Monthly Archives: August 2014

Does Florida Relesing Hatchery Raised Snook Help Me Catch Fish?

Florida’s Snook Population Gets a Boost from Release of Hatchery Fish

On Friday, Aug. 15, scientists with Mote Marine Laboratory and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released hatchery-reared juvenile snook into the wild as part of an ongoing program designed to find the most effective methods to replenish and enhance wild snook populations.

Stocking Snook

Stocking Snook

Scientists net snook raised in Mote’s hatchery facility near Sarasota, Florida, for stocking in area waters. (Photo Credit Mote Marine)

The species is one of Florida’s most popular sport fish and plays an important role in drawing recreational anglers to the state. According to the American Sportfishing Association, Florida is the top-ranked state in economic output from recreational fishing, which draws $8.6 billion to the economy annually. Saltwater fishing alone generates 80 percent – $6.8 billion – of that income.

Snook, along with red drum, are the main test species for restocking efforts statewide. This project – which involves tagging and then releasing more than 2,200 snook into Sarasota Bay during over three days – is designed to determine whether snook that have been conditioned for release at Mote have better growth and survival rates in the wild.

This event is a key example of Mote’s efforts to develop and support public-private partnerships for the conservation and sustainable use of our marine resources. The snook release is possible now thanks to a private donation to Mote and from funding provided by FWC. For more than 25 years, Mote and FWC scientists have partnered on studies designed to increase the effectiveness of stock enhancement in Florida; their work on the topic is followed globally.

Snook In Hatchery

Snook In Hatchery

Snook are Florida’s premiere inshore gamefish, but have proven a challenge to grow in hatcheries in numbers large enough to affect wild populations in past efforts. (Photo Credit Mote Marine)

Past Mote and FWC research conducted through pilot snook releases that took place between 1997 and 2006 has shown that hatchery-reared fish released into the wild can indeed contribute to the local fishery with the fish growing to adulthood. And, in fact, tag data recovered following these small-scale pilot release experiments showed that using the knowledge we gained, we were able to improve the survival rate of stocked fish by more than 200 percent.

“We’ve found over time that we can improve the survival of hatchery snook released into the wild by 10 times just by choosing the right habitat,” said Dr. Kenneth Leber, Associate Vice President for Mote’s Directorate for Fisheries and Aquaculture. “We also know that there are limits on how many fish you can put in each habitat before you start to lose hatchery snook. These pilot studies we’re doing now are further defining the best methods for snook stock enhancement.”

Fingerling Snooki

Fingerling Snooki

This baby snook must survive predators, anglers, cold weather and red tide for at least four years before it will become a spawning adult. (Photo Credit Mote Marine)

Such findings are key to developing large-scale stocking techniques that are financially and environmentally feasible that can help rapidly boost populations of species affected by overfishing or natural phenomenon like the 2010 winter cold spell that resulted in the deaths of millions of snook and the closure of the fishery. Snook populations have only recently rebounded on the Gulf Coast from that event enough that FWC was able to reopen the fishery earlier this year.

This latest experiment will look at the survival in the wild of 2,000 juvenile snook that were born and raised at Mote Aquaculture Park in eastern Sarasota County. The Park is Mote’s aquaculture research and development test-bed where we are developing new methods for spawning, hatching and rearing marine species for restocking purposes and for human consumption. Many of these studies are conducted in partnership with FWC biologists.

“FWC and Mote Marine Lab have worked together since 1985 to advance marine stock enhancement in Florida,” said Chris Young, Director of FWC’s Stock Enhancement Program. “We’re excited to continue our partnership with Mote Marine Lab in support of these snook releases.”

Releasing Snook

Releasing Snook

Scientists have discovered that releasing snook in remote backwaters with lots of mangroves gives them the best chance of survival. (Photo credit Mote Marine)

For this release, FWC and Mote biologists inserted PIT tags – passive integrated transponder tags – in the juvenile snook before release. These small, 23 mm-long tags are about the size of a pencil eraser and each one transmits a unique identifying number. The transmissions will be picked up by underwater antennae placed by scientists near the release site in the wild. These antennae will listen for the released snook as they swim by and each time a tagged snook passes through the array, a receiver will record the movement.

Scientists will also use seine nets to periodically gather snook and evaluate growth rates, compare performance between wild and hatchery snook and determine whether the released fish are contributing to overall snook abundances.

