Monthly Archives: October 2018

Oregon Working Landscape Project

Oregon Working Landscape Project
from The Fishing Wire

Construction Completed on Oregon Working Landscape Project Benefiting Farmers, Fish

Winter Lake Channels

Unique partnership of federal, state, tribal and local agencies, the agriculture industry, and environmental community worked together on a mutually beneficial habitat restoration project supporting salmon recovery.

Aerial view of construction of new habitat channels at Winter Lake. Credit BCI Contracting, Inc.

Partners representing natural resource, tribal, and agricultural stakeholders recently gathered in the Coquille River Valley in Oregon. They celebrated the completion of the Winter Lake restoration project, which will help ensure local cattle farmers continue to thrive. The project will also provide almost 8 miles of tidal channels and 1,700 acres of habitat for the threatened Oregon Coast coho salmon, and other fish and wildlife.

Habitat restoration and agriculture are often considered competing interests.This partnership between natural resource entities and agricultural landowners demonstrates that the two can benefit from a strategically planned project.

Cows Where Fish Will Be

Cows grazing on land that will be transformed to fish habitat in the winter.

Lowlands in and around the Valley’s Beaver Slough Drainage District are rich pasture for cattle, and are in high demand. In the past, levees were built, channels straightened, and acres of wetlands were filled to create agricultural land.

But the tidal gates managing water and helping keep the land dry for grazing started failing recently and had to be replaced. The Drainage District saw this opportunity to establish a new partnership to reimagine how water is managed there.

Their vision of “working landscapes” was to improve water control and protect the land from flooding during prime grazing season in the warmer months, and rebuild high-quality habitat for juvenile coho salmon in the winter.

Cute Sign

Where “we grow beef in the summer and fish in the winter.”

The project’s cornerstone is a set of new state-of-the-art tide gates that can better control flooding—allowing for seasonal use by agriculture, and fish and wildlife. The tide gates, working with reconnected channels and new habitat will provide the best of both worlds.

NOAA helped Beaver Slough Drainage District, the Nature Conservancy, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and nearby land owner China Creek Gun Club develop plans for this comprehensive project. We supported it further with restoration and resilience grants totaling $2.7 million.

Water Control Project

Aerial view of the Winter Lake project’s new tide gates. BCI Contracting, Inc.

It is expected that the project could generate up to $3.4 million and 25 new jobs in the regional economy. It could then contribute an additional $3.2 million due to increased outdoor recreation spending over a twenty-year period.

Along the Pacific Northwest coast, wild salmon populations continue to decline. Like many northwestern rivers, the Coquille has lost much of its estuary habitat. Nearly 95 percent of prime salmon spawning and rearing waters there are gone.

Habitat restoration through innovative public-private partnership projects like this are the key to success. They eventually will assist in the recovery of salmon and other fish species critical to this region’s ecosystems and communities.

Remote Pond Survey Project

Maine’s Remote Pond Survey Project

Seasonal Technicians Chris Introne and Dan Perry haul in a gill net while surveying an Unnamed Pond
By MDIFW Fisheries Biologist Merry Gallagher
from The Fishing Wire

Doing a pond survey

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Fisheries Division Native Fish Conservation Group completed another successful and perhaps the last summer of remote pond surveys in 2018.

Since 2011, MDIFW has teamed with volunteer anglers from Trout Unlimited and Maine Audubon to systematically survey pond habitats in Maine that had never been surveyed to assess fish community structure, determine basic water quality or aquatic habitat condition. When the effort began, almost 600 presumed ponds were identified from maps as having never been surveyed, but ‘the list’ was eventually pared down to 533 mapped features more indicative of ponds.

The Remote Pond Survey was set up as a two-step process – first, volunteer anglers with Maine Audubon and Trout Unlimited would visit a pond and by following a protocol established by all three partners (IFW, MA, TU) would record valuable information regarding how to access these remote ponds and also provide information on their fishing, such as species caught or detected, evidence of fishing activity occurring at the pond, and observations regarding habitat condition and water quality.

Old log structure

The remains of an old log driving structure on the outlet of Little Bog Pond.

These results provided by anglers contributed to waters being ranked for their likelihood of having wild brook trout populations or being coldwater fish habitat (Table 1) so that IFW biologists could concentrate our efforts on surveying waters that held the most promise for adding additional wild brook trout populations and their habitats to our roster of surveyed waters. The waters that IFW staff survey through a standard protocol estimates fish community structure, develops a basic map of the habitat, estimates pond depth and bathymetry, and measures basic water quality is phase 2 of the process.

