Monthly Archives: July 2018

Cutthroat Trout

Artifacts of Epochs Past: Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout Benefit From Private Lands Conservation
—Craig Springer
from The Fishing Wire

One might say that the past is dead and gone—but that notion doesn’t fly on the Vermejo Park Ranch, near Raton, New Mexico.

Managers of this private land seek to restore long reaches of mountain streams for the benefit of native Rio Grande cutthroat trout—not to mention the guided anglers who seek to catch the rare fish.

Crucial to the endeavor is a private-public partnership fostered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). Ranch employee Lief Ahlm has been involved with native fish conservation for decades, and his interest in this present project comes only natural.

If you didn’t know better, one would think that a cartographer laid a turkey’s foot on paper, traced it, and made it into a map of a northern New Mexico watershed. The headwaters of the Vermejo River trickle over the Colorado state line into New Mexico and the storied Vermejo Park Ranch at the heart of the historic Maxwell Land Grant where the southern Rockies meet the prairie.

Three rivulets, the “toes” of the turkey foot, converge in an open vega—a big meadow—hemmed in close on one side by a steep, craggy high-wall of stone the color of a pronghorn’s pelt. Adventurous ponderosa pine trees cling against gravity, their roots veining into rock crevices. It is steep, impressive and imposing.

On the other side, the slope fans westward, gently, then precipitously to 11,000-foot purplish peaks that typify the southern Rockies. The remains of last winter’s snows tip the peaks like dollops of thick cream. That snow, what little of it that exists, is future trout habitat when it spills off the mountainsides and soaks wetlands or percolates over gravelly riffles and purls through dark pools.

At the base of the high-wall flows the North Fork of the Vermejo River. By eastern standards, it’s a little rill—and not a river at all. It adjoins the Little Vermejo Creek which is slightly larger in volume. Mere feet away, the two, now one, converge with the third toe, Ricardo Creek. The turkey foot’s spur is a two-mile-long spring run that joins the Vermejo proper another mile downstream.

Their cold, clear waters all possess another quality worth caring about, according to Ahlm, a fish biologist for Vermejo Park Ranch. “The Vermejo River and its tribs hold an aboriginal population of Rio Grande cutthroat trout, unique to the headwaters of Canadian River drainage in New Mexico,” Ahlm said. “The cutthroat trout in these streams are holdovers from another time—and they have survived an onslaught of habitat loss and competition with introduced brook trout native to Appalachia.”

Water pouring off the east face of these mountains will eventually flow through Texas’s northern panhandle then through Oklahoma and onto the Mississippi. There’s nothing unusual about that necessarily, but the fish that swims here have immeasurable intrinsic value, an artifact of an epoch past.

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout was the first trout documented in the New World, in 1541. A chronicler of the Coronado entrada noted truchas swimming about in a tributary to the Pecos River as the explorers made their way onward to Kansas. The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is one of 13 existing cutthroat subspecies that occur from coastal Alaska and over the spine of the Rockies southward to New Mexico. The Rio Grande is the southernmost cutthroat and is one of only three cutthroat subspecies that live in waters flowing eastward off the Rockies. All other western native trout live in waters that drain to the Pacific. The Rio Grande cutthroat persists in the upper Rio Grande basin, the upper Pecos and here in the furthest reaches of small Canadian River tributaries. The pretty trout resides in only 10 percent of its natural range. Rio Grande cutthroat trout retreated to small headwater streams due to habitat lost to overgrazing and a century of competition with nonnative trout species.

Vermejo Park Ranch was the first site to re-introduce elk into New Mexico following its extirpation resulting from unregulated subsistence harvest more than a century ago. In keeping with that spirit, the past lives large here as expressed in how this private land is managed. It’s owned by Turner Enterprises, which has endeavored to restore the land toward natural conditions and native wildlife. Buffalo roam where overstocked cattle herds once loafed. They eventually make their way to market.

The past matters to Ahlm. He holds a personal affinity for New Mexico history; he’s conversant in some of the most arcane texts on the subject. He originates from the northwest corner of the state, got educated in fisheries science at New Mexico State University. He followed that with a long and fruitful career with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and still holds a personal affection to the agency he once worked for.

“I had a front-row view of some of the greatest conservation work in New Mexico,” said Ahlm, speaking toward the many projects that he worked on through the decades: big horn sheep and pronghorn transplants, and law enforcement. But his heart’s desires lay with fish conservation. Ahlm managed the famous San Juan River trout fishery for a time and was involved in native fish conservation endeavors in all corners of the state.

And his heart is still in it, and thus his involvement with the Service’s Partners of Fish and Wildlife Program—a partnership with the express purpose of improving habitat for the rare trout on the ranch—that in the end can help keep the fish off the endangered species list.

