Category Archives: Fishing Information

Why Are They Restoring Sturgeon To the Connecticut River?

Connecticut River Work to Bring Back Ancient Fish

Today’s feature, on efforts to restore shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon in Connecticut, comes to us from NOAA.
from The Fishing Wire

Sturgeon Closeup

Sturgeon Closeup

Closeup of sturgeon scutes. Remarkable scales on the sturgeon’s back protects like a suit of armor. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Shortnose sturgeon was listed in 1967 under the Endangered Species Preservation Act. In 1973 when the U.S. Endangered Species Act was enacted, the shortnose sturgeon was listed as endangered throughout its range along the East Coast of North America.

Sturgeon in the Connecticut River

Shortnose sturgeon inhabit the Connecticut River up to Turners Falls Dam. The Atlantic sturgeon is a larger species of sturgeon, thought to be a seasonal migrant to the Connecticut River. When present, Atlantic sturgeons are found primarily in the river’s estuary.

Threats to Sturgeon

Poor water quality remains a continued threat to sturgeon health on the Connecticut River. Sewage outflow, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), and coal tar deposits, are the types of contaminants most prevalent in the river. Another major threat is dams.

Shortnose Sturgeon

Shortnose Sturgeon

Shortnose sturgeon. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Even though sturgeon are remarkable jumpers, the Holyoke Dam, built in 1869, is 30-foot high and poses a significant barrier between the fish that reside upstream and those below the dam. This is of particular concern because the primary spawning areas for shortnose sturgeon in the Connecticut River lie upstream in the Turners Falls region. The limited exchange between these two areas is hindering population recovery on the river. The Holyoke Dam is not a complete barrier to fish passage. There is a fish ladder that lets some fish move upstream or downstream. However, some sturgeon have trouble finding the fish ladder when trying to move upstream or are injured by turbines when they pass through the power generating units as they head downstream.

Turners Falls and Cabot Station hydroelectric facility are located at a natural falls. This is thought to be the upstream extent of the range of shortnose sturgeon in the Connecticut River. Facility operations change the natural river flow – both how much water is available and how fast it flows. Irregular flows and water that flows too slowly or too fast, affect the ability of shortnose sturgeon to spawn and for their eggs and larvae to develop successfully.

Improving Fish Passage

NOAA Fisheries and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are consulting on several relicensing projects for hydroelectric facilities, including the Turners Falls and Cabot Station hydroelectric facility and Northfield pump storage facility, and the Holyoke hydroelectric facility in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Dam relicensing provides a key opportunity for NOAA Fisheries and its partners to provide recommendations for protecting sturgeon.

Atlantic sturgeon

Atlantic sturgeon

Atlantic sturgeon. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Federal agencies, in this case the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, must consult with NOAA Fisheries if they plan to conduct projects or allow activities that could potentially affect a listed marine or anadromous species’ long-term survival or habitat. At the end of these consultations, NOAA Fisheries issues a Biological Opinion. Biological Opinions often include recommendations and requirements to minimize or, if possible, remove risks to both habitat and the long-term survival of the listed species. The goal is to allow activities and projects to move forward, but to do so in a manner that still protects vulnerable species.

We’ve been collaborating with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on studies to examine the impact of the Turners Falls/Cabot facility operations. We are interested in learning more about how facility operations may impact spawning and development of early life stages. With the help of various partners, we are also making sure that the studies being conducted are done in such a way to minimize potential impacts on sturgeon. If we determine there is a risk to sturgeon from the continued operations of this facility, we will conduct a formal consultation.

Holyoke Dam on the Connecticut River

Holyoke Dam on the Connecticut River

Holyoke Dam on the Connecticut River. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

For many years, we also have been actively working to improve fish passage at the Holyoke facility. In 2000, we concluded that the ongoing operation of the facility was likely to jeopardize the continued existence of shortnose sturgeon. Based on a subsequent settlement agreement, the dam owner is now required to make major changes to the fishways to improve the ability of shortnose sturgeon to pass upstream of the dam and to provide safe passage downstream. Once work is complete, the lower river population should be able to complete their spawning run to the Turners Region and upstream fish should be able to migrate to rich foraging areas in the estuary.

Supporting Science

NOAA Fisheries has provided support to a variety of field research projects on the Connecticut River such as

monitoring shortnose sturgeon spawning success;
evaluating behavior during winter;
determining the effects of the Holyoke dam on shortnose sturgeon life history;
estimating population sizes; and
identifying annual movements within the river.

We also have supported lab work to study

Turner Falls Dam

Turner Falls Dam

Turner Falls Dam. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

movement and behavior of early life stages and juveniles;
spawning behavior;
use of a prototype fish ladder that was designed specifically for sturgeon because they have trouble navigating up commonly used fish ladders; and
the reactions and behaviors of downstream migrants as they encounter obstacles, so we can make it easier for them to continue their movements unimpeded.


Public Education

We developed an educational/outreach program about sturgeon called SCUTES (Students Collaborating to Undertake Tracking Efforts for Sturgeon). The SCUTES program is an initiative that involves NOAA Fisheries staff, students, teachers, and sturgeon researchers working together to learn more about the movements, behavior, and threats to shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon. We collaborate with various informal education centers along the East Coast of the United States to provide schools with sturgeon educational kits that are available on loan.

The SCUTES program also works with sturgeon researchers to provide sturgeon tracking data for teachers to use in the classroom as part of the Adopt-a-Sturgeon program. Our staff also regularly give talks about sturgeon at local New England classrooms. This fall, the SCUTES team plans to reach out to teachers in western Massachusetts and provide permanent educational kits to the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls, MA.

