Monthly Archives: November 2015

Why Pass the Gulf States Plan?

“The Five Best Reasons To Pass The Gulf States Plan”

by Jeff Angers
from The Fishing Wire

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

There are plenty of good arguments why Washington ought to let the Gulf of Mexico states assume management of the red snapper fishery beyond their own state waters. Yet five of the most persuasive reasons seem to have been missed in all the testimony and written comment about the proposal.

I’m speaking of the five fish and wildlife management agencies of the Gulf states. I’ve spent the last 20-plus years working with the individuals who lead and work in these departments, and I have found them all to be impressively competent professionals — serious and passionate about sustaining the stocks of fish and game under their management.

In my own state of Louisiana, we are justly proud of our Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which has developed a state-of-the-art creel survey for offshore anglers (“LA Creel”).

Now in its third year, the innovative LA Creel survey is providing pinpoint-precise, real-time estimates of fisheries populations and harvest levels.

This is exactly the kind of data that fisheries managers need to protect red snapper — but only if they have the authority to act.

Once Washington gets out of the way, the five state fisheries managers can respond with flexible approaches that reflect the real state of affairs in the Gulf; they will be able to preserve the species for the enjoyment of all sectors, with no group excluded. Today, federal fisheries managers are left to guess — and to play favorites.

It was this kind of advanced knowledge that led Louisiana’s DWF to realize that the recreational red snapper catch during the regular season was short of its quota by at least 88,823 pounds, making possible an extended season that just began November 20. (The extended season will be subject to a daily bag limit of two snapper per person of 16-inch minimum length; Louisiana’s regular state-waters red snapper season ended September 8).

LA Creel is featured in a new video that also introduces us to representatives from all five Gulf state fishery management agencies. It ought to be “Exhibit A” in the case for adopting the five Gulf States’ plan. I urge recreational fishing advocates to watch the video and share it widely on social media.

Louisiana isn’t alone: each of the five Gulf States has been at the forefront of advanced fisheries science.

It was their devotion to the sustainability of the red snapper that drove the five states’ fisheries directors to put aside regional, political and personal differences and take the historic step of coming together to develop the five states’ plan.

They were doing what we ask all leaders to do: when confronted with a serious problem like federal mismanagement of the red snapper fishery, real leaders set aside distractions, utilize the most advanced scientific tools and information at their disposal and then act in the best interests of future generations.

It wasn’t just a matter of joining together to fill the vacuum left by the federal government’s mismanagement. The five directors then went further, each of them becoming personally involved in advocating for the plan, both in their own state capitals and in the halls of Congress.

Over the last year, testimony advocating state management from Nick Wiley, the executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Chris Blankenship, the director of the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Robert Barham, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, before the U.S. House of Representatives has been especially compelling and persuasive.

The state directors traveled to Washington to move the ball forward on their historic agreement. Once H.R.3094 is enacted, their words will be remembered as watershed moments in saving the fish and the fishery.

As those of us who live here know, the Gulf is a very special place, unique in every way. These are the men and women who know it better than anyone else — certainly better than a distant bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., however well intentioned.

Thanksgiving With Dad

One Thanksgiving memory of mine is usually best left for after the meals are all eaten. It was Thanksgiving with dad. My father did not like dogs in the house. He never let me or my brother have a house dog although we did have outside dogs.

After I got married Linda and I got a border collie and she slept under out bed every night, stayed inside all day and went everywhere with us. And my dad tolerated Merlin in the house when we came to visit.

One year on Thanksgiving Day I went rabbit hunting after lunch and Merlin went with me. I shot one rabbit and field dressed it as soon as I recovered it. And Merlin feasted on the guts before I could stop her.

That night we were having our big Thanksgiving Dinner. Mom had the big round table extended with both inserts, as big as it would go, and it was loaded with food. As we sat down for the blessing Merlin decided it was a good time to crawl under the table and throw up all the rabbit guts.

Dad got a weird look on his face, got up and went into the living room without a word. Mom helped Linda and me move the table, clean up the mess and put Merlin out in a car. We then reassembled around the table, had the blessing and ate all we could hold.

Dad never said a word about it and I don’t remember him ever bringing it up.

I would give anything to have one more meal with my parents but now all I have are the memories, good, bad, funny and sad. But I cherish them all.

Professional Bass Fishermen Give Advice To Young Fishermen

What Young Fishermen Should Do To Become A Pro
Professional Bass Fishermen Give Advice To Young Fishermen

Almost all young bass fishermen dream of becoming a professional bass fisherman in the future. A very few will. The idea of fishing every day, winning tournaments and being admired by other fishermen is enticing. But it is a hard life, and you must work, even in high school and college, to make your dream come true.

