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TU Opposes House of Representative Appropriations Bill

Trout Unlimited (TU) strongly opposes the appropriations bill for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies passed Thursday by a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill cuts funding for essential conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and contains harmful riders that undermine the Clean Water Act and other protective rules for rivers and streams.

“Fishing and hunting generate $76.7 billion annually in economic activity in the U.S.,” said Steve Moyer, VP for Government Affairs at Trout Unlimited. “We can’t expect to sustain this powerful economic engine if we’re removing the very conservation programs that make it run.”

The bill contains numerous harmful legislative riders, including attachments that will:

Stop the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA from finalizing guidance or conducting a rulemaking to restore Clean Water Act protection for some wetlands and streams which were curtailed by two harmful and confusing Supreme Court decisions (Rapanos in 2006 and SWANCC in 2001).

Discontinue rulemaking processes designed to protect streams from mountaintop removal mining.

Block the Interior Department’s protection of 1 million acres of federal lands near Grand Canyon National Park from new hard rock mining.

Delay EPA action on post-construction stormwater controls. Stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces can result in the elimination of natural filtration, scouring of rivers and streams, increased pollutant load discharges, and degradation of the physical integrity of aquatic habitats, stream function, and overall water quality.

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Ozarks Fishin’ Report June 10, 2011

TABLE ROCK: Crawdads-Crawdads-Crawdads!

(James River arm): 71 degrees, high, dingy; black bass good, largemouth and spotted bass being caught on Carolina rigged plastic worms in flooded timber, best colors are plum, purple, peanut butter and jelly, and watermelon, flipping green or brown jigs up into flooded timber is working as well as soft plastic crayfish; catfish good on limb line or trotline using 2″ to 3″ bluegill or goldfish, also try pole and line with yellow fins, creek chubs, nightcrawlers, stinkbaits, and cut baits; all other species slow.

James River (lower): 76 degrees, normal, clear; goggle-eye good on black/white skirted spinners and black/white jigs and minnows; black bass good on nightcrawlers and crankbaits at morning and dusk; smallmouth bass good on nightcrawlers and crayfish colored crankbaits at morning and dusk; catfish good on cut baits and nightcrawlers using trotlines and limb lines; crappie fair on jigs and minnows.

(main lake): 71 degrees, high, dingy; black bass good, largemouth and spotted bass being caught on Carolina rigged plastic worms in flooded timber, best colors are plum, purple, peanut butter and jelly, and watermelon, flipping green or brown jigs up into flooded timber is working as well as soft plastic crayfish; catfish good on limb line or trotline using 2″ to 3″ bluegill or goldfish, also try pole and line with yellow fins, creek chubs, nightcrawlers, stinkbaits, and cut baits; white bass fair on topwater lures or shallow diving lures, try bright colors in the evening; all other species slow.

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BULL SHOALS: 68-72 degrees, high, dingy; Dam/Swan Creek area: black bass good on jigs, soft plastics, and nightcrawlers; walleye fair on jerkbait; white bass fair on swimming minnows; Beaver Creek area: black bass good on jigs, soft plastics and nightcrawlers.

STOCKTON: 75 degrees, high, clear; black bass good on jigs and spinnerbaits in coves and flooded brush; catfish good on nightcrawlers and shrimp; walleye good on points with nightcrawlers, jigs and crankbaits in 20′ of water; crappie slow, best on crankbaits while trolling in 12′ to 15′ of water.

POMME DE TERRE: 84 degrees, high, clear; crappie good on minnows in 15′ to 30′ of water over structure; black bass good on plastic baits along main lake points in early morning; walleye good while trolling flats with crankbaits or drifting nightcrawlers; catfish good on live bait using trotlines or jug lines; muskie slow, best while trolling flats with crankbaits; white bass slow.

TRUMAN: 79 degrees, high, dingy; crappie good using jigs and minnows; black bass good using spinnerbaits and jigs; catfish fair using cut bait or shad; white bass and hybrid bass fair using jigs.

