Monthly Archives: May 2015

What Do You Really Need In A Fishing Boat?

For those of us remembering sculling a heavy wooden boat with one had while trying to fish with the other while fishing alone, the modern bass boat is an amazing development. We remember having to paddle half the time when we fished with someone else while they fished, then swapping places.

Now we sit in comfort, maneuver the boat easily with a foot controlled electric motor leaving our hands free to fish, and there is little noise. We can also glance at our fish finder and find fish holding cover and structure, and even see the fish under the water.

When we want to move to another place the turn of a key, rather than yanking on a rope for what often seemed like hours, gets the gas motor cranked. We zip quickly around the lake and don’t waste fishing time going from one hot spot to another.

The boats are stable, allowing us to stand and fish, even right on the edge of the boat. Livewells keep our catch alive and fresh to either release after a little showing off at the ramp or to take home and clean. An electric bilge pump automatically gets water out of the boat when it rains. No more bailing with tin cans!

But what do you really need for fishing? What you want and what you need may be very different things. Right now there is a Triton bass boat with a 300 HP Mercury motor and fully rigged out that lists for $102,000.00. Yes, a fishing boat sells for over one hundred thousand dollars!

The only reason I can see for spending that kind of money on a boat is the same reason you want the penthouse condo – to show off. Buy there is no need for a boat that is not even legal in tournaments because of the size of the motor.

For less than half that amount you can get a top of the line bass boat that will meet any fishing need. But fifty thousand dollars for a fishing boat is still a ridiculous amount. If you fish a lot of tournaments on big waters it is probably worth it, but what does the normal bass fisherman need?

To me the most important development in my fishing lifetime are strong, reliable electric motors. If I put my boat in for a tournament and it won’t crank, or the electronics won’t work, I can still fish as long as the boat doesn’t sink and my trolling motor works.

I have a 24 volt 82 pound thrust Motor Guide trolling motor. With the two batteries I can easily fish ten hours on Saturday, charge them up over night and fish 8 more hours on Sunday. And the motor is strong enough to hold the boat and even move it against any wind I have ever fished in, as long as the waves are not so high they raise the front of the boat and the trolling motor out of the water.

I have a 20 foot long Skeeter bass boat with a 225 horsepower Yamaha motor. It will run over 70 miles per hour, but I never run that fast unless trying to get in when a thunder storm hits. It is nice to have the reserve power when needed, and with a motor that big I can cruise at 50 mph at a fairly low RPM and save gas. But unless you have a big boat you don’t need that big a motor.

How big should your boat be? If you fish on normal days and don’t want to run for many miles, a 16 foot boat with a 90 HP motor will get you around quickly and be comfortable even on big lakes. A 14 or 15 foot boat is ok most of the time but on bigger lakes they can get rough, and they are not as stable as a bigger boat.

Aluminum boats are lighter and require a smaller motor and many do a great job.

I have top of the line Lowrance depthfinders on my boat. With them I can ride over a brush top in 20 feet of water and see every fish in it. And I can find rocks, brush, other cover and structure up to 100 feet on either side of the boat as I idle along. But those units cost thousands of dollars and I think I caught just as many fish on a simple unit costing less than $200!

Livewells are required in tournaments and are nice at all times, but you can get by without fancy ones if you keep your catch or if you let fish go as soon as you catch them. Onboard battery chargers are fantastic – just plug one thing in and it charges all three batteries in my boat. For many years I used regular chargers and they cost a lot less.

I would not be without a good bilge pump with a float switch that turns it on when water gets a few inches deep in the bilge. One of them can save your boat from sinking when tied up to a dock if you are staying inside out of a heavy rain.

Brand new boats are fantastic. But you can get a used boat that is in really good shape for less than half the cost, if you are careful. Just spend the money and take the motor to a good mechanic to be checked – it will save you money in the long run1

The bottom line is get what you need unless you want to spend the money for what you want. Make two lists – one of what you want and one of what you need, set a budget, stick with it and start your search!

How Can I Catch White Bass?

A Cast to the Other Bass white bass

Overlooked and underappreciated, white bass are a blast

By Mitch Eeagan

You’d be hard-pressed to find an avid angler who doesn’t recognize bass as the most sought-after sport fish in North America. We all have our favorite fish, but statistics prove that bass are #1.

Overlooked and underappreciated, however, is a bass of a different color. Its DNA differs from the most popular, yet the species roams a majority of waterways throughout the lands. I’m talkin’ white bass…. And they are a blast to catch.

Mae Edlund and White Bass

Mae Edlund and White Bass

Eight-year-old Mae Edlund is all smiles during the Mississippi River white bass blitz! An H20 Precision Jig and minnow or B Fish N Tackle Pulse-R is like candy to these voracious pelagics!

White bass fans look forward to massive spring spawning runs in rivers that connect to the large natural lakes and reservoirs the fish call home during the rest of the year. But after the run, most anglers set their sights on other species.

So why are they summer’s Rodney Dangerfield, earning such little respect?

It can’t be their unwillingness to whack a vibrating or flashing lure. The fact is, white bass have voracious appetites, and once schools are located, the catching comes quite easy.

It’s certainly not what they lack during battle. White bass zig-zag and power-dive straight for the fathoms. And, by far, it’s not their poor table fare. On the contrary, white bass make for good eats if you ice ‘em right away or keep them in a well-aerated livewell – and then remove all the red-colored flesh when filleted.

More than likely, it’s simply because they aren’t easy to find come summertime. Just like their saltwater cousins, the striped bass, white bass turn pelagic. They don’t dwell near bottom or hug shoreline structure, making them more difficult to find. Instead, white bass rove high in the water column and create havoc with pods of nomadic baitfish.

Or maybe they’re simply not trendy enough to target. But that’s about to change.

When the lovin’ is over

Enter ardent angler Jim Edlund, who is far from troubled to speak in favor of targeting white bass. The Minnesota-based outdoor writer says he fishes white bass every chance he gets, and now coaches his daughters on how to catch them year-round; even well after the massive spawning migrations have ended.

“Springtime is primetime, typically when water temps are in that 50 to 60 degree range. Fish a day or two before, on, or immediate after a full moon and you’re really rocking. That’s when the spawn is in full-swing. It’s the perfect bite to get kids really excited about fishing. Not surprising, my kids are big fans of white bass,” says Edlund

Although spring can be easy pickings, Edlund says good electronics can help you find white bass the rest of the year.