Fishing almost every day in tournaments and practicing for them sounds great. But it means long, hard days on the water no matter what the weather. And most don’t think about the travel to lakes all over the US with long drives, little sleep and being away from family and friends all during the tournament season.

Even in the off season a successful pro will spend many hours away from home while working shows. Presenting your sponsor’s products at boat shows, fishing shows and other events is critical for success, but it means even more travel.

You can be good at catching bass but there is a lot more that goes into a pro career. If you can’t get and keep sponsors you can not stay on the tournament trail. And those sponsors need people that can represent them well to the public, not someone that can just catch fish.

So how should a high school or college fisherman prepare for a professional fishing career? Some things may seem simple and straight forward. But others may not be so apparent. Who better to know and explain the things that you need to do than the guys fishing the Bass Masters Classic? As the BASS motto goes, they are living the dream.

At the 2014 Classic at Lake Guntersville and Birmingham I got to interview some of the pros fishing it. These pros ranged from first timers fishing the Classic to some who had fished more than a dozen Classics.

I asked them what a young fisherman needed to do to plan for a professional career. Their answers will give you good guidance in your planning to make your dreams come true.

Greg Vinson

Greg Vinson was fishing his third Classic at Guntersville after placing second in the 2012 Classic. I spent the practice day in the boat with Greg and he gave me detailed answers to my questions.

“Stay in school,” Greg said. “No matter what happens in your fishing career, a good education is important for the rest of your life,” he added. If your fishing career works out your education will help you. But if it something keeps you from being a professional bass fisherman, a college degree is very important.

Greg also said a young fisherman should fish every chance he or she gets. Join a youth club and fish those tournaments. Join a regular club as soon as allowed and fish them with more experienced fishermen and learn from them.

“Many young fishermen get too excited and don’t pay attention to detail,” Greg said. Learn to pay attention to detail. Make sure all your hooks are sharp and your reels are in good shape.

Also learn to pay attention to detail when on the water. Greg is good at this. He notices every bird diving, every circle of feeding fish and every change in wind direction.

All those are obvious but he also looks for little details like the size of the baitfish the bass are eating. One shad floating in the water can tell you what size bait to use. If a fish you catch spits up a crawfish, use baits that imitate them.

“Get the basics down,” Greg said. Learn to fish patterns, not places, and apply them to every lake you fish. Work on baits you don’t have confidence in until you do. Remember where you get bites, and learn from every one.

“Electronics are critical in fishing now,” Greg said. Learn to use them and what they mean. Work on all your techniques and get the mechanics of pitching, flipping and casting down so well you don’t even have to think about them, even if you are practicing in your back yard.

Patrick Bone

Patrick Bone was the only Georgia fisherman at the 2014 Classic. He qualified by winning a Southern Open but has done well on both the FLW tournament trail as well as BASS trail tournaments.

“Decide where you want to go,” Patrick said. Do you want to fish the top trails and travel all the time, or would you rather learn you home lake in detail and concentrate on tournaments on it. It is much easier to learn one lake and stay near home that to constantly travel all over the US fishing tournaments on new lakes.

“Remember you are starting at the bottom,” Patrick added. Don’t expect to hit the pro trail and instantly win, or to do well in every tournament. Don’t let bad tournaments hurt your confidence.

“Support at home is critical,” Patrick said. For a high school or college fisherman, support from parents and mentors can make all the difference. If married, lack of support from your wife will mean either the end of your career or the end of your marriage.

“Fish with clubs, youth teams and enter draw tournaments as a co-angler,” Patrick said. Learn from every day on the water. Try to find a mentor, an experienced fisherman to teach you as you fish. There are a lot of good people out there that can make your learning curve much steeper.

David Kilgore

David Kilgore lives in Jasper, Alabama and was one of nine contenders from Alabama, the most of any one state. He was fishing his first Classic at Guntersville but had won over $200,000 in 50 BASS tournaments in his career. He has qualified to fish the Elite Series three times but has turned each opportunity down. He cites the expenses of fishing the trail and time away from his family and business as reasons to not fish it.

“Join a high school team or youth team in your area and try to fish every tournament,” David said. “Pick a college with a fishing team and fish all those tournaments, too,” he added. There is no substitute for time on the water to learn the habits of bass.

Fishing high school and youth tournaments are likely to put you on lakes close to home, and you can learn from them. But college teams travel well away from their local area and that will teach you to find bass on unfamiliar lakes. You have to learn bass patterns that hold up no matter where you fish.

Fish other tournaments as a co-angler, and learn from every trip. Pay attention to everything you see and every fish you catch. David says you should keep a detailed fishing log of every bass you catch to help you learn how a bass’s brain works under different conditions. Keeping a good log you can review will help you learn.

