Winter Feeding Area for Great White Sharks


OCEARCH Defines Winter Feeding Area for Great White Sharks
Tracking data from white sharks equipped with OCEARCH satellite tags reveals that the Atlantic continental shelf waters off North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and the east coast of Florida are a winter hot spot for large white sharks. As seen on the OCEARCH Tracker, the heavy concentration of our adult and near-adult white sharks in this region suggests it’s an important winter habitat, which OCEARCH and collaborating scientists are now referring to as the Northwest Atlantic Shared Foraging Area (NASFA).

This is in concordance with fisheries data that showed this area to be a wintering ground for white sharks, as previously published by OCEARCH collaborator Dr. Tobey Curtis and his colleagues.The OCEARCH Tracker shows at least eight white sharks have been detected in the NASFA in the past week, including adult white sharks Hilton and Katharine. The eight sharks are a good indication there are plenty more white sharks in the area with them.

The waters off Charleston, South Carolina and Cape Canaveral, Florida have seen the highest concentration of detections. The sharks were tagged as part of an ongoing study started in 2012 by OCEARCH to uncover the mysteries of white sharks’ life history in the Northwest Atlantic.

Since the beginning of the study, OCEARCH has consistently observed that nearly all tagged, large white sharks in the Northwest Atlantic visit the NASFA at some point during their migrations, with most visiting in the winter. OCEARCH has tagged white sharks as far south as Florida and as far north as Nova Scotia, Canada, and all of the larger tagged sharks have spent some time in the NASFA.

“The body of colder water trapped between the Gulf Stream and the coast is a key feature of this region,” says Assistant Professor of Marine Science at Jacksonville University and OCEARCH collaborating scientist Dr. Bryan Franks. “This ‘wedge’ of cold water extends from the Outer Banks in North Carolina down to Cape Canaveral in Florida. This feature results in a range of water temperatures in a relatively short horizontal distance from the coast out to the Gulf Stream. In addition, there is the potential for abundant prey in the migrating populations along the coastlines and in the dynamic mixing zone on the Stream edge.

”The tendency for white sharks to migrate to the NASFA bears some similarities to white shark behavior observed in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of the United States. In the Northeast Pacific, different shark populations migrate from the Farallon Islands and Guadalupe Island to a Shared Foraging Area (SOFA), also popularly referred to as the White Shark Cafe, between the Baja Peninsula and Hawaii.

OCEARCH tracked this white shark behavior in 2007-2009 and conducted a 30-day expedition to the SOFA in 2009. Studies by other scientists since then have tracked similar shark behavior.

OCEARCH tracking data in the Atlantic suggest there could be more than one population, or subpopulation, of white sharks inhabiting the Northwest Atlantic. These populations are differentiated by where the sharks aggregate in the late summer and fall, which is suspected to be mating season for the species, although that remains to be confirmed. Cape Cod, Massachusetts is one such summer/fall aggregation site and OCEARCH data indicates there is at least one more summer/fall aggregation site in Canada. Regardless of which summer/fall aggregation site a shark uses, however, it appears nearly all of the adult and near-adult sharks visit the NASFA during the colder winter months.

OCEARCH is planning an expedition to the NASFA in February and has two other expeditions planned to try and tag more sharks off Massachusetts and Nova Scotia later in 2019. These expeditions aim to increase the sample size of tagged white sharks to get a clearer picture of white shark movements in the Northwest Atlantic and test scientific hypotheses about white shark movement and migration.

“This is the beauty of OCEARCH’s North Atlantic White Shark Study,” said Dr. Bob Hueter, OCEARCH Chief Science Advisor. “The sharks lead us from one step to the next, so that we can steer our ship to where we’re needed to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of this incredible predator. Each expedition builds on the previous ones to reveal the life of the white shark from birth to death in the North Atlantic. This is the best kind of science, and it’s exciting to be sharing these discoveries with our peers and the public.

”Follow the sharks through their migration cycles by accessing the near-real-time OCEARCH Tracker; https://www.ocearch.org/white-sharks-gather-in-northwest-atlantic-shared-foraging-area-off-southeast-coast-of-the-us/

Where and How to Catch February Bass at Sinclair , with GPS Coordinates

February Bass at Sinclair 

with Todd Goade

NOTE – THIS WAS WRITTEN BEFORE THE POWER PLANT WAS CLOSED ND TORN DOWN.

Cold winter weather always puts a damper on bass fishing in February on most of our lakes.  Bass go deep and school up tight and don’t eat much. But Lake Sinclair is an exception to that rule.  The warmer waters from the steam plant make it the most popular lake for club and other tournaments this month.

There is a good reason so many tournaments are held on Sinclair in the winter. Bass are more active because the water is warmer and also because of the currents created by the steam plant intake and outflow as well as those generated by power generation and pump back at the Oconee dam.

Sinclair is a 15,330 acre Georgia Power lake on the Oconee River.  It was dammed in 1953 and the lake is ringed with cabins and docks.  Almost all docks are on posts and many have brush piles around them.  There is a lot of grass in the lake and it still attracts baitfish this time of year although it is brown now.  There are sandy pockets and banks, rocks and wood cover to fish. 

When Plant Harlee Branch, the coal fired steam plant, is taking in water to cool its boilers, current near the mouth of Little River around the bridge and intake moves upstream.  In Beaverdam Creek release of warmer water from the boilers not only heats the lake, it creates a strong current around the discharge, under the bridge and downstream.

When the power plant at the Oconee Dam is generating current a strong flow comes down the river.  When the turbines are reversed and water is being pumped back into Oconee there is a strong current going up the river.  This current also affects the creeks and will reverse the flow in Little River, too.  The strongest effects are from the mouth of Little River upstream.

Most of Lake Sinclair stays stained in February with Little River often the muddiest area.  Near the dam, Island and Rock Creek almost always remain clear.  Those creeks down the lake are also less affected by the warm water so are usually the coldest water on the lake.  So you can fish shallow relatively warm stained water or colder clearer water within a few miles.

Sinclair is usually one of the top three lakes in Georgia for numbers of tournaments reported in the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation Creek Census Report, with over 80 tournaments reported each year.  In recent years Sinclair has been one of the best lakes for numbers of bass with over 20 percent of anglers catching a five fish limit.  But the bass are small, with an average weight of about 1.5 pounds and an average tournament winning weight of about 10 pounds.

 Todd Goade remembers the first bass he ever caught and it turned him on to bass fishing. He was eight years old and caught a six pound bass on a topwater plug in Missouri. That would turn on any fisherman, especially a young fisherman.

Most of his life Todd lived in Tennessee where he fished with local clubs and the pot trails. When he moved to Georgia in 2002 he quit fishing for a few years but got back into it in 2005 and started fishing the BFL trail, the HD Marine Trail, Boating Atlanta and others. 

Over the past few years Todd has been very consistent in tournaments, placing in the money in many of them.  Last year he finished 3rd overall in the Bulldog BFL point standings and in 2006 was 7th in the HD Marine point standings.  Last February he finished in the top 20 at Sinclair in the BFL and needed just one kicker fish to finish much higher.

“There are always some shallow fish at Sinclair,” Todd told me.  He prefers to fish Sinclair shallow this time of year and likes to go after them with lighter tackle and smaller baits than most anglers use.  Finesse fishing will catch lots of bass on Sinclair most winter days and will often get you in the money in tournaments.

For fishing Sinclair this month Todd has a variety of baits rigged and ready. He will have a small jerkbait like a Pointer on a spinning rod with eight pound test line, a Texas rigged Zoom Finesse worm and another Finesse worm on a 3/16 Spot Remover jig head, both on eight pound line, a crankbait like a Bomber 7A or a Bandit Flat Maxx and a small spinnerbait on 10 to 12 pound line and a Carolina rigged Zoom Baby Brush Hog or six inch lizard. He will also keep a Flexit Spoon ready for deep jigging if he spots bass holding on deep structure.

