Category Archives: Conservation

Remote Pond Survey Project

Maine’s Remote Pond Survey Project

Seasonal Technicians Chris Introne and Dan Perry haul in a gill net while surveying an Unnamed Pond
By MDIFW Fisheries Biologist Merry Gallagher
from The Fishing Wire

Doing a pond survey


The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Fisheries Division Native Fish Conservation Group completed another successful and perhaps the last summer of remote pond surveys in 2018.

Since 2011, MDIFW has teamed with volunteer anglers from Trout Unlimited and Maine Audubon to systematically survey pond habitats in Maine that had never been surveyed to assess fish community structure, determine basic water quality or aquatic habitat condition. When the effort began, almost 600 presumed ponds were identified from maps as having never been surveyed, but ‘the list’ was eventually pared down to 533 mapped features more indicative of ponds.

The Remote Pond Survey was set up as a two-step process – first, volunteer anglers with Maine Audubon and Trout Unlimited would visit a pond and by following a protocol established by all three partners (IFW, MA, TU) would record valuable information regarding how to access these remote ponds and also provide information on their fishing, such as species caught or detected, evidence of fishing activity occurring at the pond, and observations regarding habitat condition and water quality.

Old log structure


The remains of an old log driving structure on the outlet of Little Bog Pond.

These results provided by anglers contributed to waters being ranked for their likelihood of having wild brook trout populations or being coldwater fish habitat (Table 1) so that IFW biologists could concentrate our efforts on surveying waters that held the most promise for adding additional wild brook trout populations and their habitats to our roster of surveyed waters. The waters that IFW staff survey through a standard protocol estimates fish community structure, develops a basic map of the habitat, estimates pond depth and bathymetry, and measures basic water quality is phase 2 of the process.

Over seven years of effort, the volunteer survey ranked about 460 of the initial 533 remote presumed ponds with a Priority Code and referred that list to MDIFW for potential further action. Since 2012, MDIFW Fishery Biologists have been surveying remote ponds with Priority Codes of 1, 2 or 3. Although a large portion of this effort has been conducted by the Department’s native fish conservation group based in Bangor, regional staff have also conducted a fair share of these surveys and have assisted the Department’s native fish conservation group on occasion over the years.

Pond Brook Trout


Seasonal Technician Dan Perry with some wild brook trout sampled during a remote pond survey.

For the 2018 summer field season, the Department’s native fish conservation group staff conducted 46 remote pond surveys and we have added survey information to MDIFW databases for 196 waters total, of which 95 support previously undocumented populations of wild brook trout, since this effort began. We are thrilled to report that all ponds with a Priority Code of 1 or 2 are now completed and of the ponds remaining on the list, some are scheduled for survey in upcoming years by regional staff, most are ranked with Priority Codes of 4 or 5 and therefore do not likely warrant further effort, and less than 10 ponds with a Priority Code of 3 remain for consideration of future effort.

This has been a very large and dedicated effort by many! It was a monumental task to whittle a list of 533 unsurveyed presumed remote ponds down to a handful remaining in less than ten years. Without the dedication from the many volunteers, MA and TU, IFW staff and leadership, we would not be here today with a now largely completed Remote Pond Survey. Well done all!

Table 1. Priority Codes given to remote ponds based on Volunteer Angler Survey results
1 BKT caught by volunteer or present based on credible evidence
2 BKT possible, unconfirmed report, good water or habitat quality, etc.
3 BKT somewhat possible but not as likely as a Priority 2
4 Little to no expectation of finding BKT
5 Most likely will not be visited because of poor habitat, water quality, etc

Pond Headwaters Survey


Assessing the condition of an inlet to Little Mucalsea Pond as part of our standard pond survey protocol.

Comeback of Greenback Cutthroat

Colorado Parks & Wildlife Works Toward Comeback of Greenback Cutthroat

By Jason Clay, Colorado Parks & Wildlife
from The Fishing Wire

Green Cutthroat Trout making a comeback


HERMAN GULCH, Colo. – Something fishy is taking place up at the headwaters of Clear Creek, and that is exactly what aquatic biologists for Colorado Parks and Wildlife were hoping to see when they went looking for the native greenback cutthroat trout.

The history of the greenbacks has been well documented – they have traversed through turbulent waters and were once thought to be extinct – but now CPW has evidence that Colorado’s state fish is making a successful return in its ancestral waters.

CPW aquatic biologist Boyd Wright and his team has been stocking greenbacks into the Clear Creek headwaters four miles above I-70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel for the past three years.

