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Poaching Season

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Nope, How deep do you think eagles and herons can go to get a fish? I don't know where you've seen these big smallmouth up in water less than two feet deep, which is how shallow they have to be, in cold water during the daytime, but I've never seen it on the rivers I fish in the winter. And again, in the summer when the big ones might be that shallow, you never see big ones with these kinds of wounds, except well-healed ones. Not to mention that so many of these wounds can be perfectly matched to gig tines. Yeah, some wounds we see are questionable, and I agree with you that we shouldn't let emotions make us see things that aren't there, but I do not think I'm doing that...it's usually pretty obvious.

Another observation...there are places I fish in the winter that have spring influence and thus concentrate bass and other fish, that also have lots of eagles and herons and probably otters hanging around, but are too small for the jetboat giggers to reach. Funny how I never see bass with wounds in these spots. On the other hand, at a couple of accesses on these smaller streams where a boat can be put in and go upriver a mile or so and which thus get gigged, yep, there are those bass with wounds.

I've about given up on the issue, though. Nothing is going to change significantly in the rest of my lifetime, at least. Way too many people in the Ozarks with antagonism toward ANY kind of regulation, who would kick and scream and then ignore any curtailment of their gigging "tradition", and no good way of enforcing any of the current regulations when it comes to gigging, nor enough enforcement personnel to do it right, anyway.

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I've about given up on the issue, though. Nothing is going to change significantly in the rest of my lifetime, at least. Way too many people in the Ozarks with antagonism toward ANY kind of regulation, who would kick and scream and then ignore any curtailment of their gigging "tradition", and no good way of enforcing any of the current regulations when it comes to gigging, nor enough enforcement personnel to do it right, anyway.

Yep, try as I might to have a "glass is half full" attitude it's hard when the glass is half empty.

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What is "relation repair"?

I really need to proofread sometimes. Imagine.

That should have read "relationship repair." In talking with different contacts over the last couple of years with in the MDC, MSA is not on their best sellers list. We need to fix that.

AAARRRGGGHHH!!!! Chief, I'll say this same thing again. I'm not saying, nor do I think that anybody else here is saying, that illegal gigging is having a big impact on the total numbers of smallmouth in these streams. You are certainly right that the number of legally kept bass caught by hook and line anglers is far greater. And I agree with you that the legal length and creel limits need to be changed.

BUT, there is simply no comparison between hook and line angling and gigging when it comes to BIG smallmouth. Giggers don't bother to target the abundant 12 inch or less than 12 inch smallies. They target big ones. Of all those hook and line catch and keep anglers, how many of them, do you think, catch 18 inch plus smallmouth regularly? Not many, if any. Of all the good anglers on here, it would be interesting to see how many 18 inch plus smallmouth they catch and release in a year's time...I can only speak for myself but I maybe catch a dozen or so at most per year of that size, spread over multiple rivers and multiple stretches of those rivers. And more importantly, I can't specifically target those big ones. I can't go to a couple of pools, see them, and catch them. But the illegal gigger can. They can go out with the express intent of sticking big ones, and if the conditions are anywhere near right, they can do it and get the vast majority of them. When you couple that with the fact that the big ones are much more concentrated during gigging season, especially from mid-October on, all the gigger has to do is find one good wintering pool and he can, if he so desires, kill what amounts to ALMOST EVERY BIG SMALLMOUTH that would inhabit several miles of stream in warm weather when the catch and keep anglers are doing most of their fishing. We all know that big ones exist in low numbers to begin with, so it doesn't take much illegal gigging to have a HUGE impact on that subset of the population.

That's why we are so upset about this issue. I wouldn't care nearly as much about it if the giggers were doing what the catch and keep anglers are doing, killing their six 12-13 inchers and the occasional bigger fish. But when they are illegal cropping off a very significant percentage of the already scarce big fish, it's a big deal.

And by the way, Feathers and Fins, I have to say I'm a little insulted by your implication that what we're seeing might not be gig marks. Please tell me, when you see this stuff during gigging season, and ONLY during gigging season, and it's big scrapes and perfectly spaced holes, please tell me what else it could be? Please don't say herons or eagles or otters or turtles. In cold weather, big bass simply don't come up into shallow enough water for a heron or an eagle to reach them, even if those birds were so inclined to attack a fish that size. Turtles are either completely in hibernation or in near dormancy. Otters don't make those kinds of marks.