Randall Tharp

Randall Tharp was fishing his first Classic at Guntersville after winning the FLW Championship that year. He had concentrated on the FLW tournaments but decided to fish the BASS Opens to qualify for the Elite trail, and won an Open so he qualified.

“Don’t get in a hurry to fish the pro trails, get an education first,” Randall said. Randall didn’t get his first bass boat until he was 30 years old so he got a late start, concentrating on education and business first, and now he is one of the top pros on both trails.

“Be true to yourself first,” Randall added. Don’t let your fishing take over your life. But fish every day you can within reason. Enter as many tournaments as possible as a co-angler, but don’t ever get into debt from your fishing.

Learn from others you fish with, but also figure out your own way of doing things. Every lake and every day is different. If you figure out your own way of fishing after learning from others, you can go to your strength in all tournaments.

“If you have a God given ability to catch bass, that special quality that sets you apart from weekend anglers, use it in the way that suits you. Develop your own style of fishing and don’t let dock talk make you change from your strengths.

To develop this skill, learn from others by being a Marshall in tournaments, fishing as a co-angler put time in on the water. Develop your confidence, probably the most important quality of a successful pro. But don’t let your fishing interfere with your home life.

Clifford Pirch

Clifford Pirch was fishing his first Classic in 2014 after winning over $213,000 in 32 BASS trail tournaments. He is a hunting and fishing guide from Arizona and has been successful on the FLW trail, too, winning over $740,000 there.

Clifford agreed staying in school, getting a degree in public relations or marketing, and spending time on the water is the way to go. But he also said there is a tremendous amount of information out there on learning to catch bass.

“Study magazine articles, information on the net and even newspaper reports,” he said. You can learn a lot and get some good ideas from them. Then put it with your information from time on the water and put all this together for your use.

“Make a pre-tournament plan and stick with it,” he said. Too many young fishermen try to fish every thing they can and miss a good pattern by not sticking with their plan. If you have put in the time studying for a tournament don’t waste it by not following your plan.

Kevin VanDam

Arguably the top bass fisherman of this century, Kevin VanDam has fished 24 Classics and won four. He is well known to most fishermen and a great role model for young fishermen.

“Stay in school and get a marketing degree,” Kevin said. If you can’t market yourself and your sponsors you will not be able to have a pro career. Kevin is a master at both, and his advice is critical for your success.

“Fish high school, youth, club and college tournaments,” Kevin said. Learn from experienced fishermen and get the basics down. But you also must learn to budget your time and energy in a tournament, and fishing them is the only way to do that.

Skeet Reese

I got to eat lunch with Skeet Reese at the media day and he spent time talking with me even though several of his sponsors were at the table. Many of the top pros were overwhelmed with media and sponsors demanding their time, but they all had a good attitude and were willing to answer questions. That willingness is critical to a pro’s success.

“Start out with high school and college teams as well as one day tournaments,” Skeet said. Don’t try to go too fast. Work your way up through Opens with the goal of qualifying for the Elite trail. Learn in every tournament as you go.

“Find a good partner to marry,” Skeet said. Support at home is critical for you to be successful. A good marriage will help you on the tournament trail. If you have problems at home, you will have problems in tournaments.

Aaron Martens

Aaron Martens lives in Leeds Alabama and was fishing his 15th Classic. He moved to Alabama to be closer to the bigger tournament trails and for the variety and quality of waters to fish in Alabama.

“Fish, fish, fish,” said Aaron. Fish a lot to get productive at it. But he warns if you don’t love to fish and fish competitively, you won’t do well. If it is a job rather than a pleasure you will have a tough time. It has to be in your blood.

Hank Cherry

Hank Cherry was fishing his second Classic at Guntersville and has won over $275,000 in 30 BASS tournaments. He placed third in his first Classic on Grand Lake in 2013 and has done well in FLW tournaments, too.

“Put fishing the pro trails out of your mind until you get a college degree,” Hank said. Your degree in marketing or PR should be your priority. Fish youth clubs, high school teams and college teams, but get your education then concentrate on your pro fishing career.

Edwin Evers

Edwin Evers has won over 2.2 million dollars in his career and is one of the most popular fisherman on the trails. He placed third at Guntersville in the 2014 Classic, his 13 trip to them.

“Stay in school, get a degree in marketing and fish a lot,” Edwin said. Fishing high school, youth and college teams is a great help, but don’t overlook other possibilities. You can learn a lot by being a marshal at tournaments, too.

“Learn from everyone and everything, but develop your own style,” Edwin said. Don’t try to get information about a lake that can mislead you. Consider anything you hear, but get on the water and confirm it but don’t get locked into something others have told you. Time on the water is the only way to learn this.