Todd prefers to fish in eight feet of water or less and will often be sitting in 12 to 15 feet of water fan casting a point or working a bank.  Although the bass are shallow they will usually be on cover and structure with deep water nearby.  He likes main lake banks and points or banks near creek channels that drop off fast now.

Current will position bass on structure and sun will position them on cover, according to Todd.  He likes banks and points where the current is moving and will concentrate on brush, docks and rocks when the sun is bright. This time of year Todd says he does better on sunny days.

Todd and I fished Sinclair the second Sunday in January, a tough day for us and others, based on the weigh-in of three clubs at Little River that day.  He showed me the following places he likes to catch fish on Sinclair in February and they will hold fish you can catch, too.

1. N 33 11.211 – W 83 17.476 – The bank above the steam plant intake drops off fast has overhanging brush and rocks along parts of it and the pockets have grass in them.  Todd likes to fish along this bank and often catches a limit of keeper size bass here.

Start on the point above the mouth of the intake on the right and work upstream to the next main lake point.  The channel swings in near the big upstream point and the deep water is good. You will be sitting in 12 to 14 feet of water along most of this bank.  The water is usually stained in this area and is warmed by current coming up the river.  When water is being pulled into the steam plant current will run downstream.

Cast a Texas rigged Zoom Finesse worm under the overhanging brush to the rocks and also work it around any grass you see.  Todd likes a green pumpkin worm and will dye its tail chartreuse.  Work it with short hops and jiggles, trying to hit any cover along this bank.

If water is moving and the bass are more active, cast your jerkbait close to the bank and work it back in short jerks. Try several cadences until the bass show you what they like.  The colder the water the slower you should fish the bait with longer pauses between jerks.

2. N 33 11.351 – W 83 16.242 – Run down the lake past the mouth of the river and watch for the first cove on your left. There is a big mesh satellite dish on the point.  Go into the pocket downstream of this dish and start fishing before you get to the first dock that has a green metal roof and several PVC rod holders on it.

Fish down this bank with your Texas rigged and jig head worms, casting to the bank between docks and working under the docks and around the posts.  When you get to the third dock you will know you are in the right spot if you see a big UGA emblem on the dock and house and the walk going up from the dock has little UGA helmet lights and a sign that says “Dog Walk.”

Fish that dock and the grass just past it. You can run a spinner bait through the grass and work your worm rigs around it, too.  Todd likes a small white spinner bait with silver blades.  He fishes this cove to the dock with the US flag on it and stops since the water gets real shallow past it.

3. N 33 11.330 – W 83 15.679 – Across the river is an island and just downstream of it a marked hump. There are three danger buoys on the hump and three PVC poles, two side by side. Stop straight out from the PVC poles in about 25 feet of water and fan cast your crankbait as you ease in toward the poles. You can cast to the top of the hump and it is very rough here.  Try a worm along the bottom, too.

If you have a GPS on your boat you will see a point running out from this hump and that is where you want to stop and start fishing.  You can see the point on a good map, too.  The contour lines will be close together and that is a key Todd looks for this time of year. That shows a fast dropping bottom and the fish hold on those kinds of places.

4. N 33 09.806 – W 83 13.802 – Head down the lake to the big island just upstream of the mouth of Reedy Creek and the airport.  There is an old quarry under the water on the upstream side of the island and the bottom is hard clay.  Stop on the outside point of the island in about 20 feet of water and work around the point, casting a crankbait up shallow. Try to hit the bottom with it.

After working the crankbait back off a little and cast a Carolina rig or other worm rig here. There is a good brush pile in 12 to 14 feet of water that often holds bass. They will hold in the brush and run in to feed.  Probe the brush carefully with all your worm rigs.

5. N 33 09.752 – W 83 13.973 – Idle over to the center of the upstream side of the island. You will see three points, the one you just left and two more. Stop out from the center point and you will be in the quarry in very deep water.  Fish the center point here with your crankbait, then probe for brush in 16 feet of water.

Todd likes a half-ounce lead on his Carolina rig and usually has a 24 inch leader.  He will drag the green pumpkin lizard or Brush Hog with dyed tails around and through the brush, working it slowly and feeling for any resistance. The bass will be sluggish most days in the cold water.

6. N 33 11.106 – W 83 12.509 – Run toward the back of Island Creek and watch for a bright red barn on the left side before you get to the power lines.  Start on the point just upstream of the pocket with the red barn and work around the shallow pocket to the dock with a green slide on it. The bottom drops off fast and it is rocky, with docks and brush along it.

Fish your Texas rigged worm or jig head worm here, hitting rocks and wood cover on the bottom and also fishing around and under all the docks. Todd says this is a good place to find bass pulled up to feed this time of year.  He will hit this place and others several times during a fishing day since fish may move in to feed anytime during the day.  You just have to be there when they are feeding.

7. N 33 10.775 – W 83 12.444 – Running down the middle of Island Creek back toward the river, watch on your left for a flat point with a seawall around it. There is a house sitting way back from the water but nothing out on the point.  Across the creek you will see a big brown brick house and just upstream of it a green roof dock.

On a line between the point and green roof dock, out in the middle of the creek, is a hump that comes up to about 18 feet on top. There is brush on it.  Todd will stop here and jig a spoon on this hump, especially if he sees baitfish or fish near the bottom with his depth finder.  It is close to the creek channel and often holds a school of fish. He says he will not spend a lot of time here but does check it out.

8. N 33 09.568 – W 83 12.765 – Near the mouth of the creek on your left is a small island sitting close to the bank.  A long shallow point runs off it toward the middle of the creek.  Todd stops his boat just upstream of the island, lining up the trees on the upstream side of it with the red top dock on the bank behind the island.

Sitting in 15 feet of water he will cast a crankbait all over this point, covering it with fan casts.  He will also try his jerkbait here as well as worm rigs.  This long underwater point is typical of the kinds of places winter bass hold on Sinclair and the water is clear enough here they will come up for a jerkbait.

9. N 33 09.448 – W 83 12.700 – Downstream of the island a big cove runs from the island to the main lake point between Island Creek and the river.  About in the middle of this cove is a long shallow point running out to deep water.  It has a sharp drop off on the downstream side.

Look for and old high boat house roof with no sides and a gazebo on the bank near it. There are swift gourds on a pole near it.  Just downstream is a gray roof dock with a boat ramp just upstream of it.  The point runs out with the downstream sharp edge right at the ramp. You can see this point on your GPS or map, too.

Todd starts way out on this point and make long fan cast across it with crankbaits and jerkbaits.  Try to hit the drop from several angles. Then work your worm rigs across the point and down the drop for fish that are not very active.

10. N 33 08.296 – W 83 11.535 – Run down to the dam and start into Rocky Creek. On your right is a point between the river and the creek.  There is a Georgia Power park and pavilion on the bank here.  This point runs way out shallow and Todd starts way off the bank with his boat in 15 to 16 feet of water and casts his crankbaits up toward the point. You will be casting to water about eight feet deep.

Try to bump the bottom with your crankbaits. Todd likes a fire tiger coach dog pattern for his Bomber and will usually throw a pearl and chartreuse or blue back Flat Maxx. Those baits will dive deep enough to bump bottom in eight feet of water so you will cover the depth many bass will feed this time of year.

Check out Todd’s spots and try his methods on Sinclair this month. There are many other similar spots you can then find and fish.  You should catch a lot of keeper size bass.