After a seemingly unsuccessful plant of 4,000 hatchlings in the Herman Gulch stream in 2016 – few had survived the winter – aquatic biologists persisted and their conservation efforts are now paying off.

“It has been a long road with lots of hard work by some really good and passionate people, but it is very gratifying to see these encouraging results for the greenback cutthroat trout,” Wright said on Thursday, Sept.13, following a population survey conducted at Herman Gulch.

Wright and his team replanted greenbacks into the Herman Gulch waters in both 2017 and 2018. They stocked nearly 1,000 one-year-old fish and just under 10,000 young-of-year fish, i.e. hatchlings, in 2017, and another 900 one-year-old fish earlier this summer.

“We’ve documented all of those cohorts of fish here today, which is good,” Wright said streamside sitting at roughly 11,500-feet underneath Pettingell Peak.

For the population survey, Wright and his team took three population samples on the stream, using electroshocking to capture the fish on the chosen 100-yard segments. After netting the fish, they were measured and weighed for documentation, as well as examined to see which planting group and year they came from.

Wright then took the results from the three samples and was able to calculate a population estimate. He found a 30 percent survival/retention rate of the of the 1,000 fish that were stocked at yearlings in 2017 and estimated the total population at 435 fish/mile.

“That may not sound all that well, but it is actually quite good,” Wright said. “We expect that not all of the fish will be able to survive and we set the stocking number accordingly, so I’m really happy to see that level of survival in the system.”

A 30 percent estimated retention rate on the one-year-old greenbacks that have been stocked into the system to date is extremely encouraging.

It could be the start of a massive success story for Colorado’s state fish that has boomed and busted over the past century. Wright is now bullish on the conservation effort for the greenback.

“The long-term goal of this project is to have a self-sustaining population of pure greenback cutthroat trout that doesn’t require any maintenance with stocking,” Wright said. “We are stocking it now to try to load the system up with fish and once we get to the point where we have reached a good density of fish in the system, we’ll stop stocking.”

The target for that is 2019, but in the meantime, Wright and his team are doubling down on their efforts. Two weeks after the population survey, they were back stocking more greenbacks into Herman Gulch.

To get that self-sustaining population, evidence of what biologists call “recruitment” needs to take place. The scientists need to see signs of the fish reproducing.

The first year to look for that evidence will be in 2019 when Wright predicts that the fish they have stocked will be reproductively mature. In 2020, they will be able to tell that the fish that are spawned in 2019 have been recruited into the population.

“I think by 2020 we will have a sense if this is working or not and everything that we know about this system so far, the fish that were here previously were a hybrid cutthroat and they did really well in this stream,” Wright said. “The water temperature is suitable for trout recruitment, we know that, and it’s a pretty productive stream for such a small stream. The expectation is that these fish will do well here.”

###

CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 41 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW’s work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.

What is Barotrauma?

Try this Simple Solution for Barotrauma in Fish

E. Weeks, South Carolina DNR
from The Fishing Wire

Pressure Release for Barotrauma


Two descending devices – https://youtu.be/agu22ruqX4gdevices (in center): a pressure-activated SeaQualizer and a lower-tech descender (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Recently on the blog we looked at a few misconceptions surrounding barotrauma, which occurs when fish reeled in from deep waters experience injuries due to the rapid change in pressure. Barotrauma, which can range from invisible injuries to bloated organs, can kill fish both directly and indirectly, as when they’re unable to escape predators such as sharks or barracudas.

There’s increasing consensus that descending devices are the best way to address this issue, giving released reef fish the greatest odds of survival.

Descending devices can range from the low-tech and DIY (a simple hook or basket set-up with a weight attached) to more expensive, commercially developed tools. But all serve the same purpose: to return fish to a safe depth where they can recover from any ill effects of barotrauma. The use of all descending devices follows the same basic procedure:

Angler reels in a fish from >30 feet of water and may or may not observe signs of barotrauma in the fish.

After deciding to release fish, angler works quickly to dehook the animal.

Angler attaches descending device to fish (either through the hole made by hook, by attaching to lip, or by placing fish in a basket).

Using a hand reel or heavy-duty rod, angler lowers fish back into the depths from which it was caught.

Angler triggers the release mechanism, freeing the descending device from the fish so it can re-acclimate to its environment.

In 2015, the FishAmerica Foundation began working with anglers in the Gulf of Mexico to improve the survival of fish caught in deep waters (such as red snapper) and learn more about the potential for widespread use of descending devices. By asking over 1,100 anglers to test Seaqualizer descending devices, the project ‘saved’ an estimated 3,000-9,000 red snapper that, based on previous research, would otherwise have died due to their barotrauma injuries.