Over seven years of effort, the volunteer survey ranked about 460 of the initial 533 remote presumed ponds with a Priority Code and referred that list to MDIFW for potential further action. Since 2012, MDIFW Fishery Biologists have been surveying remote ponds with Priority Codes of 1, 2 or 3. Although a large portion of this effort has been conducted by the Department’s native fish conservation group based in Bangor, regional staff have also conducted a fair share of these surveys and have assisted the Department’s native fish conservation group on occasion over the years.

Pond Brook Trout

Seasonal Technician Dan Perry with some wild brook trout sampled during a remote pond survey.

For the 2018 summer field season, the Department’s native fish conservation group staff conducted 46 remote pond surveys and we have added survey information to MDIFW databases for 196 waters total, of which 95 support previously undocumented populations of wild brook trout, since this effort began. We are thrilled to report that all ponds with a Priority Code of 1 or 2 are now completed and of the ponds remaining on the list, some are scheduled for survey in upcoming years by regional staff, most are ranked with Priority Codes of 4 or 5 and therefore do not likely warrant further effort, and less than 10 ponds with a Priority Code of 3 remain for consideration of future effort.

This has been a very large and dedicated effort by many! It was a monumental task to whittle a list of 533 unsurveyed presumed remote ponds down to a handful remaining in less than ten years. Without the dedication from the many volunteers, MA and TU, IFW staff and leadership, we would not be here today with a now largely completed Remote Pond Survey. Well done all!

Table 1. Priority Codes given to remote ponds based on Volunteer Angler Survey results
1 BKT caught by volunteer or present based on credible evidence
2 BKT possible, unconfirmed report, good water or habitat quality, etc.
3 BKT somewhat possible but not as likely as a Priority 2
4 Little to no expectation of finding BKT
5 Most likely will not be visited because of poor habitat, water quality, etc

Pond Headwaters Survey

Assessing the condition of an inlet to Little Mucalsea Pond as part of our standard pond survey protocol.

Lake Martin Annual Tournament

In our annual three club two-day tournament at Lake Martin last weekend, 27 members weighed in 244 bass weighing about 357 pounds. We had 26 five-fish limits on Saturday and 21 limits on Sunday. There was one zero for both days. There were only 36 largemouth.

Lee Hancock won with 10 bass weighing 21.96 pounds and had big fish with a 4.38 pound largemouth. Doug Acree was second with ten at 19.87 pounds, Tom Tanner placed third with ten weighing 18.04 pounds and Kwong Yu was fourth with ten at 17.94.

We pay out the top four and big fish each day based on that day’s catch. Saturday, Tom Tanner won with 11.10 pounds, Kwong Yu was second with 10.94, Raymond English was third with 10.76, Lee Hancock was fourth with 10.36 and I came in fifth with 10.0. Raymond English had big fish with a 3.33 pounder.

Sunday Lee Hancock won with 11.60 pounds, Doug Acree had 9.97 for second, third was William Scott with 9.33 and his partner Dylan Lawrence was fourth with 8.95. Tom Tanner placed fifth with 8.77. Lee Hancock had big fish with his 4.38 pounder and was the only fisherman to win money both days.

I went over Wednesday in the pouring rain and set up camp at Wind Creek State Park. Thursday, I tried a few things and thought I had a pattern of decent size spots on deep rocky points. I caught my biggest fish, a 2.5-pound spot, from a blowdown so I hoped that was a back-up plan. But I did not catch fish in the tournament on either!

Friday, I got up before daylight and thought I had found some fish on a shallow point at first light. I didn’t fish much, deciding to come in and rest.

Saturday, I caught two decent spots on my first stop. Then I spent the next six hours catching small fish on the two patterns from Thursday that I knew I did not want to weigh in. I needed bigger fish.

At 2:00 I cast a jig under a dock and caught a bigger spot, about 2.5 pounds, so I started fishing docks. I soon caught another 2.5 pound spot, then landed a 2.63 pound largemouth, under other docks, before 3:00. Although I fished docks hard for the last two hours I did not catch another keeper.

Sunday I again caught two fish on my first stop, but they were small spots I hoped to cull. So, I started fishing docks but could catch only small spots. I had a limit at 9:00 but they were small and my best five weighted in only 6.25 pounds.

