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BASS fisherman

Too many dinks, and trying to make a difference

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I am worried about the waters in Pa due to a regulation called the Big Bass Program.  This program only allows anglers to keep bass, be it largemouth smallmouth, or spotted, that are 15 inches and larger.  I believe that due to this regulation, the lakes are being heavily populated by tiny bass with an average length of 10 inches.  I sent this email into the state DFG in hopes of getting someones attention, and maybe pursueing a new program to be implemented bringing back a healthy population of bass in Pa water ways.  

To whom it may concern,

  I am an avid bass fisherman, who loves close to home fishing.  The problem is that the majority, if not all the lakes in the county I live in, as well as the surrounding counties in Pa, are all waters regulated by the Big Bass Program.  The Big Bass Program only allows anglers to keep and take home bass that are 15 inches in size or larger, therefore making the smaller bass that are thriving only compete for any available forage.  The higher numbers of small bass, or "dinks" as I will refer to them , over run the lake, and become stunted due to the massive numbers of similar sized bass. And the fact that most of these smaller bass would be forage fish for larger bass, but the larger bass are simply not present in numbers to thin out the massive population of dinks.  I think Pa should mirror the efforts of the highly successful Texas, and California by implementing the sharelunker program.  This program allows anglers to contact certain representatives of the state, and deliver larger bass to the representative with the bass alive, in order to breed these larger bass, therefore continuing the larger bass's genetics on to the next generation who will also grow to be larger than the average bass.  

  The dink population in Pa is growing at an ever steady and out of control pace, and larger bass are being caught by uneducated angers, who keep these larger bass to hang on the wall, thereby completely depleting Pa waters of lunker bass.  It has been brought to my attention that through implementing a program that allows anglers to keep bass that are within the lengths of 10-12 inches, and not over 15 inches as with the Big Bass Program, the bass population in Pa has a chance of replenishing the number of larger bass for the serious anglers to fish for.  

 I can understand the intent of the Big Bass Program, but as of yet, I see no difference in the numbers of larger bass that I fish for approximately 250-300 days per year. I think the Big Bass Program would indeed be successful IF bass would only spawn every ten years, but in fact they spawn each spring, increasing the numbers of smaller bass in each lake in Pa. Please talk to the appropriate powers to try and get this problem resolved.  I seriously love fishing in beautiful Pa, but feel a need to move and stop spending my money on a Pa license due to the large numbers of tiny bass due to the Big Bass Program. If you cannot help me with this matter, will you please send me some information so that I may take the appropriate steps to get this massively growing problem taken care of in the near future.

Thank you very much for your time,

My name was here

Do you think there is a way to persuade the state department of fish and game to change the laws, so that the big bass population has a chance at rebounding?

Would a petition help in the process?

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Guest avid

Good for you!!!

You have an uphill battle son, but you are fighting the good fight.  First though, you need to do some homework.  

Call the state fish and wildlife and dept.  Ask why this reg is in place and their position on it impacting the quality of the fishery.

Call the State BASS and FLW federations.  Ask them what they think about the reg.  

This is important, because while on the face of it, it sounds like you have an excellent point, to avoid appearing ignorant it's important to do your homework.

Also call any other sportsmans group in PA that have an interest in this regulation.

I suspect that the organized bass fishing groups have a position on this issue.  Likely they are against it, but sometimes their are valid reasons for culling some of the large fish.

My experience is that petitions are not very effective, but individual actions can be highly successful.  Meaning don't ask people to merely sign a petition, encourage them to write thier own letters and make phone calls.  Create a few samples (like the one you posted here) and give clear names addresses and titles of the persons most influential in creating this policy.

Most important.  If the organized bass fishing community is trying to use thier influence to have this reg changed, you should volunteer whatever time or resources you can.

Good luck,

PS>  If not you can always move to California  

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I think most lakes in most states that I have fished in use the minimum length limit for bass, and most of these are 15 inches.  I've fished a few with a slot limit.  As long as most anglers are practicing catch and release, I don't think it will destroy your large bass population if the lake is managed properly.  If your department of conserveration is doing their job, there should be plenty of predators available to eat the dinks and keep them from overpopulating a lake.  I've read that bass reproduction cannot keep up with Bluegill reproduction and the bluegills eat a ton of the bass fry.  In fact, these lakes have to make sure they control the bluegill population to leave enough fry to grow to acceptable levels.  After the males watch over the baby fry for a week or so, they start eating them too.  As for the sharelunker program, I think it is a great idea for every state.  

