Blue Fish News – November 8, 2021

In this November 8, 2021 issue of the Blue Fish Canada News we begin with a focus on new research on catch-and-release bass fishing tournaments and what happens to bass post-release. As always, we include a specially curated list of summaries and Links to timely fishing, fish health, water quality and other news. Our special guest resource at the end comes from the U.S. Congressional Sportsmens Foundation and concerns their path forward for achieving 30-by-30 protection commitments.

This Week’s Feature – Dispersal Patterns of Post Tournament Bass

By Editor Lawrence Gunther

In late August 2021 the North American Journal of Fisheries Management published the long-awaited results of research conducted in Canada on the post-release behavior of smallmouth and largemouth bass. The research was conducted in Eastern Ontario on Big Rideau Lake during early, mid and late season tournaments. Researchers included Alice E. I. Abrams, A. J. Zolderdo, Elodie J. I. Lédée, Michael J. Lawrence, Peter E. Holder, Steven J. Cooke, and a cohort of willing anglers.

An abstract of the research reads as follows, “Black bass fishing tournaments with conventional weigh-ins tend to displace fish from their capture site and often release fish within close proximity to the weigh-in site. Tournaments often include largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides and smallmouth bass M. dolomieu and occur throughout fishing seasons; however, there have yet to be any systematic congeneric comparisons across different seasons.” All this to say, the researchers used the latest fish tracking technology to determine what happens to bass after they are released following fishing tournaments. Not just if they survive, but where they go.

A total of 88 largemouth and smallmouth bass caught during the three tournaments were fitted with acoustic tags and then released from the same area where the weigh-ins took place. A preseason control group of 30 bass were captured, tagged and also released in the same area. The bass had their geospatial movements tracked using receivers situated around the weigh-in release site, along the passage that led back to the main body of the lake, and throughout the lake itself.

The 88 tournament-caught bass that took part in the research were selected based on the willingness and ability of anglers to share with researchers where each individual bass was caught using a map of the lake. If an angler wasn’t absolutely certain where a specific fish was caught, or was unwilling to disclose this information, the bass was rejected by the researchers.

Data shows that upon being released bass experienced a short-term stockpiling within 300 meters of the release site. All 88 bass eventually left the area – The largemouth taking on average 4.6 days, and the Smallmouth bass left within a day.

The distance from the release site to the main body of the lake where all 88 tagged fish were caught is over 10 kilometers. The Largemouth bass took just under 240 days to return to the main part of the lake, and the smallmouth bass took less than half that time. The smallmouth that took the longest to return (108 days) were caught during the October tournament.

Researchers concluded that, “although fish do survive and eventually return to the main basin, displacement may have broader ecological consequences such as “large-scale displacement of top predators and adverse effects on recruitment”. They conclude that, “there may be merit in tournaments adopting a catch–weigh–release format instead of bringing fish to a central weigh-in location.”

There’s plenty of research that has informed how to manage tournament weigh-in processes to mitigate bass mortality. Many large tournaments also employ boats especially equipped to move bass away from tournament weigh-in sites to facilitate their dispersal. Numerous smaller bass tournaments have adopted these best practices. However, until now, no one has determined where bass go after being released, and just how much time and effort bass expend in the process.

I spoke with Dr. Cooke about the research, and he confirmed that each of the bass caught and tagged returned to where they were originally caught. The fact that bass prefer to range within their specific territory should come as no surprise. Even smallmouth bass known for roving in “wolf packs” routinely visit the same locations. Larger bass will even drive off other bass that are perceived as trespassing. Obviously, just like any animal, bass are creatures of habit.

I asked Dr. Cooke how bass manage to navigate their way around a lake, and to find their way back to their home turf. You would be amazed to hear the different tests Dr. Cooke and his team conducted to learn how bass navigate their environment. Dr. Cooke shared with me details of the bass release research along with findings from his research on hook removal techniques and bass mortality. He even had new research to share on how bass fair when caught through the ice. You can hear my conversation with Dr. Cooke by linking to the below podcast episode of The Blue Fsh Radio Show.

So, what does all this mean for tournament angling? We know that bass survive post release and that they do eventually return to their preferred range. But what about bass caught during tournaments held on rivers – do they return home if it means swimming up stream? At the very least, we now know bass will have ample opportunity to move away from a weigh-in site before another tournament is held the following weekend, but that doesn’t guarantee they won’t be pressured by anglers who happen upon recently released bass before they have had sufficient time to clear out.

