put it in front of a fish. You might have heard of the term “turn over”. This is when the warm water on the surface gets cold in the fall and winter. This water then falls to the bottom and the bottom layer rises to the top “turning over the lake”. After this process, the deeper water will now be warmer than the surface. Fish will hang out in this warmer water in the deeper parts of the lake or pond where you are fishing. Try casting over deep spots where there are changes in the structure of the lake bottom, such as a ledge or hump. Any change in structure along with cover like a dock or weed bed can make great habitat for holding fish. This is where fish finder and hydrographic maps come in real handy. They make it generally easy to find the structure/cover combination you are looking for. Shallow, muddy water can also be a reservoir hotspot as the water warms and attracts baitfish. In streams, look for the deepest and slowest pools that provide slow-moving trout and bass a refuge from floods and predators.

Fishing is a fun pastime that many people enjoy, but it can seem frustrating if you don’t catch anything. These tips will get you closer to fish you’d like to have strike the other end of you line when the weather gets cold and breezy. If you’re looking for new spots or somewhere close to home, the GA DNR has public fishing areas all across the state. You can find your new fishing hole here: http://georgiawildlife.com/allpfas. The Wildlife Resources Division’s weekly fishing blog, https://georgiawildlife.wordpress.com/category/fishing/, is also a great site for timely tips and the latest fishing “hotspots,” even in the cold weather!

Steelhead Resurgence

Central Washington Fosters Steelhead Resurgence
Federal agencies focus efforts to boost Middle Columbia steelhead toward recovery
from The Fishing Wire

Farmer Urban Eberhart recalls watching a video of Middle Columbia River steelhead trying in vain a few years ago to jump a diversion dam blocking historic spawning grounds in the upper reaches of Central Washington’s Manastash Creek.

Helping steelhead


Heavy equipment removing the Reed Diversion Dam in late 2016.

Now that diversion dam is gone, dismantled through the cooperative efforts of local irrigators, Kittitas County Conservation District, and the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan partners, Mid-Columbia steelhead, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), are now re-establishing themselves in more than 20 newly accessible miles of healthy creek habitat.

“By working together, creating trust and relationships among the Yakama Nation, agencies, and the irrigators, we’re really turning things around and getting fish where they need to be to recover,” said Eberhart, manager of the Kittitas Reclamation District (KRD), one of the partners in the 2016 removal of Reed Diversion Dam and restoration of the Manastash and its tributaries. “That cooperation is not only making the difference, it’s how it happened. It’s what made this progress possible.”

“The local collaboration that opened the upper reaches of the Manastash illustrates the kind of focused, coordinated efforts that federal agencies are now working to bring to bear on behalf of steelhead elsewhere in the mid-Columbia,” said Rosemary Furfey of NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, chair of the Federal Caucus. The Federal Caucus is a coordinating organization of 10 federal agencies with roles in the recovery of ESA-listed salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin.

The Caucus is now working to support mid-Columbia steelhead through focused federal coordination that will improve the viability of the species and move it closer to recovery. The agencies are coordinating efforts around mid-Columbia steelhead because it has shown progress over the last decade and may be approaching the point where it could be considered for removal from the list of threatened and endangered species. Much of this progress is a result of restoration efforts such as those on the Manastash.

“This is one place where if we bring people together, and really coordinate efforts, we may be able to make a real difference for this species and demonstrate success in recovering a species,” Furfey said.
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Federal agencies active in restoring the Manastash and recovering its steelhead populations include the Bureau of Reclamation, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA Fisheries. Manastash Creek reaches into the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and stands out among tributaries of the Yakima River because much of its watershed remains undeveloped and in public ownership.

The Yakama Nation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Kittitas County Conservation District, and Trout Unlimited have also played critical roles.

“Our accomplishments for this steelhead species are remarkable,” said Lorri Bodi, Vice President of Environment, Fish, and Wildlife at BPA, one of the agencies helping fund the project. “Working together to remove the dam has allowed more fish to make it to their traditional spawning grounds, boosting survival, and adding fish to the river.”