LAKE OF THE OZARKS: (Osage): 81 degrees, dingy; black bass fair on dark colored soft plastics, crankbaits and buzzbaits; white bass slow, try light colored soft plastics; crappie fair on minnows and crappie jigs; catfish good using cut baits and stinkbaits.

Lake of the Ozarks (Niangua): 81 degrees, muddy; black bass fair on dark colored soft plastics, crankbaits and buzzbaits; white bass slow, try light colored soft plastics; crappie fair on minnows and crappie jigs; catfish good using cut baits and stinkbaits.

Lake of the Ozarks (Glaize): 81 degrees, dingy; black bass fair on dark colored soft plastics, crankbaits and buzzbaits; white bass slow, try light colored soft plastics; crappie fair on minnows and crappie jigs; catfish good using cut baits and stinkbaits.

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Sportsmans Factory Outlet was founded to be your outdoor gear headquarters. We will save you money on the equipment you need! Our buying expertise and more than 100 years of combined outdoor industry knowledge combine to bring you a wide selection of proven fishing, marine, hunting, and other outdoor sporting products at unbelievable prices. We offer quality outdoor sporting gear from the world’s top outdoor brands at the very best prices possible. Our selection includes proven fishing, marine, hunting and other outdoor sporting products as well as factory special buys, closeouts, and reconditioned items. All of our products are backed by our “Iron Clad” money-back guarantee which means that you can order with confidence – Because we’re sportsman too, and we know how much you depend on your gear. Shop with confidence. If you ever have a question about our products or services, feel free to contact us at info@sportsmansfactoryoutlet.com. And be sure to check back often as our selection changes daily – and great deals don’t last long!

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DNR Looking for feedback on water standard changes

Missouri environmental officials are seeking public comment on possible changes in water quality standards on the state’s rivers and streams.

The Department of Natural Resources has posted a report on its website examining the likely effects of proposed changes. That’s the first step in the process of setting administrative rules on environmental standards.

The report addresses environmental benefits and economic costs tied with the proposed changes.

For example, it reviews the effect of designating thousands of miles of currently unclassified waters as “fishable” or “swimmable.”

The possible changes also stem from a 2009 decision by federal regulators that new standards are needed for a nearly 29-mile stretch of the Mississippi River near St. Louis.

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Women’s Outdoor News Launches New Website

ROLLA, Mo. – The Women’s Outdoor News (The WON) launches a new look at its website on June 3, losing the former print newspaper WordPress template and choosing a simpler, more visual design. The e-zine, which features 13 women bloggers, focuses on “news, reviews and stories” about women in the outdoors. It offers updates by email or RSS Feeds.

Publisher Barbara Baird said, “When we launched The WON three years ago, readers still connected with the newspaper, newswire look. We want to reach a younger generation and this ‘look’ is fresh.” The site will continue to offer honest reviews of gear for women in its Gear Court department, where sometimes items get sentenced to the death penalty. Said Baird, “We never play for pay. If an item does not pass the Gear Court test, and even if it’s an item from our advertiser, we will still fail it and make suggestions as how to improve it for women’s use.” Also, the site will run the popular “Shoot to Thrill” department, which features outdoor photographers’ tips, including newly added Yamil Sued, Smith & Wesson’s photographer, to the established lineup of photographers that include Tim Flanigan, Stacey Huston, Gary Figgins, Bill Konway and Gretchen Steele.

In the blogging lineup, joining former bloggers Baird, Tammy Ballew, Paige Eissinger, Nancy Jo Adams, Traci Schauf, The Fly Girl and Katherine Browne, are several new voices – Julie Golob, Sara Ahrens, Molly Smith, Marti Davis, Mia Anstine and Linda MilCun.

Visitors to The WON are invited to comment and also to connect with its Facebook Fan Page, where behind-the-blog scenes will be featured, as well as news from the site. Readers also may get updates from The WON through Twitter.

