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Smallmouth Bass

SPORTSMEN FUNDS EXPAND SMALLMOUTH FISHING OPPORTUNITIES

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SPORTSMEN FUNDS EXPAND SMALLMOUTH FISHING OPPORTUNITIES

Another Oklahoma sunset turns the sky six shades of purple while the last of the day’s sun glows red, providing just enough light for one more cast. A small jig tipped with a soft plastic bait is pulled across the rocky bottom of this man-made reservoir, bumping into everything in its path before it stops – and whatever stopped it begins to pull back. Rod bends, line flexes, drag squeals and water splashes before this reservoir – which wasn’t here until 50 years ago – produces another big, healthy smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), the relatively recent results of careful introductions and careful management financed by sportsmen funds.
 
It’s a scene that plays out across several states as anglers reap the benefits of thriving smallmouth populations in areas that formerly were without. These lake-strain smallmouth occupy a place within these man-made reservoirs that is not occupied by other species of fish and exist without harming native species. The introductions, made only in areas where there is no threat of interfering with surrounding river strains, have expanded the smallmouth’s range and have had a significant and positive economic impact on areas where anglers can find this fiercest of bass.
 
Noted for their ferocious fighting ability by 17th century French explorers and described by Dr. James Henshall in the 19th century as “inch for inch and pound for pound the gamest fish that swims,” the smallmouth’s reputation for being difficult to land and for its willingness to bite a variety of baits endures no matter where it is caught. Though, like the largemouth bass, the smallmouth is not a bass at all but a member of the sunfish family. Both smallmouth and largemouth are regularly found in the same water and thrive without consequence while remaining the most popular of North America’s sport fish.
 
Once disregarded by some steelhead and trout anglers in their original home ranges, careful management regulations protect both lake- and river-strain smallmouth populations from Canada to the South. Through practicing catch-and-release and by observing fishing regulations and purchasing licenses and equipment, sportsmen and women can continue their legacy of conservation and continue to improve and expand smallmouth fishing opportunities.
 
On Saturday, September 27, 2008, millions of Americans will celebrate the success of the smallmouth bass and many other species as part of National Hunting and Fishing Day activities that will be going on nationwide. National Hunting and Fishing Day began after a presidential proclamation in 1972 that sets aside the fourth Saturday of each September for the event. Since then, national, regional, state and local organizations have staged thousands of open house hunting- and fishing-related events everywhere from shooting ranges to suburban frog ponds, providing millions of Americans with a chance to experience, understand and appreciate traditional outdoor sports.
 
The careful smallmouth bass conservation and introductions of the past have given millions of people the thrill of feeling this powerful fish pull on the end of fishing line, to see the thrill on an angler’s face as the rod bends under the strain of the fight and to bring these opportunities to places that previously were without smallmouth populations. Conservation groups, sportsmen and women and wildlife watchers alike are all stakeholders in the future of the smallmouth bass most deserve the credit for its current and future success.