Based on their early success in the Gulf, the FishSmart project has now expanded to look at the impacts of using descending devices by offshore anglers in the South Atlantic. That’s how the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) came to be a partner on this project.

An Opportunity to Try This Yourself Right now, SCDNR is recruiting volunteer anglers who regularly fish for species such as snapper, grouper, or red drum in deep waters. If you’re an offshore angler who cares about improving the survival of reef fish, consider taking part in this program. Anglers who participate in the program will be provided with educational materials and tools for decreasing barotrauma effects, and will be asked to complete two brief surveys over the coming year about how often they used descending devices, how they worked, and whether they have any recommendations for improvement on provided information.If you’re interested in helping conserve deepwater fish by participating in this program, please contact SCDNR’s Morgan Hart at HartM@dnr.sc.gov.

Catch and Release Fishing

To Keep or To Release?
From the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife
from the Fishing Wire

Releasing Trout


If you’re fishing in a catch-and-release-only water body, the decision has been made for you; all fish must be released promptly. But otherwise, you can decide which legally harvestable fish to keep for consumption, which to release, and how to conduct either activity. Many fishing regulations are designed to improve fish growth and size quality, and they are only successful if fish are harvested by anglers. A lack of harvest can cause fish to stunt and not grow. Either way, it’s your job to bring a humane approach to the table. If you decide to release your catch, the following tips will help result in a successful release.

How to safely catch and release

By carefully following these simple instructions, you can release your fish unharmed. If you enjoyed catching your fish, so will the next angler!

Time is of the essence. Play and release the fish as quickly and carefully as possible. An exhausted fish may be too weak to recover. Do not overplay your fish.
Keep the fish in the water. Minimize or eliminate the time your fish is out of the water. As little as 30 seconds of air exposure can cause delayed mortality of released trout, and in the winter months the fish may be subject to a quick freeze.

Wet your hands when handling the fish. Dry hands can remove the layer of slime that protects the fish from fungi, bacteria, and parasites.

Photograph responsibly. Photo sessions can be stressful for a fish. Prepare for the photo with your fish safely under the water surface, and only lift the fish out of the water for 5 second intervals or less. Try to get the shot (within reason), but return your fish to the water for a rest between attempts.

Be gentle. Keep your fingers away from the gills, don’t squeeze the fish, and never drag a fish onto the bank.

Choose the right landing net. Rubber nets are easier on fish than traditional twine nets.

Safely remove the hook with small pliers or a similar tool. If the hook is deeply embedded or in a sensitive area such as the gills or stomach, cut the leader close to the snout. Make an effort to use regular steel (bronzed) hooks to promote early disintegration. Avoid the use of stainless hooks. One way to release your fish quickly is to use barbless hooks. If barbed hooks are all you have, you can bend the barbs over or simply file them off.

Neutralize the pressure. The air bladders of togue (lake trout) often expand after being pulled up rapidly from deep water. If a togue’s belly appears expanded, release it from the hook first, then gently press your thumb along the stomach near the paired belly fins and move it forward a few times to release the air before releasing the fish.

Revive the fish. Hold the fish underwater in a swimming position until it can swim away (note: do not use this method if surface water temperatures are unusually warm).
Follow these simple basics and most of the fish you put back into the water will be there for you to try to catch next time.

Ducks, Unlimited and Conservation

Many folks say the cardinal is the most beautiful bird in our area, but I wonder if they have ever seen a wood duck up close. A cardinal is pretty with solid red body and black mask, and its crest makes it distinctive.

But a wood duck has many colors. Its shiny green head, rusty orange breast, tan wings with blue highlights, white breast and white highlights on chest and head make it a complex riot of hues.

Bluebirds are pretty, too, with males having blue backs and rusty orange breast during mating season, but mallards rival them with shinny green heads, muddy

brown breasts and blue wing highlights.

Few people see ducks of any kind unless they live on a lake or pond. They don’t come to back yard feeders. You have to go to their habitat to see them. Fortunately, thanks to Ducks, Unlimited, there is a lot more habitat for them than in the fairly recent past.

Founded in 1937, Ducks, Unlimited is a group of like-minded hunters and other conservationists who work to insure the future of ducks. Their work preserving and increasing habitat for waterfowl no only benefits ducks, it helps all wildlife. They are truly conservationists in what they do.

On the Ducks, Unlimited web site, https://www.ducks.org/, their motto says “Filling the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.“ That goal means more ducks to shoot, but also means more birds of all kinds, including cardinals and bluebirds, due to their work.

