Category Archives: Conservation

Journeys of One Atlantic Salmon

The Mind-Boggling Journeys of One Atlantic Salmon
By John Holyoke
from The Fishing Wire

Charlie swims along his journey

“Charlie” the Atlantic salmon (right) swims among other salmon in a pool of the Sandy River in western Maine. Charlie is a repeat spawner, and was captured twice at Waterville’s Lockwood Dam, exactly two years apart. Photo Casey Clarke/Maine Department of Marine Resources

Your morning commute to work might be hectic and harrowing, but before you start feeling sorry for yourself consider the journeys that Charlie — the name given to a soon-to-be-famous Atlantic salmon — has taken over the past few years.

Charlie recently was captured in a fish lift at the Lockwood Dam on the Kennebec River in Waterville. That on its own is not a surprise. The fact the adult salmon was actually what’s called a “repeat spawner” and had been captured at the same facility exactly two years (and thousands of miles) earlier was grounds for celebration.

“This is the only repeat spawner we have ever had [in the 13 years since the Lockwood facility has been operational],” said Paul Christman, a marine scientist for the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

Christman said that over the course of a year, all of Maine’s salmon rivers might see one repeat returnee, most of those counted on the state’s busiest salmon river, the Penobscot. This year, more than 1,000 salmon have returned to the Penobscot. Just 56 have been counted at Lockwood. Making Charlie particularly intriguing is the fact he’s either a naturally reared fish from eggs planted by fisheries personnel or a wild-spawned fish.

And the journeys that Charlie has made are mind-boggling, Christman said.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, young Atlantic salmon can travel more than 6,000 miles during their migration to and from the North Atlantic, where they will spend between one and three years before returning to their native rivers. That means Charlie might have 12,000 miles on his fins by now. He has surely earned a break, which he is currently taking.

Charlie was first caught on June 18, 2017, and had a radio tag and a “PIT” tag attached to him. The PIT tag allows scientists to identify him by a unique 16-digit number. The radio tag allowed them to track him until he regurgitated it at some point after he began his return to the Atlantic two years ago.

The crew’s radio tracked him to a pair of comfortable pools in the river where he spent the summer.

Then, after making his way back downriver (and over four hydroelectric dams), he headed back to sea where he flourished for two more years before swimming back to Lockwood Dam on the Kennebec.

An obliging crew then gave the salmon a ride back to the Sandy, and that’s where he remains, resting comfortably after his second grueling trip in two years.

“As of last Thursday, he was sitting in one of the pools that he sat in two years ago,” Christman said.

Christman said DMR personnel have snorkeled nearby and report that Charlie looks healthy — and big.

Jennifer Noll, another DMR fisheries scientist, reported that when Charlie was captured two years ago he was almost 29 inches long. Now, he measures nearly 34 inches from snout to tail.

Christman said many fish die in their natal rivers before even heading to sea once, and they face countless challenges while in the ocean. Upon their return to a river, they must overcome more obstacles and survive predators that would like to enjoy a salmon dinner.

The fact Charlie has made those grueling, life-threatening trips twice makes him a rare fish indeed.

“He has defied all the odds. He has actually survived an enormous amount of mortality,” Christman said. “He is at least two years older, three years older than all the other [salmon] in the Sandy River. This guy has seen it all and survived. It really is amazing.”

Christman thinks Charlie successfully spawned two years ago — spawning redds were found near where he was hanging out — and hopes he is able to do the same this year.

Passing along his genetics to future generations can’t hurt, after all.

“This guy really wins. I mean, he’s got it all,” Christman said. “It’s really amazing to see a fish that has been through it all and survived [all of those threats]. I just can’t fathom.”

View of Charlie’s River

“Charlie” the Atlantic salmon would have made his way up this part of the Kennebec River to reach the Lockwood Dam, both in 2017 and in 2019. A marvellous tale of a charismatic species making the Kennebec River a home for spawning. Photo Maranda Nemeth.

What Are Estuaries?

Estuaries — Working for Anglers and All Americans
For Habitat Month 2019, NOAA is celebrating estuary habitat and how we work for you, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Oregon Coast.
from The Fishing Wire

Chesapeake Bay estuary

Chesapeake Bay estuary

Estuaries, where rivers meet the sea, provide valuable habitat to an array of important plant and animal species. These transitional areas that straddle land and sea contain habitats needed by fish, shellfish, wildlife, and people. For humans, they provide homes, jobs, and value: estuaries generate an estimated $12 billion in revenue each year from tourism and local economies. Most fish and shellfish eaten in the United States, including salmon, herring, and oysters, spend at least part of their life in estuaries. NOAA works within several U.S. estuaries including, but not limited to, the following:

Puget Sound, Washington

Columbia River, Oregon

Kachemak Bay, Alaska

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island

Delaware Bay Estuary, Delaware

Chesapeake Bay (DE, MD, NY, PA, VW, WV and DC)

Albemarle-Pamlico Sound, North Carolina

Tampa Bay, Florida

Galveston Bay, Texas

For Habitat Month, NOAA is celebrating estuary habitat and how we work for you, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Oregon Coast. Learn more about how NOAA is restoring and protecting some estuary habitat below.