One key to the study is the conditioning that some of the snook have undergone prior to release, Leber said. “We have a control group of fish that have been raised in traditional aquaculture manner – in bare tanks using artificial feed. We also have a group of conditioned fish that have been fed live prey for three days prior to their release. We’ve also placed structures into their tanks, which mimics the structure fish will have in the wild. We think these two factors will help hatchery-reared snook be more prepared for life in the wild – with a better ability to hide from predators and ready to hunt for prey of their own.”

What Are Robofish?

“Robot fish” engage angling community near Payson

Editor’s Note: Today’s feature comes to us courtesy of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
from The Fishing Wire

Local anglers buzzing about Arizona Game and Fish Department project aimed at determining movement and fate of hatchery-raised rainbow trout

PAYSON, Ariz. — Call them robot fish, mechanical fish, even Frankenfish.

In the tiny Payson community of Beaver Valley, hatchery-raised rainbow trout hover in pools of the East Verde River, or perhaps enjoy the shade of a shoreline undercut. Then there’s a different sort of rainbow trout in these waters – ones that mill around with a pair of protruding, lightweight tags.

Robo Fish

Robo Fish

These fish have undergone surgery.

Since April, Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists at the Tonto Creek Hatchery have begun implanting the lightweight wire tags into a small portion of rainbow trout to determine the fate and movement of stocked hatchery trout.

Now far removed from surgery, recovery room-like buckets of water, and finally their hatchery runways, many tagged rainbows are wild and healthy in the East Verde. A tiny tag protrudes from the back, another from the belly.

The community is abuzz about these high-tech fish.

Ask the Kreimeyers. Also near the banks of the East Verde in Beaver Valley lives Roger and Linda Kreimeyer, married 49 years. They’re at the heart of a community engaged by the Game and Fish research project.

“I get phone calls all the time: ‘Did you see the stocking truck today?'” Linda Kreimeyer said. “It’s a fun event for families here. Everyone is curious about tagged fish. They want to see these mechanical fish.”

She laughs, then gazes down toward the tributary of the Verde River that begins at the Mogollon Rim near Washington Park, then flows mostly southwest through Gila County and the Tonto National Forest.

Game and Fish biologists are still asking anglers who catch a tagged fish to return the tags. The Department in April issued a news release asking anglers who catch a tagged trout to call the number on the colored tag (623-236-7538) with the location of the caught trout, identification number on the colored external tag, and date the fish was caught.

After all, future generations of anglers depend on such conservation efforts.

Those in Beaver Valley have taken notice of the project. It might be a stocking truck pulling up to the tiny creek, even a Department biologist or volunteer pointing a large antenna at the river to detect the position – and, in turn, fate or movement — of a tagged trout, part of the technology of telemetry. Sometimes, an angler will catch one of these “robot fish,” which Game and Fish biologists say are safe to eat.

Also, see an Arizona Game and Fish Department video of underwater. tagged trout. (

Catching A Robo Fish

Catching A Robo Fish

It’s one of the more unique and lengthy projects anglers might witness.

“We’re getting phenomenal results,” said Arizona Game and Fish Department Fisheries Research Biologist Jessica Gwinn. “And we’re very excited that the angling public is interested in our project and participating with us.”

Game and Fish biologists will survey the East Verde River from 2014-2015, and then perform the same research methods in the East Fork of the Black River from 2015-2016.

As for the project on the East Verde River, conclusions are likely to form in 2017 or 2018.

“We want to follow the trout through several seasons,” Gwinn said. “”Early project results indicate a great return on the tags.”

Around Beaver Valley, anglers seem to understand their role in conservation, showing their passion for wildlife in part by engaging in the heritage-rich sport of fishing.

“Fishermen are really taking ownership of this project,” Gwinn said. “They live here, so they do have ownership of this stream.”

Dads and Fishing

Dads do a lot for their kids. My father was not a fisherman, but I have some memories of fishing with him that become more special each year. The older I get the more I realize the sacrifices he made so I could fish, even though he did not like fishing.

We went camping at Clark’s Hill often and I will never forget a couple of trips. One of the first, when I was about 10, involved me, my best friends Harold and Hal, and our fathers. All six of us were in a wooden boat and the men were throwing Hula Poppers around shoreline cover while we boys paddled the boat.

Mr. Bill, Harold’s dad, caught most of the fish. He fished a lot and was much better at casting than dad or Hal’s dad, Mr. Bonner. Dad managed to catch a couple of bass but lost several more. The next week he went and bought a new rod and reel and several new Hula Poppers so that would not happen again.

