Category Archives: Conservation

Ducks, Unlimited, A Conservation Organization for All

If there were no hunters, there would be no wild game animals in the United States. With no Ducks, Unlimited, there would be no wild ducks in the North America.

    Hunters are the original conservationists.  We prize natural areas and the wild animals and birds that inhabit them.  Ducks, Unlimited, founded in 1937 with the goal of preserving natural habitat that ducks require, started a movement of similar groups.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and many organizations have followed Ducks, Unlimited’s lead.  All raise money to preserve habitat and study the habits and needs of their favorite game animal or bird, and all want to increase the habitat needed.

    Ducks, Unlimited holds banquets where money is raised to further those goals.  For the price of a ticket, a good meal is served and there are raffles and auctions of items mostly related to duck hunting. Locally, the Pike County Sportsman’s Night Out will be held Thursday, October 10 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Strickland Building in Concord.

    It will be a fun night of fellowship with like minded sportsmen and conservationists, and you can go home with a full stomach, happy face and some great equipment.  Plan to attend, some tickets are still available by calling Roy Brooks at 678–858-6482 or Kel Brannon at 770-468-7871 and tickets will be available at the door.  Individual tickets are only $35 and couples are $60.

    Ducks, Unlimited looks at the big picture, working all over North America to accomplish its goal of wetland conservation. More than 14 million acres of waterfowl habitat in North America have been conserved across our continent since its founding, focusing its efforts and resources on habitats that are most beneficial to waterfowl. 

    But it pays attention to smaller details, too.  Here in Georgia, more then 27,000 acres of habitat have been conserved.  Georgia is part of the Atlantic Flyway and some waterfowl hatched in more northern areas of the US and Canada depend on Georgia wetlands for winter habitat.

    Our coastal wetlands provide necessary winter habitat for diving and puddle ducks, from lesser scaups to green wing teal and wigeon.  Interior parts of the state include river bottoms and beaver ponds where thousands of mallards and wood ducks survive the winter.  Reservoirs are important to ring-necked ducks, canvasbacks and wood ducks.  

    Last year in Georgia, 150 events raised 2.1 million dollars to help conserve 27,310 acres in our state. And 97 thousand dollars from our state were used for habitat in Canada, where many of our ducks are produced.  Without those nesting areas, our duck population would be greatly reduced.

    Some of the projects in Georgia include restoration of managed wetlands on the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area, a priority for our coastal area.

    Ducks, Unlimited works with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on the coast and other places, like the Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area near Lake Seminole. There, an additional 2840 acres of mostly upland habitat that protects the wetlands, a necessary precaution, have been secured. And upland habitat benefits deer, turkey and small game.

    At the Cordele Fish Hatchery in Crisp County a Ducks, Unlimited project helped restore an existing 48-acre lake where the levee was damaged by heavy rains.  Vegetation control helped remove trees and bushes and allow the types of vegetation waterfowl need to grow. This area is a wildlife viewing area where you can see songbirds and ducks and the efforts will increase numbers as well as diversity of those species.

    At the Penholoway Swamp Wildlife Management Area high quality bottom land hardwood forest as well as nearby uplands have been enhanced.  This area has tidal swamp forest as well as other habitats in Wayne County, and is open to many kinds of public recreation as well as hunting.

    At the Blanton Creek Wildlife Management Area on Bartletts Ferry Lake, two water control structures were built near the Chattahoochee River to increase vegetation suitable for ducks and other water birds. It covers 50 acres and Ducks, Unlimited worked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources as well as the

Georgia Power Company on it.

    In Colquitt County on the Mayhaw Wildlife Management Area 50 acres were restored through the installation of a water control structure and perimeter levees to provide suitable habitat for emergent marsh vegetation.  Some waterfowl foods were also planted there.

     Working with the University of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources near Eatonton, Ducks, Unlimited helped construct a series of dikes and water control structures on Indian Creek to form a pond in hardwood habitat.

    Near Gay in Meriwether County, 50 acres of waterfowl habitat on the Joe Kurz Wildlife Management Area on the Flint River was restored with a water controls structure that will help wood ducks and mallards as well as others.

