Conservation Report 2009/2010
Dec 25th, 2009
Bass Stocking Program
We culminated this year’s co-operative stocking program by placing over 2,000 baby bass into Middle River, on the Upper Bay. This has been an on-going program that I initiated with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Wheelabrator of Baltimore back in 2001, after a devastating fish kill in Middle River that literally wiped out the bass population.
The DNR provides thousands of bass fry, usually about 2-3" in length in the early summer to the aqua center owned and operated by Wheelabrator of Baltimore. Wheelabrator personnel take care of the feeding and maintenance of the fish tanks until the fall, when the fish attain a size of 6 to 8". The fish are then released into the tidal creeks in Middle River to sustain a viable fishery for the public to enjoy.
Middle River is unique in the fact that it is geographically located in the Upper Chesapeake Bay at what is considered the dividing line where the salinity content is tolerable for largemouth bass. Adult bass can normally tolerate a salinity rate up to 12-14 ppt. However, a salinity rate of more than 4-6 ppt, is not tolerable for bass fry. Unfortunately, in most years, the salinity count is too high in the spring to allow a successful spawn to occur. Therefore, Middle River is the ideal location for a stocking program that will boost numbers of adult bass to make it a viable fishery.
This year we also received several monetary donations to be used for bass stocking in Middle River. A special thank you goes out to MBFN member Joe Whitten, of Chesapeake Bassmasters, who personally raised $825.00 from the following: Domino Sugar, T.E.A.M. Service Corporation, Keystone Electric, and Harry M. Lis. The donations, along with $675 from our Conservation account, were used to purchase 114 adult largemouth bass from a DNR approved hatchery to "jumpstart" the adult bass population.
On October 23, 2009, myself, several MBFN members, and DNR biologists met the hatchery truck at Wilson Point Park Tidal Bass Manager Joe Love and Biologist Ross Williams inserted a bright red tag into each fish, then turned over to an MBFN volunteer, who released it into an assigned area in one of the many creeks of Middle River.
Hopefully, data collected from the anglers who catch these fish, particularly, the location where they were caught, can be studied to help us understand if these bass migrate further up the bay to find lower salinity, or, if they remain in Middle River. As of this writing (11-30-09), I am aware of 3 tagged fish that have been caught. All 3 were caught and released near the headwaters of the main river-stem, insight of the Eastern Avenue bridge.
Tidal Bass Manager
On March 16, 2009, we achieved a goal we’ve been working on for several years. Fisheries Biologist Joseph Love, PHD, was selected to fill the newly created position of Tidal Bass Manager. As such, Joe will be responsible for coordinating all aspects of tidal bass research, program development and implementation to enhance the propagation of largemouth bass in Maryland tidal rivers.
Joe wasted no time upon starting his position. He held a "get acquainted" meeting with myself and other members of the MBFN to plan how we can partner together to restore the quality and quantity of bass in areas that historically were good bass fisheries, but had deteriorated over the past several years. The Choptank River and Middle River were recognized as being the most in need at this time. He has attended several large tournaments, including the B.A.S.S. Northern Open on the Upper Bay back in April.
He also headed up the investigation into the major bass kill in Mattawoman Creek after a major tournament this past August. President Trageser has scheduled him, and his boss, Don Cosdon, as guest speakers at our 2010 President’s Conference. We also plan on having a Black Bass Round Table meeting with Joe and other DNR Fisheries biologists in early 2010.
The battle continues in the efforts to save Mattawoman Creek from the inevitable pollution and degradation from future development in the watershed that many people fear will follow if the new cross county connector is approved. MBFN President Roger Trageser, Southern Region Conservation Rep Fred Matos and I, as well as many other MBFN members have attended meetings, written letters, and partnered with other conservation minded groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, 1000 Friends of Maryland, Audubon Society of Maryland, and many others to try and preserve the pristine nature of the creek. There have been numerous articles in print and electronic media. In the early summer, I took a reporter from National Public Radio on a tour of the creek. He later produced a 13 minute program that received national exposure. There was also an article in the October issue of Bass Times detailing our efforts.
