Monthly Archives: May 2017

Bad Fishing Luck Can Turn Into Good Luck

Sometimes bad fishing luck can turn into good luck. Last Sunday at the Sportsman Club tournament at Bartletts Ferry Sam Smith’s boat broke down before 9:00 AM a long way from the ramp. It took him almost six hours to get back to the ramp using his trolling motor and fishing as he went. He caught enough to win first place and big fish.

The first time it happened to me was in the late 1970s in a tournament at West Point, soon after it filled. Emmett Piland and I were fishing together out of my boat and we camped at Holliday Park the night before the tournament in pouring rain. The next morning my van was stuck in the soft ground at the campsite and by the time we got it out we arrived at the ramp just as it was time to go.

We checked in and finally got the boat in the water after everyone else had left. Then my motor would not crank for several minutes. When it finally cranked, it skipped and sputtered and would not get on plane so we slowly idled to the nearby bridge to fish, not where we had planned on fishing.

During that day we caught more than 100 bass off the riprap on the bridge. Many times we both had bass on at the same time. After lunch another boat in the tournament stopped as they idled under the bridge and said they had not caught a fish all day. About that time Emmett and I both set the hook and landed keepers. They just shook their heads and left.

We came in first and second in that tournament. If we had not had problems that morning we would have been running all over the lake and might not have caught a fish.

Another tournament at Bartletts Ferry a few years ago in February one of the boats would not crank in the cold. While the rest of us ran all over the lake trying to catch a fish they fished around the cove at the ramp all day, and came in first and second and one of them had big fish.

In a 2011 tournament at West Point I took off from Glass Bridge ramp and between the Highway 109 bridge and the railroad causeway my motor blew up. It took me all day to get back to the ramp but I caught enough bass to place third.

Of course, there have been many more times when bad luck with the motor just ended up being a very bad day.

College Fishing Athletes

Team Building Exercise

College Fishing Athletes Connect for National Championship
from St. Croix Rods

Park Falls, WI (May 30, 2017) – The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) bass fishing program (men’s and women’s) epitomizes how far the scholastic level of the sport has come. Led by full-time coach Isaac Payne – himself an avid angler and former SCAD grad – the team has placed both male and female athletes into several national championships over the past four seasons.

A case in point: SCAD standout Sean Hall – a former High School World Championship finalist attending SCAD through a bass fishing scholarship – has already qualified for every college championship available for the 2017-18 season.

Hall, along with teammate Justin Roberts, are the newest members of the St. Croix college fishing program, poised to make headlines this month at Alabama’s Pickwick Lake, where they’ll compete in the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship, presented by Cabela’s.
The team recently joined forces, and this event marks the first time they’ll compete together.

Collegiate bass fishing is unlike any other sport. Players often have varied backgrounds, and experience levels and practice sessions are anything but textbook. In addition, teammates are frequently paired with little knowledge of the other’s strength and weaknesses, yet their destiny lies in each other’s casts.

Hall and Roberts see little difficulty in their recent pairing, and have spent considerable time preparing for the Pickwick event. “It’s getting to the point where we know each other’s move before it happens” Hall said.

A scouting trip to the lake prior to the off-limits period proved productive, as the team located several schools of bass in shallow waters loaded with spawning shad. While the duo admits such a pattern won’t likely prove productive during the pre-summer event, knowing where a large majority of the bass were previously located could prove helpful when hunting current hot-spots.

SCAD fields both men’s and women’s fishing teams. Photo courtesy of SCAD

As with all SCAD bass athletes, a large percentage of preparation lies in regimented practice periods 2-3 times weekly, led by Coach Isaac Payne. Even Payne, however, cautions against treating competitive fishing like other sports, and focusing solely on the act of playing.

Instead, the mental aspect of practice can often be key, as can orderly duties like boat preparation and tackle maintenance. The key, Payne stresses, is that we’re all students of the game, constantly learning, regardless of skill level or past accomplishments. Payne encourages all anglers on the team to constantly add input, helping broaden the mindset of all players.

Both on and off the water, Hall and Roberts continue to communicate about nearly every variable in their lives, from tests and essay papers due in their classes, to discrete creek channel swings found on topo maps. The two use each other as a sounding board, enforcing the principle that two heads are better than one.

A quick trip to the nearby Savannah River proved a great testing platform for new gear, including St. Croix’s Bass X series and Mojo Bass rods. True to their team-style methods, Hall and Roberts dissect each new body of water by sharing the front deck and fishing rods during practice, allowing each angler to simply pick up and cast whatever’s on their mind at a given time. For the upcoming Pickwick event, that will likely mean cranking ledges, an offshore fishing method where rods featuring forgiving actions often claim the prize. “It’s gonna be all about the Big Crankster” Roberts declared, admitting his favoritism for St. Croix’s 7’8” Mojo Bass Glass model, designed specifically for winding big plugs.

