When you report on fish population conservation and management issues, you're most often reporting bad news. While this isn't a pleasant consequence of the tasks, it is the reality. Every so often, a success stories like the current situation in Florida come along, and offer a the opportunity to report from a different perspective. Due to successful management practices, this week the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission voted in new regulations on both redfish and speckled sea trout.

Redfish picture
A fine specimen. (Photo: Bay St)

According to managers, both populations have reached levels of abundance that allow for increase take limits on these species. In some areas of Florida, stocks of these fish have almost doubled benchmarks set forth by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) for use in determining the health of populations. In the case of sea trout, all regions of the state demonstrated in the 2010 assessment that populations exceeded benchmarks set forth by the FWC. Redfish populations have demonstrated a similar level of success, with benchmarks set forth by the FWC having been met or exceeded for the last couple of decades.

Author Zane Grey fishing the Delaware River, circa 1910. Photo: National Park Service.

Anti-fracking advocacy groups are citing yesterday's announcement by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) as a victory for the Delaware River. The DRBC announcement indicated that a key vote on gas drilling regulations will be delayed, with no future date set for a vote. The regulations blueprint which was supposed to be voted on come Monday, November 21, would have opened up eastern portions of Pennsylvania which lie within the Delaware River basin to gas drilling operations.

The decision to delay the vote came in the wake of Delaware Governor Jack Markell's announcement that he would vote no on the proposed regulations. New York had previously announced its intention to vote no. Markell's annoucnement, however, did not preclude the possibility of the new regulations being approved. The DRBC is a five member commission that includes New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Army Corps of Engineers. Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Corbett is a strong proponent of gas drilling and it is commonly believed, though not known, that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would also have voted yes. This would have left the vote in the hands of the fifth member, the Army Corps of Engineers.

A Yellowstone Cuttroat Trout. Photo: National Park Service

In an annual report issued yesterday, entitled Yellowstone National Park Natural Resource Vital Signs, the National Park Service detailed the current progress of efforts to reduce the population of non-native fish species within the park. These efforts are specifically geared towards reducing competition with the park's native fish species, Westslope Cutthroat Trout and Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, hopefully allowing the populations of these species native to the park's ecosystem to expand. According to the report, current efforts to remove non-native species of fish within the park are proving ineffective. In fact, populations of some non-native species have even increased, despite efforts to the contrary.

The situation concerning Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (YCT) in Yellowstone Lake continues to be a struggle. In fact, the number of YCT caught per mile during sampling efforts reached an all-time low of 5.3 in 2010, after peaking at nearly 20 YCT per mile in the early 1980s. Managers attribute this continued decline to predation by nonnative lake trout, whirling disease and the effects of low water conditions in recent drought years. Unfortunately, despite the removal of over 550,000 nonnative lake trout during the last decade and a half, perceived populations of lake trout continue to rise.

Serenity now.

While fishing the steelhead-laden horror show that is New York's Salmon River this past weekend, I was introduced to a very simple but truly awesome little fishing accessory by guide and friend Walt Geryk: and I've been positively giddy about it ever since. If you're a Maxima user, you either know about these little gadgets (or a similar equivalent), have fashioned your own solution, or -- like me -- have chronic high blood pressure resulting from years of struggle with spools of Maxima.

My guess is that most people's Maxima experience is like mine. Typically, it goes like this: if, once I'm done cutting off the length of ultragreen or chameleon that I need, the remaining Maxima isn't flying off the spool it's attached to, it's getting stuffed back into my hip pouch or wader pockets while I curse and mumble as I try to find a way to get it stowed with 4 feet of line hanging off the spool. Either that or I'm performing stream-side surgery trying to get that infuriating, bullshit little white rubber band delicately balanced in a position where it is actually holding the end of the line down against the spool.

ASMFC Votes in Menhaden Protection

Years of efforts by conservation groups such as Menhaden Defenders and the Pew Environment Group paid off late last week when the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted in the first ever protection measures for the tiny forage fish Atlantic Menhaden, commonly known as bunker. Bunker play a vital role in the marine ecosystem off the eastern coast of the United States, and advocates have warned for a long time that the reduction of their population could have catastrophic impacts on the entire food chain. In the days leading up to last Friday's historic vote, a myriad of advocacy groups and individual citizens delivered over 90,000 comments to the ASMFC in favor of placing protections on the number of menhaden that can be harvested from Atlantic waters. Their efforts paid dividends, as the ASMFC voted in protections that are expected to reduce the overall catch of bunker by 37%.

Specifically, the commission voted to set a harvest target of 30% of MSP (maximum spawning potential) as based on an unfished stock of menhaden. This new limit is to be achieved by 2013. The commission also voted to increase the overfishing threshold from 8% of MSP to 15%. This means that if the population of bunker falls below 15%, the population is considered overfished.