What Is Stacking Braided Line

The Art of “Stacking” Braided Line
By Ben Seacrest, Accurate Fishing
from The Fishing Wire

With the introduction of braid by Russ Izor in the 80’s, fishing as we know it changed drastically. With the diameter of the braided line being reduced significantly, many anglers started to realize the larger reels of yesteryear could either hold a ton of braid, or they could start looking for alternative reels to fish. Once braid was accepted by a few peer group leaders its popularity with the west coast anglers surged, sparking reel manufacturers to design smaller reels that would put out more drag and handle more pressure internally.

This is the little BV-300 which is our smallest reel with 30 lb on it that has caught numerous tuna upwards of 70 lbs.
The revolution was started with new, smaller reels being designed for cranking power plus drag, and rods that had a more forgiving action for the non stretch in the braided line to effectively fight fish of considerable size. The phrase “Small Reels, Big Fish” came to light which changed the way anglers had fished since the beginning of time. Guys are using reels a little bigger than your fist and landing fish over 100 lbs regularly. With the adoption of lever drags on these reels, the angler knows exactly where his drag setting is during the battle.

As anglers became more familiar with braid and its properties, new knots were developed and people took time to experiment with setting up line on their reels. On the west coast there is a group of anglers we refer to as “Long Rangers” that get on a bigger boat (100′ to 130′) and travel down to the islands and banks outside Cabo San Lucas and mainland Mexico for up to 21 days at a time. These anglers are fishing from dead boats for trophy yellowfin tuna up to 400 lbs and its critical to have the most line capacity possible on a reel. A group of these anglers who are always looking for a better way to skin a cat came up with the idea of stacking braid and perfected the connections to increase their catch rate percentages.

The reasons to stack braid on smaller reels is to gain maximum line capacity. Manufacturers give line capacities that is with one line pound test meaning one diameter line. When stacking braid you want to understand exactly what you will be using the tackle for species wise. There are a lot of gamefish that have enough power to spool reels so capacity is key. When stacking braid we put a smaller(test) diameter on the bottom, maybe 200 yards and the higher test on top. The rationale behind this is its very difficult to break braid on a dead pull unless its been frayed. The rod will likely break before the line would.

So on a 400 size reel that holds 325 yards of 50Lb braid I will take 40 lb braid and put 300 yds on the bottom with another 75 to 100 yards of 65 lb braid on top. It gives me a little more line capacity but the key is with the heavier line on top I can actually put the drag up on the fish and pull harder at the end of the battle. Most fish are lost coming to the boat. You want enough capacity to handle a good run early in the fight, then once he is close to the boat you can tighten the drag on him to get him within gaffing distance. This is a common practice with a lot of anglers fishing smaller tackle for bigger fish. The thought behind it is not to fight the big bulky tackle but have more comfortable tackle that is easy to handle over the duration of the fight.

There is no set combination of line sizes to stack but lines within 20 to 30 lb differences work well. Putting the capacity line size on the bottom(smaller diameter) and the heavier on top seems to be what most anglers do. One example we have been doing the last couple years is taking our Dauntless DX2-600N and putting 65 lb braid on the bottom and putting one hundred yards of 80 lb on top with a short fluorocarbon leader. The 65 lb will handle 20 to 25 lbs of drag no problem, then once we get a couple wraps on the spool of 80 lb we can increase the drag pressure as the fish approaches the boat into gaffing distance. This setup is used primarily for casting surface iron or poppers to foaming fish with an 8 ft heavy rod that will go directly to the rail once the fish is settled in. Stacking braid is a more specialized thing to do when targeting bigger gamefish but will also work when fishing bottom fish in deeper water.

Stacking the braid on the reel is a fairly easy process and there are a couple ways to do it. One of the easier ways to do this is to tie a 25 turn Bimini Twist for the line on the reel and that line coming off the spool. Put both loops together and pass the spool through them three times. Make sure the line is even as you pull them apart holding the Bimni knots on each end. Slowly pull them making sure as they get taut the line is straight. Once the line is straight you can pull them tight. This will leave you with a cats paw knot in the middle of the connection; I have never seen one break yet. The cool part of this connection is it will go through the guides the same way a solid line would.

The other way of connecting braid is by using hollow core line and splicing lines into each other. They are held together similar to a Chinese finger puzzle. The harder they are pulled the tighter they hold. This takes needles and practice to get good at doing it. Very important here to test all your connections. Last year I had one fail on a fish that was a real trophy on another persons tackle that had a spliced leader. It’s up to the angler which connections to use when stacking braid. One thing that is important is whichever one you use, you must be very proficient. Only way to become good is to practice and the perfect place is in front of the TV or at home in the back yard. It’s super important to test every knot and put your weight into it for maximum results. Don’t get discouraged if your first few fail; you will get the hang of it. Personally I stay with the double Bimini connection which works great but it is not as clean as the splice.

