Category Archives: Fishing Tackle

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Winter Conditions Present Unique Challenges

Winter Conditions Present Unique Challenges for Fishery Management

By MDIFW Fisheries Biologist Kevin Dunham
from The Fishing Wire

Winter fisheries management is chilly


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match in Jigs and Tails

The Perfect Match in Jigs and Tails from Z-Man’s ElaZTech
from The Fishing
Wire

Catch bass on jigs


How the right jig & softbait combo can uplift your ElaZtech® game

Ladson, SC – Holmes and Watson. Jordan and Pippen. Lennon and McCartney . . .

When two complementary forces join talents, things like genius, championship performance and all-time awesome music inevitably follow. The power of the one-two punch extends to inanimate objects, as well, and certainly to fishing tackle. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s cool to Texas rig your favorite plastic worm on a treble hook. Nor does it explain why anglers can be so painfully picky about swimbait selection or choice in finesse worms, and yet impale said bait onto whatever jighead’s lying on the deck.

The job of any good jighead is to bring out the unique talents of baits that best match its design. Disparate jighead styles deliver softbaits at different speeds, actions and depths, each performing a singular, premeditated presentation. Collars and keeper configurations are made to match and pin certain baits firmly in place. Jig-hooks vary by anatomy: size, gap, throat, shank length, wire gauge and more; with justifiable reasons for each. While a mismatched jig and bait might still catch fish, a perfect pairing can stimulate an onslaught of bites.

“We recognized early on that because ElaZtech baits are different—softer, livelier, more buoyant and much more durable—than traditional PVC baits, designing a super-tuned rigging system would take fishing ElaZtech to a whole other level,” said Daniel Nussbaum, talented fisherman and president of Z-Man® Fishing. “Sure, you can rig your favorite ElaZtech bait onto a plain jane jighead. But to take full advantage of each bait’s action, longevity and fish-catching performance, grab the right jig for the job.”

Among fifteen unique Z-Man jigheads and over fifty ElaZtech softbaits, Nussbaum highlights four of his favorite perfect pairings. “A 3-inch MinnowZ on a 3/16-ounce Trout Eye jighead is a versatile player—it’s my ‘stranded on a desert island’ survival bait,” he divulges.

A jighead with an interesting backstory, the Trout Eye jig comes from South Carolina seatrout guru Ralph Phillips, who discovered a predator’s primal attraction to the unmistakable eyes of baitfish. The U.S.-made Trout Eye jig is poured with the largest 3D eyes possible, set into a flattened teardrop shape. Strategically placed to bring out subtle rolling action on paddletail baits like the MinnowZ, the jig’s forward eye position helps the whole lure slide through sparse grass with ease. Back-to-back conical keeper barbs secure ElaZtech and other softbaits tightly to the base of the jig’s collar, while a heavy-duty, 2/0 Mustad UltraPoint hook penetrates quickly, and won’t straighten under heavy loads.

“Think of the 3-inch MinnowZ as an aggressive paddletail,” notes Nussbaum. “When you rig it on a Trout Eye jig the whole body moves with a really sweet side-to-side roll, while the tail wags the dog; looks just like the panicked swim of a minnow and catches everything—seatrout, redfish, bass, snook, and more.”

First introduced to beat back Australia’s brutally strong gamefish, the HeadlockZ HD jighead is an amazing jig and a perfect match for Z-Man’s SwimmerZ— a super-soft, split-belly paddletail that’s produced world-record barramundi. “The SwimmerZ is one of my favorite paddletails for big redfish and largemouths,” says Nussbaum. “The 4-inch version teams up nicely with a 4/0-size HeadlockZ HD, while a 6-inch SwimmerZ on an 8/0 HeadlockZ is ideal for bull reds and stripers, and holds up to the teeth of big pike.”

Matching Z-Man’s tough-as-nails ElaZtech baits, the HeadlockZ HD boasts bulletproof jighead construction, built around a custom, heavy duty 3/0, 4/0, 6/0 or 8/0 Mustad UltraPoint hook (jig-weight is engraved in head for easy ID). Riding high on the hook-shank is an ingenious, split bait keeper. The design greatly eases rigging and prevents ElaZtech and other soft plastics from sliding off the jig collar.

Exceptionally balanced for use with larger, bulkier baits, the HeadlockZ’ 90-degree bullet head amplifies body roll, which produces accentuated tail-thump and vibration. “This combo represents one of Z-Man’s most underrated big fish baits, one you can tie on and catch fish with all day long.”

The definitive lure for Ned Rig-style fishing, casting a Finesse ShroomZ / Finesse TRD combo might be the smartest bass-catching decision you can make. Simple, unassuming and almost immune to fishing pressure, this little 2-3/4-inch finesse bait and refined mushroom-shaped jighead regularly boats over 50 per day for Ned Kehde and other skilled finesse fishers. Of course, the beauty of the bait is that less-experienced anglers also hook oodles of fish with it.

Kehde himself admits the key to success is a method he calls ‘no feel.’ “That means we cannot feel what the jig-and-softbait combo is doing or where it is during the retrieve,” says Kehde. This is largely attributed to Kehde’s preference for a light jighead, in the neighborhood of 1/16-ounce. Proving the combo’s astonishing versatility, Kehde and his friends have ascribed six different finesse retrieves, including the swim-glide-and-shake, hop-and-bounce and drag-and-deadstick, among others.

Creating the illusion of a single edible critter, the mushroom shaped Finesse ShroomZ head flows seamlessly into the nose of the sub-3-inch Finesse TRD. The unique head shape moves smoothly over the substrate, pivoting and activating the ElaZtech material with each interruption in the jig’s path. The jig’s minimally invasive “hangnail” keeper barb pins finesse baits like the TRD surprisingly tight to the jig; some anglers add a drop of superglue to the underside of the jighead for an even better bond.