Non-Navigable Waters Rule


New Mexico Fish and Game Acts on Non-Navigable Waters Rule
The New Mexico Fish and Game Commission (NMFGC) has voted to amend or repeal an agency rule allowing landowners to certify non-navigable waters as private property, subjecting anglers wading these waterways to a trespass statute.

Days before the vote, the state Attorney General’s office (AG) issued its opinion that the commission can’t legally block the public from waterways that cross private property, as long as people don’t trespass across that property to reach the waterways. In 2015 (by a one vote margin) state legislators amended a trespass law, essentially barring the public from wading in streams that run through private property without written permission from the landowner. 

Three months later the NMFGC called an “emergency meeting” to allow a hearing on the rule, which limited public comment to 10 days, rather than the 30 days set by the Legislature. In 2017 the Commission began allowing landowners to certify streambeds as “non-navigable,” and to fence, and declare the streambed as private property.

Five certification applications have been issued by the Commission since adoption of the rule. One certification was issued to the Texas owner of the Rio Dulce Ranch in San Miguel County, privatizing a segment of the upper Pecos River. Another certification was issued to Chama Troutstalkers, owned by Dan Perry, and ended public access to a segment of that northern New Mexico river. Perry owns a ranch and outfitting business that offers fishing trips there for about $500 a day. 

An organization he founded, the Habitat Conservation Initiative, spearheaded the effort to pass the 2015 change to state law.Zane Kiehne is also seeking certification for his Texas-based Z&T Cattle Company on the Mimbres River in the southwestern part of the state. Kiehne also gained certifications for waterways running through separate properties on the Alamosa and Penasco rivers. The bill’s supporters contend allowing public access to streams on private property could disturb riparian habitat improvements that landowners had invested in. Opponents say the law, and commission rule, are vague and unconstitutional, and that courts should decide whether streambeds are public.

The New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, New Mexico Avid Anglers, Dona Ana County Associated Sportsmen, Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen, Wild Turkey Sportsmen’s Association, River Reach Foundation, Adobe Whitewater Club, American Canoe Association, American Whitewater and the New Mexico River Outfitters Association are all seeking to overturn the law and game agency rule.

The “non-navigable” clause maintains that as long as a river or creek is considered navigable under New Mexico state law the public can float and access it, but the NMFGC’s rule has effectively removed that right on non-navigable waters.

Three Attorneys General have concurred that a 1945 New Mexico Supreme Court decision in “State Game Commission vs. Red River Cattle Co.” allows the public to utilize streams and streambeds where they run through private property, providing they don’t trespass onto private land from the stream.

Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said, “New Mexico anglers and sportsmen who rely on our public lands need a fair shake from the game department.” Attorney Marco Gonzales, who represents the landowners who had certified stretches of waterways, told the commission to let the issue be resolved by the Legislature and the courts.

Last July, when the Commission issued a 90-day moratorium on the certifications, Perry told “The Santa Fe New Mexican” trespassers had damaged the area he had posted and killed many fish.“It’s really hard on the environment,” Perry said. “And it’s our private property, too.”

“New Mexican families and landowners deserve access to our waterways,” said AG Hector Balderas. “I will be directing the commission to strengthen the process to protect private property rights and minimize trespass, while respecting access rights and outdoor activities of sports enthusiasts.” Gonzales said at a public heating recently, “This is an important constitutional issue about ownership of private property. New Mexico’s waters are public waters — you are able to float and fish, you just can’t wade, because of the streambed.” NMFGC Chairwoman Joanna Prukop said, “We were told by the state attorney that the rule was invalid, and our offices are subject to liability for enforcing it. We directed the department yesterday to enforce criminal trespass as they would on any other water in the state until we have resolved this rule.

”While the Commission did not set a timeline to produce a new plan, it could act on the directive at its January meeting in Las Cruces.—Etta Pettijohn

Ten Holes To Catch February Bass on Lake Guntersville, with GPS Coordinates and Tips

February Bass at Guntersville 

with Randall Tharp

Say the word “Guntersville” and bass fishermen all over the US perk up their ears. The lake has an almost mystical reputation for big stringers of bass, especially in late winter.  This reputation has been built up over the years by the great catches there in tournaments and most of the national trails visit the lake each year.

From its dam near Guntersville in northeast Alabama the lake extends 76 miles up the Tennessee River into Tennessee. It is Alabama’s largest reservoir with waters covering 67,900 acres and 890 shoreline miles.  It stays very stable since the TVA requires a set depth in its channels. Water will seldom vary more than two feet in depth which is good since vast areas of the lake are very shallow flats.   

Built between 1936 and 1939, Guntersville has seen a lot of changes the bass population.  The lake is very fertile and full of hydrilla and milfoil but one of the main reasons the bass are so big now is the size limit.  On October 1, 1993 a 15-inch size limit was placed on bass.  That size limit now includes smallmouth and largemouth and it allows smaller, faster growing bass to reach quality size. 

According to the Alabama DCNR there are growing numbers of bass bigger than 15 inches in the lake each year and they are in good shape.  The numbers of bass 12 to 24 inches long has consistently increased each year since the size limit went into effect. In the BAIT survey Guntersville has the highest weight per bass and the shortest time to catch a bass over five pounds of all lakes reported.

All this does not mean Guntersville is a piece of cake when it comes to catching keeper bass.  The BAIT survey shows Guntersville ranking pretty far down the list in percent of angler success, number of bass per angler day and pounds of bass per angler day. If you don’t know the lake every acre of it looks like it holds bass and you can spend a lot of time with nothing but casting practice.

Randall Tharp knows the lake well.  Although he has been fishing all his life he got started tournament fishing with a club about seven years ago and really liked it.  He started fishing Guntersville in 2002 and now has a place on the lake.  He has learned its secrets and has had great success there. 

In 2007 Randall placed first in the point standings in both the Bama and Choo Choo Divisions of the BFL.  He came in third in the Bama BFL on Guntersville last February then placed first in that division in September and second there in the Choo Choo Division the same month.

The past few years reads like a dream come true in Randall’s resume on Guntersville.  In 2006 he placed second in the Bassmasters Series Crimison Divison in March and eighth in that series Volunteer Division the same month, won the seventh Annual Kickin’ Bass Coaches tournament there in June, got a fifth in the Bassmasters Series Crimsion Divison in September, and second in the Choo Choo BFL in September.

He also won the 2005 BITE Tournament on Guntersville in April and was second in the BITE Championship there in November.   Guntersville has played an important part in Randall’s tournament winnings and has helped him get Ranger Boats and Chattanooga Fish-N-Fun as sponsors.  He is planning on fishing the Stren Series and some other bigger trails like the BASS Opens if he can get in this year.

Randall gets excited when thinking about fishing Guntersville this time of year because he knows what lives in the lake.  He says from now to March is the best time of year to hook a monster bass here and expects to catch some of the biggest fish of the year. When asked what it would take to reach “monster” status he said a 10 pound bass would qualify and he expects to catch one that big.  He has seen bass in the low teens caught this time of year, too.

There are lots of ways to catch Guntersville bass from the end of January to March but Randall usually sticks with shallow water. He says the colder it gets the more shallow the big bass hold, and he seldom fishes deeper than 10 feet. You will be surprised at the numbers of big bass in less than three feet of water on the coldest days when the water is in the 30s, according to Randy.

Right now Randall will have a Rapala DT 6 or DT 10, a Cordell Spot or Rattletrap, a one quarter to three eights  ounce jig and pig to cast, a Texas rigged Paca Craw with a heavy weight to flip in any thick grass he finds and Pointer jerkbait read to try.  He likes shad colors in the crankbait and the red in the lipless baits.  Worms and craws are usually green pumpkin and he also casts a black and blue jig and pig.