Les Dhaseleer, Natural Resources Division Manager at Vermejo, and Carter Kruse, Director of Natural Resources for Turner Enterprises, consulted with Service biologist Angel Montoya, to set aside stream sections to exclude deer, elk, and bison. The intent was to rest select areas of streamside vegetation from forage by wildlife and allow nature to heal trout habitat. Since 2014, 10 half-mile-long blocks of stream have been rested by tall fencing over a dozen collective stream miles. The outcome has been impressive to witness.

“The fenced areas have seen a profusion of willow growth, shading and cooling the water and stabilizing the stream banks. That’s good for trout,” Ahlm said. “The stream channel narrows and the forces of the water dig deeper pools and moves sediment along making more space from cutthroat trout and habitat for bugs they eat. Cottonwood pole plantings help stabilize banks and add shade and structure, and bird habitat.”

Dhaseleer says that project involves long-term monitoring of water quality and aquatic insect composition along the length of the Vermejo River through the ranch. Once these half-mile sections heal, the intent is to move fence materials to the next blocks to rest and restore adjacent stream sections. It’s a long-term affair, and in the end should yield quality habitat for Rio Grande cutthroat trout and other species, such as the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

Surveys have yet to turn up the mouse, but the habitat could exist now and certainly into the future. Subsurface water spreads laterally from the streams as a result of the exclosures, broadening the breadth the stream’s influence on adjacent vegetation. Soppy soils and associated vegetation could be a future abode for the rare mouse. The new exclosures have invited beavers to take up housekeeping as well.

Montoya is impressed with the resiliency of the streamside vegetation and wildlife.

“It’s visually stunning to witness the differences, then and now—and so soon. A beaver dam is a measure of success; it’s interesting to see how quickly the dam was built after we erected the exclosures,” Montoya said. “The magnitude of the overall project and the landowner’s commitment to conservation will benefit cutthroat trout and other wildlife for decades.”

Kruse says that the Partners Program has been a tremendous benefit to the conservation work on the ranch. “Teaming up with the Fish and Wildlife Service allowed us to do the work faster and bigger with expanded intellectual power,” said Kruse. “By ourselves, we’d still be on exclosure number-three.”

So with Ahlm, he’s technically on career number two, but it must have been a seamless transition. That was probably so with another former New Mexico Game and Fish employee, Elliot Barker.

The two men intersect in spirit.

The late Barker is a legendary figure in conservation and his presence is felt at Vermejo and beyond. Aldo Leopold was his Forest Service supervisor in the 1910s. After working for Vermejo Park Ranch as a game manager in the late 1920s, Barker went on to serve as director of the Game and Fish Department for 22 years. He was instrumental in making Smokey Bear an icon. Barker helped found the National Wildlife Federation and advocated for wilderness decades ago. The conservationist published seven books on outdoors pursuits and western life. Beatty’s Cabin is a classic. He died in 1988 at 101. Nearby Elliot Barker State Wildlife Management Area is appropriately named.

Ahlm and Barker both came of age in northern New Mexico, though decades apart from one another. Fishing and hunting and conservation intertwined their lives and their careers. Barker cared about native trout of northern New Mexico probably as much as Ahlm and his colleagues.

Barker’s cabin where he and his wife and two young daughters lived for a time is perched on a hillside above a most picturesque Castle Rock at Vermejo.

“You can’t help but feel a kinship to Barker out here,” said Ahlm. “He and I both worked for the same outfits, and I suspect that working here influenced his conservation ethic and the progression of his long career. It’s kind of cool,” he says, passing through a gate of an exclosure where ranch employees are busy augering holes for cottonwood poles near the spur of the turkey foot.

Mere feet away Rio Grande cutthroat trout, followed by their silent shadows throw up puffs of sand as they scurry for the cover of grass thickets that hang over a cut bank.

Learn more at vermejoparkranch.com and www.fws.gov/partners

Springer is with External Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Southwest Region

Lake Chatuge BASS Angler of the Year Championship Preview

When I was growing up in the 1950s and early 60s my family took a week-long trip to the mountains every summer. We drove up to the area around Hiawasee on the Georgia/North Carolina border and visited all the popular tourist sites.

Back then things were very different. Roadside stores that had everything from gas to groceries often had a bear cub chained outside under a tree and you could buy a five-cent coke and give it to him. The bear would greedily turn it up and drink it down.

I learned about scams early in my life on those trips. One place had a covered cage with a sign “see a copperhead and baby rattler 5 cents.” I paid my nickel expecting to see two snakes. Instead, under the cover was a copper penny, heads up, and a baby rattle. I was disappointed but learned a valuable lesson.

We did see majestic views from overlooks, and I was moved by the outdoor play “Unto These Hills’” the story of the Cherokee Indians being forced from their homeland to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.

We stopped more than one year at caves and I fell in love with the wonderous beauty of what water and minerals can do under ground over thousands of years. And rocks were everywhere, many kinds that I had never seen. I always came home with many for my rock collection. We even panned for gold and gems at one place on one of these trips.