A model of simplicity, the Finesse TRD itself glides seductively on the drop, tail shimmying just enough to speak of something alive. Imbued with custom salt content for a precise sink rate, anglers like Kehde often chose to increase buoyancy by stretching the bait and removing salt.

A rising star in swimbait circles, the 2-1/2- and 3-inch Slim SwimZ offers an intelligent design that gives it some interesting underwater moves. Rigged on a downsized NedlockZ HD jig, the finesse paddletail bait comes to life, even at slow retrieve speeds. Molded in lighter 1/5- to 1/15-ounce sizes, the NedlockZ HD sports an extra-heavy-duty hook that allow for heavier tackle and drag settings than Finesse ShroomZ jigheads. The jig’s innovative split keeper allows for effortless rigging, holding both ElaZtech and soft plastics firmly in place. The medium-length hook shank is a fine fit for the Slim SwimZ and other finesse baits.

“We crafted the Slim SwimZ with an inward-curved tail,” Nussbaum says. “The configuration lets you activate the bait at extra slow speeds. Or fish it fast for even more action. When you pull it, the tail scoops water, producing a high-velocity, high-action wiggle. We’re getting great feedback from folks catching big crappies, white bass and even walleyes. And when bass key on small forage, this compact combo scores big.”

About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic Charleston, South Carolina based company, Z-Man Fishing Products has melded leading edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been among the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits and other lures. Creator of the Original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovators of 10X Tough ElaZtech softbaits, fast becoming the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide. See more at www.zmanfishing.com.

About ElaZtech®: Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech material is remarkably soft, pliable, and 10X tougher than traditional soft plastics. ElaZtech resists nicks, cuts, and tears better than other softbaits and boasts one of the highest fish-per-bait ratings in the industry, resulting in anglers not having to waste time searching for a new bait when the fish are biting. This unique material is naturally buoyant, creating a more visible, lifelike, and attractive target to gamefish. Unlike most other soft plastic baits, ElaZtech contains no PVC, plastisol or phthalates, and is non-toxic.

Top Crappie Lures for Winter

Three Top Crappie Lures for Winter

By Casey Kidder
Z-Man Pro Angler
from The Fishing Wire

Catch winter crappie like this one


Z-Man ElazTech Allures Big SlabZ

For the past ten winters, I’ve enjoyed finessing winter bass with the Ned Rig. It was amazing at how effective Z-Man ElazTech baits like the ZinkerZ and Finesse TRD are for alluring cold-water bass. As the winter of 2016 approached, I was excited to try something new. Even though Z-Man doesn’t have a dedicated line of crappie baits, I wanted to see if ElazTech baits were as effective on cold-water crappie as they are on cold-water bass. Spoiler alert: Crappie love them, too!

Midwest Winter Crappie Fishing
In a nutshell, winter Midwest crappie fishing is all about locating brushpiles in deep water with your electronics. Usually about 14-18 feet of water. Once the brush is located, vertical jigging with light line, jigs and soft plastics will entice crappie to bite. Water temperatures generally range from 34-38 degrees, and that is when crappie congregate in big schools around brushpiles, feeding periodically on schools of shad that meander by.

Bait Size Matters
In my region, crappie will bite a fairly large bait, even in winter. A 2.5 to 3 inch bait closely matches our shad size, so I selected a trio of baits in that size range. I’ll tell you more about those below. Throughout the year and until ice-up, these bigger baits caught bigger average crappie, and sometimes MORE crappie than small traditional crappie tubes and grubs. The reasoning is simple. Crappie are sight feeders, which is why you see so many color options in crappie baits. But size can also be used to get their attention. I kept my color selection pretty simple. Just to see how big of bait they would hit, I even fished a Z-Man Diesel MinnowZ, which is a 4″ swimbait! Yep, they ate it.

Top Three Crappie Baits

Slim SwimZ

When I first dropped this 2.5 inch swimbait in the water, I was amazed at the action! The unique, curved paddletail flat comes to life when it touches water. You really have to see it to appreciate it. Being a swimbait, this bait is traditionally fished with a straight retrieve, and you can bet I’ll be fishing it this way come spring when the crappie move to shallow water. For winter fishing, I found this bait was tremendously effective vertically jigged as well. Most crappie anglers use straight tail and tube-type baits for vertical fishing. These baits require small twitches to impart action. The Slim SwimZ is effective with these twitches as well, but you can catch many crappie by simply raising or dropping your rod tip slowly 1-2 feet. The tail does all the work, and it adds a whole new way to present your lure. It’s also something the crappie haven’t seen much of before! My top colors this winter were Electric Chicken, Space Guppy, and Pearl. Jighead: 1/15, 1/10 or 1/5 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ

MinnowZ

Some days crappie really respond to a bigger profile, and that’s when switching to the MinnowZ filled the livewell. This is a 3-inch swimbait with a much larger profile than the Slim SwimZ. As I mentioned before, I even caught fish on the Diesel MinnowZ, a 4-inch version of the MinnowZ, so it just goes to show that size matters even to crappie!
The MinnowZ also fishes well vertically or with a swimming retrieve. You’ll want to use a heavier jighead for this bigger bait. The 1/6 ounce Finesse ShroomZ works very well.
The MinnowZ comes in an array of natural and bright saltwater color patterns that are also appealing to crappie. My favorites were similar to the Slim SwimZ: electric chicken, pearl, space guppy, and chartreuse/silver.
Jighead: 1/6 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ

Finesse TRD and cut-down ZinkerZ

Yes, the Ned rig works on crappie, too. To be honest, I haven’t had many days when this versatile little rig didn’t catch something. And I found it worked really well fishing brush piles for winter crappie.On days when the crappie wanted a subtler action, I switch to a FinesseTRD or a ZinkerZ cut in half. Rigged on a 1/15, 1/10 or 1/6 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ, this little bait has tremendous dead stick appeal. Use subtle twitches to entice bites, though many bites will occur while holding it dead still.
Colors like Coppertreuse, Pumpkin/Chartreuse Laminate and Bama Craw have vivid color and contrast that really appeals to big slabs. But don’t overlook the plain Pearl color with a chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ.
Jighead: 1/15, 1/10 or 1/5 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ

I hope these tips help you think outside the box and harness the ElazTech magic for your winter crappie. Upsizing your presentation and utilizing small swimbaits for vertical presentations can really help fill your livewell with some big slabs. If you’re already a Ned rig convert, you know how effective it is on bass. Be sure to rig one up when crappie are your target, because they love it, too!