I don’t think Dad ever used that rod or Hula Poppers. I still have a couple of them that survived my use over the years. Many times I tried to learn to use that old baitcaster and solid glass rod, but never got the hang of it. I am not sure what happened to it.

Another strong memory was a trip to Elijah Clark State Park. I had heard about fishing at night for crappie and white bass under bridges at the lake, and there was a bridge a few hundred yards downstream of the park. I talked daddy into renting a row boat and taking me fishing under the bridge one night.

I was so excited I could hardly stand it, and it felt like it would never get dark. We went to the area where they kept the row boats with our tackle, a bucket of minnows and a lantern as the sun set. I loaded the rods and tackleboxes into the boat while daddy got the paddles.

Daddy rowed to the bridge, tied up and hung the lantern over the side. I got my rod ready and looked for the minnow bucket. It was not in the boat. Daddy did not say anything, he just got the lantern in, untied the boat, rowed back to the park and got the minnows, still sitting where I had left them.

Although he had rowed us a couple of hundred yards each way for nothing, daddy never fussed at me for forgetting the minnows. After rowing back to the bridge we fished for several hours without a bite. I was just about asleep by the time daddy rowed us back to the park and took me to the camper for bed.

The only kind of fishing daddy seemed to enjoy was catching crappie around the bushes in the spring at Clark’s Hill. He would spend hours in a boat with my mom and me catching crappie. I realize now he was thinking about all the good eating and did not mind “wasting” time fishing since he was filling up the freezer with fish.

Daddy bought a 17 foot Larson outdrive ski boat for us in 1966. I loved to ski as a teenager but wanted to fish, too. I rigged up a wooden seat that fit over the front running light and had a drop down part for the trolling motor. I fished many days from that boat until I was able to buy my first bass boat in 1974.

When daddy saw my bass boat and how easy it was to fish from, he decided to fix up the ski boat for him and mamma. He built a nice platform with a swivel seat on it, and put a foot controlled electric motor on it. That worked great for easing around the edges and fishing for crappie. He was very good at putting things together like that and made a much better fishing boat than I was able to make.

I have a lot of fantastic memories growing up, and often wish I could go back and enjoy some of those times again. Fathers and children, don’t let any more time pass without making some memories of your own. Go fishing together and enjoy the time you have. It will be gone all too soon.

Why Are They Restoring Sturgeon To the Connecticut River?

Connecticut River Work to Bring Back Ancient Fish

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

Sturgeon Closeup

Sturgeon Closeup

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

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

Sturgeon in the Connecticut River

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

Threats to Sturgeon

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

Shortnose Sturgeon

Shortnose Sturgeon

Shortnose sturgeon. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

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

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

Improving Fish Passage

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

Atlantic sturgeon

Atlantic sturgeon

Atlantic sturgeon. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

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

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

Holyoke Dam on the Connecticut River

Holyoke Dam on the Connecticut River

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

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

Supporting Science

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

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

We also have supported lab work to study

Turner Falls Dam

Turner Falls Dam

Turner Falls Dam. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

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

Public Education

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

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

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


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

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

Have You Heard About the 1000 Pound Alligator Caught In Alabama?

Monster Alabama Gator Sets of Media Frenzy

This huge gator was caught in Alabamsa

This huge gator was caught in Alabama

Editor’s Note: Today’s feature comes to us from David Rainer of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
from The Fishing Wire

At 5 p.m. last Friday, Mandy Stokes of Thomaston, Alabama, was a wife, mom and assistant to Dr. Bill Bledsoe at the Camden Veterinary Clinic. Less than 24 hours later, Stokes was an instant, multi-national celebrity.

Stokes admits she had no idea what she was getting into during the second night of the Alabama alligator hunting season and, especially, the media feeding frenzy that started when word began to circulate about the 15-foot, 1,011.5-pound alligator that she tagged in the wee hours of this past Saturday morning in a slough near Miller’s Ferry Dam on the Alabama River.

“I don’t really know how to describe it,” Stokes said of reaction to the monster gator. “It just went nuts. John and I have a daughter that is 3 and a son that’s 1, so we kind of have a full-time job with that. I think the whole world record potential is what’s really got people stirred up.

“I never expected to be a celebrity in any way, but I sure never dreamed it would be from gator hunting.”