I am not making any comparisons. I just liken it like you did the recent economy .thread.

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AAARRRGGGHHH!!!! Chief, I'll say this same thing again. I'm not saying, nor do I think that anybody else here is saying, that illegal gigging is having a big impact on the total numbers of smallmouth in these streams. You are certainly right that the number of legally kept bass caught by hook and line anglers is far greater. And I agree with you that the legal length and creel limits need to be changed.

BUT, there is simply no comparison between hook and line angling and gigging when it comes to BIG smallmouth. Giggers don't bother to target the abundant 12 inch or less than 12 inch smallies. They target big ones. Of all those hook and line catch and keep anglers, how many of them, do you think, catch 18 inch plus smallmouth regularly? Not many, if any. Of all the good anglers on here, it would be interesting to see how many 18 inch plus smallmouth they catch and release in a year's time...I can only speak for myself but I maybe catch a dozen or so at most per year of that size, spread over multiple rivers and multiple stretches of those rivers. And more importantly, I can't specifically target those big ones. I can't go to a couple of pools, see them, and catch them. But the illegal gigger can. They can go out with the express intent of sticking big ones, and if the conditions are anywhere near right, they can do it and get the vast majority of them. When you couple that with the fact that the big ones are much more concentrated during gigging season, especially from mid-October on, all the gigger has to do is find one good wintering pool and he can, if he so desires, kill what amounts to ALMOST EVERY BIG SMALLMOUTH that would inhabit several miles of stream in warm weather when the catch and keep anglers are doing most of their fishing. We all know that big ones exist in low numbers to begin with, so it doesn't take much illegal gigging to have a HUGE impact on that subset of the population.

That's why we are so upset about this issue. I wouldn't care nearly as much about it if the giggers were doing what the catch and keep anglers are doing, killing their six 12-13 inchers and the occasional bigger fish. But when they are illegal cropping off a very significant percentage of the already scarce big fish, it's a big deal.

And by the way, Feathers and Fins, I have to say I'm a little insulted by your implication that what we're seeing might not be gig marks. Please tell me, when you see this stuff during gigging season, and ONLY during gigging season, and it's big scrapes and perfectly spaced holes, please tell me what else it could be? Please don't say herons or eagles or otters or turtles. In cold weather, big bass simply don't come up into shallow enough water for a heron or an eagle to reach them, even if those birds were so inclined to attack a fish that size. Turtles are either completely in hibernation or in near dormancy. Otters don't make those kinds of marks.

Al, I am a little confused. I know you spend a lot of time on the River, and am confident you can distinguish gig marks from herons etc. My question is are these fish, dead, cleaned, or alive. If they are dead or cleaned shoot a photo, gps to MDC, might provide evidence or ? If they are alive, are these poachers (note poachers not giggers) practicing some type of morbid catch and release? Just having a hard time getting my head around it.

We also need to understand that the suckers eat large numbers of sow bugs helligimites etc. without some type of control they would likely out compete many fish for food as they could become overpopulated...

I distain the poachers as much or more than yourself and Scott, but respect the sport and conservation tool. Thanks

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BUT, there is simply no comparison between hook and line angling and gigging when it comes to BIG smallmouth. Giggers don't bother to target the abundant 12 inch or less than 12 inch smallies. They target big ones. Of all those hook and line catch and keep anglers, how many of them, do you think, catch 18 inch plus smallmouth regularly? Not many, if any. Of all the good anglers on here, it would be interesting to see how many 18 inch plus smallmouth they catch and release in a year's time...I can only speak for myself but I maybe catch a dozen or so at most per year of that size, spread over multiple rivers and multiple stretches of those rivers. And more importantly, I can't specifically target those big ones. I can't go to a couple of pools, see them, and catch them. But the illegal gigger can. They can go out with the express intent of sticking big ones, and if the conditions are anywhere near right, they can do it and get the vast majority of them. When you couple that with the fact that the big ones are much more concentrated during gigging season, especially from mid-October on, all the gigger has to do is find one good wintering pool and he can, if he so desires, kill what amounts to ALMOST EVERY BIG SMALLMOUTH that would inhabit several miles of stream in warm weather when the catch and keep anglers are doing most of their fishing. We all know that big ones exist in low numbers to begin with, so it doesn't take much illegal gigging to have a HUGE impact on that subset of the population.

