Seatrout Is Top Marine Catch
Washington, DC—For the third consecutive year, the spotted sea trout, indigenous to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, was the top overall recreational domestic catch among marine recreational anglers nationwide.
According to data included in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service report: “Fisheries of the United States,” U.S. anglers caught more than 37 million spotted sea trout in 2006.
Most popular marine catches in other regions included striped bass in the North Atlantic, flounder in the Mid-Atlantic, chub mackerel in the Pacific region and yellowstripe goatfish in the Western Pacific.
The 2007 NOAA Fisheries Service report showed the 2006 catch of 475 million fish was up 11 percent over the previous year and marked the highest recreational catch total in the last 10 years.
Beaumont, TX—When catfish angler Chockie Nolen realized that the biggest alligator gar he’d ever seen had taken his chicken liver bait and was proving difficult to land, he did what any self-respecting Texas cowboy would do—he used a rope to lasso the 100-pound fish and bulldogged it into his boat.
Nolen, 77, was fishing with his nephew and wife on the Neches River when he hooked the giant fish.
“He played it and played it,” Donna Nolen told the Beaumont Enterprise. “About 30 to 45 minutes I finally saw it come up about four feet behind the boat. I let him know he was fighting a big gar. We cut the rope from the anchor so we could lasso him.”
It seems that Chockie, who once team-roped steers in Southeast Texas, hadn’t lost his touch.
“We got the anchor rope looped around the head and pulled him in the boat,” the old cowboy says. “He just about turned the boat over.” Fortunately, the Nolen’s 16-foot jonboat holding three anglers, fishing gear and a thrashing 6-foot, 97-pound gator gar made it back to the boat ramp without incident.
Texas Clipper Hits Rock Bottom
Austin, TX—The USTS Texas Clipper is finally sitting on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. After several last-minute delays and $4 million in preparation costs, the ship was finally sunk Nov. 17 by Texas officials to create an artificial reef for fish.
The downside? The ship landed on her port side instead of her keel, which makes it difficult to access by divers. No worries, though, because the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working to get the ship moved to its keel soon.
The project was funded by the Rigs-to-Reefs program and with matching funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Maritime Administration.
Gamefish Status Granted to Striped Bass, Redfish
Washington, DC—In October, President George W. Bush signed a much-anticipated Executive Order establishing gamefish status for striped bass and red drum in federal waters, an act seen as a major accomplishment toward the conservation of two of the most popular saltwater gamefish in the United States.
Due to decades of lightly regulated commercial fishing, striped bass and redfish populations on the Eastern Seaboard were decimated in the 1970s and 1980s. The decline led to a drive spearheaded by sport anglers to curtail the harvest of these species by imposing federal moratoriums on commercial and recreational striped bass and red drum fishing in federal waters.
The Executive Order prohibits the commercial sale of redfish and striped bass in federal waters. A number of states already prohibit the sale of these fish caught in state waters.
In his remarks during the signing ceremony, the President highlighted the economic importance that America’s 40 million anglers have on the nation’s economy and acknowledged the recreational, economic and environmental benefits that conserving these two species will have now and on future generations of Americans.
The President’s action was generally greeted with support from fishing conservation groups and members of the industry.
“This Executive Order has the full support of the sportfishing industry. By signing the order, the President sends the right message about the need to ensure that striped bass and red drum endure as a species and as sport fish to be enjoyed by anglers now and for generations to come,” says Mike Nussman, American Sportfishing Association (ASA) president and CEO. “We have been working with a number of organizations for years to see that this critical conservation measure came to be, and we applaud the President for his action.”
The President—an avid striped bass angler--says he also supports improving the quality of data available for managing fish stocks.
“We’re going to count on the people who really care about the fish stocks to get good, solid, sound information so we can do a better job not only today, but tomorrow, in making sure our fisheries are strong,” he says.
Washington Gets Tough On Zebra Mussels
Spokane, WA—The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) enforcement officers have shifted from issuing warnings to citations in an effort to keep Washington’s waters free of an invasive species that threatens native fish and wildlife.
The state’s first citations for illegally transporting zebra mussels were issued to two out-of-state trucking companies hauling large boats to the Pacific coast. Live zebra mussels were found attached to boats being transported by a hauler from Ontario, Canada, and another from Iowa. The zebra mussels were spotted during Washington State Patrol commercial vehicle inspections at a Washington-Idaho port-of-entry weigh station east of Spokane.
Zebra mussels have been prohibited in Washington since 2002, but officers are taking stronger action against contaminated vessels now that zebra mussels and a subspecies known as Quagga mussels have shown up in other Western states.
“We hope these citations, which can result in fines up to $5,000, will raise awareness that this state looks at invasive species very seriously,” says Mike Cenci, WDFW deputy chief of enforcement. “Once a species like this gets into our waters, it’s very unlikely we can contain it.”