The 2016 fall chum salmon run for the Fraser River, which borders Vancouver BC and opens out into Johnstone Strait to the North of the Washington’s San Juan Islands, was slow at first. When it did come, however, the fish appeared in record numbers. The run, which now looks like it numbers 2 million, has been so large that some of the catches have swamped the boats of smaller commercial fishermen. Tidal and streamside anglers can look forward to a great season of chum as well from now until as late as Thanksgiving. Continue reading Fraser River gets Record Chum Run→
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If you have always felt like you are a better fisherman than chef, this may be the program for you. Michigan has gathered a series of participating restaurants throughout the state who will take your catch of the day and turn it into something spectacular. The program is open to anyone who is willing to jump through a few small hoops, and offers you the chance to impress your friends and family with your fishing skills, even if you can’t impress them with your cooking skills. Continue reading Michigan Catch and Cook Restaurants→
Alabama Scientists Use e-DNA to Discover Signs of Sturgeon Presumed Extinct
Alabama Sturgeon by Debbie Kay
Alabama Scientists are having a real soap opera moment, as one of their indigenous species of fish, presumed extinct, may have been found alive. The Alabama sturgeon is considered one of the rarest freshwater fish on the planet, and has not been seen alive since 2007. However, scientists doing work in its home range of the Mobile Basin have now found evidence that it continues, elusively, to live in the area through recent environmental DNA sample collections.
About the Alabama Sturgeon
The Alabama sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus suttkusi, is a small, yellow-orange species of sturgeon that lives exclusively in the Mobile Basin of the Alabama River. It grows to about 30 inches in size, and lives 12 to 20 years. In 1993, the state and federal protection program for the once-populous Alabama sturgeon began. This species had evaded identification until 1991, and were once believed to be the young of the more common gulf sturgeon. By the time the fish were shown to be genetically unique, their numbers had declined so much due to the impacts of several dams in the watershed that there was a question whether any effort at all could save them. Since protection efforts were considered to be a large and expensive change for much of the river’s industries, there was a battle between the businesses and environmentalists whether to take protection measures at all.
Protection was difficult to verify, as only three individual sturgeon were actually captured and held in hand within ten years. The last known fish, a male, was tagged in 2006 with a radio tracker, with the hopes that it would lead scientists to a larger breeding population. Unfortunately, that did not happen before the transmitter died in 2007.
Scientists recently collected 130 environmental DNA samples along the length of the Alabama River and found that approximately 17 percent of the samples had Alabama sturgeon DNA. This means that the fish were in the area within the past 8 to 40 days, based on the average rate of DNA breakdown in the area. This means the fish is present, but it has not been seen.
As these locations are narrowed down, scientists plan to do more extensive surveys on the areas that get continued “hits” during eDNA sampling. Fish collection/viewing can be done via snorkeling, dewatering, or backpack electrofishing. If they find fish in any number, this may be an opportunity There is currently a hatchery-assisted breeding plan for the Alabama sturgeon that sits on the law books if the state manages to locate and secure some breeding pairs of fish. To locate a pair (or hopefully more than one) would allow an opportunity to begin adding fish to more areas, and to better study individuals to understand the specific environmental factors they need to thrive. This can lead to smarter management decisions in the future to truly bring this elusive fish species its heroic return from the dead.
Gulf Communities are Creating Fish Reefs from Sunken Ships
Creating Fish Reefs by Debbie Kay
This August, a vessel will sink off San Padre Island in Texas, and everyone is excited about it. The program has been created to make a large artificial reef, which will draw important reef fish like red snapper into the area. The company doing the work, RGV Reef, is intending to bring business to both commercial and sport fishermen and the many tourist community businesses that rely on them. Continue reading Creating Fish Reefs by Sinking Ships→
Ayu Fishing: How a Peacetime Samurai Training Exercise Created a New Sport
Ayu Fishing by Debbie Kay
The ayu is not much to look at. However, this tiny silver smelt with golden fins has played a large part in Japanese history. It is the inspiration for the modified fly fishing technique of ayu fishing, which has served not only as a way to catch these tasty “sweetfish” but also as a way to keep samurai skills sharp during the two and a half centuries of the Edo period, when samurai swordplay was rare. Instead, the technique that requires a rod 30-40 feet long is believed to have been developed specifically for this purpose. While this theory is not entirely proven, it is a favorite of fishing historians.
The Edo Period
In Japan, the Edo Period was known as a two and a half century period of peace and isolationism. Samurai served as guards for noblemen, but rarely if ever saw war. Samurai enjoyed a high status similar to the knights of medieval Europe. Because of this, they were one of the few groups of people who were allowed to fish the rivers. As many of them were stationed to nobles who lived in country manors far from any action or other forms of entertainment, fishing was a very popular activity for them. They created specialized rods, used scraps of silk kimonos as tied flies, and even bent their own sewing needles as hooks. If the legend is true, the techniques in ayu fishing mimicked many aspects of swordplay, and fishing barefoot along the rocks with a moving current developed balance.
How Ayu Fishing Works
Today, ayu is a very popular fish and is raised in hatcheries for sport fishing. Today, it typically takes place at a wood and stone weir called a Yana. Ayu is highly territorial, and the trick to catching them is to make them feel like their territory is being encroached upon. This can be done by presentation or by using live bait. Hooks are not taken by mouth, but instead the flies and bait have them along the belly and gills to accidentally hook the territorial fish when it comes to fight for its property. If you are using live bait, then typically the bait fish is switched out each time with the new fish to keep any of them from being too worn out.
The fish are highly valued for culinary purposes, and they are nicknamed sweetfish because they have notes of fruit in their flavor. They are believed by some to be the tastiest fish in all of Japan.
Invention or Imitation?
While it is widely believed that ayu fishing was the sport of samurai, it is not clear whether they invented the technique or brought it over from Korea after a series of raids. A very similar technique called cheonde existed there, though the historical records are not clear as to which technique predated the other. Whatever you believe, if you have the opportunity to try ayu fishing, it can be fun to imagine yourself following in the footsteps of these iconic warriors.
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