Category Archives: Fishing Tackle

Rods and reels to live bait

Pet Raccoons

Cute pictures on Facebook of pet raccoons eating and playing reminds me of how much I wanted one. For years I thought it would be great fun to have one, but when I got one it did not turn out so well.

In the mid-1970s Linda and I lived at Grandview Apartments. I hunted on some land near High Falls, using our VW bug as a hunting vehicle. One night as I walked from my stand back to the car, a mother raccoon and her five kits walked across my path.

I took off my heavy hunting coat and threw it over the last one in the line. It was about the size of a small housecat and it struggled and snarled, but I managed to wrap it tightly and tie the arms together, forming a bundle.

At the car I put the bundled raccoon in the small luggage area behind the back seat, got in and cranked the car. For some reason I flipped on the overhead light. All I could see were teeth and claws as the young raccoon came over the seat toward me.

Somehow, I managed to catch it again and get it wrapped back up in the coat without getting bit. This time I tied it tightly with some rope and made it home without any more trouble.

At the apartment, I carefully slipped the raccoon into the small downstairs bathroom after putting some food and water on the floor. I shut the door and we went to bed.

The next morning, I eased the bathroom door open an inch or so and peeked in, expecting the raccoon to be huddled in a corner, but did not see it. As I opened the door more I glanced up and there it was, perched on a shelf in the small medicine cabinet over the sink. I have no idea how it got up there, opened the door and huddled on the shelf.

It stayed in the bathroom a couple of days until I could build a cage for it. I made a nice one out of two by fours and hardware cloth that had legs so it sat six inches off the floor. It was four feet long and two feet wide and high, giving my new pet lots of room.

After about two weeks the raccoon gradually got less afraid of me. It stopped hissing at me and slowly started taking food through the wire. I was making progress.

Just when I had hope. Linda decided to vacuum the room with the cage. When she ran the hose under the cage, the raccoon went wild, bouncing off the wire on all sides, top and bottom. It never calmed down. Any time I got near it, it went wild again.

After a week, I gave up. I took it back near where I caught it and released it. That was my only experience with a pet raccoon and I still want one, but a tame one.

World Record Redear Solved

Mystery of World Record Redear Solved?
by Nick Walter, Arizona Game and Fish
from The Fishing Wire

5 years after world-record redear sunfish catch, invasive quagga mussels considered a likely contributor to monster sizes of these sunfish at Lake Havasu

PHOENIX — Have the redear sunfish at Lake Havasu really gone quagga crazy?

Have these panfish that really can fill a pan, and are widely regarded as one of the better fish species to eat, found a surplus of invasive quagga mussels to munch?

A mystery remains: Redear sunfish at Havasu have been reaching world record sizes. But why, exactly?

Let’s dive into this piscatory puzzle.

World Record Redear Sunfish – also known as shellcracker


On Feb. 16, 2014, Hector Brito caught a world-record redear sunfish from Lake Havasu.

That world-record feeling

Five years ago, “panfish” took on a new meaning.

We’re at the time of year when Lake Havasu tacked its world-record pin on the fishing map. On Feb. 16, 2014, Hector Brito caught a 17-inch, 5.78-pound world-record redear sunfish on a dropshot-rigged nightcrawler.

“I didn’t expect the record to last this long,” Brito said. “It’s amazing.”

This 45-mile fishing wonderland created by the Colorado River on the western-most strip of Arizona, adorned like a leather belt by the regal London Bridge, allows an angler to fish from the beach on the Arizona side and see the California mountains on the other. Some of those anglers said they witnessed a dramatic increase in the sizes of redear sunfish from 2009-2014 that — coincidence or not — occurred after invasive quagga mussels were first discovered in 2007 at Havasu.

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) did a study about the effects of redear and bluegill on quagga populations and found these sunfish do consume quaggas. Even more, the redear reduced quagga numbers by as much as 25 percent. The experiments of the study were conducted in field enclosures of Lake Havasu, as well as in the BOR’s Boulder City, Nev. Fish Lab. See the updated report.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department can’t verify that redear sunfish, also known as “shellcrackers” because of their pharyngeal teeth (throat teeth) that allow them to crush crustaceans such as snails, are reaching unprecedented sizes due solely to quaggas as an additional food source. Other biological factors include Havasu’s food base of grass shrimp and redswamp crawdads.

Regardless, Havasu is home to some of the biggest shellcrackers on the globe.

Fish chatter: redear sunfish are “quagga crazy”

Doug Adams, a former Lake Havasu City-based fisheries biologist for the Bureau of Land Management, said he also knows that redear sunfish eat quagga mussels. At the same time, he said that in 2005 — 2 years before quagga mussels were discovered in Lake Havasu – an electroshocking of 75 sites produced redear sunfish that averaged more than 2 pounds.

“From one standpoint, there wasn’t much fishing pressure until they started catching these bigger (redear),” Adams said. “Quagga could be a good contributor to their sizes. So it’s kind of a mystery.”

A mystery it might remain.

air of big redear sunfish captured during AZGFD’s November, 2018 survey at Lake Havasu.
Ashley’s monster redear sunfish caught during April of 2017 reportedly weighed 5.02 pounds and measured 16 1/2 inches.
During AZGFD’s fall, 2016 Havasu survey, the biggest redear sunfish captured (left) was 2.5 pounds.Still, some Arizona anglers have etched their conclusion: The increasingly larger sizes of redear is a quagga-based phenomenon.
For angler Mike Taylor of Phoenix, it’s simple:

They don’t call them ‘shellcracker’ for nothing,” he said. “No quagga, then lots of quagga. Regular redears, then big redears after quagga show up … coincidence? Maybe, but I’d say increased food source equals bigger fish.