Habitat for waterfowl includes wetlands, ponds, food for waterfowl and suitable nesting areas. Those are all good for ducks, but also good for all other wildlife. If food for waterfowl is available, it is also available for everything from songbirds to deer. And if good cover for nesting is increased it also increase places for all kinds of wildlife to live and reproduce.

If you like bald eagles and want them to increase, join Ducks, Unlimited. Anything good for ducks is good for eagles, and eagles hunt and eat ducks, just like many Ducks, Unlimited members. Ducks are food for many species of predators other then people so increasing the food supply helps them, too.

That is a big reason for the need for more duck habitat. If no hunter ever shot another duck, but habitat was not preserved and increased, waterfowl populations would decrease due to lack of habitat, and predators would take more and more of the smaller and smaller population of waterfowl.

Wetland conservation helps people, too, by improving the health of our environment. Water is stored and purified in them, they help moderate flooding and slow down soil erosion. Conserving wetlands is important to all life.

Many people do not know how money is raised for wildlife conservation in the US. In 1937 the Pittman-Robertson Act was passed by congress and signed by President Roosevelt. It charges 11 percent on all firearms and hunting supplies. All that money is earmarked for conservation and sent to the states to use for that purpose. The Dingle-Johnson Act does the same thing for fisheries with a tax on fishing supplies.

But Ducks, Unlimited raises money to supplement those funds. And Ducks, Unlimited is efficient. Many fund-raising organizations spend much of their money on administration and things other than their stated goal. Ducks, Unlimited spends only three percent on administration and 14 percent on fundraising efforts. Eighty three percent of all funds raised goes directly to conservation. That is an admirable ratio.

It might seem strange that hunters wanting to shoot ducks work so hard to protect the environment but not to anyone that hunts. Hunters know our sport depends on a good environment, and we see nature up close and personal. We know nature needs our efforts to make sure it is not destroyed and work to conserve it. Many non-hunters realize the work that is needed also join and work with Ducks, Unlimited.

Each year Ducks, Unlimited holds more than 4000 fund raising events nationwide. Most of these efforts are banquets where people have fun as well as raise money for conservation. There are many events here in Georgia each year and they are listed on the Ducks, Unlimited web site at http://www.ducks.org/events.

Since 1985 Ducks, Unlimited has worked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to conserve more than 27,000 acres of wetlands here in our state. That is good for wildlife and people right here. Without Ducks, Unlimited, there would be many fewer acres conserved in Georgia.

Although 2.1 million dollars was raised here in Georgia last year, Ducks, Unlimited members and supporters supply more than money. When volunteers are needed to work on projects they give their time and equipment, with no pay, to make sure the work is done. Much of wetland conservation work is hard labor moving dirt and other materials to build small dams and water control structures. Members help with those projects.

Businesses also help by donating money and items for auctions. There are a variety of ways businesses and corporations help, through product licensing, sponsorships, comprehensive partnerships, philanthropy and directly supporting specific conservation projects.

Ducks, Unlimited also reaches out to young people with special youth memberships and events. There are more than 45,000 Greenwing members who love the outdoors and care about conservation. There are high school chapters and Ducks, Unlimited provides college scholarships.

If you are a hunter, or if you just love the outdoors and want to conserve it for the future, join Ducks, Unlimited and attend one of their events near you. You will have fun as well as insuring the future of our outdoors.

Till next time – Gone fishing!

What Are Smalltooth Sawfish?

Smalltooth Sawfish: On the Road to Recovery
from The Fishing Wire

Sign about smalltooth sawfish


A billboard in Florida City educates visitors to the Florida Keys about endangered sawfish. Credit: Mike Barnette

By Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation
from The Fishing Wire

The U.S. Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team recently released a video which looks at smalltooth sawfish recovery in the United States, 15 years after its listing under the Endangered Species Act. To watch the video visithttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSRWUjVU3e8&feature=youtu.be

The video is themed around the “road” to recovery and starts with an aerial drive down US 1 into Florida City where Keys visitors are now welcomed by a billboard promoting sawfish conservation. The billboard highlights three key concepts of sawfish conservation: respect, release, and report.

Viewers are given a brief description of smalltooth sawfish biology, the habitats where they live, and why the population decreased to the point that it needs protection under the Endangered Species Act. The video then introduces the smalltooth sawfish recovery implementation team developed by NOAA Fisheries to aid in recovering this species.

