Author Archives: ronniegarrison

We Don’t Care What the British Think About Our Guns

What would you think if you were talking about our system of government to some folks and one said, “Most of the time, the system works, protecting the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority?” And the other responded “The exact inverse it true. A noisy minority backed by a powerful lobbying group, can effectively stymie passage of even the most basic removal of their rights.”

You might wonder if they were agreeing even though one said they totally disagreed. Both are saying our system of government protects the rights of the minority.

What if one person said those two things during the same conversation? You might question their reasoning ability.

John Micek said both those things, in consecutive paragraphs, in his March 30 editorial in the “Griffin Daily News.” If you question his reasoning ability, you should understand he is an extreme liberal and he was trying to argue in favor of restricting our civil rights in the 2nd Amendment.

It is typical for folks to like our system of government when it supports their prejudices. But in my experience, mostly liberals want to change it to suit them when it does not.

Micek further argues that he wants our government to do what the New Zealand government recently did. They banned a wide range of guns in private ownership after an insane fool used a gun to shoot people. Our system of government helps protect a group of people from losing their rights due to the actions of one individual.

Those like Micek wanting to restrict our rights and ban guns will continue to argue the 2nd Amendment does not say what it says and try to change our government, constitution and laws to punish groups they hate.

I especially like folks who were born in England telling us we should do away with our guns and the 2nd Amendment. Piers Morgan is famous for it. He is a British citizen with talk shows on many outlets. He is quoted in the Daily Mail two weeks after a school shooting here a few years ago as saying “My campaign against America’s gun laws didn’t begin two weeks ago.” https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2254758/Piers-Morgan-Deport-If-America-wont-change-crazy-gun-laws-I-deport-myself.html

After demanding we do away with the 2nd Amendment, he whines gun owners criticize him for his comments, trying to hide behind our 1st Amendment, saying he has the right to say what he wants. As a British citizen he likes our constitution when it supports his prejudices but hates it when it does not.

Even worse are immigrants from Britain and other supposedly “free“ countries that have become US citizens. If you want to move and live here, at least respect our laws and rights, don’t come here and demand we change to suit your prejudices you bring.

We haven’t cared about what the British think about our guns since 1776.

Choosing and Using a Kayak Paddle

Tips on Choosing and Using a Kayak Paddle
By Bill Bragman
President, YakGear
from The Fishing Wire

Which Kayak Paddle is best?


How to Decide What Length and Size of Kayak Paddle to Use

Over the last ten years, kayak paddles have become less and less important in the world of kayaking – but should it really be that way? Over 80% of kayaks sold are paddling kayaks, and approximately 20% are pedal drive kayaks. Safety is an important consideration. The Coast Guard recommends you always have a paddle with you out on the water, so if you own a pedal kayak and think you don’t need a paddle, you are mistaken. It’s generally a good idea to have an inexpensive paddle stored somewhere in your kayak, just in case – no matter what type of kayak you use.

How to Determine the Correct Kayak Paddle Length

In the past, determining the correct kayak paddle length consisted of standing up next to your paddle with your arm in the air, and making sure the tops of your fingers were even with the top of the paddle. This was true when most kayaks were 24 inches wide, and anglers were seated on the deck of the kayak. Now, paddling kayaks are 34-36 inches wide, and anglers are sitting anywhere from two to six inches or more off the deck. This means the old method of kayak paddle sizing can be done away with.

This graphic from NRS illustrates how a high-angle paddler typically keeps the blade of the paddle very close to the side of the kayak, whereas a low-angle paddler has a more outside paddle stroke. In terms of kayak paddle sizing, this means a high-angle paddler will typically choose a shorter paddle, while a low-angle paddler will choose a longer paddle.

For example, if you have a 36-inch-wide kayak, you would’ve picked a 230 cm. paddle using the old method of paddle sizing. However, your seat is four inches off the deck, and you are a low-angle paddler. A better kayak paddle length would be a 250 cm. paddle.

In the same scenario, if you are a high-angle paddler, a better kayak paddle length would be a 240 cm. paddle.

Stand-Up Fishing

If you’re an angler who prefers to stand up while fishing, any paddle length will work if you are anchored. But if you plan to stand and move your kayak, a longer paddle will be needed to avoid bending over to get the paddle blade into the water. To avoid leaning down to grab your paddle off the deck, YakGear offers a kayak paddle hip clip so your paddle is always by your side – literally.