In an email to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, an anonymous angler said he has been fishing extensively for sunfish in Lake Pleasant and the Colorado River. He wrote:

And I have observed that not only do redears feed on quagga mussels, but bluegill and green sunfish do as well. After holding them in a live well for a short period of time, they will regurgitate bits of broken quagga shells until there is a layer approximately a quarter-inch thick in the bottom of the live well.

And finally, some thoughts from Brito, the record holder:

They eat a lot of quagga mussels. Everytime I fish for them, I search their stomachs and always find shells of quagga mussels.

Redear sunfishing techniques

A new world record remains possible.

“I’m sure there’s a 7-pounder out there somewhere,” said John Galbraith, owner of Bass Tackle Master in Lake Havasu.

Perhaps surprising to some, AZGFD has not received a report of a redear that’s come close to challenging the record. Brito said that since his world record, he’s caught some big ones: a 2- and 3-pound redear this year and one last year that weighed nearly 4 pounds.

Are you up for a shell-cracking quest?

Here’s some redear sunfishing tips:

Use the right rig: One of the most popular techniques for catching redear sunfish is using a dropshot rig with a nightcrawler — the same technique Brito used when catching his world record. Brito said he caught the record by the chalk cliffs, and the rig included a No. 8 gold Aberdeen hook.
Show a natural presentation: Others use worms on the bottom, without a weight or bobber, and allow the bait to lie motionless.
Expect a light bite: Redear bite gently and seem to reject baits that offer resistance such as lead weights. Sometimes, redear will simply move the bait a foot or so like an unsettled shopper.
Depth and habitat: At Havasu, when redear are not in shallow water during their typical May/June spawn, they can generally be found in 22-30 feet of water. Redear prefer vegetated areas with submerged stumps and brush with little or no flowing water.
Record fish are loners: The world record-size redears seem to break away from the schools of smaller fish. “They’re more solitary fish,” Galbraith said. “You don’t see 1-pounders with a 5-pound fish.”
Back on the dinner table, redear are widely considered excellent eating. Their diet consists of hard-shelled organisms like clams or snails, as well as insect larvae, planktonic crustaceans and other invertebrates.

Quagga mussels: an aquatic invasive species

Stocking redear as a featured sport fish in some locations is a possibility.

Yet it’s unlikely the Arizona Game and Fish Department would stock redear sunfish with the sole purpose of reducing populations of the quaggas, which also have affected Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, the Lower Colorado River below Lake Havasu to Mexico, the Central Arizona Project canal, Lake Powell, Lake Pleasant, Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, and Red Mountain Lake.

Quagga mussels are a poor food source for most other fish species, and drastically reduce food availability for aquatic organisms. This results in smaller catch sizes of other sportfish and native fish species. Quagga mussels may also contribute to increasing occurrences of toxic algae blooms, which can affect both humans and wildlife.

Quaggas colonize rapidly on hard surfaces and can ruin boat motors and clog water intake structures such as pipes and screens, thereby impacting pumping capabilities for power and water treatment plants.

A 2016 U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report looked at costs related to quagga mussel management on the Hoover, Parker and Davis dams along the Lower Colorado River and found more than $6 million of additional funds were spent through 2016 with an estimated $17 million of ongoing maintenance through 2020.

This results in high water and power bills for consumers.

No mystery: Havasu a fishing destination

When it comes to the smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and redear sunfish, the fishing is at its historic best. The lake continues to be ranked as one of the top places to fish for bass in the country: in 2018, Bassmaster Magazine ranked Havasu as the No. 7 best bass lake in the Western U.S.

Redear sunfish isn’t the only species thriving at Havasu. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are also swimming in luxury. Already in 2019, the average winning daily 5-fish bag weight has been around 21 pounds. Most bass-tournament anglers consider average bags weighing more than 20 pounds impressive.

Striped bass fishing also appears to be on the rise. The single-day record for the total weight of striper was set during the annual Lake Havasu Striper Derby during May of 2018: eight stripers totaled 110 pounds, a new one-day record at the 37-year-old tournament.

Robert McCulloch Sr., founder of Lake Havasu City, would probably have been proud.

At the Lake Havasu City Visitor’s Center, history exits in a binder of newspaper clippings. One of the articles, coated in a hue of rusty yellow, features a black-and-white photo with a shoreline marked by protruding finger- and T-shapes that jet into Lake Havasu. The photo of old Site 6 dominates the cover of the Lake Havasu City Herald, issued Jan. 4, 1968.

That’s how it looked when Lake Havasu City founder Robert McCulloch Sr. flew overhead. He would end up purchasing a version of the London Bridge to adorn the Havasu Channel of his city.

McCulloch could hardly have imagined how big the redear sunfish have become – nearly 6 pounds, with potential for more.

The world-record redear caught in February was not even a spawning fish.

Some local anglers believe that a roe-filled spawner will be caught any day.

So grab a cup of nightcrawlers, maybe a fishing license online, and a sense of wonder.

A new world record could bear your name.