There are two schools of thought when you are fishing braid .

One way is fishing enough drag on a reel so its more like hand to hand combat which lets the rod wear the fish out with the main objective of getting his head coming up. This way you continue to put pressure on the fish without letting him get his head down as you are bringing him to gaff. More experienced anglers will do this and line capacity is usually not a factor. They are dealing with using the power of the rod and stopping power of the drag. You need to know what you are doing and be in some kind of shape to exert that much energy on those larger fish. The rail is extremely important too as your fulcrum while using your rod to gain maximum action and power out of the rod.

The other way anglers tend to fish is to rely on the line capacity of the reel and fish a little lighter rod with less drag and “play” the fish. This technique lets the fish wear its self out versus exerting all your energy trying to break his spirit. Its extremely important to have all connections solid so knots, crimps, splices all should be tested by pulling on them with some weight. Its important to make sure you stay clear of the boat and other anglers hooked up. Deckhands will be there to assist or on a private boat someone will put the boat where it needs to be. Trying to play out the fish with lighter drag with more line out means the fish is on longer and with big fish on the line, time is not your friend.

Always use the maximum test leader wise that will still get bit. Its a nightmare when a good fish wears through the leader.

Put the package together right, test it carefully before going on the water and you’ll be ready to take on some serious big game fish on tackle that fights the fish instead of your muscles.

Get more fishing tips at www.accuratefishing.com.

Locking Up Gun Owners

I bought an AR-15 rifle about 20 years ago. It was one of the models banned under the Clinton “assault weapon” ban that stopped manufacture and sale of types of rifles that some consider too ugly to own but did not ban possession of them.

My rifle has a high-power scope on it and I use it for deer hunting, shooting varmints and target shooting. It is light weight, has little kick and is fun to shoot.

The NRA estimates there are between 8.5 and 15 million similar guns owned by folks like me in the US. Even liberals like the staff of Gabby Giffords, gun ban crusader, say there are about ten million of us owning them.

Gun banners claim those type guns are a huge problem and are used in crime often. But FBI statistics show, for example in 2011, of the 12,664 murders in the
US that year, 323 were committed with any kind of rifle, including so called “assault weapons.” Compare that to 1694 committed with knives and 496 with hammers and clubs. Other years show similar numbers.

California Democrat Congressman Eric Swalwell, one of the gaggle running for president, has a solution to this huge, according to him, problem. He agrees with the NRA that there are about 15 million law-abiding US citizens that own these guns.

His solution? Make it illegal to own one of these guns, confiscate them from us and lock anyone of us up that do not turn them in.

So this democrat president hopeful wants to put up to 15 million law-abiding US citizens in federal prison. Of course, he is the same one that in previous interview, said he would be willing to use nuclear weapons against US citizens that owned the guns he does not like.

Even if the federal government could confiscate every gun from law-abiding citizens, it would not stop criminals. If such laws worked, we would have no illegal drugs in the US.

Every new gun control law introduced points out how in-effective those laws really are. There are already an estimated 20,000 federal, state and local gun control laws in the US. If any of them affected crime, there would be no need for more.

Every democrat running for president has called for more and stricter gun laws controlling law-abiding citizens

Apache Trout

Apache Trout
From near Extinction to EcoTourism
from The Fishing Wire

By Al Barrus, Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southwest Region

Male Apache Trout

After being stripped of its milt (fish semen) a male Apache trout swims among biologists in waders. The trout at Williams Creek National Fish Hatchery are farm raised, and spawned yearly.

For the uninitiated, Arizona may seem an unlikely fishing destination. When conjuring images of Arizona, the Grand Canyon and Saguaro cacti come to mind, not so much cold water brooks in alpine climes. However, as is the case with most things, Arizona isn’t so black and white. This state is home to many fishes. There is, in fact, one species here that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

That is Arizona’s state fish: the Apache trout. Not normally occurring in large bodies of water, the Apache trout is native to the small, cool streams around the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. This species faced extinction due to competition from non-native trout, which were introduced for recreation.

Listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Apache trout is among those first species to gain federal protection. In 2000, the species was down-listed to threatened, opening the door to recreation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Region fish biologists continue the work to restore this unique creature to its original habitat and to supply trout for recreation, as explains Zachary Jackson, the project coordinator and supervisory fish biologist for the Whiteriver station of the Service’s Arizona Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office.

“Several Service programs come together to further Apache trout conservation. The Ecological Services program works on threatened and endangered species issues. The Arizona Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office works to implement recovery actions working closely with our partners. The hatchery program also plays a role in sport fish production for Apache trout as well as producing an Apache trout stock that could be used for recovery purposes.

“Over the course of time, there were a number of threats to Apache trout. Maybe most significant there was probably some overfishing. They were very popular. Sport fish introduced into their range really constricted them to the headwaters of their native range. Those non-native trouts introduced for improved sport fishing opportunities have a few different interactions with Apache trout that negatively affect them.”