Bringing bass back to a centralised weigh-in location has positive aspects as well. The health of bass can be assessed by tournament officials. Bass are observed to make sure they are healthy, and anglers are penalised if a fish is judged as mortally wounded. Captured fish can also be examined and samples taken, or tags attached by researchers. Conducting fish health research is challenging as it entails finding and capturing fish. Researchers depend on fishing tournaments to collect samples and attach tags and other tracking devices.

Lots and lots of discussion and debate over fish welfare and tournament rules has already occurred, and without doubt will continue to dominate pre-tournament planning meetings. New innovations, fish handling best practices, rules and penalties are always being adjusted to fit with what we know and what the public expects. Without the trust of the public, the anglers and the sponsors, bass tournaments would not exist.

Bass anglers want to do the right thing, they care about the resource, and they contribute significantly to habitat restoration and research both in terms of money and time. How tournament organizers and anglers respond to the results of the research undertaken by Dr. Cooke and his team will be interesting to track over time as well.

Major League Fishing is a relatively new tournament series that has grown quickly in popularity. It uses a capture, record and release format, but is dependent on 2nd party observers to ensure accurate self reporting. Most amateur bass tournaments involve a team of two bass anglers. Adding a third observer in each boat poses considerable additional logistical challenges. However, digital real-time measuring and recording technologies could make such human observers redundant. We already pay thousands more for our boats to be equipped with live wells used for keeping fish alive during their transportation back to weigh-in sites. Why not instead allocate this money to pay for secure digital remote reporting equipment that would allow anglers to release bass back into the water where they are caught?

Angler apps already on the market possess much of the needed technology to support catch-record-release fishing tournaments. Their use throughout North America is growing steadily in popularity. In the end though, if an angler is bent on cheating, no rule or technology will stop them from trying their hand.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Water Quality News


Lake Trout Fishing Heats Up On Lake Michigan / FishingWire
Lake trout average 6-10 pounds but can tip the scales at 15 pounds or more, and they become very active in late fall on the big lake. Fishing deep is popular when targeting lake trout this time of year. If you prefer to catch-and-release, the cold water creates better opportunities for successful release; however, keep in mind that smaller lake trout are excellent table fare.

Angler knocked over by bear at creek near Tofino, people urged to stay away from area / CBC News
The B.C. Conservation Service is asking people to stay away from the Kootowis Creek area near Tofino after an angler was knocked off his feet by a bear. The black bear approached the angler from behind and made contact with the man, who was able to scare the animal away. Although the bear knocked the man over, he was not injured.

Fishing gear available for loan at Richmond Public Library / Richmond News
Richmond Public Library is now lending fishing rods and tackle, to help people explore Richmond, B.C.’s waterways and ecology.

B.C. recreational chum salmon fisheries go catch-and-release due to low returns / Prince Rupert Northern View
DFO non-retention orders in effect for multiple recreational fisheries throughout southern B.C. In recent years, chum salmon have exhibited “very poor” returns through much of their spawning range, which spans North America and Asia, said Brian Riddell, Pacific Salmon Foundation science advisor.

Latin American Nations Create No-Fishing Corridor in East Pacific / FishingWire
Four Latin American countries announced Tuesday that they will expand and unite their marine reserves to create a vast corridor in the Pacific Ocean in hopes of protecting sea turtles, tuna, squid, hammerhead sharks and other species. The new marine corridor will connect the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador with Colombia’s Malpelo Island and the Cocos and Coiba Islands in Costa Rican and Panamanian waters, protecting migratory species from fishing fleets of hundreds of vessels that visit the eastern Pacific each year.

Lake Erie Perch/Walleye Survey Promising / FishingWire
Lake Erie Fisheries Research completed annual gillnet assessment of the Lake Erie warm water fish community in 2021. The primary goal is to collect abundance and age structure information for walleye, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass—the three most targeted fish species by anglers in New York’s portion of Lake Erie. The walleye and yellow perch data also contribute to lake-wide assessments that determine safe harvest levels. The highlight of the 2021 warm water survey was the presence of solid juvenile walleye (age-1) and yellow perch (age-2) year classes, both of which should start to contribute to the fishery next year. Young-of-year (age-0) yellow perch, walleye, and smallmouth bass were also collected during the survey potentially indicating good hatching success in 2021. Walleye, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass are not stocked in Lake Erie, meaning these fisheries depend entirely on the hatching success and survival of wild fish. Hatching success in 2021 bodes well for fishing quality in the coming years.