At noon I decided to try other things and caught as few small spots. I probably should have stuck with docks since the fish started hitting around them after lunch the day before. As usual, I wish I could go back and do something else.

I love Lake Martin and camping at Wind Creek. On my first trip there in 1975 I caught my first spotted bass ever. And we usually catch a lot of fish, as all the limits in the tournament show. It is a fun place to fish and the bass bite good all fall.

Stacey Abrams Opposes Your 2nd Amendment Civil Rights

If you are a gun owner, the midterm election on November 6 is even more important, especially the Georgia Governor’s race. Brian Kemp fully supports your civil rights under the 2nd Amendment. Stacey Abrams does not support them at all.

On the nonpartisan website “On the Issues” candidates’ stances on issues are listed by category based on comments, past votes and policy statements. They are given without comment. The following are given under “Gun Control” and “Crime,” followed by my comments. Some of her positions are from her own website.

“Gun-carry license doesn’t apply to ‘campus carry.” (Mar 2017) She is against allowing 21-year-old students that have undergone a fingerprint background check to earn a Georgia Weapons License to carry their legal gun for protection.

“State should enact reasonable restrictions on guns.“ I’m pretty sure what she considers “reasonable” would not be considered as such by law-abiding gun owners since they would only restrict the us, not criminals.

“Require universal background checks.” That is gun control speak that means you could not give your grandfather’s shotgun to your child without paying a licensed gun dealer to run a background check on them. Also, you could not sell a gun to a friend or family member with paying for the check.

Based on her voting record while in the Georgia legislature, she is rated “F” by the NRA, and she says she is proud of that rating. Every gun ban group I could find supports her.

She is endorsed by Hillary Clinton – I received a robo call from Hillary saying, “I’m Hillary Clinton, and I urge you to vote for my good friend Stacey Abrams.”

She is also endorsed by past presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter and congresswomen Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi. US Senators endorsing her include Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. Other politicians endorsing her are Eric Holder and Joe Biden.

On a couple of issues other than guns, she is against mandatory sentences for those assaulting police officers and wants everyone to pay their “fair share.” Just how much of my money that I earned is my “fair share” for the government to take away from me to give to others, after taking out “administrative” fees?

Fortunately, Georgia Governors cannot make laws. Unfortunately, they can veto pro-gun legislation, help guide antigun legislation through the legislature, and use their bully pulpit to push it.

As an adamant civil rights supporter, and pretty much a one issue voter, my decision is easy.

Comeback of Greenback Cutthroat

Colorado Parks & Wildlife Works Toward Comeback of Greenback Cutthroat

By Jason Clay, Colorado Parks & Wildlife
from The Fishing Wire

Green Cutthroat Trout making a comeback

HERMAN GULCH, Colo. – Something fishy is taking place up at the headwaters of Clear Creek, and that is exactly what aquatic biologists for Colorado Parks and Wildlife were hoping to see when they went looking for the native greenback cutthroat trout.

The history of the greenbacks has been well documented – they have traversed through turbulent waters and were once thought to be extinct – but now CPW has evidence that Colorado’s state fish is making a successful return in its ancestral waters.

CPW aquatic biologist Boyd Wright and his team has been stocking greenbacks into the Clear Creek headwaters four miles above I-70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel for the past three years.

After a seemingly unsuccessful plant of 4,000 hatchlings in the Herman Gulch stream in 2016 – few had survived the winter – aquatic biologists persisted and their conservation efforts are now paying off.

“It has been a long road with lots of hard work by some really good and passionate people, but it is very gratifying to see these encouraging results for the greenback cutthroat trout,” Wright said on Thursday, Sept.13, following a population survey conducted at Herman Gulch.

Wright and his team replanted greenbacks into the Herman Gulch waters in both 2017 and 2018. They stocked nearly 1,000 one-year-old fish and just under 10,000 young-of-year fish, i.e. hatchlings, in 2017, and another 900 one-year-old fish earlier this summer.

“We’ve documented all of those cohorts of fish here today, which is good,” Wright said streamside sitting at roughly 11,500-feet underneath Pettingell Peak.

For the population survey, Wright and his team took three population samples on the stream, using electroshocking to capture the fish on the chosen 100-yard segments. After netting the fish, they were measured and weighed for documentation, as well as examined to see which planting group and year they came from.