Although the grass is not growing much right now there is still some “stubble” on the bottom that will hold bass. Randall looks for flats near a drop and it helps to have grass on the bottom.  He finds those kinds of places back in the creeks and out on the main lake but winter winds often make it impossible to fish open water.  He likes to have some protected areas as well as open water to fish.

Bass don’t have to move much on Guntersville, according to Randall. They live in the same areas year-round, not migrating long distances like they do on some lakes. They will follow baitfish some but the grass provides so many bluegill on Guntersville that Randy thinks they are the major food source for bass.

Bass are predictable this time of year and Randall finds them in similar places each year.  They move some but will usually be near a creek channel or ledge where there are good shallow water flats with grass stubble.  They may concentrate in one area then move a little but they won’t move from the main lake to the back of a creek in a day or so.  That helps when practicing for a tournament, but it also means many fishermen find the same fish.

No matter which bait you use it is important to fish as slowly as possible in the cold water.  When your crankbait gets stuck in grass pop it loose gently and let it float up. Do the same with a Spot or Trap, popping it a little and letting it flutter back down. The bass don’t seem to want to chase a bait far, especially if it is moving fast, but Randall says they still hit hard. This time of year, even with the water in the 30s, will provide bone-jarring strikes and it feels like the bass will rip the rod out of your hand.

Randall and I fished on Guntersville in December and the bass were real scattered in the remaining hydrilla although the beds were getting sparse.  Randy still landed about 20 bass that day and had two over five pounds. He could have weighed in five between 19 and 20 pounds, an excellent catch on most lakes but Randall was disappointed the big ones did not hit!

Check out the following ten spots.  They run from near the dam to far up the river.  Bass will hold on all of them this winter and there are other similar spots all over the lake. You just have to fish and find where the concentrations are to load the boat with big fish.

1. N 34 35.939 – W 86 33.106 – The long causeway crossing Brown’s Creek and the shallow humps downstream of it is one of the best places to catch a big bass this time of year.  He says if he had to pick one place to land a ten pound bass he would never leave Brown’s Creek.  Randy landed his best bass from Guntersville, 10 pound, 11 ounce hawg, from this area on a jerkbait.  You can find areas on the riprap that is also more protected from the wind than the main lake.

Work around the riprap, especially the downstream side, with a jerkbait and both kinds of crankbaits.  Also cast your a jig and pig on the rocks.  Some days the fish will be near the rocks and others they will be holding a little deeper, the rocks in some places run out 18 to 20 feet deep.  You can see on a good map there are points and drops near the riprap and hydrilla grows on the more shallow spots.

Downstream of the causeway but near it there are humps that rise to three or four feet deep and hydrilla forms mats on them in the summer. There will still be enough grass near the bottom to hold bass now.  You may have to fish around the area while watching your depthfinder to locate these shallow spots.

Throw a Spot or Trap across them and follow up with a crankbait. Fish them very slowly.  Once you locate some fish you can slow down and fish a jig and pig across these shallow areas.  You should feel the grass on the bottom and that will help you locate the best spots. These humps are exposed to the wind.

2. N 34 40.711 – W 86 20.501 – Run up to the mouth of Town Creek and stop at the ramp on your right going in. Start fishing that bank working a lipless crankbait over the hydrilla that remains in the area.  There is deep water near the point at the ramp and bass move up and down this bank feeding.

When you reach the back of the creek where Minky Creek splits to the left jump across and fish that creek, working it as you go in. You will see three big brick houses here and there are milfoil beds to fish. This creek is shallow and holds good fish this time of year.

Fish it all the way back in Minky Creek. Remember Randy says big bass are often in three feet of water or less this time of year and may be way back in the creek.  Fish Traps and Spots and crankbaits.  If you don’t get bites on them try a slower moving jig and pig or jerk bait.

3. N 34 42.026 – W 86 25.223 – Across the lake follow the channel markers going into Siebold Creek and stop when you get to the island on your left not far off the bank.  Start fishing the islands from there to your left toward the back of that arm.  There are humps, points and islands to fish along this side.

Fish are in this area now getting ready to stage for bedding. You can often catch several on a Trap or Spot from an area then work it with a black Enticer one-quarter ounce jig with a blue or black Zoom Chunk.  Cast and fish it in the grass stubble on the bottom. Work it as slowly as possible.

Randall says fish the Trap and Spot right on the bottom, crawling it along and getting it stuck in the grass. Then pop it gently loose and let it fall back to trigger a strike.  You will get many more hits if you fish it with an irregular action than if you just chunk and wind.

4. N 34 45.843 – W 86 19.364 – The bank downstream of Little Mountain Park has humps, grass and duck blinds.  Randy says get on this bank, put your trolling motor down and fish, there are always lots of big bass holding in this area.  Some of the humps come up to only a foot deep and there are cuts and holes that are nine to 10 feet deep.  

The shallows near those holes are usually the hot spots.  Some ditches cross the flat, making deeper holes. There is a grassline where the water drops deeper along here and the edge of the grass is the key.  Fish a crankbait along the drop when you can.  There is milfoil here and the breakline is always good.

You can work this whole area from the point at Meltonsville to the marina at Little Mountain.  Fish over the grass with Trap and Spot but be sure to cast a jig to the duck blinds, too. Just make sure no hunters are present!  By now that should not be a problem.

5. N 34 50.405 – W 86 17.087 – Pine Island is a huge grass island in the middle of the river out from Waterfront Grocery Fishing Tackle and Supplies.  This is Randall’s favorite spot on the river year round. The river channel splits and goes on both sides of the grass and drops off 35 feet deep but the top of the island is only three or four feet deep.  There is also a cut in the middle of the island that is more than 12 feet deep.

This area is so vast it is hard to fish. You can spend many hours here fishing what seem to be excellent grass lines and drops without catching anything, then hit a spot that is loaded with quality bass.  For some reason they will school up in one small spot that seems to us to be just like the rest.

Fish a Trap, Spot and crankbait along the breaklines and over the grass until you find the sweet spot. Once you locate a good school of fish they should hold there for a good while.  The head of the island creates a current break and the shallows near deep water make excellent structure for bass.

6. N 34 30.943 – W 86 09.017 – Run up to channel marker 372.2, a big marker on a pole.  The South Sauty Creek channel runs into the river channel just upstream of this marker and the channel edges and grass lines along it are good this time of year. Work all your baits along both creek channels looking for concentrations of bass.  Cuts and points on the old channels are good holding spots for the fish.

 If you start near the channel marker and fish upstream you can follow the river channel. The break for the creek channel is not far from the channel and if you look almost straight up the river but a little to your right you will see the creek channel markers.  It doe not run out straight from the creek but swings out then runs down parallel to the river for a long way.

Randall says you can start at the channel marker and fish up into the creek or stay on the river. You can fish the river ledge and grass stubble along it for seven miles going upstream and find schools of bass all along here. That gives you a good idea of the amount of water you have to cover to find schools of fish at times.

While fishing this spot and others Randall says to watch for any action on the water. Often a bass will chase a baitfish making it flick on top of the water giving away the position of a school of bass. It is always worth your time to go to any activity you see and fish around the area.

7. N 34 61.747 – W 86 11.057 – Run back into North Sauty Creek past the second bridge. Fish above the bridge around the lily pad stems, stumps and milfoil with lipless crankbaits and a light jig and pig.

This creek offers three causeways to fish and is more protected than the open river.  Randall says you can start at the second bridge and work the creek edges all the way past the first bridge and out to the river channel. The first bridge has some riprap to fish.  Also fish the bridge and riprap at Goose Pond on the side creek coming in.