“Despite all the pretty pictures of bridges and sunken boats you see in the advertising, what Side Imaging really does is minimize the amount of time it takes to find fish,” says Edlund. “I simply idle around river points, sandbars, feeder creeks and watch for white splotches of bait and fish on my SI screen. Once I see life, I scroll the cursor over the spot and boom, there’s the waypoint on my LakeMaster map. This lets me back off and idle into the spot from upwind with my Minn Kota and get the kids casting without spooking them.”

A fan of river fishing from a small, aluminum Lund that’s taken years of abuse, Edlund calls his system “high-tech, old-school.”

“To think that a guy can get Side Imaging, Down Imaging, mapping and 2D sonar for under $500 is awesome. Fishing with the Humminbird Helix SI GPS is like drinking Don Perignon on a Boone’s Farm budget.”

As Edlund nears the waypoints he marked on Side Imaging, he switches to split-screen view of 2D sonar and LakeMaster map, noting the depth marks start appearing, more than likely the same depth white bass will move into if the wind kicks up and waves roll over sunken islands or points adjacent to the deeper water.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped jigging walleyes on the Mississippi River to chase a school of white bass. I have buddies who just shake their heads. Then out comes the casting stick for as long as the whities will play along.

“Same goes for North Dakota’s Devils Lake. Take a break from walleyes and survey a few windswept shorelines with Side Imaging until we find fish; doesn’t take long. And they’re giants out there. They’re just too much fun to be ignored, especially with kids in the boat. My new plan is throwing Clousers at ‘em with a 4 or 5 weight fly rod. That should be a hoot!”

Overall, once white bass have spawned, they move out into the main lake and can be found in areas with a turbid layer over ultra-clear water. In reservoirs, both bait and bass are often found along the old river and creek channels. In natural lakes, white bass tend to hover over main-lake flats. It’s in these areas you may see baitfish leaping for their lives, indicating there are white bass below attacking the clan.

“Although electronics are great, always pay attention to what’s going on around you, like busting bait and surfacing fish. And watch where the birds are feeding on the water,” says Edlund.

Once it’s determined the bass are at the surface or just below, it’s time to cast into the chaos.

Fin-Wing Lure

Fin-Wing Lure

Fluttered deep or burned across the surface, the Fin-Wing is a nemesis to white bass

Gearing up

Lures and gear should be beefed up from what one might expect when catching fish that range from 1-4 pounds. Because white bass feed on shad and shiners, lures that match the size of the baitfish are best. Vibration and flash are key as well.

Soft jerkbaits with large paddle tails, such as 3.5-inch Castaic Jerky J Swim Series and Custom Jigs & Spins 3.25-inch Pulse-R Paddle Tail, rigged onto a jig head with a narrow shape like an H20 Precision Jig, or the Rapala Ultra-Light Rippin’ Rap are some of Edlund’s favorite baits to cast. He throws them with 10-pound-test superline and an 8-pound-test fluorocarbon leader on a fast-action medium-power St. Croix AVID-X spinning rod.

“I could use lighter gear, but I don’t like to baby ‘em. Plus, it’s a numbers thing; I want to boat the fish without any unnecessary ballet and get right back out to hot fish. Plus, these same river spots can produce some big ‘eyes, smallies, cats … when there’s a lot of bait getting slashed, your next fish could be anything,” says Edlund

Spinners are also a great choice for whities, with number-3 and -4 Mepps Aglia in-line spinners mainstays. Spoons with a wide wobble that can be fished both fast and slow and can be stopped and fluttered on the fall, such as a size-1 Fin-Wing or Custom Jigs & Spins Pro Series Slender Spoon, work wonders, too.

Cast, retrieve, repeat

Overlooked and underappreciated? That’s the white bass. Once located high in the water column, catching them is straightforward – just cast, retrieve and repeat. Once you land a few you’ll realize just why white bass should rank right up there with black and brown bass.

Jason Halfen with White Bass

Jason Halfen with White Bass

Jason Halfen with a chunky and spunky white bass snared on a Fin-Wing

Mitch Eeagan is a writer that lives off the land and water, who resides in the heart of the mosquito-filled cedar swamps of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Can You Own A Dog?

Dogs are amazing. They are loyal and will defend you to their death. They will give you unconditional love, asking for nothing in return. Everything interests them and they don’t seem to get bored, they just go to sleep when things aren’t exciting. People could learn a lesson from them.

Right now my two dogs, Ginger and Cinnamon, the spice girls, are trying to get at something under a piece of tin in my back yard. I have no ideas what it is. I have seen ground squirrels, skinks, frogs, snakes and all other kinds of critters in the area. They go from one side of the 20 foot piece of tin to the other, then to the end of it, trying to get under it.

Sometimes all I can see is a wagging tail as they get half way under it. And they are relentless, doing this for hours at a time, day after day. They even seem to try to work together, with one getting on top of the tin bouncing around trying to scare out whatever is under there to the other one.

Cinnamon, the brown sooner, is the one that usually catches critters and brings them up on the deck to proudly share her triumph. My dad called dogs like her that are a very mixed breed “sooners,” so many different breeds they would sooner be one as the other. Cinnamon adopted me at the gun club one night right after I lost Rip to a car.

Ginger is a brindled pit bull that showed up at one of my rental houses. She had part of a choker chain still on her neck and was skin and bones. It didn’t look like she had eaten in weeks. But even in that condition she did not fit the image of a pit bull. She was and is gentle and easy going at all times.

Dog have definite personalities and my two are no exception. Ginger is gentle and quiet. Not much gets her moving fast. Cinnamon is a ball of energy, constantly running around and getting into mischief. And they react totally different to guns.

The first time I got my 12 gauge shotgun out to keep a tree rat from gnawing into my attic I was not sure how Cinnamon would react. I knew Ginger would put her head down, go to the door and lay there, hoping to get inside after a shot was fired.

Not Cinnamon. She came running and got close to me fast enough to see or hear the squirrel fall. Then she ran to it, grabbed it and shook it to make sure it was dead, and brought it proudly to me. She does that every time I shoot and loves to get the squirrel. But she does not like to give them up. Instead, she eats them herself if I don’t insist on taking it and cooking it for myself.

The two dogs are best of friends most of the time. They sleep with one’s head resting on the other and play with each other, chasing each other around the yard with tails wagging. They will wrestle and roll around on the ground growling, but it is not a mean growl and their tails never slow down. They seem to be having fun.