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Ozarks Fishin’ Report June 3, 2011

TABLE ROCK: (James River arm): 70 degrees, high, dingy; black bass good on white or white/chartreuse spinnerbaits, also try gray or white grubs on a 1/22 oz. jig; Carolina rigging plastic worms is also producing bites on plum, purple, motor oil or watermelon colored baits; catfish good on pole and line using Yellow Fins, creek chubs, nightcrawlers, stinkbaits and cut bait, trotlines also working well; smallmouth bass good on white or shad colored Super Flukes or Slug-Go; all other species slow.

(main lake): 70 degrees, high, dingy; black bass good on white or white/chartreuse spinnerbaits, also try gray or white grubs on a 1/2 oz. jig; Carolina rigging plastic worms is also producing bites on plum, purple, motor oil or watermelon colored baits; catfish good on pole and line using Yellow Fins, creek chubs, nightcrawlers, stinkbaits and cut bait, trotlines also working well; all other species slow.

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BULL SHOALS: 68-70 degrees, high, dingy,   Tucker Hollow Marina reports:  Dam/Swan Creek area, black bass good on jigs and nightcrawlers; walleye good on jigs and nightcrawlers; Beaver Creek area, black bass good on jigs, soft plastics and nightcrawlers; all other species slow..

STOCKTON: 65 degrees, high, clear; black bass good on crankbaits off banks in 12′ of water and Texas rigged in 8′ of water; catfish good on nightcrawlers and shrimp; crappie slow, best with tube jigs near the bank in brush piles; all other species slow.

POMME DE TERRE: 71 degrees, water level is 7′ high, upper stretches dingy with lower portion of the lake clear; largemouth bass good on plastic baits in submerged vegetation around shore; catfish good on limb lines, trotlines and pole and line using hotdogs, cut shad, and live bait; crappie fair on minnows or jigs over deep structure in 15′ to 20′ of water; all other species fair.

TRUMAN: 70 degrees, high, dingy; crappie fair using jigs and minnows; black bass fair using spinnerbaits and jigs; catfish fair using cut bait or shad; white bass and hybrid bass fair using jigs.

LAKE OF THE OZARKS: Lake of the Ozarks (Niangua): 72 degrees, muddy; crappie slow, try minnows; white bass fair on spinners; black bass slow, try plastic worms; catfish fair using cut shad.

Lake of the Ozarks (Osage): 72 degrees, dingy; black bass fair on dark colored soft plastics and buzzbaits; white bass slow, try light colored soft plastics and Rooster Tails; crappie fair on minnows and crappie jigs; catfish good using worms, cut baits and stinkbaits.

NORFORK: 72 degrees, high, dingy; all species slow.

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House Defunding of Clean Water Act Guidance Decried by Hunters and Anglers

WASHINGTON – As negotiations for fiscal year 2012 budgets continue in the U.S. House of Representatives, sportsmen-conservationists are criticizing a measure that would defund the administration’s work on Clean Water Act guidance that is crucial to sustaining wetlands and waterways, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced Thursday.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development met this morning to deliberate and mark up the FY 2012 budget for the Army Corps of Engineers and other water development agencies, including the measure that would strip protections for clean water and habitat. “None of the funds made available by this Act or any subsequent Act making appropriations for Energy and Water Development may be used by the Corps of Engineers to develop, adopt, implement, administer or enforce a change or supplement to the rule … or guidance documents … pertaining to the definition of waters under the jurisdiction of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act,” it reads.

“While sportsmen understand the need for fiscal conservatism, this rash decision by Congress leaves vulnerable waters that provide critical habitat to fish and wildlife, flood control, drinking water and a range of other benefits,” said Steve Kline, director of the TRCP Center for Agricultural and Private Lands. “We urge House appropriators to reconsider this budgetary measure, which takes several steps backward in our efforts to restore Clean Water Act protections to the nation’s streams and wetlands.”

The TRCP and its partners welcomed proposed guidance issued by the administration in April that would more clearly define which U.S. waters are subject to Clean Water Act protections, a move that would begin restoring long-standing protections to many of the nation’s wetlands, streams, lakes and headwaters that have remained threatened in the wake of two ambiguous Supreme Court decisions and subsequent agency guidance.