Since the team believes the event will be dominated by offshore cranking patterns and ledge fishing, they’re prepared to spend the majority of their practice time off-shore. After power-fishing with cast-and-retrieve style baits, however, the pair plans to mop up more bass with a swing-head jig. The technique was responsible for a recent high finish for Roberts, and has become a major confidence builder on Tennessee River impoundments. Here, the Bass X 7’1” medium-heavy casting rod, with a faster action, will get the nod.

Think, test, tinker, repeat. As the team of Sean Hall and Justin Roberts focus on the fishing, they’ll need not forget the primary reason they came to SCAD: a degree from one of the premier design schools in the country.

Again unlike other collegiate sports, competitive fishing often requires athletes to be away from class for a week at a time, resulting in major strains on their schedule. Coach Payne turns up the heat, requiring a 3.0 GPA to stay eligible for his travel team; today, the SCAD men’s bass team carries a cumulative 3.3.

In the end, Sean Hall and Justin Roberts are ready. They’ve prepared tackle, discussed a game plan and worked ahead in class. Equally important, this unique new division of competitive bass fishing has prepared them for the real-world, through team building exercises that are far more fun than just sitting in class.

Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat

RBFF Hooks Nation with 2017 Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat
from The Fishing Wire

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) has released their 2017 list of the Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat. The list of locations is bolstered by endorsements from celebrities and fishing pros, and the help of federal and state representatives. The announcement helps kick off the weeklong celebration of on-the-water activity that is National Fishing and Boating Week, June 3 – 11.

New this year, a group of distinguished contributors and experts have sourced the list, sharing their favorite family-friendly fishing and boating spots. Country music star Luke Bryan headlines this year’s contributors, alongside fellow musician Justin Moore, pro football player Alejandro Villanueva and a host of industry experts.

The full list of 2017 Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat is available at and highlights include:

Percy Priest Lake, Tenn. – Country music star Luke Bryan admits “a good fisherman never shares his best spot,” but still offers up his favorite place to escape his fast-paced world for some relaxing time on the water. Known for “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” Bryan’s favorite spot near Nashville is a natural addition to this year’s list. Bryan has a clothing line of the same name available at Cabela’s, and fans can catch the country music megastar on his HFE tour this summer.
Presque Isle Bay, Pa. – Professional offensive lineman and former Army Ranger, Alejandro “Big Al” Villanueva, picked this popular spot on Lake Erie, and knows a thing or two about the importance of good tackle and a strong line. When he’s not protecting the quarterback, Al says, “I spend a lot of my free time fishing and really cherish any time on the water.”
Degray Lake, Ark. – Having grown up in nearby Poyen, Ark., country music singer Justin Mooreoften frequented Degray Lake as a young boy, and passed down his love of fishing to his own kids. He remembers, “watching my oldest daughter catch her first fish all by herself has to be my favorite moment out there.”
Texas City Dyke, Texas – Professional angler Cindy Nguyen added this spot, noting, “I grew up fishing in Texas City Dyke and the surrounding areas. It’s still one of my favorite places to bring the family.”

Central Park, N.Y. – Host of South Bend’s Lunkerville, Michael de Avila, better known to his fans as Mike D., picked an unexpected fishing oasis in the middle of the nation’s largest city. Central Park offers three unique family-friendly spots at the lake, the pond and the Harlem Meer.

Webb Lake, Fla. – Women’s sportfishing advocate and outdoor writer Debbie Hanson loves the fishing at wildlife at Webb Lake. “Not only is Webb Lake great for numbers of largemouth bass and bluegill, but there are also some fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities. I’ve spotted sandhill cranes, great blue herons and white-tailed deer on my visits.”
South Padre Island, Texas – Pedro Sors, professional angler and Mexico’s most popular fishing TV show host, chose this popular spot for its ability to provide him and his sons with “a sense of freedom and a way to connect with nature and myself.”
Buckeye Creek, Calif. – Chelsea Day of the Someday I’ll Learn blog, fondly recalls memories at this picturesque spot in the eastern Sierras. “Our oldest son caught his first fish at this spot, and it was really special to be able to cook it right up and serve it for dinner at the campsite. Such a sense of accomplishment for him!”

“This year we decided to ask some of our friends and partners where they like to go fishing, and the response has been overwhelming,” said RBFF President and CEO, Frank Peterson. “While the locations are as diverse as the people who shared them, some key themes emerged. Fishing and boating are easy ways to escape life’s tensions, and you’re never too far from a quality body of water. So whether you’re getting over a stressful week at the office or simply trying to cut back on screen time, this is the year to get out on the water together to help conserve and restore our nation’s aquatic natural resources.”