I urge all of you to become involved by writing a letter to the Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, and expressing your concern. Below is one of my letters:
Dear Secretary Wilson,
Mattawoman Creek is, without question, one of the finest largemouth bass fisheries in the United States. Numerous national tournament organizations schedule events at Smallwood State Park located on the beautiful Mattawoman Creek just off of the mighty Potomac River. The pristine waters of Mattawoman Creek are at a critical stage due to current development and growth that are already occurring throughout Charles County. This new highway, if approved, will slice right through the heart of the watershed that currently filters runoff and sediment from encroaching development.
We cannot allow this unique watershed to be destroyed in the name of progress. Once it’s gone....it’s gone forever! I want my grandchildren and generations that follow to experience the breath-taking scenery and wonderful outdoor experience that this national treasure currently provides. Please take what ever steps you have at your disposal to save this important watershed.
Please deny any & all permits for the Cross County Connector Highway in Charles County.
Yours in conservation,
Maryland Bass Federation Nation
For more information, visit: www.mattawomenwatershedsociety.org
It has been brought to my attention that some individual(s) is/are leaving culling rings in the mouths of bass after they are released. This has resulted in the fish becoming lodged onto sticks or other structure, and as a result they die.
In the Chester River, a bass was recently found stuck to a wire fish trap because of a wire tie that was left in the jaw of the fish. In another case, a shower curtain type wire clasp was found in another dead bass.
This information was provided to me from DNR employees who were called by citizens who found the bass with the wire still in their mouths. DNR believes that the person or persons doing this, are marking fish with the wire, then releasing them to see if they get caught again.
If you, or someone you know is doing this, please urge them to stop! Leave the study of bass movements to the specialists at DNR. Enough said.
Elk Neck Project
I’m told by DNR that the Elk Neck riprap/breakwater project is in the hands of an engineering firm that is currently drawing up the design. As of this writing, I have not been successful in obtaining the name of the engineering firm, but will continue my efforts to keep this project moving. It was my hope that construction would have at least started by now, since I brought this suggestion to DNR back in 2006. As I indicated in last year’s report, $75,000.00 was allocated for the design phase only.
As many of you know, the quality of bass fishing has been going down hill over the past few years. This fact has not gone unnoticed by me or DNR. I’ve received numerous calls, emails, and direct conversations with fishermen asking why. After studying angler comments and analyzing results of electro-shocking surveys, DNR, with the leadership of Joe Love, is taking the matter seriously, and is looking at ways to restore the Choptank to its former status as a viable bass fishery. In addition to stocking, we are looking at placing artificial "nesting boxes" in pre-designated areas to enhance natural reproduction. One of the problems we have identified in the Choptank, is a severe lack of suitable areas for spawning. The strong tidal flow, lack of conducive areas for beds, combined with a frequent high load of sediment particles in the water make successful spawning practically nil.
On November 28th, MBFN member Dick Berich and I surveyed the river and found several sites that appear to be good locations to install manmade structure designed to provide bass an ideal nesting site. We will be presenting our findings to DNR, and hope to install several units over the winter with the hope that they will be used next spring. If you, or your club would like to be part of this worthy project, please contact me.
Keeping Bass Alive
B.A.S.S. has updated it’s original publication and placed it on line to make it accessible for everyone. I urge you to check it out at: www.bassmaster.com, under the "Community" icon, click on "Conservation", scroll down and click on the "Keeping Bass Alive" article on the right side of the page, then click open the link to "The Complete Guidebook for Tournament Anglers and Organizers". The guide is full of excellent information, complete with numerous diagrams and photos that will provide you with methods used to help save your catch. Regardless if you are a serious tournament angler, or a recreational angler who wants to ensure a better fishery for tomorrow, this is a must read.
Yours in conservation,