“Our Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Implementation Team is comprised of a number of partners from both federal and state government, non-government organizations, universities, and the fishing industry. Each year we get together to review what we’ve learned through our research in the previous year and set goals for the upcoming year,” states team member Tonya Wiley of Havenworth Coastal Conservation.

Gregg Poulakis of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spoke about the progress of the team since its inception, stating, “when the recovery team came into existence shortly after the species was listed under the Endangered Species Act, we knew very little about the species. Basically, any question that we asked, or anyone would ask, about the biology or ecology of the species didn’t have an answer, so we had a lot of priorities initially, and over the last 15 years we’ve learned a lot.”

The video progresses by briefly discussing current research on this endangered species before introducing team member and professional charter captain, Charlie Phillips of Hope Fishing Adventures. Charlie explains why he volunteered to become part of the team, “I’m an Everglades National Park permitted captain myself, and the sawfish is the heart of the Everglades. I mean it embodies the area that I fish, so having an opportunity for people to interact correctly with that endangered species is very important and trying to share that with as many people as I can…is why I’m here.” Charlie’s account as a recreational angler segues into the safe release guidance that the team has developed and continues to promote. Should an angler catch a sawfish, our guidance is to leave the sawfish in the water, cut the line as close to the hook as possible, release the sawfish quickly, and report to us the information about the encounter.

The video details what a recovered population of smalltooth sawfish in the U.S. might look like. While there is some uncertainty, John Carlson of NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center states, “… sawfish historically were found in areas from North Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico so what we should see as the population recovers, is that abundance trends are increasing as well as seeing individuals in some of those historic areas.”

Juvenile smallthooth sawfish


A juvenile smalltooth sawfish swims in the shallows of Everglades National Park. Credit: Andrea Kroetz

With the evidence to date, the team thinks endangered smalltooth sawfish are on the path to recovery. “Based on the species current status and its life history characteristics, the smalltooth sawfish population is not likely to fully recover for at least 40 to 50 years,” concludes Adam Brame, the Sawfish Recovery Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries. “We are seeing signs of progress, however, and due to these modest improvements, we’re cautiously optimistic that the smalltooth sawfish is indeed on the road to recovery.”

Please check out the video and share it with others to foster support for this endangered species. To watch the video visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSRWUjVU3e8&feature=youtu.be And, as always, to report a smalltooth sawfish encounter call 1-844-4SAWFISH or email sawfish@myfwc.com.

For more information:

Internet: www.SawfishRecovery.org
Facebook: U.S. Sawfish Recovery
Twitter: @SawfishRecovery

Tonya Wiley, President
Tonya@havenworth.org
941-201-2685
www.havenworth.org

Tax-deductible donations to help us continue our mission to promote the sustainable use and conservation of marine resources through research, outreach, and education can be made at https://www.oceanfdn.org/donate/havenworth-coastal-conservation

Help Snook and Reds in Florida’s Red Tide Areas

How Anglers Can Help Snook and Reds in Florida’s Red Tide Areas
By Brett Fitzgerald, Snook and Gamefish Association
from the Fishing Wire

(Hint: log more, log now – it’s never been more important!)

Red tide map of Florida


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has temporarily mandated that snook and red drum are ‘catch and release only’ in the areas most impacted by the 2018 red tide bloom. The closure runs from the northernmost point of Anna Maria Island in Manatee County, and runs along the coast down through Collier County to Gordon Pass.

The change of status to “catch and release only” is set to expire at midnight on Oct. 12, which will allow commissioners time to hear an update the next FWC Commission meeting, (September 26-27 in Havana/Tallahassee).

An executive order has not been used to shut down the harvest of any “fin-fishery” to harvest in Florida since the historic 2010 cold-kill, which had massive impacts on the snook population. (Scallop seasons have been closed or delayed due to red tide in the past, most recently in 2016 and 2017.)

Similar to the situation in 2010, FWC felt compelled to take action to protect these fisheries without the benefit of hard supporting science. In circumstances such as these, it is understandable that the decision was difficult, but made with the best intentions. “We have no idea how much these fisheries have been impacted,” said Jim Estes, Deputy Director of Marine Fisheries Management. “We did see issues with recruitment after the 2005 red tide bloom for certain species,” Estes added. This, combined with other factors such as interviews with stakeholders throughout Florida, prompted the temporary change of fishery status.

Back in 2010, snook anglers were called to action – FWC and their research arm the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) worked with the Snook Foundation to develop a self-reporting system called the Angler Action Program, which led to the development of the iAngler smart phone app. “The information gathered by iAngler was very helpful after the 2010 cold event, and it played a significant role as the snook fishery recovered,” noted Dr. Luiz Barbieri, Program Administrator, Marine Fisheries Research at FWRI.