We encourage all stakeholders to share the 2017 Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat list in the lead-up to National Fishing and Boating Week and beyond.

About the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF)

RBFF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating, thereby protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic natural resources. RBFF developed the award-winning Take Me Fishing™ and Vamos A Pescar™ campaigns to create awareness around boating, fishing and conservation, and educate people about the benefits of participation. Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar help boaters and anglers of all ages and experience levels learn, plan and equip for a day on the water. The campaign websites,, and , feature how-to videos, information on how to get a fishing license and boat registration, and an interactive state-by-state map that allows visitors to find local boating and fishing spots.

Light Your Boat

Be Safe, Be Seen
Editor’s Note: Here’s an article from the Virginia Conservation Police that’s important reading for any recreational boater who operates after sundown, anywhere on U.S. waters.
from The Fishing Wire

DGIF Conservation Police Officers on the water often see some strange lights at night, and they are not from UFOs. Despite the trend to light your boat, your lighting configuration may not only be creating a navigation hazard for your fellow night-time boaters, but they may also be illegal.

Most everyone knows the proper lighting configuration for motorboats. When a motorboat is operated at night, sidelights are required on the bow (front) and an all-around white light at the stern (back) of all motorboats. The required colors of the sidelights are red and green – red lights belong on the port side of the vessel and green lights belong on the starboard side of the vessel. The port side is the left side of the boat when facing the bow (front) of the boat when standing inside the boat. These lights are required to shine from dead ahead to 112.5° on their respective sides. Most recreational motorboats can utilize an all-around white light on the stern (back) of the motorboat (if your boat is greater than 39′ check this site). A full circle of white light is created by an all-around light – the light must be visible 360°. This light needs to be 1 meter (3.3 feet) above the sidelights and not blocked by any portion of the vessel. When a boat is anchored at night, the side navigation lights are extinguished, but the all-around white light must be on. The proper placement of a boat’s navigation lights allows other boaters to determine what type of boat you are (manual vs power vs sail) and which direction you are heading so that right-of-way can be determined.

These rules on lighting configuration have not changed in years, but more and more, our officers are seeing lighting violations and motorboats operating at night that are a hazard to others. Officer Michael Morris of Smith Mountain Lake reports several “strange” things he has seen while boating at night. All-around light (stern light) issues include: placing black tape over part of the part of the stern light that shines down inside the boat; placing a hat, sock, bag, etc. over the stern light when trolling; positioning the stern light too low so that it cannot be seen because it is blocked by the operator or motor while underway; pontoon boats with vinyl tops that fold up and block the visibility of the stern light or the stern lights will be folded down which causes them to not be visible when approaching head on.

Another issue often seen at night is boats operating with their docking lights on. Stacey Brown recalls a time when a boater mistakenly called these lights the “head lights” for the boat. Boats do not have head lights; the docking lights should only be used close to where the boat is being moored to ensure safe docking at night. Boats using docking lights while away from the dock are a hazard to other boaters. It interferes with the night-time vision required to safely operate at night. Docking lights may also cause the red and green navigation lights to become washed out so other boaters are unable to determine navigational right of way.

There are often violations with the red and green navigation sidelights as well. Some bass boats have trolling motors that block the red and green navigation lights. We are seeing after-market strip style LED lights being installed on boats. All lights still need to meet the Coast Guard requirement for visibility and the 112.5 arc of visibility as mentioned above. Unless your boat was manufactured with these lights (manufacturers follow the USCG boat building guidelines) – we do not recommend replacing your existing lights with any after-market lighting configuration. We have been receiving complaints that those lights are too bright and interfere with the ability of other boaters to safely navigate the waterways by impeding their night vision and making it difficult to see your navigation lights.

Recently, the most frequent request for information regards the placement of other LED strip lights that might be placed along the sides or stern of a motorboat. As is true with other lighting issues, the installation of these lights may impact the ability of other boaters to safely navigate the waterways by impeding their night vision and making it difficult to see your navigation lights. In addition, boaters are prohibited from using lights that might be confused for navigation lights (white, green, red), or light colors reserved for law enforcement (blue), or any other color used in the navigation rules (yellow is reserved for towing/tugs).

Night navigation brings many challenges to boaters on Virginia’s waters and the importance of knowing the navigation rules. New LED options may make your boat look “cool”, but may be a hazard to other boaters when you are underway. Be responsible, be safe, have fun!

Learn More:

Virginia Watercraft Owner’s Guide

What Is High School Fishing Conservation?