The Apache trout has very much become an underdog in it’s own neighborhood. Rainbow and brook trout were brought in: compete with Apache trout for food and space and interbreed with them. Complicating recovery further, rainbow, brook, and brown trout remain favorites for many recreational anglers. It can be difficult to convince outdoorsmen to give up a large game fish for a smaller trout that is listed as threatened.

“There’s hybridization that occurs that dilutes the Apache trout gene pool. There’s competition for food and space with Apache trout and that reduces their ability to increase in abundance and be robust, and then there’s direct predation by some of these non-native trout.”

With a coalition between federal, state, and tribal partners, recovery and conservation is moving forward. Hatcheries exist to not only ensure a strong gene pool for recovery of the trout, but also here at Williams Creek, fish are bred for the sole purpose of recreation.

Part of the recovery process involves removing the non-native trout from designated Apache trout habitat. A common way biologist remove unwanted species is through electrofishing, using voltage that attracts and temporarily stuns fish. They’re also using new technology to learn where to find those fish they need to remove.

“We’re coupling traditional or well-established fisheries techniques like barrier construction and maintenance to keep non-natives out of prime Apache trout habitat, and non-native removals using backpack electrofishing, with newer technologies like eDNA sampling.

“Environmental DNA sampling is a technique where we can collect a sample of water and filter out from that particles from tissue of different living organisms, and we can use DNA detections from specific location to target what we’re looking for. The way we use it is we look for non-native DNA in the water. And we take systematic sampling along a stream course that allows us to tell where brown trout are in a system and we usually don’t employ it until we think we’ve gotten the brown trout population really low. It allows us to find those few remaining individuals and target them for removal.”

While brown and rainbow trout are common game fishing staples throughout much of the U.S., Apache trout offer new opportunities for anglers the world over, who will come from far and wide to catch a fish that’s found only in the White Mountains of Arizona.

“Apache trout are important to the economy because there are a lot of folks who put a high value on capturing them, and so it brings in a lot of tourist dollars to the area which is very important for the White Mountain Apache Tribe. It also brings in tourist dollars to the surrounding area.”

“I think native trout enthusiasts are particularly interested in Apache trout because they’re very rare. They put the same value on them that we would put on diamonds, which are also extremely rare and beautiful.”

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with recovering threatened and endangered species, and helping to provide recreational fishing opportunities is important to further conservation efforts, the Service’s role is very much a supportive one in the case of this unique trout.

“It’s critical for us to have a good strong relationship with the White Mountain Apache Tribe. They were the first stewards of Apache trout. They have been leading the conservation efforts since the beginning and our place here is in a supportive role. In everything thing that we do we’re coordinating very closely with them. With how and where we implement recovery actions we’re working with the tribe to constantly evaluate our wild populations and focus efforts where new threats arise. And without that partnership we wouldn’t be able to save the species.”

Williams Creek [NFH] hasn’t always been for the benefit of the Apache trout. Originally this hatchery was built to produce game trout for the tribe in the 1930s. The first year of operation attempted but failed to make Apache trout. It wasn’t until the 1980s that biologists were successful at breeding Apache trout at the hatchery.

Technology used at this hatchery is on the cutting edge. Williams Creek Fish Biologist Russell Wood explains some techniques they use to further the recovery of this fish.

“Apache trout are difficult to raise. They’re slower growing than the other species of trout due to a slower metabolism. They’re more susceptible to diseases which can make them difficult to raise.”

Today the hatchery staff manually spawned the trout. This process isn’t normally harmful for the fish, and they spawn yearly. An important part of keeping captive Apache trout is checking the ovarian fluid to check for disease. That comes out with the eggs. The males are also stripped of their sperm, which is called milt. The hatchery uses state-of-the art techniques to emulate a habitat that’s safe from predators and free of disease.

“This morning we were spawning Apache trout for production. Yesterday we sorted the female four-year-old Apache trout for ripeness. We had over a hundred ripe fish, so this morning we got in and we essentially knocked the fish out with a drug to make it safe to handle. Her eggs are hand stripped into a colander to drain the ovarian fluid off. They are then put into a bowl and the males are stripped of their milt for fertilization. And the eggs are water hardened for one hour, and then put away into the incubation stacks to incubate.”

The eggs and milt mix for a while, and then go on to become something greater than the sum of their parts: new Apache trout embryos. The hatchery is also using some newer techniques. They’re harvesting milt from wild Apache trout, and preserving in low temperatures, to enhance the stock that’s bred primarily for recreational fishing.

“This year for the first time we’re trying to introduced wild genetic material from the wild back into our hatchery population. Last year we went up into the mountains in the spring and spawned wild males, and we cryo preserved their milt. It’s a technology that’s been used for a lot of years in the livestock industry with cattle and horses. The milt was mixed with an extender and sucked up into small straws and essentially frozen on liquid nitrogen at minus 300 degrees fahrenheit. This fall we had the cryopreserved milt shipped back to us, and we’ve started utilizing it in our broodstock production by thawing this milt and fertilizing fish eggs with it in order to bring the wild genetics back into our population.”