But when they get treats they are jealous of each other. Every morning they get a big Milkbone and they have to sit down before they get it. As soon as one gets hers she will go to one end of the deck to eat it and the other one will take hers to the other end.

Rawhide chews are treated differently. Cinnamon will take hers and gnaw it up and eat it in an hour or so. Ginger will take hers, lick on it for a few minutes then ignore it. At least she ignores it until Cinnamon gets close. Then she grabs it and guards it carefully.

A few times one of them will manage to get both chews and try to keep them from the other. For a while any way. Before long the one with both will get distracted and it is time for the other one to get them.

Cinnamon loves to chase a tennis ball and will kind of bring it back to me. I usually have to grab her to get it so I can throw it again. She will run after it time after time. At least she will if Ginger will let her. For some reason, although Ginger will not go get the ball or even play with it, she does not like Cinnamon get the ball and bring it back.

Cinnamon will run after the ball and Ginger will chase her. Often, before Cinnamon can get to the ball Ginger grabs her collar and they are rolling on the ground. And if Cinnamon gets the ball Ginger will block her, not letting her bring it back.

Dogs are great pets and are wonderful to have. The can give you great joy and comfort you when you are sad. Owners, if you can really own a dog, should treat them with the care and devotion they give you.

The only thing wrong with a dog is they just don’t live long enough. I have buried three of mine in the back yard over the years.

I dread the days I lose these two.

Can Green Bay Produce A Record Musky This Year?

Will 2015 Musky Season Produce New Record from Green Bay?
from The Fishing Wire

Season opened in northern zone waters on May 23, 2015

GREEN BAY, Wis. — While size and bag limits are the subject of frequent discussion among many anglers, there’s one group of fishing enthusiasts who are relatively unaffected by such matters: musky hunters.

A glance at online fishing forums indicates most musky anglers would never keep a musky unless they believed the fish was unlikely to survive or it was a record fish. Steve Hogler, a senior fisheries biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says his experience with musky anglers on Green Bay and the Menominee River bears this out.

49.3 inch Trout Lake muskie

49.3 inch Trout Lake muskie

Musky anglers heading to northern Wisconsin for the season opener this Memorial Day weekend have good reason for optimism this year – and this 49.3 inch fish from Trout Lake shows why. DNR fisheries biologist Lawrence Eslinger captured the fish, which weighs more than 40 pounds, during a survey of the Vilas County lake about two weeks ago. The fish is now back in the lake.
WDNR Photo

“Over time, our creel surveys have indicated fewer than 10 musky per year are actually being harvested from Green Bay,” Hogler said. “For the anglers who have kept the fish, either it’s the largest fish they’ve ever caught in their life or they have a firm belief that it couldn’t be released healthy, maybe because it swallowed the bait too far. When we went to increase the size limit from 50 to 54 inches in 2014, we had very few complaints from musky hunters because the anglers already viewed it as a trophy fishery.”

Musky fishing will be the focus of many anglers throughout the northern region of the state this Memorial Day weekend. The northern zone season opens Saturday, May 23 and extends until Nov. 30 on inland waters north of Highway 10 including Green Bay and most of its tributaries. On the Menominee River, the season runs from May 15 to Nov. 30 while on inland waters south of Highway 10, the musky season opened May 2 and runs to Dec 31.

While the size limit on most state waters is 40 inches, the 54 inch size limit on Green Bay and the Menominee River distinguish the region as one of a select few in the world capable of producing such large fish. Ample forage in the form of gizzard shad, suckers and alewife help the muskies grow quickly and they typically reach sexual maturity at age 4 or 5 for the males and 7 or 8 for the females.

“The sheer biomass in Green Bay is incredible and it’s dominated by forage fish,” Hogler said. “Ideally, you’d like a 20-to-1 ratio of forage to predators and I’m sure it’s much higher than that. That means the great walleye, bass and musky fishery that anglers are experiencing now probably will be there for the foreseeable future.”

Without a unique partnership involving DNR and half a dozen private sport fishing clubs, however, the trophy musky fishery would not exist. Musky were native to Green Bay but vanished from the region due to overfishing, pollution and habitat loss in the early 1900s. In the mid-1980s, DNR fisheries managers identified the return of a musky population to the region as an important goal, but it wasn’t until private organizations stepped in with funding and volunteer support that the effort could progress.

Hogler said Dave’s Musky Club in Kaukauna, Packerland Musky Club in Green Bay, Titletown Muskies Inc., in Green Bay, Muskies Inc. in Sheboygan and the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin all have made critical contributions to an effort that has resulted in some 155,000 muskies being stocked into Green Bay since 1989. The involvement of the clubs continues, with some providing support for rearing operations after the fish are spawned and the eggs taken to the Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery and the C.D. “Buzz” Besadny Anadromous Fish Facility near Kewaunee.

“We’re grateful for the continued support of these groups and we saw 15 or 20 club members observing as we conducted our spring survey work along the shores of the Fox River,” Hogler said. “They were extremely happy to see the fish and one of the fish we picked up had a Floy tag from 16 years ago. The type of data we are able to gather from these tagged fish is very useful to our research as we work to understand the age and size structure of the muskies.”

One remaining challenge involves establishing natural reproduction to help sustain the Green Bay musky fishery. Natural reproduction has been occurring on an extremely limited basis in the Menominee River and Little Sturgeon Bay but Hogler said fisheries team members believe greater population density, additional genetic diversity and improved habitat are needed for more successful spawning to occur. Currently, population densities are running below the target range of one fish per 5 acres.

Beyond additional stocking efforts now underway to introduce fresh genetics from Great Lakes spotted musky out of Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, more woody debris along the river shorelines and aquatic vegetation likely is needed to facilitate spawning and provide places for young muskies to hide.

In the meantime, however, the waters of Green Bay are supporting a true trophy fishery in which fish larger than 50 inches are commonly caught by anglers. The question, said Randy Schumacher, DNR eastern district fisheries supervisor, is whether the region will yield a record fish anytime soon.

Muskie from the Fox River

Muskie from the Fox River

These muskies were collected during DNR spring fisheries work on the Fox River. Photo provided by Bill Gerndt, Titletown Chapter of Muskies, Inc.
WDNR Photo

More world record muskies have been landed in Wisconsin than anywhere else and a 69 pound, 11 ounce fish taken from the Chippewa Flowage claims the current state and world records. While conditions in Green Bay are uniquely suited for producing large fish, the strong catch and release ethic among anglers in the region may prove to be a factor in how long the current record stands.