We traveled cheap, staying at small motels and eating sandwiches at roadside parks for lunch. We did go out to dinner each night, usually at a small dinner that served basic food at a low cost.

I have good and bad memories of those trips. Fighting in the back seat with my younger brother was always a problem, and one day at lunch I turned up my coke without noticing a yellowjacket on the bottle mouth. My lip was swollen for several days that year!

Those memories were brought back to me last week when I went to Lake Chatuge for a Georgia Outdoor News September Map of the Month article. BASS is having their Angler of the Year Championship at Chatuge in September and this article will be a preview of what might work for them.

In the Angler of the Year Championship, the top 50 fishermen on the Elite Series are invited to fish against each other for points and money. It is a fun tournament for most of them, only three or four are still close enough in the points to make it mean much. It should be an interesting tournament.

Chatuge is a beautiful, clear, deep lake with mountains ringing it, making it very scenic all times of the year. And it has big spotted bass as well as a good population of largemouth. I went out with Cas Anderson, a high school fisherman that lives on the lake and won the points standings in the Georgia BASS Nation high school series this year.

He said the tournament will probably be won with a limit of spots weighing 16 to 18 pounds each day in the three-day tournament. Cas did say one of the pros might lead for one day with largemouth, but they are so scattered it would be hard to catch enough to win a three-day tournament.

We caught a good many keeper spots fishing brush in 20 feet of water on points and humps and saw some schooling fish we could not get to hit our baits. Cas said in September the fish will be even deeper and most quality fish needed to win will be at least 30 feet deep.

Chatuge would be a great lake for a fishing trip with the family. There are lots of interesting things to do other than fishing. And going up to watch the pros in September might be a good way to learn something about catching bass.

July Tournament at Sinclair

Last Sunday 13 members and guests of the Flint River Bass Club fished our July tournament at Sinclair. In nine hours of casting we landed 26 12-inch keepers weighing about 36 pounds. There were three five-fish limits and four fishermen didn’t catch a keeper.

I won with five weighing 7.66 pounds and my 3.35 pound largemouth was big fish. Chuck Croft was second with five weighing 7.40 pounds, Niles Murray was third with five at 5.65 and Phil King placed fourth with two weighing 3.72 pounds.

My partner Brandon Bailey and I headed down the lake, planning on starting on a grass bed in a cove, but I saw a dock with a light on and decided to stop there. After several casts with topwater I picked up a Texas rigged worm and a keeper grabbed it before it hit bottom and took off, hooking itself. My first keeper at 6:15, a good start.

A nearby dock has deep brush on it so I eased over to it and started casting. After a few casts with the worm the first one hit, I picked up a jig and pig to fish the deeper brush. A thump made me set the hook and my heart almost stopped, it was a big fish. After a few seconds I calmed down a little and told my partner it was a catfish since it was rolling. I kept hoping I was wrong until a 12 to 15-pound blue cat came to the surface.

After netting it and getting the slime off my line, and letting my hands stop shaking, we ran to the grassbed I had planned on starting on, and quickly caught a keeper on a buzzbait then the big fish on a popper. On a nearby dock where I had never caught a fish I landed my fourth keeper on a shaky head worm at 8:15.

Brandon and I fished hard for the next six hours and he caught a keeper on a dock. Then, with three minutes left to fish, I landed my fifth keeper by a dock on a shaky head worm. It turned out to be the difference between first and second place!

That’s why I never give up until the last second.

ICAST News and Notes

ICAST News and Notes
Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

New reel from Shimano


The stampede is on. As you read this, I’ll be among the kid-in-the-candy-store throngs stumbling among the aisles of ICAST, trying to figure exactly how many of these wonderful new toys I’ll be able to fit into my tackleboxes–and my budget.

At first blush, here are a few that popped out at me:

The Bi-Yak is an inventive combination of kayak and paddleboard, with twin sponsons that can be opened out for added stability when used as a SUP, pushed together to function as a cat-hull kayak otherwise for easier paddling. I like the idea that it’s a lot more stable than a mono-hull–I’m not as nimble as I used to be, and I never was. The maker says it’s exceptionally stable due to the twin hulls, and it’s unsinkable; www.biyakboats.com.

Shimano’s digital Curado DC Series baitcasters should be a hot item both for bass-heads and for inshore saltwater guys–a microcomputer inside the reel monitors spool speeds up to 1000 times per second(!!) to make sure there are no over-runs, even when making tricky upwind casts or skipping lures under a dock, according to the company. Product Manager Trey Epich says the reel also has the legendary durability of the Curado lineup. Amazingly, the thing still sells for around $250, which is not that much more than a conventional top-level baitcaster. No word on whether it can be hacked by the Russians; www.fish.shimano.com.

Epich also introduced the new Aldebaran MGL, an ultralight baitcaster that weighs an incredible 4.8 ounces.