Once again, we are asking anglers to contribute valuable information through Angler Action. “I encourage anglers to report their catch in iAngler,” Jim Estes said. He has been a direct point of contact between FWC and Angler Action, and says this information can only help them understand the health of the fishery.

Over the next week, we at SGF/Angler Action will be working directly with FWC and FWRI staff to ensure that recreational anglers are dialed in. “Right now, our focus here is to help FWC get a handle on what is really going on with fish populations throughout Florida,” said SGF Chairman Mike Readling. “iAngler continues to be the best way anglers can communicate what they are catching – and not catching,” pointing out that ‘zero-catch’ trips are extremely valuable.

“We want to remind all anglers that using iAngler doesn’t mean that you must handle fish any more than a typical release,” Readling points out. Anglers do not need to include a photo with their report. While length information is very important, anglers can leave that box blank too.

For now, we ask that you stay tuned. Understand that the rule change means you CAN fish in the areas within the map above, you just must release any and all redfish and snook. If you are fishing anywhere in the state, these are our two asks of you: Log your trip in iAngler, and emphasize best-release practices.

Angler Action’s Best Practices for Catch & Release Fishing
Access to fisheries is an important part of conservation in America, and for many of us that access includes ‘catch and release’ fishing. In such cases, we want every fish we let go to survive so they can continue to thrive and contribute to the future of their species.

With that in mind, here’s a refresher on some pointers that will significantly increase the chance of survival of those fish you let to. If you wish to have something added to this list, let us know!

Fish Handling

Try to keep the fish in the water at all times.
Minimize handling, since this can remove protective slime from the fish.
If you handle a fish, use clean, wet hands.
If you do remove the fish from the water, support the fish beneath the head and belly.
Minimize exposure to air, maximum 15 seconds.
Avoid using mechanical lip-gripping devices on active fish, since this can cause jaw injury.
If a fish’s weight is desired, attach a cradle to the scale to support the fish’s weight.
Keep fingers away from the gills, damaged gills make it harder for the fish to breathe.
Hooks

Use barbless hooks, since this reduces the amount of handling needed to remove the hook.
When fishing with bait, use circle hooks.
If a hook is deep within the throat, cut the line as close to the hook as possible.
This causes less damage than removing a deeply-set hook; most fish are able to reject the hook or the hook dissolves over time.
Fight Time

Keep the fight short, but not too short.
Long fight times result in an exhausted fish, which is more vulnerable to predators.
A fish reeled in too quickly may thrash about, increasing it’s chances of injury.
Use tackle that matches the fish and conditions.
If a fish looses equilibrium (it rolls over or goes nose down on the bottom), retrieve it until it can swim upright, then shorten the fight time on future fish.
When retrieving a fish, be sure that water passes over the gills from front to back.
Move the fish forward or hold it upright in the water allowing it to pump water through it’s gills.
High water temperatures may negatively impact survival after release for many species. In warmer water, reduce fight and handling time.
Predators

Since predators can decrease survival of fish after release, when predators become abundant and appear to become attracted to your fishing activity, consider moving to another fishing location.
If you have caught a fish and potential predators are near, consider using a circulating live-well to hold your fish for a short time to allow releasing it some distance away from them, unless that fish is not legal to possess.

Count Your Catch

Use AnglerAction.org or the iAngler phone app to record your catch info while fishing or soon after. (Remember to record all sizes and 0 catch as well).
If you are fishing in areas where the fish population is stressed, remember that you don’t need to photograph each fish in iAngler.
If you are unable to obtain an accurate length without excessive handling, it is better to leave that box empty. However, provided lengths are immensely helpful when using this data to better understand the health of a given fishery.

Lake Michigan’s Smallmouth Bass

Learning about the habits of smallmouth bass in northern Lake Michigan
Here’s an interesting update from Michigan’s DNR on a study of Lake Michigan’s smallmouth bass populations and their growth and migration.
from The Fishing Wire

Nice Smallmouth


For so long it was believed that smallmouth bass didn’t travel that far or intermix their populations – especially in a large waterbody like Lake Michigan. But early studies, originating in the

mid-1950s by Dr. Carl Latta, hinted that smallmouth bass just may travel much farther than researchers initially understood.

Historical data on the northern Lake Michigan smallmouth bass population was collected via very limited surveys from the mid-1950s, through the late 1990s. Then in 2005, an ongoing smallmouth bass survey was launched jointly with Central Michigan University (CMU) to look at population trends in the species.