Kayak Paddles for Pedal Kayaks

Very few anglers pedal 100% of the time – there are always situations in which you’ll need a paddle. No product is perfect either, and if your pedal drive has issues, you’ll want to make sure your paddle makes it easier to maneuver the kayak. Most pedal drive kayaks are wider, have higher seating and are quite a bit heavier than a kayak that is designed for paddling alone. Picking out the right kayak paddle for a pedal kayak is therefore more important than choosing one for a paddle kayak. If your kayak manufacturer included a paddle with your kayak, it isn’t necessarily right for your height and the kayak itself. Your kayak paddle needs to be the right paddle for your needs.

The Blade and the Shaft

The more rigid the blade and shaft of your kayak paddle is, the more water it will push. In a 32-inch-wide kayak, with you and all your gear, you’re pushing quite a bit of weight through the water. Having a soft-bladed, bending paddle is like swimming with your fingers open – not a good idea.

Kayak paddle shafts typically come in four different materials. In order of least expensive to most expensive, these materials are aluminum, fiberglass, carbon hybrid (half fiberglass/half carbon fiber) and solid carbon. Kayak paddles can cost anywhere from $40 to $400, but finding the best kayak paddle length for you – and the best combination to fit your budget – is the most important aspect of paddle shopping.

Carbon fiber blades are the most rigid, but paddle companies are producing equally strong paddle blades using nylon composites. If you plan on using your kayak paddle as a tool to push off or pull yourself to shore, look for a rigid paddle blade that is designed to for this purpose. The Backwater Company Assassin Paddle offers great features and is a moderately-priced paddle with a carbon hybrid shaft and a stiff blade.

The Bottom Line

Take the time to go to a “demo day” at a local kayak shop and try out different kayak paddles to find the one that is best for you. Ask someone to watch you paddle to see if you are a high-angle or a low-angle paddler. When you’re out on the water, it’s important to consider where you’ll be using your kayak and what type of fishing you are doing to choose a paddle that is just right for you.

About the Author

Bill Bragman is the President of YakGear, a kayak and boat accessory company located in Houston, Texas. Paddling for over 20 years has given him just enough knowledge to help other kayakers get out on the water safely and comfortably, while enjoying the amazing sport of kayaking that we all share.

Fishing Paducah, KY

I spent the first week of April, 2004, in Paducah, KY fishing the rivers where the Southern Regional Bass Federation tournament will be held in a few weeks. It was very different fishing. We are allowed to fish the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers but can not lock through into the lakes.

Most places I fished I had my trolling motor on high and was still backing up downstream with the current. Fishing was tough, too. I landed my biggest smallmouth ever, a 3 pound 4 ounce fish, on Tuesday on the Cumberland River. Unfortunately, it was the only bass I landed that whole day. I did catch a 5 pound drum, two pumpkinseed bream and a gizzard shad that day. I averaged catching only one keeper bass a day while there.

I stayed at the Executive Inn, a beautiful hotel right on the Ohio River and my room overlooked it. It is about 440 miles away, so it is a long trip but it is an interesting place to fish. I thought I should be fishing for catfish after seeing some of the dead ones floating. Maybe I can make a trip for them some day.

I will leave a week from Wednesday to practice a few more days and the tournament is June 9 – 11. I hope I can catch more than one bass a day in the tournament!

Walleye Trolling

Walleye Trolling 101

Keith Jadlowski (left), Brett Smith and Jake Jadlowski show off a stringer of walleye at Lake McConaughy.
Trolling crankbaits for walleye gets a lot more effective with modern technology
caption id=”attachment_8712″ align=”alignleft” width=”300″] Trolling walleye[/caption]

Story and Photos by Jade Jadlowski
from The Fishing Wire

Like most of us, I’ve fished for all kinds of fish in a whole bunch of different places. But regardless of species and location, most of the fishing I’ve done has been centered around my rod, my lure and me. Whether I’m flipping jigs for largemouth bass or bottom bouncing for walleye, most of my success or my failure is mine alone. Like golf, there is no guarantee that two guys using the same ball and driver will hit a tee shot that lands in the middle of the fairway. Likewise, there is no guarantee that two guys in the same boat, using the same lure and tactics, will catch the same amount of fish. I truly enjoy this individual element of fishing.