“Americans support clean water, and we recognize that responsibly managing our headwaters and wetlands is essential to that goal,” said Jan Goldman-Carter, wetlands and water resources counsel for the National Wildlife Federation and co-chair of the TRCP Wetlands and Clean Water Working Group. “Conserving drinking water, protecting communities from flooding and sustaining fish and wildlife habitat and local economies are objectives of the administration’s Clean Water Act guidance, and we are deeply disappointed that Congress would undertake any actions that undermine these goals.”

“It’s ironic that this provision would bar the Corps from doing the one thing that almost everyone agrees should happen – revising its regulations to more clearly define ‘waters of the United States,'” said Scott Kovarovics, conservation director for the Izaak Walton League of America and working group member. “If this provision became law, it would lock in the status quo that threatens drinking water for 117 million Americans and the most productive duck habitat in the country.”

The TRCP and its partners on the TRCP’s Wetlands and Clean Water Working Group, including Ducks Unlimited, the Izaak Walton League of America, the National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited, have been promoting restoration of protections for the nation’s wetlands and clean waters. Recent budget deliberations have repeatedly threatened the sportsmen’s efforts to conserve these resources.

“Hunters and anglers are strongly opposed to this policy rider, and our vigorous opposition helped defeat a similarly ill-conceived rider when the House passed the FY 11 Continuing Resolution, or HR 1, earlier this year,” said Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited and WCWWG co-chair. “Sportsmen know the Clean Water Act is a vital safety net for fish and wildlife resources that is being partially repaired by the Corps-EPA guidance. The guidance is reasonable, science-based, consistent with the Clean Water Act and beneficial to fish, wildlife and the public; therefore, sportsmen will do everything in our power to stop the rider.”

The proposed Clean Water Act guidance would begin restoring protections for intermittent streams that sustain critical fisheries and feed the public drinking water systems for more than 117 million Americans and at least 20 million acres of the nation’s wetlands, particularly prairie potholes and wetlands essential to waterfowl. The guidance is available for public comment and review until July 1.

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MDC fish hatchery uses diverse trout species to control parasites

The Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Maramec Spring Fish Hatchery is protecting its trout with more trout. The hatchery, which raises rainbow trout, is trying a new way of preventing parasitic infestation using brook trout.

"Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation"

Rainbow trout, along with several other west-coast fish species, are susceptible to a parasitic copepod called Salmincola californiensis. The tiny, shrimplike parasites, which are about the size of a pencil eraser, attach to fishes’ gills, where they leave eggs and complete their life cycle.

While the copepods are not a problem in the wild, they can become prolific in hatcheries that raise fish in high-density conditions. The copepods can attach in such high numbers that they weaken the fish, making them more prone to disease, and even causing the fish to suffocate.

According to Maramec Spring Fish Hatchery Manager Wes Swee, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently does not recognize any chemical treatments to control parasitic copepods.

A study at a California hatchery concluded that placing brook trout upstream from rainbow trout somehow filters copepod larvae from the water supply, reducing infestation. The reason for this is undetermined. Swee said one theory is that copepod larvae are specific to certain west-coast fishes and cannot complete their life cycle on other species, such as east-coast-native brook trout. According to Swee, the copepods attach to brook trout but do not produce eggs as they do on rainbow trout.

To test the theory on Missouri trout, the MDC is raising a small number of brook trout at Maramec Spring Fish Hatchery. In June the trout will be put in one pool above a pool of copepod-free rainbow trout from another hatchery. If successful, brook trout could be an effective biological control method for managing parasitic copepods in fish hatcheries.

Biological control methods are not a new concept. In fact, they are preferable when a food product like fish is involved. A comparable biological control method is the use of ladybugs to reduce aphid infestation in gardens.

“Using a biological pest control is better than using chemicals that may affect the safety of a food item such as fish,” Swee said.

Although the copepods themselves do not affect a fish’s food quality, protecting hatchery-raised rainbow trout from parasites is an effort to ensure the quality of Missouri’s trout fishing.