Estuary Highlights

Oregon Coastal Habitat Project Restores Coho and Reduces Flooding
The Southern Flow Corridor project, which restored salmon habitat in Tillamook, Oregon, also provides flood protection for surrounding communities. Learn more about NOAA’s work with community partners restoring estuary habitat in Tillamook Bay

Juvenile coho salmon use estuaries to eat and grow before migrating to the ocean. Photo: USFWS/Roger Tabor
Skokomish River Estuary Restoration Helps Salmon and Steelhead Return Home
In the Puget Sound region, reopening abandoned agricultural land back to nature will allow young salmon, steelhead, and other fish species room to access their historical habitats. Learn more about the Skokomish River Estuary restoration project

NOAA works with our federal and state partners to recommend pollution control and cleanup strategies and develop and implement restoration projects, such as marsh creation and dam removals, to benefit fisheries, wildlife and the public.Learn more about the Hudson-Raritan Estuary

NOAA and the Chesapeake Bay Program

To identify and implement solutions for the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Program was formed in 1983. The dozens of partners in the Chesapeake Bay Program include federal and state agencies, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions. Each organization brings unique knowledge, capabilities, and perspectives to this tremendous partnership. NOAA is represented in the Chesapeake Bay Program by the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, a division of NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation. Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Program

The Chesapeake Bay Program has set a goal to restore native oysters to 10 Chesapeake Bay tributaries by 2025.

Habitat Focus Areas

Between 2013 to 2015, NOAA selected 10 Habitat Focus Areas. These are places where multiple NOAA offices can effectively focus their resources to prioritize long-term habitat science and conservation efforts. In each of these areas, our science, service, and stewardship come together to improve habitat conditions for fisheries, coastal communities, and marine life, and to provide other economic, cultural, and environmental benefits our society needs and enjoys. Explore NOAA’s Habitat Focus Areas

Avoiding Barotrauma

Right Tools Mean Everything for Avoiding Barotrauma
From the Florida FWC
from the Fishing Wire

It’s that time of year when you might be fishing for snapper and grouper. Continue your role as a conservationist by looking out for fish with signs of barotrauma and being prepared to respond. Barotrauma is a condition seen in many fish caught in waters greater than 50 feet that is caused by expansion of gases in the swim bladder. Signs of barotrauma include the stomach coming out of the mouth, bulging eyes, bloated belly and distended intestines.

It’s important to know in advance what tools are available and how to use them to help fish return to the bottom and increase their chances of survival.

Descending devices can be used by anglers to take fish back down to depths where increased pressure from the water will recompress swim bladder gases. They fall into three categories: mouth clamps, inverted hooks and fish elevators. Learn more about descending devices and how to use them at by clicking on the “Fish Handling” then “How-to Videos” or scrolling to “Barotrauma.”

Descending devices are used to return fish to a depth where expanded gases in the body cavity can recompress.

Venting tools are sharpened, hollow instruments that anglers can use to treat barotrauma by releasing expanded gas from the swim bladder, enabling the fish to swim back down to capture depth.

Please note, items such as fillet knives, ice picks, screwdrivers and gaffs are not venting tools and should never be used to vent a fish, because they are not hollow tubes that allow air to escape. Venting a fish incorrectly or with the wrong tool may cause more harm than good.

To properly vent, lay the fish on its side (on a cool, wet surface). Insert the venting tool at a 45-degree angle, under a scale 1-2 inches behind the base of the pectoral fin, just deep enough to release trapped gasses. Never insert venting tools into a fish’s belly, back or stomach that may be protruding from the mouth. Learn how to vent properly by visiting

Venting tools should be inserted at a 45-degree angle, under a scale 1-2 inches behind the base of the pectoral fin, just deep enough to release trapped gasses.

Descending devices and venting tools should only be used when fish show one or more signs of barotrauma and cannot swim back down on their own. It is essential to work quickly when using these tools and return the fish to the water as soon as possible. Anglers should choose the device and method they are most comfortable with and that best fits the situation.

To learn more about catch-and-release techniques, visit and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Fish Handling.” To learn more about barotrauma, descending devices and venting tools, visit our YouTube channel at For answers to questions, contact 850-487-0554 or

Fishery Management Council Appointees

Fishery Management Council Appointees Show Progress for Recreational Fishing and Boating
Here’s a look at the new class of fishery managers who will be shaping our coastal fisheries, from NMMA.
from The Fishing Wire

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced last week the 2019 Regional Fishery Management Council (RFMC) appointments. The strong showing from this year’s class of appointments makes it clear that recreational fishing and boating remain key priorities for the Trump Administration.