We remain committed to working with our partners to ensure the recovery of shortnose sturgeon both in the Connecticut River and throughout its full range. We are hopeful that with continued progress at addressing the primary threats on this river, shortnose sturgeon can increase in abundance as they have in other river systems.

SHORTNOSE STURGEON FACTS

Prehistoric looking with five rows of bony scutes1 along the length of its body
Vacuum-like mouth, used to suck in food because it doesn’t have teeth
Tail similar in appearance to a shark tail
An “anadromous fish,” migrating between freshwater for spawning and saltwater for feeding
Found in major rivers, estuaries, bays and coastal waters along the eastern seaboard of the United States and into Canada.

1. Sturgeons have five rows of bony scutes along the length of their body. Scutes are a modified scale. They can help serve as protection for the fish like armor and make sturgeon distinct from other fish.

Are Underwater Robots Used To Monitor Oceans?

Underwater Robots from Mote and USF Monitor Red Tide, Ocean Conditions in Gulf of Mexico

Robot Waldo

Robot Waldo

Waldo (top) and Bass (bottom) are two underwater robots launched by Mote Marine Laboratory and the University of South Florida, respectively, to monitor for Florida red tide and the ocean conditions that might affect it. (Photo credit: Capt. Greg Byrd/Mote Marine Laboratory)
Robot Bass

Robot Bass


Two underwater robots deployed Friday by Mote Marine Laboratory and the University of South Florida (USF) are helping scientists learn about the offshore bloom of Florida red tide in the Gulf and the ocean conditions that might be affecting it.

The bloom – first reported offshore in a statewide update issued July 25 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – is presently offshore of Hernando and Pasco Counties and appears to be 80 miles long, 50 miles wide and 40-90 miles offshore, according to satellite images. (See the latest update from FWC.)

While satellites capture the bloom’s surface appearance, only underwater robots and water sampling crews can verify the presence of the red tide algae, Karenia brevis, and detect the bloom beneath the surface. While scientists on boats can return water samples to the lab for more detailed analyses, robots can stay in the environment much longer, work in challenging weather and gather more data per mission.

Mote’s robot, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) nicknamed “Waldo,” carries a Mote-designed red tide detector called an optical phytoplankton discriminator, nicknamed the “BreveBuster.” This instrument examines microscopic algae in the water and tells scientists how closely they resemble K. brevis. In addition, Waldo’s equipment measures salinity and temperature – two physical factors that can affect blooms and help scientists develop better short-term forecasts of bloom movement.

USF’s AUV, nicknamed “Bass,” collects physical and optical oceanography data, including chlorophyll from algae, oxygen levels and water clarity. Data from both AUVs will support mathematical modeling of the bloom for short-term forecasts developed by the USF-FWC Collaboration for the Prediction of Red Tides.

“The team effort between our AUVs is crucial,” said Dr. L. Kellie Dixon, manager of the Ocean Technology Program at Mote. “The bloom is large and one AUV would have difficulty surveying all of it within a reasonable amount of time. Each AUV also has its own strengths – Waldo is equipped to sense the presence of red tide, important for ground-truthing the satellite images, while Bass is designed to make deeper dives further offshore.”

Waldo is programmed to move south along the shallower eastern edge of the bloom while Bass is set to move south along the deeper, western edge. Both gliders will dive up and down, collecting data at various depths and then surfacing every few hours to send updates to scientists using satellite transmitters in their tails.

Results so far: Since deployment on Friday, Waldo has been patrolling to within about 40 miles from the Pasco/Hernando border and has found red tide at the surface and to depths of about 25 meters (82 feet) in areas where it was indicated by satellites. Bass has been transecting the outer portion of the bloom and has found elevated chlorophyll associated with the red tide into waters as deep as 40 meters (131 feet).

Both gliders indicate stratified (or layered) water, with warmer and fresher water on the surface, and an abrupt transition to colder, saltier water at mid-depth.

Where are Waldo and Bass?

The public can see Waldo’s position by visiting: http://coolcloud.mote.org and clicking “Glider Operations,” and Google Earth users can see Waldo and Bass’ positions at: http://ooma.marine.usf.edu/CROW/

Through underwater robot missions and other monitoring efforts, Mote and USF are partners in a major environmental monitoring collaboration called GCOOS – the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System. GCOOS provides timely information about the environment of the U.S. portion of the Gulf of Mexico and its estuaries for use by decision-makers, including researchers, government managers, industry, the military, educators, emergency responders and the general public. Both gliders are reporting data to GCOOS’s Data Portal (http://gcoos.org/products/) in support of these efforts.

“In the future, we’d really like to compliment satellite imagery in the Gulf of Mexico with our underwater robots’ findings continuously, so that we can see what’s going on below the surface before a bloom initiates and starts killing fish and potentially impacting our coastlines,” said USF’s Chad Lembke, recently named leader of the Gulf Glider Task Team organized by GCOOS to assist in the coordination of glider efforts in the Gulf region. (“Glider” is another name for these AUVs or underwater robots.)

Red tide resources:

Statewide red tide updates and info from FWC: http://myfwc.com/redtide
Statewide updates in the HAB Bulletin from NOAA: http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/hab/
Red tide information from Mote, including FAQs and the Beach Conditions Report: a monitoring system for red tide impacts on multiple Florida beaches: http://mote.org/news/environment-updates#RedTide
Learn about red tide on Facebook from this FWC-Mote page about Florida’s harmful algal blooms: www.facebook.com/flhabs
Latest model forecasts from USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides at: http://cprweb.marine.usf.edu/

Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization based in Sarasota, Fla., with field stations in eastern Sarasota County, Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Keys. Mote has 24 research programs and a variety of initiatives dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, healthy habitats and natural resources. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is The Aquarium at Mote, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at www.mote.org.

