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Sportsman's Connection / Outdoor Talk Network
Bass on the Beds…
There are major differences between the PA Fish and Boat Commission and the PA Game Commission. The Fish Commission enjoys an 82% approval rating. The Game Commission’s approval rating is non-existent. It is probably negative, if that’s possible. There are reasons for their problems. We will discuss them in future columns. However, the big difference is the Fish Commission can get things done, most times and slowly. The fishermen might be screaming and kicking, but somehow change is implemented.
Fishing for bass during the traditional closed spawning season is a case in point. Let’s look at the facts. Most states around us do not close bass fishing, just the keeping of bass during the spawn. These states have researched heavily the effects of fishing during the spawn. Evidence exists that under certain conditions some loss of bass fry may be beneficial or at least insignificant. The adult fish are protected and you can enjoy catch and release without fear of a violation. Most bass fishermen have long been dedicated to the concept of catch and release. If a bass is caught during the spawn and released quickly, no major harm is done. By the way, in theory bass aren’t pleasant tasting. A fairy tale no doubt started by a catch and release man who knows the power of spin. The only time a bass man gets that gleam of “I’ll keep this one” is when it is a wall hanger. Big, old, slam hogs are difficult for everyone to release.
So why the great debate? Well, it is really the combination of a number of factors: ignorance, fear, and greed. The tradition thinkers want to protect now and consume more, later. They don’t understand modern biology and don’t care to. They worry the bureaucrats will ruin an established good thing. There might be less bass to keep and eat. It is working, so leave it alone.
The Fish Commission wants to increase opportunities, as they should. They are responsible to research old wives tales and let the truth come out. Who knows, they might sell a few more licenses. In the end, an unsupported or emotional law is a bad law. Although, we have been known to pass laws based on emotion alone.
Here are a few biological factors. Why prevent catch and release during the spawn when the losses aren't measurable? If we have total protection during the spawn, perhaps too many fry will survive. Remember, the fry must eat to grow. Does the food base exist? Will we have intense competition for food resulting in stunted, undernourished fish? Isn’t cover and protection during growth more important? Isn’t the final test, how many reach maturity, not how many survive the spawn? Is there enough food for the mature specimens to keep growing to trophy proportions?
Obviously, closing the season during the spawn does not necessarily result in higher populations of bigger fish. It is far more complex than the protection of spawning bass. It is for these reasons that we have seen minimum sizes increase, slot limits, trophy rules and various other methods of protecting mature fish in the ecosystem. In reality, we are practicing “quality fish management” without using those precise words.
We hear the same voices of closure when we discuss deer hunting. There are those who would shut down doe hunting and afford the breeding does total protection. Similarly, the belief is more does will throw more bucks and we will have more deer to harvest and consume. Fascinating.
During the past 100 years the road of wildlife and fisheries management has been blazed by science. It is time to isolate all of the old school thinking and bring our rationale and direction into the 21st century. We must apply contemporary principles to all wildlife and fisheries resources. It is long overdue in Pennsylvania.
I would hope during the next 100 years we could focus on clean water, habitat improvement and the optimum management of our resources for all future sportsmen to enjoy. It is critical to share with the public and our children a coherent voice of stewardship. The argument of protection now, so we can consume more, later, is getting old.
“To my purist trout fishing friends, bass are lowly green fish and brown fish. To me, bass are bent rods and aching arms. To my ex-wife, bass are the bewilderment of addiction.”
Author, Jim Slinsky
Sportsman's Connection / Outdoor
P.O. Box 219
Northampton, PA 18067
Tel. 610-262-2143 / Fax 610-262-4440