The appointments of Scott Lenox, Tim Griner, Dr. Tom Frazer, Troy Williamson, Peter Hassemer, Marc Gorelnik, Cora Campbell, and Nicole Kimball all affirm that the Administration remains focused on selecting RFMC appointees who have a proven ability to balance all factors in complicated fishery management decisions.

The decisions made by RFMC members significantly impact the nation’s 10 million saltwater recreational fishermen, who support 472,000 jobs and generate $68 billion in annual sales impacts according to NOAA Fisheries. The appointees chosen for this year’s class continue a trend of the Department of Commerce balancing these important economic considerations while also prioritizing resource conservation first and foremost.

“These appointments are an important step forward for America’s recreational fishing and boating community, and we’re grateful that the Department of Commerce continues to move in the right direction on this issue,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “We appreciate the continued leadership of President Trump and Commerce Secretary Ross on this issue as they ensure that America’s public resources remain a part of our national heritage current and future anglers alike can enjoy.”

“Recreational boating and fishing is a cherished pastime for millions of Americans and generates significant economic activity for our country each year,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “We applaud the Administration for providing anglers with appropriate representation on Regional Fishery Management Councils and look forward to working with the Councils to advance our community’s priorities.”

“The Regional Fishery Management Councils are where the rubber meets the road for federal marine fisheries management, so it’s critically important that the recreational fishing community be well represented,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “While the overall balance of the Councils still skews toward commercial fishing despite the two sectors being on par with each other economically, we appreciate Secretary Ross making continued progress in addressing this historic inequity.”

“The Regional Fishery Management Councils can only be effective, as Congress intended under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, if they accurately reflect the interests of the region being managed,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “We very much appreciate Secretary Wilbur Ross for selecting council members who are well suited to represent both the recreational and commercial fisheries of their respective states.”

“We appreciate the Secretary’s ongoing efforts to establish a more balanced representation for recreational angling throughout the Council system,” said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association. “This Administration has made it a priority to understand the challenges anglers have faced in the federal fisheries management system and is working to address them. These appointments are another step in the right direction.”

Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Scott Lenox will be a valuable contributor to the Mid-Atlantic Council and will help provide better balance to the overall composition. He is the owner of Fish in OC and host of Ocean City’s fishing television show “Hooked on OC”. He has worked in the fishing industry and fished the waters in and around Ocean City for over 25 years. He is a member of Maryland’s Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission and participated in NOAA’s Marine Resources Education Program.

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Tim Griner’s thoughtful, objective approach on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has rightfully earned him reappointment. Mr. Griner owns a successful seafood supply company and holds federal vessel permits for snapper/grouper, dolphin/wahoo, and king and Spanish mackerel.

Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. A fair, balanced, and valuable member of the Gulf Council, Dr. Tom Frazer is also well deserving of his reappointment. As the recently appointed chief science officer for the State of Florida, current chair of the Gulf Council, and director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, he is well-qualified to serve on, and chair, the Gulf Council.

Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. A true recreational angler and legend in marine conservation circles, Troy Williamson has extensive experience in the fisheries management arena, including serving on several Gulf Council advisory panels; the Executive Committee of Harte Research Institute, and formerly representing the State of Texas on the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Pacific Fishery Management Council. As a voting member of the Pacific Fishery Management Council as designee for the State of Idaho Principal Official since 2015, Peter Hassemer is well-positioned to step into Idaho’s obligatory seat. During his 26 years at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, from which he recently retired, he worked in research and management arenas and served on many Columbia River basin and west coast technical and management bodies.

Pacific Fishery Management Council. Marc Gorelnik serves as vice chair of the Pacific Council and was reappointed, acknowledging his reputation as a knowledgeable, effective, and well-respected leader in the fisheries management community. In addition to his role on the Council, he serves as director of Coastside Fishing Club and is active with the Golden Gate Salmon Association, Coastal Conservation Association-California and American Sportfishing Association.

North Pacific Fishery Management Council. New Alaska appointee Cora Campbell has extensive experience and knowledge related to Alaska fisheries management, having served as a fisheries policy advisor for two Alaska governors, as a former commissioner for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and a lifetime of involvement in fisheries organizations.

North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Alaska appointee Nicole Kimball has dedicated her career to fisheries management. She worked as a fisheries analyst for the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and as a federal fisheries coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and is now with the Pacific Seafood Processors Association.

Alligator Gar Research

Essential Alligator Gar Research Underway in Oklahoma
Craig Springer
from The Fishine Wire

Alligator Gar have big teeth

Be not afraid– unless youre a carp or buffalo fish. Alligator gar feed on rough fish photo Richard Snow ODWC

Lake Texoma lies over the Texas – Oklahoma state line. This boundary water is enormous. Denison Dam backs up the Red and Washita rivers for miles. The swollen arms of several tributary streams form massive lake coves that shoulder into the main water body. Consequently, there is much open water and ample shoreline for anglers seeking to catch black basses, crappie, sunfish, blue catfish and white bass.