Alabama Surf Fishing

Alabama Surf Fishing Provides New Vocation
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

Go early!


The early bird gets the whiting when it comes to surf fishing along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Photo by David Rainer

The pre-dawn light was sufficient for safe passage from the parking lot over a boardwalk to a beautiful stretch of beach on the Fort Morgan peninsula.

The early arrival guaranteed our party, led by guide Matt Isbell, would get to pick the spot where our surf-fishing adventure would have the best chance of success.

Isbell, better known as the Bama Beach Bum to all his YouTube followers, has developed a niche among fishing guides on the Alabama Gulf Coast. He has tried fishing from boats and piers, but he prefers the sandy beaches and surf where whiting and pompano roam.

The Wetumpka native moved to Gulf Shores for an insurance job, but his surf-fishing success led to a full-time guide business in March of this year.

“I started uploading YouTube videos in October last year and started guiding in December,” Isbell said. “I didn’t really plan on guiding. I started hosting online content just because I loved it, and I wanted to kind of see where it went.

“I had multiple people continually asking me to take them fishing. I did that initially. Then it got to be more and more to the point it was taking away from my regular job.”

Isbell decided to see if anyone would pay for his services. He learned there is a growing market for his kind of fishing.

“It kind of snowballed from there and really started picking up,” he said.

Isbell soon found out his guide business appeals to a wide variety of customers.

“Most of my clients are out-of-towners, a lot from the Midwest but from all over the country,” he said. “I’ve had a group from Guam that wanted to fish. They saw me on YouTube. Right now, I’m the only one uploading surf-fishing content to the internet, so that’s how some people find me.

“I get people of all ages and sizes, ethnicities, all the above.”

Isbell’s surf fishing started in earnest six years ago when he moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast.

“When I first started surf fishing, I was just trying to figure out what to do,” he said. “Like a lot of people in Alabama, I grew up bass and crappie fishing. When I came down here, I just tried to figure out the fishing. I fished a lot of different ways – from boats, piers, canals, wherever I could access the water.

“Then I started surf fishing and I fell in love with it. I just enjoyed being on the beach and being able to bring home dinner.”

Isbell has refined his surf-fishing techniques in the last six years. Although he has learned to judge the surf and which areas produce fish, it’s really not a technique that infrequent visitors should tackle. He said learning to read the beach takes time, that most people find it difficult to pick up on the nuances that might lead to better fishing unless a lot of time is spent on the beach.

“The biggest thing I tell people to do is to stagger your baits,” he said. “Make sure you cover a lot of water and try to locate the zone those fish are running in. Especially when you’re surf fishing, these fish are not hanging in one area like they do on a reef or pier or jetty. The fish in the surf are always moving, looking for food. But they are going to hang in a particular depth. That’s why you stagger your baits to try to find out what depth those fish are favoring. But it can change daily or week to week. You always have to recalibrate to find the fish.

“If you know how to look for cuts, holes and bars in the surf, that can help, but most people have a hard time with it. But anybody can get out there and put baits in different spots and figure it out using that system.”

Isbell said a dedicated surf angler will need a variety of tackle to target the species that happen to inhabit the surf at any given time because different fish come to the beaches at different times.

“What we’re targeting is going to determine what tackle we use,” he said. “But the most popular way is what we are doing, using pompano rigs with bits of shrimp and Fish Bites. We’ll use sand fleas (mole crabs) when they present themselves, and we can scoop them up (look for a sand flea rake at the local tackle shop). We had some really good colonies of sand fleas show up this year. It’s a great bait and it’s free.”

On our trip, Isbell used 10-foot surf rods with 4000- and 5000-series spinning reels spooled with 20-pound-test braided line. Of the five rigs we used during our outing, we had a drop-hook rig with the 2- to 3-ounce weight tied to the bottom on three rods, while the other two were rigged with cut bait hooked below the weight (Carolina rig) to try to catch a redfish or bluefish. He uses 1/0 to 2/0 circle hooks most of the time.

“You don’t have to use 10-foot rods, but you can still fish on rough days,” he said. “You can keep a 3- or 4-ounce lead out. I make my own pompano rigs. You can buy them with two or three drops. I prefer one-drop rigs. It’s more discreet and easier to manage.”

Isbell said probably his hardest job is teaching clients what to look for to indicate a bite. A rhythmic motion of the rod tip indicates wave action. A steady pull or erratic action means some species of fish is taking the bait.

Although our party, which included Jay Hirschberg and Wayne Carman, was fishing on a neap tide, we managed to reel in bluefish, whiting (sometimes called southern or Gulf kingfish), a rodeo-worthy ladyfish and the ubiquitous hardhead catfish to the beach. Isbell said the heat has caused the pompano to vacate the surf until the weather and water cools.

Cooler weather will also bring another desirable species close to the beach.

“We get a good run of bull redfish in the fall,” Isbell said. “We will use a lot of cut bait. I’m transitioning now to using cut bait on Carolina rigs. If I’m fishing for bull reds, I’ll move up to a 4/0 hook. They will hit pompano rigs, and that’s definitely worth doing because the pompano fishing is only going to improve as the weather cools.

“You can catch whiting all year, but it does get better in the winter. That is the main species we target when it gets cold. Whiting get bigger (pushing 2 pounds) and more plentiful in the winter months. Sometimes in the winter, we’ll get a run of what we call ‘big uglies,’ the big black drum. Those are a lot of fun to catch, too.”

For those who specifically target pompano in the surf, Isbell said the best fishing occurs in the spring.

