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Small water outings


jude
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The recent NW outing got me thinking about small waters and the effects of large parties of fishermen. Originally I was planning on attending the outing, but as the numbers grew I grew more concerned about the potential impact. Instead of fishing, I did some looking around the N. Branch. Observing fom several different bridges I saw smallies on beds just about anywhere I looked.

 

I seem to remember some mention of a reservation system for outings on smaller waters and in retrospect, that seems like a good idea. As the membership here continues to grow, there's no limit to the number of guys an open invite could bring out. Not that we don't have the right, but I'd hate to see 20-25 guys show up for a small water outing.

 

I know every member here is concerned about the welfare of the resource, and I'd hate to see us inadvertantly have a negative impact on it. Any thoughts?

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Jude,

I think most everyone shares your concern. The reason a number wasn't discussed for the recent Kish outing was 1) We've never had many people show for a Kish outing 2) We knew we had 2 river 'stretches" as well as a creek stretch to break the group up. If we continue to get 12 or more people to NW outings we will need to continue to plan carefully.

The second point you raise is "time of year" for the outings. I'd be interested to hear what others say about this. Other recent threads have contained comments noting that spawn if not all at once and covers weeks if not months. To avoid spawn, would we have to avoid any outings until July?

Gregg

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I'd be interested to hear what others say about this. Other recent threads have contained comments noting that spawn if not all at once and covers weeks if not months. To avoid spawn, would we have to avoid any outings until July?

Gregg

 

We would do well to consider this. Every time we catch a male on a nest, we're probably killing smallmouth fry or eggs.

 

If we want to set a good example...its worth a good hard think. Mid June might be long enough to wait.

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Jude,

We discussed this pretty heavy on the officer board over the winter. There was a situation on the Dupage a few years back when like 20+ guys showed up to fish a skinny section of water. The concerns were brought to my attention from other officers in a proactive type of way. Like Gregg said we have had several outings in the NW region and never had a problem before. I figured I'd cross that bridge when I got there. Well last Sunday with 12 guys showing up I pretty much had to cross that bridge. I would have liked to spend a little fishing time with all the anglers but that wasn't possible. I think in splitting up in 3 groups we did the best we could to minimize the impacts. The water was up so the group I led did little to no wading. The water temps had dropped in the mid to upper 50's and I observed no bass on the beds at this outing. I did within a few days after the outing start to notice fish on beds in the Rock River Basin on some tribs and the Kish. I only scheduled one spring outing because in the past they got rained out. The weather and water flows are much more stable in summer and early fall. We are all C&R anglers so I didn't really think of the impacts on spawing. Its not like we tournament fish where we relocate male bass miles from the spawning bed. I know some anglers don't fish during the spawn but I fish whenever I can March through November regardless.

 

This topic is definately a concern for me now. My next planned outing is on water skinnier than the south branch of this kish. My thought is to do a RSVP system with the 1st 6 to respond are in. At that time the meeting location will be revealed and we will split into 2 groups of 4. 1 group led by me and another led by another club officer. I'm not ready to give up the whole small water outing thing in our NW region just yet. If we take away small water we are pretty much just left with the Rock River which is an improving but not that great of a smallmouth fishery. The Kish outings can still work but we need to be prepared with group leaders and split up into groups of 4 and hit different areas. These are my thoughts but I am open for any input. These are just some of the challenges we face as a growing organization. We have to weigh the value of the social parts against the impacts against our goal of improving smallmouth bass fishing in IL.

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Does anybody watch ESPN Bass Saturday? The focus is on LMB, but every Saturday on one segment or another , somebody is teaching America to target bedding fish. One segment recently spoke of the great patience one angler showed in not giving up on a big bedding fish. He was applauded for stick-to it ness until he coaxed the bedding fish to bite.

My point is, we receive all sorts of mixed messages and opinions about this. Do we have any scientific evidence on the effect of fishing during springtime? I'm sure the answer varies based on population, pressure, and other factors. For example, the Apple River holds thousands of 7" bass. Can anyone say with authority that fishing there during spawn, if it disrupts reproduction, is not a good thing?

Gregg

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Do we have any scientific evidence on the effect of fishing during springtime? I'm sure the answer varies based on population, pressure, and other factors. For example, the Apple River holds thousands of 7" bass. Can anyone say with authority that fishing there during spawn, if it disrupts reproduction, is not a good thing?

Gregg

 

Your point is well taken that the total effect of losing those fry will vary from system to system. There are clearly a few systems where losing a few smallmouth might even be a good thing due to over-population. But the answer is "yes" there is good information out there about what happens when you fish spawning smallies.

 

A careful study of fishing effects on spawning effort (done by Survey researchers working in Canada) showed that fish that are caught off beds don't defend their young while they are recovering from hooking stress. There were observations of the predators that move in to consume the fry and eggs while the bass are off the nest, observations of the behavior of the males after being caught and observations of total production of live fry at the end of the guarding period. There was also an interesting observation that the more aggressive defenders of the nests (i.e. the better parents) were also the more likely to be caught.

