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Bass In Decline at Eufaula, AL?

A Eufaula chunk (AL DNR photo).

According to the Alabama DNR, a year ago it took 22-25 pounds to win a tourney on AL’s Lake Eufaula. Now it’s down to 13-15 pounds, a pretty drastic swing.

What happened?

According to fish biologist Ken Weathers, from a recent AL DNR article, the current “poor bass condition at Eufaula” can be chalked up to three things:

1. Bassers aren’t keeping enough basses = stunting.
2. Aquatic vegggies have declined.
3. That decline in vegetation has caused a shift of forage species from sunfish to shad, which aren’t as stable a forage base.

Let’s take them one at a time:

1. Not enough taken

This type of thing makes me laugh:

“It is important for anglers to understand the role of harvest in managing a fish population,” said Stan Cook, Fisheries Section Chief. “Bass creel and length limit restrictions are designed to improve the health of bass by directing angler behavior to produce a desired outcome.

“Sometimes ‘catch and release’ is not in the best interest of improving a bass population. We need anglers to practice a selective harvest in order to set a state of balance between bass and available forage. When this occurs, growth, condition and yield of larger fish improve.”

I’ve been saying that these limits either mostly or entirely DON’T WORK. If people aren’t keeping fish – and, in fact, peer pressure is pretty much against it – how much sense does it make to come up with a management strategy that depends on keeping fish?

You want bassers to keep fish? Pay ’em. Have a charity tournament/fish fry. Get beyond the 50-year-old regs process.

2. Not enough veggies

From the article:

“In 2007, the Army Corps of Engineers released 13,440 grass carp in the lake, followed by 5,200 more in 2009. The Corps also sprayed herbicide on several hundred more acres of vegetation, which limited the vegetation to the northern section of the lake.”

Doh! I’m pretty sure a monkey juggling apples could tell you the bass pop would sink like the freakin’ Titanic because of that.

Who’s making those decisions and are fish-heads involved?

Weathers said: “If the Corps continues its policy of managing for very little aquatic vegetation, we’ll likely go back to a cyclic pattern like the ’80s and ’90s. We had some great years in the ’80s and ’90s, but we had some stinking years too.”

Yeah. What he said.

3. Forage switch

Really, you can’t do anything about this because of #2, but here’s a little more info on it:

> When there’s abundant aquatic vegetation bass will have plenty of places to ambush sunfish like bluegills and shellcrackers in relatively shallow water. When the bass transition from shallow grass to deeper river and creek ledges, the forage base changes to shad, which tends to be available in boom and bust cycles.

> Weathers said the current shad population offers very little forage for the larger bass because of several years of below average shad spawns.

> Weathers is concerned that the condition of the bass population may not have bottomed out just yet. “I think it’s going to get a little worse before it gets better,” he said. “The threadfins were really spawning heavily in the backs of the coves this spring, but you’ve got to give them time to grow to feed these bigger bass.”

Well?

Just one guy’s opinion: If the AL (and GA) DNR can’t get the Corps to stop doing crazy things to the lake’s vegetation, the only option available seems to be for the DNRs to hold however many catch-and-keep tourneys needed to remove a bunch of bass. Short of the sky raining shad, anyway….

On the other hand, if it’s somehow not as bad as what the AL DNR is saying, let us know….

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Rich Arnold

    June 20, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Maybe its not the bass…maybe the anglers need to attend Bass University. There is one coming to Huntsville, AL July 29-31. Of course that was just a joke and shameless plug. Two years ago, Eufaula went through a significant drought. Also, they have been spraying the grass up on the Northern end around Lake Point. Sure that has probably affected the catch, but those numbers and the not harvesting enough is a bunch of nonsense. I have seen tourneys this year won with 17 and 18 pound stringers.

  2. David G

    June 20, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    KY Lake has seen a significant decrease in the number of 4-6 pound fish since the vegetation went away after 2009. There are a number of theories as to why it disappeared, including that it was sprayed/killed. The same thing happened at G’ville about 15 years ago. The first year without grass, the fishing was off the charts; however, in the long term, the loss of habitat is very detrimental to the bass population. Bottom line- Grass=Bass. Please don’t kill our lakes by killing the grass!!

  3. Rodger Timmons

    June 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    If you want people to keep more fish, lower the size limit to 12” and encourage them to take the smaller fish and leave the better ones.

  4. tumblebug

    June 21, 2011 at 8:22 am

    The sound you just heard was Tom Mann turning over in his grave.

