Are Smallmouth Bass at Risk?
By: Matt Straw
The rise of smallmouth bass fishing in America is quite a chronicle. Where not native, smallmouths have been stocked and are now found in every state except Alaska, Louisiana, and Florida. Seven-pounders have never been reported from so many places so many times in one year, perhaps, as in 2017. Some were from Mille Lacs in Minnesota during the Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championships held there. Smallmouth fishing, nationwide, has never been better.
But are we keeping it that way? Dr. Hal Schramm, one of the nation’s leading resources on bass and In-Fisherman Contributor, says “No news is good news. What little published literature exists says very little is going on with active management. Little is heard from the South. Lake Hubert (Michigan) now has no harvest regulations, the type meant to satisfy anglers. Clearly there is growing interest in smallmouths and a huge focus on trophies.”
Smallmouth populations began to soar two decades ago. Size and numbers have spiraled upward almost everywhere. But, at the expense of other species? In 2013, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) scuttled quality regulations for smallmouths on Mille Lacs to “boost walleye populations.” This inferred bass were causing a walleye problem. As far as we know, it’s the first time any state ever backtracked on quality regulations, which, from 2000 until 2012, allowed anglers to keep only one bass over 22 inches. In 2013, the state upped the limit to six bass. Bass anglers went berserk.
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