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I hear many PA anglers complaining  if that doens't get there attention maybe a petition with signitures will. Good luck with it

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Bf,    I thought the new Big Bass Program for 2006 states minimum length of 15".   To me, its saying keep nothing under 15" and only 4 may be retained for all 3 species.

Any thing over would read Maxium length of 15 inches.   Which means nothing over 15 inches can be kept.

I could never deal with a closed season on bass either.

Matt.

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I do not know about Pa. but in Washington state the Fish and Wildlife have public forums for citizens to express thier concerns and ideas to the administrators.  A lot of these have been implemented with success.  Check with your local or state office, and see if you can have a face to face,,, after you do the before mentioned homework.... You want to come across as very passionate, but also educated in the matter.  It will impress them to no end.  

GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!

and keep us posted on any replies or answers you get.

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Guest the_muddy_man

I can tell you that the BIG BASS PROGRAM is limited to a handfull of lakes I fish PA almost exclusively. I agree with you about the dink situation they are plentiful.

 Most of my boat fiashin is at Mauch Chunk and We do catch a lot right under that 15inch limit. Now me and Ron always Catch and Release and a lot of others do But I see a lot of stringers with legal fish leaving the lake and thats their right too Many so few make it to 15 in and one they do they get harvested. I have caught a lot of respectable fish this year by learning how toi fish deeper.

 I think this slot thing sounds better, but thats the problem(I think) I dont know enough qbout this slot thing Perhaps Doctocr Professor Raul can help us here

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Guest avid

Slot rules can be a little complicated at first but they make alot of sense and can be very effective.  In Florida it's a way of life for the salty anglers.  There is what we call a "Law Stick" that is sold everywehre and shows the slot limits for the different species.

Basically the slot states that for the species in question, if it measures longer than X but shorter than Y, it falls within the slot of havestable fish.

The slot is determined by studies and usually is the result of spawning success.  So for example if 1999 was a bad  spawn year for snook, there are a smaller number of  large sized healthy 7 year olds.

But if 2002, was a great spawn year, then the fish that are 4 years old need less protection.  

So based on typical growth patterns, the "slot" would make it allowable to harvest a specified number of the 4 year olds, but illegal to harvest the bigger 7 year olds.

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I'm not Raul, but do fish slot lakes alot.

First off, the ideal of a slot promotes catch and release of "key fish".

These key fish are considered the healthiest for reproduction, another words, they are protecting mature females that are gonna be potential spawners for years to come.

Our biologists believe that certain fish are better and more thriving when it comes to spawning.

Also, it ensures anglers will have quality fish to be caught and enjoyed by all anglers.

For lakes that are managed for Trophy waters, such as Lake Fork, the slot restrictions works two-fold,   first the slot is 16" to 24 ", so no fish over 16 and under 24" inches are allowed to be kept at all.

Only 1 fish per day of 24 inces or greater may be retained.

A total of 5 fish daily, and only one of them can be over 24 inches or 5 bass under 16 inches.

16-24 ensure that the 2.5lb fish and up will be here to spawn for next year.   That quality fish will be left in the lake year around.

The two fold allows for mature females to be left for future spawns and that a person who wants to take a mess home may do so with the smaller bass and allowing fish to grow to 24 inches in length will create a trophy class fishery which lake Fork has maintained for 20 years.

Not all lakes in Texas are 16 to 24 inches, they vary due to shocking surveys that the biologist do every so often to gage the growth rate and populus of bass in given waters.     Some slots are 14-18, others are 14-21.

Matt.

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im a big fan of slots.  at one lake i fish even 7 lb bass will often fall short of the slot.  its a good thing when i see someone releasing a 7 lber that was destined for the dinner table.  i have nothing against anglers eating what they catch but there are so many 12-15 inch bass that  there is no reason to eat anything over a couple pounds.  the small ones taste better anyway.