The striped bass fishery is of good repute. And there is something to say for the alligator gar fishery as well: alligator gar are under-studied.

For anyone with even a perfunctory knowledge of alligator gar, this may seem counter-intuitive—that not a great deal is known about one of the largest freshwater fishes in North America.

Consider this. Alligator gar reach an enormous 13 feet long and fatten to a plump 300 pounds. It’s a long-lived leviathan with some of the eldest individuals swimming this very moment, having hatched when Apollo 10 navigated around the Moon in May of 1969.

These giant fish have a growing, almost cult-like following of anglers, and for good reason. Hook one and hang on. An eight-foot-long alligator gar can take you for a ride. You will see a tail dance in a glistening spray of water akin to a silvery tarpon over turquoise flats in nearshore salt water—except alligator gar potentially have more heft. Get a gator gar to the boat, and with a parting flick of its round tail fin, its sinuous form slips into the murk to be caught again.

Or will it?

That’s a question that Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) research biologist, Richard Snow, seeks to answer.

“Virtually any information we glean from ongoing research is new information,” said Snow from his Norman, Oklahoma, office. Snow is seven years into research into the alligator gar’s life history and has most recently embarked to learn more on a how the fish fairs after being caught and released. The answer to this question is central to sport fishery management and has applicability well beyond the bounds of the Oklahoma state line.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program funds Snow’s research—the monies derived from excise taxes paid by tackle manufacturers and then apportioned to state wildlife agencies for essential conservation work such as his.

Snow, an Oklahoma native, has had a years-long personal and professional interest in the fish. He has long enjoyed fishing for alligator gar. He earned a graduate degree at Oklahoma State University in natural resource ecology and management where he researched how to age the fish through its ear bones. The bones, called otoliths, lay down rings much like the cross section of a tree.

Snow says he also earned something else in graduate school. “I have a greater respect for the species—they’re a primitive fish, a swimming fossil that survive from long ago,” said Snow. “They are a remarkable fish—heavily armored on the outside like a tank because their insides are sensitive.”

Now, as an ODWC research biologist, Snow has waded deeper into questions associated with catch-and-release mortality, food preference studies, and growth rates.

Snow set up a hooking study with hefty captive alligator gar held in large ponds at Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery. He catches alligator gar just as anglers do at Lake Texoma and elsewhere, fishing with carp or buffalo fish heads. In the experiments, Snow allows gar to run with bait, played for 30 minutes and brought ashore, examined for noticeable internal injuries such as bleeding or air loss from the vent. The controlled environment allows him to monitor the wellbeing of the fish over a long period to detect effects of hooking that would not otherwise be noted in wild fish. The work is ongoing and results yet to be determined.

Along about May of the year, mature alligator gar move into shallow weedy coves of Lake Texoma and broadcast their eggs that adhere to vegetation. That act is replicated in tanks at the national fish hatchery where he and hatchery staff monitor the young gar.

“Alligator gar have explosive growth in their first year of life,” said Snow. “In the span of only nine days, they go from egg to a larvae with a sucker-disc on its head, and then to a predator. They pack on weight and by the end of the first growing season they’re a foot and half long.”

Alligator gar eat other fish. In examining stomach contents of adult gar, Snow determined that sport fish species make up very little of the diet. Their common foods include common carp, river carpsucker, buffalo species, gizzard shad and white bass.

“These predators typically ambush their prey, but they also actively forage or scavenge their food,” said Snow. “In the heat of the summer when oxygen is low, they gulp air into a highly vascularized swim bladder to ‘breathe.’ Bowfishers and anglers take advantage of these habits to locate alligator gar.”

Snow says the ongoing research will help his agency steer alligator gar fisheries toward sustainability.

Cliff Schleusner, Chief of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, Southwest Region agrees. “These Holocene hold-overs have been understudied and the angler-funded work underway by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation adds to a woefully scant body of knowledge,” said Schleusner. “Alligator gar, an apex predator, provide an ecological balance that regulate the populations of other fish species—not to mention an angling experience unequaled.”

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

Idaho’s Salmon

Hope for Idaho’s Salmon
by Chris Wood, President, Trout Unlimited
from The Fishing Wire

“I have concluded that I am going to stay alive long enough to see salmon return to healthy populations in Idaho.”

Those words by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) at a conference at the Andrus Center last week may do more to project the recovery of the imperiled Snake River salmon and steelhead than multiple lawsuits, five biological opinions, and a whopping $16 billion spent on a failed effort to recover Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead.

Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID)

Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) saying what needs to be said at an Andrus Center for the West event in Boise recently.