          These and many other projects in our state have already made a difference here and will continue to help wildlife in the future, thanks to Ducks, Unlimited and their partners.

          Ducks, Unlimited’s efforts benefit all wildlife, not just ducks, and provides recreation benefits to everyone to all who value nature.

    If you don’t want to attend a local banquet, join this conservation organization to help their efforts.  Right now, your $35 annual membership fee includes a nice fleece jacket.  Anyone that values natural habitat, from hunters and bird watchers to fishermen and hikers should be proud to be members.

    Go to https://www.ducks.org to join and find out more about this important conservation organization.

Fishing for Red Snapper


The Long Road to Recovery for Red Snapper


A new method for managing the fish will allow more flexible fishing seasons across the Gulf. 
Joe Richards, Seafavorites.com
from The Fishing Wire

A new method for managing red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is under way, capping off decades of fighting over one of the Gulf of Mexico’s most famous fish.The approach gives each Gulf state the authority to set red snapper fishing rules for anglers in federal waters—a system that provides flexibility but also requires states to shorten future seasons if the Gulf-wide catch limit is exceeded.

Federal authorities, who previously managed recreational red snapper fishing in federal waters and still regulate commercial and charter-boat fishing of the species, will work with state officials to monitor, study, and collect data on red snapper.The new system began two years ago as a pilot program, and federal officials must give final approval for it to become permanent.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is taking public comments through Oct. 7 here. Reduced catch limits have helped the red snapper population steadily recover from decades of overfishing. Joe Richards, Seafavorites.comHere’s a look back at key moments in the Gulf of Mexico red snapper story and a glimpse of what’s to come.

1950-1980s: Commercial and recreational catch skyrockets, rapidly depleting the red snapper population.

Late 1980s: Fishery managers implement regulations, including bag and size limits, but these are not enough to help the species recover.

 1990: Gulf red snapper hit a dangerously low level—just 2 percent of the population’s spawning potential—due to decades of overfishing (removing fish faster than they can be replaced through reproduction) and unintended catch in shrimp trawls. Fishery managers set a target of at least 26 percent for a stable population.  

1997-1998: Fishery managers require shrimp fishermen to install devices in trawl nets to reduce incidental catch of juvenile red snapper. 

2005: A federal recovery plan for red snapper begins after conservation groups sue over lack of progress in rebuilding the population.

2006: Regulators begin setting science-based catch limits for Gulf red snapper as Congress works to strengthen its federal fishery law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

2007-2008: Managers significantly reduce catch limits for commercial, charter, and recreational fishermen and implement a quota system that reserves a certain amount of red snapper for a limited number of commercial fishermen—a program that successfully keeps commercial catch at sustainable amounts.

2009: Federal fishery managers announce overfishing is projected to end and begin raising annual catch limits. However, the population still has not fully recovered, partly because there aren’t enough older fish, which are the most productive spawners. Scientists project full recovery will take until 2032.

2013: A new federal stock assessment of the red snapper population shows overfishing has ended.

Mid-to-late 2010s: As Gulf red snapper show signs of recovery—a population increase, expanded range, and larger, older individuals—debate heats up over how to divide still-limited catch among recreational, charter, and commercial fishermen. As a group, recreational fishermen exceed their quotas nearly every year.

2014: A court rules the recreational catch excesses must end. Federal regulators begin setting progressively shorter seasons to account for higher catches in state-controlled waters and associated overages. 

2015: As anger grows over catch allocation and to better control catch, fishery managers—in a contentious vote—adopt distinct catch limits for recreational anglers and charter captains, setting the stage to allow different types of management.  

2016: Managers approve revising the amount of red snapper allocated to the recreational and commercial fisheries. However, a lawsuit by the commercial fishermen overturns that change. “Re-allocation” continues to be a tense issue.

2017: Federal managers set a three-day red snapper season, saying longer state seasons are using up allowable Gulf quota. This infuriates and confuses fishermen. Ultimately, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce creates a 39-day federal season. Also, fishery managers vote to require charter captains to keep electronic logbooks documenting amounts of catch.