  5. Flip 'N' Pitch

    June 21, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Forgive me for getting all “ecological” on y’all but yes if catch and release is overdone as it has been in a lot of places it will be the strongest factor in reducing the number of large bass in a given population and result in a flood of dinks (see first link below). I’ve seen signs threatening “Meat Hunters” for catching and keeping legal amounts of bass! At the same time the AL DCNR has campaigned for folks to do more keeping than releasing. It’s the same with anything, trophy size deer for example, but of course you’ll never see a catch and release program catch on for deer hunters. I don’t think Ray Scott ever thought his novel idea at the time would become so sacrosanct to the point of actually hurting instead of helping the sport. If you don’t selectively “thin the herd” then Mother Nature will do it for you and you won’t necessarily like the results. As for paying people to keep fish, do you honestly think states that are already going bankrupt are going to be able to find some extra change for that effort? That is what is laughable. That “50 year old reg process” you disparage is based on actual biological science and experience as opposed to your approach of simply throwing money at the problem. If you don’t believe me then believe Ray Scott (see second link below).

    http://www.americansportfish.com/?option=com_content&view=article&id=53&catid=18&Itemid=45

    http://www.bassresource.com/fish_biology/selective_harvest_bass.html

    • admin (mostly Jay)

      June 21, 2011 at 9:01 am

      Gotta do this quick so forgive me if i miss something but: Obviously states can’t pay people from budgets. Many ways to have a tourney with payouts that help, including entry fees, local sponsors, for charity. Back at ya: What options do understaffed fisheries depts have? Other than playing with limits — or I guess shocking fish and throwing them on the bank — none. Throwing $ around motivates fishermen and is fun, and what worked 50 yrs ago with more and different anglers (meat eaters) and newer lakes, for the most part won’t work now.

      Just IMO, I can be convinced otherwise, but will take proof, which i haven’t seen.

      • Flip 'N' Pitch

        June 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm

        Maybe I’m misunderstanding your question and need for more proof. Do you believe that size and creel limits (“Selective Harvesting”) work as long as a significant number of anglers accidentally kill/keep what they catch in accordance with those regulations? If not, then we’ll have to have an impromptu debate on the validity of the Scientific Method and resulting fundamental principles of biology. Those are good enough for Ray Scott who practices and condones Selective Harvesting at his own personal “Bassin’ Shangri-La”. Yes, Fisheries Biologists have to assume that some anglers will actually kill/eat what they catch. I mean who in their right mind would spend thousands and thousands of dollars and hours every year just to effectively “borrow” a fish for a few hours?!?! 😉 Ha! Educating anglers on the issue of necessary “Selective Harvesting” is the best bet for the States and everyone else involved. It will take time just like “Catch and Release” did but hopefully they’ll learn that just like most things “too much of a good thing” can be self defeating in the long run.

  6. Wacko

    June 21, 2011 at 9:20 am

    The only thing wrong with Eufaula is 20,000 grass carp and herbicides.

    Knock that crap off and the big bags will be back in force in just a few short years.

  7. Stan Stewart

    June 21, 2011 at 11:53 am

    This situation shows one of the downsides of bass fishing that has become dominated by tournaments and the “value” of a bass in terms of money. Tournament fishermen disparage anyone who would keep a bass because for them a bass is money. So any fisherman who keeps bass is looked down on. The good intent of catch and release fishing has been carried too far and become dogma. Whatever happened to the value of a fish (in this case bass) as simple recreational fun and an occasional good meal? The influence of money is making the bass into a sacred cow, which makes reasonable management more difficult. So, I don’t think a focus on more money is a good solution to the problem. More money is not the answer for everything in life. Maybe we just need to reconsider our values sometimes to find a better solution.

    • Flip 'N' Pitch

      June 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      Indeed! I’ve heard and read “big fish” stories from pros who caught them in practice or in the off season. By the way some of them talk, it’s almost as if the significance and majesty of catching a trophy bass is nullified because it didn’t happen during a tournament! How messed up is that?

  8. AaronW

    June 23, 2011 at 11:43 am

    The easiest way for everyone to understand the dynamics of a population is to use the grass in your yard or on a golf course as an example. If you want your grass to look like carpet and to be very thick you need to cut it short. You will have more individual plants, but they will not be as tall. If you want your grass tall, each individual plant will be bigger, but the amount of nutrients and food that are available will not let the grass be as thick (fewer plants) as it would be if it were cut shorter. The same thing applies to a fish population. The limiting factor in a population is always food and habitat. Populations aren’t consistent and are always dynamic. The role of biologists are to monitor these dynamic changes and recommend practices that will promote the over all health the lake’s fish populations. You can’t have a healthy yard without mowing it, and you can’t have a healthy fish population without angler harvest. Natural mortality will only take care of so much, it’s up to the users of the resource to do their part as well. Its not a product of what worked then as what will work now… Its pure science, and there is plenty of documented proof out there. You just have to look for it. We can substitute fish populations for any type of plant or animal population and the result will be the same if food and habitat are limiting.

  9. Sprayed Grass

    July 2, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Well the Arkansas Game and Fish have sprayed or made huge carp releases and killed lakes here too. These aren’t invasive species either. They are killing Coontail here. Just doesn’t make much sense.There was a small lake 300 acres that was a fun place to go. AGFC release 1500lbs, 1000lbs, and 500lbs or grass carp in a 3 year period because the grass was to thick around the boat ramp! what!

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