Wright then took the results from the three samples and was able to calculate a population estimate. He found a 30 percent survival/retention rate of the of the 1,000 fish that were stocked at yearlings in 2017 and estimated the total population at 435 fish/mile.

“That may not sound all that well, but it is actually quite good,” Wright said. “We expect that not all of the fish will be able to survive and we set the stocking number accordingly, so I’m really happy to see that level of survival in the system.”

A 30 percent estimated retention rate on the one-year-old greenbacks that have been stocked into the system to date is extremely encouraging.

It could be the start of a massive success story for Colorado’s state fish that has boomed and busted over the past century. Wright is now bullish on the conservation effort for the greenback.

“The long-term goal of this project is to have a self-sustaining population of pure greenback cutthroat trout that doesn’t require any maintenance with stocking,” Wright said. “We are stocking it now to try to load the system up with fish and once we get to the point where we have reached a good density of fish in the system, we’ll stop stocking.”

The target for that is 2019, but in the meantime, Wright and his team are doubling down on their efforts. Two weeks after the population survey, they were back stocking more greenbacks into Herman Gulch.

To get that self-sustaining population, evidence of what biologists call “recruitment” needs to take place. The scientists need to see signs of the fish reproducing.

The first year to look for that evidence will be in 2019 when Wright predicts that the fish they have stocked will be reproductively mature. In 2020, they will be able to tell that the fish that are spawned in 2019 have been recruited into the population.

“I think by 2020 we will have a sense if this is working or not and everything that we know about this system so far, the fish that were here previously were a hybrid cutthroat and they did really well in this stream,” Wright said. “The water temperature is suitable for trout recruitment, we know that, and it’s a pretty productive stream for such a small stream. The expectation is that these fish will do well here.”


CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 41 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW’s work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.

Arctic Grayling in Michigan

Efforts Continue to Reintroduce Arctic Grayling in Michigan

Michigan Department of Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

Michigan Grayling

It’s been a little over two years since the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, announced a new initiative to bring back a long-gone historical species – Arctic grayling – to the Great Lakes state.

Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative – with more than 45 partners, including state and tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses and universities – is committed to reintroducing this culturally significant species, with steady progress made since June 2016.

“Our formal mission as an initiative is to restore self-sustaining populations of Arctic grayling within its historic range in Michigan,” said DNR Fisheries Division Assistant Chief Todd Grischke.

Michigan’s history with the Arctic grayling is long and storied. A striking fish with a sail-like dorsal fin and a slate blue color on its body, it was virtually the only native stream salmonid (a family of fish that also includes salmon and trout) in the Lower Peninsula until the resident population died off nearly a century ago.

“The fact we have a town named after this fish indicates just how iconic it was, and still is, to many in this state,” Grischke said. “When you add in other factors – such as the fact they’re only native to Michigan and Montana out of all the lower 48 states – it just adds to their legendary status.”

In the 19th century, Arctic grayling were found in many coldwater streams in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula and in one Upper Peninsula stream – and large populations of grayling flourished in the Manistee and Au Sable rivers – offering anglers plenty of opportunity to catch these unique fish.

But a variety of factors slowly erased their presence, including the cutting of Michigan’s vast virgin forest in the 1800s.

“Logging practices during that time period used streams to transport trees that were harvested. The streams carried logs to mills for processing,” explained Grischke. “These practices greatly impacted the physical nature of those streams and basically destroyed stream habitats for fish, including grayling spawning areas.”

Additionally, the cutting of the trees caused blockages in many of those same streams, often displacing grayling from where they lived, but this was just one issue that affected Michigan’s Arctic grayling, another being the introduction of non-native fish species.

“Other types of trout were introduced into Michigan’s waters to create additional opportunities for anglers to pursue – but a consequence of this action was that grayling couldn’t compete with more aggressive fish like brown, rainbow or brook trout,” Grischke said.

The other factor that led to the species’ demise was overfishing, as people harvested grayling in large quantities with no possession limits or other regulations to stop them.

The last native Arctic grayling on record in Michigan were caught in 1936. Since that time, natural resource managers have repeatedly looked for options to reintroduce the species.

“In the late 1800s and early 1900s they tried stocking millions of Arctic grayling fry into Michigan streams, but that didn’t work,” said Grischke. “And then in the 1980s we, the DNR, stocked hatchery-reared yearlings into lakes and streams, but again to no avail.”

In each of these previous reintroduction efforts, something critical was missing that prevented these populations from flourishing, but the Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative hopes to rectify that.

