catch and release
“Anyone can get lucky and catch a winning or trophy fish. What separates the men from the boys is consistency.” – Bill Burton
The best anglers I know have a solid grasp of three basic elements. The first is a willingness to learn and change behaviors or techniques when necessary. That means incorporating the latest technologies and staying on top of the best research. It also includes sorting through the folklore to pick out the very best practices and discarding the nonproductive tactics that bog us down. Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you’re not happy with the results you’re getting, it’s time to change. There are not many fishermen who have perfected their skills to the point where they are successful every time. The handful who have could teach us all something. These are the guys who need to write a book. I know I’d buy it. Fishermen with the right stuff are continually seeking opportunities to learn – to step outside of tried-and-proven comfort zones to find what works.
The second element is enthusiasm. Good fishermen eat, drink, smoke, and chew fishing. When they aren’t fishing, they’re thinking about fishing, and they’re probably planning their next fishing trip (or two). They seek out new information and pour over every tidbit of data they can find that might improve their skills. They surround themselves with like-minded people who share their passion for the sport. They also work to conserve the species they enthusiastically pursue. Read More!
It’s winter: it’s cold, it’s wet, and it’s snowy. A lot of the ramps are iced in. It’s a great time of year to sit inside by the fire and read a book or watch a fishing video. I don’t know about you, but that keeps me entertained for about 15 minutes, then I gotta float a boat or something. Fortunately, winter is also a great time to catch and release striped bass. Rockfish are a lot more likely to survive when they’re released in cold weather. Science proves water and air temperatures greatly influence striped bass mortality. In a seminal catch & release study taken on the Susquehanna Flats in 1999, fisheries biologists Rudy Lukacovic and Ben Florence found that 98.4% of released rockfish live when they are turned loose in water temperatures of 57 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Stripers become more vulnerable as the weather warms and water temperatures rise, but their mortality percentage is still less than 4% in water temperatures of 62 degrees and less. Proper handling, good catch-and-release practices, and fishing in higher salinity waters can further improve catch-and-release mortality so that it’s possible to reduce the number of fish we kill to less than 1%. That makes winter a pretty awesome time to fish for those of us who are in it for the experience and not the meat. Read More!
You’ve probably heard by now that the bottom is dropping out of striper fishing. The latest Atlantic States Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) stock assessment shows a population in decline. Don’t be fooled by the first few lines of the report when it says, “Stripers are not overfished and overfishing is not occurring.” They’ve been saying that for years while fishermen all up and down the Atlantic coast have been warning of a crash. Now we have proof. Using the current fishing mortality threshold, we have been overfishing for striped bass five out of the last eight years. If we keep catching at the rate we are now, the fishery will decline rapidly. Concerned fishermen up and down the Atlantic coast agree that harvest reductions should be implemented quickly. Check out this article from Captain John McMurray in New York.
Since striped bass is a highly-sought-after species with big money involved on both the commercial and recreational sides, any reductions will be controversial. I get the sense that there may be some within the ASMFC who believe that the commercial striped bass fishing industry has already sacrificed enough. If that perception spreads, recreational fishing could take the brunt of the reductions. I won’t flesh out the arguments pro and con here, but suffice it to say that I believe cuts are overdue and necessary and should be equal across both sectors.
Commercial fishing aside, disagreements are sure to follow within the recreational community. They will be especially apparent here in the Chesapeake Bay, where the charter boat industry and some fishing clubs rely heavily on fishing revenues from spawning-class stripers during times of the year when they are easiest to catch. It’s sure to get interesting, and I expect blood letting on all sides. Read More!
That’s a phrase I’ve heard more than once from Chesapeake Bay fishermen this year. I’ve been catching a few smallish reds around the Kent Island shoreline since May, but things have really opened up in the last week or so. Where are they and why are they here? I’ll tell you where later, but first let’s talk about why. Simply put, conservation measures are allowing red drum to expand their range. Successful fishing for slot-size red drum (fish between 18- and 27-inches long) is completely dependent on the success of spawning over the past three years. There is quite a bit of variation in a redfish’s rate of growth. At one year old, redfish will range from 10- to 17-inches long, averaging 14 inches. At two years old, they will range from 18- to 24-inches long. At three years old, they will range from 20- to 28-inches long, weighing four to nine pounds. If the reds you’re catching are in the slot, chances are they’re from the 2010 or 2011 spawning class. By all accounts, those were good years. Here’s the rest of the story: Read More!
It’s spring in the Chesapeake Bay and time for big migratory stripers. Some of the biggest striped bass in the world are caught in Maryland in the early spring. A few fishermen are already using circle hooks to catch & release big fish in the rivers using bait such as frozen herring, bloodworms, and cut menhaden. Circle hooks aren’t just a good idea for bait fishing in the Chesapeake Bay, they’re required by law during the early spring. Maryland fishermen have been slow to see the advantages of circle hooks. I think that’s because most of us haven’t used them enough, but there’s also confusion about what circle hooks are and how they work. I had an opportunity to travel to Providence, Rhode Island a few days ago to attend a FishSmart conference sponsored by NOAA about catch & release techniques. I came away with some interesting information. Read More!
As much for my benefit as anyone’s, I’m listing my speaking schedule for the next few months. I’ll have books to sign at each event. At some, I’ll be presenting a new Power Point slide show called “The Right Stuff – Gear, Accessories, & Attitudes for Successful Light Tackle Fishing.” Good luck fishing this spring!
Feb 23rd – Annapolis Saltwater Fishing Expo – The SALTWATER FISHING EXPO will be held on Saturday Feb. 23rd from 8 AM to 3 PM at the Annapolis Elks Lodge. This event has grown into one of the most popular winter fishing shows in this area featuring expert seminar speakers, top quality tackle dealers and local charter captains and guides. I won’t be speaking this year, but I’ll have a table with books and hopefully plenty of opportunities to talk and answer questions.
March 2 – CCA Northern Virginia Banquet & Auction – Thirteenth Annual Dinner and Auction taking place on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013 at 6:00 pm. This year’s event will be at The Shriner’s Kena Temple in Fairfax, VA. The Northern Virginia guys have been working very hard with their donors and supporters in gathering a wide array of Auction items that are sure to impress – They have over $20,000.00 in live and silent auction items. This is a little different event for me in that I’ll have a microphone and my guitar and I’ll be accompanied by my buddy Joe Evans while performing some original songs about fishing and living in our region. Read More!