“There’s no other place in Wisconsin with more fish that musky like to eat than Green Bay and it’s a good possibility that there are record fish out there right now,” said Schumacher, a 39 year veteran of the department who plans to retire later this month and spend more time fishing. “But given the sense of stewardship among musky anglers, that record may not be broken anytime soon.”

To learn more about muskies, search the DNR website,, for “fishing musky.”

Buying a fishing license is easy and convenient over the Internet through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Hogler, DNR senior fisheries biologist, 920-662-5480,; Tim Simonson, DNR fisheries biologist, 608-266-5222, Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084,

Where In Georgia Can I Catch Giant Catfish?

Peach State Giant Catfish Waters

There is something special about catching a big fish, but big is relative. Crappie fishermen want a three pounder and bass fishermen dream of ten pounders. But catfishing is a whole different world, with fish over sixty pounds a reasonable goal.

We are blessed here in Georgia with many waters, from rivers and big reservoirs to small public lakes, where you can catch huge catfish. And there are three different species that have state records weighing over 44 pounds, and two of them break eighty pounds.

Channel cats are in all our rivers and lakes and big ones can be found many of them. Huge blue cats roam lakes and rivers and flatheads, introduced into the state years ago, grow to monster size where they were illegally introduced.

Try these waters and tactics to catch a catfish that will test your equipment and skills fighting them.

Lake Andrews

Lake Andrews is a small 1540 acre Corps of Engineers lake just downstream of Walter F. George. It backs up to the George dam and the tailrace there produces some big catfish. The state record blue cat, an amazing 80 pound, 4 ounce fish, was caught in Andrews in 2010. And a 67 pound, eight ounce blue was landed there in 2006.

There is a good population of cats of all species and sizes in Andrews and your chance of catching a big fish is excellent. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division, blue cat populations are expanding and there are good numbers in the 40 pound range. And flatheads are growing fast, with many fish over ten pounds, so huge fish are not many years away.

For the big blues use cut gizzard shad and whole threadfin shad. Bigger flatheads like live bream, suckers, crayfish or shad. Blues will take live bait, too, but try both cut and live bait by putting several rods out. When the current is strong from power generation at the George dam both species bite better.

Fishing at night this summer is a good bet but when current is strong big ones will bite during the day, too. A boat will greatly improve your chances. Drift your cut bait just below the George dam from the buoy line downstream. You can use a motor to slowly ease down the river with the current or anchor and drift your bait.

Use a depthfinder to find holes in the river bottom and anchor just above them and use a sinker heavy enough to get your bait to the bottom and hold it. Let it sit in one place so the current carries the scent down to fish in the hole.

Further down the river find eddies and holes and fish them the same way. Undercut banks are favorites of big flatheads so anchor above deep water right against the bank, especially on outside bends, and let your bait drift into the hole.

Use heavy tackle for the big fish you want to catch. Light saltwater spinning or baitcasting tackle will give you a better chance of landing a monster fish. Eighty pound braid and a big, strong hook are needed to pull the fish out of holes and fight them against the current.

Altamaha River

For river fishing the Altamaha has a well earned reputation of producing huge fish. The Wayne County Board of Tourism hosts a catfish tournament in Jesup each summer and some huge fish are caught each year.

The state record for flatheads is shared by two 83 pounders caught from the Altamaha, the first in 2006 and the second in 2010. Bigger fish have been reported taken on set hooks and trotlines that don’t qualify for the record, so you have a change of setting a new record there this summer.

The state record channel cat is a 44 pound, 12 ounce fish landed in the Altamaha River in 1972. Although the flatheads in the river have eclipsed the channel cat fishing, you still have a good chance of catching a huge channel cat there.

Live and cut bait work well for channel cats and flatheads prefer live bait. Use big bream or shad and remember bigger baits usually catch bigger fish. And eight-inch shad or bream is not too big for bragging size catfish.

Find deep holes on the outside bends of the river and anchor above them. Drift your bait down into the holes and use a sinker big enough to hold it in place in the current. You will need heavy tackle for these big fish.

Also try setting up camp on a sandbar on the river and putting rods out. The sandbars are usually on the inside bends of the river so use tackle that will allow you to cast to the edge of the hole on the outside of the sandbar. Set out several rods and relax while waiting on a bite.

Big flatheads are caught all along the Altamaha but the best area for big blues is from Jesup downstream.

Lake Thurmond

Usually called Clarks Hill, Thurmond is our biggest lake located on the Georgia/South Carolina border. It produces big flatheads and blues, and there are big channel cats in the lake, too. Flatheads have been in the lake for about 30 years but they have grown extremely fast.

In 2010 a 64 pound flathead was landed at Clarks Hill and a 62 pound blue was caught there in 1979. There is not a lot of fishing pressure on cats so the big ones have gotten bigger and bigger. The Little River running from the dam upstream to where it gets shallow near Highway 78 is a good part of the lake to fish.

Use cut bait for blues and live bait for flatheads and heavy tackle. You can get away with 30 pound test line in lakes since there is no current to fight, but heavier line improves your odds. And be sure to use a strong hook so it will not be straightened in the fight.

Above the Highway 43 bridge fish deep outside bends of the river. There is some standing timber along the old river channel in this area and fishing right on the channel lip near it is a good tactic. Also fish the ends of points that drop into the old channel.

Downstream of the Highway 43 bridge find humps beside the river channel. Humps that top out 20 to 30 feet deep and drop into 50 to 60 feet of water are good. Drop your baits down right on the drop but put some on top of the hump, too. Catfish will move on top of the humps to feed, especially at night.

Lake Oconee

Lake Oconee is a Georgia Power lake just south of I-20 in central Georgia. It has been a sleeper lake for big catfish but more and more people are fishing for them and new records for new records for flatheads and blues seem to be set often. It has produced a blue cat weighing over 47 pounds and a flathead over 44 pounds, but bigger fish are in the lake.

Live shad and bluegill are the best baits on Oconee. Since Oconee has turbines at the dam to produce power and also pump back water at night, current moves both ways in the lake and there is usually some current, making fishing much better.

Some big fish are caught right at the buoy line at the dam on points that drop into the old river channel. Humps in this area are good, too, as are points and humps up the Oconee River and in the lower section of Lick Creek.