You Tube Video On Using the Book Keys To Catching Lake Lanier Bass

My eBooks “Keys to Catching Lake Lanier Bass” and “Keys To Catching Clarks Hill Bass” help me catch bass so I made a video showing how to use them.

Lake Lanier is a tough lake to fish for many, including me. The fish live deep in the clear water and a drop shot rig is one of the best ways to catch them. I seldom fish a drop shot.

I went to Lake Lanier in July, took one of the chapters of the book for hot weather fishing and put the GPS Coordinates from that chapter in my Lowrance HDS 10. When I got to the waypoint there was a brush pile right on the coordinates.

After rigging a drop shot just like described in the book, with eight pound line, quarter ounce round sinker, eight inch leader and Wackem worm in the color suggested I caught three spotted bass. They were not big, two were throwbacks and one was a 14.5 inch keeper, but I did catch fish. A thunderstorm ran me off the lake early or I could have tried more of the spots in the article.

Check out the video and let me know what you think.

Is It Water Sports Season Yet?

Water Sport Season Upon Us
Jim Shepherd
from The Fishing Wire

Having spent most of the past three days on a boat enjoying terrific weather, it’s obvious that it’s boating season across most of the country. Hurricanes notwithstanding, it seems the boating industry is finally catching a break after virtually falling off a cliff in 2006 and ’07. But the numbers I’ve seen from the industry say 2013’s numbers were up 10.7 percent over 2012, and the manufacturers are telling me they’re seeing strong upticks in the blue collar boating segment, i.e., those in the 25-45 year old range who have kids.

Boats are back on the water (above) and last year’s great fishing gear- like the Fish Hunter (RIGHT)-a smart phone based individual fish finder mounted on last year’s improved Ugly Stik Gx2 combo are being put to good use.

Fish Hunter

Fish Hunter

They’re the group that disappeared in 2006 and contributed to a drop the industry said was 60-70% in the non-elite boat category. High-end sales had slowed, but those don’t really reflect the economic realities as the wealthy sportsmen are those who really do have disposable income and aren’t hampered when credit gets tight.

Good news for the fishing industry as well – and a reflection of the fact that that segment is recovering is the number of new products we will see rolling out next week when ICAST kicks off in Orlando, Florida.

Primarily known as “the tackle show” ICAST is a great reflection of both the U.S. and global health of the fishing industry. And as the releases that start appearing in today’s wire and will be large segments of the industry news all next week reflect, new efforts are centered on growing fishing as a viable recreational activity.

Key, of course to any sport’s growth is the youth market. With high school and collegiate tournament fishing kicking up across the country, it’s safe to say the teens of today will be in-touch with their inner angler. But the key to the industry’s ongoing health is recruitment of young anglers and the affordability of gear to the core angling fans.

To reach the young, it’s going to take more than simply downscaling size, price and quality of gear and putting a kid’s toy logo on it. That’s a realization that it seems Rebel Lures is taking seriously. In today’s news, you’ll see news that Rebel’s introducing a new line of kids lures that are far more than the scaled-down baits of adults. Their new lines feature barbless hooks and soft bodies that make them look like small lures, not reject adult baits.

There will be the usual amazing array of pieces of “smart gear” to help all anglers catch more fish. I’m hoping the new crop of gear contains something as awesome as the single piece of high-tech gear I’d consider the “sleeper” from last ICAST. That’s the Fish Hunter (www.fishhunter.com) , a high-tech, sonar-based piece of gear that gives an individual angler the high-tech advantage of a boat-based sonar rig. I’ve been using it on Tennessee’s Douglas Lake the past two weeks and have simply been amazed at the effectiveness of a piece of gear that looks like an oversized float on the line above my lure.

And it wasn’t just me. Douglas Lake anglers have been fascinated with the idea of having a “man-portable” sonar unit. One borrowed the unit from me for one of the area’s one-day fishing events. He returned the unit with word that the ability to use it as a secondary scouting unit was one reason he brought home a check from the competition.

And I’m hearing affordability is another issue being addressed this year. I was set to see a first-hand example of affordable gear with high-performance characteristics two weeks ago in Wisconsin while fishing with some industry friends.

Sturgeon Bay Smallmouth Grow Big

Sturgeon Bay Smallmouth Grow Big

The name on the hat says “Ugly” but the 6-pound, 3-ounce Sturgeon Bay catch being held by guide Jeff Weatherwax (right) says the results with the new “secret” gear was anything but ugly. And Pure Fishing’s Hunter Cole (left) got in on
Sturgeon Bay Smallmouth

Sturgeon Bay Smallmouth

the action with some nice hookups of his own. Jeff Samsel photos, with permission.

Unfortunately, the weather and American Airlines joined forces to change a simple two-hop trip into 36 hours of essentially wasted time. Instead of fishing on Sturgeon Bay, I found myself spending a miserable night on a cot along with thousands of other disgusted travelers in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

After two cancellations and a 24 hour delay, I admitted defeat and headed home. And know precisely why many air travelers with say we’re no longer passengers, we’re third-class cargo. Air carriers are making record profits whie operating with all the care and cordiality of bulk freight haulers. Who cares if travelers are inconvenienced, right?