Since Apache trout were so close to extinction, the gene pool is very limited. It’s difficult to match fish that aren’t closely related, and interbreeding makes the fish more susceptible to disease. To ensure healthy genetic pairing, they identify gene types and tag the fish with something similar to the electronic “PIT” tag that many people get for their pets, something about the size of a long grain of rice, that’s implanted under the skin.The Service has a sort of matchmaking service for Apache trout in Dexter, New Mexico.

“The genetics lab at the Southwestern Native Aquatic Resource and Recovery Center, their geneticists did a matrix for us. We took 50 of our females with passive integrated transponders (tags that have a 10 digit number similar to a social security number) and a fin clip and they did genetic work to match males to females that were not related, and some of our fish we are spawning this year for our brood stock replacement. We are utilizing this matrix which is mating a specific male to a specific female that are the most unrelated that we have for the purpose of the greatest genetic diversity to avoid inbreeding and breeding fish that are closely related to each other.”

While restoring a genetically robust Apache trout to its original habitat is the long-term goal of the Service, Russell Wood agrees that this fish is important for the local tribe and for anglers. And the fish could also become more popular with cooks and people who enjoy eating fish.

“The biggest importance to the tribe is people travel long distances just to catch an Apache trout, because they’re only found here. So it’s a revenue for the tribe to have people from out of state or out of town travel here spend money here to catch a fish they can only catch here. I need to eat one because I heard they’re delicious.”

“When we stock those fish in the Christmas Tree Lake here on the Reservation, the Tribe runs what’s called Trout Camp which is like a luxury camping trip with nice tents, catered by home cooked food and people pay money to spend a weekend fishing for these large Apache trout in Christmas Tree Lake and get taken care of by fishing guides and cooks.”

Russell has some tips for prospective Apache trout anglers.

“Catching Apache trout is going to be like catching any trout, and if you’re a fly fisherman use any of the flies that we have here. As for bait fisherman a good thing to use is a white powerbait. Use a small hook and very little weight and just let it drift in the current. When you see the white powerbait disappear it’s a fish’s mouth, and set the hook.

“Their native habitat is very small streams, high mountain streams that are crystal clear, cold, have lots of riffles, runs, and rapids. Some of them are not very wide. You can jump across them. It’s very pretty.”

Bradley Clarkson is a supervisory fish biologist at Williams Creek [NFH]. As both a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee and a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Bradley has a unique perspective in the conservation of the trout. He says the Apache people are proud to have this trout named for them.

“The Apache people in general, they like that. It represents them as an Apache tribal members. And they’re the ones that are protecting the land, so now at least we have 13 or 14 strains of this trout.”

Bradley says that the conservation of the Apache trout goes back centuries, to the time of Geronimo, who was a prominent leader of the Apache (Chiricahua) from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, and enforced conservation during the time of westward expansion.

“I think Geronimo too had something to do with that as well. He would keep people away, even us White Mountain Apache kept our distance, when he was around we were afraid of him as well. My grandmother mentioned one time, her mom said when Geronimo is coming they would want to go higher up in the mountains.

“They feared him. If we feared him I’m pretty sure other folks feared him more that’s how I believe he protected the land and the natural resources. The White Mountain Apache Tribe as well, when the trout became endangered, they made it a wilderness area where you can’t even take in a slingshot, much less a fishing pole without getting cited.”

There’s also a measured return in investment in the important conservation work that the Service and the Tribe do in working together to restore the trout.

“For every dollar gets put into to the hatchery, the nearby communities get $19 back. And the future looks good because right now as the staff here at Williams Creek we finally got to where we can go out into the White Mountains, and the tribe give us permission to go in there and collect wild genetics to bring back and put in our brood stock. We’re not going to see it the change this year, but maybe two or three years down the road because we are finally getting our genetics put back into our spawning.”

For Bradley, a major aspect of this work is passing the torch to future generations.

“When my supervisors send me to the Native American meetings with other tribes I suggest to bring some expertise to the hatchery and some training for our youth. The most important skill for them to learn is cryopreservation, because that’s what we’re doing. Maybe some of our Apache tribal members can learn to do in the field, and they could pick it up and introduce it to the hatchery education program at the school.

“That’s one of our goals, we’ve been trying to recruit Apache tribal members by going and tapping into their high school and going to their instructors and biology teachers and asking and looking for the best candidate? Who has the potential?’ That’s how I get help, by finding who are good students to pick from. We only have so many spots here, but we can interview them and get them ready, and find out who’s really going into this field.

“Because I’d really like to see some Apache tribal member continue the hatchery work and from where I’m at right now and be dedicated and have a passion for the Apache trout program.

