Category Archives: Fishing Tackle

Rods and reels to live bait

Give Your Reels a Little TLC–and They’ll Return the Favor

Clean your reels

by Jeff Williams 
Editor, Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
from The Fishing Wire

LITTLE ROCK — Outdoorsmen have as much fun tinkering, fiddling and piddling as they do hunting, fishing or looking for wildlife.

They break down rifles and shotguns, clean and oil the mechanisms, and put the pieces back together. They clean binoculars and cameras so they’ll be ready for the next sighting of a favorite critter. And they tear into fishing reels to make them spin smoother than the day they came out of a box.

There’s probably a gene for taking things apart. If you’ve got it, you love to open a reel to see how it works, especially if it’s old and crusty.

Years ago, I was driving to a float-fishing trip when I spotted a yard sale. This one featured the usual out-of-date items, from bread boxes to Brownie cameras, but one table was loaded with reels. Like most fishermen, I have reels to the gills, but I liked the idea of buying a couple and putting them back into service.

I picked up a Cardinal 553 and a Cardinal 763 for $10. Neither was obviously damaged (the 763’s handle was attached with a replacement screw, although it appeared serviceable). The action of each was sluggish and they were dinged up. I packed them away, went on with the trip and came back to them months later.

Parts and Pieces
If you’re not familiar with the process, yard sale reels are a great place to start. You’re not investing a lot of money and most older reels are pretty basic. Check websites for reel schematics; you’ll be amazed at the number of schematics for obscure reels that have been posted. Reels are loaded with parts, especially washers. Perhaps the best advice for anyone who plans to breakdown a reel is: Keep the parts in order (this is where the schematic can come in handy). Create a system (number the parts, go by order of disassembly, whatever works) that will help put them back the way they were. Owners’ manuals (check the internet) may give tips about how to disassemble or reassemble.

Now that digital cameras are on everyone’s phone, it’s a great idea to take pictures of the inside of the reel as soon as it’s open and take plenty of pictures along the way. These images could be vital if the parts just won’t fit later.

A good scrubbing
Degrease everything. It’s the grit inside a reel that causes it to grind when it’s cranked, sort of like dirty oil in an engine. Even a cheap old reel turns much more smoothly after cleaning. Just put the parts in a shallow bowl with degreaser and let them soak. The degreaser will do most of the work for you if it’s given time.

With an old toothbrush or swabs, wipe away gunk from gears, washers and the “worm shaft,” a perfectly descriptive phrase. Clean the inside and outside of the housing because dirt left there will find its way into cogs. The goal is to remove anything that could hold grime.

Use light greases and lubricants on the worm screw and gears – anything that moves. An owner’s manual might explain how to reach the bearings, which should receive a few drops of oil. Don’t overdo it with the oil and grease, though. Too much lubricant can dry and cake up around bearings and gears, collecting the sort of dirt and grime you just cleaned.

Besides the two reels mentioned above, I found a Browning rod and reel at my feet while wade fishing in the Buffalo River several years ago. The combo was covered in all sorts of growths. None of the rod was visible,and I knew the reel only by its shape.

As beat up and hopeless as that rod and reel looked, they are in use to this day. A cleaning removed the crud from the rod, light sanding restored the cork handle, and the reel works like a charm after a thorough cleaning and oiling. Fresh electrical tape straps the reel to rod.

Keep it clean
Maintaining reels on a regular basis will keep them out of your future yard sales.

On spinning reels, oil the bail assembly at the hinge where the bail flips over to cast and the crank where the handle meets the reel body. Take the handle out of the reel and drop just a little oil where the handle goes.

With baitcasting reels, oil the level wind and put a drop of oil on the bearings – just a little bit. Pull the spool out and wipe around it. Keep it clean and oil those bearings.

After a while, no amount of cleaning will keep a reel from needing some professional help. Bearings and gears wear; there’s no way around it. But keeping everything clean is a sure way to prevent an early visit to the repair shop.

The original version of this story appeared in Arkansas Wildlife magazine in 2010. Visit www.arkansaswildlife.com to learn more about the magazine and how to subscribe.

Buy Fishing Line Based on Diameter

My favorite fluorocarbon line

Buy Fishing Line Based on Diameter, Not Lb. Test, Advises Sunline
from The Fishing Wire

Making enough line to go around the world nearly 34 times each year, Sunline has the largest stand-alone line factory on the planet. Despite making so much line every year, quality and accuracy are guiding principles for production of every spool of line that Sunline makes. 

 Sunline manufactures their lines to strict diameter tolerances that require a specific diameter range for each lb test. These diameter specifications are held across the globe for any line we offer. 

 Japanese laws require line companies selling line in the Japanese domestic market to label lines with a specific lb test based on pre-determined diameter ranges.  This policy ensures lines rated at a specific lb test will break at that lb test for true accuracy.

The true measure of a line or fiber is the denier rating.   Denier is a unit of measure for the linear mass density of fibers.  It is the mass in grams per 9000 meters of the fiber. This provides a true measure of the strength of a line or fiber and allows the strength of different materials to be compared regardless of the diameter.  One fiber may have a higher breaking strength because it is larger in diameter, but that does not mean it is stronger, only thicker in diameter.  Denier allows fibers to be tested and compared regardless of diameter for a true comparison.

Companies selling line in Europe are also held to a similar standard for diameters with the EFTTA Line Charter.  The charter is a pledge by over 35-line manufacturers stating they will only manufacture lines that meet agreed upon standards.  

A few of those include:
To print on their products clear and accurate descriptions in terms of diameters and breaking strength that are easy to understand, truthful and respectful of consumer protection laws and the standards of the industry, in compliance of the ISO 2062 Standards.

To run quality controls in sufficient quantities and sufficiently often to ensure that products labels are always accurate.

Not to use any other labeling in terms of breaking strength that is not scientifically demonstrated or agreed by the industry so as to avoid any confusion among consumers leading to unfair competition.

So, what about the US?  There are no such guidelines or charters in the US market regulating diameters.  Line companies can produce a line and label it with any lb test they want.  What better way to make a line seem stronger than it really is than to make a larger line and label it with a lower lb test.  This will make the line seem much stronger than it really is. An angler thinks the line is strong but doesn’t realize they are fishing with a much larger line size.  

If an angler were to catch a record fish using one of these inflated lines, the record would not be upheld when they submitted the record catching line for testing.

 In some cases, an angler thinking he is buying 12lb line is actually buying 22lb line with a 12lb label on it.

This can obviously impact the status of record fish caught with inflated line sizes. Other ways inflated lines impact anglers are in the performance of their lures.  Many lures swim or run better with lighter line.  If you are buying line you think is 12lb which will allow a lure to perform at its best, but the line is much larger it can impact the performance of the lure. 