Anchor so you can let your bait sit on the edge of the drop into the channel on points and humps. Where you anchor will depend on the direction of the current flow. The down current side of the point or hump, where the current flows over the more shallow water into the deeper water creating an eddy is the best place to have your baits.

Put out several rods with different baits on each, and have the bait on the bottom from where the drop first starts to fall on down it to deeper water. There is a lot of standing timber in the lake off these areas so you will need stout tackle to keep a big catfish out of the trees when you hook it.

High Falls Lake

High Falls is a small 660 acre Georgia Power Lake just off I-75 between Jackson and Forsyth. It produces some amazingly big flatheads for its size and held the state record for them for a time, with a 60 pounder the current lake record. It is an old lake with silted in structure and no power generation so current is not much of a factor.

High Falls is a state park and you can be on the water only during the day, from daylight to sunset. Boat motors are limited to 10 horsepower so you won’t be bothered by skiers or jet skis, and two ramps give you easy access to all of the lake.

Fish the lower end of the lake, from Buck Creek to the dam, targeting deeper holes along the old river channel. The outside bend of the old channel is best and it can be somewhat hard to find since most of the channel is silted in, but there will be a drop you can find with a depthfinder.

Slowly drift big live bluegill or shad along the drop, keeping your bait right on the bottom. There are some old stumps on the bottom but not a lot of cover, so lighter tackle will work. Use a sinker just heavy enough to keep your bait on the bottom and move along the drop with your trolling motor very slowly, giving the catfish a chance to bite.

Lake Nottely

Located right at the Georgia/North Carolina line near Blairsville, Nottely is a 4180 acre Tennessee Valley Authority lake that is very fertile and it has produced a 51 pound flathead. It is one of our best north Georgia lakes to land a bragging size flathead.

The best cat fishing in early summer is on the upper end of Nottely where it narrows down into the river. For flatheads fish points that drop into the river channel with big live bream and shad. Slowly drift the ends of the points with your bait right on the bottom.

As the water warms during the summer flatheads can be caught on the lower lake on deep points and humps. Anchor and fish your bait on the bottom where the hump or point drops into the old channel. Fishing at night will be best.

Coosa River

The Coosa River from Rome to the state line where Lake Weiss starts holds some big blue and flathead cats. It has produced a blue over 60 pounds and a flathead over 40 pounds and bigger fish are there.

Fish the mouths of smaller creeks and ditches that empty into the river with live bluegill and shad or cut bait. The eddy formed by the points on both sides of the mouth of the creek are good places for big cats to hold and feed. In most of the creeks you can anchor in the mouth of them and put baits out on both sides, from the top of the point down into the old creek channel.

Also try outside bends where the current has cut deeper holes and undercut the bank. Let your bait drift into the holes and under the bank. Use heavy tackle to pull the big fish from the cover in the undercut banks and wood that has washed into the deeper holes.

Oostanaula River

The Oostanaula River runs from Calhoun to Rome where it joins the Etowah River to form the Coosa. It is a fairly small river and you will need a smaller boat to fish it and will have to take care watching for shallows and wood in the water.

Some big cats are caught here and the river has produced blues and flatheads in the 40 pound range. There is a lot of cover in the river so you will need heavy tackle to land bigger cats. Live bluegill or shad are the best baits for the big fish.

As on other rivers, find undercut banks and holes on the outside bends of the river to fish. Use the current to take your baits to where the fish hold or let it sit on the bottom upstream of the holes to pull the fish to it.

All these waters have produced big catfish and will continue to be good this summer. Flatheads grow fast and you can expect new records to be landed as the earlier spawns of the introduced fish grow bigger and bigger. Blues have been around longer and there are some old, big fish in all these waters.

Let big cats go so you have a chance of catching them again when they are even bigger. Flatheads, unlike big blues and channel cats, are good to eat no matter what size but give them a chance to reach record weight.

Choose a place to fish near you or take a summer trip to one further away. Use the right baits in the right places and you may get your name in the record books for a new lake or river record, or for a new Georgia state record.

What Are Georgia’s Best Spotted Bass Waters?

Georgia’s Best Spotted Bass Waters

Seeing spots before your eyes is usually a bad thing, but when it comes to fishing it is a mixed blessing here in Georgia. Spotted bass fight hard and are fun to catch and eat, but in most Georgia lakes they create problems for the largemouth population.

Spotted bass are a subspecies of black bass, first cousin to the largemouth. If you compare the two, the spotted bass has a smaller mouth, with the back of the mouth not extending past the eye when closed. Largemouth mouths will extend past the eye.

Spots have a “tooth” patch on the tongue that largemouth usually do not have. This rough patch is visible as a dark spot on the tongue and you can feel it with your finger. This rough patch is normally used to determine if a bass is a spot in tournaments.

You can see definite rows of black spots on the lower sides of the spot that are not present in largemouth. The dorsal fins are clearly connected in spots while largemouths have a definite separation of the two fins.

Spots are not native to Georgia waters except for a few streams in extreme North West Georgia that eventually lead to the Mississippi River drainage. But they are now in almost all our lakes thanks to well intentioned but misguided fishermen doing “midnight stocking” by releasing them illegally.

Since they are more aggressive than largemouth spotted bass are easier to catch under adverse conditions like cold fronts and during the winter. But that also creates problems since they out-compete largemouth for food and can take over a lake, becoming the major black bass species in a lake. They don’t grow as fast or as big as largemouth so they can severely limit the numbers of quality fish over five pounds available to fishermen in a body of water.

To show the how they spread and become prolific, and harm a lake, the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation Creel Census provides good data. My clubs fish Jackson Lake several times each year and I have been fishing with the clubs since 1974.

In the 1970s and 80s it was an unusual tournament when we didn’t have a six pound largemouth weighed in during winter tournaments. I caught my first two eight pound largemouth at Jackson in the 1970s and my biggest ever, a nine pound, seven ounce fish, was caught in Jackson at a 1991 February club tournament.

In one tournament in the early 80s I had a eight pound four ounce largemouth that was third biggest bass. In another club tournament about that time I had a seven pound eight ounce largemouth that was fourth biggest fish.

But in the early 1990s we saw our first spot weighed in at a club tournament. Before that every fish we caught was a largemouth. In the 2012 Creel Census Report half the fish caught in club tournaments were spots. And that is probably skewed toward more largemouths since spots are often culled for a largemouth.