But I’ve also learned that there is a lot of fun to be had while fishing as a part of a team, and trolling crankbaits for walleye is the ultimate team sport. It takes a team to manage the chaos of running multiple lines, attaching planer boards, changing out lures, fixing giant tangles, switching motors, controlling the boat, fighting the fish, netting the fish, getting the boat back on course and redeploying all the lines. Success is shared, and it requires the contribution of everyone on board. When trolling crankbaits for walleyes, it doesn’t matter if you reeled it in. It feels like every fish is your fish, and it’s a blast.

Unfortunately, failure is also shared. And my team did a lot of that before we got smart and upgraded our equipment and developed a system that was efficient enough to occasionally fill up the livewell. Our first attempts at trolling resulted from a slow bottom-bouncing bite as we tried to cover more water in order to locate fish. This was fun. We found that the bite could be fast and furious. However, as we increased the amount of time we spent trolling, we quickly learned that our system was not good. Hand rods resulted in varying rod tip locations that altered the depth of our lures. There was no way to know how much line we had out. And even if we did, we didn’t know how much line to let out to achieve a desired depth. And even if we did, we had no idea how much to let out to get a specific lure to run at the depth we wanted. In short, we didn’t know what we were doing and even when we did catch fish, we didn’t know how to repeat it.

All good lessons are learned by errors. As we messed it up, we got smarter. So to keep you from making these same mistakes, here are a handful of essentials for anyone interested in getting out their box of crankbaits and teaming up with some buddies.

Rod Holders

In addition to being able to maintain and control your rod tip, these allow you to run more than one rod and they keep your hands free so that you can help a buddy get untangled or land a fish.

Rod holders maintain and control more than one rod when trolling while also allowing anglers a hands-free option. Photo by Jake Jadlowski.
Line Counters – Getting crankbaits to the target depth is a huge part of finding success while trolling. The depth that a given crankbait can run depends on the amount of line that you let out. The best way to consistently keep the lure in the target zone is to know exactly how much line has come off your spool. Swapping out a baitcasting reel for a line counting reel is a must.

Precision Trolling App – Line counters are awesome, but they don’t tell you the whole story. They simply tell you how much line has come off the spool. They don’t tell you how much line to let out to get a certain crankbait to run at the depth that you want. They don’t tell you how to adjust that number when you change to a different type of crankbait. And they don’t tell you how the particular brand of line, type of line, and pound test line on your spool alters the depth that a crankbait will run. But you can tap modern technology to keep track of all this. With the new Precision Trolling app you simply enter the line that you are using, the crankbait that you have tied on, and the depth that you want to achieve, and the app instantly tells you how much line to let out. Buy it in the App Store.

Quick Clips – Once you are armed with a line counter and the app, you’ve unlocked the mystery of your crankbait box. Tie on as many as you need to until the fish tell you want they want. Better yet, tie on a quick clip once and snap on cranks as fast as your heart desires.
Lastly, don’t forget your camera. In the event that you figure out the right depth, the right speed, and the right crankbait, you’re going to have a pretty cool photo opportunity. In fact, you may never want to tee it up by yourself again. ?

Trolling Tips

Before deploying or re-deploying your lines, make sure your crankbait is running true in order to prevent tangles and to ensure that your lure gets down into the strike zone.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different crankbait types, sizes and colors. Eventually, the fish will tell you what they want.
Just because state fishing regulations may allow you to use more than one rod doesn’t mean you have to. Keep it simple until you figure out a system that works.
Crankbaits are manufactured to create irresistible action under the water. But don’t shy away from an occasional jerk of the rod tip to vary the action and give your lure some extra life.
Maintaining a trolling speed between 2 and 3 mph is a pretty good rule of thumb. But feel free to experiment with slight speed adjustments or abrupt changes in speed to entice strikes.
Just because a given crankbait is capable of reaching a maximum depth doesn’t mean the fish are at that maximum depth. Experiment with different depths within the water column to create strikes.

Fishing Jackson Lake With Mike York

Way back in 2004 during the first week of April I spent the day fishing Jackson Lake with Mike York, checking out the bass fishing for a June Georgia Outdoor News article. We fished all day and caught a lot of small bass, never hooking the bigger fish we hoped to catch.

Mike works for the Butts County Sheriff’s Department and fishes with the Butts Bass Busters bass club. He made the state team last year and finished 24th this year at the Top Six. There are several professional trails that he fishes, too, like the Everstart and BFL trails.