Something Fishy Is Going On Petaluma
What did high school mean to you when you were a kid?
James A. Swan, Ph.D.
from the Fishing Wire

School is reading, writing, and arithmetic packaged to teach kids how to pass tests, so they can get good grades and go to college and get jobs. School work used to be paper and pencil. Now it’s electronic on computers, but the basic principles and abstract concepts are still there and most have very little practical value.

How and what we force kids to learn is a weakness in our educational system, for as Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner has shown, there are at least nine different kinds of intelligence including naturist intelligence which includes being able to appreciate nature, and recognize the difference between different kinds of animals, birds, plants, fish and stones.

We must educate kids about environmental conservation, not just giving kids facts, but getting kids outdoors as much as possible including, if possible, getting their hands dirty and maybe even bloody growing and harvesting some of their own food. This concept is catching on and Casa Grande High School in Petaluma, California, which is located at the north end of San Francisco Bay, is an example of what is possible who you bring fish into the classroom. High school fishing conservation is important.

Back in 1983 Tom Furrer, a biology teacher at Casa Grande High School, took his students on a walk along Adobe Creek that’s near the school. He told them in the old days salmon spawned there and showed them some pictures. The students volunteered to clean up the creek. They started by removing over 25 tons of trash. The following year a few spawning salmon did make it into Adobe Creek.

That inspired the kids to set a goal of raising $6,000 to convert an abandoned campus green house into a student-run fish hatchery with two 2×6 troughs. They began a campaign of car washes, cake sales, raffles, lawn mowing, and fund-raising dinners. The California Department of Fish and Game chipped in at least $50,000, and the community contributed materials, construction services, and manpower as well as dollars. In six years the United Anglers of Casa Grande raised over $510,000.

April 25, 1993, the United Anglers of Casa Grande High School opened the doors of their state-of-the-art, on-campus fish hatchery – one of 3 nationally with a federal permit – to raise endangered fall run Chinook salmon.

In the following decade the United Anglers of Casa Grande raised and released over 300,000 Chinook salmon and the entire seven miles of Adobe Creek have been restored.

In 2003, a Jr. United Angler program began to enable high school students to teach the younger generation about what they are doing in the community. The Juniors program allows the younger grades to also raise fish in their classrooms. At the end of the year, High School and Junior students release some of their fish together.

Tom Furrer retired in 2011. His place has been taken by Dan Hubacker, a former UACGHS student, who went off to college, got a teaching degree, came back and became a teacher.

Hubacker says, “The students have been averaging gathering between 20,000 and 40,000 Fall Run Chinook Salmon eggs a year, collected from either returning adult Fall Run Chinook Salmon in the Petaluma watershed, or they’re provided by Feather River Fish Hatchery out of Orville, which is managed by one of the United Anglers Alumni who we work closely with.”

Recognizing the kids progress, two years ago National Marine Fisheries said that they could use some help with research on Chinook salmon in the Petaluma River. So, the kids have learned to use electrofishing to collect tissue samples and tag fish, and then during the summer months, they count juveniles in pools in the river, and in drought years they may catch young fish and take them to the hatchery to raise them until they are ready for release into the Bay.

Hubacker says “We are currently tagging our Chinook Salmon with a Coded Wire Tag. This program allows our students to work side by side with professionals in this field. Students tag about 20,000 Chinook salmon fingerlings each year. These coded wire tags are placed into the cartilage in the snout of the fish and have a corresponding code with our site. The fish’s adipose fin is removed to identify those that are tags with the hopes that if they get caught when returning the commercial fisherman or angler will notify DFG so we can get some accurate stats of what is happening to our fish.”

Hubacker says, “One year we had a large group of adult Chinook Salmon come up Adobe Creek. This species is usually found in the main branches of the Petaluma River. On two separate occasions a Chum Salmon has been captured by the students.”

National Marine Fisheries was so impressed that they also said they would like Casa Grande to switch from raising fall run Chinook salmon to helping the Dry Creek Hatchery in Sonoma County, which is run by US Army Corps of Engineers, restore the Russian River steelhead run. Casa Grande High currently is raising 20,000 Russian River Steelhead trout in collaboration with the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Do your kids really want to go school? There is intense competition to join the United Anglers elective class. To qualify, applicants must ace a written test and demonstrate an abundant concern for the environment. If they get accepted there definitely are payoffs.

Recently the University of California College System has approved Casa Grande High classes running the hatchery as being qualified to count for college admission credit. This is the only school program in California of its kind. According to Hubacker,

“A UC approved course means that the curriculum has been reviewed by the UC system and determined that this prepares students for entry level college lab sciences. In order for a student to be eligible for going to any State or UC they have to complete a minimum of 2 years if not 3 years of a lab science. Students would typically have the option of Biology, Physics and Chemistry or an Advance Placement course. With this advancement the hatchery classes become a class and our enrollment has doubled.”