 

I can try to drag that paper out or you can look for the abstract yourself on the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society journal search engine.

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Tim,

I understand that evidence, and generally speaking I agree with those who avoid bothering bedding fish. I also, however, abhor oversimplifying things into generalizations that label someone's behavior as bad and another's as good. I don't know if you've fished the Apple, but I wonder if bed fishing there would be harmful or helpful. Maybe some bass on a river like that should be given birth control pills. On one lake in Sylvania smallies were guarding nest sites in mid September. When would it be appropriate to fish there if bedding fish are to always be avoided?

All I'm saying is let Your conscience, and knowledge when available, be your guide.

Gregg

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Thanks for the thoughtful (and civil) responses. Paul, I think your RSVP idea is excellent. As to eliminating spring outings, how about at least try to stick to float trips on bigger water during the spawn. This would eliminate a bunch of guys potentially wading through beds.

 

Gregg, you make a good point about the Apple. Who knows, maybe a couple years of interupted nesting would be good for that overall population. Heck, I sure don't know. :blink: Now I'm really confused! That sounds like a question for our resident science guy (Tim).

 

Edit to add: Oops, I shouldn't take so long to respond. You guys beat me to it.

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Reading my own posts, I sound a little redneck, so to clarify: My conscience says don't target bedding fish in any of our urban/pressured streams. Conscience is OK with taking 4 C&R anglers up a trib last week when no beds were visible, water temp was 52, and fish appearred to be pre spawn. It is OK with me C&R a few bedding fish in Sylvania 2 or 3 days per year. My Dad (85 years old) asks me to bring him a couple of bass to eat. I tell him NO, but am willing to bring him a few crappies (none over 10 inches), or buy him some orange roughy.

Gregg

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I sure agree about being careful about labeling things "good" and "bad", Greg. I'm not going to throw stones at anyone, that's for sure.

 

I do like the kind of thing Jude is proposing though, where there is some kind of ISA accomodation of the spawning period beyond just catch and release. Avoiding bedding fish is a good start. Putting spring trips on larger water isn't a bad idea either.

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I have to wonder if taking a Smallmouth off a Bed where he is guarding Fry on the Apple wouldn't be a good thing for the 7"+ Smallmouths lurking around that would then feed on the fry and get bigger. I can see a problem on a stream with little or no Smallmouths and the idea is to increase the presences of these fish. In this case fishing beds would not be a good thing. However, when you have an abondance of small fish perhaps taking the Male Smallie off the bed for a time so these smaller fish could feed may help the survival of the species.

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Question for Tim -- how does a rising river and heavier current / muddier water affect nesting bass? Two days ago the river was low and clear, with many beds up in the shallows. If it rises a foot and the current starts cranking and the water gets muddy or flushes a ton of debris down river, do bass abandon the nests? Will they re-nest as things calm down or "call it a season"?

 

Eric, these kinds of discussions are just a sheer pleasure and a big part of what make ISA a unique group in the state. This is a civil, intelligent place to hash out ideas.

 

As for floods and nests...

 

I have seen research that correlates spring flood height to production of black bass juveniles. Interestingly, smallmouth are negatively affected by large floods and largemouth and spotted bass are positively affected by floods.

 

Most of what I know about smallmouth reproduction is heresay rather than published literature, so take it all with a grain of salt. I don't know all the mechanisms that make smallmouth reproduction especially vulnerable to floods. What is normally said is that the fry get flushed downstream. That may be a bit simplistic, but floods probably really are hard on fry. It can't help that smallmouth tend to occur in rivers stretches with fairly high gradients.

 

The males will stay with a nest in bad conditions to a point. Of course, they're fanning the eggs so it would take a lot of silt to bury or ruin a nest and they will rebuild a nest if it's not too far gone. They'll probably guard a nest as long as they can get females to deposit eggs there. Desite their resilience, its not a good thing to prolong their spawning. Not only is it hard on them, but fry born late in the year are more likely to get eaten and will be smaller entering winter.

 

 

 

 

I have to wonder if taking a Smallmouth off a Bed where he is guarding Fry on the Apple wouldn't be a good thing for the 7"+ Smallmouths lurking around that would then feed on the fry and get bigger.

 

This is an interesting point. Contrary to popular belief, you can have a bass fishery fueled mostly by cannibalism. It's generally not a GOOD fishery, but some systems do work that way.

 

Gary, in this case, it would have to be early spawned smallmouth or last year's juveniles to benefit from eating fry off the nest. The seven inchers wouldn't get much benefit from prey that small. For the most part though, I think its sunfish, minnows and crayfish that consume the fry. Fewer smallies in the Apple might be a good thing overall, though.

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I participated in the Fin Clipping of Smallmouth Fry that were stocked into the Kaskaskia River in Shelbyville, Il. This was and enlightening thing for me. It showed the diffrance between Smallmouths that were still feeding on plankton and those that had gone for small minnows and other food sources. The differenace in sizes was astounding to say the least. The Plankto eaters were about 2"-4" and the ones that had moved to minnows and other forage were up in the 5"-8" range and much fatter. Just ask John Graham and some of the others that were there.