Alabama Surf Fishing
“March, April and May – those are the three months to catch pompano,” he said. “That’s go time for pompano. You can still catch them in June and July, but it’s definitely better in the spring.”

Isbell said certain conditions provide an opportunity to catch speckled trout in the surf as well.

“We catch trout mainly in the summer months,” he said. “It’s usually after a big rain and fresh water moves the fish out to the beaches, looking for that higher salinity.”

Go to www.staybummy.com for information on booking trips with Isbell as well as links to his Facebook and YouTube pages. Because his guide service is shore-based, anglers who fish with Isbell are required to have a valid Alabama saltwater fishing license in their possession. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/licenses/saltwater-recreational-licenses for more information.

St. Croix Mojo Jig Series Tackle

Power Up for Bottom Brutes with St. Croix Mojo Jig Series Tackle

Bottom fishing success requires more than heavy gear

By Joe Balog
from The Fishing Wire

Big red on St Croix rod


What kind of fish breaks eighty-pound line?

I asked myself that question repeatedly as I rigged my bottom-fishing rod. For the third time in twenty minutes, I had my butt kicked by a fish that I falsely assumed would be no match for my heavy tackle. This was starting to get old.

A freshwater transplant, I had dipped my toe into the saltwater world after relocating to Florida and purchasing a beauty of a bay boat. Fish tacos and snapper ceviche were soon to be on the menu, or so I thought. Yet, after nearly a full day of fishing, all I had in the fish box was one small triggerfish.

Photo courtesy of St, Croix Rod
For the first time in several years, the waters off the East Coast of Florida were hosting a red snapper season, and I planned to get my share of the now plentiful fish. The problem was, I couldn’t get them in the boat.

Dejected, I went home a lot lighter on sinkers; but no less determined.

That evening, I went through my gear. Hooks were stout and sharp, offering no flex, and my line was the heaviest I could find. Sinkers, swivels, knots – everything terminal was flawless. Going one step further, I studied my rods and reels.

Previously, I upgraded to St. Croix’s Mojo Jig series (Conventional and Spinning) for this style of fishing, and paired them with heavy-duty reels. Remarkably stout despite their light weight, I was certain the Mojos could handle anything a snapper could throw their way. I later learned they could, if I knew how to use them.

The following day again found me on the snapper grounds, accompanied by my wife, Kim, and friends. The bite was on, and Kim quickly hooked up. Her drag screamed as a big fish surged for the bottom. Immediately upon reaching it, Kim’s line broke. Disappointment again filled the boat.

Upon inspection of the heavy line, I found it cleanly sliced in two, as if by a pair of shears. Then, it dawned on me.

I quickly grabbed my rod, cranked the drag down as tight as it would go, and dropped down a fresh pinfish. Handing it off the Kim, I could see an instant strike. “Let him have it a minute, then wind as hard as you can,” I instructed. “And, whatever you do, don’t let him get back to the bottom.”

Kim grunted under the strain of the heavy fish. Playing it like a pro, she pressed her tackle to the max. When the big fish surged, Kim pulled back twice as hard. I added a third hand for even more leverage. To our delight, the fifteen-pound red snapper soon surfaced, was quickly netted, and hit the fish box flopping.

Again inspecting the line, I found it as perfect as when I tied it. We were on to something.

For the remainder of the day, and throughout the weekend, we would boat nearly every red snapper we hooked from that point on. Ten, fifteen, even twenty-pound fish came over the gunnels at a regular rate.

Reflecting, my lack of saltwater experience was to blame for our initial break-offs. Sure, I’d fished around line-shredding structures in freshwater; docks and rocks, for example. But nothing could prepare me for the damage inflicted by a sharp ocean reef.

Photo courtesy of St. Croix Rod
When fishing such structures, it’s absolutely imperative to win the first twenty seconds of the fight. Grouper and snapper instinctively know that, when in trouble, their best chance is to get to the bottom. It’s incredible how hard even a moderate-sized ocean dweller can pull when compared to a freshwater fish; a life in heavy ocean currents adding to their stamina.

Since my inaugural trip, I’ve used the Mojo Jig series to wrestle some real brutes from the depths below. Like all St. Croix rods, technology is at the forefront in this series, as they’re built using Advanced Reinforcing Technology; a carbon fiber material that adds incredible strength to the rod by keeping it true to form under the heaviest strain.

I’ve found the conventional Mojo Jig models to be perfect (I can’t get away from my 5’8” extra-heavy no matter what I’m fishing for), but Kim prefers the spinning models. She finds that, with her size and body frame, she gets more leverage by having the rod under her forearm when horsing a strong fish.

In any case, mark my words: the first twenty seconds is the key. Remember that, and you’ll save a bundle on sinkers.

Rio Grande Cutthroat

Chasing the Rio Grande Cutthroat
Craig Springer
from The Fishing Wire

Beautiful cutthroat stream


From nearly anywhere in my Santa Fe County home, I have the most fortunate view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It’s where the Rockies start in New Mexico. As I write this, a towering anvil-headed September storm cloud turns the color of a watermelon above Santa Fe Baldy and Hamilton Mesa as the day melts into night.

The moisture wrung out of this moving painting strikes the mountain slopes, softened by pines and firs and spruce trees, and funnels through granite crevices as it pours downhill. The rain consolidates into rivulets and then into “ritos” with names like Azul, Padre and Valdes. These rills will soon beget the Pecos proper, but before they do, their waters stall in dark pools under the cooling shade of alder trees and become habitat for Rio Grande cutthroat trout.

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is named for the splash of crimson below its gills. In the spring of the year, the spawning males are awash in red over their head and chest. It’s stunning, as if they are soaked in blood.

Under these September clouds, the fish lie there in pools under the shadows of ponderosas that have fallen into the stream or on the edge of a boulder in an eddy where the water is slowed, waiting for a grasshopper or mayfly or a moth to flit too close to the water.

