Showing posts with label conservation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conservation. Show all posts

What Will You Be?

Life changing events, like the one I went through last week with the passing of my grandfather, leave you asking lots of questions. These moments cause introspection often to the point of exhaustion. Weeding through the myriad thoughts, small treasures can come forth.

My grandfather's memorial service brought forth some questions and after some pondering, some clarification. The question that I wrestled with was "What would be said when my loved ones gathered to celebrate my life?".

Many of us wear the hat of kayak fisherman. Some of us write some, speak a little, share on forums and get caught up in that identity. I love that part of my life and enjoy helping grow the sport in my little corner of the universe. The reality of it is, that's only a part of who I am. I am guessing that is the case for all of you too.

I know the answer for today but when it's all said and done, what will I be?

I want to be known as quick to lend a hand and slow to judge. I want to be not just passionate but compassionate. I want to be as giving with my things as I am with my ideas. I want people to know me as an advocate for kids in the outdoors, safety, kayak fishing, nature conservation and family.

While I'm not overt about my faith and Christianity, I hope people will afford me grace and forgiveness when I'm an idiot because I am human and sometimes not a great one.

 I want my kids to pass on the outdoors to my grandkids if I am blessed enough to have them. I hope my wife understands my love for her is greater than the outdoors.

I have a lot of work to do.

My new projects with Yak Angler will allow me to advocate for my many loves, spread the fun and serenity of kayak fishing with even more people and allow me to refine the writing I do.

The opportunities I've been afforded and embarked upon were all started on a lake shore with my grandfather over 30 years ago. I can hear his laugh in the wind now almost as if he is telling others of our fishing tales from years past. If I can be half the man he was, I'll be twice the man I am now.

What will you be?

Are You a Poser?

No one else is talking about it so I will.

Posing with fish. How do you feel about it?

I'm not talking about the "I just caught this huge fish or this cool fish" picture where a guy or gal is holding up something they feel is picture worthy. I'm talking about the one guy holding four or five really big fish in a picture at the end of the day.

The origins of these pictures came out the bass tournament world where guys would hold up fish that have just been weighed after a day in a livewell and will soon be released. The thing that kind of itches me wrong though is when it's done out of a kayak. I see more and more people posing with several big fish, caught from a kayak. How did you get those fish? Most likely not all at once. So you've been accumulating these fish on a stringer then?When you move from spot to spot or go back to the ramp, do you drag them behind you by the lip or gill through the water or do you put them in a fish bag?

As kayak fishermen we pride ourselves on our sensitivity to catch and release, doing what's right by the fish for survival and various other topics. Just ask a room full of people about how to hold a fish for a picture or measuring fish on a Hawg Trough and how it should and shouldn't be done. People will start talking about fish slime, mortality rates, elastic bands should be banned and issues I don't have time to dive into right now. So for all of that outrage at whether someone wet a measuring board before taking a length, I have heard almost nothing said about posing for stringer shots. Folks may ask if the fish were released but how much have they been through?

Granted a livewell isn't a great environment to keep a fish in all day but we are talking about kayaks. Is damage to the fish worth a picture so you can brag? Personally I'd rather see four individual fish pictures of some giants. A quick picture on a measuring board tells a ton about the size of the fish and adds perspective to the size.

It's been cool and a thing of lore in the past to take the pose from tourney fishermen but can we please stop. If you are keeping the fish to eat, ok. No harm done, but if the fish are going to be released, please don't leash them or bag them for hours only to take a picture with other fish you may or may not catch. The potential damage and possible mortality should be our concern.

So that's my take on it. What say you? Is there a strong case for multi-bass posing? Let me know what you think.

Talking Trash

Starting off the Guest Blog Series this week is James Belekanich. James is a fisherman, fly fisherman, conservationist and a Florida Gator. In addition to getting time on the water, James also runs a blog over at  Give him a look. He's a great photographer too!

by James Belekanich

Picking up after other people doesn’t have to be burdensome. Trash, such as empty beverage containers, candy wrappers, plastic bags, worm cups and old fishing line, not only are an eyesore, but some of it can also be harmful to people, fish and other wildlife. Broken glass, torn aluminum and old fishing line are hazards for obvious reasons. It’s not just beer bottles, soda cans and sports drink bottles that are the problem. It includes leaving fish on shore, after you've gutted them. That leaves a terrible, smelly mess and attracts an army of insects. Littering has gotten so bad many consider those among the fishing community the worst group of litterbugs. That's pretty disappointing and frankly, very embarrassing.

Photo Courtesy of James Belekanich

Fishing line pollution poses a real threat to wildlife, not to mention a hazard to boaters, divers and kayakers. The most common type of fishing line, monofilament, is made from various types of polymers which take a very long time to break down. Discarded monofilament line can last for hundreds of years in the environment. There are some simple things that we can do, as anglers, to help reduce fishing line pollution. If you see old line, please do your part and discard it. It'll take two minutes.