Fishing at Jackson was really enjoyable during the week. Missing were all the skiers, skidoos and cruisers that usually make you rock and roll while fishing there on the weekend. It was peaceful and calm most of the day. The water was unusually clear for this time of year and we watched many small bass come up and look at Trick worms and top water plugs early in the morning. A few of them hit.

Our best luck was fishing Carolina rigged Trick worms on main lake and river points. On one point in the South River I landed three bass on three casts, then broke off. While I was tying on a new Carolina rig, Mike landed four bass. That was our best spot by far.

We started out the morning looking for bedding bass, and saw some new beds but did not see any bass on them. The cloudy sky and low light made it difficult to see very deep, even in the clear water. Mike had gotten reports that a good many bass were bedding right now, unusually late this year.

I was impressed with Mike’s knowledge of Jackson Lake and bass fishing. He says bass fishing will get better for the next several weeks as bass move onto their summer holes and stack up on points. He likes to catch them on crankbaits and Carolina rigs, and summer is his favorite time of year for fishing that pattern. If you get a chance, head to Jackson and check out the points for bass.

Why Use Rooster Tails For Early Season Trout?

Rooster Tails For Early Season Trout
By Bill Herzog, Yakima Baits
from The Fishing Wire

Big trout like Rooster Tails


April means Opening Day for trout anglers. Lakes are starting to warm, trout are becoming active and anglers are there for this exciting time. Choices for taking trout are many: dough baits, spinners, spoons, plugs and good old worms and salmon eggs. All work. But none have the versatility, all around effectiveness and reputation as well known as the Rooster Tail spinner.

Rooster Tails can be cast or trolled. Trolling is an excellent way to cover water and find aggressive trout. The flash of the Rooster Tail blade creates a greater attraction radius than most lures, bringing in more trout to strike. Early season trout frequently hang out in the first 10 feet of water, where it is warmest with the most feed. The weighted body of the Rooster Tail keeps the lure in the perfect depth while trolling, no need to add weight.

When trolling Rooster Tails, try a thin diameter braid with a 6 foot section of 8 pound natural toned mono tied with a Uni knot at the end of the braid to the lure. Even at slow trolling speeds, you may see the vibration and blade spin easily on the rod tip due to the non stretch properties of braid. Rooster Tail blades are tuned to rotate even at the slowest trolling speeds.

Favorite sizes and colors? Well, there are 10 sizes, 100 colors and 135 finishes to choose from. Try the 1/16th, 1/8th, 1/6th and ¼ ounce for the perfect balance of casting/trolling. For trout trolling and casting in lakes, here are some top choices that keep rising to the top of most effective: Red (R), red body/hackle/silver blade; Clown Coachdog (CLCD), olive/yellow/orange body/hackle/silver blade; Fire Tiger (FRT), yellow/olive/red body/hackle/brass blade; Frog (FR), green/olive body/hackle/brass blade; White (WH) white body/hackle/silver blade and Yellow (YL), yellow hackle/body/silver blade. My absolute favorite is the new Cheese Fly (CHFY), with an orange/yellow tail and body, brass blade. Last spring, more trophy sized rainbows, browns, brookies and especially cutthroat fell to that color combo than any other.

Tipping is not just for good service in restaurants, it can be the difference in an interested trout follow into a vicious strike. A small 1 inch piece of nightcrawler or single salmon egg on the treble/single hook on a Rooster Tail makes a great lure unbeatable. No bait, no problem…spritz a pump of Rooster Tail Scent Spray on the lure. Rooster Tail Scent Spray is loaded with amino bite stimulants and UV to really pop visually as well as smell. Best of all the spray will not matte down the attractive movement of the hackle tail.

Best flavors? In this order, but know that each one was flat deadly the last two seasons: Garlic Plus, Trophy Trout and the leader going into the clubhouse Trout Kokanee Magic.

If trolling is not your thing, no problem. Rooster Tails can be cast easily on light line. Position yourself (boat or bank) near where trout may be found and fan cast your Rooster Tail, covering the area. Start your presentations near the surface, then with each “round” of casts, let the lure sink a few seconds more, until bottom is reached or strikes become consistent at a certain depth/area. Retrieve the Rooster Tail just fast enough for a 4 to 6 time “blade thump” per second. To ensure a good blade spin, retrieve the lure quickly at the beginning of the presentation until you feel the “thump” of the rotating blade. Reel ‘till you feel, as they say!

Great sizes/weights for casting are the 1/8ths for shallower water/close to your position; the 1/6th for ideal all around size for distance and depth and the ¼ ounce for breezy conditions or when you have to get the lure down quicker.