The creek channel that winds across the flat downstream of Goose Pond Marina out to the main river channel is a good place to work carefully. There are a lot of tournaments at the marina and lots of fish are released there, restocking the area constantly.  The concentration of keeper size bass is good here from those that are released. Randy says lipless crankbaits, shallow running crankbaits and a light jig and pig will catch them here.

8. N 34 60.472 – W 86.00.655 – Run up the river to the power lines. Both the outside channel ledge and the inside channel ledge from here to BB Comer Bridge have good grass stubble on them and holds a lot of fish.  This time of year Randy likes to fish the back side of the ledge so work in behind the grass, too.

Keep your boat in 10 feet of water and cast out toward the river channel. You will be covering the ledge in about five or six feet of water.  Work Traps and Spots as well as a lipped crankbait across this area. As in other places, watch for any change like a cut or rise and slow down when you catch a fish.

9. N 34 64.971 – W 86 00.000 – Go into the mouth of Rosebury creek back to the ramp on your left.  Start fishing the bank across from the ramp working toward the back of the creek.  Keep your boat near the creek channel and cast to the edges, working your bait over them.  Fish all the way to the causeway in the back of the creek. There are stumps and milfoil to fish here.

This creek is where Randall has his camper and was his first stop in one of the BFL tournaments. He limited out here then went looking for bigger bass to cull. He often finds good numbers of bass back in this creek this time of year.

10. N 34 76.768 – W 85 90.325 – Go up to Mud Creek and in past the boat ramp. When the channel markers stop be careful but keep going to the second bridge and under it.  The big area where the creek splits into Owen Branch and Blue Springs Branch often holds big bass this time of year. Back in this area are huge stumps near the creek channel and you don’t want to hit them with your motor, but they are what attracts the bass.  There is also lots of shallow milfoil in this area. 

Keep your boat in the channel and follow it, casting to both sides to hit stumps and other cover along the drop.  You will be in about six feet of water and casting to very shallow water but Randall says this is where he found fish holding for several weeks   when the water was 36 degrees and his rods were freezing up.

These places show you the kinds of cover and structure Randall looks for this time of year. You can fish them to get an idea of what to look for then find some similar spots of your own. These are big areas but the fish can be anywhere in them so take some time to find where they are holding. Once you get on them it will help you find them in other spots.

Shark Facts


12 Shark Facts That May Surprise You
From NOAA Fisheries
from The Fishing Wire

1. Sharks do not have bones. Sharks use their gills to filter oxygen from the water. They are a special type of fish known “elasmobranch”, which translates into fish made of catilaginous tissues—the clear gristly stuff that your ears and nose tip are made of. This category also includes rays, sawfish, and skates. Their cartilaginous skeletons are much lighter than true bone and their large livers are full of low-density oils, both helping them to be buoyant. Even though sharks don’t have bones, they still can fossilize. As most sharks age, they deposit calcium salts in their skeletal cartilage to strengthen it. The dried jaws of a shark appear and feel heavy and solid; much like bone. These same minerals allow most shark skeletal systems to fossilize quite nicely. The teeth have enamel so they show up in the fossil record too.Scalloped hammerhead shark.

2. Most sharks have good eyesight. Most sharks can see well in dark lighted areas, have fantastic night vision, and can see colors. The back of sharks’ eyeballs have a reflective layer of tissue called a tapetum. This helps sharks see extremely well with little light.A night shark’s green eye.3. Sharks have special electroreceptor organs.Sharks have small black spots near the nose, eyes, and mouth. These spots are the ampullae of Lorenzini – special electroreceptor organs that allow the shark to sense electromagnetic fields and temperature shifts in the ocean.4. Shark skin feels similar to sandpaper.Shark skin feels exactly like sandpaper because it is made up of tiny teeth-like structures called placoid scales, also known as dermal denticles. These scales point towards the tail and help reduce friction from surrounding water when the shark swims.Sandbar shark skin.

5. Sharks can go into a trance.  When you flip a shark upside down they go into a trance like state called tonic immobility. This is the reason why you often see sawfish flipped over when our scientists are working on them in the water.Tagging smalltooth sawfish Florida Everglades6. Sharks have been around a very long time.Based on fossil scales found in Australia and the United States, scientists hypothesize sharks first appeared in the ocean around 455 million years ago.Grey reef shark.

7. Scientists age sharks by counting the rings on their vertebrae. Vertebrae contain concentric pairs of opaque and translucent bands. Band pairs are counted like rings on a tree and then scientists assign an age to the shark based on the count. Thus, if the vertebrae has 10 band pairs, it is assumed to be 10 years old. Recent studies, however, have shown that this assumption is not always correct. Researchers must therefore study each species and size class to determine how often the band pairs are deposited because the deposition rate may change over time. Determining the actual rate that the bands are deposited is called “validation”.

8. Blue sharks are really blue. The blue shark displays a brilliant blue color on the upper portion of its body and is normally snowy white beneath. The mako and porbeagle sharks also exhibit a blue coloration, but it is not nearly as brilliant as that of a blue shark. In life, most sharks are brown, olive, or grayish.Blue shark.

9. Each whale shark’s spot pattern is unique as a fingerprint.  Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean. They can grow to 12.2 meters and weigh as much as 40 tons by some estimates! Basking sharks are the world’s second largest fish, growing as long as 32 feet and weighing more than five tons.Whale shark.

10. Some species of sharks have a spiracle that allows them to pull water into their respiratory system while at rest. Most sharks have to keep swimming to pump water over their gills.A shark’s spiracle is located just behind the eyes which supplies oxygen directly to the shark’s eyes and brain. Bottom dwelling sharks, like angel sharks and nurse sharks, use this extra respiratory organ to breathe while at rest on the seafloor. It is also used for respiration when the shark’s mouth is used for eating.Nurse shark.

11. Not all sharks have the same teeth. Mako sharks have very pointed teeth, while white sharks have triangular, serrated teeth. Each leave a unique, tell-tale mark on their prey. A sandbar shark will have around 35,000 teeth over the course of its lifetime! Shortfin mako shark.12. Different shark species reproduce in different ways. Sharks exhibit a great diversity in their reproductive modes. There are oviparous (egg-laying) species and viviparous (live-bearing) species. Oviparous species lay eggs that develop and hatch outside the mother’s body with no parental care after the eggs are laid.

Shortfin mako shark.

Where and How to Catch December Bass At Miller’s Ferry, with GPS Coordinates

 December Bass at Millers Ferry 

with Skip Spurlin

     The Alabama River has some great bass lakes on it and Millers Ferry ranks high among them.  All the river lakes contain excellent populations of largemouth and spotted bass and this is a good time to catch both species on Millers Ferry.  As the water cools they follow patterns that you can take advantage of right now.

     Millers Ferry is officially known as William “Bill” Dannelly Reservoir and covers 105 miles of the Alabama River south of Selma.  It contains about 17,200 acres of water and over 500 shoreline miles.  A Corps of Engineers Lake that officially opened to the public in 1974, it has more than three million visitors each year.

     Skip Spurlin grew up near Millers Ferry and has fished it for a long as he can remember. It was the lake he fished in his youth with his Uncle Jerry Hollinghead, Grandfather J.C. Hollinghead and father Gordon Spurlin.  He has learned what the bass are doing there over the years with them and fishing on his own.  The patterns they follow each fall make finding and catching bass a good bet.

     Skip now lives in Opp and fishes several tournament trails including the BFL and Airport Marine tournaments.  He also fished some of the Fishers of Men tournaments and a lot of local pot tournaments and charity tournaments on Millers Ferry.  He is on the Airport Marine Ranger Pro Staff.