 Crankbaits and jerkbaits run deeper with smaller diameter lines allowing them to reach maximum depth.  Similarly, anglers that troll a lot purchase lines based on the diameter knowing it will impact the diving depths of their crankbaits when trolled.  

The Precision Trolling Data shows the impact that a larger diameter can have on the diving depth of a crankbait.

Additional Resources
EFTTA, https://www.eftta.co.uk/line-charter/
Trolling data, https://www.precisiontrollingdata.com/
Denier, https://standardfiber.com/about-denier/
Lines, www.sunlineamerica.com

Fishing the Ned Rig

Ned Rig
Tips on fishing the Ned Rig
from The Fishing Wire

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the Ned Rig is one of the hottest techniques in bass fishing these days. Just a few years ago though, this ultra-finesse setup was known only in the backyard of its birthplace in the Midwest, and when Z-Man brought the Ned Rig to the bass fishing mainstream six years ago, most serious bass anglers laughed at the idea of using ‘crappie jigs’ to target bass. The technique has now proven its worth, racking up multiple tournament wins and helping cash countless checks, and today, you would be hard-pressed to find a tournament bass angler who didn’t have some variation of the Ned Rig on-hand.

Nonetheless, while many anglers have picked up on the Ned Rig due to its simple ability to produce bites in tough conditions, most are still not maximizing its effectiveness due to a few simple – and easily corrected – misconceptions or errors in tackle selection and technique. Below is a list of missteps we see time and again from our customers that limit their success of this technique.

1. Using Hooks That Are Too Big
Initially, many anglers scoffed at the small, light wire size 1 and 2 hooks on our Finesse ShroomZ jigheads and labeled them ‘crappie jigs’ that weren’t suitable for bass fishing…until they actually tried them. The fact is that you will get more bites and maximize the effectiveness of ElaZtech finesse baits by using a jighead with a small, light wire hook, whether it’s one of our Finesse ShroomZ or a jighead made by another manufacturer.

One of the main reasons why the Ned Rig works so well is because of the buoyancy of our ElaZtech material. At rest, the baits stand up off the bottom and move ever so slightly, even when deadsticked. On the fall, the buoyancy allows for a slower, more horizontal, sometimes spiraling descent.

A larger hook can not only weigh down the bait and cause it not to stand up properly, but it can throw off the balance of the rig and cause it look unnatural in the water.

Moreover, the ElaZtech material is extremely soft and limber, much more so than conventional soft plastic materials. The portion of the bait with the hook running through it is stiffened by the hook shank itself, but the section behind the hook is completely uninhibited and moves freely and naturally. The more material behind the hook, the better action the bait will display in the water.

In fact, Midwest pioneer and Ned Rig namesake Ned Kehde routinely uses tiny size 6 hooks in his fishing. Ned is the most meticulous note-taker and documenter of his fishing efforts, and his logs reveal no problem with hooksets or thrown hooks with these tiny hooks. We selected size 1 and 2 hooks for our Finesse ShroomZ as we felt it was a healthy balance between allowing for plenty of bait action and lift and offering a product that consumers would not be uncomfortable using for bass fishing.

Of course, there are times when a larger or heavier hook is beneficial, like fishing around cover or in heavy current when more pressure is needed to horse in fish. That is precisely why we created the NedlockZ, which features the strongest size 1 and 2 jig hooks known to man, and the Pro ShroomZ, which utilizes a strong size 1/0 custom hook. Day in and day out, the lighter wire hooks of the Finesse ShroomZ get the nod, as they simply provide better bait action and get more bites.

2. Using Tackle That Is Too Heavy
When we say that the Ned Rig is an ‘ultra-finesse’ technique, we mean it! Chances are that many bass fishermen may not even own a rod that is suitable for a Ned Rig. Due to the light weight and diminutive size of a Ned Rig, spinning tackle is a must. Spinning rods designed for shaky head, drop shot, or split shot techniques may be suitable, provided that they have a very light tip to accommodate the small hooks of the Finesse ShroomZ jigheads. Other anglers have employed trout or panfish rods, which probably are a better choice. Several manufacturers, like Lew’s for instance, have designed technique-specific Ned Rig rods to help anglers match the right rod to the rig.

Generally, rods should be light or medium-light power with a fast action and a very soft tip.

While standard 2500 or 3000 size bass reels will work fine, we have found that smaller 1000 size spinning reels usually reserved for trout or panfish are even better, as they are built to handle fine diameter lines. In addition, the smaller spools on 1000 size spinning reels take up less line with each turn of the handle and enable anglers not accustomed to this technique to slow down their presentations.

Though some anglers opt for fluorocarbon line, light braided line of 10 lb. test or less is better as it allows for longer casts with very lightweight jigheads. Tying on a light fluorocarbon leader is always recommended.Just as important as tackle is the drag setting. Due to the small hooks on the jigheads that work best for this technique as well as the light wire they are deliberately built from, much lighter drag settings than bass fishermen are accustomed to are required.

One common complaint we get about our Finesse ShroomZ jigheads is that the hooks bend out on big fish; however, the bottom line is that if you are straightening hooks, then your tackle is too heavy or your drag is not set light enough.

Many bass over 10 lbs., pike over 20 lbs., and redfish over 30 inches have been caught using these jigheads with appropriate tackle, so they’re plenty strong to catch big fish.3. Using Too Heavy a JigheadWhen we get asked which weight jighead to use for the Ned Rig, we always tell people to use the lightest jighead possible. Fish routinely hit the Ned Rig on the fall, and if you’re using too heavy a jighead, the bait will plummet past the fish straight to the bottom. A lighter head will simply keep the bait in the strike zone for longer and will allow for that tantalizing, slow descent that makes the Ned Rig so effective. A lighter head also hangs up less on rocks and helps keep the bait out of grass or algae that lines the bottom of many lakes.

There are certainly occasions where a heavier 1/6 or 1/5 oz. head is necessary, like in depths of greater than 20 feet or in significant current. Day in and day out, a lighter head will simply produce more bites. For general shallow water lake or pond fishing in depths of 10 feet or less, the 1/10, 1/15, and 1/20 oz. jigheads should be your mainstay.

4. Throwing Away a Bait After a Few Fish
We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen a novice Ned Rigger toss an ElaZtech bait after catching a few fish on it. This may seem counterintuitive, but ElaZtech finesse baits actually get better with age! After being chewed on by a few fish, the flexible material starts to exude salt and takes on a softer, spongier feel with a slimy coating that is irresistible to fish. Small rips or tears from teeth limber the bait up even more.