Stokes said CBS New York contacted her husband, John Stokes, and ABC News attempted to get an interview through Jeff Dute, who broke the story as outdoors editor of the Mobile Register/

“I’ve got an email from Fox News, but I haven’t even opened it,” she said. “I can’t keep up with all the notifications. I’m already two or three days behind just trying to be polite to people. I don’t want to be rude and ignore people, but I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

With her job as a veterinary assistant and John’s job with AT&T, Stokes said their commitments to their jobs have to come before the interviews.

“I’ve had people call me and tell me they were driving to Camden to interview me, and I told them not to come,” she said. “I don’t want to upset anybody, but I don’t have time to talk to them all. I’m at work. I’ve got kids at preschool. Plus, John and I are trying to build a house. It’s just crazy around here anyway.”

Stokes said she, John and Kevin Jenkins, her brother-in-law, went out on Thursday night, the first of the season, to look around for a gator to no avail.

“John and Kevin decided to work Friday, so we didn’t stay late Thursday so we could go back out Friday night,” Mandy said. “When we got back on the water Friday night, I think the three of us decided that we were going to tag out no matter what we found. We just didn’t have time to hang out on the river for six nights.”

Stokes said they had no idea a monster gator even lived in that narrow body of water off the river.

“I had never been in that slough in my lifetime,” she said. “It’s unlikely that I’ll ever go back to it.”

And if she draws an alligator tag in the future, she’s going to make sure John and Kevin do some downsizing.

“I don’t ever want to hook into one that size again,” Mandy said. “If we had known what was on that line, it would have intimidated us so bad that we would have never harvested it. We never really saw the gator except for his eyes and tail. We thought it was going to be a 10-footer.”

More than four hours into the fight, the team managed to get two ropes on the gator and secured him to the boat. That’s when Mandy tried to shoot the gator at the base of his skull with her 20-gauge shotgun. Unfortunately, the gator’s head went underwater when the trigger was pulled, stifling the shot. The gator then took the team on a boat ride it’ll never forget. The boat slammed into a cypress stump and sent the members of the team tumbling into the bottom of the boat.

“When we crashed into the stump, we all knew what was fixing to happen – we were either going to cut him loose or kill him,” Mandy said. “My brother-in-law managed to get another hook in him, and he said he was going to try to get his head up. He told me, ‘when I get his head up, you be ready.’ His head came up just as calm as you could ask for.”

Stokes’ second shot applied the coup de grace, and the gator rolled over.

Family That Caught 1000 Pound Alligator

Family That Caught 1000 Pound Alligator

(TOP) Personnel from Roland Cooper State Park had to bring in a backhoe to help the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries crew weigh the monster alligator caught during the opening weekend of Alabama’s alligator season by Mandy Stokes and her team. (Below) Team members are: (from left) Mandy Stokes, John Stokes, Parker Jenkins, Savannah Jenkins and Kevin Jenkins. The 15-foot gator weighed 1,011.5 pounds. All photos courtesy Big Daddy Lawler via ADCNR with permission.

“If that attempt had failed, we were through,” Mandy said. “We were OK just to let this animal go. Our safety was at risk, and we weren’t willing to compromise that.”

When Stokes realized the epic struggle was finally over, she didn’t know how to react.

“I was speechless,” said Stokes, who still gets breathless reliving that night. “I was so overwhelmed with emotion at that point I didn’t know what to do. I thought, oh, what just happened?”

The emotion of the successful hunt quickly turned into work as another rope was tied to the gator and the trolling motor was used to navigate out of the stump-filled slough in the early morning fog.

After exiting the slough, the boat was pulled onto the bank of the river to secure the gator for the 2-mile trip to the boat ramp.

“We really tied him up good, because we knew if he ever came off the boat, we’d never find him again,” Stokes said. “We tied him the best we could. In fact, we ran out of rope.”

When the Stokes team finally made it to the weigh station at Roland Cooper State Park, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries personnel were then presented with an obstacle similar to what the hunters experienced – the gator was too big for the equipment.

Wildlife Biologist Mike Sievering said Big Daddy Lawler, who hosts an outdoors radio show in central Alabama, alerted the weigh station crew that a gator was coming in just as the scales were about to close.

The behemoth arrived on a flatbed trailer, and Sievering knew right away that this gator was special.

“This thing was huge,” Sievering said. “I’d never seen anything that big.”