When the study was initiated, the Beaver Island Archipelago area was chosen as the main study area. It was the location of CMU’s biological station and more importantly the residents of Beaver Island were concerned about the local bass population believing increasing numbers of cormorants locally were the direct cause of the decline in the local bass population. In 2009, the study area was expanded to include the Waugoshance point area, then again in 2014 to include Grand Traverse Bay.

“Historically the local bass fishery was considered world-class and drew in a lot of anglers,” explained a DNR fisheries research technician out of Charlevoix, John Clevenger. “All of a sudden the fishery was low – the cormorant populations were high – and we wanted to try to see what truly caused the bass to decline.”

The initial study started to unravel some of the mysteries of these local bass – not limited by cormorants but rather these fish traveling to other areas of the lake. Researchers use small trap nets to capture smallmouth bass, place metal jaw tags on them and then return them to the water. In the first couple of years of the study, a select few bass were also surgically implanted with an acoustic tag. These fish were then tracked almost daily throughout the summer months to determine their whereabouts.

“We very quickly started finding fish – courtesy of jaw tag returns from anglers – outside of the Beaver Island archipelago area,” said Clevenger. “We started to realize these fish do move great distances. This study is now helping us understand how and why.”

The “why” is still a big question that has yet to be answered through the course of this 60-plus year study. Researchers have some good guesses, but specifics are hard to pinpoint.

“At some point in their life these fish are wandering,” said the DNR fisheries biologist out of Traverse City, Heather Hettinger. “They might be looking for food or for better habitat.”

That wandering is part of the reason the study expanded to other areas, with the potential for Lake Charlevoix to be added in the future. And while the “why” continues to go unanswered, lots of other great information is gleaned.

Hettinger explains between the fish captured or recaptured through this study each year – plus the jaw tags reported by anglers – they’ve developed this immense spread of data that gives a pretty clear picture of how the fish are growing and how the pattern of the population lays itself out. That information becomes critical when working on potential regulation decisions – particularly when concerned members of the public report a lack of big fish in the area.

“We have these great graphs that allow us to look over time and watch how these fish grow and where the patterns are,” she said. “If we hear concerns we can refer to these graphs and point out where we’ve seen drop-offs in larger fish or where we can refute their claims.”

The area currently has two different sets of bass regulations – Waugoshance and Grand Traverse Bay are the same but the harvest opener at Beaver Island opens later in the year. All three points are very popular with bass anglers – further proving the value of this study as the department manages the fishery for future (and current generations).

See below for graphs showing length distribution of smallmouth bass in the three areas this study covers.

Length Distribution

length distribution

Another distribution

Secrets About Bass Populations

Electrofishing At Night Reveals Secrets About Bass Populations
by Mark Latti, Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife
from The Fishing Wire

Boat for electrofishing


The electrofishing boat has two booms which deliver an electric current into the water.
Each year during late May and early June, the regional office gets a phone call or two about some strange things happening during the wee hours of the morning on some local lake or pond. I even had one caller exclaim once that a UFO had landed on the pond! If you see such a thing, rest assured it is probably not a UFO, but rather your regional fisheries staff working late nights to collect fishery resource information.

Each year about this time, the regional fisheries staff of the Sebago Lakes Region sample 2-4 different waters to collect baseline information on the bass population(s), as well as determine the relative abundance of other fish species. Sampling is done at this time of year during the night, because the fish are more likely to be in shallower water spawning and are less likely to be spooked by the approach of a boat.

Each bass is measured and weighed, so biologists get a clearer picture of the bass population in the lake.
This sampling is performed with an electrofishing boat. A what? An electrofishing boat has an onboard generator that delivers an electric current into the water, which temporarily stuns the fish so they can be collected with nets. Because the work is done in pitch black conditions, there are lots and lots of lights, beepers, and motor sounds…no wonder we get mistaken for aliens!

Prior to sampling, we survey the shoreline habitat of each lake (in daylight) and categorize the shoreline habitat into different habitat types (i.e. sand, cobble/rubble, muck with weeds, etc.) and mark the start and end of each with a GPS unit. Since most lakes are too large to sample the entire shoreline in a night. We then take the habitat data for the entire lake and develop partial sampling transects of each habitat type relative to their proportion in the lake. Once determined, coordinates for these sampling transects are entered back into the GPS, so we can navigate in the dark.