A great tip that needs to be put out there is Rooster Tails are not just for trolling or casting/retrieving, they can be jigged also. When trout get finicky- and if you spend any time on the water there is a guarantee there will be times when bites are hard to come by- try this trick. After casting and beginning your retrieve, sharply drop your rod tip approximately six inches, creating a nano second of slack line and allowing the Rooster Tail to drop a foot or so. Many salmonids (trout, salmon) key on falling prey, mimicking a wounded/dead/distressed creature of sorts. This swift, short dropping action can trigger an aggressive grab from a trout that may have been on the fence if it was to bite or not.

Learn more at www.yakimabait.com.

Potato Creek Bassmasters Club Classic

Last weekend the Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our Club Classic, this year at Lake Weiss. Club members must qualify for this annual tournament by finishing in the top eight in the club points standings the year before or fishing at least eight of the 12 tournaments the past year.

In 17 hours of casting Saturday and Sunday, 14 members landed 83 bass weighing about 159 pounds. Two fishermen weighed in limits both days and everyone caught at least three keepers. The weather was so bad some went home after fishing Saturday and others left early Sunday, before weigh-in.

I got lucky and won with ten at 24.72 pounds and had a 6.30 pound largemouth for big fish. Raymond English had nine at 21.93 pounds for second, Lee Hancock placed third with ten 20.51 for third and Ryan Edge had nine weighing 14.76 pounds for fourth. Frank Anderson rounded out the top five with eight bass weighing 14.42 pounds.

I did not get top practice before the tournament but had a plan in my mind. It did not change even when I saw the water was clearer and lower than expected. The lake flooded a few weeks ago but had dropped almost nine feet since then.

At blast off I ran to a bridge where I have had good luck in the past. As seems to be a pattern lately, two more club members headed to the same place. I fished it for almost an hour with a variety of baits without a bite.

At 8:00 I was fishing a line of docks leading into a spawning pocket. Docks were in terrible shape from the flood, with most torn up and some with boats hanging at weird angles from lifts under the docks.

By now the lake was getting busy, with boats running around and fishing. Another pattern this time of year happened then. A bass boat with two fishermen ran in, stopped two docks ahead of me and started fishing. There is no courtesy on the water any longer. But as they stopped, I caught a two-pound bass on a shaky head worm under the dock I was fishing.

I fished some more docks for about an hour without a bite. I guess I should thank the slobs that pulled in front of me because it made me try something different. I went way up a creek where the water was stained a little more and there were few boats fishing.

At 10:00 I was on a rocky bank where I have had good luck and caught three good keeper bass in the next hour, all on shaky heads. After trying a place further up the creek with no bites, I came back to that bank and caught my fifth keeper at 1:00.

I decided with a limit I would leave that place alone for tomorrow and try to find something else. I caught two more keepers but found no pattern.

Sunday morning, I ran straight to the good bank, but the wind had changed direction 180 degrees. It was hard to fish a shaky head in the wind, so I cast a spinnerbait for an hour without a bite. At 8:00 I tried the shaky head. Every cast the wind would blow my line in a bow, making it almost impossible to detect a bite.

As I was afraid, on one cast I realized my line was moving against the wind and set the hook. With all the slack line I did not get a good hookset. A three-pounder jumped and threw the hook. I was disgusted, I knew I was in third place from Saturday, six pounds behind Raymond and two pounds behind Lee. I needed to land every fish that bit!

A few casts later my line again bowed oddly. I tried to take up some slack without spooking the fish, then set the hook. My rod bowed and I knew it was big. But last year on this same bank in a tournament, my partner Chris Davies, had caught a big drum here and I figured this was another one.

When it got closer to the boat, about the time I could see it was a big bass, I also saw it was barely hooked. I managed to miss it three times with the net, about having a heart attack just knowing it would pull off each time. But I netted it on the fourth try and put it in the live well when I stopped shaking. It was the six pounder that gave me big fish and went a long way catching up.

A little later I lost another three-pound bass that jumped and threw the bait. A couple of casts later I was more careful and landed may second keeper, just under two pounds.

As I started down the bank again Raymond and his partner Tom rode by and started fishing several hundred yards from me. Although they started fishing toward me it did not bother me since I was fishing a short section of bank. When they got near me, they stopped casting and went around me, being courteous and giving me plenty of room.