Anyway, my fortunate friends spent some quality time fishing with the smart guys of Pure Fishing. One of the writers, Jeff Samsel, being an all-world nice guy and very knowledgeable angling authority, shared his impressions of Shakespeare’s newest rod and reel. Although I won’t give away the specifics, Jeff really liked the newest model.

Samsel says the new rod/reel combos were very tough- but offered a very good touch and feel when casting everything from 1/8 ounce hair jigs to rigs with one-ounce swimbait jig heads. That’s a wide variety of weights and shows the versatility I’d expect from a rod designed to be used by anglers of almost all skill levels – in fresh and saltwater situations.

Jeff says the hooksets were simple and the landing abilities were really solid.

Both Fishing Wire Editor Frank Sargeant and I will be in Orlando next week for ICAST – and I’m looking forward to seeing the newest innovations in everything from artificial baits to computer-based navigation and fish-finding tools.

And I’m hoping that if you’re one of our readers and happen to see me there you’ll take time to introduce yourself and let me know what you’d like to see covered in the wires. After all, we’re here to keep a simple promise: too keep you posted.

How Is the Population of Great White Sharks Doing?

NOAA Great White Shark Study Offers Optimistic Outlook

From the 90’s onward, NOAA scientists say, white shark numbers have slowly increased, mostly thanks to limited harvest.

Studies including hook-and-line captures indicate white sharks are recovering to safe numbers in Atlantic Waters off the U.S. coast.

Great White Shark

Great White Shark

White sharks are among the largest, most widespread apex predators in the ocean, but are also among the most vulnerable. A new study, the most comprehensive ever on seasonal distribution patterns and historic trends in abundance of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) in the western North Atlantic Ocean, used records compiled over more than 200 years to update knowledge and fill in gaps in information about this species.

Scientists from NOAA Fisheries and colleagues added recent unpublished records to previously published data to present a broad picture of 649 confirmed white shark records obtained between 1800 and 2010, the largest white shark dataset ever compiled for the region. Their study was published June 11 in the journal PLOS ONE.

“White sharks in the Northwest Atlantic are like a big jigsaw puzzle, where each year we are given only a handful of pieces,” said Tobey Curtis, a shark researcher at NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester, Mass. and lead author of the study. “After decades of effort by a lot of researchers, we finally have enough puzzle pieces for a picture to emerge on distribution and abundance patterns. We are pleased to see signs of population recovery.”

Among the findings: White sharks occur primarily between Massachusetts and New Jersey during the summer, off Florida during winter, and with a broad distribution along the U.S. East Coast during spring and fall. The sharks are much more common along the coast than in offshore waters. The annual north-south distribution shift of the population is driven by environmental preferences, such as water temperature, and the availability of prey. In recent years, white sharks have been increasingly associated with the return of gray seal colonies off the coast of Massachusetts.

Many whites travel north in summer to waters off New England, south to waters off Florida in winter.

Great White Shark Movemen

Great White Shark Movemen

“White sharks possess life history traits that make them vulnerable to exploitation,” said Nancy Kohler, chief of the Apex Predators Program at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and a study co-author. “These sharks can live 70 years or more, mature late, and do not produce many young. Their status and highly valued jaws and fins have made them the target of recreational and trophy fisheries in areas where their populations are not protected.”

Opportunistic capture and sighting records remain the primary source of information on this species. The updated information in this study is aimed at improving the conservation and management of white sharks both regionally and internationally, and providing a new baseline for future study.

This study updates understanding of white shark relative abundance trends, seasonal distribution, habitat use, and fisheries interactions, most of which occur with rod and reel, longline, and gillnet gear. White shark records were collected from landings data, commercial fishery observer programs, recreational tournament information, scientific research surveys, commercial and recreational fishermen, and other sources. The records were further classified, based on biological information such as length and life stage – neonate, young of the year, juvenile, or mature. Distribution patterns of each life stage were examined.

In the 1970s and 1980s, relative abundance data indicated that white shark populations declined, likely due to expanding commercial and recreational shark fisheries. However, from the early 1990s onward, abundance has increased.

“Both the declines and, more notably, the increases in abundance seen in our study were supported by multiple data sources” said Cami McCandless, a biologist in the NEFSC’s Apex Predators Program and a study co-author. “The increase in relative abundance is likely due, in part, to the implementation of management measures. The U.S. has managed its shark fisheries since 1993, and banned both commercial and recreational harvesting of white sharks in 1997.”

Sightings of white sharks have increased considerably in recent years along much of the East Coast.

Great White Shark Sightings

Great White Shark Sightings


While the overall distribution of white sharks is very broad, ranging from Newfoundland to the British Virgin Islands and from the Grand Banks to the Gulf of Mexico as far west as the Texas coast, 90 percent of the animals recorded in this study were found along the East Coast roughly between the Florida Keys and northern Caribbean Sea to Nova Scotia, Canada. The center of the distribution is in southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic Bight, where 66 percent of the sharks occurred.

Newborn white sharks, as small as 4.0 feet long, regularly occur off Long Island, New York, suggesting this area may provide nursery habitat. The largest shark in the study considered accurately measured was a female landed on Prince Edward Island, Canada, in August 1983. The animal measured 17.26 feet from the tip of its snout to the fork in its tail.

White sharks of all ages and sizes are present in continental shelf waters year-round, but their distribution varies by season. During winter, most white sharks are found off the northeast coast of Florida, the Florida Keys, and in the Gulf of Mexico offshore of Tampa Bay, Florida, where they have generally been considered rare. In spring, the distribution expands northward, and by summer most sharks occur in the waters off New York and southern New England, and around Cape Cod. In August some large juvenile and mature individuals reach Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the northernmost limit of their range. During fall, most sharks remain in northern latitudes, but begin to shift southward in November and December.