With a dart and roll, a bug becomes food. That is unless that bug is a look-alike, mere fur and feathers adorning on a tiny hook. A tug and a splash, and in a moment I can see my reflection on a trout’s shimmering flank and feel its cold muscles writhing in my wet hand as its slips back into the water with a parting flip of its spotted tail.

Outwitting cutthroat trout in the high country, especially with my children, is among my most favorite pastimes. Never do I feel more alive; I’m a participant in nature, not merely an observer. These tiny streams bordered by brush and boulder require stealth, concentration and resolve. The experience hones your senses and is head-clearing, like floss for your psyche.

It’s physically demanding, too. A friend of mine likened fishing cutthroat waters to doing yoga while casting. The cutthroat streams in the upper Pecos as elsewhere in northern New Mexico are typically small and not well visited. That is, you might be making your own trail over deadfall and boulders and through patches of wild raspberries, which are appropriately colored like a trout’s throat.

The trout don’t grow large in small waters, but still, when I catch a cutthroat I feel like a man who just found money. Rio Grande cutthroat trout live is pretty places and the Sangres are among the prettiest of mountains. Each fish is uniquely adorned with a constellation of spots that no other will have, lying on a background from a pallet of paint borrowed from a late-summer sunrise accessorized with last night’s left-over tattered clouds.

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is the official state fish of New Mexico and holds the distinction of being the first trout documented in the New World. In 1541, as the Coronado’s entrada passed near Pecos, one chronicler noted “truchas” swimming about.

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Relocates Tarpon

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Relocates Tarpon Ahead of Development
from The Fishing Wire

Netting tarpon and bonefish for relocation


Three weeks ago, BTT was contacted by a group of concerned anglers regarding a development site in Tarpon Springs, FL that was inhabited by tarpon of all sizes. Most of these anglers had been fishing there for years, even decades. The water was being drained rapidly, which meant we had to act fast. After a few phone calls, we were able to contact the developer and their client to get permission to access the property and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued us a permit to relocate the fish. After a grueling day of seining and cast-netting in the waist-deep mud and silt, we were able to relocate over 60 tarpon ranging from 12 to 40 inches. A huge success!

This is not a typical practice for BTT, but it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. Our studies in Southwest Florida are finding that tarpon in degraded habitats like these exhibit poor growth rates and can sometimes get trapped in these types of habitats that are hard to emigrate from once they get bigger. We are also finding that the majority of juvenile tarpon sites reported to us through our Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Mapping Project are in degraded habitats (golf course ponds, residential communities, mosquito impoundments). The misconception is that because tarpon are there, it must be good habitat. This is not always the case and does not bode well for the future of the tarpon fishery. This particular site had already been developed into a mobile home park, and with a lengthy culvert connection from the Gulf, could have trapped these tarpon for years. Relocation was the best chance for these fish to join the tarpon population.

We are very grateful for the site supervisor’s constant communication and encouragement during this project. Because of the thick mud, we relied on the pumps to lower the water level so that we could more easily access the fish. A huge thanks to the anglers that have been watching this site for years and took immediate action. This would not have happened without your persistence and compassion. We’d also like to thank FWC for their swift action and the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center for use of their seine net.

Photos courtesy of Randy Whitehead

See more from BT&T at www.bonefishtarpontrust.org.

Fly Fishing the Smokies

Tips on Fly Fishing the Smokies
By Byron Begley
Little River Outfitters
from The Fishing Wire

Trout Stream


I started fishing in the Smokies in the 1960’s but I used a spinning rod. I fly fished at the time but I didn’t know how to flyfish in moving water. In the early 1980’s I started traveling to Townsend to fly fish. At the time I lived in Nashville, Tennessee. I had been to Yellowstone and other states to fish and had some success but fly fishing in the Smokies was different and I felt it was much harder. Finally, after several trips here I started to catch a few trout. I moved to Townsend in the early 90’s, married my wife Paula and we bought Little River Outfitters. By hanging around with people like Walter Babb, Brian Courtney and Jack Gregory I learned how this is done and I sometimes forget how hard it was at first to catch trout on a fly here in the Smokies.

Trout that live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are wild. They were born in these streams. Their parents and grandparents were born in these streams. The National Park Service ceased stocking trout in the early 1970’s. An occasional stocked trout may venture into the park from surrounding stocked streams but for the most part, these fish are wild.

The following tips are for those of you who find yourself in the same situation I was in or it’s for those who have forgotten some of the subtle tricks to succeed. If you can catch trout on a fly here in the Smokies, you can catch them anywhere.

1. If the trout sees you or your shadow he probably can’t be caught. These trout are wild and survived because they are wary. I think a wary fish is that way because of a genetic trait that is passed on by the trout’s parents. If a trout is not wary, it will be eaten by a bird, otter, a larger trout or another predator and will not reach sexual maturity. So, in other words, an un-wary fish does not pass on un-wary traits. The gene pool that is left is made up of trout who are all scared to death of everything, including you. I noticed years ago that these mountain fly fishermen who knew what they were doing all dressed alike. They wore dark clothing (usually green) and many wore camoflage clothing. That seemed odd to me because I never saw anyone wearing camo in the Orvis Catalog. I also noticed a lot of anglers fly fishing on their knees, not standing up in the middle of the stream. I saw them hiding behind rocks and trees and sometimes almost crawling to move up to the next run. I believe that if a trout here in the Smokies sees anything unusual their immediate reaction is to run through the pool or riffle and alert every other trout in their view that something is wrong.