2018: Federal managers launch a pilot program granting states the right to set recreational seasons in U.S. waters but say states must continue to meet Magnuson-Stevens act requirements for science-based catch limits. States participate using their own data collection programs.  The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, after changing the threshold for Gulf red snapper and other reef fish, determines it is no longer overfished but keeps a rebuilding plan in place, with a goal of returning the population to full health by 2032.

The Future: Red snapper’s long history is rife with hard decisions and sacrifice, but this once-dwindling species is on the road to recovery. If the rebuilding plan stays on track, anglers can expect a healthier population, bigger fish, higher catch limits, and more fishing days. Managers and fishermen have overcome some of the most difficult hurdles and have ideas about how to resolve those that remain.

With each state using its own method to collect data, NOAA Fisheries will need to standardize information to monitor fishing rates and catch and to assess the population Gulf-wide. Fishery managers likely will continue to struggle with allocating catch between commercial and recreational fishermen.

And one major cause of red snapper mortality remains a problem: Even though anglers and commercial fishermen must release red snapper under certain conditions, the fish often don’t survive being brought to the surface from deeper than 100 feet. Descending tools can help alleviate this problem if used widely and properly.   It’s been a long saga for red snapper, but the future for fishing and this iconic species is promising.

Holly Binns directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ efforts to protect ocean life in the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. Caribbean
Catching red snapper

A group of recreational anglers fish for red snapper.

Combating Post-Release Mortality

Recreational Anglers Get Help Combating Post-Release Mortality from Partnership of Fishery Managers
from The Fishing Wire

Red drum with circle hook in lip.

Red drum with circle hook in lip. Photo courtesy of Capt. Spud Woodward.

NOAA Fisheries, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and Atlantic state agencies partner to make circle hooks, descending devices more accessible to anglers.

No one, especially recreational anglers, likes to see a fish float away or sink to the bottom dead. That’s why NOAA Fisheries Recreational Fishing Initiative, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), and the Atlantic states are working together to help more fish survive when released by recreational anglers.

Fish mortality has historically been high in some of our most iconic fisheries. Advances in fishing gear technology have, in recent years, helped alleviate some of its leading causes. Two of the most effective tools are fish descending devices and circle hooks.

Descending devices help return fish to the depth—and pressure—where they were caught. This relieves problems caused by barotrauma, a condition resulting from rapid pressure changes. Barotrauma can make it hard for fish to swim and can cause swelling of their organs.

Circle hooks help anglers hook a fish in the lip or jaw, reducing damage from hooking fish in the gills, stomach, or other vital organs.

Many recreational anglers are embracing these technologies. Fishery managers see benefits when more anglers adopt catch and release best practices.

NOAA Fisheries recently worked with ASMFC to make these tools more easily available and keep our nation’s fishery resources healthy. With funds provided by NOAA Fisheries Recreational Fishing Initiative, the Commission distributed 61,000 circle hooks and more than 1,000 descending devices to state marine fishery agencies from Florida to New England. This project will help recreational anglers limit their impact on the resources they cherish. It has also strengthened the partnership between state and federal fishery managers.

Bob Beal, ASMFC Executive Director said “ASMFC and its member states are committed to working with our federal partners and stakeholders to reduce post-release mortality. Circle hooks and descending devices, in combination with angler education, can be important components of a fishery management program. Given the impact of using these tools are difficult to quantify and are largely dependent on angler experience, they should be used in concert with other management measures to maximize their conservation benefits to the resource.”

“Accounting for and reducing the impact of recreational discards in a stock assessment is an enormous fishery management challenge,” says Dr. Luiz Barbieri, Program Administrator, Marine Fisheries Research at Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “Anything that can help us reduce the uncertainty of recreational discards in a stock assessment and improve management decisions is a welcome tool in the toolbox. This partnership is an extremely valuable step in improving the management of our recreational fisheries.”

Russell Dunn, the National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fisheries at NOAA Fisheries continues, “It was a natural collaboration to address an issue important to anglers and managers that can have a real impact on maintaining healthy fish stocks and improving recreational fishing opportunities. We were glad to be able to contribute and appreciate their partnership.”