Fishing for Sport and Seafood / NOAA Fisheries
Cooking seafood you catch yourself strengthens your connection to the ocean and our marine natural resources. And money you spend on recreational fishing trips supports fishing guides, suppliers, charter vessels, and our unique coastal communities. As long as you follow the appropriate regulations, you can know that you are participating directly in the economically and environmentally sustainable harvest of our fisheries. In 2019, recreational and non-commercial saltwater anglers took 187 million fishing trips and caught 950 million fish. Catch-and-release angling plays an important role in U.S. fish conservation—more than half the fish caught are released. But there are plenty of opportunities around the nation for anglers to keep the fish they hook. Plus, a dinner featuring seafood you caught yourself adds a delicious capstone to an exciting day on the water.

Kids win by supporting Kootenay Lake conservation / East Kootenay
Kids submitted Rainbow or Bull trout heads that they caught on the main body of Kootenay Lake and were eligible to win Pelican Magna kayaks, Kokanee Mountain Zipline Tour packages, or fishing equipment.

Anglers seek $450K to restore Quispamsis fishing spot / CBC News
An angling group in New Brunswick wants to restore a popular fishing hole that’s been filling up with sediment from erosion. Aquatic species in Crowley’s Pool are at risk, and so is a Quispamsis roadway, said Sarah Blenis, project coordinator with the Hammond River Angling Association. That’s a group with about 325 members that’s been around since the late 1970s.

Alaska bans fishing in Yukon as salmon decrease / Texas News Today
Two salmon species have almost disappeared from the Yukon River in Alaska this year, and the state has been urged to stop fishing to save them. For the first time in memory, both King Salmon and Cham Salmon were nearly zero, and the state banned salmon fishing on the Yukon River. Even the self-sufficient harvest that Alaska Natives rely on to fill their winter freezers and pantry.


Nova Scotia Salmon Association Turns Down Atlantic Gold / Halifax Examiner
In a plea deal for its environmental infractions, Atlantic Gold agrees to pay $120,000 to the Nova Scotia Salmon Association. The NSSA, however, isn’t interested.

B.C.’s declining salmon stocks may force rethink on hatcheries / The Narwhal
Releasing more fish into the environment might seem like an easy solution to declining numbers. But in nature, this rarely works. “Climate change has reduced the quality and quantity of the food for fish in the open ocean,” Aaron Hill tells The Narwhal. “So, the idea of releasing more hatchery fish is like letting more cattle out into a field with less grass and thinking you’re going to get more and fatter cows.”

Survivor salmon that withstand drought and ocean warming provide a lifeline for California Chinook /
In drought years and when marine heat waves warm the Pacific Ocean, late-migrating juvenile spring-run Chinook salmon of California’s Central Valley are the ultimate survivors. The different timing characteristics of the fish are referred to as “life-history strategies.” Those with a late-migrating life history strategy represented only about 10 percent of outgoing juveniles sampled in fish monitoring traps. However, they were about 60 percent of the returning adult fish across all years, and more than 96 percent of adults from two of the driest years.

MP Bachrach goes to Washington: Raises concerns about Alaska interception ofSkeena steelhead and salmon / Skeena Strong
The Member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley went to Washington D.C. to speak with Alaskan members of Congress about solutions to the steelhead and salmon crisis in northern B.C. “The urgency of this crisis requires immediate action. That’s why I’ve come to Washington to make the case directly to decision-makers in Alaska that we need to be working together more closely,” said Bachrach. “Steelhead are an iconic part of our region and contribute millions of dollars to the local economy every year. More importantly, they’re an integral to a lot of folks’ lifestyles in the Northwest.”

Bachrach returns with results after salmon crisis talks in D.C. / Terrace Standard
Talks on the salmon crisis ended in two accomplishments, after Taylor Bachrach, Skeena Bulkley MP, visited Washington D.C. on Oct. 21., to address Alaskan officials. First, an acknowledgement from the Alaskan delegation on the seriousness of the situation recognizing the need to do more on both sides of the border and, second, the need for a formalized forum between elected officials.

ASF and partners bring stunning Salmon School sculpture to global climate change conference / ASF
At the UN COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Joseph Rossano’s ’school’ of 350 elegant glass-blown salmon are seen daily by delegates, many of them key decision makers. ASF worked with a transcontinental alliance of wild salmon conservation groups to bring this artwork—and its message of hope—to the global stage. Read about how our partnership demands bold action for wild salmon, and shows that providing salmon with “Cold, Clean Water” also helps in the fight against climate change.