And, if kids don’t want to go directly to college, the two-year hands-on program Casa Grande offers is also considered a Career Tech. Ed. class where on graduation kids are ready to go and work for hatcheries and as research assistants.

Nation-wide, there are growing number of schools who raise fish in classrooms and release them into the wild. Michigan’s Salmon In The Classroom has 35 participating schools —,1607,7-153-10369_50075—,00.html Atlantic Salmon in East Coast Schools has over 100 schools involved — And a number of schools in Canada who are raising and releasing salmon. Similar classroom fish hatchery programs in other states include tilapia, perch, trout and paddlefish. The Casa Grande program sets the bar for what is possible.

The annual cost to run the Case Grade program was about $50,000 a year, but that has more than doubled to $130,000 due to new assignments. The prime sponsor is the annual USCG Pasta Feed, which has become the largest fundraiser in Petaluma, but donations are always welcome.

If you are interested in a tour or would like to receive more information regarding the United Anglers of Casa Grande High School, please call or write: United Anglers of Casa Grande High School, 333 Casa Grande Road, Petaluma, CA 94954. (707) 778-4703 (707) 778-4703,

Second Place On Sinclair

The ten members and guests of the Flint River Bass Club had a tough day on Lake Sinclair last Sunday. We fished for eight hours on a bright sunny windy day to land 35 bass weighing about 55 pounds. There were three five-bass limits and no one zeroed.

Guest Gary Cronin won with five weighing 10.6 pounds, my five weighing 9.59 pounds was second, Don Gober with three weighing 7.17 pounds was third and his 3.48 pound largemouth was big fish, and Niles Murray came in fourth with five weighing 5.02 pounds. Niles had a good weekend!

I started good, in a way. We blasted off at 6:30 and at 6:45 I landed my first keeper on a Trick worm from a treetop. But it was skinny and just over 12 inches long. That worried me but even more worrisome was I had worked a topwater plug over the tree and ran a spinnerbait through it first. That told me the fish probably would not chase a faster moving bait.

Thirty minutes later I landed a second keeper from another tree top, this one on a jig head worm, my go-to bait on tough days. It was skinny too. I then fished for two hours trying to find more fish and finally caught my third keeper, another light-weight fish, from a dock.

As I worked out of that cove around a rocky point I cast my jig head worm to a rocky seawall near deep water. There was a patch of shade on the water from the pine trees on the bank, and I landed a fairly decent fish weighing about a pound and a half. On my next cast I caught my fifth keeper, another small one, to fill my limit.

After fishing another cove full of docks and catching only a throwback I went back to the point and caught my sixth keeper from the shade. But my best five would not have weighed five pounds total.

For the next three hours I worked docks and points but caught only a few more short fish. With an hour left to fish I had just worked around one of my favorite coves with docks, without a bite, and started to leave, but noticed the bank ahead of me was fairly steep, had seawalls on it and patches of shade. That rang a bell.

My first cast to the first patch of shade produced my biggest fish, a 2.8 pound largemouth. That was better. A few feet further, in the next patch of shade, I caught another one almost that size, then two more just under two pounds each before I ran out of time and had to go to weigh-in.

I surely am glad I found that little pattern!

Short Gulf Snapper Season

Anglers, Communities Upset with Short Gulf Snapper Season
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

The old axiom that the more things change, the more they stay the same is certainly true when it comes to the fiasco that has become the red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Fisheries announced last week that the private recreational red snapper season in federal waters would last a whopping 72 HOURS. That’s right three whole days from June 1 through June 3. Because of sector separation, which withstood a court challenge earlier this year, the charter industry will be able to fish 49 days, starting June 1.

One of the most extensive artificial reef systems in the world, about 1,030 square miles, sits just off the Alabama Coast. Those reefs produce unparalleled fishing for species like red snapper. Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. made a particularly salient point in a news release recently about the season.

“Alabama has built a great fishery and has worked diligently to rebuild this once overfished species,” Commissioner Guy said. “Now that the fishery is rebuilding, we are catching larger fish, and they are so plentiful that we are being penalized for our success.”

Orange Beach City Councilman Jeff Boyd has been very active on the red snapper issue, and he considered joining a group of irate anglers in another protest. Some are calling for civil disobedience by catching and keeping red snapper while the federal season is closed.

Boyd said a talk with ADCNR Deputy Commissioner Chris Blankenship changed his mind about the protest.