The previous gator that topped the Alabama harvest charts was the so-called Fancher gator at 14 feet, 2 inches and 838 pounds. That gator also came into the weigh station at Roland Cooper.

“The equipment on the Fancher gator was just fine,” Sievering said. “But on this one, the winch just wasn’t big enough. We got him off the ground, but one of the clevises popped and straightened out. Finally, we got up with State Parks and got them to bring a backhoe in there so we could weigh it correctly. Kudos to State Parks for helping out on that deal, or we’d have been in trouble.

“We had to re-rig it several times and tie the tail up to get it weighed. A 15-footer is a lot of animal hanging there.”

As for the world record, there are really no set parameters to determine a world record, although it appears the length of the gator could be the determining factor. The Safari Club International recognizes a gator from Texas that was 14 feet, 8 inches long and weighed 880 pounds. The Arkansas state record gator weighed 1,100 pounds, but it measured 13 feet, 9 inches.

“It was something to see,” Sievering said. “That girl, Mandy, sure was proud of it, but she was basically in shock at how big it was.”

Stokes hasn’t been the only one inundated with media requests since the big gator hit the scales.

“I spent Monday morning on the phone with CBS, Fox News and a bunch of others,” Sievering said. “There was even a media outlet from France that did an interview. I couldn’t get my weekly report done. Heck, I couldn’t even get a cup of coffee.”

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes said the Stokes gator highlights another exciting hunting opportunity for outdoors enthusiasts in Alabama that has been in existence for a relatively short time.

“We are now in the ninth season of our alligator hunts, which began in August of 2006,” Sykes said. “Since that first year, we have more than tripled the size of our three hunt zones, coupled with an increase in tags to match. Each year, interest continues to increase from Alabama hunters for the opportunity to hunt this elusive species. As stewards of Alabama’s natural resources, we strive to manage for sustainable populations of alligators. With sound management practices, such as regulated quota hunts based upon continued population monitoring, we anticipate that Alabama hunters will be able to enjoy these hunts for many years to come.”

Fishing Apps for Smart Phones That I Like and Use

There are many fishing apps for smart phones on the market. I don’t play games so I am not really interested in the games available – I use apps that actually help while fishing.

Weather plays an important past in fishing, and I always check the hour by hour forecast, even if it is often wrong. But while on the water rain or a thunderstorm can change things fast, and lightening can endanger you. I like to know if a storm is headed my way, and how intense it is. So I have a weather radar app, MyRadar, shows real time radar. You can see the intensity of a storm and the direction it is moving. I can either put on a rain suit or head for cover, depending on what is coming.

I like the Solunar Tables, which predict feeding times based on moon and sun position. They don’t always work, but do give me an idea of what to expect. I have seen them most accurate when fishing riprap, one of my favorite places to fish, so I like to know predicted times the fish should bite best. One on my phone, ISolunar, not only shows major and minor feeding periods, but sunrise, sun set, moon rise, moon set and other information. You can set it for the area you are fishing and look ahead to the day you will be fishing.

Two eBooks that I wrote are also on my phone. Key to “Catching Clarks Hill Bass” and “Keys to Catching Lake Lanier Bass” are lake specific, with lake maps, GPS Coordinates and descriptions of ten spots to catch bass each month of the year. But the books also tell the baits the local expert uses on each hole, how they rig and fish them, and other information that gives you general tips on bait rigging and use.

Do you have fishing apps on your phone? If so, share them in the comments section below.

Georgia Outdoor Writers Association Spring Conference 2003

The spring conference of the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association was held in Savannah in 2003. We enjoyed fishing for stripers in the Savannah River, eating seafood, walking a birding trail with the president of the local Audubon Society, eating seafood, visiting a local fish hatchery, eating seafood, touring the city, eating seafood and discussing writing. Oh, we also ate a lot of seafood.

One of the highlights of this conference each year is the Excellence in Craft competition. Outdoor writers from Georgia can enter their work in about 10 different categories like “Daily Newspaper,” “Color Photograph,” and “Magazine Article.” All the entries are bundled up and sent to the Tennessee Outdoor Writers Association where they are judged by outdoor writers from that state.

I was honored to win awards in four categories. A picture of Hunter Caraway holding up a big bluegill that was published in Georgia Sportsman Magazine won first prize in the category “Black and White Photograph.” An article I wrote for about fishing for bedding bass won second place in the category “Electronic Media.”