Twenty-eight years ago, after learning of the plight of “Lonesome Larry,” I dedicated my career to helping recover Idaho’s salmon and steelhead. Larry, a sockeye, managed to swim 800 miles, climbing 6,500 feet in elevation, crossing eight dams, countless predators—never feeding—to return to the lake he was born to have sex one time before he died. That didn’t happen—he was the only sockeye to return.

Wild salmon and steelhead in Idaho are on a path to extinction.

Before the construction of the four lower Snake dams, more than a million Snake River spring and summer Chinook and more than half-a-million steelhead returned to spawn. Today, those runs are a fraction of their historic abundance. In the 1950s, the Middle Fork of the Salmon was such a prolific fishery that anglers could keep two salmon per day for a five-week season. In 2017, fewer than 500 salmon returned to spawn in the Middle Fork – 1 percent of the historic runs.

Larry’s ancestors that gave Redfish Lake its name, once came in the tens of thousands. Last year, 134 returned.

Congressman Simpson rightly asks, “Why should Idaho bear all the costs of the Snake River dams and reap so few of its benefits?”

Half of all steelhead in the Columbia River system once returned to the Snake River in Idaho

The scientific evidence is overwhelming: after almost 30 years and billions of dollars spent on habitat restoration and techno-fixes at the dams, removal of the four lower Snake River dams is essential to salmon and steelhead recovery—adjustments will also be needed in hatchery, harvest and predator management.

Restoration, however, cannot simply be about fish. This hopeful and complex effort must be about people, too. Restoration of the Snake must ensure that farmers can irrigate and transport their crops. It must ensure that jobs are safe and energy supplies are reliable. It must help meet the social and economic priorities of local communities such as Lewiston. It must create robust, fishable, and harvestable populations of salmon and steelhead for recreational, tribal and commercial fishermen.

The fish are important; but people are, too.

While not himself calling for dam removal, Congressman Simpson’s willingness to ask the hard questions should result in an unbiased look at what is needed to bring back Idaho’s salmon legacy. U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) demonstrated the same type of leadership in developing the Idaho Roadless Rule which protects 9 million acres of incredible fish and wildlife habitat in the Gem State.

For three decades, we have accepted half-measures and lurched from crises to crises – unwilling to address the cause of the decline of Idaho’s magnificent salmon and steelhead. These fish are remarkably resilient. If given half a chance, they will return, but they are running out of time.

Read more like this at

Build Coho Salmon Habitat

Working with Nature’s Engineers to Build Coho Salmon Habitat
NOAA partners managing an innovative pilot program in Oregon are constructing dam starter structures for beavers to finish building, creating slow water areas for juvenile Coho to thrive.
from The Fishing Wire

Beaver dams help coho

Analogs provide a solid foundation from which beavers can start building their dams. Photo: Upper Nehalem Watershed Council

On the Oregon coast, NOAA and partners are leveraging the strong engineering skills of their beloved state animal to restore important habitat for threatened coho salmon and other species.

Supported by NOAA, our partners at the Wild Salmon Center and Upper Nehalem Watershed Council are embarking on a pilot project. It will assist beavers with building dams in key areas of tributaries where juvenile migrating fish grow. Once built, beaver dams create slower moving sections of streams for juvenile fish to use as habitat.

To construct the beaver dam analog, a row of wooden posts is anchored upright in the stream bed.

Similar to estuaries and river delta habitats, the slow-moving pools of water behind beaver dams offer juvenile salmon critical time for feeding and growing before their trip to the ocean. Unlike man-made barriers to fish passage, adult salmon are able pass beaver dams when they migrate back upstream to spawn.

With these pilot projects, NOAA and partners are building foundation structures, called “analogs.” They are placed in areas where beavers once lived, and where the stream grade and size are optimal for juvenile salmon habitat. Think of them as the foundations of a home.

The slow moving pools of water created by beaver dams provide habitat for threatened coho salmon and other species.

Once we introduce the analogs to ideal areas, beavers find them and build out the rest of their new homes. Rows of wooden posts intertwined with tree branches and straw give our furry restoration partners a solid foundation from which to start building their dams. We also ensure they have plenty of food sources by planting willows and other tasty foods beavers like while removing invasive plants from the areas.

These innovative but simple projects are turning back the clock to times where beavers freely built dams along streams and rivers in Oregon watersheds. Modern development has straightened stream channels and increased the amount and speed of water flow. This makes it hard for juvenile salmon to rest during freshwater stages of their early lives. This habitat loss for beavers and salmon has created population declines for both species.

These pilots are one piece of a larger effort, the Oregon Coast Coho Recovery Plan, to restore Oregon Coast coho salmon habitat. We are providing funding and technical support to the Wild Salmon Center to implement a series of habitat restoration projects across the Oregon Coast. We are working with a variety of partners including local and state governments, non-profit organizations, tribes, and other federal agencies. Together these coordinated efforts are targeting restoration where it will have the greatest benefit and make the biggest impact for threatened coho salmon.