Jordan Lee

What better fisherman at the Classic for advice for young fishermen than Jordan Lee. He fished at Guntersvile as the college trail representative and placed sixth in his first Classic. Just 23 years old, he is the youngest Elite Series fisherman this year.

Jordan got hooked on bass fishing when he was ten and knew, after catching his first bass in his grandfather’s pond, that he wanted to be a pro fisherman. He went to Auburn University and fished the college team there and has done well in other tournaments, too.

“Fish a lot as a co-angler, make friends with the pro fisherman and learn from them,” Jordan said. That is the way to learn patterns and techniques to catch bass. Fish a variety of lakes so you can be adaptable.

“Learn to use electronics,” Jordan said. They are critical for catching fish in tournaments now. You have to get all the basics down, but electronics will show you the structure and cover to fish, and even the fish in it.

The obvious things a young fisherman should do, according to these pros, is to fish a lot, learn the basics and get a degree.

Less obvious is the consistent recommendation to get a degree in marketing or PR so you can market yourself and represent your sponsors. It might seem a degree in fisheries biology would help more, but you can learn the basics of catching bass on the water while getting and keeping sponsors so you can keep fishing.

Make your plans and start working toward the dream of being a pro fisherman now.

Can and Should the Gulf Stream Be Used To Generate Power

Plugging Into the Gulf Stream?
Can the Gulf Stream be used to generate power? Should it?

by Kip Tabb, Coastal Review
from The Fishing Wire

MANTEO — The Gulf Stream passes at times just 12 miles from Cape Hatteras. The amount of water it carries past our coast is massive. In fact, if it were a river, the Gulf Stream would be the greatest river that ever existed on this planet.

“”By the time the Gulf Stream gets off Cape Hatteras (it’s greater than) the flow of all the rivers of earth . . . 45 times greater the entire flow of every river on earth (at flood stage) is what we have off Cape Hatteras,” Mike Muglia of the Coastal Studies Institute said.

A team of researchers and scientists from the institute, N.C. State University and the Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City has been studying for the last two years whether all that water could be put to use to create electricity.

 Gulf Stream hugging the Southeast coast

Gulf Stream hugging the Southeast coast

This infrared image shows the warm waters of the Gulf Stream hugging the Southeast coast, moving millions of gallons of water per second. Photo: NASA
“Is there a resource there and is it enormous? Absolutely,” Muglia said, then asks the important question. “Is it a viable resource?”

It is still too early to tell, but there are characteristics of the Gulf Stream as it passes the Outer Banks that may make better suited for energy production. As it flows north past the Outer Banks, the Gulf Stream is constrained from changing position by the edge of the continental shelf on its west side, Muglia explained. It veers east into deeper water at The Point, an undersea geologic structure about 40 miles off Hatteras Island, and its course can meander.

“The key point is that off of Hatteras, the variability in available energy at a specific location is due primarily to the variability in the Gulf Stream location,” he said.

The Gulf Stream gains three times the amount of flow as it moves north up the Southeast coast. Its flow is measured in svedrups, or Sv — named for the late Harald Sverdrup, a pioneering oceanographer and an early director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. Off the south Florida coast, the stream’s flow is 33 Sv, or 33 million cubic meters per second; by the time the current reaches Cape Hatteras it’s flow has increased to 90 Sv.

However, with no banks to constrain its flow, the location of the Gulf Stream is not a constant, nor is the force of the current the same at all times. Because it varies in place and flow as much as it does, if the Gulf Stream is to be developed as an energy resource accurate predictions of its fluctuations will be needed, the researchers noted.

Ruoying He, an oceanographer at N.C. State, develops models of coastal circulation currents. It is the modeling that his group has created that is being used to predict where the Gulf Stream will be and the force of the current as it moves past the Outer Banks.

“I got involved in this project because my team at NC State develops a high resolution computer model to predict ocean circulation off the East Coast of U.S.,” He wrote in an email in response to a question. “Similar to the weather forecast, our model provides time and space continuous ocean state . . . predictions. They are quite useful to fill observational gaps and help understand Gulf Stream variability measured by (the) limited suite of observational assets we deployed . . .”

The models He’s team have developed have been remarkably accurate, according to Muglia. “We’ve compared (our) measurements to the model and the model does an extremely good job of capturing the average speed over a long time period,” he said.

He notes there is more work to be done. The model has done a good job of predicting the amount of flow in the Gulf Stream and giving a good idea how it fluctuates. However, if the resource is going to be developed, better information is needed.