“We have learned from the previous reintroduction events and plan to capitalize on new approaches, dedicated partnerships and advanced technology,” Grischke explained.

Much of the initiative’s focus is detailed in its official action plan, reflective of the vast work to be done by various partners.

The group is gleaning as much information as possible from the state of Montana and its successful effort at re-establishing stable Arctic grayling populations. In addition to Michigan receiving help from biologists in Montana, both states also have been collaborating with Alaska.

“Within our action plan we’ve identified four focus areas and associated goals that were developed by all the partners and that we believe will give us the best chance of success moving forward,” said Grischke.

The four focus areas of the action plan are research, management, fish production, and outreach and education.

The research focus area includes work – already under way – on understanding relationships between resident trout and grayling, prioritizing streams for grayling introduction and evaluating in-stream remote site incubators. These incubators allow fish to be reared and released directly in the streams to better allow them to imprint to the waters they hopefully will reproduce in later.

Better imprinting means the initiative will be one step closer to establishing a self-sustaining population of Arctic grayling, which is the ultimate outcome of this effort.

The cost to reintroduce the fish will total around $1.1 million, according to DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter, with virtually the entire amount being supplied through private and foundation support.

To date, nearly $325,000 has been raised for the initiative. Contributors include the Consumers Energy Foundation, the Henry E. and Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation, Rotary Charities of Traverse City, Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, Oleson Foundation and Little Manistee River Watershed Conservation Council. Plans are under way to recognize donors at Oden State Fish Hatchery.

“A diverse group of partners has invested themselves toward attaining a shared goal, and that says something about the nature of this project,” said Dexter.

Funders are critical in financially supporting various projects within the initiative.

“I am delighted to play a role in returning the Arctic grayling to northern Michigan’s streams,” said Charles Wilson, a member of the Henry E. and Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation’s board. “There has been a void in Michigan’s biotic community for way too long, but thanks to knowledge gained from Montana’s experience and research performed elsewhere, a reasonable chance exists today for successful reintroduction.”

Goals for the management focus area will include evaluating key habitat criteria, establishing population goals, and working on regulations related to fishing for grayling.

The fish production focus area’s work will center on experimenting with remote site incubator designs, ensuring fish health standards are upheld and maintaining a genetically diverse broodstock (fish used for breeding purposes) that will be housed at a hatchery facility.

Lastly, goals for the outreach and education focus area will be concentrated on informing the public about this initiative’s efforts, identifying future partners and creating a stewardship plan.

“The goals of these focus areas will be accomplished by partner representatives working together,” Grischke shared. “The only way this initiative will be successful is if we continue to work together towards our mission.”

To learn more about the Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative, visit

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Food For Deer

I admit I am a deer shooter, not a deer hunter. For years I have not done much scouting. One big reason is the Lyme Disease I got from a tick bite about 12 years ago. Being in the woods when ticks are active in late summer and early fall does not sound like a good idea after fighting that disease for a year.

I am also lazy – the older I get the lazier I get. But I have hunted the same areas since 1982 and watched them change due to logging, but the deer movements have not changed a lot. They may make new travel routes around fresh clear cuts, but they still feed under the same big white oaks they have been using for years.

For the past 20 years I have planted winter wheat, Austrian Winter Peas and clover on a couple of food plots. But this year I got lazier and did not plant much. It is too easy to put out corn now that it is legal. Although you don’t hunt over corn, or over food plots, you just shoot deer that come to you, I hunt only for venison.

On both food plots and corn piles you are more likely to see does and yearlings during shooting hours. Big bucks that are the goal of deer hunters are too smart to come out in the open during the day, except for a few weeks in early November in our area, when they lose their minds during rut.

I have shot a few decent bucks over the years, but they did not excite me any more that shooting a doe or yearling. I think that I mainly because I shot them more by accident than effort. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I respect trophy buck hunters for the efforts they make to put themselves in the right position to kill their dream buck. But for me it is like fishing a tournament. I often know that if I want to catch big fish to win, but most likely won’t catch many and could possibly zero, I have to dedicate my day to trying to get quality bites.

Instead I typically go after keeper fish, hoping for a limit. That does not always work, either, but the odds are better to catch something to weigh in. I do luck up on decent bass sometimes, but it is just luck for me, like shooting a big buck.