Fine Tune Finesse Fishing

Fine Tune Finesse Fishing with Mark Zona
from the Fishing Wire

Catch bass finesse fishing


How Hi-Vis Braid Provides An Edge In Detecting Subtle Finesse Bites

A decade ago, anglers were especially wary of hi-vis braids, preferring camouflage lines to everything else. That’s changed significantly with the success of finesse presentations like the ubiquitous wacky rig, Neko rig, drop shotting, the Ned rig, and countless other fish-catching finesse approaches. For many, hi-vis braid has become an indispensable part of the finesse rig, a way to monitor bites by sight and feel that simply increases hooked and boated bass.

One angler who’s made the conversion to hi-vis braid is Mark Zona, bass expert and TV fishing program host.

“Here’s what’s funny to me. 10 to 15 years ago a lot of us laughed at hi-vis braid and said, ‘What on Earth do I need this for? I need camouflage!’ Well, that thinking has gone by the wayside with spinning reel finesse fishing applications. It’s critical to have a hi-vis braided line. There’s no stretch in braid, so number one, you have much better sensitivity for bites. Then you add the visual aspect with the lack of stretch and that high level of sensitivity and you’re just putting more odds in your corner to land more fish. From a novice all the way to a professional angler, we look for every edge we can get in bite detection. That’s what this whole game is. If you’re using a braid that’s hard to see or camouflaged with the water with a fluorocarbon leader and you’re struggling to see bites, what you’re doing is absolutely pointless. I now probably apply hi-vis braid and a fluorocarbon leader to 80% of my finesse applications, whether it’s a drop shot, shakey head, etc.,” says Zona.

Especially in deeper water, bite detection when fishing finesse presentations becomes critical. Zona knows this well, spending much of his time in what he calls “crazy deep water”—20, 30, 40, 50, all the way down to 60 feet of water, working the bottom with finesse baits.

“That’s how I shoot my shows. To me, a hi-vis line is imperative. Sure, when you’re fishing in two feet of water or less, you don’t need to detect your bite as much because it transmits way faster. But when you’re fishing in deeper water as I am—10 feet all the way down into the abyss or 40, 50, or 60 feet—you’re looking for every edge you can get. Now, when I’m fishing the majority of my finesse techniques – power shotting, Neko rigging, standard dropshots, small finesse baits—basically everything—that braided line becomes, even more important than my rod, really, for telegraphing bites.”

One of the techniques Zona utilizes frequently is called power shotting, which is basically a very heavy drop shot application with ½-ounce to ¾-ounce drop shot weights.

“That’s one of my approaches in 20, 30, 40 feet of water. When my bait is down there on a six or eight-pound Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon leader, I can literally tell you when a fish breathes on the bait with that hi-vis braid’s combo of no-stretch sensitivity and sight detection.”

But the same applies for drop shotting in all depths, especially when fishing vertically. Even if you’re using a lighter 1/8- to ¼ ounce weight, the sensitivity and visual aspect of a line like Seaguar’s Smackdown Hi-Vis Flash Green and fluorocarbon leader just communicates bites faster than any other line combination can provide.

Another deep water finesse application that benefits from hi-vis braid is Zona’s use of a Neko rig, essentially a weighted finesse or stick worm. Same goes when he’s fishing a standard Wacky rig.

“One of the things I can tell you, a wacky rig or Neko rig is probably tied on in every single boat across the country, period. And that is one of many applications where Seaguar’s Smackdown Hi-Vis Flash Green has really made a difference. I shot a show recently where I got on a school of bass out deep where I was catching them on a Neko Rig and that line jumps on camera to where the viewer could watch at home and tell I just got a bite! It was that impressive,” says Zona.

He continues: “What’s amazing is how well the high-visibility of the Seaguar Smackdown Hi-Vis Flash Green emits a bite; it’s staggering. When you get a bite, the color green line jumps like the green in a traffic light for ‘go’ and you just can’t miss it.”

The Ned rig is another finesse presentation that benefits greatly from a line like Seaguar’s Hi-Vis Flash Green. It allows you to see when your bait is falling through the water column and you can watch when it stops and the bait hits the bottom. Then, as you put a little tension on the line, not only can you feel and see any subtle jerk or sideways motion you can now decipher bottom content. The combination of braid and fluorocarbon leader allows you to tell when that Ned rig bumps into rock or slides through weeds—which is pretty much impossible with an extruded line alone.

That is the common aspect in fine-tuning any of your finesse fishing game—the use of a fluorocarbon leader, whether you’re power shotting, drop shotting, fishing a shaky head, wacky rig, Neko rig, Ned rig, small vertical baits like light jigging spoons, etc. A high-quality six to eight-pound fluorocarbon leader is perfect for most applications and you can even get away with 10 given how narrow and clear quality fluorocarbon is. Eight to 10-pound fluorocarbon also gives you a lot more abrasion resistance.

Whether you’re using a fluorocarbon like AbrazX or Tatsu it’s important you tie a good knot like a double-uni (aka uni-to-uni), cinch the knot tight and trim the tag ends closely to make movement through the end rod guide easier and necessitate longer casts, which are already 50% or so longer than using monofilament or fluorocarbon sans braid. The diameter is so narrow that there’s little resistance in the guides when you cast it, as well as how smoothly it winds off the spool. And with regards to tying line-to-leader knots like the double-uni, one trick that makes doing so much easier is wetting the end line of the braid, so it has some weight.