     Some of Skip’s best catches at Millers Ferry include a spot weighing a 5.5 poounds, a good fish anywhere, and a 7.5 pound largemouth.  His best tournament catch on the lake was a five fish limit weighing 22 pounds.  There are plenty of quality spots and largemouth in Millers Ferry.

     “Fall fishing is all about the shad,” Skip told me.  The shad move off the river into the pockets as the water cools in November and the bass follow them.  Then in late December the shad will head back out to the river and bass will say on them.  You can catch them on the points at the mouths of creeks and pockets coming and going.

     Skip and I were on Milers Ferry in late October, the first cold front of the year and the coldest day up until then, and the shad were already back in some of the creeks.  That seemed a little early but you need to follow them and not worry about why they are moving when they do, just stay on them like the bass do.  Find the shad and you will find the bass.  At times you can see them feeding on top and other times you will need to watch your depth finder to spot the balls of shad in deeper water.

     “When you catch a bass on a buzzbait it will be a fat one,” Skip said.  Each morning Skip will start with a white or black Lunker Lure buzzbait around wood cover in the mouths of pockets.  He will throw this bait on shady banks back in the creeks as long as the fish are hitting. 

If they don’t want a topwater bait he will try a silver blade white spinnerbait in the same areas.  He will also offer them a Trick worm or Senko around the shallow cover if they don’t seem very active, working the Trick worm by cover and dropping the Senko beside logs and letting it sink to the bottom.

     As the sun gets higher or if the bass are not hitting the  spinnerbait and buzzbait he will try a crankbait.  Skip likes to start shallow with a bait like a Rattle Trap and will throw it around the mouths of creeks and pockets.   He likes a one half ounce shad colored bait in clear water and a gold bait in stained water.

     After trying the Trap shallow work deeper with a Norman’s Deep Little N then a DD22 in the same colors. Probe for drops, cover and fish around shad in the mouths of creeks on points with these baits.  The point between the river channel and creek channel is often an excellent crankbait hole this time of year.

     If nothing else works Skip will go to a jig head, Carolina or Texas rigged worm, but they tend to catch smaller bass.  He likes a Zoom Speed worm for largemouth and a Zoom Trick worm for spotted bass.  On sunny days a green or green pumpkin color is best and on cloudy days he will switch to the same worms in Junebug or redbug colors.

     Skip likes the Gee’s Bend area this time of year.  He and I put in at Roland Cooper State Park and fished the following holes in late October. There were shad and bass on several of them but we had a tough bluebird sky/cold front day to fish.  Each will be even better now and you can catch bass on them on through December or even later. Just remember to find the shad to find the bass.

1. N 32 03.363 – W 87 15.031 – Going upstream from the opening at the ramps at the state park you will pass a long island on your right.  Watch to your right for an opening going back into a big area at the state park golf course. There is a small island in the middle of the opening and a green channel marker is lodged in some stumps on the downstream point.

     Start here early throwing a buzzbait and spinnerbait around the wood and grass cover on the point. Work back into the pocket behind the point and around behind the island.  Fish school up on shad in places like this and feed early around shallow cover.  Make several casts to the best looking spots.

     Later in the day or if nothing hits shallow work around the island with your crankbaits. Work deeper if you don’t get bit shallow.  The water drops off fairly fast on the river side of the island so work this areas back to the downstream point.  You can also fish a plastic bait around the cover here.

     2. N 32 04.194 – W 87 14.206 – Run up to the next cut on your right and go into it.  Be careful if you run in on plane, there are some stumps near the channel.  Go around the point on your left and head to the left.  Near the back of the creek you will see a concrete seawall and dock on a point on your right. Start fishing on this point.

There is a good grass bed to fish around this point and some wood cover. Work up this bank hitting grass beds and wood cover with buzzbaits and spinnerbaits. This bank stays shady for a good while so it will be better a little later in the morning. Fish all the way up to the last dock on that side. Just past it you will see a causeway coming across the small creek. 

If the fish don’t hit a buzzbait or spinnerbait work a plastic bait around the cover. A Trick worm or Senko can be good in the shallows if the bass don’t want to chase your faster moving lure.  If shad have worked this far back into the creek there should be bass feeding on them.

3. N 32 04.246 – W 87 14.629 – Back out at the main river stop on the upstream point of this creek. The point between the creek and river has a lot of visible brush off the bank on the river side and you will see a long cedar tree growing on the point. On the map this point is near mile marker 46.

Fish around the shallow cover with spinnerbaits and buzzbaits on the point between the two channels.  Also work a jig head worm or Texas rigged worm on it. Skip says the bottom is nasty here with lots of rocks that will eat your bait.  You can’t fish a crankbait here without getting hung up on every cast.

Current is critical on these points.  Bass will feed much better when there is some current moving. The current will move the shad across the points and position the bass.  You will catch some bass without current but not as many and not as big as when it is moving. This point is mostly a spot hole.

4. N 32 04.385 – W 87 14.770 – Across the river is an opening going back to flats of an old oxbow and Skip likes to fish the left bank going it. Start about even with the point on the island between the river and the oxbow and fish all visible cover.  The left bank going in is the side the old river channel was on and is deeper and better.

Fish from the area across from the river side island to a point where there is a deep pocket going further in. You will see a field across this pocket and that is as far as Skip usually fishes this spot.  The sun gets on the water early here so he likes to start here in the mornings.

This is a good area for pattern that works on some spots. Look for patches and pockets of water hyacinth and flip them with a heavy jig and pig. You need a half to three quarters ounce jig to get down under the mat. Skip says this pattern can be good all day since bass hold in the shade on sunny days.

5. N 32 04.687 – W 87 14.508 – Another good pattern on Millers Ferry is to flip and pitch to shoreline cover along outside bends in the river.  Back out on the main river head upstream and the river will start bending to your left a little.  Watch for a big oak tree leaning over the water on your right and start fishing there, working upstream.

Flip a jig and pig to all wood cover along the outside bend. The bottom drops off fast and there are lay down trees and logs as well as stumps along this bank.  Also watch for any change in the bottom like a ditch or the change from dirt to clay. Those things can concentrate the fish.

Skip likes to flip a three eights to one half ounce jig to the wood along the bank.  He chooses a black and blue Eakins or Lunker Lure jig with a Zoom sapphire blue Super Chunk.  Fish it on heavy line like 15 to 20 pound Seaguar fluorocarbon to pull bass out of the cover.

6. N 32 05.367 – W 87 14.905 – Up the river you will come to the mouth of Buzzard’s Bay on your right. You can see a lot of standing trees back in the bay and there is a red channel marker just off the upstream point.  The upstream point is where you want to fish.

Skip likes crankbaits and plastics on this point. There is a good break in eight feet of water and wood washes in and hangs up on it. Bass will hold in the cover and school up on the flat behind the break.  Start with your boat out in 15 feet of water and cast up shallow, covering the flat and drop. Then move on the shallow side of the break and work your plastic baits through the wood cover, fishing deep to shallow.  

Skip will throw a Carolina rigged Zoom Baby Brush Hog on this point.  He likes green pumpkin and dips the tails in JJs Magic chartreuse dye.  The Carolina rig is good for fishing the cover on the bottom. Moving water makes shad pull up on the flat on this point and bass will follow them, too.  Watch for surface activity while fishing the deeper water.

7. N 32 02.394 – W 87 16.671 – Run down the river past the state park and watch on your left for a line of tall post that run along the bank.  They were put there for a seawall or some other structure but stick up by themselves with some wood along their lower edges. 

