On The Fly South August 2021
Second Creek, West Virginia brown trout. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
The dog days of summer now are upon us in the southern reaches of the country. That usually makes fishing a bit slower – unless you go looking for targets that are less affected by the heat. In the upcoming edition of On The Fly South we head down to southwest Florida to board Capt. Joe Harley’s skiff in search of tarpon. Traveling the other direction, it is a day of chasing carp on the fly with Capt. Paul Rose in North Carolina’s Catawba River drainage. Rounding out the fishing, we look for brown trout in the South’s more northerly waters of Second Creek in West Virginia.
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Around The South:
Trout Fishing in South Carolina
Fishing South Carolina’s East Fork of the Chattooga River. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
“Trout fishing in South Carolina?” Most folks don’t think of South Carolina as a trout fishing state. Yet, surveys of anglers indicate as many as 50,000 trout anglers take to the waters each year. These anglers contribute approximately $18 million to the state’s economy as a result of trout angling.
Blue Ridge headwater trout streams stretch across three Upstate counties. One large coldwater reservoir and numerous mountain lakes and ponds also entice trout anglers. Two tailrace fisheries, one in the Piedmont and another in the Midlands, accentuate the diverse trout resource in South Carolina. Another bonus, the majority of South Carolina’s trout resources occur on publicly owned and accessible lands. These resources offer trout anglers varied opportunities, whether they are after the creel limit for the evening’s meal, outsmarting that one special trophy, or testing the latest dry fly on a remote headwater.
South Carolina harbors three species of coldwater trout: brook, rainbow and brown. Alternately described as the aristocrats of fishes and the high priests of mountain streams, these fish are revered by every sporting trout fisherman for their beauty and spirit.
South Carolina’s trout fishing is primarily found in the northwest corner of the state where the Appalachian Mountains fall off the Blue Ridge Escarpment into the foothills of Oconee, Pickens and Greenville counties. Here, the tributaries draining the higher elevations comprise the mountain streams, which the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources manage for trout.
Menhaden Harvest Harming Louisiana Sportfishing
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership panel discussion of the menhaden problem in Louisiana at the Orlando, Florida ICAST Show in July. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
Menhaden – also known as pogies in the Gulf of Mexico – are essential forage fish for redfish, speckled trout, and many other culturally important gamefish throughout the region.
The industrial menhaden reduction fishery is the largest fishery by volume in the Gulf of Mexico; Two foreign-owned companies harvest about 1.2 billion pounds of menhaden annually using purse seine nets and large ships of 160 to 200 feet in length. The fish are “reduced” and used for a variety of products including fish feed for foreign fish farms, livestock feed and cosmetics.
This high volume of harvest is largely unregulated. There are no catch limits in place and observer coverage is virtually non-existent. Preliminary indications from an examination of the menhaden fishery by the University of Florida and NOAA show a significant effect on sportfish – as much as a 50 percent reduction in speckled trout and redfish biomass – from industrial menhaden harvest in the Gulf.
An estimated 80 to 90 percent of the Gulf pogie harvest takes place off Louisiana’s coast, with roughly 20 to 30 percent of that catch occurring in the shallow surf zone near beaches and barrier islands – ecologically sensitive areas where heavy bycatch is more likely.
Up to 60 million pounds of bycatch is lost each year as a result of reduction fishing in the Gulf, including hundreds of thousands of redfish, specked trout. jacks, mackerels. and tarpon, as well as crabs, mullet, shrimp, herring, and other vital forage. A 2016 analysis of Gulf menhaden fishing bycatch on redfish conducted by NOAA reported as many as 1.1 million pounds of redfish are killed annually, including tens of thousands of brood stock fish between 10 and 35 pounds.
The Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana, the TRCP f and a host of other fisheries and wildlife conservation groups – including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, American Sportfishing Association, Audubon Louisiana, Pew, Louisiana Charterboat Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Wild Oceans, Angler Action Network, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, International Gamefish Association, Fly Fishers International, the Billfish Foundation, and Menhaden Defenders-have formed a coalition to support conservation measures.
This includes creating a model of ecological management for Gulf menhaden fishing like what has been recently implemented by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Ecological management would take into consideration the role that pogies play as forage for sportfish, marine mammals, and birds, as well as the capacity for pogies to filter and clean water. It would also examine the impacts the reduction fishery has on habitat and require a management authority, like the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, to set and enforce catch limits.
The coalition is also pushing for a buffer zone off Louisiana’s beaches and barrier islands of at least one-half mile where reduction fishing would be prohibited.
Louisiana legislator Rep. Joe Orgeron introduced a bill in April 2020 that would have created a half-mile buffer off most of Louisiana’s coast and a one-mile buffer off areas heavily used by recreational anglers. The bill passed the Louisiana House, but was amended by the state Senate and ultimately failed to become law. The coalition will continue to work with the state Legislature and other law and policy bodies to implement commonsense conservation measures for the Gulf menhaden fishery.
Plano Fly Box Wins Award
Plano’s Edge Micro Fly Tackle Box was recognized at the 2021 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) show in Orlando, Florida in July as tbe Best of Category for Fly Fishing Accessories in the New Products Showcase.
On The Fly South’s Polly Dean checking out the Plano EDGE. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
The Plano EDGE Micro Fly Tackle Box gives anglers everything they love about the EDGE Series—things like keeping water out, preventing rust and superior organization—in a pocket-sized package. Designed for fly anglers, the EDGE Micro Fly Tackle Box provides ample storage and accessibility to a variety of flies.