In terms of leader length, the higher you’re marking the fish in the water column on your sonar, the longer the fluorocarbon leader should be because you want to keep the braid out of their visual range. If bass are one or two feet off the bottom, they’re going to move down and eat stuff off the bottom, but you should have the knot and braid tied to a length that exceeds where they’re sitting. 24-inches or longer is a good place to start.

Back to the benefits of hi-vis braid, spooling your spinning reel with a high-visibility line like Seaguar’s Hi-Vis Flash Green also allows you to downsize the action of your rod, making it possible to use something with a little bit softer tip without losing any sensitivity. In fact, combine that rod sensitivity with what the line does and you can literally feel a fish breathe on your bait. The no-stretch characteristic of the hi-vis braid picks also up so much of the hookset that a high-quality rod like a St. Croix in the moderate to moderate fast action is a great match for finesse applications. This combination also delivers more visual information of what your bait is doing, with the line transmitting the wiggle, wobble, and other nuances of how your bait is performing under water, which is then telegraphed through the slightly softer spinning rod tip.

Like Zona, more anglers are turning to the use of hi-vis braid to fine tune their finesse fishing game—and for good reason. The other thing to keep in mind is that it’s a switch that not only makes sense in the bass realm but finesse fishing for all manner of fish—panfish, trout, walleye, striped bass, and just about any other freshwater and saltwater species you can think of. The recommendation? Give it a shot this season—you’ll be glad you did.

Fish Impacted by Hurricanes

Are Fish Impacted by Hurricanes?

Gray triggerfish tagged


Gray triggerfish tagged for research

From NOAA Fisheries
from The Fishing Wire

A new study indicates fish in deep water do experience the affects of storms

Hurricanes can and do wreak havoc on coastal marine ecosystems. They destroy coral reefs, mix up the water column, redistribute bottom sediments, and increase pollution via storm-water runoff.

Hurricanes can also cause fish to evacuate nearshore estuaries and coastal ocean environments towards deeper water. Nobody has studied whether storms influence fish in deeper water, but most people think they are mostly immune from storm effects.

Tagged gray triggerfish


Tagged gray triggerfish

In a recently published paper in Scientific Reports, researchers at the Beaufort Laboratory of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and a colleague at the Naval Postgraduate School show that fish occupying habitats as deep as 120 feet can also be strongly affected by hurricanes.

Researchers Nate Bacheler, Kyle Shertzer, Rob Cheshire, and Jamie MacMahan affixed transmitters to thirty gray triggerfish, a commercially and recreationally important oceanic fish species that associates with rocky reef habitats in the southeast United States. These fish were tracked in an area off North Carolina during September 2017 as two hurricanes, Jose and Maria, along the North Carolina coast.

What the researchers found was surprising, as each storm approached, most of the tracked gray triggerfish quickly evacuated the 120-foot deep study area in the direction of even deeper water, and those few fish that remained in the study area swam much faster than normal. After the passing of each storm, many of the tracked gray triggerfish returned to the study area within a couple of days and resumed normal swimming behavior.

Previous studies have indicated that falling barometric pressure, increased runoff, or a change in water temperature are primary cues that fish use to determine that storms are approaching. Here, gray triggerfish evacuated the study area 1–2 days in advance of hurricanes, long before any changes in barometric pressure or water temperature occurred. Instead, the researchers determined that, as surface waves increased in size from each approaching storm, energy from those large waves was transferred to the bottom, resulting in sloshing of water on the bottom. It appears as though the sloshing of bottom water, or the related fluctuating water pressure from sloshing, was the cue to which gray triggerfish responded. Only the waves from largest storms can transfer enough energy to cause sloshing in 120 feet deep of water.

We all know that storms can strongly influence the movements of organisms in estuaries and coastal oceans. This study shows that fish in deep, offshore oceans can be strongly affected by storms as well.

Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew

Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew

When I first found this recipe for Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew it did not sound good. But since I had a bumper crop of yellow squash from the garden, lots of bell peppers that year, and a good supply of ground venison in the freezer, I tried it, and love it.

I have been making it for years and have adjusted my recipe Try it, you should like it! Its easy and quick.

I usually start in skillet then remember to put it in a pot for easier stirring.

Ingredients

4 or 5 yellow squash
large bell pepper
two 14.5 weight chopped tomatoes with chili peppers
a pound or so ground meat
bacon drippings
Tablespoon salt
half teaspoon black pepper

Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew ingredients


Brown ground meat in bacon drippings. Add sliced squash, chopped bell peppers, cans of tomatoes, salt and pepper.
simmer for 45 minutes.

Little Manatee River

Snook-Rich Little Manatee River (FL) to Get 7300-Acre Watershed Preserve
Vicki Parsons, Bay Soundings
from The Fishing Wire

With most of the shoreline along Tampa Bay either developed or restored, planners are looking upstream to protect tidal tributaries and provide higher ground for critical habitats as sea level rise continues to affect the region.

Lots of snook here


Miles of trails make much of the corridor easily accessible to hikers and much of the land is in its original state.
An important step in addressing that long-term trend is the development of a conceptual plan for nearly 7,400 publicly held acres in the Little Manatee River watershed, It is estimated to take at least 20 years and $30 million to complete the projects identified in the plan, said Brandt Henningsen, chief environmental scientist at the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s SWIM (Surface Water Improvement and Management) Program.