Many diehard Ned Riggers go as far as to gluing worn baits onto their jigheads or even tying them together with thread. Others stretch their baits before using them to eliminate some of the salt and give them the sought-after spongy texture, while others soak the baits in water to achieve the same effect.

5. Fishing Too Fast
Most bass fishermen love power fishing and love fishing moving baits. There’s just something exhilarating about covering ground with a ChatterBait® bladed jig or swimbait, yanking bass from thick cover with a flipping stick, and having a bass smash a topwater plug is equally exciting – not to mention that’s how most tournament anglers are fishing these days, and bass fishermen are quick to mimic their techniques even on recreational outings.In our mind, fishing the Ned Rig is just as much – if not more – fun and exciting, though the excitement comes from the sheer number of bites you get and the fight on light tackle – not to mention out-catching just about everyone else on the water!

The key to generating all of those bites is to slow down your presentation.This takes discipline, especially when using lightweight jigheads. Let that bait sink all the way to the bottom. Deadstick it for a few seconds on the bottom before hopping, dragging, or swimming it. Drag it very slowly along the bottom and then let it sit again. Doing all of these things truly maximizes the effectiveness of the ElaZtech material, allowing it to work for you whether the bait is slowly spiraling through the water column or standing up off the bottom and moving ever-so-slightly at rest.

6. Setting Hooks Too Hard
Just like tackle and drag settings must be adjusted to account for the small, light wire hooks used with the Ned Rig, so must hook setting techniques. Most bass fishermen are accustomed to hard hooksets while power fishing, but setting the hook hard with the Ned Rig is counterproductive and can result in bent or pulled hooks.

The hooks used on our Finesse ShroomZ jigheads are made from light wire and are very sharp out of the pack, a combination that leads to easy hook point penetration with very little pressure. When setting the hook, simply reel tight and lean into the fish, loading up the rod. Just a little bit of pressure is all that’s needed to firmly embed the hook in a bass’ mouth.

To that end, maintaining a sharp hook point is critical when using the Ned Rig. It is always wise to carry a small hook file when fishing the Ned Rig to touch up those hook points after a fish catch or dragging the hook across a rock. We prefer a small diamond hook file, the type used more commonly by fly fishers to sharpen tiny hooks meant for stream trout. It really is amazing how much of a difference keeping a sharp hook point can make.

7. Using Baits Made From Materials Other Than ElaZtech
While this point may sound entirely self-serving coming from a manufacturer like Z-Man, it is perhaps the most important note on this list. Sure, the small and simple profile of the Ned Rig has a lot to do with why it gets so many bites, but the ElaZtech material is just as important. As noted above, the buoyancy and softness of ElaZtech are keys to providing the absolute best action, both on the retrieve, on the descent, or at rest. In addition, the material’s durability presents a superior value, but more importantly, keeps you fishing rather than re-rigging when the bite is on. And with a Ned Rig, you get a tremendous number of bites, making durability even more important!

This importance of using ElaZtech baits truly cannot be overstated, and we hear this nearly every day from customers who have experienced this for themselves. Case-in-point, here’s a note we received recently from a customer: “I have to admit, after recently learning about and deciding to try the Ned Rig, it just wasn’t working out. Of course, I was ripping a standard Senko in half and using a mushroom-shaped swimbait head. What a joke – I couldn’t figure out how people were actually catching fish on it. I was at a local retailer and saw the TRD and the Finesse ShroomZ heads and bought 2 packs of heads and 4 packs of plastics and set out for my tournament the following day. I AM A BELIEVER!!! What a difference! I am so impressed, I caught so many fish doing something I had never done before. Best part – one single bait lasted all day. To top it off, I ended up winning the tournament by over a pound.

“While we routinely read in tournament reports about professional anglers using other non-ElaZtech plastics on their Ned Rigs, most of this can be chalked up to sponsor obligations and conflicts that prevent them from using or mentioning Z-Man baits. The fact is that we’ve shipped product directly to dozens and dozens of tour-level anglers with conflicting soft plastic sponsors over the last couple of years, including overnighting baits to tournament locations at the last minute on multiple occasions. And, the most dedicated and diehard Midwest finesse anglers are still using ElaZtech virtually exclusively.8. Limiting Yourself to Certain Bait ProfilesAgain, this last point definitely may come across as self-serving, but we feel it is absolutely worth mentioning, nonetheless.

The 2.75″ Finesse TRD is far and away the most popular Ned Rig soft plastic, and for good reason – it flat-out catches fish. However, anglers are shorting themselves by having a few packs of TRDs on-hand and figuring that they have their Ned Rig bases covered.

Like other types of soft plastic fishing, there are many Ned Rig profiles that work at different times of the year or under certain conditions. Most any small soft plastic bait can be used with the Ned Rig; in the Z-Man line alone, the 4″ Finesse WormZFinesse ShadZHula StickZ3.75″ StreakZTRD TubeZSlim SwimZCrusteaZ3.5″ GrubZTRD HogZTRD CrawZTRD MinnowZTRD TicklerZ, and TRD BugZ all complement the Finesse TRD as part of Ned Rig system. Each of these baits offers its own set of advantages and can be utilized to match predominant forage in different fisheries.

One advantage of the Ned Rig is that it works so well on pressured fish, but keep in mind that fish can become accustomed to and resistant to certain profiles that are over-utilized; when the bite slows down, mix it up by switching to a completely different profile to show the fish something that they may not have seen.

If you read Ned Kehde’s frequent entries in the Finesse News Network, you’ll see that he consistently relies on the Finesse WormZTRD MinnowZTRD HogZ, and Finesse ShadZ while fishing in Kansas reservoirs. Z-Man finesse bait designer and Bassmaster Classic veteran Drew Reese, along with several tour-level anglers like Z-Man and Bassmaster Elite pro Jeff ‘Gussy’ Gustafson, feel that the Hula StickZ gives them a better shot at connecting with larger fish on a regular basis. A group of finesse devotees in Texas have seen their catch rates increase by adding the Slim SwimZ, a diminutive swimbait, into the mix, while northern anglers have recently latched onto the TRD TubeZ as a go-to finesse bait. We could go on and on, but the point is that having several different profiles on-hand and experimenting with them in various situations will undoubtedly help up your success with Ned Rig!

Breaking Fishing Equipment

 My trip to Eufaula in March was tough on equipment, but I did not realize it until the next weekend.  Some of it was wear and tear over time, some from stupidity and some from just bad luck.

At Bartletts Ferry the next weekend while re-tying a Chatterbait something just did not look right. On close inspection, the clip holding the line to the lure had corroded and the hook holding it together was gone.