“Chris and I were in Washington recently to meet with Congressmen and NOAA,” Boyd said. “After talking with Chris about the protest, I decided to take a different path. I’ve already asked the Orange Beach City Council, and I feel sure Gulf Shores will do the same, to send a letter to our members of Congress, a letter to NOAA and a letter to the White House that (NOAA’s red snapper) count is wrong and to give us the benefit of the doubt so that we can fish.”

Boyd said NOAA is not factoring the economic impact on the region in setting the seasons and bag limits.

“They are not considering the people who come down here to buy condos and expensive boats to go catch fish,” he said. “A ton of people are coming to Orange Beach just for that reason. Then you’ve got restaurants, tackle shops, fuel docks, all of that. That’s going to affect people like David Walter (Reefmaker). The days of private fishermen building reefs in federal waters is over.

“I feel like what they are doing now is they are forcing people to not fish and get completely out of it and leave the area. Or, they’re going to force them to fish illegally. I’ve never seen regulations be as unfair as this. We can’t catch triggerfish. We can’t catch amberjack. You just about can’t keep anything.”

Blankenship, who was Alabama Marine Resources Division Director before becoming Deputy Commissioner recently, said he understands Boyd’s frustration.

“It is disappointing with all the work we’ve been doing to try to change red snapper management to end up with three days,” Blankenship said. “That doesn’t mean it’s all been for nothing. It just has not translated into more days of fishing for this year. As we’ve been saying for the last several years, changes need to be made in Congress to give us the flexibility to make this fishery better.”

Blankenship said the hard quotas that dictate fisheries closures in the Magnuson-Stevens Act have been the largest obstacles. He has been working with Alabama’s congressional delegation to get that section of the law amended during the reauthorization process.

There was a bit of good news coming from Washington recently. The recently passed budget included language that would permanently extend Alabama’s state waters to 9 nautical miles.

“The 9-mile state boundary will be for reef fish, not just for red snapper,” Blankenship said. “And Senator (Richard) Shelby added a provision in the appropriations bill that would require NOAA to implement a pilot program for management in designated artificial reef areas. That’s something we’ll be negotiating with NOAA over the next 60 days to find a pilot program for 2018 that will give us the ability to manage the reef zones farther than 9 miles from shore.

“That would be a significant change. That’s something we’ve needed to show that we’re able to manage those fish out there.”

That, however, still leaves anglers stuck with a three-day season for 2017, and Blankenship has been getting plenty of feedback from the public.

“People are obviously outraged,” he said. “They know the resource we have out there. They think it’s totally ridiculous that we only have three days to access that resource, as do we at Conservation.

“NOAA uses a very conservative and subtractive system to determine the seasons. Then they add in a 20-percent buffer. And, they’re also still using the MRIP (Marine Recreational Information Program) numbers to set the seasons. Alabama Snapper Check will be certified this year so that our landings numbers, which we believe are much more accurate, will be used instead of MRIP for 2018 and beyond. It’s more important than ever for people to participate in Snapper Check.”

Of course, Snapper Check is already online for 2017 because some Alabama anglers are taking advantage of state seasons in Florida and Louisiana.

Plus, Alabama’s state red snapper season is set to open on May 26 and run through July 31.

“We’re excited that we’re opening state waters for Memorial Day Weekend,” Blankenship said. “I think that will make for some good fishing opportunities for families. There are a lot of red snapper of legal size (16 inches total length) on the close rigs and other reefs within 9 miles.”

Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier is certainly glad to have a state snapper season for the fishing-centric barrier island south of Mobile, but he is obviously disappointed with the federal season.

“This will have a very negative impact on our local fishermen but also our local economy and tourism,” Collier said. “Our island offers easy access to the Gulf, so there’s no doubt we have a high volume of recreational fishermen. And the fishermen don’t mince words. They’re seeing it as rather ridiculous.

“We all know there are loads of fish out there. We know that NOAA’s methodology of calculating the fish population is not in sync with reality. We keep hoping that common sense will prevail. If not, we’re going to get to the point of why have a boat or a fishing rod.”

Renowned angler Marcus Kennedy of Mobile hopes the three-day season will finally motivate recreational anglers to get involved in the process. He is so frustrated with the regulations in the Gulf that he has turned to freshwater to have something for the dinner table.

Anglers who regularly fish the Gulf of Mexico off the Alabama coast know there is an abundant population of red snapper as shown by this big snapper caught by Chandra Wright on a trip with Capt. Randy Boggs.
“We’ve been crappie fishing on Big Creek Lake because there’s nothing we can keep from the Gulf to eat,” Kennedy said. “I never thought I’d see the day when the federal government would come in and tell us we couldn’t keep snapper, grouper, triggerfish and amberjack right when the fishing season traditionally starts. It’s very aggravating.”

