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Important “Pre-spawning aggregation” of Bonefish Discovered in Florida Keys

Plus news from Montana, Wyoming, Maine, Michigan, and more in Fly Fisherman News Briefs for May 11, 2023.

Important “Pre-spawning aggregation” of Bonefish Discovered in Florida Keys

The newly discovered PSA comprises approximately 2,000 to 5,000 fish and is located three to four miles offshore along a reef. (Photo courtesy BTT/Ian Wilson)

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust scientists have discovered a bonefish pre-spawning aggregation (PSA) in the Florida Keys. This is the first such discovery in Florida waters and is the culmination of a years-long search.

“This is a major discovery for the Florida Keys fishery,” said BTT President and CEO Jim McDuffie. “BTT has previously identified PSAs in several other countries, but Florida sites remained elusive—until now. By locating this PSA, our scientists will be able to learn more about where and how bonefish spawn in the Florida Keys, which is information critical to the sustained recovery of the population.”

The newly discovered PSA comprises approximately 2,000 to 5,000 fish and is located three to four miles offshore along a reef. Previously documented PSAs in the Bahamas and Belize are located in nearshore waters.

This discovery was made using acoustic telemetry and the historical knowledge of veteran fishing guides during a research project aimed at identifying important habitats for bonefish spawning. The new site was found in an unexpected location, and BTT believes this discovery will allow scientists to learn more about where and how bonefish spawn in the Florida Keys, which is critical information for the sustained recovery of the population

The organization will continue to study the site to learn more about its importance and how to best protect it.

“It is encouraging to see that our bonefish population in Florida has recovered to a point now where big spawning aggregations can form,” BTT Florida Keys Initiative Manager Dr. Ross Boucek said in a press release. “It’s our job to make sure that these fish can keep spawning for years to come. We can do this by protecting the habitats that support these aggregations, reducing human stresses from boat traffic and other on-water activities that could disrupt their spawn, and most importantly improving water quality. Harmful contaminants in the water have been shown to affect fish reproduction. We will continue to let science lead the way by determining what actions need to happen to keep bonefish spawning safe and happy.”

Fish Impacts from Hebgen Dam Malfunction Released

In trout fishing news, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) fisheries biologists presented their data on how a November 2021 Hebgen Dam malfunction impacted fish in the Upper Madison River during a recent meeting hosted by NorthWestern Energy near Ennis last week.

Anglers walk along a dried up river bank looking for stranded trout on the Madison River.
Local anglers look for stranded fish after the November 2021 malfunction at Hebgen Dam on the Upper Madison. FWP biologists concluded that the malfunction likely didn’t do catastrophic damage to the fishery and believe that juvenile fish likely suffered the highest mortality. (Joshua Bergan photo)

FWP biologists concluded that the malfunction likely didn’t do catastrophic damage to the fishery and believe that juvenile fish likely suffered the highest mortality. Adult fish and eggs seem to have largely been spared; adult fish don’t tend to congregate in the side channels that saw the biggest impact, and salmonid eggs “tend to be fairly tolerant to dewatering, especially when they are early in their development,” FWP Fisheries Technician Jenna Dukovcic said in a Bozeman Daily Chronicle article.

“As you move further down the age continuum to these juvenile fish, the big result was that these fish were still here, occupying these habitats that were dewatered,” FWP Conservation Technician Travis Lorhenz said in the article. “They were pushed down, then they moved back in.”




Maine Seeking Anglers' Fishing Records

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is asking anglers to keep logbooks of their fishing activities for the season. They are offering free record books upon request from their regional offices. Additionally, some fishing locations will have volunteer card boxes for anglers to record their use and catch data. This information will help with the management of inland waters in Maine. Anglers who plan to fish Arctic char waters across the state and are interested in keeping a logbook should email Frank.Frost@maine.gov.

Michigan Habitat Grants

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is providing $1.7 million in Fisheries Habitat Grants for statewide conservation projects on lakes and streams, which are matched by more than $3.2 million in partner contributions. The grant program will fund fish habitat conservation, dam removal and repair, resource assessment studies, and access to recreational opportunities such as fishing in the Au Sable, Manistee and Muskegon river watersheds.

Specific projects for 2023 include:

Recommended


  • Baldwin River Dam removal final design and permitting phase project.
  • Restoring and reconnecting Cedar Run Creek.
  • Crystal Waters State Game Area reservoirs habitat.
  • Lower Rouge River culvert inventory to improve fish.
  • Sucker River culvert replacement and seasonal sea lamprey barrier construction.
  • Replace Sparr Road/Black River culvert to enhance fish passage and river function.
  • Republic Dam removal and Rock Arch Rapids.
  • Aquatic organisms passage restoration at the Grayling Fish.
  • Ottawa Sands Lake nearshore habitat enhancements.
  • Restoring aquatic connectivity on Stover Creek: Dam removal.
  • Fish passage at a Flint River Dam removal using rock ramps.

Wyoming Instream Flow Requirements Sought

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is seeking instream flow water rights to protect Colorado River cutthroat trout populations in Rock Creek and Trail Ridge Creek in the Upper Green River drainage. The proposed water rights would protect flows in seven miles of the streams and ensure that adequate amounts of water flow year-round to maintain and improve the long-term health of fish populations.

A small tumbling stream in some rocky Wind River Range mountains.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is seeking instream flow water rights to protect Colorado River cutthroat trout populations in the Upper Green River drainage. (Joshua Bergan photo)

“Water is the most important part of fish habitat. Maintaining adequate amounts of water in streams year-round is critical for maintaining and improving the long-term health of fish populations,” said Del Lobb, instream flow biologist with Game and Fish.

A public hearing will be held on May 25 at the Marbleton Town Hall to share information and receive comments on the proposed water rights. If approved, these two stream segments will add to the 123 instream flow segments already secured for fish in Wyoming.

Final Federal Listening Session for Snake River Dam Removal

The final listening session on the removal of the four lower Snake dams is scheduled for May 25, and attendees are encouraged to register and show support for dam removal. The sessions provided an opportunity to speak directly to the Biden Administration, and updates on campaign progress will be provided.

The March 31 and April 3 federal listening sessions had overwhelming support from the public, including advocates for anglers, ranchers, wildlife, and tribal members. The speakers expressed the need for recovering the populations of wild salmon and steelhead, and the public support was so strong that an overflow session was held on April 3.

Register here for the final session. 

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