When I cut my food plots recently I was happy to see the clover was still growing and doing well. I could not see it until I cut all the weeds off it. And most years some winter wheat comes back from the year before. I can tell this because I usually change areas where I plant it each year.

I was happy to see a couple of the crab apple trees I got from the Forestry Service two years ago doing well. There are no apples yet, but I hope for some in another few years. The natural persimmon trees on the edge of the field have a few fruit each year, including this one, but they never produce much.

I am real disappointed in the dozen persimmon trees that came up in the field. I have carefully cut around them and fertilized them. Last year I saw a couple of persimmons on a couple of trees, but the trees in the field are 15 to 20 feet tall so they should be old enough to be producing a lot of fruit.

I found out there are male and female persimmon trees and no way to tell them apart, other than the female trees are the only ones that produce fruit. I was afraid they were all male but seeing even one or two fruit on a tree tells me they are female.

The biggest tree had two fruit on it last year so I hoped this year would produce a lot more, but although the tree is healthy and lush, there is not a single one on it. I probably should have ordered persimmon trees from the Forestry Service to insure I had good ones, but my laziness made me just do a little work on the volunteer ones.

A few years ago, I got excited to see a tree in the corner of the field loaded with fruit. I thought it was an old crabapple tree near the old house site. But when the Forestry Service tech came to plow my field, he said it was a Bradford pear tree. Deer really don’t eat the fruit for some reason and they cause problems. When birds carry the fruit into my planted pines, the seeds start growing and the young trees put out some chemical that stunts other growth around it. I want those pines to grow!

There is a good article by Eric Bruce in this month’s Alabama Outdoor News magazine about natural food sources for deer. Eric is a true deer hunter and he goes out and finds natural food, travel routes and places to hunt big deer.

I know about a lot of the food sources he describes like Trumpet vines, honey suckle, black berries, green briar, privet, mushrooms and wild grapes. After reading this article I realized I have other natural food like ragweed, pokeweed and beggar weed I did not think about.

Other surprises were sumac and beauty berry. I saw several sumac bushes around the edge of my field, so I made sure to miss them with the mower.

Gun season opens in two weeks and many hunters, and even more shooters will be in the woods looking for food or a trophy. Which are you?

Alabama Red Snapper

Snapper Anglers Can Offer Input at Gulf Council Meeting in Mobile

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

Alabama red snapper

Gulf anglers who are dedicated to catching Alabama’s most popular reef fish species – red snapper – will have an opportunity to share their opinions with the policy makers at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting in Mobile later this month. During the meeting, members of the Gulf Council will continue discussions on a change in red snapper management that would give the individual Gulf States more flexibility in establishing the length of the fishing season within each state.

Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) Director Scott Bannon and MRD Chief Biologist Kevin Anson urge all anglers who want to see the individual states manage the reef fish fishery to become a part of the process when the Gulf Council meets Oct. 22-25 at the Renaissance Battle House in downtown Mobile.

The Reef Fish Committee meets at 8:30 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 23, to discuss Amendment 50, which deals with state management of red snapper. The segment of the Gulf Council meeting Bannon and Anson highlight as the chance for the public to participate in the process is the comment period from 1:30-4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

“In this particular Council meeting, we really need to make some decisions on the state management plans that could come into effect after 2019,” Bannon said.

Alabama’s 2019 red snapper season remains under the exempted fishing permit (EFP) that NOAA Fisheries granted for the 2018-2019 seasons. That EFP allowed the individual states to set seasons that would allow harvest of a specific number of pounds of red snapper as long as it did not exceed the overall quota.

Alabama anglers showed a renewed enthusiasm for red snapper fishing this past summer, and MRD officials were forced to close the snapper season early. The Marine Resources Division based its proposed 47-day 2018 season on the data gathered from the 2017 snapper season. That data included daily catch rate, size of the fish and the amount of angler effort (man-days fishing for snapper).

Alabama closely monitors the red snapper harvest through its red snapper reporting program, known as Snapper Check. After the data came in on July 8, MRD realized that red snapper fishermen had taken advantage of near-ideal conditions to catch fish at such a rate that the quota of 984,291 pounds of red snapper would be exceeded unless the season was closed after 28 days.

“Everything that you would be concerned about as an angler wasn’t a concern,” Anson said, explaining why angler participation and harvest rates skyrocketed in 2018. “When you go offshore, you have to make sure you have enough money to pay for fuel and supplies. The economy is good. They didn’t have to worry about the weather, as winds and seas were great this year during the snapper season days for the most part. And, the fish are there and they’re easy to catch.”