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Guest rich mc

in regards to spawning time outings.we can possibly do a conservation project at that time or have an educational type outing . example is what the musky clubs do everyspring. they do a pool side review of lure action, retrieves.how line effects lure action. we could do this with smallie type lures. this would be great to see how retrieves effect flies under water .

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The differenace in sizes was astounding to say the least. The Plankto eaters were about 2"-4" and the ones that had moved to minnows and other forage were up in the 5"-8" range and much fatter. Just ask John Graham and some of the others that were there.

 

Gary, that's true, and it holds true across almost all piscivorous species. Walleye, largemouth, pike, you name it. Juvenile fish that can eat other fish grow much faster than fish eating invertebrates of any type.

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Question....

 

I am operating off my very bad memory but wasn't the Apple stocked recently (within 5 years) due to a bad fish kill from some type of spill of some sort?

 

The only reason that I mention that is that might explain the abundance of small fish that people are discussing.

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Two issues here and I will only post about one at this point:

 

This issue bothers me a lot because I feel some people are not seeing the bigger picture in regards to conservation and the ISA.

 

The idea of having ISA outings on small flows was discussed by officers thoroughly four years ago when the ISA grew much larger and we had close to 30 guys show up to fish the DuPage.

 

The near unanimous decision by the officers was to not hold outings on small flows in the Chicagoland area and to do outings on the Fox and Kankakee.

 

We didn’t need to address Rockford or Central due to smaller membership numbers.

 

With the huge increase in Internet communications, the ISA increasing membership from 100 to 500 and the huge increase in interest in stream smallmouth fishing, the ISA decided to be PROACTIVE rather than reactive.

 

It was obvious when seeing 30 guys arrive on a stream you could cast across we needed to adjust our thinking.

 

The issue was brought up again two months ago by the officers and again it was decided that if we’re to have outings on small flows it needs to be by a reservation system like hunters do. The only issue in the discussion was letting members know ahead of time.

 

The last issue of the newsletter had an article letting all members know what the deal was.

 

From the inception of the ISA we have lived and preached conservation. We have a phenomenal track record in that area in regards to Illinois stream smallmouth. We need to walk the walk if we’re going to talk the talk.

 

In other words, I can’t see the ISA preaching smallmouth stream conservation, new regs, habitat work etc. only to put a big number of fishermen on a small flow.

 

With hunting, when habitat is limited, they just don’t let 50 guys with guns all out at once on a parcel.

 

You have to reserve a spot and that way you can control the numbers and do justice to the resource. There are only so many mature fish in a spot on those streams anyway? How much fun is it to have X number of guys trying for a limited number of fish?

 

Would a largemouth club have an outing on a pond and put 30 guys around it?

 

I’m not saying we should not have outings on small streams like the DuPage and Kishwaukee, we just need to have some sense about it and realize that times are different and adjustments should be made.

 

 

Jonn Graham has been doing a reserve system for the last few years downstate and it has worked well. All we want is a call or PM to the officer running the event.

We post the day of the event and the river but not the time or meeting location.

We post that this event is limited to the first number of X fishermen. When someone PM’s or calls we tell them the time and meeting place.

 

I know this post is a bit messy but I’m in a hurry and couldn’t rewrite.

 

I have no problem saying that this issue bothers me a lot and with officers in agreement I would like this to become a way we do things.

 

Numerous officers and members were not around 4 years ago when members complained about this and even though I really think this is the way to go, I don’t want people thinking this is only my agenda. We have 13 officers with almost all of the agreeing to this kind of thing.

 

I’m not putting any of this on Paul because it has not happened in Rockford until now and he understands that it’s time to address this situation in his area.

 

It’s great we have grown large enough to have this kind of interest because it bodes well for a bigger number of people to be interested in conservation and preserving the resource that they’re now more interested in fishing.

 

Jim

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Just a point of clarification Jim. What you are suggesting (basically) did happen at this outing. Five people fished the creek. Five or six others were a mile away in the main river. I agree we should "tighten up" the registration process.

Gregg

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Thanks Greg,

 

I realize that you guys worked it out well which is good.

 

When we did the Dupe I had to send guys 20 miles apart in groups of three or more. Three guys is overkill on a river this size and what fun is having an outing with guys twenty miles apart?

 

I agree it's really a mattter of knowing or limiting the number of guys who can attend at any one time.

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Question....

 

I am operating off my very bad memory but wasn't the Apple stocked recently (within 5 years) due to a bad fish kill from some type of spill of some sort?

 

The only reason that I mention that is that might explain the abundance of small fish that people are discussing.

 

Yes, Randy. There was a chemical spill there on the Apple that wiped out the smallmouth. It was restocked and it's possible the restocking is somehow connected to the dense smallie population there...although I think that was longer than 5 years ago...I'm not sure about the precise time frame.

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Guest Don R

Not sure how long ago that spill was but some smallies had reached 18.5" by 2004. Yes, there are very large numbers of smaller fish. I've had larger smallies (in the 15" to 17" range) go after a 7" smallie that I had caught and was reeling in. Survival of the fittest.

 

 

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