“A major research area in my team is to further improve the accuracy of our ocean prediction model,” He wrote. “The model is doing a decent job in predicting the Gulf Stream variability. We hope, through further model refinements and data assimilation, we can perform accurate real-time . . . forecasts of the Gulf Stream to support (and) optimize offshore surveys and energy harvesting efforts.”

Whether the Gulf Stream can be utilized as an energy resource is still very much up in the air. Muglia notes there are a number of hurdles that must be crossed before energy will surge from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Is it a viable resource in terms of permitting? Is it a viable resource in terms of economics? Engineering?” he asked.

Those questions, especially the topic of engineering, are being addressed by John Bane at the Institute of Marine Sciences. He points out that the studies that are being done are comparable to almost any study looking at a potential energy resource. “The observations that Mike has made shows very clearly that it (the Gulf Stream) fluctuates. It’s very similar to studies of wind energy,” he said.

Expanding on that, Bane talked about other energy resources. “If you were out in West Texas and wanted to drill for oil, you would examine and explore where oil might most likely be. This is a resource assessment. That’s what we’re doing.”

The assessments are ongoing and expanding. Initially the instruments used to measure what was happening with the currents were coastal radars, ongoing measurements taken from instrument in the sea and onsite observations. Instrumentation is being increased to look at a broader cross section of the Gulf Stream, giving the scientists a better picture of the energy closer to shore where it may be more accessible and farther out to sea where there may be more potential energy but the cost of engineering would become higher.

The first biological assessments are also being done. The role of the bottom arrays that are used to assess current and flow is being expanded.

“These now have hydrophones on them. We’re passively listening and seeing what kind of critters we have out there,” Muglia said. “We’ve certainly observed clicks and marine animals. Some of them seem pretty curious. We have one where it sounds like he comes right up to the instrument.”

A place of verdant sea life, the Gulf Stream has been a remarkable asset for the Outer Banks for as long as the islands have been populated. Whether it will be a part of the energy assets of North Carolina is still an unanswered question.

“We really are just trying to understand what the resource is and whether it’s a viable resource,” Muglia said.

Fishing and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a special time of year. It is the time we should all stop and think of all the things we have in our lives that make us happy. We really should do that all the time, but this week is a good time to focus on how good we have it.

Most of my thankful things involve the outdoors. Very little makes me as happy as spending time fishing or hunting. That has been true all my life and almost all my Thanksgiving memories have something to do with spending time outdoors. So hunting, fishing and Thanksgiving go together in my life.

Almost every Thanksgiving while I was growing up meant big meals with family and friends. My mother’s brothers were older than her and all but one lived near us, and they all had big families. We would always eat with at least one of my uncle’s families and all the cousins on Thanksgiving Day.

Most of those days also involved a quail hunting trip after lunch. Several of the uncles had land and most of them had bird dogs, as we did, so hunting quail was a tradition. Back then there were a lot more quail since farming was still more compatible with quail habitat.

My career in education always meant a four day weekend for Thanksgiving. Since I got my first bass boat my second year out of college, almost all my Thanksgivings after I moved to Griffin involved going to my place at Raysville Boat Club on Clarks Hill for the long weekend.

Most years I would go over after work on Wednesday, fish Thursday morning then go to my parent’s house in town for the afternoon for the meal. Then I would head back to the lake for fishing the next three days.

One year my mom decided to have the big Thanksgiving meal at the lake. I know she did it that way so I could fish longer. That morning as I got ready to go out at daylight she reminded me to be in for dinner. My brother and his family and a couple of uncles and their families were coming there for the meal. I assured her I would come in early enough to get cleaned up before eating.

I will never forget that day since I landed a big bass, weighed it at seven pounds one ounce, put it back in the water and looked at my watch. It was 12:02 pm and I was thankful my mother had planned dinner at the lake. Most years I would have had to head in before the time I caught the fish.

That was the only time my mother ever got mad at me for fishing, and one of the very few times Linda has. When I went in at 3:00 pm to get cleaned up for dinner I found out she meant dinner at noon, not at dark. We always called the noon meal dinner while I was growing up but after going to college I got used to calling the noon meal lunch and the night meal dinner.

By the time I came in all my family had gone home. The only thing colder than the stares of my wife and my mother that day was the cold turkey sandwich I got for my Thanksgiving “dinner.” But I did catch a seven pound bass that day!

There were many Thanksgiving weekends that it was just me and my dog Merlin in the boat all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I would often stay later than I should on Sunday and get back to Griffin well after dark and have to unload and get some sleep before going to school Monday morning. But there were a lot of great memories.

Back then it seemed much easier to catch bass. I would often leave my boat under the boat sheds at the lake, get up at daylight and start fishing. I didn’t need to run anywhere, just put the trolling motor in the water and start casting a crankbait to the points and banks around the boat club.