“That’s the reason why I’m still here 25 years later, because I really like to contribute to the Apache trout program, and when I’m done I’d like to say to the Apache people ‘Hey I’m done now. Your turn. This is as far as I can go. Now I go rest, and maybe go fishing.”


Information about White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Trout Camp: https://www.wmatoutdoor.org/

Video – Watch Williams Creek Fish Biologist spawn Apache trout – https://www.facebook.com/USFWSSouthwest/videos/2094681363915423/

All photos by Al Barrus

Potato Creek Bassmasters April Lanier Tournament Details

The reason bass fishermen look forward to April was emphasized at the Potato Creek Bassmasters tournament at Lanier last Saturday. We had 26 members fishing for nine hours to land 162 bass weighing about 239 pounds. There were 16 five fish limits over the 14-inch minimum length, and two fishermen did not weigh in a fish. I did not see any largemouth at all.

Ryan Edge won with five weighing 14.12 pounds and his 5.30 pounder was big fish. Raymond English had five at 13.80 for second, Trent Grainger was third with five at 13.68 and Wes Delay came in fourth with five weighing 13.65 pounds. It took 11.57 pounds to place tenth.

We hit an ideal day with nice weather and water temperature and moon phase having big spots up shallow looking for a place to bed. It was a fun day for fishing and catching.

I thought I had a good catch until weigh-in. A ten-pound limit will usually place you in the top four in the club, and I figured I had about that weight by 8:40, but not this time!

I started on a main lake rocky point, but lack of wind was a problem. I caught several short spots on a crankbait but quickly decided to try something different.

Going back into a creek, I stopped on a long shallow point that runs out in front of three small spawning coves. I caught my first keeper at 7:20 on a Carolina rig on the point and at 8:40 I landed my fifth keeper on a shaky head in one of the spawning coves. All hit one of those baits going around the bank, casting to four to six feet of water.

A couple of the spots were good fish, over two pounds each, so I felt pretty good. Over the next two hours I tried similar places and caught five more keepers and many 13-inch spots. All of them fought very hard, as is usual for spotted bass. It was fun fishing.

At 11:00, contrary to the weather guessers prediction of no rain, it started pouring. I eased under a dock and sat there about an hour until it stopped. But something changed. The wind picked up and
I did not get a bite for the next two hours fishing shallow.

Since the wind was blowing, I went back to the main lake point and tried spinnerbaits and crankbaits.
As I rounded the point, I met another boat with two fishermen casting those baits coming the other way. They cranked up and left when we were about 50 yards apart.

As I continued down the bank, I noticed some brush under the boat in 12 feet of water and dropped a shaky head worm into it. My biggest fish of the day, a 2.97 pounder, almost jerked the rod out of my hand. That gave me three good fish over two pounds each, at 2:30 with an hour left till weigh-in.

At 2:45 I caught a short spot, then another fish over two pounds. I started to go in early but was having fun catching fish. It is amazing how catching fish can overcome pain.

In the next 30 minutes I caught two more keepers, one that culled one in the live well weighing less than two pounds, and two more short fish. Even a 13-inch spot will stretch your string and are fun to catch.

I felt good with five weighing 12.07 pounds but ended up in eighth place.

Lanier is a fun place to fish right now.

Lake Guntersville Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Lake Guntersville Fishing Report

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

Captain Mike with nice Guntersville bass

Captain Mike with nice Guntersville bass

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 4/20/19

We have just gone through one of the best weeks of the 2019-year, bass are active, on the
move and responding to many different presentations. If you haven’t been fishing, your
missing some great days on Lake Guntersville.

Even better is the post spawn bite is starting to
show up and the big fish will be really-active and catching 4 to 6 lb. fish will be easy.

Just about everything we did this past week was soft plastic bites, the bass are responding to
plastics and the fun of a hook set is there every day. Missile bait D-Bombs, ‘48”stick baits and
Craw Fathers were about all we fished with all week long. We also caught fish on Tight-Line
swim jigs and regular jigs. We fished 8 ft. in all week.

On another note the Shell Cracker are going on the bed and the next 6 weeks will be great
timing for the shell cracker fisherman. Many of you wanted to book trips for shell cracker
fishing the timing is now call me and we will set you up!

Come fish with me no one will treat you better or work harder to see you have a great day on
the water. I have guides and days available to fish with you. We fish with great sponsor
products, Ranger boats, Lowrance electronics, Boat Logix Mounts, Power pole, Navionics
mapping, T&H marine products, Vicious Fishing, Picasso Lures, SPRO Fishing and more!

Fish Lake Guntersville Guide Service

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

Sauger on Arkansas River

Biologists Track Sauger on Arkansas River
Randy Zellers, Assistant Chief of Communications, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
from the Fishing Wire

RUSSELLVILLE — Researchers at Arkansas Tech University are working with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to learn more about the habits of sauger swimming in the Arkansas River.