Inside, the EDGE Micro Fly provides three unique layers of fly storage in one box that is compact enough to fit in the pocket of a fly vest. Soft pads in the top two levels securely hold tiny jigs or flies, with ample space to separate wets, dries, nymphs or poppers. The base features Plano’s magnetic Dropzone that makes storing nymphs and extra-small flies extra convenient.
Anglers need not worry about moisture, even from recently fished and wet streamers. An innovative WaterWick divider with a rechargeable, moisture-wicking packet helps dry out wet Flies quickly. The Dri-Loc O-ring seals the box for maximum waterproofing when closed. In addition, Plano’s Rustrictor technology surrounds and protects flies to prevent rust and corrosion from occurring. The DuraView crystal-clear, polycarbonate lid offers a clear view of top layer contents while providing rugged protection. Plano’s EZ Label system makes for quick identification of all contents. An included carabiner gives ample attachment options.
• Three layers of small tackle storage
• Included carabiner for multiple attachment options
• WaterWick divider with reusable moisture-wicking packet
• Dri-Loc O-ring seal maintains waterproofing when closed
• Rustrictor technology delivers 360 degrees of rust-preventative protection
• EZ Label system for quick identification of contents
• DuraView crystal-clear polycarbonate lid
Availability: December 2021
Arkansas 2,200-Mile Striper Run?
Striped bass on the Atlantic Coast may travel hundreds of miles from the ocean to freshwater bays to spawn, but thanks to the efforts of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists, some landlocked stripers in Beaver, Norfork and Ouachita lakes can claim a spawning run measuring thousands of miles. Last week, hatchery staff transported a load of striped bass fingerlings from Watha, North Carolina, on a 2,200-mile road trip that lasted nearly 72 hours from start to finish.
Typically, striped bass stocked in Arkansas lakes come from brood stock caught in those lakes when the fish begin to make their spawning run. Although the stripers cannot reproduce successfully in Arkansas lakes, the spawning run places them in predictable areas for biologists to catch using nets and transport to hatcheries to artificially replicate proper spawning conditions.
“We couldn’t conduct the striped bass project last year because of social-distancing precautions due to COVID-19,” Ben Batten, AGFC chief of fisheries, said. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck sort of operation for a few days and nights, and we needed to maintain safety for our staff. We were able to complete the project this year, but we were still below normal in Ouachita, Norfork and Beaver lakes, our three main striped bass-fishing opportunities in the state.”
The AGFC also was looking for some new genetics to help keep the striped bass populations in Arkansas lakes healthy.
Tommy Laird, assistant chief of fisheries over the AGFC’s hatchery system, said the health of fish can weaken over many generations in the absence of genetic diversity.
“The striped bass collection process we normally use is catching brood stock from the same body of water where they will be stocked,” Laird said. “After long periods, we want to increase genetic diversity to prevent undesirable characteristics, such as crooked spines, underdeveloped mouth parts and other genetic issues. We were looking for a shot in the arm to add some diversity to our striped bass lakes in addition to making up the shortcoming from 2020.”
Oklahoma pitched in earlier this year to help with Arkansas’s striped bass, but survival of those fish was extremely low.
“We believe we had some water chemistry issues that caused nearly all of those Oklahoma fish to die before reaching stocking size,” Laird said.
The AGFC Fisheries Division put out a call for help. That call was answered by Watha Hatchery in Pender County, North Carolina, owned by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s Inland Fisheries Division. They had just shy of 220,000 striped bass fingerlings that were roughly an inch and a half long they were willing to give.
Batten says sharing excess fish with other states is nothing new for hatcheries throughout the country.
“Fisheries management biologists try to keep fish populations in lakes and rivers balanced. At the end of the year, you may have some excess that could serve another state. And in some years they may have some extra fish of another species that your anglers could benefit from. It’s a great partnership that’s been going for decades.”
The North Carolina fish may have been free, but shipping and handling was on the AGFC.
On the morning of June 27, two drivers, one from the Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery in Hot Springs and another from the AGFC’s Joe Hogan Fish Hatchery in Lonoke loaded into a tanker truck, outfitted with special gauges and supply lines to provide the proper amount of oxygen to the fish.
“They took turns driving in shifts to make sure each one had the proper amount of sleep and road time to maintain safety,” Jason Miller, AGFC hatchery manager, said. “They left early on Sunday morning and arrived in North Carolina to load the fish, caught a few hours of rest and then headed back early Monday morning, driving in shifts the whole way back.”
Miller said the drivers stopped every couple of hours to monitor the status of their haul and make needed adjustments.
“They called me when they left at 6 a.m. and arrived back at Lonoke just before midnight,” Miller said.
The work was far from over after that second leg of the marathon. The fish had been in tanks so long that transferring them to a holding tank and waiting until the next day to begin moving them was not an option.
“Our longest haul is normally only 4 hours or so,” Miller said. “These fish had been on the trucks for 16 or 17 hours. We needed to get them to their destination with as little extra handling as possible.”
New World Record Brown Trout
The International Game Fish Association has certified a new world record brown trout. The 44.3-pound fish was taken last fall in New Zealand. Oddly enough, the angler has preferred to remain fairly anonymous, recognized only as Seamus from Turgani. He made the catch while targeting the Ohau Canal, but failed to specify if it was Ohau A,B or C canal.
The fish presently is being mounted and will hand on the wall of the Razza Bar and Bistro in the town of Twizel in the Canterbury District of the South Island.