I had caught two good bass on it the weekend before and lost a four pounder that just pulled off. I don’t think the broken clip had anything to do with that but will never know. I do know that if I had hooked another bass on the lure the hook would have come open and I would have lost lure and fish.

Fortunately, it was a regular Chatterbait costing about $6, not their Jackhammer costing $18!  But even an inexpensive lure from a big company should not corrode like that.

The next day I picked up my St. Croix crankbait rod, tried to cast it and something was wrong. I looked and the first guide from the reel was bent. When I tried to straighten it, I saw the rod itself was crushed. It had been stepped on!I don’t remember stepping on it but may have since I have so many on my boat deck while fishing. 

When I got home I contacted St Croix warranty service about sending it back, and was told due to the COVID–19 problem I should just send in pictures of the break and the serial number and it would be replaced for $85, less than one third the cost of a new one

.A couple of days later they called me. Although the rod was about ten years old, and the break was obviously damage, not a defect, it was still under warranty and they replaced it for only $50!

You can not get better service or warranty from anybody.

While all this was going on, I noticed a reel laying under the rods in my back rod holder.  It had fallen off a rod. At first I thought it has just vibrated loose, but when I looked the ear that holds one end of the reel to the rod was broken off.  That is not repairable!

I had to replace my back running light at Eufuala when I let the wind blow the back of the boat under an overhanging bush and broke the pole.

Maybe my run of bad luck is over, but with a bass boat and a lot of fishing equipment, there will be other problems.

Tips on Fishing the ChatterBait JackHammer

Chatterbait Bass

Tips on Fishing the ChatterBait JackHammer from Winning Pro Anglers
The Original ChatterBait bladed jig had already made a sizeable splash in the professional bass scene when in 2017, Z-Man and Japanese lure maestros EverGreen International collaborated on what would quickly become the single most coveted tournament bait in America.

Three years later, the Z-Man ChatterBait JackHammer still sits at the top of the game.

With a major collection of tournament wins and dominating performances already to its credit—including the Bassmaster Classic and other elite events— the ChatterBait JackHammer has worked its special blend of magic once more, this time at the January 2020 FLW Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event at Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

On day one, Z-Man pro Grae Buck hoisted the largest bass of the event—a 9-pound 8-ounce heavyweight that engulfed a ½-ounce green-shad-color ChatterBait JackHammer dressed with a Z-Man RaZor ShadZ™ trailer.

Eventual tournament champion John Cox credited a black-and-blue Z-Man ChatterBait for its clutch performance. After fishing the first three days with a crankbait, Cox’s pattern for staging prespawn bass fell apart. Grinding through the final day, he ran to a pair of favorite trees, where three 2-3/4-pound bass ate Cox’s ChatterBait in succession. A cool $102,500 payday rewarded the Florida angler’s choices.

Further proving the JackHammer’s mettle for heavyweight largemouths, third place finisher Darold Gleason relied on a ½-ounce B-Hite Delight-color ChatterBait JackHammer to elicit bites from shallow, prespawn bass. Meanwhile, keying on isolated cypress trees, tenth-place angler Jon Canada called a chartreuse-white JackHammer his primary lure.Z-Man pro Grae Buck lipped the tournament big bass, a bruiser 9-8 largemouth caught on a ChatterBait JackHammer.

At Rayburn, two more elite ChatterBait programs yielded top-20 paychecks. Z-Man pro Miles “Sonar” Burghoff notched a respectable 18th place finish thanks to a JackHammer; Burghoff might have risen much higher in the ranks, had a submerged tree not punctured his hull on day-2.Weighing a total of 41-pounds 3-ounces, fellow Z-Man angler Buck leaned on his big bass and three solid limits to earn a respectable 19th place finish. Buck, a standout collegiate hockey and fishing star during his days at Penn State University, worked a ChatterBait JackHammer around and through mats of submerged vegetation.

“I was keying on massive patches of hydrilla up in 4 and 7 feet of water,” said Buck, who won the 2019 Bassmaster Eastern Open on a Z-Man Finesse TRD™. “The key to triggering bites was to rip the bait free each time it contacted a hydrilla stem. Even when I’m fishing the bait in open water, I’ll pause or give it one rodtip twitch every so often. Seems like every time you make the bait ‘hunt’ a little or change direction, you get bit.

Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ”One amazing thing about the JackHammer is its ability to produce more vibration and thump and a bigger footprint than its physical size might suggest,” Buck noted. “I think when you put a RaZor ShadZ on the back, the whole package looks like a gizzard shad. But when bass move up close to it, the lure isn’t intimidating. So you get both powerful attracting cues and lifelike physical attributes that result in big bite after bite.

The JackHammer has now produced my two heaviest largemouths to date, and a lot of really big smallmouths.

“Burghoff, an exceptional, versatile angler who lives near the shores of Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga, fished a similar ChatterBait pattern, with a slight variation in retrieve. “At Rayburn, I threw a ½-ounce JackHammer in a neat pattern called ‘Bruised Green Pumpkin,'” he said. “The head is highlighted in blue fleck and the skirt includes a few blue silicone strands added to a green pumpkin base. It’s one of the really unique colors that helps set the JackHammer apart from other bladed jigs.

“Like Buck, Burghoff employed a Z-Man RaZor ShadZ trailer (green pumpkin) and also concentrated on dense stands of submerged hydrilla. The anglers each fished near drains—Texas terminology for the back ends or pockets of feeder creeks.

“I often fish a JackHammer with what I call a yo-yo retrieve,” Burghoff noted. “You’re lifting the ChatterBait and letting it freefall back to the bottom. Each time you do this, you’re presenting fish with an opportunity to react, to bite something that’s vulnerable.”Although Z-Man ChatterBaits have been touted almost exclusively as shallow water tools, Burghoff also likes to ‘yo-yo’ baits like the JackHammer and new ChatterBait Freedom CFL Football on deeper ledges.

“On the Tennessee River lakes, I fish a ChatterBait all summer in those offshore situations,” he adds. “I’ve caught bass in up to 25 feet of water. Where others might fish a crank or a hair jig, I’m throwing a ¾- or 1-1/4-ounce JackHammer, giving fish a different look. The lure’s a lot more versatile than people realize.

“Miles “Sonar” Burghoff says a ChatterBait can also be a great tool when fished yo-yo style on deep structure.

Puget Sound Blackmouth

Blackmouth

“Spinfishing”  for Puget Sound Black
mouth
By Captain John Keizer So how do you find Puget Sound winter blackmouth? The answer is don’t look for the blackmouth but rather look for what attracts blackmouth.