2. If your fly doesn’t move at the same rate as the current it’s in you probably won’t catch a trout. Think about this: A trout usually stays in a small area all day watching things flow past them in the current. It may be sticks, leaves, nymphs, adult aquatic insects, cigarette butts and little bits of everything you can imagine. These things all have one thing in common. They are moving at the same rate of speed as the current. Now, here comes your Parachute Adams but the current next to the current your fish is in is faster and your line and leader are in that current. It will pull your fly, either faster or slower than the current it is in. That is called drag. These trout who are all scared to death of anything unusual are probably not going to eat your Parachute Adams. There are exceptions to this. They may think your fly is a caddis that is jumping around laying eggs or some other movement made by insects. But don’t count on that. Make your fly drift with the speed of the current and you will catch more trout. You are going to get drag all day on many casts but the longer your fly can drift with the current the better your chances are of connecting with a trout. Sometimes in certain spots where you know there is a trout you can be successful if you get a good drift for only a foot or so. So how do you get a good drift?

A. Make short casts. Stay hidden of course and don’t spook the fish but short casts have a much better chance of offering a drag free drift. The reason is, the more line you have on the water the more conflicting currents are there to grab your line and drag your fly. Most trout are caught here in the Smokies by making 15′ to 20′ casts. Many are caught make casts shorter than that.

B. Keep as much fly line off the water or even keep it all off the water. You can make a short cast and lift your rod as the fly floats back toward you keeping the line off the water. You can make casts across a current and by keeping your rod high hold the line and some of the leader off the water allowing your fly to drift in the current it is in. If you look across the creek you will see several different current speeds. Some are slow because they have been in contact with a large boulder. Some are slow because they are moving over a shallow gravel bar. Some are fast because there has been no interuption in their flow for a while. Some are slow because there is a backup in a small pool. These currents are varied throughout the stream. Your job is to keep your fly moving in the current that it’s in at that speed for as long as you can.

C. Mend your line. As you fly is moving down it’s current and you see that it is about to drag because your fly line is in a faster or slower current you can move your line or mend it by moving it into another current or throwing it upstream to give your fly a chance to drift naturally for a few more seconds. This can all be done without moving the fly. This takes practice and the ability to mend you line well makes you a much better fly fisherman.

3. If the trout sees your fly line or leader you probably won’t catch the trout. Don’t cast your fly line over a good looking spot. If you think you see a place where a trout should be don’t let your fly line float over that spot. In fact, don’t let your fly line go over that spot while false casting in the air. Get your fly and leader in that spot first. If after a couple of casts you don’t get a strike, cast further to another promising spot. If you make long casts you might be spooking trout that you would otherwise catch if you were sneaky and could make a short cast to them. If you see a lot of good holding spots for trout start casting to the closer ones first. If you don’t connect, cast to the spots you see that are further away. Move a little closer if you can, stay low, hide behind a boulder and just let them see your fly and tippet.

4. If you are wading where the fish are and casting where they are not, you probably won’t catch a trout. Before you wade into a stream look at the water and think about it first. Where would the trout be? How can I get a drift to them? Where can I hide from them? Maybe I don’t have to wade at all. That would be better. All of these decisions can cause success or failure. In any riffle, run or pool there are good spots for fish to hide and there are places where no wild trout would venture. Remember, these guys are afraid of everything. Try to wade as little as possible. Of course you need to wade from one side of the stream to the other every once in a while. But the less time you spend in the water the more trout you will catch. You will also need to learn to cast side arm to your right side and your left side. It takes practice for a right handed caster to make a side arm cast over your left side but that’s something you’ll need to learn to do. That way you can spend more time on one side of the stream without moving over to the other side and spooking the trout you are trying to catch.

5. If the water temperature is too cold or too warm you probably won’t catch a trout. Trout love temperatures in the 50 degree to 60 degree range. If the temperature is 40 degrees they don’t feed as much because their metabolism slows down. The same is true if the water reaches say, 70 degrees. Also, the warmer the water is the lower the disolved oxygen content is. When the water warms and the oxygen is low the trout become sluggish or even die. So, what can you do about the water temperature? Well, nothing. But you can move to an area where the water is more trout tolerant. In the winter or early spring the water is warmer in the lower elevation streams. The air temperature is colder high in the mountains and warmer in the valleys. If you are fishing at Elkmont and the water is 40 degrees and you aren’t catching anything, move to the West Prong, Lower East Prong or the Middle Prong where the water is warmer. You can also fish the sunny spots where the water is somewhat warmer. During the cold months you will probably have better luck in the middle of the day when the water is warmer. It’s all different in the summer. The water is cooler in the mornings and evenings. During midday when the water warms the trout will turn off. So fish early and late. You can also fish in the higher elevation streams during the warm months or find a stream that has a lot of springs feeding them. A good example is Abrams Creek in Cades Cove. There are some large springs there that keep the stream cooler than some other streams in the area.

6. Which fly you use is not nearly as important as the above five reasons for success or failure. In the spring our first mayfly hatches are Quill Gordons and Blue Quills. Blue Wing Olives are usually hatching at that time also. Because the trout are not used to feeding on the surface as much during the winter they begin to look up when these flies start hatching. Having a fly that looks somewhat like these insects can be important. During a large hatch the trout can become selective and concentrate their efforts on that source of food. As we move further into Spring there is a more diverse selection of insects to feed on. The colors of the mayflies become lighter. Hendricksons and March Browns hatch, then later we get the very light mayflies – Light Cahills. In the summer we get a lot of small yellow stoneflies. We call them Yellow Sallies. Terrestrial insects such as ants, beetles and inchworms become a reliable source of food for trout in the summer. You should have a selection of dry flies and nymphs that are available to the trout at the time of year you are fishing in the Smokies. You can always check our fishing report to find out the latest hatches and recommended flies.

7. If another angler has been wading in the area where you are fishing the trout will be harder to catch for a while. There are over 700 miles of fishable trout streams in this National Park. When trout are spooked by an angler they won’t feed for a while. Some people think it takes a few minutes to get over an unusual encounter and some people think it takes hours. If you see wet footprints where you are fishing and you aren’t catching or getting strikes maybe you should move to another spot. Also, as a courtesy to anglers, if you see one in the stream don’t drop in up stream from him or her. Go up a few hundred yards and get in. Most anglers start at a spot and work their way up stream and you will probably do the same. Some anglers walk along the trail and drop in at places that look good, fish for a few minutes then get out and find another.