I really like slot limits.

matt

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PA is not the only state with a 15" minimum. I fished Black, NY and I understand most of NY is a 15" minimum and Anglers get nice sized Bass out of their lakes. You need to access the PA regulations for there is a time during the regular season that 12" prevails most of the time other then the Big Bass Program. Although there is a time when 15" is state wide Jan. 1 till April's closing and Oct. to Dec. 31st. Lake Champlain gave up some really good Bass when the Elite Series was there. In a small body of water a 15" minimum may be an issue but on large lakes where toothy critters live those dinks are on the dinner menu.

Chow

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I recieved this email today:

Dear Andy,

Thank you for your interest in bass fishing and bass management in Pennsylvania. I was asked to respond to your inquiry as I am responsible for fish management activities in Southwest PA including Allegheny county.

There are several waters in your area that are managed with Big Bass regulations, however there are as many that are managed with statewide regulations. Either regulation is utilized to maintain and/or develop a high quantity of quality size bass available to anglers. The Objectives for the Big Bass regulation include: 1. Improve the quality of bass angling and to increase the trophy element of the fishery; 2. Improve the overall bass catch rates including catch and release fishing; and 3. Increase the abundance of large bass, particularly those over 15 inches. We have found in our evaluation of Big Bass regulations that in nearly all waters these objectives have been met, including the higher number of fish over 15 inches. We have also documented higher numbers of 12 to 15 inch bass in these lakes, but their growth rates continue to be good and bass are moving into the over 15 inch classes as a result. If we found stated objectives were not met on a particular water, we would consider changing the regulation to include consideration of a slot limit like you mention. The general rule gained from many scientific studies of a slot limit is that the age and size structure of bass ends up similar to that achieved with an elevated length limit like 15 inches. However, I do know of success stories using a protected slot regulation. That is not to say that we do not have some waters in PA where this regulation could work under a specific set of conditions. You may be aware that there is a slot limit in effect since 2004 at Lake Winola in Wyoming County. At Lake Winola, the daily bass limit of 6 fish can consist of bass under 12 inches and one fish over 18 inches. The response of the bass population to this regulation will be monitored over the next few years.

We have not considered a "ShareLunker" program like the one in Texas. I noticed there was a private sponsor associated with the program. It may be something we could consider down the road. Our current largemouth bass stocking in lakes consists of introduction stocking to a new or reclaimed lake, plus a couple lakes that have bass recruitment problems.

I attach this link to our Web site for "Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Spotted Bass Management and Fishing in Pennsylvania" for you to peruse in case you haven't seen it yet. http://sites.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/Fish_Boat/pafish/bass_black/00bass_overview.htm)

Sincerely,

Rick Lorson, Area Fisheries Manager

PA Fish and Boat Commission

236 Lake Road

Somerset, PA 15501-1644

I plan to call Mr. Lorson, and find out when and how they check the numbers of fish he claims is growing, which I have yet to see. Then I would like to know if I could attend one of these information gathering outings as a volunteer. I'll keep everyone posted.

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BASS Fisherman,

I believe I owe you a big apology. I am sorry I said what I said regarding your writing and communication skills on a prior thread. I was wrong. I'm sorry. I am not trying to hijack this thread but I wanted to make sure my apology to you was public and not in a PM.

Good luck in your efforts and I hope you do well....and please, accept my apology.

Now, back to the original pupose of BASS Fisherman's post.

Tom

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The state of Missouri was one of the first in the country to impliment a size limit (15") on Black bass in a few of it's lakes in the mid 70's.  Fisherman and resort owners went nuts.  All the fears of guys not catching a single keeper bass in a weekend may have ruined a trip or two in the initial years but they also reaped the rewards in the many years since.  

Missouri manages it's game and fish resources for overall quality and thus has no real trophy lakes or hunting areas.  While it's been rare to see a slot limit in Missouri the length limits are vigorously enforced and modified as the fish population changes.  This is basically done by electroshocking in eithe the spring or more preferably in the fall.  

I can't help you out on PA's problems but if the 15" size limit is a fairly new rule you need to give it time to work.  In a state with a shorter growing season like PA has, it might take 3 or 4 years for the effects to become noticeable.  When they do you'll probably want to write the state a letter of thanks.

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I applaud your effort to be involved, the fact that you put forth an effort is more than most people do. Good work! And very cool of the DNR guy to respond to your letter!

One thing to consider... the only way to make any program work is to HARVEST fish in the legal size range. So many people get caught up in catch and release (and I'm as guilty as anyone, I don't even like bass) that they let all of them go and then wonder why the fishery doesn't progress towards the goal. In your case, keeping as many 15-16 inch fish as you can may really help your cause.