“For anglers who don’t want to use spinning tackle and yet still need to throw lures that may weigh as little as 1/8 ounce, this is the reel,” says Epich. It’s likely to be a favorite with competition anglers who don’t like to shift gears from baitcasters to spinning, though the price, over $400, will limit it to all but very serious (and flush) competitors.

Raymarine’s Axiom now integrates with DJI drones. This will give a big advantage for anglers seeking fish (or bait) in clear water, and of course it also allows taking some really spectacular photos and video of your boat and angling action–once you learn to fly the thing. We suggest practicing, a lot, on dry land first; www.raymarine.com.

In apparel, fisher-friendly gear keeps on getting better, and selling very well according to Travis Gessley, designer for Under Armour. He said all price points are doing well, but the Seamless Fish Hunter Hoodie, at $65, seems in the sweet spot–very light, stretchable, cool and quick-drying, according to Gessley; www.underarmour.com. (PS: He said lady’s fishing clothing makes up about 10 percent of the UA market, and growing steadily.)

Remember the Crocodile Dundee quote “That’s not a knife–THIS is a knife”? That’s likely to be the reaction when you bring the new Danco 13″ Boning Knife to the cleaning table. For those who clean big grouper, snapper, mahi, kings and the like, a really long, thin but strong blade like this one can be a big help, and it’s priced right; www.dancopliers.com.

We’ll have more tomorrow, as the Big Show heads towards the wind-up.

Fishing Weiss Lake

When your wife decides everything in the house you have lived in for 37 years is unsatisfactory and plans to renovate it, that is a good time to go to the lake for a couple of weeks. So I did, heading to Lake Weiss for five days and then straight to Clarks Hill for another week.

Unfortunately, work was slow and I came home a week too early!

Weekend before last the Spalding County Sportsman Club held our June tournament at Lake Weiss. Ten members and two guests fished 16 hours in two very hot days to land 45 keeper bass weighing about 80 pounds. There were two five-fish limits and two fishermen did not catch a keeper.

Jay Gerson won with nine bass weighing 14.74 pounds. He had a limit the first day and four the second day. Glenn Anders on brought in six keepers weighing 12.49 pounds for second, my six at 9.74 pounds was third and Raymond English was fourth with eight bass weighing 8.52 pounds. Kwong Yu had a 4.95 pound largemouth for big fish.

I spent two days trying to find a pattern for the tournament. The first day I quickly hooked a keeper on a buzzbait so I thought that would be a good way to start each morning. But then I fished shallow water hard to land only one keeper on a worm in the next three hours of casting buzzbaits and worms.

All afternoon, until a thunderstorm drove me off the lake, I rode open water ledges and points looking for fish. I could see fish on my electronics but could not get them to bite. Fish in open water often just hold in place, not feeding, until current makes them active. There was no current.

Friday morning, I caught a nice keeper up shallow around some grass on a chatterbait but that was my only bite shallow. Again, I rode deep structure and found excellent cover like brush piles and rocks, with fish on them, but got no bites. Since some Weiss bass are known to feed very shallow, even in hot water, and I could not get any bites out deep, I told my partner Chris Davies we would probably fish shallow all day both days.

Saturday morning we started on a rocky bank and within a few minutes I landed a 3.46 pound Coosa spotted bass on a spinnerbait, a good start. That fired me up but in the next hour I missed one bite on a frog and nothing else fishing spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and frogs while Chris tried a variety of baits.

We then fished some docks and I landed a little largemouth on a shaky head worm, so I hoped that was a pattern. Over the next five hours we fished all kinds of shallow cover, and Chris caught five keepers, the only other limit in the tournament, but I never hooked one.

At 1:00 on a windblown rocky bank I landed my third keeper on a spinnerbait. That was it for the day and at weigh-in Chris was in third place with 7.66 pounds and I was in fifth with 5.57 pounds, a very disappointing day. There were two four-pound bass weighed in making my spot third biggest fish, but most with a big fish caught only one or two more to go with it, like me.

Sunday morning, we tried a different starting place, running to some lighted docks, but got no strikes. As it got light we ran way up a creek to some grass beds where I have caught fish in past years but did not get a bite. At 7:30 we fished up a shady bank and I landed a small keeper on a spinnerbait, then on another small grassy point I caught two keepers close together on the spinnerbait.

For the next six hours we tried everything we could think of, fishing different places and a variety of baits, but neither of us ever got another bite.

At weigh-in Jay, after leading the first day, held on to first with his four keepers. But the others ahead of me the first day either zeroed or had one small fish. Glenn moved up from sixth to second with three nice fish and I moved up to third with my three small ones. Raymond moved up from seventh to fourth with four keepers, the most anyone other than Jay caught that day.

You never know what will happen in a tournament, as this shows. That is why I try to never give up until the last cast is made.

I heard the better fish were caught on buzzbits, but Chris and I never got a bite on one. I guess we were fishing the wrong places. I caught only one on a shaky head in two days but Chris caught all five of his on Saturday on one. The fishing was very tough and inconsistent!