There was no reason to leave Germany Creek. I got to know every stump, rock, clay bank and point that way. There was one small cove with an old sunken wooden boat back in it. I could count on catching a bass beside it every time I fished it with a crankbait. Learning little keys like that has always been important to me.

I also learned to fish a jig and pig one Thanksgiving at Clarks Hill. On Thursday morning I had caught a lot of fish on a crankbait but kept thinking about a bait I had never caught a fish on, the jig and pig.

Friday morning I tied one on and vowed to fish nothing but it all day. At 2:00 pm I was disgusted, I had not had a bite on it. The day before I had landed about 15 bass up to two pounds in four hours of fishing.

At 2:00 I was going down a bank where I had put out a brush pile. I cast the jig and pig to the right side of it and caught a three pound bass. Then I cast to the left side and caught a 3.5 pound bass. That gave me enough confidence to go to a deeper brush pile, where I caught a 6.5 pound bass. Every since that day back in the late 1970s I keep a jig and pig tied on and fish them a lot!

Spend your Thanksgiving wisely – and be thankful you have the freedom to make the choices you make for the day.

What Fish Are Targeted for Telemetry Tagging on Lake Pontchartrain?

Telemetry Tagging on Lake Pontchartrain
from The Fishing Wire

Tagging a fish

Tagging a fish

As part of an ongoing study of speckled trout, red drum and bull sharks in Lake Pontchartrain, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will again host its annual fall acoustic telemetry tagging event during the week of November 16.

In the fall of 2012, the department launched the project to collect continuous data on individual movements of these species over time. The data collected provides insight to seasonal migration patterns, habitat use and how movements may vary between sexes.

Tagging events are held twice a year, in the fall and spring. The department depends on volunteer anglers to capture fish and carefully transport them to a nearby LDWF surgery boat. There, the fish are weighed, measured, tagged with an external dart tag and surgically implanted with an acoustic tag. Tagged fish are held in a recovery tank for a minimum of thirty minutes to ensure a healthy release.

Acoustic tags are much more effective for tracking fish movement than traditional tagging techniques. Conventional tagging involves marking and releasing a fish that will hopefully be recaptured at a future date, yielding very few data points. Acoustic tagging allows scientists to repeatedly locate and track tagged fish in remote or inaccessible settings, thus providing a more detailed look at patterns, usage and behavior.

Since the program’s inception, biologists have tagged 218 speckled trout, 56 red drum and 18 bull sharks. With four years of data already in hand, the agency has arrived at some interesting conclusions.

Tagged fish is released

Tagged fish is released

Speckled trout movements are most strongly influenced by salinity. The salinity in Lake Pontchartrain is low during the spring, and tagged trout can be observed leaving the lake from March through May. The salinity in the lake begins to rise in the fall, and trout begin returning in November. “Many Lake Pontchartrain anglers reference ‘World Series trout’ because they begin to catch them around the time of the World Series baseball tournament, which occurs in late October to early November,” explained LDWF biologist Ashley Ferguson. “The fall migration observed with the tagged trout correlates very closely with angler observations, lending legitimacy to the fable.”

Biologists have also used acoustic tagging technology to determine that bull sharks in the lake are mostly influenced by temperature and can be observed leaving the lake in cold winter months.

“Red drum have only been tagged for one year of the program. They can be observed using all habitats in the lake but spend a majority of their time along natural shorelines,” explained Ferguson. “We will be tagging additional red drum during this upcoming event to determine how their future behavior compares.”

Movement trends of all acoustically tagged fish can easily be observed using our online Fish Tracker.

Anglers are encouraged to report all tagged fish recaptures. These tagged fish are very valuable to this research project, and we ask that if caught, they be released so that data can continue to be collected. Tagged fish that are part of this program can be recognized by a blue external dart tag. Please call the number provided on the blue tag, and report the date, time, location of catch and health of the fish when released.

Anglers interested in volunteering for the fall tagging event can email for additional information.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana’s abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at or

What Are Magical Places Outdoors?

Some of my Magical Places Outdoors

Way back when I was in the second grade I read the book “Two Boys and A Tree.” The book is about two boys growing up in a northern state. An apple tree is on a nearby hillside, and it is a magical place for them.

The story follows them season by season as they grow up and the tree matures, with many adventures around the tree. At the end of the book they come back and bring their children to share the magic of the tree even though, as adults, the magic is mostly gone for them.