“The district and Hillsborough County have purchased the land over the past 30 years, and the Little Manatee River State Park makes it a nearly contiguous 30-mile corridor along the river so wildlife can transverse it as needed,” he said. “When completed, it will be a passive preserve area for hiking and kayaking – not ballfields or ATVs.”

The plan itself was a $200,000 initiative funded jointly by the district and the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund.

Much of the corridor remains in a relatively natural state, although other areas that had been converted to agricultural uses are covered in invasive species including cogongrass and guinea grass, as well as Brazilian pepper and hairy indigo. In some places, mosquito ditches drain land quickly rather than allowing water to slowing sink into the aquifer or naturally create low-salinity habitat. One location – the Willow Site – has become a popular, albeit illegal, spot for ATV enthusiasts who create ditches that drain to the river, increasing sedimentation and diminishing water quality.

To create the long-term plan, the district, county and Cardno assessed different parcels, dividing them into 10 sections ranging in size from 283 to 1,500 acres. Restoration plans are based on historical photos so that lands continue as close to their natural state as possible, Henningsen said. In some cases, the parcels can be restored to capture runoff from nearby agricultural fields, filtering nutrients before they get in the river.

Using a complex matrix that looks at water quality impact, groundwater impact, habitat value and enhancing regionally scarce communities, the district and county created a priority list based on average cost per restored or enhanced acre. The 1,423-acre Gully Branch Creek site was selected as the first phase of construction for an estimated cost of $5.9 million.

Although it is further from the bay than some other sites, it ranked well for its ability to improve water quality, improve groundwater discharge and establish a natural hydroperiod. It also ranked highly for easy site access, which will be a challenge at some of the sites, Henningsen said.

Within that section, the 444-acre Gully Branch upland restoration project is expected to be funded by SWFWMD in 2019. Formerly agricultural land, the site is now covered in cogongrass, considered to be one of the top ten worst weeds in the world. “The (SWFWMD) Governing Board has been very supportive of the SWIM Program and seen the value of these restoration projects,” Henningsen said.

Hillsborough County is responsible for most of the management and is participating in the restoration of multiple sites, adds Mary Barnwell, environmental lands management coordinator. “We’re already doing a lot of prescribed burning, exotics control and maintenance, including several recreational trails and trailheads that allow hikers back into the property.”

The Little Manatee River corridor is critically important over the long-term because it’s among the highest land in Hillsborough County with multiple bluffs overlooking the river. “We’re restoring both for the short term while also taking the long-term land use into consideration,” Barnwell said. “As sea level rise continues, we’ll need to create a west-to-east corridor that provides wildlife and plant communities room to move. We’ve seen them adapt to change in the past, but it was very gradual – now we’re looking at accelerated adaptation.”

The long-term plan for restoration of the Little Manatee River will function as a blueprint for habitats to accommodate a range of possible impacts from climate change. “This project is key to protecting some of our most vulnerable habitats, like juncus (black needle rush) marshes,” adds Maya Burke, science policy coordinator for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

By Vicki Parsons, Bay Soundings

Coral Reef Ecosystems

NOAA’s Vision for Thriving, Diverse, and Resilient Coral Reef Ecosystems
from The Fishing Wire

A healthy reef


A lively reef in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, Hawaii (Baker Island). Credit: Jeff Milisen.

NOAA has released a new Coral Reef Conservation Program Strategic Plan (PDF, 7.31 MB), which will guide the program’s future coral research, conservation, and restoration efforts from 2018 to 2040.

We all depend on coral reefs for something—from the air we breathe and some of the foods we eat to medical treatments. The nation’s coral reef resources also protect lives, livelihoods, and valuable coastal infrastructure. Today, many of our coral reefs have been severely damaged by a number of threats. There is still time to protect and restore these remarkable ecosystems, but we must act now.

The new Strategic Plan outlines a targeted framework to reduce the main threats to coral reefs ecosystems: 1) climate change; 2) fishing impacts; and 3) land-based sources of pollution. In addition to addressing these top three threats, the plan also recognizes coral reef restoration as an important new focus and the fourth “pillar” of the program.

By implementing strategies specific to each of these four “pillars,” the Coral Reef Conservation Program is working to restore and preserve corals; maintain ecosystem function; and improve coral habitat, water quality, and key coral reef fishery species in target areas by 2040.

SUMMARIZING THE STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CORAL REEF CONSERVATION PROGRAM

Coral reefs protect lives, livelihoods, and valuable coastal infrastructure, yet these ecosystems are under constant threat, regularly experiencing both chronic stress and episodes of severe damage. The strategic plan for NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program defines ways to reduce the three main threats to coral ecosystems—climate impacts, unsustainable fishing, and land-based sources of pollution—and incorporates a newly added programmatic focus, coral restoration. The four focus areas, or pillars, of the strategic plan are outlined below.

VISION Thriving, diverse, resilient coral reefs that sustain valuable ecosystem services for current and future generations.
Increase resilience to climate change Strategy 1. Support a resilience-based management approach
Improve fisheries’ sustainability Strategy 1. Provide data essential for coral reef fisheries management Strategy 2. Build capacity for coral reef fisheries management
Reduce land-based sources of pollution Strategy 1. Develop, coordinate, and implement watershed management plans Strategy 2. Build and sustain watershed management capacity at the local level
Restore viable coral populations Strategy 1. Improve coral recruitment habitat quality Strategy 2. Prevent avoidable losses of corals and their habitat Strategy 3. Enhance population resilience Strategy 4. Improve coral health and survival
A resilience-based management approach is guiding these investments, with measurable long-term conservation goals set for 2040. By implementing strategies specific to each pillar, the program is increasing the nation’s capacity to restore and preserve corals; maintain ecosystem function; and improve coral populations, coral recruitment habitat, water quality, and key coral reef fishery species.
Collaboration is critical. While the plan guides investments in the near term, it is ambitious and covers far more work than one program can achieve. To increase overall success, the plan identifies opportunities to create partnerships across the conservation community.