Because of his equipment, Kennedy and his crew can fish in places where others rarely dare to go, and he is finding red snapper in places where they haven’t been before.

“There is an overabundance of red snapper from 3 miles to 100 miles,” he said. “We were doing some deep drops on the bottom in 400 feet of water, and we were reeling up big red snapper. We’ve never done that before. They’ve overpopulated everything that’s hard bottom or structure. They’re crowding out the other fish and having a negative impact on the other reef species.”

Kennedy has been named to a Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s advisory panel that deals with red snapper. That panel meets this week in New Orleans, but Kennedy is not optimistic.

“NOAA Fisheries is overestimating the recreational catch and underestimating overall population of red snapper in the Gulf,” he said. “They believe there are only three red snapper left in the Gulf. It’s so fouled up I don’t know how we’re going to undo it.

“I know the recreational fishermen are getting the short end of the stick.”

Rioters Are Same As Peaceful Gun Owners?

Editorial columns by John Micek and Kathleen Parker are always good for a laugh or a shake of the head in amazement that folks can really have such a strange though process. Their Thursday, May 11 columns published in the Griffin Daily News surely did fit the bill.

Micek, while defending rioters that burn businesses, destroy private and public property and block highways as expressing their free speech, compared them to people peacefully standing around with guns on straps or in holsters. He is all upset because 20 states are working on punishing rioters. He said us gun owners better watch out, we might be next.

No worries, John. We gun owners are always watching out for the likes of you, who support any criminal activity and make excuses for them but want to take away our guns. That is one reason the NRA has more than five million dues paying members.

Parker, who decries any sport hunting of animals, even if used for food, compared Condoleezza Rice and Sally Yates, saying they were both strong women. That is like comparing a rattlesnake and a border collie saying they are both strong animals.

Rice served our nation well in many jobs and never had even a hint of misconduct. She is an excellent role model for anyone, male or female. Yates was fired as acting Attorney General for refusing to follow a lawful order by the president. Parker defended Yates saying she refused to do her job because she decided the order was unconstitutional.

Under our government, that decision is for the Supreme Court to make, not some career bureaucrat.

Tennessee BASS Nation High School State Championship

Capt Jake Davis
State Advisor/State Tournament Coordinator

Tims Ford Lake, Winchester, TN. (May 13, 2017) – Lenoir City High School’s Jacob Woods and Austin Winter who took down the 2016-17 State Championship on Tims Ford Lake with 28.87 pounds!! Woods and Winter bested a field of 124 High School Teams from across 22 Tennessee High Schools in the Tennessee BASS Nation High School State Championship held this past weekend in Winchester, TN.

Rounding out the top ten teams was Second Place Bailey Fain, Lenior City with 26.38, Third Place Case Anderson/Grant Hodosi, Grundy County with 23.46, Fourth Place Kyle Ingleburger/Kyle Palmer, Grundy County with 22.63, Fifth Place Chase Cantrell/Nathan Powell, Whitwell High with 22.53, Sixth Place Asa Robertson/Blake Delong, Warren County with 21.55, Seventh Place Thomas Sanders/Caston Hensel, Summit High with 21.02, Eight Place Harry James/Trip Costello, Franklin High with 20.86, Ninth Place Hunter Haley/Garrett Fellers, Coffee County with 20.71 and Tenth Place Jon-David Bedford/Ty Cobb, Lawrence County with 20.51 pounds.

Kyle Ingleburger/Kyle Palmer of Grundy County High School earned distinctive honors as the 2016-2017 Tennessee BASS Nation High School Points Champions with 589 points for the season and just edging out Jacob Woods/Austin Winter from Lenoir City who had 580 points. Also the top 25 teams in the points race for the year earned invitations to the 2017 BASS Nation National Championship to be held on Kentucky Lake in June.

The Tennessee BASS Nation High School Trail in 2016-2017 also established a formal scholarship in addition to the tournament scholarships which are good for any higher education. They turned to Mrs. Beth Cragar, the Dean of Financial Aid, and her staff at University of the South to complete a non-partisan review of all applications. TN State Rep. David Alexander, Thom Abraham from BASS Master Radio, David Lowrie and MS. Beth Cragar presented Baily Fain of Lenoir City with a $1000 scholarship, receiving $500 Scholarships was Kyle Ingleburger of Grundy County (attends Franklin County High School), William Schibig, Gallatin High School and Trevor St. John of Campbell County High School.