Although the 2019 snapper season will still fall under the EFP, no plan is in place for 2020 and beyond. Without a new plan, the private recreational angler would revert to a federal season, which was ridiculously short before the EFP was granted.

“If we go back to a federal season, that may not work out very well for private recreational anglers,” Bannon said. “There will be a lot of discussion on Amendment 50 at this Council meeting.”

Anson, who is MRD’s representative on the Gulf Council, said Amendment 50 is an alternative to the traditional federal form of fisheries management. “Basically, it’s a form of management that apportions a percentage of the recreational quota to each state. Then the states set their seasons based on those available pounds,” Anson said.

“Amendment 50 states that the Gulf states have a portion of the total recreational allocation, which may or may not include federal charter boats,” Anson said.

Alabama’s charter-for-hire fleet opted to abide by traditional federal management for the 2018 season, which gave them a 51-day season, fishing straight through from June 1 through July 21.

Anson said charter-for-hire vessels are included in Amendment 50, although there is discussion to exclude them from the amendment.

Anson said several options are on the table in Amendment 50 to determine what each state’s apportionment would be, including traditional harvest data and a biomass estimate.

The biomass (number of red snapper in the Gulf) estimate may not bode well for Alabama’s share.

“The assessment estimates that the majority of red snapper are west of the Mississippi River,” Anson said. “That would be Louisiana and Texas. The proportion of red snapper for the other three states is lower. Compared to historical landings data, our allocation of fish would go down in that situation.”

Anson said if Amendment 50 is passed and goes into effect, it will give states as much control over the fishery as federal law allows through the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Congress must amend Magnuson-Stevens to give states more control than what is currently being considered under Amendment 50, Anson said.

“Under this amendment, states could set their seasons,” Bannon said. “The seasons will be set under a total allowable catch for the entire Gulf. Probably the number one topic for Amendment 50 is can the states agree on the allocation percentage for each state and vote that forward so that everything will be done in time for the 2020 season.

“The other topic has to do with the federal for-hire boats. Do they totally come out of the amendment? Two states are fighting very hard to keep the for-hire boats in the amendment, and the federal for-hire folks in the other three states would not like to see that. They want to keep the federal season. The meeting in Mobile is a chance for the owners of federal for-hire vessels to express that to the Council.”

Bannon said historically the private recreational anglers have been reluctant for whatever reasons to provide public testimony and participate in the process. He hopes that will change later this month.

“Red snapper fishing in Alabama is a huge deal,” Bannon said. “This Gulf Council meeting is being held in Mobile. I want to encourage people from Alabama who consider this to be very important to come and provide public comment during the process. My take is that if you can take a day off to go fishing, then you can take a day off to come to the meeting and be a part of the solution for 2020 and beyond. We get a lot of people whose response is ‘The process is stupid’ or ‘It doesn’t work,’ when they don’t know how it works. This is their opportunity to see how the Council process works.”

PHOTOS: (David Rainer) Large red snapper have become abundant in Alabama’s unparalleled artificial reef zones. Alabama-based charter vessels take advantage of the plentiful snapper during the summer federal season.

Justin Lucas Wins BASS Angler of the Year

Justin Lucas: The Path to Angler of the Year
from The Fishing Wire

Justin Lucas wins BASS Angler of the Year

This time, just one year ago, Justin Lucas watched the Angler of the Year championship tournament come and go from the sidelines. 2017 would mark his worst year on the Bassmaster Elite Series and leave him without a bid to the following Bassmaster Classic. With only a short winter to reflect and prepare for the 2018 season, Lucas went to work.

“I had a tough year last year. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it was because things got out of whack in my fishing,” said Lucas, referring to his season in which he finished tied for 64th place. “I put too much emphasis on practicing to win instead of practicing to do what I do best. I’d fish a technique that I wasn’t good at just because I thought that was the way to win.”

Frustration and forcefulness has proven to be the downfall of many anglers’ seasons. For Lucas, there’s no question in defining what set him free on his route to winning AOY.

“The birth of my son, Cooper Jack, had a huge impact on me. It’s unbelievable what something like that can do to your thinking. I realized that regardless of how I fished or where I finished in a tournament I had a responsibility to help take care of him and to set an example for him, even at a young age.

