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Harvesting Smallmouth in Lake Powell


Tim Smith
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Following up on the discussion of last week.

 

Biologists in Lake Powell have been using catch and kill strategy to restructure their population of smallmouth bass. The creel limit for smallmouth bass there is 20 fish (there is no limit for striped bass). Since implementing this management strategy, a dense population of 12 inch fish has given way to a less dense population of larger smallmouth. The size increase of smallmouth bass was correlated with an increase in forage density.

 

http://www.wayneswords.com/gillnet.htm

 

This is not intended to advocate catch and kill smallmouth fisheries in Illinois. Lake Powell is somewhat of a special case. There are probably very few smallmouth bass populations in Illinois so dense as to warrant harvesting.

 

However, these results do show that recreational fisheries can restructure predator fish populations (duh) and reduce pressure on forage populations (in this case Dorosoma species but elsewhere in the west perhaps endangered salmon).

 

In the case of western rivers where smallmouth fisheries co-exist with native salmonid fisheries, the better choice would be to encourage anglers to harvest smallmouth and other non-native predator species. This provides the benefits of a harvest fishery for non-native species, and (hopefully) reduces predation pressure on the native (and declining) salmon and steelhead.

 

Catch and release is but one tool in the conservation arsenal. Context is everything.

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Guest rich mc

yes this shows the point that harvesting is a management tool. but we are the Illinois smallmouth alliance and dont have this problem in our state . rich

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This brings up an interesting point/topic that actually is occurring over here in Indiana. I'm glad to see you post this Tim as this issue was the one "sticking point" I had, largely as to wording, and the ISA philosophies (#2 I believe) should we push toward adopting them on an Inter-Alliance basis. If Indiana were to move along adopting such philosophies at some point in it's growth, I'd probably argue for a slight rewording of that particular tenet myself. Anyway, it came up, albeit briefly, in a discussion over on the Indiana board, that being 'we' (INSA) are all for catch and release except in cases of when we are not - my opinion/comment in the discussion.

 

One of the things we have been striving for in Indiana is more regulation, preferably tailored regulation, of smallmouth fisheries in the state. We recently got our wish with two specialized smallmouth regs applied to two specific flows. One was a "trophy fish" regulation on Sugar Cr., that being a 1 fish over 20" limit on anglers. This is opposed to the current 5 fish 12" statewide reg. on most rivers. The other reg. that went into effect was on an identified "dink factory", the Blue R. in southern Indiana. Almost zero 12" keepers identified in surveys and population estimates exceeding 400 SMB per mile in some stretches. Here they placed a slot limit in effect allowing you to still keep 5 bass, but only 2 can be over 15" while 3 may be under 12". No harvest of adults between 12" and 15" is allowed. The hope being to restructure the population back to something of a more normal balance.

 

The cool dilemma being that we as a group shouldn't on one hand push for specialized SMB regs., and then with the other hand have a "policy" that counters or opposes implementing those exact regs. when we get them (a strictly catch and release mentality). So while we strongly promotoe C&R for SMB, and in this case would strongly promote the release of all SMB over 12" (in and over the slot), we have to also recognize that there will be situations, be they the rare exception, where C&R isn't the best answer for the health of our SMB fisheries. You might not ever have to deal with that situation in Illinois, but we are living it right now in Indiana. We have even tossed about the idea of a 'Blue R. Rodeo Roundup' to help promote the reg. and the concept by helping remove some of those sub-12's. It becomes a potentially interesting tight rope to walk.

 

-Brian

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All good points, Brian and congratulations on the new slot limit.

 

You are absolutely right that one size does not fit all.

 

I think that philosophy was worded so strongly in favor of catch and release because A LOT of good has come with the catch and release ethic. I think there is a legitimate fear in some quarters that if we all tried to decide on our own which streams "needed" harvest, we'd soon have so many opinons (good and bad) that no one would be sure of anything. We're all geniuses on paper but in reality it's pretty hard to craft good fisheries regulation.

 

There's a strong culture of catch and release in most bass fishing circles that is still doing a lot of good for fisheries. It would be important not to undermine that approach to the point that it didn't work.

 

How would you change the wording if it were to be changed?

 

 

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All good points, Brian and congratulations on the new slot limit.

 

You are absolutely right that one size does not fit all.

 

I think that philosophy was worded so strongly in favor of catch and release because A LOT of good has come with the catch and release ethic. I think there is a legitimate fear in some quarters that if we all tried to decide on our own which streams "needed" harvest, we'd soon have so many opinons (good and bad) that no one would be sure of anything. We're all geniuses on paper but in reality it's pretty hard to craft good fisheries regulation.

 

There's a strong culture of catch and release in most bass fishing circles that is still doing a lot of good for fisheries. It would be important not to undermine that approach to the point that it didn't work.

 

How would you change the wording if it were to be changed?

 

I certainly agree with the overall benefits (good) that has come because of catch and release mentality. As I mentioned, I also know it is a tight rope and can see the danger of leaving too much to individual decision or in coming across as promoting an exception and that being taken incorrectly or out of context.

 

After reviewing the principles, I'd honestly have to say I'd push for dropping the 2nd half of #2 and then adding #3 to it instead as below:

 

2. We strongly affirm the value of catch-and-release smallmouth bass fisheries and all practices that limit stress to fish during capture, handling and release. We appeal to all fishers to limit their impact on natural populations of smallmouth bass and other species to the point that those populations are safe, healthy and stable according to the best scientific information available.

 

The joint wording of the two philosophies, especially after dropping the tailing of #2, seem very complimentary (yet not quite redundant) to the point of sitting together nicely on the same line item. This blending would still make the strong catch and release statement, while leaving the little "out" available to support a reg. like a slot limit (though not blatantly stated) under the "healthy and stable (population) according to the best scientific info available" clause. In our case, and probably only temporarily until a change in fish structure is seen, "best scientific info available" supports keeping a few sub-12's for a while on that particular waterway.

 

-Brian

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