Most of Tx is a 14" size limit, except for a few lakes and a few slot lakes... we seem to have a good population of big fish but I think the key is that we have a large number of people keeping the 14"-16"  fish for the frying pan.

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BASS Fisherman,

I believe I owe you a big apology. I am sorry I said what I said regarding your writing and communication skills on a prior thread. I was wrong. I'm sorry. I am not trying to hijack this thread but I wanted to make sure my apology to you was public and not in a PM.

Good luck in your efforts and I hope you do well....and please, accept my apology.

Now, back to the original pupose of BASS Fisherman's post.

Tom

No problem Tom, appology accepted.  Thank you

I sent Mr Lorson an email asking if I would be able to accompany the state on one of the studies that the state conducts.  I will keep everyone updated.  

Do any of the Pa anglers in this forum recall when the Big Bass program was initiated?  I believe it has been about 4 years already, with no noticable increases in positive growth rates.  The only difference I have noted would be the increase in the total numbers of bass, which according to the link Mr Lorson provided in his email, means that the program is working and will take several more years for the number of larger bass to become apparent in the regulated waters of Pa.  

I was surprised as well to the response that I recieved.  Usually the time it takes to recieve information from the Pa fish and boat commision averages five to seven days.  This email was recieved 13 days after it was sent.  I was not expecting a response, but was elated when I recieved one.  

I do not keep any bass that I catch, and always release them.  I don't understand how keeping the 15"+   bass will improve the fishery.  If the majority of anglers do keep the larger bass, wouldn't that leave only the smaller bass resulting in the same problem I see now as I fish?  I don't eat fish unless I have to, I simply fish for the sport of it.  I don't really know of anyone who would want bass to eat, nor do I want to throw them in the bushes as I leave the lake.  I need some ideas on what to do with these fish.  

I believe know that the key is not changing the regulations of the Big Bass Program but merely educating Pa anglers so that the fisheries can thrive with the regulations in effect.

I will keep everyone as updated as possible, and thank you all for your input thus far.

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BASS Fisherman,

I'm glad you accept my apology and I truly hope your efforts are fruitful.

I fished for bass in PA as when I lived there in '88 and as kid. The length limit, if I remember correctly was 12".  I do remember that my PB there was probably 16" and I do remember my Dad catching a 7+ pounder at 21". Bass was not a big priority for the DFG in southwestern PA at the time. Whitetail deer was the priority. Anything that you can do in regards to bass fishing is a good thing and I applaud you.

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Today I recieved Mr. Lorson's response to my previous inquiry.:

Hi Andy,

Growth rates are determined when we sample a water for bass with night electrofishing. Scales samples are collected from fish in this sample and we determine the age and growth rate from the scales. An increase in the number of larger bass in Big Bass regulation lakes generally requires at least 6 years to be noticed. Of the six in the Big Bass program from Westmoreland County, From your second email, here are the years that Big Bass regs (or Conservation regs prior to Big Bass) were implemented: Bridgeport Dam- 1995; Keystone Lake- 1995; Lower Twin Lake- 2000; Upper Twin Lake- 1996; Mammoth Dam- 2000; and Northmoreland Lake- 1994.

We welcome interested anglers out on our surveys primarily to observe. The only problem for night electrofishing is our shift runs from about 9pm to 2am. Our tentative field schedule is usually prepared by April 1. So, if you contact me next March or April I will be able to provide it to you.

Sincerely,

Rick Lorson, Area Fisheries Manager

PA Fish and Boat Commission

236 Lake Road

Somerset, PA 15501-1644

So now I am building my base of information towards trying to convince the state to implement better regulations so that the bass population in Pa has a better chance at thriving.

It is understandable that Pa has northern strain largemouth bass, and the maximum and annual growth is on average much less than their southern cousins. The Pa state record largemouth bass weighed 11 pounds and some odd ounces. Within the past five years, I know of one LM bass that was weighed at 13 pounds and some odd ounces. Whether that 13pound bass was huge due to optimum conditions, or some sort of mutated genetics, remain to be seen.