Irrigators on the Manastash have worked almost since mid-Columbia steelhead were listed as threatened in 1999 to improve conditions for the fish. Although tension first prevailed as environmental groups threatened to go to court for better protection of the fish, a cooperative steering committee of irrigators, agency representatives, and other organizations began pursuing conservation improvements, such as screening of irrigation diversions that would support fish recovery while also maintaining farms and other agricultural operations across the watershed.

“This is a place that has really exemplified how far you can go when you have good backing from the community that sees the benefit in improving conditions for fish,” said Michael Tehan, Assistant Regional Administrator for the Interior Columbia Basin Office in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “Now our challenge is to see if we can take this recipe and try to reproduce it in other basins.”

Another example of progress is the Kittitas Reclamation District’s novel use of irrigation canals and ditches to deliver water to stretches of the Manastash and its tributaries that sometimes ran dry in low-water years like this one. Water conservation measures, such as lining of canals and installation of sprinkler systems, funded in large part by BPA, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Bureau of Reclamation, and Washington Department of Ecology have helped free up water that can remain in the streams to support fish.

“Reclamation is pleased to be part of the team that has advanced Manastash Creek Enhancement Project which has produced such positive benefits for both steelhead, an ESA-listed species, and the agricultural community of Manastash Creek; and has made it possible to start the streamflow enhancement supplementation that KRD, Ecology, and Reclamation fully support for other creeks in the Kittitas Valley,” said Wendy Christensen, Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Federal and state agencies have invested nearly $24 million in the Manastash Creek Restoration Project since 2003. While the collective price may seem steep, Tehan said that when agencies align efforts and leverage funding, success is more likely.

For mid-Columbia steelhead, that has proven true. Biologists from the WDFW monitoring the streams with renewed water flows are finding a resurgence of streamside plants and aquatic insects that form the ecological building blocks of healthy fish habitat.

As Eberhart recounts the story of cooperation and progress on the Manastash to others around the Columbia Basin, he has fielded more requests for advice and suggestions on how to undertake similar efforts elsewhere. As climate change puts added pressure on both agriculture and fish populations to make the most of limited water supplies, he said, such conservation and cooperation will become even more important.

“We’re utilizing our canal system to carry water to places where the tributaries need help,” he said. “We’re all focusing on how to find success, and that is a win.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Middle Columbia River Steelhead Recovery Plan, NOAA Fisheries

Yakima Basin Integrated Plan: Habitat and Agricultural Improvements, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Yakima Creeks Replenished: Yakima Integrated Plan saves steelhead habitat, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Spalding County Sportsman Club Rules

The Spalding County Sportsman Club was formed in the 1950s and the group hunted and fished together. In the late 1960s the club started having bass tournaments and these rules were started from club rules at the time. No input from the Bass Angler Sportsman Society was used, unlike the Flint River Bass Club rules Those rules were developed from BASS. These rules have developed over the years and have served the club well.