‘Damn near extinction’: Interior steelhead run expected to be very small / The Province
A decades-long slide in interior steelhead populations could escalate this year with only 58 fish expected to spawn in the Thompson watershed and 27 in the Chilcotin. In the past, the federal government has declined to pursue an emergency listing of the Interior steelhead as endangered under the Species At Risk Act, citing the adverse impact of widespread fishery closures on First Nations, recreational and commercial fisheries.

PEI Works to Restore Wild Salmon / ASF
Atlantic salmon habitat such as Sediment traps, meanders, and other ideas are being considered and restored to protect the future of wild Atlantic salmon in the island’s rivers.

What really makes fish become sexually active /
UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, challenges previous hypotheses that attempted to explain why fish reach first maturity when they do and offers an alternative explanation. “Textbooks usually attempt to answer the question of why fish spawn when they do by describing a process supposedly triggered by environmental ‘stimuli’ experienced at the onset of the spawning season, passed on to the hypothalamus, and thence to a hormonal cascade,” Daniel Pauly said. “This explanation assumes that the process of perceiving the environmental stimuli is self-starting; however, it cannot be because the same environment was always there, and they didn’t spawn earlier.”

California Hatchery to Increase Chinook Production by 500,000 / FRANK SARGEANT
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have announced a joint effort at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Sacramento County to increase production of fall-run Chinook salmon by 500,000 smolts to help combat effects of the drought. Spawning of returning fall-run Chinook salmon begins this week.


BC Liberal MP Joyce Murray becomes Minister of Fisheries, Oceans & the Canadian Coast Guard / Island Fisherman Magazine
Minister Murray becomes the sixth DFO minister in the last six years. Murray is an experienced politician with a long background in business in both national and international arenas. She opposes pipelines crossing BC, and offshore oil shipments, while supporting more oil refining in Canada. Murray currently opposes salmon farming and has called for a complete ban on open net cage salmon farms in BC. What does her appointment mean for public fishery access and angling’s business interests? At this stage no one knows. There is very little in her record that reflects what she does or does not know about the public fishery.

How sea otters led a green revolution on the B.C. coast – and played a part in climate-proofing the Pacific / Globe and Mail
When humans reintroduced these animals to B.C., their messy foraging habits improved the genetic mix of eelgrass meadows, making them better equipped for changing temperatures and acidity, new research finds.

Reducing vessel activity key to southern resident killer whales’ survival, B.C. study suggests / CTV News
A new study suggests reducing vessel activity is key to the survival of B.C.’s endangered southern resident killer whales. The study showed that when vessel speeds were lowered feeding activity of killer whales increased.

Potential ‘irreparable damage’ to Puget Sound orcas over alleged illegal salmon hatchery expansion /
Expansion of Washington state’s hatchery system has long been a primary tactic for preserving Chinook. The question, then, is will salmon hatcheries as currently designed save the orcas? The Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) and The Conservation Angler filed a lawsuit Oct. 11, which alleges that WDFW (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) “embarked upon a massive expansion in the production of hatchery salmon that could cause irreparable damage to fragile wild fish populations and to endangered Southern Resident killer whales,” per a joint press release from the two organizations. The crux of their argument is that WDFW failed to comply with the proper environmental regulations which would encompass research to understand how hatcheries will impact native Chinook salmon populations as well as Southern Resident orca whales. “The Court finds that NMFS’s (National Marine Fisheries Service, also known as NOAA) failure to make a jeopardy determination on the prey increase program for the Chinook salmon ESUs (Evolutionarily Significant Units) violated its obligations under the ESA,” its findings.


Mercury risk in fish ‘low’ among indigenous and remote communities, study finds / CTV News
Indigenous and remote communities that rely on fish for sustenance shouldn’t worry about mercury levels in their food as the benefits of eating the meal outweigh the risks. The study published in the journal Environmental Research examined 443 blood samples and 276 hair samples from residents across nine communities in the Mackenzie Valley of the Northwest Territories and found that mercury exposure “may be low even when it is sometimes present in elevated levels.”


In the 12 months ending September 2021, U.S. fishing-equipment in-store and online sales revenues across mass merchants and sporting goods retailers, as well as e-commerce sites grew 4%, year over year, reaching $3.9 billion. The fishing equipment market has experienced three consecutive years of growth.