“Controlling the copepods will allow us to continue to stock healthy fish for the public,” Swee said. “The long-term goal is to provide Missouri anglers with healthy, more vigorous and more attractive rainbow trout that will put up a good fight for fishermen.”

Rainbow trout is the species most commonly stocked by MDC to provide trout fishing opportunities in designated Missouri waters. A limited number of brown trout, produced in MDC hatcheries, are also stocked in selected waters each year.

“There are no plans to release the brook trout into Missouri waters,” Swee said.

For more information on Maramec Spring Trout Park visit www.MissouriConservation.org and search “Maramec Spring Trout Park.” For information on Missouri’s other fish hatcheries, search “Fish Hatcheries and Trout Parks.”

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Tagged bass can hook you some cash!

he Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is tagging 1,600 legal-sized smallmouth bass on five rivers in southern Missouri as part of a research project. Anglers who catch tagged bass can earn $25 or $75 by reporting their catches to MDC researchers.

MDC biologists are tagging smallmouth bass in the Black River, Castor River, Courtois Creek, Current River and the North Fork of the White River, and will continue tagging during the spring season over the next two years.

According to Fisheries Management Biologist John Ackerson, these types of research studies have been successful with other fish species such as catfish and walleye.

“The research project will help biologists learn more about angler catch rates and fish movement in these rivers,” Ackerson said. “Information gained from anglers reporting their tagged catches will help us manage this species, which many Missourians love to fish.”

He explained that tagged bass do not have to be kept to receive a reward. Anglers may just remove the tag and release the fish. Tags must be returned to the MDC to receive a reward.

To report tagged catches, anglers must call the phone number listed on the tag and provide the following information:

• Tag number

• If the fish was kept or released

• Date of catch

• Total length of fish

• Approximate location of catch

For more information on the research project, contact Ackerson at 471-255-9561, extension 275, or John.Ackerson@mdc.mo.gov.

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Eagle Claw® Goes Green with bioline®

Rod and reel anglers of all kinds are connected by a common thread, literally, in that they rely on fishing line as their link between man and fish. Nylon monofilament, ever since first coming on the fishing scene in the mid-1930s, has grown to become the predominant line type of choice because of its affordability, strength and durability.

In fact, monofilament line is so durable that scientists say it can remain in the environment for as long as 600 years. With that said, there’s probably not a fisherman out there who hasn’t lost a fish or a favorite lure because of having become entangled in old fishing line snags underwater. The reality is that our country’s 30 million anglers, age 16 and older, who spend an average of 17 days per year fishing, use a lot of fishing line.

Fortunately, leaders in the recreational fishing industry have always been the ones to keep the environment and tomorrow’s anglers in mind, and that is exactly why Eagle Claw® Fishing Tackle Co. proudly offers bioline®, a true 100 percent biodegradable premium fishing line that was born from the medical industry. Bioline is engineered to retain its strength and durability for 10-12 months of use, and then completely degrade in water or on land within five years.

“Bioline has all of the performance properties of monofilament – outstanding abrasion and knot strength, and the clarity of fluorocarbon – but is highly more environment friendly,” said Chris Russell, Marketing Director at Wright & McGill Co. “Fishermen themselves have always been this sport’s greatest advocates for doing the right thing to pass forward the legacy of fishing, and fishermen really ‘get it’ as to why biodegradable fishing line is a big deal.”

Bioline is made from a special formula of biodegradable polymers, resulting in the earth-friendly alternative to nylon because it does breakdown so much faster to become a simple combination of carbon dioxide (CO2), water (H2O) and biomass. The degradation process starts at the surface of the line, with microorganisms breaking down and digesting bioline with the aid of sunlight and moisture.

Bioline begins to lose its tensile strength in 10-12 months of use. As its tensile strength deteriorates, it becomes much less a nuisance to all who enjoy the aquatic environment, including wildlife and anglers.

Of all anglers, crappie fishermen in particular especially benefit from biodegradable fishing line because they spend the majority of their pursuit of the species in and around cover, especially submerged wood. Hardwood brushpiles can provide good crappie habitat for years and years, but the most popular ones can end up a mess through an accumulation of snagged and broken-off lines over time.