Native Trout Species Returned to an Appalachian Stream

Hundreds of Tennessee’s Only Native Trout Species Returned to an Appalachian Stream
from The Fishing Wire

Native trout being restocked in Tennessee

Chattanooga, Tenn. – Winding under a thick canopy of trees and down a stairstep of boulder-strewn waterfalls, Little Stoney Creek’s descent through Cherokee National Forest is the idyllic picture of Appalachian Mountain splendor.

With its dappled pockets of sunlight and shade and frigid water, this pristine stream is an ideal habitat for Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. Also lovingly referred to by scientists and sport fishers alike as “Brookies,” this region-specific strain of Brook Trout is the Southeast’s only native trout species.

With blue skies patchily peeking through the trees overhead, Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute Reintroduction Biologist Meredith Harris and Reintroduction Assistant Hayley Robinson carefully navigate the stream across moss-slick rocks and trees.

Their progress through the rushing stream is made all the more difficult thanks to the shifting weight of the thick plastic bags they’re carrying. These awkward burdens are filled with water and — most importantly — dozens of two-inch long juvenile Brookies bound for reintroduction into the creek after months of attentive care at the Aquarium’s freshwater science center in Chattanooga.

Harris and Robinson, along with two other reintroduction assistants, Avery Millard and Anna Quintrell, have traveled hundreds of miles to reach this beautiful, remote waterway. Along with representatives from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the U.S. Forest Service and members of Trout Unlimited, the biologists have convened to return 389 juvenile Brookies to waters that are their ancestral birthright.

“You know, today is the day when we really get to see what it’s all about,” Harris says, smiling. “It’s a great day; it’s the best day.”

Despite the treacherous footing, she and Robinson are all smiles as they slosh along, pausing occasionally by patches of comparatively still water. Dipping into their bags, they deposit nets full of baby trout into these calmer pools. As they watch the tiny fish swim away, their expressions mix equal measures of pride and joy.

“We work really hard back at the facility and spend a lot of time working with these animals,” Harris says. “To be able to come out here and watch them swim away into the water, to fulfill the ecological role that they were meant to, that’s what makes it all worth it. That just really brings the purpose home for me.”

Thanks to clear-cutting in the 1900s and the introduction of larger, competing, non-native species like Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout, the ruby-bellied and golden-speckled Southern Appalachian Brook Trout now occupies less than 15 percent of its historical range.

Since the 1980s, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has been working to restore the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout to cold water streams like Little Stoney Creek that flow through the species’ native range. In 2012, the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute joined this effort, helping to raise the juveniles in propagation facilities at its freshwater science center near downtown Chattanooga.

Each fall, Conservation Institute biologists collect eggs spawned by a broodstock of wild-caught adult Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. During a month-long incubation, scientists tend to these eggs until the young emerge, still attached to large, nutrient-rich yolk sacs. After another month, these “sac fry” become free-swimming and are able to eat.

Biologists care for these juveniles throughout the winter and early spring until the diminutive fish are about two inches long, just large and hardy enough to survive in the wild. Including the current batch of juveniles, the Aquarium has raised and reintroduced about 3,500 Southern Appalachian Brook Trout to Little Stoney Creek and other waterways.

This effort is fully financed by the Appalachian Chapter of Trout Unlimited through funds raised by the sale of special vanity license plates adorned with the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. In 2018, Trout Unlimited donated $11,170, the organization’s largest single grant since it began financial support of the program in 2014.

“The Tennessee Aquarium is a natural partner for us,” says Steve Fry, the chapter’s president. “The mission of Trout Unlimited is to conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. This project allows us to coordinate efforts with Trout Unlimited Chapters in northeast Tennessee to bring back an iconic species.”

At Little Stoney Creek, representatives from the Overmountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited are wading alongside Harris and Robinson, enthusiastically accepting offers from the biologists to release some of the fry. To them, Brookies aren’t just another fish to try and catch; they’re a part of the region’s natural heritage.

“The Southern Appalachian strain of Brook Trout is the only trout species in this area that God put here himself,” says Overmountain Trout Unlimited Chapter President Ryan Turgeon. “A lot of different organizations came together to raise funds, and a lot of grant money and hours were put in to get something like this done.

“It’s great to see everyone come together — different age groups, different diversities — to return these fish to the stream. It was really great to see that.”

To learn more about the Tennessee Aquarium’s work to restore the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout, For more information about the Appalachian Chapter of Trout Unlimited, visit

See video here:


About the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute

The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute is a leader in freshwater science. For more than 20 years, our researchers have been working to better understand and protect the Southeast’s abundance of aquatic wildlife. The region’s rich diversity is part of our natural heritage – a gift to be discovered, appreciated and protected.