If you just had a curious look on your face after reading the word “sauger,” you’re probably not alone.

The sauger is a species of fish that is a cousin of the walleye, which is known for its fantastic flavor. While sauger and walleye have followings as large as crappie and bass angling up North and in the Midwest, they are pursued by a relatively small group of anglers in the southern states they inhabit. The Arkansas River holds the largest population of sauger in the state, but few anglers know much about the species.

“I occasionally get photos from anglers asking what the fish was that a person caught in the river while fishing for crappie and bass,” says Frank Leone, fisheries supervisor at the AGFC’s Russellville regional office. “Most of the time, people will ask if it’s a snakehead, and I have to explain to them that it’s not only a native fish, but a good one at that.”

The comparison may be a fair assessment to people who have seen neither but only heard descriptions of the invasive snakehead. Both have a mottled brown and bronze coloration and both have teeth, but that’s where the similarity stops. Sauger are much more streamlined than snakeheads, have peg-like teeth instead of the snakehead’s sharper triangular teeth.

Perhaps the reason for the lack of the species’ popularity comes from the relatively short window when anglers are truly able to pursue them. Each winter, sauger move upstream in the Arkansas River to find rocky, shallow areas to spawn. The many dams along the river that keep navigation open for commercial and recreational traffic hinder their progress, forcing most to congregate and spawn along the rocks just below each lock and dam. Grizzled old-school anglers have learned this pattern, and will walk to these riprap-covered areas to cast crappie jigs, minnows and other offerings when the current is right to collect some sauger for a midwinter fish fry. But outside of the spawning cycle, no one really knows what happens to these mysterious fish on the Arkansas River.

That’s where Arkansas Tech Graduate Student Peter Leonard comes in. He has been working under John Jackson, Ph.D, head of the Department of Biological Sciences and professor of Fisheries Science at Arkansas Tech University to track Arkansas River sauger throughout the seasons to learn more about the species. Leonard has worked with Leone on two studies concerning the species to help fill in the voids regarding the species’ use of habitat throughout the year and angling effort directed at sauger.

“The exploitation study was conducted using tags on fish collected during the spawning run of 2017,” Leonard said. “We caught sauger when they were concentrated, placed reward tags on the fish and released them. Anglers who caught the fish later could call the phone number on the tag and receive a cash prize for their catch.”

Leone says tag/recapture studies are used fairly often in fisheries work to determine how many fish anglers catch and keep from a population.

“If you have a certain amount of tags on fish, and anglers turn in a certain percentage, then you can use that to figure the rate of fish being caught,” Leone said. “While they are on the phone, we ask a few questions about where it was caught, if they kept the fish and if they were targeting that species, in particular, to give us a better picture of what’s going on out on the water.”

According to Leonard, 340 tagged fish were released below the dam that separates Lake Dardanelle and Pool 9 of the Arkansas River and below Ozark dam at the upper end of Lake Dardanelle early last spring.

“We have had very few tag returns so far, telling us that the exploitation rate for sauger last year was very low,” Leonard said.

Leone added that although the last two years saw high flows that could have disrupted angling effort, the results of the tag returns reinforce much of the anecdotal evidence he has had over the years that recreational fishing pressure has very little impact on sauger populations in the river.

“Flow rates are just something you have to deal with any time you study an aspect of a river fishery,” Leone said. “It’s part of the natural world, so you have to be prepared for events that are outside of your control.”

One interesting finding during the tag returns was the extreme distance from the release point in which some anglers found tagged fish.

“Most of our tag returns have come from below Barling dam above the next pool upstream from Dardanelle,” Leonard said. “In some cases the fish moved through two lock and dam systems to get to that destination.”

The second part of Leonard’s research reinforced some of those findings. In addition to fish with reward tags, researchers implanted special acoustic transmitters into sauger caught below Ozark dam and tracked the signals throughout the year to keep an eye on where the fish spent their time outside of the spawn.

“You rarely hear about people targeting sauger, but never hear about it any time other than winter,” Leone said. “So we wanted to learn where these fish went during the rest of the year to see if there were any habitats they relied on that we needed to keep in mind for conservation work.”

The telemetry equipment used in the research is very similar to sonar, but keys in on a specific frequency unique to each transmitter.

“We tracked individual fish as they moved around in the system,” Leonard said. “Most would stay within about 15 miles of where they were released, but a few travelled more than 100 miles upstream during the course of the year.”

Leone and Leonard agreed that, for the most part, sauger remained in the open river habitat, relying on current breaks in deeper, fast-moving sections when they are not concentrated for the spawn, which explains why few anglers find them outside of that window.

“Bass, crappie and other species most anglers are targeting will move to areas out of the current, so most of our anglers aren’t fishing where the sauger live long enough to have an appreciable catch rate.”

Leonard still has some data to compile for the study, and hopes to complete his thesis work on the project soon.

“We will go back and analyze the findings to determine fine-scale habitat types to recreate and protect once the study is complete and has been reviewed,” Leone said.