Two of my articles in the Griffin Daily News won awards. I received 3rd place for an article “Holiday Wishes” in the “Non-game/Outdoor Recreation” category. Ducks, Unlimited judges and gives a special award, the “Waterfowl” category, and I placed second in it with an article about the work of DU in Georgia.

It is a very good feeling to win an award based on judging by other outdoor writers. I was vice president of the organization this past year, and it was my responsibility to gather all the entries and send them to Tennessee. There were a lot of excellent entries in many categories.

Summer Vacation and Fishing

Summer vacation. Those words were magic all during my school years. They were the words that opened up endless days of bare feet, fishing, building tree houses, visiting relatives and friends, and riding bicycles all over my end of the county.

The end of school meant no more early morning wake-up calls from mom and then sitting at the breakfast table staring at food I did not want. It meant the end of riding my bike almost a mile on pretty days to school or riding in the car with dad on the way to his job as principal. And no more seemingly endless hours of staring at books in the late afternoon when I wanted to be fishing or hunting.

We had a little ditty we sang – “no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers with dirty looks!” For some reason my teachers were always giving me dirty looks, mostly for talking about hunting and fishing during math, reading an outdoor magazine tucked into my notebook or trying to sharpen my knife during spelling!

Many summer days I would call one of my friends Harold or Hal and make plans. It was easy to call back then, you picked up the phone and told the operator two numbers. My phone number was 26. The phone would ring on the party line – one ring for Harold, two rings for the neighbor on my side of his house and three for the house on the far side. Sometimes a neighbor would answer the wrong ring and tell me Harold had already left for the day!

Our plans were simple – I would ride my bike to Harold’s house and meet Hal there. We would have our tackle box in the bicycle basket and rod and reel across the handlebars. After a quick stop in town for candy bars and cokes, we would head to a local pond. Fishing consisted of wading around and casting plugs or those new-fangled rubber worms for bass, sitting still watching a line for a nibble from a catfish or dunking live bait for bream.

The catfish bait was always my responsibility. We had 11,000 laying hens and some died every day. I could go out to the chicken house and quickly collect enough livers, hearts and gizzards with my pocket knife to last us all day. All the “innards” were put into a glass jar with a top so we could transport them without mixing them with our candy bars.

Live worms were a group effort. We usually met at my house and went behind one of the chicken houses where the water trough drained. One of us would stick a shovel into the moist earth and turn it over, and the other two would grab for red wigglers as they tried to get back into the ground. And old tin can could quickly be filled with all the worms we would need.

Catching fish was very secondary to going fishing. We often caught enough for supper for all three families, and cleaning them was our task as soon as we got home. But the fun of the trip was everything that it involved, and mostly just being with friends. If the fish didn’t bite today there was always tomorrow.

I can still feel the hot sun on my face and the cold water on my toes as I waded the upper end of Black’s Pond. There was an old channel in the upper end and the water was always cooler down in it. I was my own first depthfinder and temperature gauge! I learned the location of drop offs, stumps, hard bottoms and other structure by feeling it with my feet.

We also learned to pattern fish in those early days. There was one stump at Harrison’s Pond that always had a bass beside it. If I could cast my topwater plug just right, and work it up to the stump, I would always get a bite. Unfortunately, many times my line went over the little bush growing on the stump and I would have to wade out and unhook my only topwater plug, scaring the fish away.
Many times I want to return to those more simple times. Everything was much better back then, or so I remember. The sun was warmer, the water cooler, the candy bars more tasty and the fish harder fighting. Summer vacation made all my activities happier times.

I hope all school kids have as great a summer as I remember and make memories that will last them as long as mine have lasted me.

Are Jumping Fish A Danger To Me?

Don’t Get Hit By a Jumping Fish!

From the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
from The Fishing Wire

Many of us have seen the jumping carp of the Mississippi River slamming into boaters and these are more than enough to cause serious damage-but boaters in Florida are sometimes confronted with airborne fish that may weigh 100 pounds and stretch 5 to 6 feet long!



It’s an ugly fish with a face only another sturgeon could love. It’s the prehistoric-looking, sucker-mouthed, scute-covered Gulf sturgeon and it’s creating quite a stir on the rivers in North Florida.

Although the sturgeon residing in the Suwannee River have received the bulk of the media attention during the last several years, the fish are present in quite a few rivers in the northern portion of the Sunshine State.