Read more about this effort on the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Progam’s Website or download new Strategic Plan Fact Sheet (PDF, 873.2 KB).

Winter Conditions Present Unique Challenges

Winter Conditions Present Unique Challenges for Fishery Management

By MDIFW Fisheries Biologist Kevin Dunham
from The Fishing Wire

Winter fisheries management is chilly


The fall of 2018 was a challenging one meteorologically for conducting some fishery management activities. After all, a large portion of fisheries biologists’ daily duties takes place outdoors (Yes!) and, somewhat perversely, most don’t mind working in adverse weather and actually find it “relaxing”. To a point.

Trap netting efforts in Maine this year, which began during the end of September, were fairly uneventful other than viciously windier than normal conditions on the water. Nothing we’d never dealt with during normal day to day working situations though. However, mid-November quickly turned abnormally snowy and cold and brought a few extra challenges to our annual Nesowadnehunk Lake trap netting operation.

Originally a planned four-day effort, in which the Enfield Hatchery crew would arrive on the fourth day to strip eggs from captured female brook trout to incubate and raise for future trout stocking efforts. There was a layer of half-inch shell ice when we launched our boat on the first day, but no ice in the areas we set the nets. Then things turned interesting. Overnight temperatures plummeted and a snow storm moved in, while launching the boat on the second day in even thicker ice with slush on top, our hopes of this being a four-day operation evaporated.

The day quickly turned into an icy, snowy scramble to capture enough brook trout before the air temperature again dropped enough to prevent the hatchery from successfully spawning them. Oh, and as an added incentive we really didn’t want the slush-ice, which now spread to one of our net locations, to freeze our nets in place! Providence was with us, we captured the bare minimum number of female brook trout we wanted for the number of eggs needed.

Despite the swirling snowstorm, temperatures held just above freezing and the crew from Enfield Hatchery was able to strip the eggs, though in less than ideal conditions lake-side. Getting one of the nets free from the slush-ice was a time-consuming, laborious task that was a new experience for all and will forever be linked in our minds to the 2018 Nesowadnehunk Lake trap netting operation.

The historically cold temperatures did not let up and created more challenges in late November. Fish stocking access was hindered throughout the region by unplowed logging roads and ice covered ponds. One pond in particular, Flatiron Pond in Cedar Lake Twp., was to be stocked with fall yearling brook trout but Mother Nature caught up with the hatchery’s busy stocking schedule. Deep snow covered every possible route in to the pond and Flatiron became inaccessible to the stocking truck.

In most circumstances we would have suspended stocking until next year, but this is the winter where we had planned to evaluate the stocking program and conduct aerial angler counts. Two opportunities that would not come around again for several years. We quickly hatched a plan to use snowmobiles and tag sleds to haul coolers full of brook trout to be released in the pond.

This was a first for us, using snowmobiles to stock fish. After breaking a trail from the closest plowed road to the pond we were ready to meet the stocking truck to load up with fish. Ironically, the bitterly cold November weather worked in our favor this time. Temperatures had been so cold all November that a covering of solid, seven-inch black ice had formed on Flatiron Pond and we were able to drive our snowmobiles onto the ice which saved us from having to hand-carry all the fish from shore. After cutting a sufficiently sized hole in the ice we stocked 220 brook trout which will provide a great ice angling opportunity this winter. Those are just a couple examples of challenging environmental conditions fisheries biologist sometimes encounter. I’m not complaining however, as a wise, retired fisheries biologist often said (usually during the worst of conditions) “we have the best job in the world”.

Match in Jigs and Tails

The Perfect Match in Jigs and Tails from Z-Man’s ElaZTech
from The Fishing
Wire

Catch bass on jigs


How the right jig & softbait combo can uplift your ElaZtech® game

Ladson, SC – Holmes and Watson. Jordan and Pippen. Lennon and McCartney . . .

When two complementary forces join talents, things like genius, championship performance and all-time awesome music inevitably follow. The power of the one-two punch extends to inanimate objects, as well, and certainly to fishing tackle. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s cool to Texas rig your favorite plastic worm on a treble hook. Nor does it explain why anglers can be so painfully picky about swimbait selection or choice in finesse worms, and yet impale said bait onto whatever jighead’s lying on the deck.

The job of any good jighead is to bring out the unique talents of baits that best match its design. Disparate jighead styles deliver softbaits at different speeds, actions and depths, each performing a singular, premeditated presentation. Collars and keeper configurations are made to match and pin certain baits firmly in place. Jig-hooks vary by anatomy: size, gap, throat, shank length, wire gauge and more; with justifiable reasons for each. While a mismatched jig and bait might still catch fish, a perfect pairing can stimulate an onslaught of bites.