That loss of enchantment and innocence was sad to me back then and even more so now that I am much older. It is a shame we can’t retain more of the excitement of youth as we grow old.
Over my years growing up I found some of those enchanted places. Not long after reading that book I ventured out from our farm to explore nearby wood. I grew up on a 15 acre farm where we had chickens, cows, hogs and a couple of ponies. Most of the farm was a big field with Dearing Branch running along one side of it back in a small strip of woods. I had gone over every inch of it before I was ten years old.

One day in the late summer I crossed the fence at the back of our field and went into the woods on a neighbor’s property. Back then kids were welcome to play and explore pretty much anywhere since everyone in the area knew us and our parents, and knew we would do no damage.

The woods behind the fence, unexplored territory for me, sloped gently down to the branch then rose steeply on the other side. On the steep hillside were some fairly big rocks and one huge white oak tree. It was so big it shaded other plants out near it so it was clear for fairly big area.

There was something magical about being under that tree. I could sit on a rock and listen to the quiet. The only sounds were the gurgling of the branch or wind in the tree limbs. I spent many hours just sitting there, enjoying the feeling of freedom and being alone at that age.

Friends did go with me at times. We hunted squirrels around the tree in the fall, “skated” and fell through thin sheets of ice on the branch in the winter, and built huts under the tree in the spring and summer.

To get across the branch and to have fun we cut a big vine on an overhanging tree and could swing across it like Tarzan. That vine lasted several years until it got weak and one of us broke it trying to swing across.

We read about log cabins so three of us boys decided to build one. We had no idea about notching logs to stack them for walls, and our little hatchets would not cut down big trees anyway. So we found four small sweetgum trees in something of a square about ten feet on a side at the edge of the clearing under the big oak and cleaned up around it.

With our hatchets we cut dozens of sweetgum saplings about two inches thick. From the farm I got a bucket of old bent nails. We never threw anything away on the farm and I got good at straightening out nails with my hatchet and a flat rock.

We started nailing the saplings to the standing trees and got about two feet high all the way around before thinking about door. We managed to adapt and leave a gap for a door and finished the walls, then laid more saplings, these with limbs and leaved attached, across the top.

We had read in school about thatched roofs and thought that is how it was done. The first rain proved it took more than just laying limbs with leaves on top. We never did get a roof that would keep the interior of our log cabin dry.

The last time I saw that tree was when I was about 21 years old. The land owner had built a house back there, put a pond dam on the branch, and cleared out all the trees but that one big oak. It was still majestic standing on the hillside beside the pond, but the magic for me was gone.

I wish all kids could have the experience of exploring unknown woods and finding magical places. Unfortunately, the world has changed. In many places it is dangerous for kids to go far from home by themselves, and lawsuits have made land owners afraid to let kids play on their property in way too many cases.

If you can, help a kid find a magical place and let them learn about it all on their own.

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and Lightning

I admit it. I am scared to death of lightning.

I have fished when the air temperature was 15 degrees and I had to dip my rod in the water every cast to melt the ice in the guides. I have fished when the wind was so strong the front of my boat dipped under about every third wave and my trolling motor would not hold my boat in place. I have fished at night when it was so dark I could not see the rod in my hands.
But if I hear thunder fairly close by, I am off the water!

It all goes back to a night when I was about eight years old. The old wooden house I lived in had a huge screened in porch with a concrete floor, and two of my friends and I were “camping out” on it in our sleeping bags.

About midnight there was a ferocious thunderstorm. Lightning flashed every few seconds and thunder made the house shake. I was terrified for what seemed like hours, just knowing I would die. It is an irrational fear, but still it overwhelms me almost sixty years later.

Over those years I have had many bad experiences with thunderstorms while fishing. In the mid-1970s Bob Pierce and I were fishing at Bartletts Ferry during the summer. We had run way up the Chattahoochee River, picking our way around unmarked mud flats and stumps to get there after lunch.

It was cloudy but not raining. Suddenly, about 5:00 there was a crack of lightning and an immediate boom of thunder very close to us. The wind started howling and the rain pouring down.
We could not run the 30 minutes back down the river to the boat ramp so we pulled into a small creek, just a few feet wider than the boat. I hoped the overhanging trees would give us some protection from the wind and, in theory, lightning would hit one of the higher trees up on the bank and not get to us.

Even back in there the wind made me stay on the trolling motor to keep us under the protecting trees. After a few minutes I realized the boat was no longer moving with the wind. It had rained so hard water in the boat had pushed the boat down enough the motor was on the bottom.

We stayed there for about three hours before the storm stopped. We had to raise the motor and push with paddles to get the boat off the bottom and pull the plug as we tried to get on plane to drain the water. We barely made it back to the ramp before dark. After that I put a bilge pump in the boat!

Another late afternoon summer trip was to Jackson to practice for a weekend night tournament. My dog Merlin was with me and it was one of those cloudy, hot, sticky days of August. But there was no wind or rain, and no thunder.