Like most of us, I normally take an assortment of rods, reels and tackle when I go fish. But lately, I've made it a point not to leave home without a plastic trash bag. My personal ambition to rid DFW area fishing holes of garbage one piece at a time. It only takes a few minutes and I feel better for doing it, and everything looks better too. It's our duty to keep our waters clean.

If everyone just did their part and picked up a little, it wouldn’t take long before we’d have all our lakes and rivers cleaned up. It’s really pretty simple.

Photo Courtesy of James Belekanich


If you have a topic you are passionate about and want to share, drop me a line at [email protected]
Many thanks to James for reminding us that we all share the Earth and need to take care of it. 

Please Share! Stop the Tarpon Slaughter!

Anger! Outrage! Lots of four letter words are running through my head. The fact that this has been going on for 50 years and I am just now hearing about it means it is not getting near enough attention.

Tarpon are being slaughtered only for sport (seriously sport?) by divers in international waters off the coast of Louisiana.

Here is a link:

I believe in catch and release, I only harvest certain species, and like for the big mommas to grow and make more babies. These spear fishermen are boating trophy tarpon for bragging rights. Is it legal? Yes. Technically it is. The tarpon are in international waters when they are harvested. Does the meat go to good use? Nope. It goes in the garbage. Kill it. Weigh it. Dump it.

The other problem with this scenario? Tarpon migrate. These fish they are killing are not only Lousiana fish but Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida fish too. I've never been lucky enough to even hook into one of these majestic giants. Now it is starting to become clear that it may never happen. If we don't protect tarpon in international waters too they will be poached and gone. The group is called the Hell Divers Sportfishing Club of Louisiana. They say this is happening in the name of research. 

Read this from the leader of the group about an upcoming event:

$300 reward for a spawning capable female tarpon. 1 award will be given for each of the 2 largest spawning capable female tarpon. Tarpon will be dissected but spawning status may take 3 weeks to determine.
Total possible awards $900.

Nice. A bounty for breeding females who have to pass through these waters. 

This is the equivalent of having a big bass tournament at Lake Fork to see who can spear the biggest females off of their beds, weigh them in and then dump the carcasses. Would that EVER be thought of as good for the sport, ecosystem or population? 

I am a little worked up about it but so should every fisherman who cares about the sustainability of a natural resource. PLEASE PASS THIS ON. Share it using the buttons below via every available network you have. Keep sharing it and passing it along. Something must be done.

Firsts with the Jackson Coosa

This weekend I was able to buy my first Jackson Kayak. I chose the Coosa, an 11'2" river kayak that was designed for river running, rapid shredding, stand up fishing and all around versatility. It was new to me but had been fished some before. It's been quite a while since I have purchased a boat that wasn't used. Fishing mojo is transferable you know.

Sunday I had the opportunity to scout a stretch of river that has had little to no activity from humans for the better part of 40 years. There is a project  I am working with that is looking to make this land a public access take in/out for kayaking on the river. I'll have more on that later in the month but I wanted to set the scene of how special this outing was for me. Sunday was the first day in a new boat on a virtually untouched river. My Coosa was the first kayak in that river in a very long time or possibly ever. It is really hard to tell but it was special either way. I learned a lot about the boat, the river and myself. The latter two will have to wait a bit. Today I want to talk about the Coosa.

I have spent the better part of a year reading about different kayaks. I owned two already but knew I wanted to upgrade. In September I fished a kayak bass tournament on Purtis and saw what I wanted. I fished around a Coosa a good part of the day that a friend named Chris owned. He was seeing things I couldn't see and fishing standing up, sitting down, sitting elevated. After that weekend I started reading everything I could on the Coosa. Many folks encouraged me to also look at the Cuda, which I did, in both 12 and 14' models but the Coosa just fit what I needed. I had several offers to test boats out and just couldn't make the connections work out; (it flash flooded for the three days I had available). I watched all the videos, asked tons of questions from Jackson team members, Jackson owners not affiliated with the brand and to the general internet audience. I received dozens and dozens of answers, questions and thoughts. I found a good deal from a friend on one of the forums I frequent and we set up a meet. I bought the boat and headed home, breaking all my own rules and unloaded a kayak I had never sat in, paddled  or fished from. I had never even been in the brand much less the model. It was scary but I had to trust my research.

Sunday came and in true river runner fashion I dragged my kayak through the overgrowth down to the edge of the water. It was clear immediately why the replaceable keel guard was so important. The water had a lip to it and in 50 degree air temps I didn't want to get wet so I put the boat in the water parallel to the bank, with the Elite Seat in the high position and made my move. With a swift move I was in the seat and on the river. I paddled around like a puppy the first time they see water just to test out how it handled. It was amazing. I could 180 with a single paddle stroke. The "tippy" feeling I had heard so much about in the high position was so much of a non-factor I chuckled a bit. I didn't see what the issue was. I suppose it is a balance thing for most folks and understanding the core and the center line balance but after having a 14' Heritage kayak that was only 26" wide, this thing was a surf board. It just felt right.