I. TOURNAMENT COMMITTEES AND OFFICERS
A. Tournament committee shall be comprised of the executive officers and the top six fishermen. This committee shall make all new rules and will rule on all decisions. Its decisions shall be final in all tournament matters.
B. The tournament committee shall plan the dates and locations of all tournaments. This committee reserves the right to change the date and location of any tournament. The schedule will be presented for a vote by the club membership at the January meeting each year. After adoption, the schedule can only be changed by following the rule for a by-law change. Tournaments can be canceled by the tournament director due to dangerous conditions. NO canceled tournament will be rescheduled.
C. Recorder shall be the same as the club tournament director. Duties shall consist of keeping complete tournament records and enforcing tournament rules.
D. Tournament director will receive and distribute any tournament money.
E. Inspection officers shall be appointed by the president and the tournament director. Duties shall be enforcing all rules set forth by the tournament committee, including random live well checks.
F. The weigher shall be appointed by the president and the tournament director with approval of the tournament committee. Duties shall be maintaining the club scales and conducting the weigh-ins for all tournaments.
G. Scorers shall consist of the weigher, the recorder, and one or more assistants appointed by them.
H. Each tournament officer shall appoint an alternate if unable to perform his duties.
II. TOURNAMENT ENTRANCE
A. Former members in good standing of the Spalding County Sportsman Club must pay dues at least one meeting prior to his first tournament during the calendar year.
B. Former members in good standing must pay dues by March meeting or attend a meeting prior to fishing a tournament.
C. Each tournament shall have an entrance fee determined by the tournament committee prior to the first tournament. The entrance fee shall be $25.00 until changed.
III. TOURNAMENT RULES
A. All participants shall leave from a designated starting point and return to the same point for weigh-in.
B. Participant shall not be allowed to fish with a nonmember except a member may bring a guest to a tournament. The guest may fish only one tournament a year and will pay all entry fees and be eligible for all tournament winnings. They may participate in the tournament big fish pot but may not participate in the cumulative big fish pot. Guest will not receive any points for the tournament they fish.
C. Roll call will be taken preceding each tournament by the president and /or tournament director. Any participant missing his name at roll call shall be considered late. Any late participant must find another participating member (A club member who was on time) who will check his livewell fish and collect his entrance fee before the late member is allowed to start fishing . Failure to do so will mean disqualification.
D. Penalty for late arrival for weigh-in shall be 3% per minute up to 15 minutes late. Later arrival will call for disqualification.
E. Only artificial lures may be used. No live bait is permitted. All fish must be caught live and in a conventional sporting manner.
F. Scoring shall be determined by pounds and ounces. Tournament winners shall be determined by accumulated weight for entire tournament. 25 points shall be awarded for the largest total weight in each tournament, 24 for second, down to one point for 25th place. No points shall be awarded unless the participant has weighed at least one fish. One additional point will be awarded to anyone catching a daily limit of bass (5 except in three club tournament, 7 in it). Also , 1 additional point will be give for the largest bass caught in each tournament and 1 point for each club meeting, and 1 point for each tournament attended.
G. There will be one division and we will pay the top four places.
H. Only black bass; largemouth , spotted, red eye or smallmouth bass will be weighed. Five bass per day is the limit. Each contestant must present his own catch at weigh-in if possible. A bass will not be counted or weighed that is not at least 12 inches in length, and all bass must meet state requirements for the lake being fished. Length of a bass will be determined by measurement of the bass with the mouth closed an one tip of the tail touching. The tail will be smoothed down and pinched together As a penalty, a contestant with short fish will have one pound weight deducted for each short bass. This shall apply to both days of a two day tournament. If a short bass is weighed in the first day and the contestant has no other fish, the pound penalty shall be deducted on the second day. Any contestant weighing in more than 5 fish will have his bass culled down to the limit by culling the largest bass first. All fish taken out of the boat will be weighed in. Any bass that appears to be mangled, mashed or mauled will be measured and credited only the discretion of the weighing officials.
I. The tournament committee reserves the right to change or postpone any tournament. However, no tournament shall be postponed once it starts.
J. Weigh-ins. In case of unavoidable delays, catches must be brought to the weighing station by a fellow member and registered as the delayed members catch and reason for the delay shall be given to the recorder.
K. Any member in good standing missing a tournament because he is representing the club in a Federation Tournament shall be given his average points for the present years tournaments.
IV. Tournament Prizes
A. Total prize for each tournament shall be set at a fixed percentage of the money taken in for each tournament. The percentages are 1st – 40%, 2nd – 30%, 3rd – 20%, 4th – 10%.
B. Fifty dollars of all entrance fees shall be placed in the club treasury before any prizes are given out. This money will be used to promote the club and its activities. Examples: Patches for each member, scrapbook of tournaments, pictures, slides, film and film processing, entrance fees for members attending federation tournament and jackets for the top six members representing the club at federation tournaments.
C. Trophies or plaques shall be given to the top six and for the largest fish for the year. These places will be based on total number of points for the year. All tournaments will count in the point standing.
V. RULES NOT COVERED
A. Any situation not covered by these rules and regulations shall be ruled upon by the tournament committee but may be appealed to the club at large.
B. These rules were adopted by the tournament committee on January 12, 1993
Last Revision February 2004