Hope you had a great, safe Independence Day and remembered the reasons we celebrate, and kept the military that keeps us free and safe in your thoughts.

How Do You Track Wandering Habits of Smallmouth Bass?

Radios Reveal Wandering Habits of Smallmouth Bass in Oklahoma
Angler-funded research lends greater understanding of one of America’s greatest sport fish

By Craig Springer, USFWS
from The Fishing Wire

Pretty Oklahoma smallmouth stream


About the time that redbuds flash their pretty pinkish blooms on eastern Oklahoma’s hillsides and gray streamside sycamores unfurl their fresh leaves the color akin to a wet lime, there’s something curious going on.

And it goes mostly sight unseen.

Smallmouth bass are on the move with the singular purpose of procreation. As Planet Earth wobbles back to the vernal position the daylight lengthens, shadows shorten and the creeks warm. These cues signal to what is arguably America’s top freshwater sport fish that it’s time to spawn.

The fish that ardent anglers call “bronzeback,” hold a renowned reputation as energized packets of fish flesh. Twitch a floating stickbait on slick water over a dark pool at dusk or drag a crayfish-colored club-tailed jig over a gravelly run, and then hang on. The fight of this fish is always outsized. And expect a few leaps out of the water before you feel on your thumb its raspy lip at release. A plucky flip of the tail fin, a splash, and off it goes.

Smallmouth bass are an angler’s favorite—have been for years since well before former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientist and medical doctor, James Henshall, branded the species the “gamest fish that swims” in his 1881 tome, Book of the Black Bass. It’s still in print, by the way.

If you’ve caught one, you’re not hearing anything new. You know the “arrowy rush” that Henshall spoke of. And if you’re a licensed angler, take heart in knowing that you are helping pay for leading-edge research into the whereabouts of smallmouth bass in select Oklahoma streams, that in the end can improve a strain of bronzeback unique to the area—and make fishing all the better.

Dr. Shannon Brewer, an Associate Professor at Oklahoma State University, leads ongoing research into how the bass behaves through the year. Brewer and graduate student Andrew Miller monitor a strain of bronzebacks found only in the spring-fed streams in the Ozark highlands near where Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas converge. The fish is known as Neosho smallmouth bass—and it has an affinity for flowing water.

This habitat and behavior research on smallmouth bass that swim in Oklahoma’s Elk River and tributaries is paid for through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, collected through taxes paid by fishing tackle manufacturers on fishing gear, passed on to the angler. When an angler hears the ding of a cash register and coin drop in the till, they are paying for conservation. Brewer and Miller conduct the work expressly for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), which, in the end expects to use research findings to inform fishery management decisions.

How they get the work done is nearly as interesting as what they are learning. Brewer and Miller surgically implanted 100 Neosho smallmouth bass with radios, as early as 2015. The fish were caught by electrofishing, anesthetized, and the radios placed inside the body cavity and then stitched up. The bass were returned to the same streams in which they were caught after they recovered from surgery. A few radioed bass have been lost to otters and to anglers, but through the course of the study, at least 30 bass have remained tagged in each of three streams.

The radios emit a signal whereby the researchers relocated the fish many times, some for nearly three years before the batteries exhausted. In the warm months of March to October, the fish were relocated at least once weekly; in the colder months, only once per month. Though the research is still underway the professor and student have been able to gather a fair amount of information, revealing when and where these bass go through the year. Where the males take up housekeeping in the spring is of particular interest.

Brewer and Miller relocated the bass by walking streamside or kayaking, intent on hearing the distinct radio signals on a receiver they carried. Tracking through the winter months revealed very little movement, according to Brewer.

“Their favorite habitats in winter seemed to be deep pools,” said Brewer. “They would hold between rocks in slow water—and sometimes in quite shallow rocky areas—stationary. I’m an angler and naturally curious and snorkeled in January for a closer look. Smallmouth bass shoved themselves between rocks, in cavities, and in piles of woody debris – fish of all sizes. Some were wedged sideways in cavities, protected from swifter water. ”

As winter turned to spring, the two researchers found much variation among the many individual fish that carried radios. “Females were first to move,” said Brewer. “Come April, they were headed upstream to spawning sites. Some moved nearly five miles to find spawning habitat.”

Male smallmouth bass typically build nests over gravel in shallow water and court females to spawn. Males aggressively guard the nests during construction, through hatching and for a short spell as fry hover above the nest and the guarding male before disbursing to nursery habitat. The researchers noted that bass in their study seemed to concentrate in select areas which may speak to there being limited spawning habitat. As to what happened to the females, post-spawn, Brewer said they didn’t travel far, typically staying near the closest deep pools until around September when there seemed to be a downstream movement, particularly by the older and larger bass.

The three streams that harbored the radioed smallmouth bass all lead into Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. Curiously, none of the bass to date have been located in the reservoir – they have all stayed in the streams. Moreover, the bass stayed in the streams in which they were tagged, save for one female that moved seasonally between to streams.