Raymond said Tom had caught three off that bank the afternoon before. So much for leaving them alone for the next day! He had also just caught three on a spinnerbait down the bank, an area I had tried that earlier without a bite. I figured even with the six pounder there was no way I would catch him.

After a couple more trips up and down that bank I landed two more keepers on one pass, giving me four. Although I stayed there another two hours, until one hour before weigh-in, I got no more bites.

I had a pro moment that morning. I kept thinking about a small rocky point at the mouth of a nearby spawning cove. Although I had never caught a bass there it sets up just right for this time of year, and it was somewhat protected from the wind.

I pulled up on it and landed my fifth keeper on my first cast. Sometimes hunches pay off!

The wind was cold and I had a limit, so I did something unusual for me. I quit fishing an hour early, ran to the dock at the weigh-in sight, tied up and drank coffee until the rest of the guys came in.

Although my plan got changed, it worked out ok.

If Gun Control Laws Worked Those Supporting Them Would Not Have To Lie

“We flood communities with so many guns, that it is easier for a teen to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book,” claimed President Obama That statement ranks right up there with “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” on any truth meter.

It is against federal law for anyone younger than 21 years old to buy or possess a pistol. Glock makes only pistols. A teenager is younger than 21. So the statement is inherently false unless you add “legal Glock.” But that just shows the futility of more laws like the ones already ignored.

If gun control laws worked those supporting them would not have to lie.

I’m still waiting to hear about all the shootings in Cleveland during the RNC by the folks legally carrying guns openly. The head of the police union there lost all credibility with me when he said “We are going to be looking very, very hard at anyone who has an open carry,” he said. “An AR-15, a shotgun, multiple handguns. It’s irresponsible of those folks — especially right now — to be coming downtown with open carry AR’s or anything else. I couldn’t care less if it’s legal or not.” I don’t want those folks walking around with automatic weapons.

So this guy is head of the police union and doesn’t care what is legal? And he doesn’t know or wants to ignore the fact that automatic weapons are almost impossible to own in the US right now? That scares me.

Several times tv news shows showed folks walking around the convention area with ARs and other mean looking guns on their backs. Did you hear of any shootings done by them? NO, because there were none. Law-abiding citizens with guns are not the problem and more laws won’t affect those that do not obey them.

I have to fear for the future of the US when I listen to folks like Michael Moore. He is a hero of liberals and recently said: “Don’t get me wrong. I have great hope for the country I live in. Things are better. A majority of Americans now take the liberal position on just about every polling question posed to them: More gun control – check. A huge shift has taken place – just ask the socialist who won 22 states this year. And there is no doubt in my mind that if people could vote from their couch at home on their X-box or PlayStation, Hillary would win in a landslide.”

Look at the first part – is that what you want for your country? And don’t imagine he is accurate – the last Gallup poll I could find that asked the simple question “In general, do you feel the laws covering the sale of firearm should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?” found that 53 percent said the same or less verses 47 percent wanting more.

So Moore is either lying or simply does not know what he is talking about. Or both. After all, he wants us to be a socialists country – while he hordes his millions, I’m sure.

The last two sentences are very telling, and probably right. The folks too lazy to get off their couches and go vote, those that playing computer games is more important than voting, support Hillary and are liberal. Is that who we want running out country, those so sorry they won’t work or vote but sit on their couches playing games and living off the productive members of our society? And no doubt support gun control. Not me.

New Fisheries Management Plan for Greers Ferry

New Fisheries Management Plan for Greers Ferry Includes Angler Input
By Randy Zellers
Assistant Chief of Communications
from the Fishing Wire

HEBER SPRINGS — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has completed its new fishery management plan for Greers Ferry Lake thanks in part to the input of anglers through recent public meetings and surveys. The plan addresses steps the AGFC will take to improve the fishing experience for all anglers on this popular body of water during the next five years.

According to Matt Schroeder, regional fisheries biologist at the AGFC’s Mayflower Regional Office, there are many aspects of a fishery beyond the control and capability of the AGFC to manipulate. There are, however, some factors the AGFC can address to try to improve the fishery for anglers.

“The lake is owned and operated by the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers and its primary purpose is flood control, mandated by The Flood Control Act of 1938,” Schroeder said. “We have talked with them many times about changes to water management for fishery health, but they have to follow the plans handed to them for flood control as their primary purpose. That being said, they work within their mandate as much as they can to help recreation, and Greers is in the top 10 reservoirs in the country for recreational boating.”