Most of the sharks were found in water depths shallower than 330 feet, although they seem to use deeper and colder waters as their size increases. The authors note that, in general, “white sharks remain an uncommon and sparsely distributed predator in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean.”

“We have improved our understanding of white sharks in the Northwest Atlantic in recent years through field research and technology,” said Kohler. “But we still have many questions about life history, population structure and size, behavior, habitat preferences, feeding habits, movements, and migration.”

White sharks live 70 years or more and mature late, so are highly vulnerable to over-harvest despite their formidable predatory capabilities.

Great White Shark Mouth

Great White Shark Mouth

Questions include when and where the sharks mate and give birth, their use of offshore habitats beyond the continental shelf, and whether the timings of white shark migrations in the Northwest Atlantic are similar to those in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. More observations, fishery captures and analyses of occasional specimens, along with tagging and telemetry studies, are needed to help answer these questions and improve conservation strategies.

In addition to Curtis, Kohler, and McCandless, study authors include Lisa Natanson and John Hoey from the NEFSC’s Narragansett Laboratory in Rhode Island; John Carlson from NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center Laboratory in Panama City, Florida; Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries; George Burgess from the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida in Gainesville; and Harold “Wes” Pratt, Jr. from Mote Marine Laboratory’s Tropical Research Laboratory in Summerland Key, Florida, a former member of the NEFSC’s Apex Predators Program.

# # #

NOAA Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources and their habitat through scientific research, management and enforcement. NOAA Fisheries Service provides effective stewardship of these resources for the benefit of the nation, supporting coastal communities that depend upon them, and helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and recreational opportunities for the American public.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

Keep America Fishing

Join in the Fun of the 2014 First Ever KeepAmericaFishing™ Day

EDITOR’S NOTE: This Saturday, June 7, many states across the country are holding their annual Free Fishing Days. It’s a great time to get out on the water and give fishing a try- but it’s also an opportunity for you to share your love of the sport and possibly score a prize. Here’s the information from KeepAmericaFishing.org.
from The Fishing Wire

Go fishing on June 7, and you just might win one of many exciting prizes

Alexandria, VA – Saturday, June 7, 2014 is the first-ever KeepAmericaFishing™ Day and is being held in conjunction with National Fishing and Boating Week. This is a day for avid and novice anglers alike to show their support of recreational fishing by getting out on the water. Anglers are asked to come towww.KeepAmericaFishing.org/fishing-day and share their experiences including photos and other highlights. Just by sharing, anglers are eligible to win prizes from KeepAmericaFishing and its partners.

“This is the inaugural year for KeepAmericaFishing Day and it’s an exciting new venture for KeepAmericaFishing,” said American Sportfishing Association Vice President Gordon Robertson. “Anglers everywhere should come towww.KeepAmericaFishing.org/fishing-day and share their fishing experiences anytime during National Fishing and Boating Week but especially on KeepAmericaFishing Day to stand united behind one of America’s favorite pastimes – fishing.”

To encourage participation, KeepAmericaFishing and its partners are offering a myriad of prizes from decals to rod and reel combos just for participating. The biggest prizes will be available on June 7, 2014, KeepAmericaFishing™ Day! On June 7, go to www.KeepAmericaFishing.org/fishing-day to share your experiences and receive a prize.

If you’re having too much fun on the water to remember to visit www.KeepAmericaFishing.org/fishing-day on June 7, you have until June 8, to post your photos and comments. Anglers may also download the Fishidy app on their mobile devices to capture and share their experiences directly from the water. Fishidy is KeepAmericaFishing’s official mobile partner.

Robertson further noted, “We are honored to have some of fishing’s most recognized brands on board for this campaign, highlighting the importance of anglers getting out on the water and supporting our sport. On June 7, get on out on the water and catch some fish. Then tell us about it on www.KeepAmericaFishing.org/fishing-day.”

The first KeepAmericaFishing™ Day is supported by these companies and brands:

AFTCO Manufacturing Company
Coghlan’s
Costa
Daiwa Corporation
Eagle Claw
Fishidy – KeepAmericaFishing’s Official Mobile Partner
Frabill
Mystery Tackle Box
Okuma Fishing Tackle Corporation
Plano Molding Company
Rapala
Shakespeare

About KeepAmericaFishing™
KeepAmericaFishing™ is the American Sportfishing Association’s angler advocacy campaign. KeepAmericaFishing gives America’s 60 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation’s waterways. Through policy, science and conservation, KeepAmericaFishing works to minimize access restrictions, promote clean waters and restore fish populations. For more information or to get involved today, visit www.KeepAmericaFishing.org.

What Can I Learn From A Fishing Guide?

You Can Learn A Lot From A Fishing Guide
from The Fishing Wire

You can learn a whole lot from a professional fishing guide…some of it applies to fishing. Most of it, however, applies to life and fishing.

Each March for the past few years, I’ve quietly cleared a space on my calendar for an event called the “Gaston’s Gathering”. It’s a two-day retreat where outdoor writers, editors and photographers fortunate enough to be included on the guest list have the opportunity to come together at Gaston’s White River Resort in Lakeview, Arkansas.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the area, Gaston’s bills itself as the country’s finest fishing resort. It’s located down the White River from the Bull Shoals dam, on what is, arguably, some of the most productive trout water in America. I’ve caught rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout there, and have been fortunate enough that some of them have been the kind of trout many of us fish a lifetime without catching.