8. Don’t stand in the same spot and fish. In some places I’ve fished and Pennsylvania comes to mind you can stand in the same spot and fish for hours. Here, it’s different. After you have made a few casts in an area move upstream. These trout will see your line, leader and maybe you and they won’t eat after that. Keep moving and you will have better success.

For more on fishing trout in the Smokies, including daily fishing reports, visit www.littleriveroutfitters.com

Sea Lamprey Control

Sea Lamprey Control in the Great Lakes

Fish with sea lamprey injury


By Craig Springer, USFWS
from The Fishing Wire

Gauzy morning light leaks through dense mature oaks and maples in a square woodlot next to an Indiana farm road. It’s only a few miles from the Michigan state line, lying just below the bottom end of Lake Michigan.

Right angles predominate in this place from artificial lines laid on the land. It is well-settled here, the artifices of people everywhere. Roads run over section lines straight as ribbons over low hills in near-perfect square-mile blocks. They make the checkerboard you can see from the air. On the ground, you can hear the distant drone of a brush hog, and the comings and goings of occasional cars and farm implements as people live out their day along the rim of the Great Lakes.

The backlighting of the morning sun illuminates the bugs that float aloft on the yellow beams. They remind you of dust defying gravity, caught in light bending through dirty widows. A spattering of left-over sunlight hits a tiny stream barely big enough to name. The rill, no bigger than a groove in the glacial till, gets much attention from fish biologists. This manicured site belies what’s below. Swimming in this pleasant little purl of water is an alien invader that’s become naturalized—and entirely by accident. Its existence here is as incongruous as finding ice cream in an oven.

The sea lamprey as its name implies is naturally at home in the salty waters of the Atlantic. But the unintended consequences of connecting the Great Lakes more directly to the seaboard for commerce via the Welland Canal essentially put the invasive lamprey in this otherwise bucolic scene. Their invasion into the Great Lakes dates to 1829, and by the late 1930s, they populated all of the Great Lakes. A saltwater fish swims in the tiniest of freshwater upland farm creeks ringing much of the Great Lakes basin.

It’s had a real down side.

The lamprey is a fish. On the evolutionary scale, it’s primitive–without scales and without bones. Its slightly cone-shaped circular mouth is loaded with rings of sharp raspy teeth. It’s a parasitic pest that makes a living by grating onto its host, sucking blood and body fluids as it clings along for the ride.

Mouth of Sea Lampray


As you might guess that’s hard on a host fish. And fish species native to the Great Lakes such as the lake trout have suffered for it.

The sea lamprey will spend 12 to 20 months in its parasitic phase in open water, killing up to 40 pounds of fish. Lake trout are not the only fish to host the invasive lamprey; steelhead, whitefish, lake sturgeon, salmons, walleye, and yellow perch often get the parasite. But lake trout populations have taken a measurable toll: prior to the lamprey explosion in the 1950s, about 15 million pounds of lake trout a year were harvested from Lakes Superior and Huron. Ten years later, only 300,000 pounds were pulled from nets. In Lake Michigan alone, lake trout harvest went from 5.5 million pounds in 1946, to a mere 402 pounds seven years later.

With Great Lakes fisheries devastated by invasive sea lamprey, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission directed the scientific testing of some 6,000 substances to determine what might control the damaging parasite. In 1958, the compound commonly called “TFM” proved its worth. This selective lampricide could suppress the invasive parasite while still in streams. Registered for permitted use by the EPA and Agriculture Canada, TFM has met all safety criteria for use in Great Lakes streams. Under the auspices of the Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists now apply TFM in roughly 250 streams tributary to the Great Lakes, such as the unassuming rill on the Indiana-Michigan state line.

It’s not the adult lamprey sought by biologists applying TFM to streams. The adult lampreys swim into the tributaries in the spring of the year to spawn and then die. Their eggs hatch in gravels, and the worm-like larvae move into muck to live out the next several years before turning to parasitism and moving into open lake water. The compound TFM kills sea lampreys in the larval stage.

While TFM is the primary means of suppressing sea lamprey populations, it is not the only one. Barriers built across several streams block sea lamprey from moving upstream to spawn. Sea lampreys lack an ability to leap; hundreds of low-head barriers on streams across the Great Lakes basin create impassable heights and prevent sea lampreys from migrating, thus reducing the necessity of applying TFM above barriers.

The ancient Greek adage, “make haste, slowly,” applies here. A great deal of experience and much scientific experimentation has brought sea lamprey control a long way from the nadir of the 1950s. Well-trained and dedicated biologists go after sea lamprey in a measured, deliberate way. On any application of TFM, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have deployed staff with an impressive array of expertise: chemistry, limnology, fisheries science, and hydrology. The field work is physically demanding.

That work is paying off. Desirable sport and commercial fisheries valuable to people are on the rebound. But we can’t let up: a single female sea lamprey may lay up to 100,000 eggs.

The past can’t be undone, but with science and technology, fisheries professionals can rewind it a bit. And it starts upstream, in the smallest of rills in the uplands that pour into the Great Lakes.

To learn more, visit www.fws.gov/midwes

Tagging Program Tracks Redfish, Speckled Trout

Alabama Tagging Program Tracks Redfish, Speckled Trout
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

While the fanfare surrounding the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (ADSFR) proceeded nearby, Reid Nelson deftly made a series of surgeon’s knots to sew up an incision on the belly of a redfish that was a part of the live weigh-in category at the rodeo.

Tagging redfish keeps track of them


Nelson, a graduate student in the University of South Alabama’s Marine Sciences Department, inserted an acoustic tag in the redfish, red drum if you’re a purist or marine scientist, as part of the Coastal Alabama Acoustic Monitoring Program (CAAMP).

CAAMP monitors 55 receiver stations strategically placed in Alabama coastal waters to catch pings, which happen once a minute during the one-year lifespan of the acoustic tags in the fish.