Helping Habitat
Because of its primary purpose in flood control, the lake’s water level cannot be manipulated to promote the fishery by flooding shoreline cover during the spawn and lowering it after young-of-the-year fish have grown larger to establish next year’s shoreline vegetation. But that doesn’t mean biologists cannot do anything to improve the lake’s fish habitat.

“Since water level manipulation and seasonal flooding is out of our control, we can work to add as much habitat as we can in the aging reservoir to benefit both fish and anglers,” Schroeder said. “We already have conducted large-scale habitat projects on the lake to give different species year-round options for cover and likely areas for anglers to locate predatory fish such as largemouth bass and crappie. Our new plan will continue with these large-scale habitat projects.”

The new fishery plan also will continue to focus on establishing native aquatic vegetation on Greers Ferry where possible. Aquatic vegetation in a reservoir can add an exceptional amount of spawning and nursery habitat for fish, but it is extremely difficult to establish in reservoirs with highly fluctuating water levels. Efforts to establish aquatic plants in Greers Ferry, Bull Shoals, Greeson, and elsewhere have been largely unsuccessful so far because of massive annual water level changes, but biologists have not given up and are always looking for a better way. AGFC biologists meet regularly with biologists from surrounding states to discuss strategies that have worked elsewhere, but there are few examples of success in highland lakes.

“We will continue to identify suitable native plant species that will benefit the fishery without overtaking it,” Schroeder said. “Once those have been selected, we will conduct plantings of one or more of these species at different locations and depths and evaluate its effect on the fishery before adapting planting strategies for future establishment.”

Fish Food
A tried-and-true program initiated by AGFC biologists at Greers Ferry in the last few years is boosting the forage population of the lake through stockings of threadfin shad. The shad are stocked directly from hatchery trucks and from the lake’s nursery pond located at Mill Creek. Forage species stocked in Greers Ferry before this period consisted primarily of bluegill, which also serve as sport fish. In 2015, fisheries biologists evaluated the forage base and discovered that the lake’s threadfin shad population was depleted. Extremely harsh winters and an abundance of predatory fish likely had taken their toll.

Biologists immediately made plans to stock a crop of bluegill through the nursery and began researching the possibility of stocking threadfin shad the following year. In 2016, 36,500 adult-size and 563,856 fingerling-size threadfin shad were stocked into Greers Ferry. This was followed by an additional 10,000 adults and 1 million fingerlings stocked in 2017 to boost the population. Pre-spawn adult shad were stocked in the nursery pond and allowed to spawn. The shad were even more prolific than expected, and fingerling production was excellent.

“The new plan lays out the need for more focus on forage, calling for more threadfin shad stockings each spring and fall in all parts of the lake,” Schroeder said. “When shad are not available, we will shift to other forage species, such as fathead minnows and bluegill. We also have plans to try some new crayfish stockings once we do enough research to see if we can culture species native to Greers Ferry.”

Schroeder says many anglers present at the focus groups asked for increased stockings of sport fish, such as largemouth and smallmouth bass in addition to the forage, but the lake’s current situation is a lack of food, not predators.

“We would just be adding more mouths to feed into a fishery that already is pretty infertile,” Schroeder said. “And although Florida bass fingerlings have been stocked in the lake in the past, the lake has shown very poor characteristics for those genetics to thrive.”

Halting Hybrids
One management practice that has seen controversy over the last decade is the stocking of hybrid striped bass at Greers Ferry. A manmade cross between the native white bass and the non-native striped bass, the hybrid is a much-sought gamefish in some states and has seen popularity with Arkansas anglers at times. However, during recent creel surveys conducted at the lake, only 4 percent of anglers on Greers were targeting white bass or hybrids. Additionally, a follow-up mail-in survey of willing Greers Ferry creel survey participants conducted by AGFC biologists found that anglers opposed their stocking overall.

Ben Batten, chief of the AGFC’s Fisheries Division, says recent research also suggests hybrids at Greers Ferry could have adverse effects on forage at the rate they currently occur. Of particular interest is the hybrid’s ability to switch forage on Greers Ferry in the absence of open water shad populations.

“When shad populations decline, striped bass will suffer because they don’t readily adapt to different forage and habitat. This helps keep striped bass in check if the shad get scarce,” Batten said. “But recent studies have indicated hybrids may take after their white bass parents and switch to crayfish and other forage that bass, walleye and other gamefish use.”