“Recognizing that there were other things more important in life than the tournament I’m fishing in allowed me to relax and just do my thing. In the end, that was what I needed to get things back on track.”

From the first cast of this season, it was noticeable the tides had turned. The 50th year of Bassmaster and the 2018 Angler of The Year would belong to Lucas.

With most of his focus on becoming an elite father, Lucas settled back into the zone on the water. Lucas relied heavily on a set of techniques he perfected through a childhood on the California Delta and nine years on professional tours. Whether flipping, finessing, or showing off topwater dominance, Lucas tallied five straight top 12 finishes doing what he does best.

“I had something to prove to myself this year. Nobody else. I didn’t want to be that guy who had three awesome years and couldn’t come back.”

There is no path leading to an AOY title. No formal coaching or game script that guides young anglers. Lucas was no exception to the uphill climb. He owed his introduction to the sport to his grandfather Jack, but the journey thereafter, to an internal fire. Passion and intensity fueled a progression from local tournaments through the ranks, into the forefront of the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) tour and, ultimately, to hoisting a Bassmaster AOY trophy.

I feel like I’m the most competitive person I know. Others might see me as this 5-foot, 9-inch guy. But I’m the most intense person I know. I hate to suck.

– Justin Lucas, 2018 Angler Of The Year

Amongst recent dramatic shifts in the professional bass fishing landscape, this victory serves as a testament to the next generation of anglers. Young and hungry, Lucas exemplifies that the baseline of a champion is a humble appreciation for sport and pursuit. But throughout each elite performance and the persistent competitive drive, the bond that tied skill and success was Cooper Jack Lucas.

“He’s not going to learn to be the man his mother and I want him to be if all I show him is that winning a tournament is what matters in life. A real man is honest and has integrity. He lives a life that makes everyone around him proud. I’d like to be the man who teaches Cooper Jack to be like that.”

Looking ahead to the 2019 season, Lucas said, “There’s no way to know what next year will bring. I hope it’s good on the fishing side of things but more importantly I’m going to do my best to make things good everywhere else.”

Congratulations Justin Lucas, Angler of the Year.

Raking Leaves and Eating Pecans

I have noticed a few leaves starting to fall around my house. And while in town Monday one tree with pretty yellow leaves was showering them down every time a little breeze hit it. Its about leaf raking time!

I miss folks using rakes rather than leaf blowers. Their whine around the house is bad enough but that sound on lakes in the fall is almost as irritating as the whine of skidoos. Its hard to fish in peace.
But they surely are convenient and easier to use than a rake.

We had a huge pecan tree in our front yard where I grew up on Iron Hill Road in Dearing. There was another big one in the side yard and two smaller ones on that side near the road. Another big one was just past mom’s flower garden on the same side.

Those trees provided hundreds of pounds of pecans each fall, but also produced what seemed like a million bushels of leaves. I hated the boring, tedious job of raking leaves, made even slower by having to stop every pass and pick up pecans. But I did enjoy cracking a few open and eating them to break the long hours.

We would start at the house and rake everything to the ditch out front, where we burned them. I worried that my “pet” red ants in the bed in the ditch, where I had fed them flies all summer, would be killed but they always started scurrying around as soon as the ashes cooled.

I spent a lot of time in that ditch. There were always a few pecans we missed, and they were nicely toasted in the leaf fire. I would scratch around in the ashes, finding enough to keep me happily full. Mom was not quite as happy with the conditions of me and my clothes!

For some reason I never even thought of jumping in piles of leaves. I see many cartoons of kids and dogs having fun in leaves, but we were working. And I would never consider scattering them and having to rake them up again.

After cleaning the yard dad would take a long pole and knock remaining pecans to the ground. Sometimes I would climb the trees as high as possible and shake the smaller limbs to do the same thing.

We had three kinds of pecans, but I never knew the names. One tree had what we called “papershell” pecans, big nuts with very thin shells. But we did not get to eat them, they brought the highest price, so we sold them.

Another tree, the one past mom’s flower garden, had “peewees,” very small nuts. They were not worth much but we sold them, too, since they were such a pain to crack and open for little meat.

The other three trees were just regular pecans and we ate many of them. There were always bags of them in the den, where we sat at night watching TV and cracking them and picking out the meat. Some went into our mouths, but most went into the freezer for toppings for mom’s cakes and pies. We often roasted a pan while cracking them and also later when they went from the freezer to the oven.

I miss eating those nuts but not the raking leaves!Raknig