The boat hugs the shoreline and biologists are ready to net any fish that are temporarily stunned.
The boat is operated by a crew of three, one boat driver and two netters. Fish are stunned, netted, and placed into a live well for each transect. After one or two transects are sampled, the bass are anesthetized then each is measured, weighed, and returned to the lake or pond to recover. This work is repeated for each transect until completed, which is typically sometime between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m.

Sometimes the night drags into early morning, but the onboard work lights allow biologists to accurately measure and record the data they need.
To date, we have collected baseline data on about 50 regional bass waters. This baseline length, weight, size class structure and catch per unit of effort data (abundance) on bass gives us a basis for categorizing waters by fishery quality, comparing populations or performance among other regional waters, and for evaluating changes in population characteristics over time due to varying regulations, environmental conditions, or other variables.

The next time your “upta camp”, beware of those nocturnal biologists. Hopefully, we will not be interrupting your peaceful evening, but if we do…it’s all to evaluate, protect, and enhance our important fishery resources.

The controls at the helm of the electrofishing boat are a little more complex than most center consoles.

Once the fish are measured, they are released back into the water, so lunkers like this one can be caught again.

What Are Greenback Cutthroats?

Greenback Cutthroats Get a Boost into the Colorado Back Country

This week, the endangered Greenback Cutthroat Trout got a major boost from Trout Unlimited volunteers and agency partners in Colorado.
from The Fishing Wire

Spreading trout


CLEAR CREEK, CO — Once thought to be extinct, the rare greenback cutthroat trout is making a big comeback thanks to the efforts of the Greenback Cutthroat Recovery Team – a partnership that includes the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Western Native Trout Initiative, and Trout Unlimited.

Over the course of two days in mid-July, 1,700 Year 1 Cutthroats (~4-6 inches) made their way into two headwater drainages in the Clear Creek Watershed, an hour west of Denver, CO. The Dry Gulch and Herman Gulch creeks represent the first major river populations for this threatened species since it was rediscovered in 2012.

To help agency partners stock these important little fish, over 80 Trout Unlimited volunteers carried the cutthroats in large packs up steep switchbacks and bush-wacked through dense brush to get to the remote rivers. Some people hiked over six miles into the top of the drainage (over 11,500 feet)! These volunteers came from ten different TU chapters and represented all walks of life – anglers and conservationists coming together to recover this native trout.

“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” says Paul Winkle, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist for the Clear Creek Drainage. It was a major undertaking that took a lot of support from agency staff, non-profit partners, and local businesses.

At Colorado TU, we are very proud of the hard work and dedication that our chapters and volunteers provide to these projects. It shows what can happen when people focus on collaboration and overcoming differences. It didn’t matter whether someone was young or old, Democrat or Republican, a dry fly purist or never fished before – we were all side by side, climbing those steep trails together. All to save the Greenback.

That’s right! Over 80 volunteers and 20+ agency staff from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, US Forest Service, and US Fish and Wildlife service packed up 1700 native Greenback cutthroat trout to be released along Dry Gulch and Herman Gulch on July 16 & 18. These little trout were raised in a hatchery as part of a statewide effort to restore population’s of Colorado’s state fish. I’m not sure if you can tell if a fish is happy, but those little guys sure looked excited to be released into their new home. Check out the video spotlight that CBS Local Channel 4 did about the effort, below:

Feeling inspired? Learn more about Native Trout across Colorado – the efforts to protect and restore populations and ways to get involved.

Volunteers gather before setting off to deliver native trout to their new home. Volunteers and staff from:

U.S. Forest Service-Arapaho & Roosevelt Natl Forests Pawnee Natl Grassland, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Southwest Region, Pikes Peak Chapter of Trout Unlimited #508, St. Vrain Anglers Trout Unlimited, The Greenbacks | Colorado Trout Unlimited, basin + bend, Western Native Trout Initiative, Dublin Dog Co., West Denver Trout Unlimited, Cutthroat Chapter of Trout Unlimited,Boulder Flycasters, Colorado Parks and Wildlife,Trout Unlimited, Gore Range Anglers – Trout Unlimited and Upslope Brewing Company.

A big shout out to all the volunteers who came out to hike and haul the native trout to their new homes, and to the various groups and agencies that came out to restore Colorado’s native fisheries. Read the full story that CBS Channel 4 News did here.

Pictured: Western Native Trout Initiative Sticker and Dublin Dog Co. trout collar.

Thank you to the following:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife
US Forest Service
US Fish and Wildlife
Western Native Trout Initiative
Dublin Dog Co.
Upslope Brewing Co.
Basin + Bend
Loveland Ski Co.
The Greenbacks
CBS Channel News 4
Trout Unlimited Chapters
Trout Unlimited