In our club tournaments there have been only two bass over seven pounds weighed in during the past 20 years. And both clubs still fish Jackson at least twice a year. Now big fish is usually a spot weighing less than three pounds.

But spots are here to stay, no matter how they got in our lakes. Fishermen might as well enjoy catching them and not feel guilty about keeping them for the frying pan. That is why there are no size limits on spots in almost all of our lakes. Keeping them to eat is a good thing for the lake.

Spots usually like smaller baits than you would use for largemouth. So use a four inch Finesse worm on jig heads and Carolina rigs rather than a six inch worm. Try three sixteenths to one quarter ounce jig and pigs rather than half ounce ones. And try smaller topwater plugs and crankbaits. A Pop R will usually catch more spots than a Zara Spook unless fishing for bigger spots.

The following lakes have big populations of spots and you can catch them now on them.

Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier is known nationally as an excellent spotted bass fishery for a good reason. It is perfect habitat for them with clear water, rocky shorelines and deep cover. In club tournaments, 89 percent of bass are spots. Spots have been in Lanier almost since it was dammed but they were small until blueback herring were introduced into the lake.

The bluebacks have made the spots in Lanier grow big but Lanier but they create problems, too. Lanier is not the typical Georgia lake and just a few others in north Georgia are similar. So the same results when spots and bluebacks are introduced together won’t happen in most cases.

Spots are so important in Lanier that it is our only lake with a minimum size limit on them. All black bass at Lanier have to be at least 14 inches long to keep. There is no size limit on spots on any other lake. Due to the unusual conditions at Lanier, five pound spots are common and seven pounders are caught every year.

In the early spring you can sight fish for big spots at Lanier, and they are easier to catch off the bed than a largemouth. Look for bedding spots in protected pockets with rock and gravel bottoms. Spots bed deeper than largemouth so focus on water three to six feet deep.

After the bass spawn is a fantastic time to fish Lanier. Spots move out to blowthroughs – gaps between islands and between islands and the shoreline – and feed on everything that comes near. When the blueback herring spawn in those places, usually in May, the fishing can be incredible.

Fish topwater baits like Zara Spooks and poppers, and also spinnerbaits and crankbaits early in the morning. Watch for swirls on top and cast to them immediately. After the sun gets bright back off a little in the same places and fish a jig head worm or Carolina rig with a small worm, raking the bottom to find waiting spots.

Even after the sun gets high try topwater and soft jerk baits over brush piles. As the water warms later in spring back off and fish brush piles with topwater plugs and dropshot worms in deeper and deeper water.

Lake Allatoona

Allatoona shows the other side of the spot story. The lake is crowded with small spots and you can catch a lot, but you will seldom catch one over three pounds. And it is hard to catch many largemouth in the lake. In club tournaments last year no bass over five pounds were reported.

The best way to catch numbers of spots on Allatoona is to fish rocky bluff banks with jig head worms, small jig and pigs, jerkbaits, small crankbaits and topwater baits. Fish the outside bends of the river channels where rocks drop almost straight down to 20 feet deep.

Fish from a couple of feet deep down to 25 feet deep, but concentrate on the six to 15 foot range. Browns and greens are usually the best color for worms and jigs. A crankbait with some chartreuse in it is good.

To catch quality spots try a big hard or soft swimbait. Fish it over brush piles in 6 to 20 feet of water. You will have to make a lot of casts to get a bite but if you hook a spot on a ten inch swim bait it will probably be a good one.

Lake Burton

Another north Georgia lake that has the right conditions combining blueback herring and spots is Burton. It produced the state record eight pound two ounce monster in 2005 and it has a lot of quality fish in it. Five pound spots are fairly common.

Like Lanier, the clear water in Burton makes sight fishing for bedding spots good. They will bed as deep as nine feet so it can be difficult to spot them but worth the effort. Drop a small jig and pig or jig head worm in the bed and let it sit until the spot can’t stand it and eats it.

After the spawn follow the blueback herring schools to spawning areas on gravel points and humps. Fish topwater baits, soft jerk baits, spinnerbaits and crankbaits where the bottom rises to a few feet deep.

When the herring spawn is over target brush piles in 15 to 25 feet of water and blowdowns on steep banks. Fish dropshot worms, a jig and pig and jig head worms in and around the brush. But don’t hesitate to throw a big topwater plug over the brush for explosive bites.

Carters Lake

Carters Lake rivals Lanier for numbers of big spots. It regularly produces five pounders and some say the next world record is swimming in its waters. It has herring but one of the key baitfish in Carters is alewives, one of the few lakes in Georgia with this baitfish.

Louie Bartenfield guides on Carters and is well known for catching big spots there. He often fishes deeper than most bass fishermen realize and catches spots as deep as 50 feet deep. Alewives tend to school deep so he targets them and drops a spoon or drop shot worm to the bass holding around them.

Topwater lures, swim baits and jerkbaits are good before and after the spawn, too. Fish humps and deep banks and points. During the spawn look for bedding fish. There are also herring in Carters so watch for blowthrows when those baitfish spawn.

After the spawns are over look for fish in deep water on humps, in standing timber and on points that run out to very deep water. Any drop on a point or hump will attract the spots so fish them, casting to more shallow water and working a jig and pig or jig head worm across and down the drop.

West Point

Further south West Point is quickly becoming overcrowded with spots. Once known as a quality largemouth fishery, now you are more likely to catch a dozen one-pound spots than a three pound largemouth. In club tournaments, 63 percent of bass are spots and the average size is 1.58 pounds.

In the spring topwater plugs will catch a lot of fish on shallow gravel points. During the shad spawn topwater and spinnerbaits fished on riprap draw many strikes. Gravel humps and points are good year round.

Spots love rocks and a jig head worm or small jig and pig fished on any rocks on the lake will catch spots. The best fishing is on the main lake, from the junction of the Chattahoochee River and Yellowjacket Creek to the dam.

Fish points near the mouths of creeks and smaller pockets back to the secondary points half way back in them. Also try main lake points and humps that have gravel or rocks on them. Until it gets hot in the summer target water from six to 15 feet deep.

Jackson Lake

As mentioned, Jackson has become overcrowded with spotted bass. Its rocky shorelines offer them perfect habitat and they have thrived as the water has become clearer and less fertile over the past 20 years.

Bedding spots are harder to find at Jackson but you can catch them. Look for beds in gravel coves and protected areas from three to six feet deep. The lower lake near the dam and Tussahaw Creek usually have the clearest water making it easier to find them there.