Learn more about the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute online at

Get updates about our field conservation and research projects by following the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute on Facebook and Twitter.

Why Don’t They Stock Bass in Big

Why don’t they stock bass in this lake so we can catch more? I am often asked that question by fellow fishermen, and I have an answer, based on what Georgia state fisheries biologists have told me and what I have read in magazines and books.

note – I wrote this several years ago. There is now some evidence stocking Florida or hybrid strain largemouth, in suitable habitat lakes, can improve the size of bass in the population but not necessarily the numbers. But without suitable habitat, it will not work, no matter what is stocked.

When you build a new pond you normally stock it with bream, then wait until after they spawn and stock bass and maybe catfish. The bream spawn every month in the spring and summer and quickly fill the pond with small bream. They will increase in numbers until they are using all the food available. Without predators like bass, they will never grow very big because there just is not enough food to match their prolific population increases.

Bass eat bream, so they will keep the population in check. But the bass will also produce so many offspring that they will eat too many bream, causing them to run out of food and be stunted, too. That is why you should remove bass from your pond on a regular basis.

Fish will expand to fill the available space and food resources. In big lakes some species overpopulate and cause problems. Good examples are gizzard shad and blueback herring. They don’t have a lot of natural predators in our local lakes since they are and open water fish and get too big for most bass to eat. They can get so thick in lakes that they cause disease outbreaks and use up food resources.

When that happens, fisheries biologists look at stocking fish that will eat the shad and herring. Stripers and hybrids are stocked for this reason, and also to give fishermen something fun to catch. The stripers and hybrids are good choices because hybrids are not fertile and can not reproduce, and stripers can’t reproduce in most of our lakes due to limited miles of flowing water. So their numbers can be controlled.

Stocking of stripers and hybrids can be overdone, too. No matter how many you put in, the total numbers that survive are limited by food available. In an 11 year study on Smith Mountain Reservoir in Virginia it was found that stocking 200,000 stripers each year resulted in the same numbers surveying after one year as stocking 620,000 each year. There simply was not enough food to support more, so the extra fish died.

In a big lake largemouth bass usually fill all their niche naturally, reproducing to produce numbers that take advantage of space and food resources. Adding small bass will do nothing to add to the numbers of bass since they are already using up all the available food and space. The maximum numbers are already there.

There are some exceptions, of course. In the Flint River below Lake Blackshear dam the water changes levels several feet every day due to power generation. Shoal bass living from the dam to Albany can’t be very successful spawning since their beds are either too deep for the eggs to hatch or shallow enough for the eggs to hatch but left high and dry when the water drops.

The state is stocking fingerling shoal bass in this area since natural reproduction can not keep up. It can’t keep up because man has altered the habitat.

In north Georgia at Lake Nottely, fishermen that thought they knew more than the fisheries biologists stocked blueback herring. Blueback herring are a great baitfish for bass – for a time. But the little herring eat the same things as largemouth fry, and big herring will even eat little bass fry.

There is not much cover on Nottely to allow the little bass to hide, so a lot of them are eaten. Due to the huge numbers of blueback herring that have resulted, largemouth bass populations have crashed.

Nottely is the only lake in Georgia where largemouth bass are being stocked, and it is a very special situation. Fisheries biologists study each lake and determine what is best for it. If appropriate, bass will be stocked, but stocking bass in most lakes just uses up money and resources that are needed in other areas, and does nothing to increase cacheable bass numbers.

I am glad we have professional fisheries biologists to take action based on science to improve our lakes.

Stable Snapper Season

Amendment 50 Gives Gulf States Stable Snapper Season

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

Big Red Snapper

After a three-year struggle, saltwater anglers are on the cusp of a stable red snapper season with the approval of Amendment 50 by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

Amendment 50, which goes into effect in 2020 with the approval of the Secretary of Commerce, gives the five Gulf states control over each state’s snapper season, and it allows leeway in size and bag limits within certain federal guidelines.

“All of the Gulf states are excited to finally have this solidified and move forward with the management plans for the individual states,” said Scott Bannon, Alabama’s Marine Resources Director. “It’s a win for the red snapper stock and a win for the states.”

Bannon said state control of the snapper fishery was brought before the Council in 2016 to manage the recreational sector, which would have included the private recreational sector and the federal for-hire (charter) sector.

The 2016 and 2017 snapper seasons were painfully short under federal control. As a way to alleviate the impact on anglers and the Gulf Coast economies, the Gulf states were issued an exempted fishing permit (EFP) for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and states were able to set their seasons under a total allowable catch for each state.

Alabama originally set its 2018 season at 47 days, but near-perfect weather and an increased enthusiasm for catching the state’s signature saltwater species forced Marine Resources to reduce the season to 28 days, which ended in an almost perfect catch-to-allocation result.