Blackmouth are a delayed released hatchery king salmon that don’t migrate to Alaska but instead inhabits the waters of Puget Sound after being released. The name blackmouth comes from the black gumline that identifies it as a resident chinook salmon. Blackmouth range from the legal size of 22 inches up to fish taken in the upper teens.

In the many years I have fished Puget Sound I have found that Puget Sound blackmouth relate to three things, structure, current and food.We have all heard the line, “Find the bait-find the fish.” It sounds so easy but so many anglers ignore this simple advice in locating blackmouth. Blackmouth salmon are voracious feeders and will be looking for sand lance (candlefish) or herring to fill their bellies year around in Puget Sound.

The sand lance, which are also known locally as “candlefish,” because pioneers used to dry them and make candles out of them due to their high oil content are an ecologically important forage fish throughout Puget Sound where they school in many bays, banks and inlets. Sand lance are important food for young salmon who crave the high oil content; 35% of juvenile salmon diets are composed of sand lance and blackmouth salmon depend on sand lance for 60% of their diet.

Sand lance spawning occurs at high tide in shallow water on sand-gravel beaches. Sand lance will also use sandy beaches for spawning. Knowing when and where this food source is will directly reflect on locating winter blackmouth.

Herring can be located at resting spots that are dictated by the current. As in river fishing, bait will be pushed into the lee of a current flow behind points, islands and land masses. The same is true in Puget Sound, knowing the position of the tide will allow you to find the best location to find baitfish and salmon feeding on it.

Trolling a downrigger is in my opinion the best method for consistently hooking blackmouth. I spend much of the winter season employing this method of fishing. I run 3 Hi Performance Scotty 2106 downriggers onboard Salt Patrol my 27ft North River O/S. Being able to cover lots of water with your tackle at a controlled depth is an extremely effective way to fish for winter chinook that like to inhabit the deep waters of Puget Sound.

My rod & reel setup is a Shimano Tekota-A 600 Line counter reel matched with a G. Loomis E6X 1265 moderate action rod. The reels are spooled up with 30-pound test mono main line. Yes, downrigger fishing is the one fishery that I still run mono line for.

New from Yakima Bait is the Spinfish bait-holding lure, representing a new design in combining lure-and-bait to produce more and bigger salmon. The SpinFish features a pull-apart fillable bait chamber with a scent-dispersing design. When trolled behind a downrigger this lure will produce a vibrating, spinning, wounded-baitfish action that salmon can’t resist.

Yakima SpinfishI was lucky to get to test the prototypes for the Spinfish last winter. My first experience with the Spinfish started with targeting winter blackmouth out of Port Townsend located on the northern part of Puget Sound. We ran the Spinfish behind 11” rotating flashers and medium size Fish Flash and had very good success on blackmouth up into the mid-teens. The strike on the Spinfish is not like on light tap on a bait bite. The blackmouth will hit the Spinfish hard, run a bunch of line out of the reel and then race to the surface for the rest of the fight.

Several times the rod tip would be in the water when we went to take the rod out of the holder.

To ready the Spinfish you just pull apart the body and fill with any bait including tuna, herring or sardines. I had the best results using canned Chicken of the Sea Tuna (packed in oil). Pour the canned tuna into a plastic container with the all the oil in the can. At this point I will add scents from Pro-Cure. Mix in some Bloody Tuna or your choice scent and mix and you’re ready to charge the Spinfish body. Pack the Spinfish body with tuna and put the two parts back together.

I rig my Spinfish 25-40 inches behind a Fish Flash or 35-45 inches behind rotating flashers. My setup last year was to tie two 4/0 Mustad octopus hooks close together on 30lb Seaguar fluorocarbon leader and add one glow bead above the top hook to act as a ball bearing. Slide the Spinfish on the leader and tie to swivel and then attach to the Fish Flash or rotating flasher and you’re ready to fish.Yakima Fish FlashThe SpinFish can be rigged to spin clockwise or counterclockwise and unlike other bait holding lures, it needs no rubber bands to keep the lure together. The precisely drilled sent holes in the Spinfish will disperse a sent pattern into the water and salmon will follow the scent trail back to the lure. Just like any lure bring your gear up every 20 minutes and check it for shakers (undersize salmon) and re-charge the Spinfish body with fresh tuna.

I normally have 4-5 Spinfish loaded with different bait scents and ready to swap out each time I check my gear. Blackmouth bites windows are short and you don’t want to waste time during the prime bite times rigging tackle.

The new SpinFish comes in two sizes, a three inch and a four-inch version, that now both come fully rigged and ready to fish. The three-inch size comes in 20 of the hottest colors Yakima Bait producers. The four-inch version comes in 10 proven fish-attracting colors. All the Spinfish colors are coated in UV blackmouth catching finishes.

Blackmouth like to do their feeding where the bait is. They are aggressive feeders and tend to feed when the current is minimal to expend as little energy as possible. That means the best time to catch them is when you’re fishing in the right current flow or lack of current movement. You may have heard that the best fishing for blackmouth is one to two hours before or after a tide change. Really its right before or right after a current change as that’s when the water goes slack and the fish will expend the least energy finding baitfish.

Aqua-Vu Underwater Cameras

Look underwater

See What You’re Looking at With Aqua-Vu Underwater Cameras
Three ways underwater study will help you find and catch more fish.

Crosslake, MN – For most anglers, watching the fish is something that happens only in the mind’s eye. You picture what your lure looks like, and how it moves underwater. You visualize what the weedbed or brushpile looks like and you wonder what types of fish might be inhabiting it. You imagine what it looks like when a bass first sees your lure and moves in for the strike.But unless you’re scuba diving or looking through the lens of an underwater camera, you don’t really know what’s happening below the surface.

For anglers truly interested in learning about fish behavior from an underwater perspective, an Aqua-Vu camera provides rare and incredible opportunities to observe, marvel and ultimately, catch more fish. No matter if you’re an ice angler, lure troller or a shallow water bass angler, an underwater camera can revolutionize your subsurface understanding.

Pole-Cam Perspectives Bass and crappie anglers have joined the ranks of underwater scholars, probing into and examining hard-to-reach areas beneath boat docks, inside brushpiles and under matted vegetation with a camera. Reaching out to inaccessible areas with his Aqua-Vu HD10i camera connected to a telescopic push pole, Major League Fishing pro Ott DeFoe likes to peek below boat docks. A special XD Pole Cam Adaptor makes connecting to any telescopic pole an easy five-second process.

“The pole-cam set up lets me look for big bass living in remote locations and under hard-to-reach shallow cover, like docks, without spooking them,” notes DeFoe, a longtime advocate of underwater study.“The Aqua-Vu also allows me to find concentrations of bass during pre-tournament scouting, without having to catch them before competition begins. That’s a huge asset in a tournament, and it works in clear as well as stained water, when all you need to see is the presence of fish a few feet from the lens.”