Reid Nelson carefully inserts an acoustic tag into a redfish during the live weigh-in competition at the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. Photo by David Rainer
Nelson said 100 red drum were tagged in 2015. In 2016, another 100 red drum were tagged. Also in 2016, all tagging that didn’t occur at the ADSFR was transferred to Dog River and Fowl River on the western shore of Mobile Bay.

Nelson said the goal of CAAMP is to study fishing mortality, natural mortality and fish movement in response to water temperature and salinity levels.

Last year, the team added speckled trout to the tagging program and will continue to work with trout this year. As expected, redfish is a hardy species that handles catch-and-release very well. Speckled trout are not quite as resilient but still survive well enough to justify the live-release effort.

“With the popularity of the live weigh-in at the rodeo, we looked at it as a nice opportunity to tag live fish from different places,” Nelson said. “You can actually look at how successful live weigh-ins are. What we have seen from fish tagged at the rodeo, about 98 percent of the red drum have lived. About 78 percent of the speckled trout that we tagged at the rodeo have lived.

“Overall, mortality is pretty low, which I think is amazing. Some of the red drum were brought from all over, as far away as Mississippi and Louisiana.”

Nelson said 20 red drum and 15 speckled trout were fitted with the acoustic tags, which cost about $300 each, and released during the 2018 ADSFR. CAAMP is funded through the Alabama Marine Resources Division with a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“What was really interesting about the rodeo is the map where the fish came from that were released at the rodeo,” he said. “One of the main concerns about a live weigh-in program is the fish won’t leave that area once they are released. Unlike the fish we tagged in the rivers, the fish we tagged at the rodeo leave Dauphin Island pretty readily. We’ve detected those fish as far away as Raft River in the Mobile Delta. We’ve detected them in Fowl River. We’ve detected them off the Gulf State Park Pier. They have even been detected by receiver arrays that other groups have out. It’s really remarkable how quickly and widespread these fish disperse.

“It’s interesting to do science with a part of the tournament. That’s really never been done. Another interesting thing is fishermen have been really good about telling us where they caught the fish. What we have seen is about 25 percent of the fish have gone back to where they were caught. With red drum that were caught in the rivers and brought to the rodeo, about 70 percent of those fish will disperse and end up returning to one of our local rivers. That’s been an amazing aspect of the study. We have no idea how those fish find their way back. It could be olfaction or chemoreceptors. It’s probably a combination of many navigation senses.”

Natural mortality with the red drum tagged in the first year of the study has been surprisingly low, according to Nelson. Out of the 100 fish tagged, only three died of natural causes. Fishing mortality took 10 out of the population in Fowl River from 2016-2017, and nine redfish were lost to fishing mortality in Dog River during the same time span.

“One of the other interesting things we saw is the seasonal peaks in the rivers,” Nelson said. “We saw more fishing mortality in the fall and spring.”

An eye-opening aspect of the CAAMP data when speckled trout were added to the study is the significant disparity in movement between species in response to weather and salinity changes.

“One of the most interesting things we’ve seen is a lot of the red drum really didn’t move that much from where they were actually tagged,” Nelson said. “Out of Fowl River, we had 13 fish leave the river over the course of the year, which is not very many in the grand scheme of things. Only five left Dog River during that year. For the year we have data, they were pretty much resident fish. Some of them would use different parts of the river. But for the most part, they tended to remain in the area where they were originally tagged.

“In fact, we had a family call in a fish a few months ago that had been tagged about a year ago. They literally caught that fish where we tagged it at Delta Port in Fowl River. That was amazing.”

Nelson said the most movement observed during the study came in December of 2016 when the water temperature was cooler than normal and the salinity was very high because of a lack of rain in the fall.

“The big conclusion so far on redfish is the majority of the slot fish tend to be resident,” he said. “It looks like they are pretty resilient to changes in temperature and salinity. We’ve seen big fluctuations in those two factors, and the fish didn’t leave the rivers when the salinity and temperature varied quite a bit. I thought that was really interesting.”

Now, throw speckled trout into the study, and the movement patterns are vastly different.

“During the first year of the big study with speckled trout, it was almost the complete opposite story,” Nelson said. “The trout were tagged last November and December. They were resident in the deep holes in the rivers until about February. When it was really cold, they were staying in the rivers. Once it started to warm up, we saw a push of fish leaving the rivers pretty quickly, moving down to Mississippi Sound and Dauphin Island. That is what you would expect.

“We had a couple of fish that moved from Dog River to the Mobile River. One of those fish actually came in at the rodeo. Instead of staying in the river, they pushed out relatively quickly.”

Nelson is also working with another program to study fish movement. The TAG Alabama program is sponsored by the Coastal Conservation Association of Alabama and relies on local anglers to insert dart tags in red drum and speckled trout caught in Alabama coastal waters.

“What we’re seeing with TAG Alabama is that many of those redfish are coming back right close to where they were tagged as well,” he said. “With TAG Alabama, we get a much larger spread of tagging locations instead of just the rivers.”

Anglers participating in TAG Alabama go to the website at http://tags.usouthal.edu/ to log tagging and recapture efforts for trout and redfish as well as red snapper, tripletails and sharks.

“We’ve had 743 red drum and speckled trout tagged so far,” Nelson said. “Considering we launched the program in April this year, that’s a lot. We’ve had 65 of those fish recaptured.

“I’m excited about this. CCA Alabama is providing the funding for this. I’m hoping we can keep this going.”

Another tagging effort that occurred partially during this year’s ADSFR involved tarpon, known as the silver king.

With the help of local tarpon enthusiasts during the ADSFR, researchers from Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Mississippi State University managed to attach eight satellite tags. Two more tarpon were caught and tagged the Saturday after the rodeo.

Of the eight fish tagged during the rodeo, all but one high-tailed it toward Louisiana, one traveling as far as the southern tip of Louisiana near South Pass. One fish, however, decided to explore Mobile Bay and made a huge loop inside the bay before heading west.