The way Alabama was able to ensure there was no significant overrun on the quota was through the Red Snapper Reporting System, more commonly known as Snapper Check. The mandatory reporting system allowed Marine Resources to monitor the catch and close the season in response to the larger-than-expected harvest numbers.

The success of the Snapper Check monitoring paved the way for the Council to approve Amendment 50.

“I think the fishery benefits from Amendment 50 because we have the ability, as individual states, of not exceeding our allocation of the quota,” Bannon said. “If you look at it from a stock perspective for the Gulf of Mexico and you were managing it as a whole and you had a perfect season, like last year, you had no way to put the season in check. Alabama alone would have consumed nearly half of the entire Gulf allocation if we had fished the whole 47 days. We would have fished it really, really hard, and the amount of fish we would have caught would have been tremendous. As it was, we closed it when we met the number of pounds and showed that we were responsible. I think this is much better for the anglers and the snapper stock. I think the EFP showed the states could come to some decisions about allocations, and that the states could manage seasons within pretty close tolerances.”

Bannon said the Gulf Council faced two challenges with state management of red snapper. First, where do the federal for-hire boats fit into the program? The Council decided to not include the federal for-hire in Amendment 50 and consider other options in the future if conditions change for the federal for-hire boats. Second, what allocations could the five Gulf states live with?

“These allocations were based on different factors like biomass and historical landings,” Bannon said. “So, the state directors used the EFP allocations as a starting point for Amendment 50.

“The EFP only allowed us to set the season within our allocation. Under Amendment 50, we received an increase in allocation from 25% to 26.298%, and that increase will be permanent. We also have in Amendment 50 the ability to set size and bag limits within certain parameters. Those are management tools to maximize the benefit for Alabama.”

When the initial EFP allocations were proposed, the totals did not equal 100% of the total allowable catch. Bannon said Florida was given the extra 3.78% because they were the final state to apply.

“They amended their EFP to get that extra allocation,” Bannon said. “We felt like that extra allocation should be negotiated. In the end, Alabama and Florida split that 3.78% under Amendment 50 because we’re the two largest consumers of red snapper. The other states were comfortable with that. It seems to be fair and equitable.”

Under the new amendment, each state creates their own plan. Alabama’s plan includes a 10% buffer as opposed to the 20% buffer under the federal system. The federal for-hire sector has not exceeded its quota for several years, and its buffer was reduced to 9%.

Alabama’s allocation of red snapper for the 2019 private recreational season under the EFP is 1,079,765 pounds. Alabama’s allocation for the 2020 season increases to 1,122,661 pounds if the private recreational sector doesn’t exceed its quota this year.

Bannon said most red snapper anglers are happy with the upcoming season, and he anticipates there could be some season adjustments when Amendment 50 goes into effect.

“Most of the responses I’ve received for the 2019 season is they were happy to get the June and July seasons and that the season was spread out enough that if the weather was bad they could go another weekend,” he said. “We know we still have concerns from the public that they would like more fishing time during the week. As we move forward in state management, that is always a possibility because we now have the flexibility to set the seasons.”

The 2019 season length is tentatively set for 27 days, starting June 1 with three-day weekends (Friday-Sunday) except opening weekend (two days) and July 4 week, which will be four days (Thursday-Sunday). The size limit and bag limit remain the same at two fish per person with a minimum size of 16 inches total length.

Bannon is planning to ask snapper anglers for assistance to keep Alabama’s unparalleled artificial reef program at the top. The loss of funding for research in those reef zones will prompt him to ask the Conservation Advisory Board to implement a reef fish endorsement beginning in 2020.

“The reef fish endorsement is set up to help fund some of the research conducted in the reef zones, because we’re losing some of the funding used for that research,” he said. “The research needs to continue, and we also need funds to support programs like Snapper Check, which we hope to expand into a better program.

“It’s designed as a user-based system that applies to the people who are participating in that fishery, including private recreational, charter for-hire and commercial fishermen. Another aspect of it is it defines the user group. It gives us a better idea, especially among private anglers, of how many people are fishing for reef fish off Alabama. That way we can have better directed surveys, which are targeted at people who participate in the fishery instead of just people who have saltwater fishing licenses.”

The endorsement fees would be $10 for private recreational anglers and $250 for commercial fishermen. The charter for-hire fees would depend on the size of the boat and number of passengers the vessel can carry.

Amendment 50 gives the five Gulf states much more control of their red snapper seasons. Photo by David Rainer
As for Amendment 50, Bannon said Alabama has already shown state management will work. The public is supportive, and he thinks that Secretary Wilbur Ross will quickly approve.

“As I said on the radio the other day, Alabama has 3% of the Gulf coastline and will receive 26.298% of the total allowable catch for the 2020 season and beyond,” Bannon said. “I think Amendment 50 is a success for the fishery, and I think it’s a success for the states because the states can now manage the seasons, size limits and bag limits that best suit their anglers.