Visual Ice Fishing Mike Hehner, photographer, angler and producer for Minnesota based Lindner Media Productions has been a longtime fan of real-time underwater viewing with an Aqua-Vu camera. “I’ve spent the last few ice fishing seasons watching how bass and other fish behave in their natural habitat,” says Hehner. “What you learn is that every individual fish exhibits unique behavioral responses to lures or livebait.

“While ice fishing, I like to train the lens of my micro Revolution 5.0 Pro camera on a live minnow. Hit the record button and just start capturing footage. I can watch the video on the screen, live, or view it on my computer later on.

“Most people would be amazed to see what’s really happening down there—even during those periods when you’re not getting strikes. I’ve seen huge schools of bass move past the bait without even stopping to sniff. Other fish stalk and examine the minnow for many minutes at a time. Some bass lightly mouth the bait or nudge it, as if to taste or test it for palatability. Other times, they’ll nip the splitshot but totally ignore the minnow. I’ve also seen days when bass absolutely crush an artificial rattlebait over and over but completely ignore the livebait.

Trolling Goes Interactive A great way to add spice to the otherwise mundane task of trolling lures around the lake, sight trolling allows anglers to watch fish react in real time, right on the Aqua-Vu display. “The XD Live-Strike system connects the camera to your fishing line, letting you watch fish react to and bite lures, live,” says Dr. Jason Halfen, owner of the Technological Angler.

“What makes sight trolling with an Aqua-Vu such an amazing experience is the ability to see fish strike right on the screen, as it happens. With other Go-Pro type cameras, you don’t get to see what unfolds on the water until you’re done fishing.”Halfen and other anglers who’ve tried sight-trolling have seen some remarkable fish behaviors unfold on the screen. “You can’t believe how many fish—trout, salmon or walleyes—might be following your lure at once,” he observes. “Or the fact that a single muskie might follow your lure for 5 minutes or more before biting. You learn that a rapid acceleration in lure speed or a sudden interruption in its forward momentum, perhaps by contacting structure with the lure, can prompt an immediate violent response from fish.”

“After watching the fish for the past few years,” adds Hehner, “I realize how many times underwater study has revealed fish in spots I wouldn’t have otherwise found them. It’s also helped me make key adjustments to my presentation—a different way to hook my bait, lure size or a new color—that resulted in more bites and more fish on the line.“You never get bored watching the underwater show. You see something different, something new and exciting, every time you go out there and drop the Aqua-Vu. You learn and you absolutely catch more fish.”

View Online Version About Aqua-Vu The Original Underwater Viewing System, Aqua-Vu® is manufactured by Outdoors Insight, Inc., and has led the underwater camera category in design, innovation and quality since 1997. The Central Minnesota based company builds other popular outdoors products, such as the iBall Trailer Hitch Camera (iballhitchcam.com). For more information on Aqua-Vu, visit www.aquavu.com.

St. Croix Avid® Surf and Legend® Surf rods

Surf casting with St Croix Surf rodz
Caris and Broderick on the Right Surf Rods at the Right Time
Handcrafted in the USA, redesigned St. Croix Avid® Surf and Legend® Surf rods provide surfcasters a significant edge
Park Falls, WI (February 5, 2020) – Serious surfcasters encounter an incredible variety of conditions over the course of their fishing seasons. From working chilly back bay flats in early spring to the roaring rips of major inlets during mid-summer, and the heavy, wind-driven suds along open ocean beaches come fall, the challenges are wide-ranging. Add multiple presentations for varying species, and the difficulties are compounded.The bottom line?

A surfcaster’s gear must not only be up-to-task, but also be well-matched to the conditions and opportunities at hand.“That’s why I love my Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods,” says St. Croix pro-staffer Matt Broderick of Medford, NY. “Between them, I can cover any surf-fishing situation Mother Nature tosses my way.” It’s the classic tale of having the right tool for the job at hand and these two families of American-crafted surf sticks let me fish with confidence throughout the season – whether I’m dealing with schoolies or cows in quiet waters, a rough-and-tumble surf, or anything in between.”
Broderick likes the versatility of both St. Croix series, but notes that each has a special place in his arsenal. Together, he explains, they allow surfcasters to cover all the bases, throw lure weights and styles to probe any kind of water from top to bottom, and turn big fish before they reach the nearest snag.“Take the newly revamped Avid Surf series,” Broderick explains. “Featuring premium SCIII carbon blanks and IPC technology, these smooth and powerful rods are designed for maximum casting distance and superior fish-fighting performance. I really like the 10’ medium power fast action (VSS100MF2) model. It’s a terrific plugging rod that also excels working big pencil poppers and smaller options like bucktails, too. I’ll use it to toss anything from a half-ounce jigs to 2.5-ounce Super Strike, Cotton Cordell or Tsunami poppers. It has a sensitive tip and loads smoothly on the cast so you can throw those bigger lures a mile. It also has plenty of backbone, so I have no fear of targeting big fish around nasty structure.”
While Broderick lauds the Avid Surf series for its versatility, dependability, power and value, he says the Legend Surf series pushes the performance needle even further with high-modulus/high-strain SCIV carbon and FRS for unparalleled strength and durability, plus upgraded components and grips.“Legend Surf series sticks are extremely sensitive,” notes the 25-year-old striper sharpie. “The blanks and guide trains combine to create rods that cast exceptionally well and allow anglers to respond to the slightest bump or strike with an instant lure adjustment or powerful hook set. They also have tremendous stopping power.

Overall, Legend Surf rods deliver an edge in every department, which really comes in handy when the fish are far off the beach, while fishing in tight quarters, or when the bite is cautious and light.

”Broderick’s overall favorite surf stick is a Legend Surf 10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2) model rated for lures ranging from 2 to 6 ounces. It’s his go-to rod when using finesse techniques in rocky areas and inlets along the Long Island coast.“There was a night last year when I was throwing 2-ounce jigs tipped with soft plastics at a single piece of structure protected by numerous boulders,” Broderick recalls. “A lot of lures are lost in that stretch, but the sensitivity of my Legend Surf 10’6” allowed me to pop those jigs up and over the rocks the instant I felt them. That placed my lure perfectly in the rip where I knew those bass were waiting. The stripers were biting light that night, but with the Legend’s super sensitivity and power, I was able to respond instantly to the pick-ups, drive the point home, and guide my fish out of the trouble zone before anything could go wrong.