After the spawn fish rocky points and banks with smaller baits. Poppers like the Rebel Pop-R work well for them. Also try jig head worms and a small jig and pig in the same areas. If the water is clear stick with browns and greens like green pumpkin and watermelon. In stained water try Junebug and black and blue.

Lake Russell

Russell is our newest lake and is full of spots, thanks to stocking by fishermen. There are some quality spots but most will weigh about a pound, so try your smaller baits for them.

Beaverdam Creek and the lower main lake are excellent for spots. And places to fish are easy to find. Channels are marked by big poles and most are on the ends of shallow points and humps. Fishermen have put brush on most of them and many are rocky. Spots love them.

Fish topwater baits around the poles then probe the bottom for the rocks and brush with a jig head worm or small jig and pig. The water is usually clear so stick with browns and greens. Fish shallow, in water from three to ten feet deep, early in the spring then work deeper and deeper as the water warms.

Many coves and small creeks on Russell have standing timber in them that hold spots and they bed on the banks in those places. Go into the smaller creeks and fish near the backs of the deeper ditches and pockets in them that have gravel or rock bottom.

Tie on your smaller baits and head to Allatoona, West Point, Russell or Jackson to catch a lot of spots. For quality fish use bigger baits on Lanier, Carters and Burton. Keep spots, even those shorter than 12 inches, everywhere but Lanier for the frying pan. They taste great and you will help the lake.

Is It Time for State Management Of Red Snapper Fisheries?

Time for State Management of Red Snapper Fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico

Bob Shipp, PhD
from The Fishing Wire

Nice red snapper

Nice red snapper

Editor’s Note: Bob Shipp, PhD, is one of the most respected fishery experts in the nation, with special expertise in reef fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. A professor emeritus of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama, Shipp’s also author of the book, Dr. Bob Shipp’s Guide to Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico, one of the best illustrated fishery guides on the market, available at His letter to the editor recently appeared on and like our companion service The Fishing Wire (, we believe his observations are not only on-target, they’re worth sharing.

In all likelihood there have never been as many Gulf Red Snapper in recorded history as there are today. In spite of these soaring populations, a broken system of federal management is precluding what would otherwise be a robust and sustainable economic driver to a regional economy in desperate need of a break.

Last year the recreational season was limited to 9 days in federal waters and this year’s season is 10 days. Just 10 days – with only a single weekend — for anglers in their own boats to catch perhaps the most popular offshore fish in the Gulf.

Conversely, the commercial sector can fish year-round and, under a similar plan approved by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council this year, the charter/for-hire sector will have a 44-day season in 2015.

The glaring inequity of those regulations has rankled everyone from regular anglers to congressmen, yet a solution has remained elusive. The road to this point is roughly 30 years in the making, and there is now virtually no escape from it under federal management.

I served on the Gulf Council for 18 years and encountered countless elected officials in Washington, D.C., and in the Gulf states wrestling mightily over the red snapper conundrum, but all ran into insurmountable roadblocks under the federal system. This year, recognizing that a system that produces results like what we are seeing today is unacceptable, the state fishery management agencies from all five Gulf states did something extraordinary – they came together to produce a viable way out of this mess.

Under a plan unveiled in March, the states have offered to take over management of the red snapper fishery and have outlined exactly how such management would be carried out. Their plan recognizes that there are regional populations of snapper that are fished differently according to local tradition and practice, and would have the flexibility to manage them in different ways.

For example, off Alabama our research indicates we could have a six-month season with a two-snapper bag limit without making a dent in the population. This is due to our extensive artificial reef program. Such flexibility is impossible under federal management, which tends to treat red snapper as one stock, fished one way.

The state fishery management agencies all have seats on the Gulf Council and know that snapper management is at a dead-end under the current system. Responsible for commercial and recreational fisheries in their state waters, they know there are far more efficient and equitable ways to manage this fishery. The system has the same goals as federal management, but the means to reach those ends recognize that one size does not fit all.

The individual Gulf states all know how to provide access to their citizens while managing for conservation of wildlife resources, but rarely do they all agree on anything. The significance of their cooperation here cannot be over-estimated.

Faced with an untenable situation, they have come together to offer the one path out of the manufactured mess of federal management. I encourage Congress to take it.

How To Load and Unload Your Boat

Loading And Unloading Your Boat

Load and unload your boat correctly

Load and unload your boat correctly

by Bob Jensen
from The Fishing Wire

How you load and unload your boat at the boat ramp may not have an impact on how many fish you catch, but getting it in the water can set the tone for the day, for you and for any other angler that’s waiting to put their boat in the water. Unloading your boat should be a quick and easy process, but often times it isn’t. Following are some things you can do to get your boat off and on the trailer quickly and safely. By doing these things you’ll be fishing quicker, and you won’t be tying up the ramp and preventing others from going fishing sooner. Here we go.

When you arrive at the boat ramp, pull into either the parking lot or the rigging lane. Do not go directly to the ramp. (AMEN – don’t block the ramp while you get ready!!)

All preparations for launching should be done in the parking lot or rigging area. Transfer gear from the truck to the boat now. Don’t do that while you’re blocking the ramp.

Remove any boat covers, tie-downs, or transom savers. Put the key in the ignition. Make sure the plug is in the boat.

If your trailer is a bunk style trailer, and if you’re comfortable doing so, you can unhook the winch strap from the boat now. Lots of anglers who use this style trailer unhook the strap in the rigging area unless the ramp is very steep.

Some anglers have roller trailers. The winch strap on roller trailers should not be unhooked until the boat is in the water. The boat will roll off onto the concrete ramp if you do. Not good!

When everything is ready, we approach the ramp. One angler is in the boat, the other backs the rig into the water. When the boat is in the water, if the winch strap hasn’t been unhooked, now is the time to do so. Back the trailer into the water until it rolls off or floats off. The angler in the boat idles away from the dock while the truck driver parks the truck. Don’t tie up to the dock, that just blocks it for the next person. When your partner gets to the dock, you pull up, he or she hops in, and off you go. Easy deal.

Some will say that their partner isn’t comfortable driving a boat or driving a truck with a trailer on the back. They need to get comfortable with doing both. That’s part of the responsibility of fishing from a boat.

