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Bass tournament organizers encouraged to use Michigan Fishing Tournament Information


Jerry A
Note: This began as a simple discussion post and I thought it a higher road to post here instead.
The news report stated that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources strongly encourages bass tournament organizers to use its Michigan Fishing Tournament Information System, a web application designed to allow bass tournament directors to schedule events at DNR access sites and to report their catch results online.

The caveat - Members of the general public can use the Michigan Fishing Tournament Information System application to check tournament schedules on a given lake or access site, without creating a log-in. However, the public will not be able to view the catch results, and tournament directors will only be able to see the data from their own tournaments. [from this I read to mean that none of the information will be made available to the general public]

Source: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153--344448--rss,00.html

Now it is nice from the point of view that one can know that an organized Fishing Tournament is scheduled for a particular body of water but what I'm not in favor of is the veil of secrecy behind the use of open, free will, publicly provided information. Public tax dollars are going into administering the system and it is my belief that the public should have access to the information. What harm could it do to make the system transparent?

In Georgia we don't have one large scheduling site because the lakes are administered by different agencies (two different Corps of Engineers districts, Georgia Power, The TVA and other private entities). We do have the ability to submit bass tournament results that are available for, as the Michigan release put it, "use and applicability of the data for fisheries assessment and management purposes". This is largely done only by the chartered federation chapter bass clubs and not collected from the larger national tournament trails held in the state. We cannot see individual events or results but the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division does provided an overall tally of the reported results, per year, broken down by body of water for nearly 18 years now - since 1996. Again, in Georgia this is only for bass tournaments but I guess it could also be done for crappie, catfish, etc. and provides another avenue of data that the biologist/managers can utilize.

So it is possible that one could investigate by delving into the results and comparing stats from year to year, thus giving a general sense of the overall health of the lake or river based upon reported bass tournament results.

The following variables were tracked and analyzed for each water body.

- Bass caught per angler hour
- Weight of bass caught per angler hour (in pounds)
- Average weight of bass caught (in pounds)
- Average largest bass for tournament
- Percent of anglers with limit catch
- Percent of anglers with zero bass
- Percent of bass that were largemouth (as opposed to spotted bass)
- Number of angler hours
- Number of tournaments included in each analysis
- Number of bass caught that were 5 lbs or larger (from 2004 forward)

Source: http://www.georgiawildlife.org/Fishing/BASSTournamentReports?cat=2

Bottom line is that the more informed the general public is the more knowledgeable they can be as they assist in helping to make management decisions when asked to do so. It doesn't matter what your primary quarry might be you have a vested interest in the out of doors and the water that you visit. Yesterday on a different venue we were discussing catch and release and how the prevailing winds seem to cause every angler to release what they catch even though in doing so they may be harming the very population of fish they love.

I made the statement there that I view this discussion focusing on the conservation angle that many will miss. Today every body of accessible water in the United States is managed (ie. not left to nature or natural as it may have been before the twentieth century). As for anglers, some are die hard catch and release while others I know enjoy harvesting a fish every now and then. Both are fine based upon what each angler chooses but as was pointed out they should be aware of the consequences of their actions. The catch and release concept translates across to other fish species as well. If you're interested in the crux of that discussion the text can be found at http://www.ccflyco.com/currant-creek-declaration-blog/catch-and-release

I believe that we all have the privilege and the opportunity to make a real difference. The often maligned biologist/managers are doing the very best they can with the guidance they have (charter to manage) and the limited resources they are provided. I went on to share that my advice would be for each of us to become an expert on our local waters - sit back, observe, gather specific information regarding this fishing stream, water flows, food sources, external influences, etc. Follow this up with interactions - interview other anglers for their input, provide tactful dialog both in writing and in person to your local Wildlife Resource Office and be a part of the solution!