This last year has been a year of changes – lots of them. But then, as much as we would like it, things rarely stay the same. I don’t know about you, but I think if things were always ‘the same’, life could get pretty uninteresting pretty fast.
Let’s start with Oneida Lake. The season started out cold/delayed spring/and turned really warm! In our household, we referred to summer of 2018 as the ‘summer if the soft butter’. We always have a butter dish out on the counter to spread on toast in the morning, and there was never a day where it cooled off enough at night that the butter was hard in the morning – for a good part of the summer anyways! These warm temperatures showed up as stress on the beloved smallies in Oneida. Although the LMBV most likely started the fall previous, after the warm water/increased parasite load/ opportunistic bacterial infections – the Oneida smallmouth took a hit. I feel pretty certain Oneida will bounce back fairly quickly – BUT guess what becomes SUPER important right now!!?? I hope you guessed it is boat hygiene and fish care!!! If you didn’t guess it, I guess I’ve been beating my head against the wall the last 6 or 7 years for nothing.
During our off season, while you are preparing tackle and fishing strategies for the coming year – put some time into thinking about YOUR specific, at-the-ramp, take-out-time procedures that should be GOALS, to turn into HABITS. (PS – “habits” are something one does automatically- WITHOUT THINKING.)
Boat hygiene at the ramp – clean/ drain/dry. When you park the empty trailer or before you move it back to the ramp to take out – JUST LOOK AT YOUR TRAILER!!!! If you drove thru a big wedge of floating weeds on the way out from dumping your boat in – TAKE THE WEEDS OFF RIGHT THERE – BEFORE you proceed back to the ramp! Its way easier than climbing under once the boat is back on the trailer. And yes – you CAN reach those pesky weed tendrils on your trailer cross members once the boat is back on! Use your net handle – especially easy if you have an extendible handle – just take the handle out of the net and use it as an extension of your arm. Or – if you are lucky and have younger children with you – have them crawl under there to clean things off!
DRAIN your live- wells /DRAIN YOUR BILGE AREA – every time, every take-out. No excuses. Make it HABIT!
NEVER leave visible plant material on your boat thinking you are going to take it off when you get home. How many waterbodies do you pass going home? The answer is too many. All it takes is ONE piece falling/blowing off and getting washed into a different body of water. That’s as easy as it can happen! Be part of the solution and a shining example to our youth – because remember – THEY ARE WATCHING – WHAT YOU DO/DO NOT DO!!!!!
WITH REGARDS TO SPECIFIC LIVEWELL HYGIENE – again, think HABIT here. One of the easiest things you can do to keep live- wells fresh/nontoxic is to LEAVE THEM OPEN TO AIR DRY EVERY TIME YOU TAKE THE BOAT OUT OF THE WATER – whether or not you had fish in them! Where there is moisture growth, there is bacterial growth and the potential to harbor invasive species! I do live- well checks sometimes at the Cashion tourneys – and let me tell you – some of the live- wells I have opened and smelled, I wouldn’t even put my garbage in – TRUTH!!!!! And people think nothing if putting their perfectly healthy fish in there…. Wow.
AND – there is some good news on the live-well front. Our contacts at DEC and Cornell tell is LMBV is is very fragile virus – which means it is very easy to kill! Hot water/salt water/household cleaners – all will kill this virus. And yes, you can use any cleaner on the inside of your live- well – just flush well with water afterwards – duh!! So NO EXCUSES – USE WHAT YOU HAVE ON HAND and disinfect your fish holding facilities so YOU are not the one spreading new pathogens to another body of water.
Remember – ALL of us can build new habits – a little conscious effort/awareness/and the desire to do the right thing is all it takes!
Another big change to hit the tournament scene – MLF and its new format of weighing all legal fish/holding nothing in the live- well! Actually, it is a Conservation Directors dream -NO FISH CARE ISSUES!!!!
I’m not quite out of a job yet as there are lots of other things we do, but it is a favorable shift with regards to impact on the fish populations. My club has a few pre-season MLF style tournaments to take advantage of early season open water.
That being said, until MLF format takes hold at our local level, each one of us are responsible for paying attention our live- well parameters – ensuring they are within the proper limits at all times. Manage barotrauma when present, and your dead fish penalties should never be a problem.
AND AS ALWAYS – if you have any questions/concerns, contact me at ANY time. I’m happy to talk fish with anyone/anywhere/anytime! Remember – I work for you and the benefit of the resources we use!
your NY State Conservation Director