Fri08292014

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VDGIF opens comment period for outdoorsmen

 

VDGIF has an open period on regulatory processes for fishing, wildlife and boating. Check out http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/regulations/issues2010/ to see what there is in the works to change in our state.
Notably of interest for many local anglers is a proposal to take another look at the regulation stating only one catfish over 32” per day may be creeled. According to biological data only 2 percent of the population is truly a trophy and the remaining fish are sub-trophy fish. One trip to our local river backs that up. You can catch 50 catfish less than 20 inches in a short period of time if you know what you are doing. Try to catch a trophy blue catfish (which were introduced in 1973 to the Rappahannock and James) and you might be on the water for a long time. This is primarily true in the Rappahannock River where growth rates for catfish are very low. The James River is still seeing a boom in the growth of blue catfish. Fish up to 100 pounds have been caught in the James in the past few years.

The water gets murky and things get tense when the debate gets going between commercial and recreational fishermen. When the current rule went into effect in 2006, many commercial anglers reportedly were unaware of the new rule. Recreational anglers were furious when they were told some commercial watermen were taking more than one big fish per day. Interestingly, on the James River the consumption advisory is such that no fish over 32 inches should be consumed. According to the VDGIF Web site listed at the beginning of this article, some commercial anglers “have expressed frustration with the regulation since they can only harvest one longer than 32 inches per day.”
Where are these fish going if they should not be consumed? There are some anglers that say they won’t eat a catfish of any size out of the James River due to contaminants. However, the Virginia Department of Health (VDOH) Web site (http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/DEE/PublicHealthToxicology/Advisories/index.htm) shows that fish less than 32 inches on both rivers share the “only two meals per month” advisory. For the Rappahannock River the concern is for PCBs while on the James River the concern is primarily for PCBs and less substantially for Kepone.
Keep in mind that the VDOH has a much stricter rating for contaminated fish than does the federal government. I feel safer catching and eating fish out of our local waterway than I do purchasing fish from the supermarket. This does not include local seafood markets. Local markets in our area catch most, if not all of their fish locally and you can ask where they come from and feel good about what you are getting. Regardless, we should work on restricting runoff pollution and development along our waterways.
Finally, as far as the catfish issue goes, the Rappahannock and the Potomac River can certainly use some serious pressure on the smaller catfish population, which is the best size to eat anyway for taste and safety. Try eating those 14-24 inch catfish that you catch. Even if we all went out and had a tournament to catch as many as we wanted and ate every one of them we probably would not put a dent in the population, which is a shame. Catfish are ferocious predators and they do put a dent in other populations of fish!
Regardless of how you feel on the issue of the trophy catfish restriction, please comment on the proposal. VDGIF needs input and I feel certain there are many that are more than willing to give some!
In other catfish news there is a proposal also in the works for jug fishing restrictions on the Web site and a proposed ban on using scuba gear to take catfish. Some scuba divers have been seen by Conservation Police Officers taking large numbers of fish on the New River during cool times of year when the catfish are more concentrated. Large, trophy catfish are being taken in numbers too and the officers are concerned that not only will the population be harmed, but also the idea will spread.
Evidently “jug” fishing on Buggs Island is getting very popular and some anglers are using swim noodles to take fish. The concern is that so many anglers (and I use the term anglers loosely) are putting out dozens to even 100 of these devices and leaving them unattended, creating a navigation hazard, particularly at night. Whole coves or fishing areas are being taken up by phantom “anglers.” The proposal is to limit the use of these devices to 70 per boat per day and have them attended at all times and marked with reflective markings. The idea of noodle fishing or jug fishing is spreading to other impoundments as well.
There are other issues that are open for comment in the wildlife and boating section of the site. Additional fishing issues are also there. Most of the fishing issues not mentioned in this article involve fishing in other parts of the state. Trout, striped bass and walleye are addressed. I encourage you to go to the site and take a look. The biologists really do look at your comments. I spoke to a biologist on Friday and he was in the middle of viewing comments when I caught up with him.
Meanwhile, the fish are turning on in a big way. We have a few reports of shad in the area and white perch are definitely here. Bass are holding off points in ponds and staging for the prespawn now. Crappie were scattered last week but started nosing the banks when this article was typed up. Check back next week for the first Outdoor Report of 2010

Mark Fike 

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