“We recognized early on that because ElaZtech baits are different—softer, livelier, more buoyant and much more durable—than traditional PVC baits, designing a super-tuned rigging system would take fishing ElaZtech to a whole other level,” said Daniel Nussbaum, talented fisherman and president of Z-Man® Fishing. “Sure, you can rig your favorite ElaZtech bait onto a plain jane jighead. But to take full advantage of each bait’s action, longevity and fish-catching performance, grab the right jig for the job.”

Among fifteen unique Z-Man jigheads and over fifty ElaZtech softbaits, Nussbaum highlights four of his favorite perfect pairings. “A 3-inch MinnowZ on a 3/16-ounce Trout Eye jighead is a versatile player—it’s my ‘stranded on a desert island’ survival bait,” he divulges.

A jighead with an interesting backstory, the Trout Eye jig comes from South Carolina seatrout guru Ralph Phillips, who discovered a predator’s primal attraction to the unmistakable eyes of baitfish. The U.S.-made Trout Eye jig is poured with the largest 3D eyes possible, set into a flattened teardrop shape. Strategically placed to bring out subtle rolling action on paddletail baits like the MinnowZ, the jig’s forward eye position helps the whole lure slide through sparse grass with ease. Back-to-back conical keeper barbs secure ElaZtech and other softbaits tightly to the base of the jig’s collar, while a heavy-duty, 2/0 Mustad UltraPoint hook penetrates quickly, and won’t straighten under heavy loads.

“Think of the 3-inch MinnowZ as an aggressive paddletail,” notes Nussbaum. “When you rig it on a Trout Eye jig the whole body moves with a really sweet side-to-side roll, while the tail wags the dog; looks just like the panicked swim of a minnow and catches everything—seatrout, redfish, bass, snook, and more.”

First introduced to beat back Australia’s brutally strong gamefish, the HeadlockZ HD jighead is an amazing jig and a perfect match for Z-Man’s SwimmerZ— a super-soft, split-belly paddletail that’s produced world-record barramundi. “The SwimmerZ is one of my favorite paddletails for big redfish and largemouths,” says Nussbaum. “The 4-inch version teams up nicely with a 4/0-size HeadlockZ HD, while a 6-inch SwimmerZ on an 8/0 HeadlockZ is ideal for bull reds and stripers, and holds up to the teeth of big pike.”

Matching Z-Man’s tough-as-nails ElaZtech baits, the HeadlockZ HD boasts bulletproof jighead construction, built around a custom, heavy duty 3/0, 4/0, 6/0 or 8/0 Mustad UltraPoint hook (jig-weight is engraved in head for easy ID). Riding high on the hook-shank is an ingenious, split bait keeper. The design greatly eases rigging and prevents ElaZtech and other soft plastics from sliding off the jig collar.

Exceptionally balanced for use with larger, bulkier baits, the HeadlockZ’ 90-degree bullet head amplifies body roll, which produces accentuated tail-thump and vibration. “This combo represents one of Z-Man’s most underrated big fish baits, one you can tie on and catch fish with all day long.”

The definitive lure for Ned Rig-style fishing, casting a Finesse ShroomZ / Finesse TRD combo might be the smartest bass-catching decision you can make. Simple, unassuming and almost immune to fishing pressure, this little 2-3/4-inch finesse bait and refined mushroom-shaped jighead regularly boats over 50 per day for Ned Kehde and other skilled finesse fishers. Of course, the beauty of the bait is that less-experienced anglers also hook oodles of fish with it.

Kehde himself admits the key to success is a method he calls ‘no feel.’ “That means we cannot feel what the jig-and-softbait combo is doing or where it is during the retrieve,” says Kehde. This is largely attributed to Kehde’s preference for a light jighead, in the neighborhood of 1/16-ounce. Proving the combo’s astonishing versatility, Kehde and his friends have ascribed six different finesse retrieves, including the swim-glide-and-shake, hop-and-bounce and drag-and-deadstick, among others.

Creating the illusion of a single edible critter, the mushroom shaped Finesse ShroomZ head flows seamlessly into the nose of the sub-3-inch Finesse TRD. The unique head shape moves smoothly over the substrate, pivoting and activating the ElaZtech material with each interruption in the jig’s path. The jig’s minimally invasive “hangnail” keeper barb pins finesse baits like the TRD surprisingly tight to the jig; some anglers add a drop of superglue to the underside of the jighead for an even better bond.

A model of simplicity, the Finesse TRD itself glides seductively on the drop, tail shimmying just enough to speak of something alive. Imbued with custom salt content for a precise sink rate, anglers like Kehde often chose to increase buoyancy by stretching the bait and removing salt.

A rising star in swimbait circles, the 2-1/2- and 3-inch Slim SwimZ offers an intelligent design that gives it some interesting underwater moves. Rigged on a downsized NedlockZ HD jig, the finesse paddletail bait comes to life, even at slow retrieve speeds. Molded in lighter 1/5- to 1/15-ounce sizes, the NedlockZ HD sports an extra-heavy-duty hook that allow for heavier tackle and drag settings than Finesse ShroomZ jigheads. The jig’s innovative split keeper allows for effortless rigging, holding both ElaZtech and soft plastics firmly in place. The medium-length hook shank is a fine fit for the Slim SwimZ and other finesse baits.

“We crafted the Slim SwimZ with an inward-curved tail,” Nussbaum says. “The configuration lets you activate the bait at extra slow speeds. Or fish it fast for even more action. When you pull it, the tail scoops water, producing a high-velocity, high-action wiggle. We’re getting great feedback from folks catching big crappies, white bass and even walleyes. And when bass key on small forage, this compact combo scores big.”