”Like Broderick, St. Croix pro Shell Caris puts both his Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods to work targeting everything from schoolies to slobs as he mines the New Jersey Shore each spring before heading up to the Cape Cod Canal to concentrate on bigger bass. 
“I use every one of the Avid and Legend rods during the course of the year,” he says proudly. “Among my favorites for stripers and blues are the Avid Surf 10’ medium power fast action (VSS100MF2) model, which I love for its backbone and overall versatility; the Legend Surf 10’6” medium-heavy power moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2) model, which is my go-to rod in spring and early summer; and the Legend Surf 11’ medium-heavy moderate-fast (GSS110MHMF2) model, which is perfect for making really long casts and battling cow bass in the Cape Cod Canal. I match any of these three rods with 30- to 50-pound test braided line.

”Caris, 73, finds the backbone of the Avid Surf 10’ medium power, fast action model especially helpful when working big bass and chopper blues around large baitfish like adult bunker along the Jersey Shore in the early spring. He appreciates Avid Surf’s new charcoal color as an aesthetic improvement, noting this redesigned series now “looks as serious as it fishes.” He’ll grab his 10’6” medium-heavy, moderate-fast Legend Surf model when tossing smaller lures or tangling with anything from school bass to 20- and 30-pounders. On Cape Cod Canal, he enjoys the fast action, sensitivity and responsiveness of his 11’ Legend Surf stick, noting that with today’s braided lines, this is a rod that can cast far off the shore and still have the responsiveness to work a pencil popper or walk the dog with a surface lure.“I love that you don’t have to retrieve surface lures at bluefish speeds with this rod,” he says. “Just reel at a steady pace with a short, sharp twitching motion and it provides a tantalizing action that calls predators to the surface.”
Both Broderick and Caris believe that the recently redesigned St. Croix Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods give them an added advantage whenever they step up to the water’s edge. “You need a rod that can really stand up to big fish, tough conditions and a lot of time in the suds,” notes Broderick.

“These St. Croix surf rods have the pedigree and the new enhancements that prove themselves as superior fishing tools day after day and night after night.”Caris agrees. “To be successful in the surf, you’ve got to put in the time – so you might as well put your best foot forward with the Best Rods on Earth®.”Designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, U.S.A. for maximum casting and fish-fighting ability, the St. Croix Avid Surf Series features seven spinning and three casting models ranging from 7’ to 12’ in length.

All are made using Integrated Poly Curve® (IPC®) mandrel technology with premium, high-modulus SCIII carbon and a charcoal gray color that fades into the background, especially at night. An offset, slim-profile ferrule on two-piece models ensures one-piece performance. Fuji® K-Series KW tangle-free guides with Alconite® rings and Corrosion Control™ (BC matte grey finish), a matte grey Fuji® DPS Deluxe reel seat with Back Stop™ lock nut, and a custom cork tape handle with machined trim pieces provide surf casters maximum casting distance and a firm, comfortable grip. All models carry a 15-year transferrable warranty backed by St. Croix Superstar Service. Retail prices range from $225 to $420.
ST. CROIX AVID SURF SPINNING ROD MODELS7’0” medium power, fast action (VSS70MF)8’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (VSS80MMF)9’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (VSS90MMF2)9’6” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSS96MHF2)10’0” medium power, fast action (VSS100MF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSS110MHF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (VSS120HMF2)

ST. CROIX AVID SURF CASTING ROD MODELS10’0” medium power, fast action (VSC100MF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSC110MHF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (VSC120HMF2)Engineered and built for extreme surf-fishing performance, St. Croix’s Legend Surf Series is also designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, U.S.A. It features ten spinning and two casting models ranging from 7’ to 12’ in length, all made using Integrated Poly Curve® (IPC®) mandrel technology and Advanced Reinforcing Technology™ (ART™). They feature premium, high-modulus/high-strain SCIV carbon with FRS for unparalleled strength and durability. An offset, slim-profile ferrule on two-piece models ensures one-piece performance. Fuji® Torzite® RV K-Series tangle-free surf guides with titanium frames provide unrivaled, 100% corrosion-proof performance, while a Fuji® Torzite® surf top with flanged ring greatly reduces line friction. A Fuji® DPS reel seat with PVD-plated hood ensures a rock-solid connection under extreme conditions and a custom neoprene handle improves comfort and durability while providing a positive grip even when wet. All models carry a 15-year transferrable warranty backed by St. Croix Superstar Service. Retail prices range from $470 to $670. 
ST. CROIX LEGEND SURF SPINNING ROD MODELS7’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS70MMF)8’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS80MMF)9’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS90MMF2)9’0” medium power, moderate action (GSS90MM2)10’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS100MMF2)10’6” medium power, moderate action (GSS106MM2)10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS110MHMF2)12’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS120MHMF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS120HMF2)

ST. CROIX LEGEND SURF CASTING ROD MODELS10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSC106MHMF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSC110MHMF2)
#CROIXGEARLike the rods? You’ll love our lifestyle apparel. Shop now! 
MEET OUR MACHINERYComing to northern Wisconsin? We’d love to meet you, and we’d love for you to have the chance to Meet Our Machinery. Call us at 800.826.7042 or email us at factorytour@stcroixrods.com to schedule a factory tour. Learn more at https://stcroixrods.com/pages/factory-tours.#stcroixrods

Purging Fishing Equipment

Fishermen, especially bass fishermen, can never have enough equipment. Anytime anything new hits the market, we buy it.  If we don’t have a bait a professional fisherman uses to win a big tournament, you can bet that bait will soon be in our tackle box.   

Walk into Berrys Sporting Goods and you will be dazzled by the colors and variety of bass baits. Crankbaits look like little fish but come in colors Mother Nature never dreamed possible.  Spinnerbaits look like wire contraptions with spinners on one arm, lead head and skirt on the other and do not look like anything in nature.  And many baits look like nothing on earth.   

My “tackle box” is a 20-foot bass boat with six storage compartments, several of them big enough for me to get inside and close the lid. And they are all full of rods and lures.  

  Every few years I try to simplify my fishing, taking rods, lures and worms that I have not used in a couple of years out of the boat.  Boxes of those unused lures line my garage wall after a purge, but somehow seem to make their way back into the boat over the next few months, just in case I want to try them.    

Preparing for a tournament, I usually rig about 21 rods with baits.  Up front on one side of the casting platform I have seven rigged with baits I plan to use, based on time of year we are fishing. On the other side I have seven more rigged with baits I might use.  On the back, if I do not have a partner, I have seven more just-in-case baits.   

In a typical tournament I use four or five of the ones I plan on using, usually during the first hour.  Then I settle down and stick with one or two, usually a jig and a shaky head.  Normally I never pick up any of the other rods I have ready.   