Start fishing at the downstream side of these posts and work upstream.  This is another good outside bend area and working upstream helps you position your boat if there is any current. Current really makes the bass bite better so you want to be fishing it when the current is moving.

Skip says you can take a limit of spots weighing 15  pounds if the current is moving and everything is right. Flip a jig and pig to shoreline cover here like in hole number 5.  There are also riprap banks and docks along this area to fish. 

Fish upstream to the double dock with the workboat tied to it.  There was an American flag flying here the day we fished.  Skip says flip to all the post on this dock, that wood washes in and hangs up here and holds bass. Work this whole bank probing for wood cover as the water drops.

8. N 32 02.315 – W 87 16.920 – Just downstream of the posts on the same side is a cove that holds shad and bass this time of year.  There is a big gray house on the upstream point with a gazebo out on the point.  Across from that point they are clearing brush on the lot on the downstream side. That is the side Skip likes to fish.

Start fishing on the riverside of the lot they are clearing. There is wood and grass along that bank that holds bass as they move in and out of the pocket following the shad. Try all your baits along this bank, hitting visible grass and wood cover.

9. N 32 02.903 – W 87 18.535 – Further downstream on your left is the opening to go back to Ellis Ferry landing.  The downstream point of this creek has a two story white house behind and a little downstream of it.  This point has a bar that runs across and upstream of it and is an excellent place to find spots schooled up.

Fish a crankbait and jig head worm on this point, covering it from all angles. Watch your depth finder to see how the bar runs and work it out to deeper water.  A jig head worm is especially good fished along the bar out toward deeper water.

10. N 32 02.493 – W 87 18.493 – Go back into the creek until you see the ramp at Ellis Ferry ahead of you as you round a point on your right. Start at that point across from the boat ramp and work into the creek. Ahead of you there is a causeway that cuts off part of the bay. This is a good bank to start on if you put in here.

Shad will often hold along the grass beds on this bank and they were thick in there in late October.  Bass were schooling on them when we fished it and it will be even better now.  Fish this bank with buzzbait and spinnerbait early, then work a Trap a little later.  It is a shallow bank so stay way out and make long casts.

Fish the docks and grassbeds back until the water out from the bank where your boat is sitting is only two feet deep.  Watch for action on top and make casts to it. Also hit dock pilings and brush under the docks.  There are enough tournaments held from this ramp that the area is constantly restocked, adding to the fish that are moving in following the shad.

Try these ten spots Skip likes to fish and see what kind of structure and cover he is looking for. Check other areas of the lake that are similar and find the shad on them and you will catch bass.

Great Holiday Deals on St. Croix Rods

Happy Holiday Deals!
Great time to fill your rod locker with
St. Croix Rods
Enjoy the biggest savings of the year on select, retired St. Croix Rod models from December 6th through the 20th
Park Falls, WI (December 3, 2019) – St. Croix anglers are always on the hunt for big fish, but now is the time of year when they are also hunting for big savings. Whether shopping for anglers on your holiday list or taking advantage of the biggest savings of the year to add to your own rod collection, St. Croix Rod has anglers covered with our special two-week Holiday Sales Event, starting this Friday, December 6th and running through the 20th.

It’s our way of saying “Thank You and Happy Holidays” to our passionate angling customers, and a sure-fire way for you to make the anglers on your shopping list smile. The fast-approaching online-only sale will offer incredible savings of up to 60% off a great selection of retired St. Croix rods, plus FREE SHIPPING on orders shipping inside the continental US!

St. Croix’s Holiday Sales Event will run from 7:00 AM CDT on Friday, December 6th through 10:00 PM CDT Friday, December 20th. Shoppers at www.stcroixrods.com/collections/rod-shopper can take 30% off select Legend Surf, Avid Surf and Mojo Musky rods; 40% off select Mojo Bass Glass and Premier Crankbait rods; 50% off Rio Santo fly rods; and a phenomenal 60% off SOLE fly rods and Avid Carp rods!
Freshwater rods, saltwater rods, flyrods… from trout to tarpon, online shoppers will find phenomenal deals on them all. But don’t be late; St. Croix Holiday Sales Event prices are limited to available stock.#CROIXGEARLike the rods? You’ll love our lifestyle apparel. Spend $75 on apparel during the St. Croix Holiday Sales Event and receive a FREE Catch & Release Hat! 
MEET OUR MACHINERYComing to northern Wisconsin? We’d love to meet you, and we’d love for you to have the chance to Meet Our Machinery. Call us at 800.826.7042 or email us at factorytour@stcroixrods.com to schedule a factory tour. Learn more at https://stcroixrods.com/pages/factory-tours.

Over-harvest Causing Walleye Decline


U. of Wisconsin Study Says Hidden Over-harvest Causing Walleye Declines
A new study by UW–Madison Center for Limnology graduate student Holly Embke shows that the state’s walleye fishery is being overharvested at a rate ten times higher than fishery managers anticipated.
By Adam Hinterthuer, University of Wisconsin
from The Fishing Wire

A new study by UW–Madison Center for Limnology graduate student Holly Embke shows that the state’s walleye fishery is being overharvested at a rate ten times higher than fishery managers anticipated. Over the last few decades, walleye in Wisconsin have been on a downward trend. As lakes in the upper Midwest warm due to climate change, this cool-water species has found itself with less habitat in which to thrive. Add in factors like lakefront development and loss of shoreline habitat, and the iconic fishery isn’t what it used to be.

Despite this decline, the fish remains as popular as ever with anglers. Though they are catching fewer individual fish than before, the percentage of walleye that state and tribal resource managers allow to be harvested each year has stayed about the same.

Given the cultural and economic importance of this inland fishery, it’s time to reassess current regulations, says University of Wisconsin–Madison Center for Limnology graduate student, Holly Embke, lead author of a study published this week [Nov. 18, 2019] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It finds that “40 percent of walleye populations are overharvested, which is ten times higher than the estimates fisheries managers currently use,” she says.

A big reason for this “hidden overharvest,” says Embke, is that, for the last 30 years, resource managers have focused on fish abundance and not fishery productivity when calculating harvest limits.In the late 1980s, after a U.S. District Court judge ruled that federal treaties gave Ojibwe tribes the right to hunt and fish in their former territories, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission were tasked with working together to set sustainable harvest limits on walleye for both recreational and tribal fisheries.

These fisheries today consist of more than 1 million recreational anglers who account for about 90 percent of the total annual harvest on the state’s 900 “walleye lakes.” The other 10 percent comes from the 450 tribal members who spear walleye on roughly 175 lakes each spring.Using the best available science at the time, the agencies developed a management plan based on fish abundance. They used adult walleye population estimates to set regulations that ensured a maximum harvest amount of 35 percent of the adult walleye in any given lake. The average exploitation rate for walleye stocks is closer to 15 percent, so the agencies assumed these regulations were sufficiently conservative to be sustainable.

These regulations “worked for a long time,” says co-author Steve Carpenter, director emeritus of the Center for Limnology, “and then they stopped working. Over the last couple of decades, there began to be walleye recruitment failures scattered around the state.”In these last few decades, annual walleye production in many of the state’s lakes has declined by 35 percent. On top of that decline, walleye stocks now take one and a half times longer to replenish themselves than they did in 1990.

State fisheries managers responded by changing angler regulations to protect large female walleye, boosting walleye populations by stocking hatchery-raised fish in struggling lakes, and managing individual lakes according to their productive capacity, says Greg Sass, fisheries research team lead in the DNR’s Office of Applied Science. But these efforts didn’t reverse the broader walleye decline.