About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic Charleston, South Carolina based company, Z-Man Fishing Products has melded leading edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been among the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits and other lures. Creator of the Original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovators of 10X Tough ElaZtech softbaits, fast becoming the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide. See more at www.zmanfishing.com.

About ElaZtech®: Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech material is remarkably soft, pliable, and 10X tougher than traditional soft plastics. ElaZtech resists nicks, cuts, and tears better than other softbaits and boasts one of the highest fish-per-bait ratings in the industry, resulting in anglers not having to waste time searching for a new bait when the fish are biting. This unique material is naturally buoyant, creating a more visible, lifelike, and attractive target to gamefish. Unlike most other soft plastic baits, ElaZtech contains no PVC, plastisol or phthalates, and is non-toxic.

Top Crappie Lures for Winter

Three Top Crappie Lures for Winter

By Casey Kidder
Z-Man Pro Angler
from The Fishing Wire

Catch winter crappie like this one


Z-Man ElazTech Allures Big SlabZ

For the past ten winters, I’ve enjoyed finessing winter bass with the Ned Rig. It was amazing at how effective Z-Man ElazTech baits like the ZinkerZ and Finesse TRD are for alluring cold-water bass. As the winter of 2016 approached, I was excited to try something new. Even though Z-Man doesn’t have a dedicated line of crappie baits, I wanted to see if ElazTech baits were as effective on cold-water crappie as they are on cold-water bass. Spoiler alert: Crappie love them, too!

Midwest Winter Crappie Fishing
In a nutshell, winter Midwest crappie fishing is all about locating brushpiles in deep water with your electronics. Usually about 14-18 feet of water. Once the brush is located, vertical jigging with light line, jigs and soft plastics will entice crappie to bite. Water temperatures generally range from 34-38 degrees, and that is when crappie congregate in big schools around brushpiles, feeding periodically on schools of shad that meander by.

Bait Size Matters
In my region, crappie will bite a fairly large bait, even in winter. A 2.5 to 3 inch bait closely matches our shad size, so I selected a trio of baits in that size range. I’ll tell you more about those below. Throughout the year and until ice-up, these bigger baits caught bigger average crappie, and sometimes MORE crappie than small traditional crappie tubes and grubs. The reasoning is simple. Crappie are sight feeders, which is why you see so many color options in crappie baits. But size can also be used to get their attention. I kept my color selection pretty simple. Just to see how big of bait they would hit, I even fished a Z-Man Diesel MinnowZ, which is a 4″ swimbait! Yep, they ate it.

Top Three Crappie Baits

Slim SwimZ

When I first dropped this 2.5 inch swimbait in the water, I was amazed at the action! The unique, curved paddletail flat comes to life when it touches water. You really have to see it to appreciate it. Being a swimbait, this bait is traditionally fished with a straight retrieve, and you can bet I’ll be fishing it this way come spring when the crappie move to shallow water. For winter fishing, I found this bait was tremendously effective vertically jigged as well. Most crappie anglers use straight tail and tube-type baits for vertical fishing. These baits require small twitches to impart action. The Slim SwimZ is effective with these twitches as well, but you can catch many crappie by simply raising or dropping your rod tip slowly 1-2 feet. The tail does all the work, and it adds a whole new way to present your lure. It’s also something the crappie haven’t seen much of before! My top colors this winter were Electric Chicken, Space Guppy, and Pearl. Jighead: 1/15, 1/10 or 1/5 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ

MinnowZ

Some days crappie really respond to a bigger profile, and that’s when switching to the MinnowZ filled the livewell. This is a 3-inch swimbait with a much larger profile than the Slim SwimZ. As I mentioned before, I even caught fish on the Diesel MinnowZ, a 4-inch version of the MinnowZ, so it just goes to show that size matters even to crappie!
The MinnowZ also fishes well vertically or with a swimming retrieve. You’ll want to use a heavier jighead for this bigger bait. The 1/6 ounce Finesse ShroomZ works very well.
The MinnowZ comes in an array of natural and bright saltwater color patterns that are also appealing to crappie. My favorites were similar to the Slim SwimZ: electric chicken, pearl, space guppy, and chartreuse/silver.
Jighead: 1/6 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ

Finesse TRD and cut-down ZinkerZ

Yes, the Ned rig works on crappie, too. To be honest, I haven’t had many days when this versatile little rig didn’t catch something. And I found it worked really well fishing brush piles for winter crappie.On days when the crappie wanted a subtler action, I switch to a FinesseTRD or a ZinkerZ cut in half. Rigged on a 1/15, 1/10 or 1/6 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ, this little bait has tremendous dead stick appeal. Use subtle twitches to entice bites, though many bites will occur while holding it dead still.
Colors like Coppertreuse, Pumpkin/Chartreuse Laminate and Bama Craw have vivid color and contrast that really appeals to big slabs. But don’t overlook the plain Pearl color with a chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ.
Jighead: 1/15, 1/10 or 1/5 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ

I hope these tips help you think outside the box and harness the ElazTech magic for your winter crappie. Upsizing your presentation and utilizing small swimbaits for vertical presentations can really help fill your livewell with some big slabs. If you’re already a Ned rig convert, you know how effective it is on bass. Be sure to rig one up when crappie are your target, because they love it, too!