Jumping Sturgeon

Jumping Sturgeon

The sturgeon can trace their roots back 200 million years. And even though they’re just doing what they’ve been doing for eons, it’s causing a problem for some boaters. The Gulf sturgeon makes its presence known by jumping out of the water. With adult fish reaching up to eight feet in length and weighing up to 200 pounds, they can make quite a splash.

The problem

Boaters have been injured while traveling on the Suwannee River and other rivers in the Florida Panhandle when they are struck by the jumping fish. There’s no apparent warning…the sturgeon just jump. If a boater is in the wrong place at the wrong time, there’s a chance of injury.

In past years, boaters have been injured by direct strikes with sturgeon. However, in 2013, there were no reported sturgeon strikes on the Suwannee River. The FWC would like to keep that trend going for 2014.

The biology

Scientists believe there are approximately 10,000-14,000 Gulf sturgeons that make the Suwannee their summer home, with far fewer numbers in the seven other major U.S. rivers where Gulf sturgeon are known to spawn. These rivers are the Apalachicola, Choctawhatchee, Yellow, Blackwater, Escambia, Pearl, Pascagoula The Suwannee River, which flows from the Okefenokee Swamp in southeastern Georgia down through northern Florida, is one of the most pristine rivers in the country – with no dams for returning sturgeons to contend with. The Suwannee is considered one of the last “wild” rivers in Florida.

The fish use almost the entire length of the river to complete their complicated life history. The sturgeon spawning grounds on the Suwannee are 140 miles (220 kilometers) upstream from the mouth. Unlike salmon, which die after spawning in freshwater, sturgeons – which can live to be 25-plus years old – spend summer in the river, then swim back down the river to winter in the Gulf.

Sturgeon return to the eastern Gulf of Mexico during the winter, where they feed heartily. They typically do not eat while they are in the river – losing somewhere around 20 percent of their body mass. Because of this extended fast, biologists wonder why the fish would use energy jumping out of the water.

When they do eat, Gulf sturgeons are bottom feeders. They have barbles – catfish-like whiskers – that help them search sediments for prey, which they vacuum up with their sucker mouths.

Despite their long history, Gulf sturgeons were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1991. The sturgeon is listed as a species of special concern in the state of Florida.

Why are these fish listed? There are many reasons. Their Gulf-wide habitat has been destroyed or greatly altered. Dams have prevented the sturgeon from migrating to old spawning areas. Dredging and other navigation maintenance may have eliminated the deep holes where sturgeon congregate. They were overfished to the point where Florida took the unprecedented action in 1984 of banning harvesting, capture, or “take” to prevent their extinction, just as we did for Bald Eagles. To make things even tougher for the sturgeon, it takes many years for the fish to reach breeding age, slowing population recovery.

What FWC has done

Sturgeon Decal

Sturgeon Decal

FWC “Go Slow” sturgeon decal

When the reported strikes began increasing in 2006, FWC mounted an intense public awareness campaign to let people know these fish were present and could injure those boaters enjoying the Suwannee. The agency message of “Go slow on the Suwannee” for better reaction time if a sturgeon did leap out of the water was stressed.

Signs were posted at all Suwannee River boat ramps and “Go Slow” decals were handed out to remind boaters to go slow while traveling on the river.

FWC personnel coordinated with elected officials from the five counties in north Florida affected by this issue.

A news release was put out in the spring, alerting boaters that the fish are migrating back into the Suwannee from the Gulf of Mexico.

What boaters can do

Go slow: The best course of action is to go slow. This gives more time to react and if you are hit, the force of the blow is much less at 10 mph than it is at 35 mph.

Wear your life jacket: Some boaters don’t like wearing a life jacket due to its bulkiness or fit. However, there’s been a revolution in life jacket design, and there are lighter, more compact and less restrictive models on the market. They include lightweight over-the-shoulder and belt-type inflatables, in addition to vest-type life jackets. If you’re hurt and unconscious, a life jacket will help keep you afloat. FWC suggests getting a type that will have you float face up.

Be alert: Pay attention to your surroundings. If you’re in an area where you see sturgeon jumping, slow down and get closer to the shoreline. The fish tend to stay in the deeper sections of the river.

Designate an operator: Don’t boat and drink. If you’re impaired, you have slower reaction times. If alcohol is consumed on a vessel, there should be a sober designated operator.

Boat safe: Keep passengers off the bow of the boat.

The Suwannee River is a beautiful part of Florida and should be enjoyed. The FWC wants boaters to know that these fish are out there and they do jump. Just be prepared, go slow and have fun.