“Without a doubt, old fishing line in the water is our number one nuisance in how a lot of us fish for the big slabs here in Mississippi,” said crappie guide Bo Hudson of Jackson. “When we’re long-line trolling over or near brush with several lines out, it can get ugly in a hurry upon encountering snagged lines down there. Who wouldn’t want biodegradable fishing lines to become the standard for our sport?”

Mike Taylor, a fishing guide from Okmulgee, Okla., shared similar thoughts. “I have favorite brushpiles I have to avoid with my novice-angling clients because they get hung up so bad on all the previous break-offs down there,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to get a lure, hook or fish free from a branch or stump than it is from snarled fishing line. I love the thought of my brushpiles being self-cleaning through use of bioline.”

Another reason bioline is a natural for crappie anglers is because of available line sizes and filler spool capacities. Bioline comes in 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 lb. test, and each size is sold on a spool containing 225 yards. As a general rule, crappie reels are small and hold less than 100 yards of line, meaning a spool of bioline is good for two or three fill-ups. Bioline retails for around $11.99 per spool.

Bioline packaging is engineered to be air and water tight for use in storing the unused portion in between refills. It is recommended the package be kept in a cool and dry place.

“Today’s reels perform best with fresh line and their spools filled to the maximum level, so anglers in-the-know are already changing their line on a frequent basis throughout the season,” said Russell. “Since we guarantee bioline to retain 100 percent of its strength for the average use of 10 months, this Eagle Claw product is the perfect answer for anglers interested in doing their part for the environment. Bioline is a first-class line and worthy of consideration for any angler and all kinds of fishing.”

Eagle Claw got its start in the late 1920s and has always been a leader in innovative, environmentally friendly products that serve the present needs of current anglers while also preserving the planet for future generations to enjoy. In addition to bioline, other “Fish Green®” products in the Eagle Claw lineup include non-lead weights and sinkers, circle hooks, barbless hooks and degradable packaging.

For more information about Eagle Claw bioline, visit www.biolinefishing.com. For more information about Eagle Claw, visit www.eagleclaw.com.

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The Danger of Under-Harvesting

Alabama and Georgia biologists plan to meet soon to compare sampling data and discuss possible management options to improve the largemouth bass population in the lake, an impoundment on the Chattahoochee River.

In this instance, the bass anglers’ mantra of “catch and release” may be detrimental to the current Eufaula bass population. Weathers attributes the current poor bass condition at Eufaula to three factors. The first is that anglers are throwing too many bass back, which leads to overcrowding. Second is the decline in the amount of aquatic vegetation in the lake. Finally, that decline in vegetation has caused a shift of forage species from sunfish to shad. Sunfish provide a more stable forage base than shad.

Bass samplings conducted in March easily revealed that they were not in good shape. Larger bass had condition factors in the low 80s, while the smaller bass averaged from high 80s to low 90s. These condition values are characteristic of too many fish for the available forage.

“Anglers just aren’t taking enough fish out of the lake,” Weathers said. “A pond or lake owner knows that they need to control their population of bass. This also applies to a reservoir like Eufaula. This trend has been going on for several years.”

During a 10-week creel survey this year from late February through early May at eight different Eufaula boat ramps, there were 230 interviews of 437 anglers with 835 bass reported as caught. Only18 bass were kept, a mere 2 percent of the total catch. Even with the 14-inch minimum length limit at Eufaula, over half of the bass caught were legal but not harvested.

“It is important for anglers to understand the role of harvest in managing a fish population,” said Stan Cook, Fisheries Section Chief. “Bass creel and length limit restrictions are designed to improve the health of bass by directing angler behavior to produce a desired outcome. Sometimes ‘catch and release’ is not in the best interest of improving a bass population. We need anglers to practice a selective harvest in order to set a state of balance between bass and available forage. When this occurs, growth, condition and yield of larger fish improve.”