Gaston’s is a family-owned and operated business, and has for the past half-century or so been managed by Jim Gaston. He’s a gracious host, fellow photography enthusiast and collector of all manner of cool stuff. Gaston’s great restaurant-literally built out over the water- boasts great food, along with a ceiling full of some of the most interesting gear you’ll ever sea. The collection includes vintage fishing motors, bicycles, signs and about anything else that’s caught Jim’s interest over the years. Cases inside the restaurant, hotel office and gift shop are full of other interesting collections, from old safety razors to watches and some amazing fountain pens.

It’s the kind of place where you can bring your spouse, children and even the family dog and be assured of being treated like family. If you’d like to know more about Gaston’s, you can visit www.gastons.com and check it out for yourself. And before you ask, yes most of the cabins and lodges are pink. There’s a story there, but no space for it here.

Gaston and his guides. At the annual “Shore Lunch” Gaston’s owner Jim Gaston (with camera on left), poses for a photo with the group of guides who regularly wrangle a gaggle of outdoor media types like the professionals they are. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.
Gaston’s also has a collection of fishing guides that are, in every sense, pretty unique characters. They include lifelong natives, “transplanted yankees” and others who don’t really talk about where they’re from. I’ve been fortunate enough to fish with a cross-section of them over the years, and their personalities are about as different as people who enjoy common activities can be.

But they all share short snippets of wisdom about fishing- and life- in their own unique ways. And you can learn- a lot- about your fishing and life if you’re paying attention.

On Tuesday, I asked guide Chuck Meyer what the single most common fishing mistake he saw on a recurring basis. What I expected was the usual rote answer about fishing too-fast or not giving the fish the opportunity to take the bait.

What I got was a two pronged explanation about why we weren’t having particularly good luck Tuesday morning-and why many of us seem at times to be playing life in the catch-up mode.

“Well, pal,” he said, “I’d have to say the biggest problem I see- and one I can’t really help with a lot of the time: lack of preparation.”

Boom. Right there he explained why the “hello, I’m here to fish” approach to the White River- and life- frequently doesn’t work. He quietly chastened both anglers in the boat with him at the time.

I, for example, arrived with a pair of ultralight rigs I’d had good luck with in the past at Gastons. One had been purchased in their shop and the only change was what I’d considered an “upgrade” over the original line.

On a river where there are lots of anglers -and guides- it’s tough to be successful if your customer doesn’t do their part. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.

What I’d thought too-light for the job was, in fact, exactly what I should have been using on Tuesday. It was a four-pound test light-green monofilament. I’d replaced it with a six- pound, high-tech line that I’d used successfully on some pie-plate sized panfish last summer.

But line that’s too-heavy – and visible to the fish- doesn’t have much of a chance to work in a fishery that gets pressure every day. Consequently, I wasn’t catching a lot of fish although I was getting the bites. Heavier line also disguises light bites in fast-moving water.

Without saying anything, I nodded my head with what I’d hoped was an appropriate amount of contrition. The guide may be working for you, but you have to give him the chance to give you the benefit of his experience.

My unnamed fishing partner had brought along a rig that was capable of yanking great big fish through heavy brush. It was also rigged with line that could have been used for a tow truck more effectively than trout.

We weren’t catching fish- but it had absolutely nothing to do with the guide. Unfortunately, many of us are inclined to blame the gear, the boat, the current or the guide when the culprit is sitting inside our own lucky fishing shirt.

And it’s not like being prepared would have taken that much work. The guide inside every room at Gaston’s says very clearly that they suggest “4 lb. green Trilene or green Maxima line, not fluorescent.” We’d also ignored the part that said “you can always catch trout on works, Nitro Eggs, Powerbait and corn. Lures that work consistently are spinners, Little Cleo spoons… and certain fly patterns.”

We had exactly none of those with us.

Sound familiar?

If it does, you might find it time to take a mental inventory of problem areas in other parts of your life. You might find that your career-equivalent of a professional fisherman’s tackle box is lacking some basic gear as well.

A fishing guide’s income is not really based on his daily rate, although that rate is set where if covers his basic expenses. Guides make a significant portion of their income from gratuities after they’ve shared their expertise. If you’re not adequately prepared to take advantage of that expertise and experience, it’s not the guide’s fault, but in many cases he’ll see that reflected in the gratuity. Sometimes, they’ll quietly admit, they’ve done some of their best work on some of the least productive days.

“Sometimes,” another guide confided on the dock as I was gathering my gear to leave, “even our best work can’t fix problems the fishermen bring with them.”

We didn’t catch a whole bunch of lunker-sized trout on Tuesday, but the gratuity I left reflected the even more valuable lessons I’d gotten from the guides. That’s because I didn’t give them a chance to show how good they were.

But there’s still one question I’ve asked every professional instructor and guide I’ve ever met that they can’t- or won’t- answer: “why don’t you laugh out loud at us?”

–Jim Shepherd

Why Stop Stocking Hybrids In Some Georgia Lakes?

The Georgia DNR announced in 2005 plans to stop stocking hybrids in Oconee, Sinclair, Jackson, and High Falls. That is the bad news. The good news is that stripers will be stocked in those lakes instead of hybrids.

Hybrids are a cross between a striped bass and a white bass. Stripers live in the ocean and run up rivers to spawn. White bass live in freshwater all their lives. Stripers get big – the all tackle record is 78 pounds, 8 ounces. White bass are much smaller, the record for them is 6 pounds, 13 ounces. The hybrid record is 27 pounds, 5 ounces.