  It is my belief that northern strain bass in Pa can indeed grow to massive size, but only with optimum conditions, such as possibly reversing the Big Bass regulation so that anglers can only take bass under 15". As well as changing the limit of those smaller fish to app. 2-3 per angler, per day. Doing so in my belief (I could be wrong here) will allow the bigger bass in said body of water to maximize their size by not competeing with the smaller bass for all available forage. But the different lakes that would be regulated in such a way would most likely have to be watched, with a close eye kept on the bass untill officials can be sure that the larger bass are indeed thriving. I also believe that the state simply does not have the money to undertake such a massive task. Which will most likely fall on the shoulders of trained volunteers. Which only speaking for myself, I would be more than happy to participate in.

 Hopefully if I can convince the Pa DFG to change the theoretics of the Big Bass program, with positive results in maximizing the growth cycles of northern strain largemouth, other states would soon follow with success.  This will undoubtedly be a long arduous process, but will be of benifit to future Pa bass anglers.

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Does it make sense to some of you more seasoned anglers?  

Does anyone have links to anything regarding anglers helping to make their state waters a better habitat for big bass?

Any input at all is appreciated.

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First of all, let me applaud your interest and fervor concerning your state's conservation program.

Now, let me play the devil's advocate for a moment. Having fished for the last thirty or so years, I have spoke with a number of people in various DNRs. What may seem logical and simple about the big bass program your state has, is more likely the result of years of complex research that addressed the very points you are bringing up. And unless you presently have a doctorate in Fish and Wildlife Management, the present regulations are more than likely the best bet for the waters being managed by them.

Lastly, and please don't take this the wrong way, just because you and a few others possibly, cannot catch any big bass in your lakes does not mean that they are not there. My favorite honeyhole went through what I thought was a big fish reduction. In reality, it was a big fish relocation that resulted in  expanding my techniques and knowledge to find them once again.

If nothing else, don't ever STOP asking questions about anything. Knowledge is power. Good fishing.

dink

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Thanks for your input Dink.

I do not have a doctorate, but any one can study productive fisheries, and what makes them productive. And a couple of the guys in my bass club have also noticed the same problem with the high numbers of small bass.

In the first email that Mr. Lorson sent me, it states that the state uses the program to "Improve the overall bass catch rates including catch and release fishing". Meaning that the lakes in question as I previously stated, are over run with tiny bass which in turn makes any available forage more scarce.  Thereby stunting the growth of all the bass in the said waters.  I mainly fish 2 lakes that are under the Big Bass program regulation.  I have logged in over 50 days, and app. 400 hours of fishing on each of those lakes, and only caught three bass over three pounds.   The big bass are there, but the numbers are so small, you could count them on one hand.  And both of those waters have been under the regulations for nine years, and ten years respectively.  Which according to Mr. Lorson, is three years and four years longer than the regulations require to take a noticable effect.  

The only noticable effect myself and other serious anglers have noticed so far are lots and lots of tiny bass.  And these guys are like yourself, they have been fishing for years, so they know what they are doing.  They also catch lots of small bass, but only a few each year that are "picture worthy".   These guys are members of the bass club I am in, and not to brag, but we are one of the best in Pa.  The big bass just aren't there in good numbers, mostly due to the fact that uneducated anglers are keeping the big bass that they do catch, simply to mount on the wall, rather than releasing them for another day.  

I believe if the state puts into place a slot limit of smaller bass, the remaining bass would have more forage, and therefore thrive in the regulated waters.  Supposedly the bass that grow to record size will pass those genetics down to their fry, making for better genetics in said waters as well.  Such states as Texas have proven this by instituting the "share lunker program".  

It is a complicated matter, yet simple at the same time.  

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Allright this was posted on another board yesterday

Those who have trouble catching bass here have either not put in the time to learn the bass habitat of their local lakes, or they need to practice. Just my opinion.

Dinks?  I am sure there is some big bass in PA or the state record would not be 11lbs.

Enough Said. :)

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Liquid soap, I absolutly agree, but the issue here are lakes that are under Big Bass regulations.  Not all lakes in Pa are under the regulations.  But those that are only thrive with high numbers of smaller bass, whose growth have been stunted due to the high numbers, and competition for available forage.

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Well put, BF.  A slot limit may just be the solution to the problems with these lakes.  Try to contact some DNRs from other states to find where slot limits have worked and ask for any data on lakes with them now and in the past.  These findings may be benenficial to your efforts.  Good luck.

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