Just as it got dark I was fishing right at the dam. Back then there was no drum line to keep boats away from it and it was a good place to fish. Suddenly wind started howling over the dam, rain fell in proverbial sheets, and lightning flashed and thunder boomed.

I was scared to try to run back to Kerseys Boat ramp so I eased over right beside the dam and tied the boat to it. I hoped the concrete dam extending up 20 feet and the metal rails on top would protect me. I sat down in the driver’s seat to get as low as possible and Merlin crawled under the console.

Even with my eyes tightly closed and my face resting on my arm on the steering wheel I could still see the bright flashes. And the thunder was immediate, with no time between the flash and the boom.

I sat there for two hours until the storm passed enough to me to run back to the ramp, load the boat and go home. No more practice that night.

Most folks are not worried about getting struck by lightning in a boat. I saw that at a Top Six tournament at Lanier in the early 1990s. I was boat 23 in the first flight of 92 boats. We were all sitting in a big group out from the ramp waiting to take off.

Without warning there was a flash – crack – boom with no time between them. I hate that, it means the lightning is very close. I looked around and the folks in the other 91 boats just sat there.

I couldn’t stand it so I cranked up, idled to a nearby dock and got under it. I told my partner if he insisted I would get out under the dock and he could take the boat out in the storm. He declined and waited with me.

None of the other boats moved until the tournament director let them go. They all took off. About 30 minutes later, after the storm passed, I took off too, a little late but much safer.
If you are brave enough, or dumb enough, fish in the lightning. I will be somewhere protected, waiting out the storm.

What Does Find the Bait, Find the Bass Mean?

Find the Bait, Find the Bass!

By Livingston Lures Pro Joe Budzinski
from The Fishing Wire

“Lake Conroe on Fire right now, Break out your Deep Cranks”

Big Lake Conroe bass

Big Lake Conroe bass

It is the time of year where a sportsman has to decide to grab a rifle or a fishing rod. Chuck and I chose wisely. We grabbed our Power Tackle Cranking rods paired with our Ardent reels, and went to work.

Lake Conroe, Texas, is on fire right now. The big fish have begun to move up to feed for the upcoming winter months. We drove several areas until we found bait balls being FEASTED upon by feeding bass.

Bass feeding on baitfish

Bass feeding on baitfish

Bait balls are easily found this time of year, but you will need to find the ones being pummeled by bass on your graph. You can see this on your graph or side imaging by the bait balls sporadically broken up through the water column. Massive, uniform schools of bait tend to be the ones that are not bothered by predators.

Bass eats a crankbait

Bass eats a crankbait

Chuck and I discovered an area of approximately 50 yards of sporadic chunk rock bottom in 14-16 ft of water where the majority of feeding was found. The Livingston Deep Impact 18 with EBS MultiTouch was our weapon of choice. The bass this time of year have shad on the brain, so ensure you set your MultiTouch setting to the third biological Baitfish sound – Fleeting Shad. This was key. Our retrieve was a stop and go retrieve after our Livingston Lures began digging the bottom and/or bouncing off the chunk rock. This retrieve coupled by the EBS Sound on the pause was a great one-two punch.

Do not be afraid to bounce these Deep Impact’s off the bottom to generate strikes. Often I call this technique “planting corn”, meaning the bill of the lure digs into the bottom enough to create a corn row, worthy enough to begin to seed. Your color of choice depends upon water conditions, and lake forage. Get yourself a variety or colors and hang on. This is the time of year you can get your arm broke by a Green Monster!

Fish on!

— Joe Budzinski, Army Bass Angler

Conditions Recap:
Time: 2:30 pm to dusk
Skies: Sunny
Surface temp: 73
Water: Clear
Wind: 1-5 NE
Hooks Rating: 4 of 5

Jordan McDonald and Douglas Outdoors

Jordan McDonald called me Tuesday to tell me he was leaving for New York. After doing well on tournament trails this year, he is starting a full time job with Douglas Outdoors. That is a dream come true for him. He will be working with a great outdoor company and spending his time hunting, fishing and talking to fellow hunters and fishermen.

Jordan will be a great representative for Douglas Outdoors. I have known him for ten years. He joined the Flint River Bass Club ten years ago and has fished with me in club tournaments over most of the years since then. I have watched him mature, learn about bass fishing and increase his skill levels.

Many young people have the dream of fishing professionally but very few make it. Just like many youth dream of playing football or soccer professionally, very few are able to make it. Jordan has done what it took to reach the level he is at currently and is in a good position to go on even further. I think Jordan McDonald and Douglas Outdoors is a good fit.

I wish him well.