When it’s time to go home, we just reverse the process. We pull into the dock, the truck driver gets out and goes to get the truck. If the ramp is busy, again, idle away from the dock. Don’t tie the dock area up. When the trailer is in the water, either drive or winch the boat onto the trailer, hook the winch strap, and pull out. Go to the parking area or somewhere away from the ramp to prepare the boat for the trip home. It shouldn’t take more than a minute or two to get your boat out of the water and out of the way.

I’ve seen many, many, many interesting and sometimes uncomfortable situations at the boat ramp. If you keep the above ideas in mind, you won’t be part of one of those interesting or uncomfortable situations, and you’ll enjoy your time on the water even more.

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Where, When and How To Fish A Jig and PIg

A jig and pig is one of my favorite baits and I have at least one tied on year round. I have caught fish on them every month of the year, both at night and during the day. But I think October through March here in middle Georgia is the best time to fish them. I never hesitate to fish with a jig and pig any time of year, though.

The jig and pig can be fished in many ways. I usually start by dragging it along the bottom for a foot or so then hoping it up off the bottom an few inches. That imitates a crayfish feeding along the bottom then being startled and trying to get a way. When I hit brush I will pull it up a limb then let it fall back a couple of times before pulling it over the limb and letting it fall. That looks like a bream feeding in the brush. Both are effective for catching bass.

Rocks are one of the best places to fish a jig and pig. I will slide the bait along pulling it over rocks and letting it fall between them. I also hop it and pop it over rocks then let it fall back to the bottom. Spotted bass especially like rocks and a small jig and pig is almost irresistible to them. On riprap or bluff banks, I cast right to the edge and move the jig and pig slowly, keeping in contact with the fast dropping bottom. When it falls I keep my line simislack, watching it for a tick or jump until it hits the next step down, let it sit then move it until it falls again.

Around docks I try to get the jig and pig as far back into shady areas as possible. I work the bottom under the dock probing for cover. On docks with posts I pitch to each one, getting my bait right beside it then letting it fall straight down the post to the bottom. When I go over a cross brace I will pull the bait up and let it fall, just like on brush.

Stroking a jig is not something I do a lot but it is effective. Let your jig and pig fall to the bottom by a post, hesitate a few seconds then stroke your rod tip up a couple of feet, then let it fall back. This looks like a bream that gets spooked by a bass and tries to escape and will often trigger a reaction bite.

I use browns in clear water and black and blue in stained to muddy water, and dip the tails in chartreuse JJs Magic. Bream fins and tails have a chartreuse glimmer in bright light and this helps, and spots just love anything chartreuse.

Give a jig and pig a try. You will catch fish on it.

How Do Science and Politics Affect West Coast Sardine Decline?

West Coast Sardine Decline: Science vs. Politics

Sardine baitfish and food fish

Sardine baitfish and food fish

Diane Pleschner is E.D. of a California group representing baitfish/forage fish producers on the Pacific Coast. Her take on scientific management of fisheries, versus emotionally and politically-driven management, is worth a read for all anglers and outdoorsmen, whether we’re looking at forage fish or gamefish. FS

By D.B. Pleschner, Guest commentary
from The Fishing Wire

The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council has shut down the remainder of the current sardine season and has canceled the 2015-16 fishing season altogether. Fishermen supported this action.

Why the closure? According to environmental groups like Oceana, it was to stop overfishing and save starving sea lions deprived of essential sardines.

Neither reason is true, but many in the media have trumpeted this hyperbole put forth by groups whose political agenda is to shut down fishing completely.

The scientific facts present a different picture: the sardine population is not overfished. And sea lion mortality has not been caused by overfishing sardines.

As Dr. Ray Hilborn, professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington and one of the most respected experts on marine fishery population dynamics in the world, recently noted, “Even if there had been no fishing, the decline in California’s sardines would have been almost exactly the same.” Dr. Richard Parrish, another esteemed scientist with deep knowledge of sardines and ocean cycles, outlined how natural mortality and predation consume five times more sardines than the fishery harvests.

The truth is that the marine environment plays the major role in determining the size of the sardine stock and its effect on the ecosystem.

Dr. Kevin Hill, a fisheries scientist with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center who leads West Coast sardine stock assessments noted that, “Pacific sardines are known for wide swings in their population: the small, highly productive species multiplies quickly in good conditions and can decline sharply at other times, even in the absence of fishing. You can have the best harvest controls in the world, but you’re not going to prevent the population from declining when ocean conditions change in an unfavorable way.”

That’s why the sardine harvest control rule — developed in part by Parrish for the management plan in place since 2000 — automatically regulates the sardine fishery both by reducing the fishing quota and reducing the harvest rate as the stock declines. And it shuts down the fishery if the biomass falls below 150,000 metric tons.

The 2015 sardine population is estimated to be 97,000 metric tons, a worst-case projection, and the control rule did exactly what it was designed to do — it closed the fishery after a series of poor recruitment years.

The sardine fishery would have been shut down regardless of the frenetic lobbying of groups like Oceana. The goal of the policy is to keep at least 75 percent of the sardine population in the ocean.

Regarding the sea lion problem, the El Niño cycle that we’re experiencing is a major reason for increased pup mortality, not the lack of sardines. Sardines comprise a minor portion of sea lions’ diet. According to NMFS scientist Mark Lowry, who has studied sea lion scat for 30 years, sardines number eighth on the list of typical sea lion dietary preferences.

The sea lion population has increased 5 percent a year even without sardines.

Pup counts dipped during the 2003 El Niño also, and we’re experiencing another El Niño event now. Yet the sea lion population has grown by 600 percent since the mid-1970s; they now hog docks and sink boats from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest.

Hardworking fishermen take pride in the precautionary fishery management that’s been in place for more than a decade, and they resent groups who demonize them for “overfishing.” It’s an unjust and erroneous accusation leveled at people trying to make an honest living, provide a service to the public and do the right thing for the environment.

The fact is that sardines are critically important to California’s historic fishing industry as well as to the Golden State. The “wetfish” industry fishes on a complex of coastal pelagic species also including mackerels, anchovy and market squid, but sardines are an important part of this complex. The industry produces on average 80 percent of total fishery landings statewide and close to 40 percent of dockside value.

Thankfully the Pacific Fishery Management Council recognized the need to maintain a small harvest of sardines caught incidentally in other CPS fisheries. A total prohibition on sardine fishing would curtail California’s wetfish industry and seriously harm numerous harbors, including Monterey, as well as the state’s fishing economy.

D.B. Pleschner is executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, a nonprofit dedicated to research and to promote sustainable Wetfish resources.