Michigan Bass Season Updates and Information

New York Study Shows No Spring Bass Fishing Change

By on February 14, 2016 in Resource Management

In the fisheries research study “Year-Class Production of Black Bass Before and After Opening of a Spring Catch-and-Release Season in New York: Case Studies from Three Lakes” (PDF) researchers James R. Jackson, Donald W. Einhouse, Anthony J. VanDeValk and Thomas E. Brooking found no negative harm to bass population recruitment due to their liberalized spring bass fishing seasons.

“Impacts of angling for black bass Micropterus spp. during the nesting stage have received much recent attention, with particular focus on individual nest and genetic implications. However, few empirical studies of population-level impacts have been conducted. New York State historically protected nesting bass with a closed season. In 1994, a special spring bass season was opened in the New York waters of Lake Erie, and in 2007, a spring catch-and-immediate-release season was opened in most of New York’s remaining waters. Long-term monitoring programs were in place on two inland lakes and New York’s portion of Lake Erie prior to the regulation changes, facilitating assessment of impacts of liberalizing regulations on year-class production.”

Three lakes of varied sizes, Canadarago Lake (surface area 770 ha), Oneida Lake (surface area 20,670 ha) and Lake Erie were included in the multi-year before and after year-class production surveys. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass populations were included because both exist in all three waters.

In three of four cases, year-class production increased following the opening of spring angling for bass, and increases were statistically significant for Smallmouth Bass in Oneida Lake and Lake Erie. Our results provide no evidence that spring fishing for black bass in large lake systems results in negative population level impacts on bass recruitment.

Previous multiple studies have led to the widespread belief that there is typically a surplus production of eggs and young in black bass populations, and that variability in year-class success and recruitment is controlled by ecological conditions encountered by young fish after the guarding stage, such as food availability and winter conditions (Ludsin and DeVries 1997).

New York instituted a spring catch-and-immediate-release bass season in 2007 in most of New York’s waters. In 1994, a special spring bass season was opened in the New York waters of Lake Erie allowing a restricted harvest of smallmouth bass. Long term population data sets for Lake Erie allow comparison of year-class production more than 15 years prior to spring fishing and 17 years after the change. For Canadarago and Oneida lakes, the researchers had production data from 6 years pre- and 6 years post-change in each lake.

“Closed seasons to protect spawning Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass are currently utilized in only a few states, predominantly in the northern portions of the species’ ranges. While angler attitudes are variable, many states with closed seasons receive requests for more liberalized regulations, and current justifications for closures generally lack strong or consistent support in the published literature (Quinn 2002).”

“Nonetheless, growing evidence of potential genetic selection related to angling guarding males (Suski and Philipp 2004; Philipp et al. 2009) combined with current and future perturbations associated with invasive species and climate change dictate that potential impacts of regulations be carefully considered.”

“While potential impacts on individual nests of removing guarding males are well established (Neves 1975; Kieffer et al. 1995; Philipp et al. 1997; Suski et al. 2003), threats of spring fishing to the sustainability of black bass fisheries are more appropriately assessed at the population level (Quinn 2002). Due to the time frames involved to accurately assess potential impacts of spring fishing on population recruitment levels, controlled experimental studies are often unfeasible. To our knowledge, before-and-after assessments of recruitment impacts due to spring fishing for black bass are lacking in the published literature.”

“Our results provide no evidence that opening of these waters to spring fishing has had a negative impact on yearclass production of black bass. In two systems, year-class production of Smallmouth Bass actually exhibited statistically significant increases following liberalization of black bass regulations, with indices of year-class size doubling in the New York waters of Lake Erie and tripling in Oneida Lake following opening of a spring fishing season. No significant changes in black bass year-class size were detected in Canadarago Lake. Based on available creel data from Oneida Lake and Lake Erie, angling effort increased in response to creation of spring fishing opportunities, so our results occurred despite apparent increases in black bass angling during the nest guarding season.”

“Regulation changes on Lake Erie, by contrast, not only opened fishing during the nesting season, but also allowed limited harvest. The intent of the one fish creel limit accompanied by a higher minimum length limit on Lake Erie was to allow harvest of a trophy, but we observed that even a restrictive 1-fish limit was enough to trigger tournament fishing, so potential nest impacts included both measured harvest and delayed release. The increased minimum size for harvest in Lake Erie would have presumably concentrated harvest on the largest fish, potentially increasing the likelihood of negative impacts on yearclass production over the long term (Parkos et al. 2011). However, our results show the opposite; yearclass production has increased in Lake Erie since institution of the spring special season. It should be further noted that observed increases in year-class production in Lake Erie after the special season was opened co-occurred with establishment of Round Goby, an invasive species previously shown to be a highly capable nest predator when male black bass are removed from nests (Steinhart et al. 2004).”

This study on Northern waters similar to Michigan waters demonstrates once again that bass angling as we know it today is not the overriding factor determining healthy populations. Things not directly in the control of fishery regulations are the key factors such as water clarity and average summer temperatures. We will continue to work for more bass fishing opportunity to seek the maximum wise use of our renewable bass resources as long as the science and experience of the majority of the states continues to support liberalizing bass fishing regulations. More bass fishing opportunity is good for the future of fishing as angler numbers continue to decline.


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