I’m trying to simplify again. I basically have two color worms I use on my shaky head, and I have a dozen 20 packs of each color so I won’t run out. I am taking out the 30 two-gallon zip loc bags filled with colors I have not used in the past year.   

With the jig and pig, I again use two colors of jigs and two colors of matching trailers.  I don’t need the 25 other colors of both!   

There are crankbaits in my boat I bought back in the 1970s and have been moved from boat to boat nine times, but probably not tied on a line in 40 years.  The two-gallon bags of “spare” spinnerbaits have been unused so long their skirts are gummy and hooks are rusty.  No point in carrying them.  

  Even after I finish getting rid of all the unnecessary junk, my boat will still be full. And no doubt things will somehow move back in to my boat during the year, never used and purged again at some future date.

Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act


House Passes Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act
By Jesse Allen
from The Fishing Wire

Fishing—in particular flyfishing—has inspired me to travel the world, ostensibly to pursue species commonly targeted with fly and light tackle such as bonefish, tarpon and permit. Like most anglers, it’s the encounters with exotic ecosystems and the wildlife they produce that inspires me to explore, rod in hand.

The most unforgettable encounter of my fishing career took place not far from home, in the blue wilderness called the Gulf of Mexico off southeast Texas. It’s an area I fish regularly for a variety of species. On that trip, I targeted sharks. That trip inspired an appreciation for apex predators and the reasons to protect them.

In 2005 Capt. Brandon Shuler guided me to a seamount that rises from about 300 feet to 80 feet of water southeast of Port Mansfield. Massive schools of forage fish, menhaden and pilchards, dappled the calm, green water as they circled the structure, attracting myriad predators to the surface. False albacore and blackfin tunas blitzed through the bait. Amberjacks ambushed from the cover of the reef below. But the sharks were the real “lions” of this watery domain. Thousands of them had aggregated over that reef, presumably to gorge themselves on the bait and gather energy for the rigors of their springtime mating.

I was so enraptured by the scene that Capt. Brandon had to remind me why we came.“Cast, cast,” he shouted, as the biggest blacktip I’ve ever seen crossed the bow heading right to left. I tossed a greenback streamer to the marauding shark. The fish charged the offering, and I set the hook. Between its spinning, high-flying leaps, the fleeing fish spun off line deep into the backing. But Brandon maneuvered the boat to our collective advantages in ways that put maximum pressure on the shark, which allowed us to land it quickly, without thoroughly exhausting the animal.

We photographed it. Then we took the measurements necessary to use in a formula that closely estimates weight. We felt a rush of excitement and relief as we realized we’d broken a Texas state record, while the shark swam vigorously away. The fish, landed on a 12-weight fly rod and 20-pound tippet, weighed and estimated 110 pounds.

No Hands Clapping

My record hardly made a splash in the news at the time. Media coverage of sharks in Texas typically focuses on Mexican lanchas poaching the animals in U.S. waters to sell in the fin trade—a trade that is an international scourge and blight on marine ecosystems.

Sadly, U.S. fishermen and seafood purveyors are still allowed to participate in an industry that is decimating ocean ecosystems around the world. The legal sale of shark fins by U.S. vendors perpetuates the market, one that encourages illegal fishing and overfishing all over the world. Poorly regulated or unregulated shark fishing can and has caused ecosystems to collapse, along with fishing-based economies.

Essential Predators

Depending on the species, sharks are high-level or apex predators. Their positions at the top of food webs put them in charge of removing the weak and the sick from fish and invertebrate populations lower on the food web, and of keeping the food web in balance. Without sharks, populations of predators lower in the food web can grow out of balance.

On a trip to The Bahamas, a nation that has banned commercial shark fishing to protect its ecosystems and tourism, a biologist-turned-fishing-guide taught me how sharks are essential in keeping jack populations in check. If jacks become overpopulated, they eat too many of the parrotfish and other grazers that clean algae from corals and seagrasses. That’s just one way that sharks protect robust, balanced food webs.

Economics 101

Recreational fishing, especially fishing-related travel, is expensive. I shudder to think what I’ve spent over the years getting myself and my expensive equipment into the world’s most sublime waters. Anglers like me drive the massive boat and tackle industries, as well as coastal economies, around the nation, and around the world. But like most anglers, I’m not going to spend hard-earned money to visit places with badly damaged ecosystems devoid of high-level predators. In fact, it angers me when mismanagement of a fishery or ecosystem undermines my investments in our sport.

There are a couple of ways to ruin coastal and marine ecosystems, and the economies they support. Pollution may be the most recognized and recognizable culprit. But overfishing—especially overfishing of high-level predators—especially in combination with pollution and habitat loss—is a quick course to collapse and economic despair.

According to experts, exports of shark fins generates only about $1 million annually for U.S. purveyors. I would wager that anglers spend at least that much in every shark-fishing destination around the country, in places such as Palm Beach, Florida and the Florida Keys, Louisiana, as well as in southeast Texas and Southern California. That’s not counting the goods and services that living sharks provide ecosystems.

Most shark species are easily overfished. They live a long time and reproduce infrequently, giving live birth to a few offspring every few years. Sadly, we are killing sharks at perilous rates, amid mountains of uncertainty, and in changing ecosystems.

By the numbers

U.S. fisheries managers don’t have adequate stock status data for over 62% of domestic shark stocks. Only 12 out of 64 stocks with data are not experiencing overfishing and are not overfished. That’s alarming. One of the driving factors behind shark mortality is the demand for their fins, which I contend should be eliminated in the United States.

Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (S. 877)

Shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters. However, fins can be sold as part of the whole shark or detached once the shark is onshore. The import/export trade also results in thousands of pounds of shark fins passing through U.S. ports and ending up in our marketplaces. Many of the fins come from countries with lax or non-existent shark-fishing regulations, including countries that still allow shark finning.

By allowing the sale of shark fins, and supporting illegal and unsustainable shark fishing, the United States besmirches its reputation as a leader in marine conservation. In fact, the very practice of shark finning flies in the face a national conservation ethos evidenced by our stewardship of special ecosystems through national parks, self-imposed excise taxes on recreational fishing gear that benefit wildlife, and massive investments in ecosystem restoration initiatives such as Everglades Restoration.

The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (S. 877), which just passed the U.S. House of Representatives, would prohibit the possession, sale and trade of shark fins in the United States. It would not prohibit the sale of shark meat, including the sale of meat from the increasingly popular and prolific spiny dogfish.Now it’s the Senate’s turn: passing the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act into law would go a long way toward protecting sharks, repairing our reputation as conservationists, and protecting domestic and international ecosystems that drive coastal economies. The Senate needs to pass S. 877 now.
Photo by Capt. Scott Hamilton