Natural populations of striped bass live in the Atlantic Ocean and run up Georgia’s bigger rivers to spawn. Stripers need many miles of moving water for their eggs to survive, so rivers must flow freely with no dams on them. Some of our rivers, like the Savannah and the Altamaha with its tributaries the Oconee and Ocmulgee, support stripers.

Due to many factors the natural populations of stripers in the Atlantic that spawn in our rivers are threatened. One problem is hybrid bass that are stocked in lakes make their way through the dams and populate rivers below them. When in the rivers, they compete with the native stripers running upstream to spawn.

To lower this competition hybrids will no longer be stocked in lakes that feed the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers. Instead, striper will be stocked. Stripers can survive in lakes as landlocked fish but they generally can’t spawn since there is not enough free flowing water above the dams to allow their eggs to survive.

Stripers living in lakes get big though. The record landlocked striper weighed 67 pounds, 8 ounces. In some lakes both stripers and hybrids have been stocked since hybrids are usually easier to catch and have a short life span but stripers live longer and get much bigger. From now on only stripers will be stocked in those lakes.

If you fish those lakes you will have a better chance to catch a huge fish weighing over 20 pounds. Unfortunately, they will be harder to catch than the hybrids. On trips to one of those lakes right now you might expect to catch a dozen or more hybrids averaging about three pounds but in the future you will be fishing all day hoping to catch one or two big stripers.

At public hearings held by the DNR, most fishermen making comments were in favor of this change. Only time will tell if it will change your fishing.

There is a good striper fishery on the lower Savannah River when they run in to spawn every spring. Since 1988 it has been illegal to keep any stripers caught there since the population was in serious decline. In 1990 the DNR started stocking stripers in the river trying to build up the populations.

Stocking has worked well, and they are considering allowing fishermen to keep some stripers now. They are planning a two fish daily limit with a 27-inch minimum length on the Savannah River downstream of the Clark’s Hill Dam beginning in October 2005.

Hopefully, lowering competition from hybrids up the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers will allow the stripers that spawn in those rivers to thrive and establish a healthy population. Stripers are like salmon in that they return to the same river they were hatched in to spawn.

Stripers that live in the Gulf of Mexico are a separate subspecies and they run up rivers like the Flint and Chattahoochee to spawn. Currently there is no plans to change the stocking of hybrids in lakes that are on those rivers.

There has been a good fishery for landlocked stripers in Lake Lanier for many years. They are so numerous and big that trout can’t be stocked in the lake, stripers like them better then I like ice cream. It is probably our best striper lake.

If you fish for stripers at Lanier, watch for orange tags in the fish you catch. The DNR is tagging 500 stripers this month and offering you $5 to return the tag to them. Returned tags will help DNR fisheries biologists know how the striper populations are doing.

Are Whitefish Making A Comeback In Green Bay?

Whitefish Resurgence on Green Bay
from The Fishing Wire

Oddly enough, Wisconsin DNR researchers speculate that the abundance of invasive gobies are providing a food source and drawing the whitefish to Green Bay.

Water quality and habitat improvements lead to whitefish resurgence on Green Bay

GREEN BAY – With the deep freeze thawing this weekend, ice fishing pressure for lake whitefish is expected to pick up again as anglers enjoy a resurgent fishery made possible in part by cleanups that have improved water quality and habitat.

Whitefish can be caught through the ice

Whitefish can be caught through the ice

Winter creel data for Green Bay shows a growing number of anglers fishing for lake whitefish and a significant increase in the number they caught and harvested.
WDNR Photo.
“We have some fairly strong year classes of younger fish on the doorstep, and documentation of spawning populations in the tributaries on the western shore, so the future looks good for the lake whitefish fishery in Green Bay,” says Scott Hansen, Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist stationed in Sturgeon Bay.

For the first time in decades, DNR fisheries crews in November 2013 documented spawning condition whitefish in the Fox, Peshtigo, and Oconto rivers. Until now, they had only been documented in the Menominee River.

“These recently emerging west shore tributary spawning populations are probably contributing a lot to the fishery and we are just beginning to understand their life histories.,” Hansen says. “We’re hopeful they’ll sustain the bay ice fishery for a long time.”

The whitefish sport fishery came on quickly; harvest rates in 2007 were one-one hundredth of what they were in 2013. Hansen says it’s difficult to point to a clear cause to explain the growing fishery, but that a couple theories exist and they may be synergistic.

First, there has been a re-colonization of the Menominee River population of whitefish, more than a century after huge runs of the fish dried up. “The river is a cleaner place than when lake whitefish were extirpated back in the late 1800s and the fishing is regulated so overfishing isn’t an issue,” Hansen says. “Fish populations in general have responded to those beneficial changes.”

Whitefish

Whitefish

The lake whitefish is typically caught at 1 to 2 pounds, but some strains can reach weights to 12 pounds. (Wiki Commons)

Federal Clean Water Act regulations that limited pollutants allowed in discharges into the bay and its tributaries have helped improve waters since the 1970s, and in more recent years, efforts by federal, state and local governments working with citizen groups and businesses to remove contaminated sediments and improve habitats in the Menominee River are paying off, as recounted in “Healing the Lower Menominee River” in the August issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

Also, because whitefish as a whole on Lake Michigan have been in a rebuilding phase over the last 10 to15 years, this population probably originated from whitefish straying from adjacent stocks during the November spawning period– the Big Bay de Noc stock (Upper Michigan) or North Moonlight Bay stock (east of Door County). Some genetic analysis that’s been done by University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has supported this to a certain extent though the data demonstrated a mixture of several whitefish stocks contributing to the Menominee River population, Hansen says.