Bluebird Nests

I have two bluebird nests in my back yard, and two at the land I own. Bluebirds have been busy building nests in all four of them the past few weeks and I think the females will lay eggs soon. I have enjoyed watching the pairs of birds working back and forth constantly this spring.

It is amazing how bright blue the male bird is this time of year. It brightens up to attract a mate in early spring and will keep the deep blue color for a few weeks, gradually fading to a lighter color as the summer progresses.

I have also enjoyed watching the Canada geese on my two small ponds. I build nesting platforms from them, making a small raft for them to nest on. A female is hard on the nest, not leaving very much at all, on one of the ponds, a good sign she has started laying eggs. A pair on the other pond have not started laying eggs yet.

About a month ago nine geese moved onto the bigger pond. They would fight and honk at each other constantly, trying to establish dominance. Finally one pair ran the others off and claimed that pond as their own nesting site. One lone goose went to the upper pond and stayed there, and the other six left for parts unknown.

That single goose stayed around by itself for a few weeks and now it has gone. As soon as it left, a new pair moved in. I hope both pairs are able to raise some young this year.

Pay attention to the birds around you this spring. They are entertaining as well as educational.

Oregon Coastal Habitat Project Restores Coho

Oregon Coastal Habitat Project Restores Coho and Reduces Flooding
from The Fishing Wire

Juvenile coho salmon use estuaries

Juvenile coho salmon use estuaries to eat and grow before migrating to the ocean. Photo: USFWS/Roger Tabor
From NOAA Fisheries

The Southern Flow Corridor project, which restored salmon habitat in Tillamook, Oregon, also provides flood protection for surrounding communities.

NOAA’s work with community partners restoring estuary habitat in Tillamook Bay, Oregon is revitalizing tidal wetlands for threatened Oregon Coast coho salmon, and helping reduce flooding in the surrounding communities and farmlands.

The project’s benefits to fish were realized immediately—443 acres of different estuary habitats critical to juvenile salmon are now available, including mud flats, open water with vegetation, marsh and others. Often called “nurseries of the sea,” estuaries offer unique conditions, like slow moving water and tides that bring in nutrients, which keep fish safe and allow them to grow.

A recently published report also confirms the project’s flood reduction goals were achieved. Shortly after project completion, in October 2017, a flood occurred at the site. Our restoration work resulted in widespread reduction in flood levels and duration including along Highway 101, a key commercial and transportation corridor. In total, about 4,800 acres around the project site showed reductions in flood levels.

This project, like many others we work on, shows how restoring habitat back to its natural functions can help coastal communities be more resilient against severe weather. Nature-based approaches are being shown to provide these, and many other economic benefits, along both the the east and west coasts of the United States.

Almost 90 percent of the Tillamook Estuary’s historic tidal wetlands have been lost to development and agriculture. Like many other species relying on estuary and wetland habitats, loss of these areas is a primary contributor to the decline of Oregon Coast coho salmon.

Additionally, Oregon’s winters bring storm surges, heavy rainfall, and snow melt. Combined with high tides, this often causes flooding in the area. Flood losses in Tillamook County exceeded $60 million from 1996 – 2000.

To achieve the mutually beneficial project goals, old levees, fill, and tide gates were removed to create tidal estuary habitat. This functions as a “flow corridor,” allowing flood waters to move freely and quickly away from the town of Tillamook. Now, nearby properties and more than 500 structures are protected from flooding. It’s estimated that $9.2 million in economic benefits will accrue from avoided flood damages over the next 50 years.

The project reconnected hundreds of acres of marsh habitat and restored 13 miles of new tidal channels. This will significantly benefit Endangered Species Act-listed Oregon Coast coho salmon. Historically, more than 200,000 of these salmon would return to Tillamook Bay each year. That number was down to just 2,000 in 2012. This habitat is critical for juvenile salmon to feed and grow, and will help with the broader goal of species recovery along Oregon’s entire coast.

The Southern Flow Corridor Project is the result of tremendous community support and collaboration. NOAA Fisheries’ Restoration Center, within the Office of Habitat Conservation, and the West Coast Regional Office, worked with more than a dozen local, state, federal, tribal and private partners on this effort.

Key partners include the Port of Tillamook Bay, Tillamook Bay Habitat and Estuary Improvement District, Tillamook County, the State of Oregon, FEMA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Institute for Applied Ecology, and the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership. We provided funding for the project through the Community-based Restoration Program and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, and on-the-ground technical assistance.

Read more about NOAA Fisheries projects here:

Flint River Bass Club April Tournament West Point

Last Sunday seven members of the Flint River Bass Club fished our April tournament at West point. In eight hours, from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM, we landed 18 keeper bass weighing about 26 pounds. There were two five-fish limits and no one zeroed.