I could instantly see more than my counterparts who were now in the river. I would point at an underwater landmark and they couldn't see it. At this point, I needed to try "it", a selling point for Jackson Coosa: almost everyone can stand. I have seen this done. I just had to get up the courage. I pulled on the strap and there I was, towering more than six feet above the water looking down on fish like a hawk in the sky. The feeling quickly turned serious as I realized  I didn't yet have my sea legs. I was wobbly. Think brand new baby horse, or giraffe. I kept my balance but there was some wobble. I wasn't trusting my feet and I later learned they weren't in a good spot. When I widened them out to the edges and rested my heels against the low position molding I gained a significantly more stable posture. With the excitement just beginning I sat back down and started paddling up this peaceful, resting river. I fished, I paddled and took in the views. I wanted to try different things.

The things I noticed that hadn't been talked about were evident quickly.

The Coosa is a shallow drafting boat. I was skimming over water 5" deep with no issues. The kayaks that were with me, a Hobie Outback and Heritage Redfish had a little more trouble. I was also the heaviest of the people on the trip.

The turning ability had been talked about but the ability to hard stroke once and 180 was not talked about much. My guess is this is a more advanced paddling technique or strength issue or some sort to where this is not a-typical but not typical either. Regardless, I loved it.

All of the videos I remember seeing that talked about rod stagers showed casting rods, not spinning. Spinning rods don't fit well in the rod stagers or the rod rest on the sides. I had to flip the reel skyward to secure it down on the side and the downward facing eyes on a spinning rod don't sit on the v style stagers. A groove in front of the stagers could accommodate those of us who like spinning gear on the river. It would cradle one of the eyes on the rod and keep it from sliding everywhere. I have seen another fix for this but it means hauling extra gear. I don't want to do that.

Storage was a huge surprise. The Coosa has vast caverns inside of it just begging for a camping trip. When I opened the hatches I felt like I could keep a dog or a cat in there it was so big. As I am rigging the boat out, the reach toward the back will be so much easier. It resembles a cargo plane on the water. I love that.

The handles were also nice. They are wrapped in a fabric cover but underneath is a very hard handle, great for getting the boat up a hill or onto the car. I appreciated the rigidity at it didn't fail when I needed it.

All in all, the Jackson Coosa exceeded my expectations. That is saying a lot. I can't wait to get to paddle it again this weekend and more next week. Hopefully soon, we'll be able to have everyone down to discover this river with me and see what beauty a virtually untouched river can hold.

Central Texas, You Need CPR!

I live in Central Texas. More specifically, in Bell County. We are blessed to have what are considered two pretty decent lakes. Tournaments from all over the state come to Lake Belton and Stillhouse Hollow to fish. Do we host as many tournaments as Lake Fork or Lake Texoma? Not even close. And that is completely okay by me. Less boats on the water makes it easier for us kayakers or paddle/fish enthusiasts. Today what I wanted to talk about is an issue that needs a lot of attention. It is often highly contested and may get me in a bit of trouble but I am fine with that. It is that important.

Lake Fork is a world class bass fishery. People fly from all over the world to try to catch a ten pound Largemouth Bass. I don't think I am telling any secrets by saying that. Lake Fork has continued to produce great fish every year because of conservation. People are practicing catch and release in great numbers at Lake Fork. Could it be because of the slot? Maybe. But when you can keep fish under a certain size, it seems their harvest rates would be higher, as the younger, smaller fish are often easiest to catch. I really believe it starts with the guides and locals not removing the bucketmouths from their habitat. The preferred way to document your catch is CPR. That stands for Catch-Photograph-Release. You can get a weight, get a measurement and then send her swimming for the next person to catch. This also allows her to make more bruisers for our future generations to tangle with.

I know it is the law that you can keep a certain number of fish per day. I even encourage it on some bodies of water. Some lakes are overrun with 12-14" bass that eat everything in sight. In these cases, by all means, take and eat within the legal limits. Other lakes however, already experience a large harvest rate and to revitalize the water body, need to encourage more CPR.

I am looking at you Lake Belton.

Sometimes referred to as the "Dead Sea" in summer, Belton experiences what I would consider high harvest rates for Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass.

At Lake Fork, where conservation is preached from every direction, the LMB harvest rate for the 2009-2010 survey was 11.25%. Only 11% of eligible fish caught were harvested. (1)

At Lake Belton, the harvest rate for the 2010-2011 survey was 43% for Largemouths and 42.5% for Smallmouths. (2)

No wonder it's the "Dead Sea"!

My goal is not to keep you from having a fish dinner. I understand people want to eat fish and can by law. I would ask you to consider harvesting less. If everyone kept only 10-15% of their legal catches, we would have a better fishery. Bass start to spawn at age 3 and are 14" a little past age 4. When you are eating 14-18" fish, you are eating the breeding stock for a majority of the lake. In 2010, 78% of the fish caught during the survey were less than 15". If you are legally keeping Smallmouth, you are eating the breeding population. The Largemouth population fared a little better where 32% of the fish surveyed were over 15". This is still not a great number.

Please keep in mind this data the next time you search out for a fish dinner. Reducing what you take, using CPR for large fish and sharing this natural resource with future generations will go a lot further than Saturday's lunch.



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