And that speaks to their uniqueness, says ODWC biologist, Kurt Kuklinski, who oversees the research for the agency. He works at the Fisheries Research Lab in Norman. “Neosho smallmouth bass are a stream fish,” says Kuklinski. “They have a liking for cool, spring-fed flowing waters. They’re native to the eastern third of Oklahoma—and their reliance on Ozark streams makes them different than lake-dwelling smallmouth bass.”

The preliminary results are surely fascinating, but Kuklinski says the full picture is not yet in view. The two researchers have more work to do and a great amount of data to analyze. As bass behavior and habitat selection in northeastern Oklahoma streams come into better focus, it should be good for fishery managers and for anglers, ultimately.

–Craig Springer, External Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Southwest Region

Our 2nd Amendment Rights

My favorite meme from Facebook about Independence Day showed a fireworks display. The caption said, “Never forget that the lights and booms of our fireworks celebrate the sounds and flashes of muskets, cannon and rockets being fired against those trying to restrict our freedoms.”

Right now, with groups and politicians determined to restrict our 2nd Amendment Rights and groups shouting down speakers they disagree with at colleges and public forums, many of our rights are under attack. When people riot in the streets, destroying property and beating up people for disagreeing with them, we are in danger.

Our 2nd Amendment Rights have never been more important.

What Is ICast 2018?

Welcome to ICAST, 2018
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

Today is the opener of the world’s largest fishing tackle show, the annual ICAST show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (Yeah, I know–Orlando in July? In air-you-can-wear, gnats-big-as-rats July? The alternative is Vegas, where it “cools down” to 99 at night in July if you get lucky, so Florida is good, also closer to the huge southeast bass market buyers.)

Actually, today is more like some initial throat-clearing before things get down to brass tacks tomorrow through Friday.

The events for today are geared more towards getting us all into ICAST mode; there’s a bass tournament where media anglers fish with some noted pros on Lake Toho hosted by our partner publication Fishing Tackle Retailer, a golf tournament hosted by Florida Sportsman for those more inclined to chase golfs than largemouths, and a hands-on event at the lake behind the north hall called On the Water, where many of us will show our ability to throw backlashes with baitcasters or tie wind-knots in fly leaders.

More importantly, starting at 5 p.m. the annual New Product Showcase opens, the annual beauty pageant of the industry (no swimsuit competition this year–now it’s all about the talent). Getting your product named a “Best in Class” or ideally “Best in Show” means lots of sales, and so there’s a good bit of campaigning both before and during the show for the votes from the media and buyers. (At issue for all of us voting is that there are now so many entries in some of the categories that it’s virtually impossible to really give them each a careful, comparative review–but we do our best.)

And all of us in attendance will see hundreds of familiar faces, shake a whole lot of hands, spread a whole lot of industry scuttlebutt, and hopefully discover some actually new and exciting gear among all the “exciting color changes” and “brand new sizes”.

One likely bull-session topic this year will likely be the burgeoning trade war with China. Large contingents from China always attend, and if you took all the tackle built in China under American brand names out of the show, the hall would be decimated. How that high-stakes poker game plays out will surely affect not only the tackle industry but the boating industry as well in coming months.

Also important for many in the industry, there are near-continuous free seminars from some of the top names in retail and merchandising that can help the small business, i.e. back porch lure makers, rod builders, small tackle shop owners and the like, to thrive.

As Friday afternoon rolls around, the business of business will have been conducted, and the fishing tackle all of us will be seeing in the catalogs, on line and in the brick and mortar stores for the next 12 months will have been ordered.

And (at last!) the foot-weary, bleary-eyed road warriors will break down the sometimes massive exhibits–a total of more than 1200 of them–the buyers will wrap up their order sheets, the scribes will begin sorting through enough media kits to sink a bass boat and the professional angler personalities will go back to what they love doing most, fishing.

And a lot of smart attendees will be going over in their minds what worked, what did not, and what they’ll plan to do better when they come back next year.

We’ll have a closer look at some of the products that caught our eye in the days ahead.

Two Tough Lake Oconee Tournaments

Fishing at Oconee has been tough the past two weekends. Last Saturday the Potato Creek Bassmsters fished our June tournament there, and the weekend before the Flint River Bass Club fished our June tournament on Sunday.

In the Flint River club 14 members and guests fished nine hours to land 17 bass weighing about 36 pounds. There was one five-fish limit and seven members did not catch a 14-inch keeper.

Chuck Croft won with a limit weighing 12.57 pounds and had big fish with a 4.55 pound largemouth. I came in second with four at 8.67 pounds, Gary Cato had two weighing 3.84 for third and fourth was guest Kevin Cato with two weighing 2.86 pounds.

Chuck said he caught his fish on buzzbaits and landed six keepers during the day, culling one. I struggled, missing several bites early on a top water popper. My first keeper hit a shaky head worm by a dock at 8:30 then my second one came off another dock on the same bait less than an hour later.

