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I don't think bass sizes based on forage types should be considered negatively. Suppose the Great Lakes, or some lake down the Mississippi filling with round gobies results in record trophy bass? They are taking to those exotics, already one of the favorite foods of bass there. I realize the growing season is shorter there, but the sheer masses of gobies could keep bass stuffed all day every day, while stocked trout in a California lake are limited in numbers.

As you already know from our former mutual membership I don't believe in C&R (catch & release) unless wildlife managers have scientifically determined the need for it. If they allow a creel limit, they have taken into account a reasonable harvest, having a good handle on total bass biomass production in a lake in relation to consistently available forage. Fishermen are not helping them out by imposing C&R on themselves or anyone else. No study has shown C&R anglers have aided in overall goals of fisheries managers that don't require C&R. In fact, too much C&R can result in damage to a fishery by upsetting fish size class distribution. Another fact is an old fish has already contributed plenty of its genes to a fishery. As they grow older they accumulate more toxins and mutations, which can introduce problems if too many are retained for a long life. Young adult bass contribute a healthier recruitment. Another emerging problem is that in heavily pressured lakes where C&R is the norm, larger bass are becoming harder to catch. They learn to avoid artificial lures. Reaction bites become the primary means of catching a few of them. On our lakes C&R hasn't become popular except during tournaments. We have 7 fish cleaning stations on Lake Ouachita that you have to stand in line to utilize, requiring some planning as to when to quit fishing. Our bass populations have not suffered from that, but are now lacking forage and not growing very large compared to the 1960s when I learned never to brag on any bass under 9#. There are too many fish above 13" and not enough food, partly due to stocking stripers and a few bad shad spawn years, plus one hard winter that killed most of them off.

As long as bass are successfully recruiting themselves through natural spawning, no harm is done removing large bass during the spawn. Whatever fishermen think they can do to a large fishery is dwarfed by what nature does to control animal populations, plus natural disasters like drought. If a female is removed from a spawning area, many more await their turn to deposit eggs for the males that recruit as many females, one at a time, until spawning ends. If any are to be released males on beds ought to be released immediately because keeping it in a boat just 10 minutes can allow panfish or a salamander to eat all the eggs that quickly. Those fish suffer greatly from guarding beds one to two months a year with little or no feeding. That's why male bass are typically smaller, and many die early because of the stress of spawning. But even so, it only takes 2-3 100% successful beds to overstock a lake if all the eggs result in one year old immature bass. All that is needed is a few fry to survive of each bed to keep the bass population normal. Excess fry are eaten by many predators, including parent bass.

Jim
 

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All it takes is a hundred or less 1# shad spawning successfully in one year to stock a lake to unbelievable numbers. When shad are missing bass easily turn to crayfish and panfish, and they will do that at times shad are plentiful because crayfish are easier to catch. Panfish make a great meal, one fish sustaining a bass a couple of days, so especially when they are spawning bass take advantage of them, then eat their fry as though in revenge for panfish robbing the bass beds. And yes, current redistributes shad downstream, so you have an ideal fishery setup.

We agree to disagree respectfully about C&R as in the past. My background is fisheries in relation to riparian (river) wetlands wildlife management. I've been out sampling fish hundreds of times, part of fisheries management as well as silviculture above the water's edge, monitoring forestry impacts on waterways, and know what goes into the decision making for managing fisheries. I come at it from a technical angle, going by biological fact as well as experience working and fishing, so I'm immune from the emotional aspects and am not at all in agreement removal of a bass will diminish the experience of the next angler. Most anglers don't catch enough bass to impact a lake in their lifetime, neither would the combined successes of all including the masters. Nature responds to harvest very effectively. Bass respond much like deer do to a heavy harvest, as do most game animals, the survivors having more forage to share. Remaining lunker bass find more food and grow even larger faster. The larger bass in a lake are effectively out of reach of shore-bangers anyway. Hardly any lake could accommodate enough boats to be launched with enough anglers any given day to threaten any but a northern lake or one very close to a major metro. I'm taking the prevalent fisheries stance on the issue. Biologists are perfectly correct to emphasize C&R, fingerling stocking, fishing seasons, slots and size limits where data shows the need for careful conservation. That occurs mostly in northern fisheries with short growing seasons and high fishing pressure. It would be very difficult to find a southern, mid-west, south western or Californian fishery in such bad shape C&R is required. I too have seen C&R do wonders where C&R was needed. But I've also sampled lakes with too many large bass where anglers are convinced the bass are gone, unable to catch them because they just won't bite shallow where they have seen or been stung too many times by artificials. If they don't master deep structure to find unmolested bass they often end up abandoning a lake.

Here's a bottom line. If too much unrequired C&R exists, eventually creel limits are increased out of necessity to prevent over population of large classes of bass, seasons lengthened, and managers begin encouraging harvest even more. I love eating crappie too, but I prefer bassing. We eat bass regularly up to 3.5-4# in size, no larger because of fat content and the thick fillets. So I do practice a form of C&R, releasing stripers over 2#, even the 30#ers going back in. My wife can't stand the smell of them cooking. Just something about them, even smoked on a grill. I'm still trying to eat up a 32 pound striper that died on me from a long fight in January, so I have to cook it over coals whenever she's away. :mad:

Jim
 

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We might still have 1.5 million stripers on our 40,000 acres, way too many. The decision to stock them was made without input from biologists, purely political. Our LMBs are not growing due to the extreme competition, but we have plenty of them. Catching 20-30 is a good day here, average 2#, a few coming in at 7#, and a rare 9#er weighed in at a marina last month.

I have no quarrel with anyone willing to put their bass back. There's nothing wrong with that. I do know a few guys around here who just don't like eating fish, but are excellent bassers. We also get lots of visitors from the north who practice that. But, since 1955 when the lake was built the annual harvest has been amazingly large. Putting pressure on the state to reduce striper stocking worked, cutting it in half. They have yet to answer my challenge to provide actual statistics proving that was a good decision. The point is there is no support for it. Sad thing is the striper guides tend to release them, moreso now that they've heard of the cut back. Last year I watched them parade by the dam in a two mile line 50 feet wide, many going a good 50-60 pounds. They're wanting to find the ocean. Too bad they can't flush on down.

The red meat does come out, wasting a good 30-50% on the big ones. Even with all white flesh my wife knows they are stripers when cooked. Too "fishy". Bummer. I like them smoked over charcoal.

Jim
 

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Our river doesn't have enough current to tumble striper eggs 48 hours to hatch, so we're fortunate. Once I get the red out the taste is fine, but it's the odor cooking that my wife hates. She thinks it smells like a human skin burn. :p

Jim
 
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