David Lowrie, TN BASS Nation High School and youth State Director, stated qualifying teams competed for just over $20,000 in scholarships and prizes, which are completely funded by trail sponsors such as Academy Sports + Outdoors, Citizens Tri-County Bank, Lowrance Electronics, Denali Rods, Shimano Reels, Jackall Baits, John Roberts Toyota, John Roberts Nissan, Mountain DEW and many others. “I also want to thank the City of Winchester, Thom Abraham host of BASS Master Radio, TN Rep David Alexander, Winchester City Cile Alexander, Beth Rhoton the Winchester City Administrator and Captain Jake Davis, Tennessee BASS Nation High School State Tournament Coordinator/Advisor,” stated Lowrie More information can be found at

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Jake Davis, State Advisor/State Tournament Coordinator

What Is the Bonefish Conservation and Restoration Program?

Bonefish Conservation and Restoration Program
This feature came to us from the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust,

Jon Shenker, Ph.D., Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology

Paul Wills, Ph.D., Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, Florida Atlantic University
from The Fishing Wire

Though the Florida Keys are still a world-class fishing destination, the decline of the region’s bonefish population over the past decades is a tremendous concern to anglers, fishing guides, scientists and resource managers, and a threat to the Keys economy. Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is leading the way to answering the vital questions of what might be causing the problem and how the population can be restored to healthy levels.

An important part of BTT’s efforts are focused on evaluating potential sources of the problem by funding multiple studies, including the sources of larval bonefish that may be coming from locations in the Caribbean; changes in prey abundance in the Keys; chronic long-term responses to toxicity and environmental stressors in the changing Keys environment; changes to habitats.

These critical studies will help identify the causes of bonefish population decline in the Florida Keys. As the causes are discovered and plans formulated to fix them, helping the bonefish population recover will be equally important. In recent years, our understanding of bonefish reproduction in wild populations, primarily through field research in the Bahamas, has grown significantly. We are using that knowledge to drive a major new project to spawn bonefish in aquaculture systems, rear their larvae, and produce juvenile bonefish. This five-year program, funded by a partnership between BTT and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), seeks ultimately to provide partner organizations with a new restoration tool in the form of stock enhancement—a tool that will be available in the event that the Florida Keys population needs a boost to sustainably return to its once abundant levels. The project is being conducted at the Aquaculture Research Park at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution (HBOI) in Fort Pierce, Florida. HBOI has one of the preeminent aquaculture programs in the southeast US, with facilities, experienced research scientists and technical support all ideally suited to this ambitious undertaking.

The goals of the program include learning what controls production and survival of larval and juvenile bonefish in culture systems and in natural habitats. Juveniles produced in culture can be used to identify optimal juvenile habitat in the Keys, and to help target habitat restoration efforts in the natural ecosystem. While we don’t anticipate releasing large numbers of juveniles into the wild, having the ability to produce those juveniles is a very handy tool to have if needed in the future.

Pioneering studies by Dr. Andy Danylchuk (University of Massachusetts) and Dr. Aaron Adams have given us a great start on understanding when and how bonefish spawn. Their efforts have led to discovery of half a dozen sites in the Bahamas where bonefish gather in huge schools just prior to spawning. Building on their initial studies, we’ve caught fish from those schools, implanted them with sonic tags, released them back into the schools, and followed them offshore on their nighttime spawning run. Other fish have been established in temporary tanks on land, where we’ve attempted to get them to spawn so we can start to learn how to incubate their eggs and grow their larvae. The research team is close to obtaining viable embryos, which will be a focus of upcoming trips to bonefish spawning sites in the Bahamas.

The program at HBOI started in March 2016 with the reconfiguration of existing tank facilities to hold adult bonefish for broodstock. Procedures were developed to capture fish and transport them to HBOI, to maintain them in captivity, and to induce them to spawn in our culture tanks. With the assistance of Captain Bob Branham, we caught two fish from Biscayne Bay in late spring. The fish readily handled the transport to the lab, and quickly began feeding on shrimp in a large aquaculture tanks. That success led to a larger broodstock collection effort in July. BTT’s Brooke Black coordinated a five-day effort in the Middle and Lower Keys that enlisted the efforts of Captains Richard Black, David Denkert, Bo Sellers and angler/BTT friend Rob to catch 20 fish, hold them in tanks at the Keys Marine Lab on Long Key before bringing them to HBOI, where they readily adapted to captivity.

With spawning season upon us (bonefish spawn between late October and April), we examined the reproductive condition of the fish at HBOI in early November 2016 by extracting gonad samples from the bonefish. Several of them were indeed producing eggs. Our team will monitor their development carefully in upcoming months, and perhaps use injections of reproductive hormones to help them get ready to spawn. While waiting for spawning, new larval rearing protocols will be developed, so we’ll be ready to tackle the next major challenge.

2017 promises to be an exciting year in our growing knowledge of bonefish reproduction and our capacity to spawn and rear fish in a laboratory setting.