After three hours of fishing docks without another keeper, I tried a deeper, rocky point and landed my third keeper on the shaky head worm at 12:30. My last keeper hit on another dock with just an hour left to fish, hitting the same bait.

In the Potato Creek Bassmasters, 21 members fished for eight hours to land 32 keepers weighing about 58 pounds. There was one limit and four fishermen did not catch a keeper.

Lee Hancock won with five weighing 8.26 pounds, Raymond English placed second with three weighing 6.02 pounds, Buddy Laseter was third with two at 5.51 pound. Niles Murray came in fourth with two weighing 5.34 pounds and his 3.74 pound largemouth was big fish.

I was somewhat excited Saturday morning, thinking I could catch fish like I did the weekend before, but it was not to be. I started better, landing two keepers early on a buzzbait and losing one about two pounds that jumped and threw the hook right beside the boat.

At 8:30 I fished some brush on a deep point that I had found with my electronics the weekend before and landed my third keeper. That was it, I did not catch another fish although I tried the same places I had caught fish the weekend before. It is amazing how things change in a few days.

Both tournaments were hot and boat traffic kept us rocking and rolling all day. This past Saturday was the worst, with no breeze and blazing sun. About noon I thought I was either having a heat stoke or getting seasick, or maybe a combination of the two!

Fishing during the day will be hot and you will face boat waves all day on weekends the rest of the summer. Night fishing is the way to go, it is cooler for you and the fish bite better. But there are so many idiots out there, even at night, that you have to be very careful, even more so than during the day.

The only thing worst than fishing in the heat and rough water is not going at all!

What Is the Top Bass Lake In the US?

Texas’ Sam Rayburn Named Nation’s Top Bass Lake
from The Fishing Wire

Best bass lake in the US?


Bassmaster Magazine has released the 2018 rankings for the 100 Best Bass Lakes in America, and Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas, has been named the No. 1 fishery in the country. Photo by B.A.S.S.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — After three years of hovering in the Top 5 of Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings, Texas’ Sam Rayburn Reservoir finally takes the crown for being the best bass lake in the nation for 2018.

The storied Lone Star State fishery has never ranked below 26th in the seven years the rankings have been published. However, the 114,500-acre lake started showing out in 2015, when it climbed to fifth. In 2016 it jumped to fourth. And last year, Rayburn was the bridesmaid, sitting in second place. But, Rayburn is a bridesmaid no more, and for the first time captures the title.

“Although there were some pretty spectacular numbers being produced from other lakes this year, Rayburn was a clear No. 1,” said James Hall, editor of Bassmaster Magazine. “While some lakes were boasting of a single 30-pound, five-bass limit being caught, Rayburn was spitting them out in rapid succession. And to top it off, a 40.28-pound limit was recorded in June.”

Countless limits of solid fish aren’t the only thing special about this lake.

“When it comes to double-digit bass, Rayburn also seems to top the list this year,” Hall continued. “Three 10-pounders were weighed in during a one-day February derby. Plus, a 12.05 and a 13.06 were landed here in March. The lake is simply on fire right now.”

The process to create the rankings takes about three months to complete. Data is received from state fisheries agencies across the U.S. This is coupled with catch data collected from dozens of tournament organizations across the country from the past 12 months. After the numbers are crunched, a blue-ribbon panel from the bass fishing industry debates the strength of the lakes, then settles on the final rankings.

The rankings identify the Top 10 lakes in the nation regardless of location, as well as the Top 25 lakes in four geographical divisions. “By dividing the Top 100 into four regions, anglers have perspective on fisheries nearby,” Hall explained.

Tennessee’s Chickamauga Lake, which takes the No. 2 slot this year, made a strong argument for No. 1, as it also produced 40-plus-pound limits this spring. Yes, that was plural — two five-fish limits exceeding 42 pounds were landed this year. Although this 36,240-acre fishery hasn’t produced quite as many big fish as Rayburn, there were two bass over 10 pounds recorded here since February, the biggest weighing 11.21 pounds.

California’s Clear Lake landed in the No. 3 position on the strength of its production of big largemouth. Lake St. Clair, a former No. 1 in 2013, climbed from ninth last year to the fourth spot in 2018, while Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake (last years’ No. 1 fishery) fell to No. 5. The remainder of the nation’s Top 10 are: sixth, Santee Cooper lakes (Marion/Moultrie), South Carolina; seventh, Diamond Valley Lake, California.; eighth, Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York; ninth, Lake Guntersville, Alabama; 10th, Falcon Lake, Texas.

Other highlights include the comeback of Lake Guntersville, which has finally turned the corner on several subpar years of production for the stalwart fishery. Newcomers to the rankings include Texas’ Belton Lake, Arkansas’ Lake Chicot, Maryland’s Potomac River, Mississippi’s Lake Ferguson and Oregon’s Tahkenitch Lake.