So, Embke and her colleagues set out to better understand other factors fisheries managers might consider when setting harvest rules. By focusing on production, they hoped to get a clearer picture of how well populations withstand fishing pressure and continue to reproduce and grow.“We wanted to take a more nuanced approach and ask not only how many fish are in a lake but also consider how fast they’re growing, how big they are, and how many are produced every year,” she says.

One way to think of it, Embke says, is in terms of a bank account. “Abundance tells you the money in the bank while production tells you the interest rate,” she says.In other words, if you start taking more money out of your account than the interest rate contributes each year, your savings shrink. Do this several years in a row, and those annual withdrawals begin to have an outsized impact on what little money is left in the bank.

Using data that state and tribal researchers had already collected, Embke and her colleagues calculated how walleye biomass had changed over a 28-year period in 179 lakes. Measuring biomass is akin to throwing all of the walleye in a lake on a scale and recording the overall weight. Production is a reading of how much biomass grows each year, an indication of a population’s ability to replenish its losses.

By comparing walleye production to the total fishery harvest in these study lakes, they found that overharvest is ten times higher than the 4 percent estimates generated when fisheries managers consider abundance alone.What’s more, Embke says, the study found great variation in walleye production from lake to lake. Some lakes remain walleye strongholds and can handle current fishing pressures, while others can’t sustain even current average harvest rates of 15 to 20 percent, much less the 35 percent harvest benchmark. By considering production, fisheries managers may be better equipped to set limits for individual lakes.

These results, the researchers write, “highlight the urgent need for improved governance, assessment, and regulation of recreational fisheries in the face of rapid environmental change.”“Nature has changed,” says Carpenter. “The climate now is different from what it was in the 1980s and it’s not going back. That means habitat is decreasing and, on average, walleye stocks can’t take the harvest levels they have seen.

”The good news, he says, is that the data fisheries managers already collect can be plugged in to Embke’s method for estimating production and help chart a way forward. By better understanding the resilience of Wisconsin walleye populations and by acknowledging the role that anglers play in reducing stocks, the future of this iconic fishery just may have a fighting chance.
Alex Bentz, field technician at the the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources holds a walleye. Photo by Adam Hinterthuer, UW–Madison Center for Limnology

Christmas Gifts For Fishermen

I try to not think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, so I guess its time.  I have my two front teeth, so my next choices are fishing equipment. Fishermen are easy to buy gifts for, since we never have enough fishing stuff.

Prices range from a couple dollars to ridiculous amounts.    I think any fisherman would be happy with any of the following.  I know I would since I use all of them and depend on them.  I have everything on this list, but, like any other fanatical bass fisherman, I could always use duplicates!  

  Garmin Panoptix Livescope – If you like knowing what is underwater, the Panoptix system can’t be beat.  It shows structure and cover, but more importantly, fish as they move, their depth, distance from the boat and direction from the boat, much like shining a spotlight underwater.    You can make every cast count and see how the fish react to your bait in real time. Its almost cheating! The first time I was in the boat with one and saw how it worked, I ordered one for my boat as soon as I got home.   

This system is expensive, costing a little under $3000.00 for transducer and sonar unit with a ten inch screen for it.   

St.Croix Avid Rod – The Avid line of rods are good quality for the cost and have a great warranty.  The seven-foot medium fast is good for topwater, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and swimbaits and the medium-heavy fast is perfect for small jigs, Texas rigs and shaky heads.   I use those two actions for almost all my fishing.   

The Avid series of rods are about $180.00. each.    

American Hero Speed Stick rod –  I bought a rod from Berry’s Sporting Goods to replace my heavy jig and worm rod I broke.  When I tested it in the store, it felt good even though it is a seven-foot rod and I really wanted a shorter rod for skipping baits under docks.  The medium heavy, fast action was right, though, and I got it.    After using it several times and catching a few fish on it, I am very happy with it.  It cast half ounce jigs and Texas rigs with a three sixteenths ounce sinker well, exactly what I wanted it for.  I can skip ok with it and it has good sensitivity for feeling bites on those baits.  The seven-foot length gives me good leverage when setting the hook.   

The American Hero Rod I got at Berry’s SportingGoods was a little under $100.00.   

Bass Pro Shop Reels – I get a nice discount from Bass Pro Shops on their branded stuff, so I use their reels.  They are less expensive than many of the same quality and have had good service with them.    The three I use are the Pro Qualifer, Carbonlight and Signature Series. The higher priced reels are a little smoother and cast a little better, but for most of my fishing the cheaper models serve all my needs.  I use the Signature Series for pitching and skipping baits under docks when the higher price makes it worth it.  For everything else, the lower priced reels are fine, and I can pitch and skip with them if needed, I just get a few more backlashes.   

The Pro Qualifer is $80.00, the Carbonlight is $125.00 and the Signature Series is $160.00   

Guidewear – I fish year-round and this time of year it can be miserable on the water if you don’t have proper clothes.  A few years ago I bought a Guidewear suit from Cabellas. The bib pants and jacket have both zipper and Velcro flap closings on all openings.  They are lined and have Goretex for waterproofing.    When suited up with hood up and closed, nothing shows but my eyes, nose and hands.  It is warm and completely waterproof.  I have fished in rain, sleet, wind and temperature in the teens and have been comfortable, except for my hands, even in the worst conditions.  Rubber insulated boots complete the outfit when it rains.   

This outfit is not cheap, at about $275.00 each for bibs and jacket, but worth it if you are out in bad weather.    

 Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon – Fluorocarbon line is important in clear water but works well in stained water, too.  The lighter line is limp enough for spinning reels but 12-pound test and up is best on baitcasters.  It is some of the toughest line I have ever used, strong and abrasion resistant.  If my reel is spooled with fluorocarbon, its Sunline Shooter. It has never failed me.   

A 200-yard spool of this line is about $25.00.   

Trilene monofilament line – Some baits like topwater require monofilament line, and I like Trilene XT Extra Tough line in 12 to 14-pound test. It is very strong, abrasion resistant and cast well on both bait casters and spinning reels.   

At 1000-yard spool of this line, plenty to last a few years, is about $25.00. 

   Rapala DT 6 – The DT series of crankbaits come in a wide range of colors and depth they work. They run true out of the box with no tuning.   The DT 6 is good from fall through Spring for bass feeding in relatively shallow water.  They have no rattles and that helps for spooky, heavily pressured bass. I have one tied on every trip and have caught some of my best limits on them.   

Rapala DT 6 crankbaits cost about $8.00 each.   

JJs Magic – JJs dip and dye quickly colors plastic baits and gives them a strong garlic scent.  It comes in several colors to “match the hatch“ and bass love it.  I never throw a plastic bait without dipping the tails in chartreuse JJs.   

A bottle of JJs Magic cost about $6.00.   

All these things work well for me and I would not want to be without them on a fishing trip.

Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 11/30/19

It was once again a great fall week on Guntersville, the bass are as active as they have been since the fall fishing set in. The only thing we had to do to stay on fish this week was move a lot if we weren’t getting bit early in a stop; the fish weren’t everywhere but they were grouped up when we found them.

We stayed in less than 10 ft. of water, found grass and bait activity and we found fish. We stuck to reaction baits most of the week with SPRO Aruka shad rattle baits being our best producer. We also caught fish on Picasso Spinner baits, Tight-Line swim jigs, SPRO Little John square bills. Reaction was the key; find movement and find some feeding and you will have a blast.

Come fish with me I have guides and days available to fish with you; it’s a great time to set up 2020 fishing were taking reservations now. We fish with great sponsor products Lowrance Electronics, Ranger Boats, Boat Logix Mounts, Mercury Motors, Vicious Fishing, Duckett Fishing, Power Pole, Navionics mapping and more.

Guntersville Keeper Bass