Boaters fined for violating orca sanctuary zone / Times Colonist
Transport Canada has levied nearly $25,000 in penalties to five vessel owners who have breached zones around Pender Island intended to protect southern resident killer whales. The violations were handed out between December 2019 and July this year for boats in an interim orca sanctuary area set aside for the endangered species. Several vessel owners were cited multiple times.


“The Little Creek that Could” / by Mark Angelo
This children’s book written by Canada’s own Mark Angelo, founder of World Rivers Day, presents a story of a stream that came back to life. It’s a true story of a 5-decade long effort to restore a B.C. stream, and how nature can heal itself if given the chance. Positive stories like this are more important than ever with so much talk in the news about impending environmental doom. Kids need to know that we can make a positive difference too. The earlier you start to instill a sense of stewardship in children, the greater the chance it will stick. A great bedtime read to help get through the winter months.

Fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly’s life is one for the books / Vancouver Sun
At first Daniel Pauly was reticent about the biography project but then he began to see it as another platform in the fight to protect our oceans. The renowned Pauly is the subject of the new biography The Ocean’s Whistleblower: The Remarkable Life of Daniel Pauly by David Grémillet. The 75-year-old principal investigator of the Sea Around Us Project at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries is the author of five books, 400 peer-review papers and over 1,200 other pieces of writing.

Webinars and Videos:

Video: At least 266,000 Atlantic salmon die in Mowi sites on NL South Coast / ASF Watch this short video on a die-off at three Mowi sites, on the western edge of the aquaculture operations on Newfoundland’s south coast.

Webinar: Keeping your Water Clean for a Stronger Fishing Industry
On Thursday, November 18, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is hosting a webinar on the vital role commercial and recreational fishing serve the local economy and the wellbeing of the environment. Learn how to protect important habitat to sustain a healthy fishery and vibrant fishing economy for your community.

Video: view Skeena Foundation Executive Director Greg Knox’s video on the critical situation facing Skeena Steelhead / SkeenaWild
The Skeena is the last, best large steelhead system in the world, but in 2021, these fish are returning in record low numbers. The provincial government is responsible for managing steelhead in B.C. and they need to take meaningful steps to ensure that these iconic fish continue to support communities into the future.

Webinars: Great Lakes Nearshore Webinar Series / ECCC
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has conducted the first cumulative assessment of the Canadian nearshore waters and are excited to share the findings with the Great Lakes community through an evening webinar series focused on the following themes:


Boat-to-plate traceability program / Canadian Food Inspection Agency
The CFIA, in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is conducting a 120-day online consultation related to the “Boat to plate” traceability program to support Canadian fishers to better market their high-quality products. The 120-day consultation is open until December 11, 2021. You can submit your feedback online or by email at:

Call to Action:

Take a moment to email the Prime Minister and urge him to recommit to getting factory / Watershed Watch farms out of B.C.
Over 1100 people have emailed Trudeau so far. We can’t let the government drop this promise because it’s getting tough and factory farm companies are pushing back. The Worst Skeena Steelhead Return on Record

Special Feature – Congressional Sportsmens Foundation recommendation on 30 x 30 Protections

The U.S. Congressional Sportsmens Foundation Key priorities associated with implementing 30-by-30 protection commitments similar to Canada’s include:

  • Clearly defining “conservation” to support the active management and sustainable use of our nation’s public trust fish and wildlife resources;
  • Recognizing and including all efforts directly contributing to biodiversity conservation including those on lands subject to multiple uses; and,
  • Collaborating closely with entities devoted to achieving measurable biodiversity conservation objectives, including other levels of government responsible for fish and wildlife management, regional fish and wildlife management bodies, members of the sporting-conservation community, federally recognized Native American tribes, and private landowners through voluntary, incentive-based opportunities.

Note from Editor: Clearly, the recommendations set out above do not represent a comprehensive blueprint on how to achieve 30-by-30 protection commitments, but instead set forth a path crucial to ensuring those with traditional and local knowledge and expertise are engaged in decision making processes. However, before such recommendations are developed and implemented in Canada, the process itself needs to become more transparent and inclusive. Given the potential impact these decisions will have on the relatively small percentage of Canadians and First Nations people who live and rely on the vast majority of Canada’s rural, remote and northern lands and waters, it’s crucial that determining what happens in the 30% of Canada to be protected is supported by those who’s lives will be impacted. Without such buy-in at the formulation stage, what we will end up with is a series of lofty goals that stand little chance of being achieved regardless of the resources spent on implementing and enforcement. Only through the support of the people impacted will the initiative stand any chance of becoming more than a tremendous waste of time and resources, and a lost opportunity.

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