Coincidentally, an FLW bass tournament happened to be going on at the same time of the advisory board meeting. Weathers went to the tournament weigh-in and confirmed what he and Young had suspected – indeed the bass were not in the best of health for a variety of reasons. It took only 13 pounds, 14 ounces (five fish) to win the tournament.

“They were still catching decent fish in early February, but this spring the weights have been down significantly,” Weathers said. “It’s taking anywhere from 13 to 15 pounds to win, where you had to be in the 20s just to be in the money last year.

“It is very typical of a bass fishery that has too many fish for the available forage to produce bass that are skinny and in poor condition. Their overall health is not good. Usually biologists and anglers will easily see more fish with diseases and sores.”

Weathers said the maladies that affect fish, such as Columnaris (a bacterial infection) and Epistylis (a protozoan infection) are always present in the environment. Stressed fish are more susceptible to the infections. Weathers said the vast majority of the fish recover from the infections, and that affected fish that are caught are suitable for human consumption. Weathers said only in extreme outbreaks can these infections result in fish mortality.

“Spawning is a real stressful time, especially the bigger fish. If they are in poor condition anyway, you’re going to see lesions, sores, tail rot and abrasions. We see sores and lesions every year. That’s not uncommon at all. It is uncommon for this many to have those lesions. Of the fish I looked at from the tournament, 21 percent of them had lesions. That’s high. Usually it’s less than 10 percent. “

The large reduction of aquatic vegetation has impacted the fishery. When there is abundant aquatic vegetation bass will have plenty of places to ambush sunfish like bluegills and shellcrackers in relatively shallow water. In 2007, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released 13,440 grass carp in the lake, followed by 5,200 more in 2009. The Corps also sprayed herbicide on several hundred more acres of vegetation, which limited the vegetation to the northern section of the lake.

“When you’ve got a lot of weeds in a lake, bass primarily feed on sunfish,” he said. “With sunfish as the primary forage, you’re going to have a lot more stable bass population. But it’s changed now.”

When the bass transition from shallow grass to deeper river and creek ledges, the forage base changes to shad, which tends to be available in boom and bust cycles. Weathers said the current shad population offers very little forage for the larger bass because of several years of below average shad spawns. However, numerous threadfin shad were observed in coves spawning this spring.

“Most of the shad observed during spring sampling were 3- to 4-inch threadfin shad,” he said. “This would explain why bass up to 16 inches are in fairly good condition, but larger bass are in poor condition. The size of forage needed for these bigger fish is really low right now. A big bass will get skinny fast chasing tidbits around on deep points and channel ledges.”

Weathers, however, said this situation is not new to Eufaula, which had similar conditions before the aquatic vegetation began to spread in the early 2000s.

“Eufaula used to be primarily a shad-driven lake,” he said. “Shad are notorious for cycling. So back in the 80s and 90s, when there were plenty of small shad, the little bass would be growing good. When there were big shad, the bigger bass would be in good shape, but there wouldn’t be many bass because you don’t get good recruitment when you have big shad.”

Weathers is concerned that the condition of the bass population may not have bottomed out just yet.

“I think it’s going to get a little worse before it gets better,” he said. “The threadfins were really spawning heavily in the backs of the coves this spring, but you’ve got to give them time to grow to feed these bigger bass.”

“From talking to anglers, you can catch a lot of bass right now, but they’re going to be below 15 inches,” he said. “As far as abundance, that’s good. But the condition of the fish is poor. The disconcerting thing was how fast it went down on the bigger fish. It went from one year when it took 22 to 25 pounds to win with a five-fish stringer to 13 to 15 pounds. That’s pretty quick.

“But the lake can bounce back. As far as the abundance of the bass population, it’s there. If we can thin down the smaller fish and people continue to catch and release the bigger fish, I think within two years it will be back to a good fishery. But if the Corps continues its policy of managing for very little aquatic vegetation, we’ll likely go back to a cyclic pattern like the 80s and 90s. We had some great years in the 80s and 90s, but we had some stinking years, too.”

–David Rainer

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Editor’s Note: In the following feature, you’ll see that any program-if taken to extremes, can have a harmful impact on the species it was designed to protect.

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