Back in the mid-1990s a few whitefish were discovered in the river in fall brown trout surveys. By the mid-2000s the run had grown substantially and tagging efforts indicate these fish are contributing to the winter sport fishery; 2003 looks to have been a big year class for whitefish recruiting from the Menominee River.

Green Bay Whitefish harvest leaped in 2011, and was again near a modern peak in 2013
The strength of the Green Bay lake whitefish fishery also may reflect the species’ search for new sources of food as the levels of Diporeia, the preferred food of lake whitefish, have declined dramatically throughout Lake Michigan. Whitefish size-at-age has declined significantly over the past 10- 15 years as a result of this lost food source and is compounded by their increased abundance.

“The preponderance of whitefish in Green Bay in the winter may in part be a result of the fish looking for food. The decreased body condition reflects the diminished preferred food source and therefore hungrier fish may simply be more apt to bite on hook and line,” Hansen says. “It appears a primary food source, among available forage fish in Green Bay, is round gobies, although we don’t know that the gobies are necessarily more abundant in Green Bay than other parts of Lake Michigan.”

This phenomenon somewhat contradicts lake whitefish foraging habits as they are not known to be a primarily piscivorous (fish eating) species. Furthermore, DNR’s tagging study suggests that lake whitefish from the Menominee River do not migrate out of Green Bay so these fish may just be taking advantage of food that is most available to them in their home range.

Round gobies are an invasive, bottom dwelling fish that is an aggressive, voracious feeder and has taken over prime spawning sites traditionally used by some native fish species.

Hansen says that documentation of the emerging west shore tributary spawning populations helps increase the likelihood that the whitefish fishery will continue, even as the Lake Michigan and Green Bay ecosystems continue to change.

“These emerging spawning populations are probably contributing a lot to the fishery and we are just beginning to understand what those fish do,” he says. “Perhaps they’ll sustain the Bay ice and commercial fisheries for a long time. Let’s hope so.”

No Federal Fish Hatchery Closings for Now

FWS: No Hatchery Closing, For Now
from The Outdoor Wire
Etta Pettijohn

Since media reports revealed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) plans to quietly shutter several federal fish hatcheries in 2014, the agency has backed off from those plans – but not from closing them in the future.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander expressed disappointment and concern after reviewing the agency’s “Strategic Hatchery and Workforce Planning Report,” and conversations with FWS Director Dan Ashe.

“It is fortunate that we have an ongoing three-year agreement between the Tennessee Valley Authority and state and federal wildlife agencies to keep Tennessee’s hatcheries open and producing fish, but the threat of closure still exists,” said Alexander, who has two federal hatcheries in his district.

Plans to eliminate mitigation hatcheries from the FWS mission began in the mid- 1990s, but media attention and political pressure blocked those moves. Beginning in 2011, the agency intensified its efforts, despite Congressional mandates, presidential decrees encouraging outdoor activity, and public support for the facilities.

In 2012 the FWS slashed funding for mitigation hatcheries from its FY 2013 budget, hoping to hand management and funding to other agencies. The FWS attempted it again in 2012, but Congress forced it to finance them that year, directing the agency to secure other federal funding before defunding of the nine then targeted for closure.

Despite all this, by all appearances, agency officials remain determined to close hatcheries and direct its funding and priorities in recovery of endangered and threatened species, restoration of tribal trust responsibilities, and other propagation programs for native species.

FWS officials cited budget cuts in 2012, although Rick Nehrling, a retired 38-year veteran of the FWS (19 spent overseeing southeastern hatcheries) asserts that budget documents clearly indicate Fisheries is the only resource program in the agency the Directorate proposed for reductions then, and planned closures in FY 2012 and FY 2013.

“The other five resource programs (National Wildlife Refuge System, Endangered Species, etc.) have all had substantial budget increases during the same time period,” Nehrling contended.

Now FWS is saying if sequestration continues into the 2014 fiscal year, the agency will have lost close to $6 million for hatchery operations since 2012.

“This report sounds the alarm on a hatchery system unable to meet its mission responsibilities in the current budget climate,” Director Ashe has stated.

It appears the new agency mantra is “sequestration will require the hatchery closures.”

Ashe said the 2012 “Strategic Hatchery and Workforce Planning Report,” found ongoing budget reductions due to sequestration and increasing costs for operations spurred the review of the 70 national hatcheries.

“This report sounds the alarm on a hatchery system unable to meet its mission and responsibilities in the current budget climate,” Ashe asserted. “In the coming months through the 2015 budget process, I have directed the Service to work with all of our partners to determine whether the options identified in the report, or others, are necessary and appropriate to put the system on a more sustainable financial footing.”

A working group trying to come up with answers includes the FWS, the TVA, and the Tennessee and Georgia state wildlife agencies. TVA signed an agreement with federal and state wildlife agencies in May to pay more than $900,000 per year for the next three years to replace fish killed by TVA dams, and keep Tennessee’s hatcheries producing fish while the working group develops a permanent solution, said Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander.

“I will help to find a long-term solution, because the nearly 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors who buy fishing licenses in our state depend upon these hatcheries, as they are the principal reason Tennessee has some of the best trout fishing in the country,” said Alexander, who in 2012 brokered a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to provide some of the funding for the hatcheries there.

Meanwhile, insiders report the battle is merely delayed, and far from over, and that the agency has full intentions to end its century-old mission of mitigation stocking, an effort that many communities where these are located are dependent on for fishing license sales and sales tax revenue.