When it comes to bragging rights for the state with the most lakes to make the Top 100 list, Texas wins with 12. California boasts eight fisheries within the rankings, while Florida has the third most with seven.

Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass lakes will be published in a 12-page section of the July/August issue ofBassmaster Magazine. The complete rankings can also be found in Bassmaster.com photo galleries.

2018 List Of Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes
Rank Fishery State
Top 10
1 Sam Rayburn Reservoir Texas
2 Chickamauga Lake Tennessee
3 Clear Lake California
4 Lake St. Clair Michigan
5 Mille Lacs Lake Minnesota
6 Santee Cooper lakes (Marion/Moultrie) South Carolina
7 Diamond Valley Lake California
8 Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River) New York
9 Lake Guntersville Alabama
10 Falcon Lake Texas

Central
1 Sam Rayburn Reservoir Texas
2 Mille Lacs Lake Minnesota
3 Falcon Lake Texas
4 Toledo Bend Reservoir Texas/Louisiana
5 Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin
6 Lake Conroe Texas
7 Lake Lyndon B. Johnson Texas
8 Lake O’ the Pines Texas
9 Millwood Lake Arkansas
10 La Cygne Lake Kansas
11 Lake Ray Roberts Texas
12 Lake Palestine Texas
13 Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees Oklahoma
14 Lake of the Ozarks Missouri
15 Lake Dardanelle Arkansas
16 Bull Shoals Lake Arkansas
17 Caddo Lake Texas/Louisiana
18 Newton Lake Illinois
19 Lake Ouachita Arkansas
20 Lake Oahe South Dakota
21 Belton Lake Texas
22 Table Rock Lake Missouri/Arkansas
23 Lake Chicot Arkansas
24 Lake Texoma Texas/Oklahoma
25 Lake Fork Texas

Northeastern
1 Lake St. Clair Michigan
2 Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River) New York
3 Lake Erie New York
4 Lake Erie Ohio
5 Lake Champlain New York/Vermont
6 Bays de Noc Michigan
7 Saginaw Bay Michigan
8 Lake Charlevoix Michigan
9 Burt/Mullet lakes Michigan
10 Grand Traverse Bay Michigan
11 Potomac River Maryland/Virginia/West Virginia
12 Oneida Lake New York
13 Cayuga Lake New York
14 Lake Barkley Kentucky
15 Presque Isle Bay Pennsylvania
16 Upper Chesapeake Bay Maryland
17 Lake Cumberland Kentucky
18 Smith Mountain Lake Virginia
19 Webber Pond Maine
20 China Lake Maine
21 Great Pond Maine
22 Candlewood Lake Connecticut
23 Chatauqua Lake New York
24 Lake Winnipesaukee New Hampshire
25 Kentucky Lake Kentucky/Tennessee

Southeastern
1 Chickamauga Lake Tennessee
2 Santee Cooper lakes (Marion/Moultrie) South Carolina
3 Lake Guntersville Alabama
4 Lake Okeechobee Florida
5 Lake Tohopekaliga Florida (plus Kissimmee Chain of Lakes)
6 Pickwick Lake Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee
7 Lake Istokpoga Florida
8 Shearon Harris North Carolina
9 Lake Eufaula Alabama/Georgia
10 Lake Seminole Georgia/Florida
11 Rodman Reservoir Florida
12 Cooper River South Carolina
13 Wilson Lake Alabama
14 Lake Ferguson Mississippi
15 Lake Burton Georgia
16 Lake Murray South Carolina
17 Falls Lake North Carolina
18 Harris Chain of Lakes Florida
19 Lake Greenwood South Carolina
20 Bay Springs Lake Mississippi
21 Kerr Lake (Buggs Island) North Carolina/Virginia
22 High Rock Lake North Carolina
23 Lake Hartwell Georgia/South Carolina
24 Kenansville Reservoir Florida
25 Logan Martin Lake Alabama

Western
1 Clear Lake California
2 Diamond Valley Lake California
3 Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta California
4 New Melones Lake California
5 Don Pedro Reservoir California
6 Lake Berryessa California
7 Lake Havasu Arizona/California
8 Roosevelt Lake Arizona
9 Lake Perris California
10 Tenmile Lake Oregon
11 Lake Mohave Nevada/Arizona
12 Lake Pleasant Arizona
13 Potholes Reservoir Washington
14 Fort Peck Reservoir Montana
15 Coeur d’Alene Lake Idaho
16 Lake Washington Washington
17 Dworshak Reservoir Idaho
18 Saguaro Lake Arizona
19 Lake Powell Utah/Arizona
20 C.J. Strike Reservoir Idaho
21 Elephant Butte Reservoir New Mexico
22 Siltcoos Lake Oregon
23 Lake Mead Nevada/Arizona
24 Tahkenitch Lake Oregon
25 Columbia River Oregon/Washington

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Series presented by Magellan Outdoors, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.