Catch and release fishing is not only an American pastime, but a great conservation strategy if done correctly. Actions anglers take before, during, and after a fish is caught can improve its chances of survival, keep fish stocks healthy, and keep anglers fishing.

Stocking Young Atlantic Salmon

Stocking Young Atlantic Salmon Downstream Means Higher Survival Success
From NOAA Fisheries
from The Fishing Wire

When it comes to recovering endangered Atlantic salmon, it makes a difference where smolt stocking takes place along a river. A new model can help by evaluating estimated survival of smolts released at different stocking locations.

Stocking salmon downstream


Stocking Green Lake National Fish Hatchery smolts in Maine’s Narraguagus River. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

Young Atlantic salmon smolt released at lower-river stocking sites on the Penobscot River are more likely to survive and enter the ocean than those released higher in the river system. They encounter fewer barriers such as man-made dams during their migration to the estuary, and their migration path is shorter. NOAA Fisheries scientists built a model that can help select release locations to improve survival of stocked smolt as they head for the ocean.

The 2018 Northeast Fisheries Science Center study, published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, highlights the continuing challenge to conserve this endangered species.

“This model is an important tool to support decision-making for the recovery of wild, self-sustaining Atlantic salmon populations,” said Justin Stevens, a fishery biologist at the Center’s Maine Field Station in Orono and lead author of the study. “Hatchery smolt stocking is a common strategy used in the program, and now we have a way to effectively evaluate its success.”

Using Historic Salmon Survival Rates to Improve Prospects for the Future

The researchers built a model to simulate historic survival of migrating Atlantic salmon smolt at different locations along the Penobscot River from 1970 through 2012, using existing studies of smolt survival. The model assessed the relative survival risks posed by three factors: dams, discharge into the river, and the length of the migration route.

By far, the number of dams encountered during downstream migration had the biggest effect on survival. The more dams the smolts encountered, the lower the survival rate.

A number of dams have been removed from the Penobscot River in the past few years. However, more than 100 man-made dams remain. Most are relative small and used for water storage or are remnants from 19th century industrial activities.

This study focused on 18 dams commissioned to generate hydroelectric power during the study period, for which hatchery records were also available. These dams are situated along primary salmon migration paths in the five sub-basins of the river.

Model Results Can Guide Management Decisions

“The information learned from this study can be used by state and federal managers to better inform future stocking practices and to work with the hydroelectric industry to minimize the impact of dams,” said Stevens.

This study provides a quantitative way to evaluate the effect of dams on smolt survival during downstream migration in the largest U.S. Atlantic salmon river.

The model calculates marine survival, from post-smolt to adult salmon. It accounts for losses during both freshwater and estuarine migration, and is an important new tool for making decisions about habitat improvement, fishery management, and Atlantic salmon recovery activities.

A Bit More About Endangered Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic salmon smolt migrate from freshwater river habitat downstream to the ocean. Many do not survive the journey past multiple dams or their time at sea.

If they do survive, as adults they need to migrate from their time in the ocean back to the river. Adults then swim upstream past dams to spawn and complete their life cycle. Making multiple trips during their lifetime further reduces the likelihood of repeat spawners, and that negatively affects population growth.

Historically, Atlantic salmon in the United States ranged from the Housatonic River of Long Island Sound to the Aroostook River in eastern Maine. There were an estimated 500,000 adult fish in precolonial days.

Today, U.S. Atlantic salmon are limited to eastern Maine and the population numbers fewer than 2,000 adult fish. The Penobscot River supports the largest population, aided by a hatchery-smolt stocking program that produces about 75 percent of the annual adult returns.

This year has been designated as International Year of the Salmon. It is the kickoff for an international effort though 2022 to bring countries together to share knowledge, raise public awareness, and take action to conserve and recover both Pacific and Atlantic salmon.

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 MyFWC.com/SaltwaterFishing 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 https://youtu.be/jhkzv1_2Bpc.

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 MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Fish Handling.” To learn more about barotrauma, descending devices and venting tools, visit our YouTube channel at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterFishing. For answers to questions, contact 850-487-0554 or Marine@MyFWC.com.

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 www.tu.org.