Don Gober won with five weighing 8.43 pounds and had a 3.92 pound largemouth for big fish. I came in second with five at 7.57 pounds, Dan Phillips had three weighing 5.61 pounds and Jack ”Zero” Ridgeway placed fourth with two weighing 1.86 pounds.

I thought the fish would really bite good based on the time of year and weather, and I’m sure they did for some. But it was hit and miss, especially for bigger bass. I was happily surprised that we weighed in 12 largemouth and only six spots – that is a better ratio than usual. Maybe largemouth are coming back.

I started fishing a favorite spawning creek but after 45 minutes I had not had a bite. Then, going around a point to the next spawning pocket, I caught a short spot then finally got a keeper spot, both on a shaky head worm.

Back in the pocket I picked up as spinnerbait and caught a largemouth just under the 14-inch limit, then got one that was just over 14 inches long. That gave me hope, but I never got another bite on that bait.

Rounding a shallow secondary point I got a bite but when I set the hook a keeper spot jumped and threw my shaky head. The next cast I landed a short spot – I lost the wrong one.

On the back side of the point a log ran off the bank with the outer end in about two feet of water. I ran a spinnerbait along it on both sides but nothing hit. I picked up the shaky head and the first cast produced my biggest fish, a two-pound largemouth. The next cast to the end of the log produced another keeper largemouth, and the third I hooked and lost as short largemouth.

That convinced me the fish did not want a moving bait, but I tried a spinnerbait around the next shallow pocket anyway. Nothing hit it. I went back to the log and caught my fifth fish, another keeper largemouth, in the same place on the end of it.

I was happy to go from no fish at 7:45 to a limit at 8:40!

I continued to fish the small spawning creek but fishermen from the big West Georgia Bass Club tournament started coming into it to fish. As I started down a bank into a short pocket, about 50 yards wide and twice that long, two fishermen ran in and started fishing across from me.

I caught my sixth keeper, another two-pound largemouth, as they started fishing. By now my legs were hurting and I could not feel my feet, so I idled around, looking at some other places, but was not willing to get up and fish.

I was back at the ramp, resting in the truck amore than an hour before weigh-in!

Protect Sawfish

Sawfish Need a Hand from Anglers, Boaters and Waterfront Homeowners
by Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation
from The Fishing Wire

Tangled Sawtooth needs help

Entanglement of marine species in lines, fishing gear, and other debris is a problem seen with unfortunate regularity in the southeastern United States. This includes Endangered Species Act-listed species such as North Atlantic right whales, giant manta rays, sturgeon, turtles, and smalltooth sawfish. Each species is susceptible to entanglement based on their physical attributes but none more so than sawfish.

The toothed rostrum of the smalltooth sawfish could be considered one of the most unique morphological traits in any species. Yet this feature has also directly led to the species’ decline. Sawfish are rays that generally swim along the sediment surface where marine debris can accumulate. The toothy rostrum is easily entangled in any debris the sawfish encounters, which can lead to injury, deformation, or death by suffocation or starvation. Sawfish entangled in a variety of man-made items including dock lines, trap lines, nets (gill nets, cast nets, trawls, etc.), fishing lines, pvc pipes, coffee cans, dog toys, and elastic bands have been reported. While strides have been made in recent years to raise awareness about sawfish entanglement, this threat continues to affect the species.

Historically, a number of commercial fisheries incidentally captured smalltooth sawfish in the southeastern United States, though none more prominent than inshore gillnet fisheries. Because juvenile sawfish rely on shallow inshore waters as nursery habitat, gillnet fisheries for mullet in these same areas resulted in extensive incidental capture of sawfish. Once entangled, the toothed rostrum was difficult to remove from nets so often these fish were simply killed as bycatch. The 1995 gillnet ban in the state waters of Florida has been instrumental in reducing the number of sawfish killed by this gear. However, illegal use of gillnets still results in mortality of sawfish.

Recently two sawfish entanglements have been highlighted on social media. In late 2018, the National Park Service reported a sawfish entanglement in Biscayne Bay National Park (see https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/saving-endangered-sawfish). In this instance a sawfish was trailing lines from a lobster pot. Excessive entanglement can affect mobility, feeding, and thus overall fitness. If unattended, these entangled animals are likely to perish. Fortunately, park rangers were able to secure the lines, and remove them from the sawfish.

In a separate event, the National Park Service responded to a tip that an illegal gillnet was found in the waters of Everglades National Park near Chokoloskee, Florida. Upon retrieval of the net, law enforcement discovered a dead sawfish. This example illustrates just how deadly these nets can be to this endangered species. Law enforcement is still investigating this case and has requested that anyone with information to please contact 305-242-7741.

It is a shared responsibility of all outdoor enthusiasts to keep our waters free of trash and debris, which could result in entanglement. Next time you’re out on the water, do your part to pick up any trash or debris and if you ever encounter a sawfish please let us know by calling 1-844-4SAWFISH.

Tonya Wiley, President

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