The last time hybrid striped bass were stocked at Greers Ferry was in 2014. With the lack of angler interest and the concerns over the lake’s forage base, no more hybrids will be stocked for the foreseeable future.

One Foot Across the Black Bass Board
Bass anglers also will note the possibility of a regulation change regarding minimum length limits on largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass derived from the meetings.

“In 2020, we will propose a straight 12-inch minimum length limit for all three black bass species in Greers Ferry that will be effective in 2021 if it passes Commission approval,” Schroeder said. “There’s currently a 15-inch minimum length limit on largemouth, but recent research has shown no biological need for it to be so high.”

Schroeder explains that minimum length limits are placed on lakes when there is an issue with poor or inconsistent recruitment or when the species sees high mortality rates from harvest. It also requires a good growth rate for fish to move up into harvestable size quickly enough that they don’t overpopulate.

“Recent research suggests that it takes four-and-a-half years for a largemouth to grow beyond the 15-inch minimum length limit, and that the annual rate of mortality from natural and catch-and-release angling combined only reaches 30 percent of the population in a given year,” Schroeder said. “And our game fish species are currently at or above the carrying capacity that the lake can support, so we need to increase harvest of some fish to enable faster growth rates.”

Schroeder says adding the minimum length limit on spotted bass was part of the AGFC’s current goal of keeping regulations simple. A standard 12-inch length limit will be easier for anglers to remember and won’t penalize any tournament anglers looking to bring fish to the weigh-in.

“No matter which species, if it’s a black bass it will have to be 12 inches long to keep if the regulation passes next year,” Schroeder said. “Anglers won’t have to worry about trying to identify a spotted bass from a largemouth.”

Helping Hands
The good turnout at both Greers Ferry public meetings as well as at the recent town hall meeting with Commissioners gives biologists and administrators hope a new resource can be used more effectively in the future — the anglers themselves. Many focus group attendees said they would be willing to volunteer their time to participate in future habitat projects and other initiatives to help the lake’s fishery. Schroeder says habitat projects are an ideal way anglers can contribute to be a part of the solution, and the amount of habitat that can be added can be greatly enhanced.

“Moving forward, we will try to reach out through media outlets and create a volunteer distribution list for help,” Schroeder said. “We’re anglers too, that’s why we wanted to be fisheries biologists in the first place. I think there are a lot of areas where we can all work together to help the Greers Ferry fishery.”

The complete Greers Ferry Fishery Management Plan and management plans for other lakes in the state are available at www.agfc.com/fishmanagement.

Renew Your Fishing License

For years, Georgia fishing and hunting licenses expired on April 1 each year. Now, they expire on the day you bought them a year later if you buy an annual license. That confuses many folks and they forget to check and renew them on time, risking a fine.

April Fools Day always reminds me to check my license since I had to buy one by then for many years. I did this year, it expires in 2216. I got my lifetime Senior License a few years ago but forget that and check anyway. I just wish I could be fishing 197 years from now when it expires, and I would have to renew it.

I never minded paying for hunting and fishing licenses. The fees are used to improve those activities in a variety of ways, from hiring new game wardens to funding hatcheries that produce all our hybrids and most of our trout.

My only worry about the fees is that they will not be used as intended. As I understand the process, the license fees go into the general fund and then legislators have to approve it being spent at intended. It would be too easy for them to spend that money in other ways.

I would not be happy if they voted to use the money for something like highway improvement. Not only would that be double taxation, hunters and fishermen already pay the gas tax for that, it would go against the way the money was intended to be spent.

I feel the same way about outdoor recreation that has nothing to do with hunting and fishing. Funding a nature trail on public land is nice, but do not use money hunters and fishermen paid to improve their sports. Use money from a fee or pass for using the area if not hunting or fishing.

Hunters and fishermen fund our sports nationally, too. The Dingle-Johnson Act places a ten percent excise tax on all fishing equipment. You pay it when you buy hooks or reels, or anything else related. Hunters pay the Pitman-Robinson excise tax for the same reason.

Funds are collected by the federal government and most of it is sent back to the states as block grants. The amount each state gets is based on a formula that includes number of hunting and fishing licenses issued by that state. It also requires that the receiving state spend all their state hunting and fishing license fees on those activities.

States are required to spend this money on hunting and fishing, but all outdoorsmen benefit. Most state hunting areas are open to bird watchers, hikers and others that do not hunt but get to enjoy lands hunters and fishermen purchased and conserved.

Check you fishing and hunting license!