Common Name: Gulf sturgeon

Scientific Name: Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi

Size: Average 5-6 ft, up to 8 ft. To about 200 pounds.

Range: Gulf of Mexico, from Florida to Louisiana.

Habitat: Marine and brackish water during the fall/winter months, freshwater rivers and streams during the spring/summer months; commonly found in spring-fed tannin-stained rivers with steep limestone banks and hard bottom areas upstream.

Diet: Gulf sturgeon in saltwater feed on invertebrates – brittle starfish, small crustaceans such as ghost shrimp and crabs, lampshells, marine worms, and lancelets (a group of primitive animals, fishlike in appearance, usually found buried on the ocean floor). In freshwater, Gulf sturgeon generally do not feed or seek out prey.

Status: Protected. Listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1991. Also covered by Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1998. Human interactions are restricted to observation and research; no harvest is allowed.

Clarks Hill August Bass Tournament

I love Clarks Hill but it surely has not been very nice to me this year in tournaments. I grew up fishing the lake and still have a place there at Raysville Boat Club and thought I knew the lake well. Now I am not so sure.

Last April I struggled to catch fish in a Spalding County Sportsman Club tournament. This past week I spent four days there, going over on Wednesday to practice two days to try to figure out something for a two day Flint River Club tournament over the weekend.

Fishing is always tough in August, and I much prefer to fish at night for bass, but the tournament was during the hot, miserable days. Our tournament was originally scheduled for Lake Russell, where spotted bass and different kinds of cover and structure make it a better choice in August. But since some of the club members couldn’t find a place to stay that they liked it was changed to Clarks Hill.
To make matters worse we put in at Soap Creek Marina up the Savannah River arm of the lake. Although it is only 17 miles from my trailer at Raysville to Soap Creek Marina by road, it is a 40 mile boat ride, one way, by water. Almost all my fishing at Clarks Hill has been up the Little River arm near Raysville and I did not want to make the long run in the tournament.

On Thursday I put in at Soap Creek and fished a little and looked at a lot of places on my deptfinder. It was too hot to sit still very long but I hoped to find something that would give me confidence for the tournament. I didn’t. I never caught a fish, and the places I checked just didn’t look good.

The only thing I found at all was schools of bait and fish under the two bridges in Soap Creek. I like fishing bridges and riprap and that is often a good pattern this time of year, especially since you can sit in the shade and fish! But I didn’t get a bite the little time I spent trying them.

On Friday I decided to check some of my better places near the boat club. Although I tried deep brush piles and similar places where I have caught August bass in years past, the only fish I was able to catch was around the pilings on the bridge near my trailer. So I knew I would not make the long run.

In the tournament, 11 members fished 18 hours in two days to land 53 keepers weighing about 85 pounds. There were four five-fish limits during the two days and two fishermen didn’t land a keeper either day. It was as tough as I expected.

Chuck Croft had gone over on Thursday and fished with two local fishermen before the tournament, and he found a pattern that paid off. He was the only one to have a limit both days and he won with 15.14 pounds. His partner JJ Polak came in second with six bass weighing 14.84 pounds. Niles Murray found a big fish and came in third with six bass weighing 13.20 pounds and his 5.97 pounder was by far the biggest fish. My eight keepers in two days weighed 9.24 pounds for fourth.

Chuck and JJ caught their fish on topwater plugs in very shallow water, and they said that pattern worked all day, a big surprise to me. I never really checked shallow water after the sun got up, just knowing the fish would be deep. Shows how much I know.

I fished a couple of deep points but I spent most of both days around the two bridges. I went to the first one at 7:30 Saturday morning and landed three keepers on a topwater popper by 8:30. Then it got tough. I checked some other places but was back at the bridge by 1:30 and landed my fourth keeper. Then, with just an hour left to fish, I caught my two biggest fish. All the last three hit worms.

Sunday I went straight to the bridges and caught two before the sun got up. With about 30 minutes left to fish, around 1:30, I got my third keeper. I tried a lot of things around the bridges but most of them just didn’t work.

Saturday morning there was fisherman fishing live minnows under the first bridge I went to. I talked to him and he said he had caught a lot of fish during the night but they had quit biting when it got light. It was discouraging when he told me he had caught crappie, hybrids, catfish and gar, but no bass, even on live bait.

If you go to Clarks Hill right now take live minnows and fish under bridges at night if you want to catch something.