Take those same stretches of water. Over a years time, you can very conservatively say that it has seen 50 different anglers. They only need to keep one large fish apiece. It is all a numbers game with the law of averages on its side.

I am not going to say large bass have not been gigged. I am positive it happens. I just don't agree that gigging is out pacing legal stringers and illegal stingers when it comes to legal and illegal harvest of big bass.

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Al, in those smaller sections you mention one potential reason is just that, they limit the ability of not only the Gigger but also the birds of prey, If it is heavily canopied then Raptors would have a difficult time making a hit in the area, possibly for a heron to walk up but not as likely as an open area. As to depth the raptors can get, I am certain you have seen the videos and probably in life. An Eagle can get about 2 to 3 maximum however an Osprey can get a little deeper but probably not more than 4 feet. There are some other birds left out. Cormorants are a winter visitor as are Loons both have the capability of going very deep. Not the most likely suspects but potential ones.

Otters I actually don't even consider as possible I have watched them hunt and when they get serious they do not miss often, one of the best fish catching machines on the planet IMO. And the few fish that escape an otter attack are not going to survive long. Another explanation is possibly novice/newbie giggers making bad identification they hit the fish because of lack of experience and just scar it or if they make connection and get it up relies they hit the wrong species and release it. I cant tell you how many novice duck hunters I have taken out that have raised on Grebes or Cormorants I had to call off before they shot.

The true Poacher numbers I would bet are very low. Yes it only takes a few to do damage but legal fishermen keeping many legal fish will do far more damage tack on the many other factors facing the streams and it is amazing there is fish left in them.

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So are the fish that are being taken all smallmouth or do they focus on trout also? If not is it because they can't get a jet on these smaller rivers? I ask this because I primarily trout fish. I've only seen illegal gigging take place once, that was Around Parker's on the Current and I did not own a cell phone at the time. I did go back to MSP and reported it but I'm sure they were long gone. This has me concerned as I'm having some good success lately catching what I would consider nice size trout and releasing them back.

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Predictable thread with the equally-predictable cast of characters. I would imagine a short questionnaire of unrelated topics (global warming, health care, gun control) would reveal monolithic beliefs on both sides of this debate. I don't know what that says, I just find it interesting.

Of all the posts, this caught my eye:

... In fact, this slavish devotion to the "Ozark" past is absolutely crippling individuals, families, towns, and regions.

Wow. Were you referring to gigging or meth?

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So are the fish that are being taken all smallmouth or do they focus on trout also? If not is it because they can't get a jet on these smaller rivers? I ask this because I primarily trout fish. I've only seen illegal gigging take place once, that was Around Parker's on the Current and I did not own a cell phone at the time. I did go back to MSP and reported it but I'm sure they were long gone. This has me concerned as I'm having some good success lately catching what I would consider nice size trout and releasing them back.

Trout do get gigged but most giggers don't like to eat them so they are often gigged on accident. Most new giggers gig a few before they get good at identification, they sit much stiller than suckers.

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We see dead ones on the bottom. We catch live ones with horrible wounds, which had to have been gigged and then shaken off the gig. I think these are people who just gig it for the heck of it, not planning to eat it. They see a big smallmouth and just can't resist, but they don't want to keep it and take the chance of being caught. Some of these are so badly wounded it's amazing that they survived. And we catch live ones with lesser wounds, such as a couple I caught last year that had 4 parallel scrapes, about an inch apart, running down their upper side, and another that had one shallow wound coming down from the top of its back, and then another scrape an inch or so away running parallel to the gouge on it's upper side. These, I think, would be fish that were almost missed and got away. What we don't see, of course, are the ones that have been gigged and kept, or gigged and tossed up on the bank. But we have also seen the remains of bass fillets mixed in with the sucker remains at private and public accesses.

Look, you can surmise it's some natural predator all you want, but one of the biggest things that argues against it is WHEN we find the dead ones or the ones with fresh wounds. It's ONLY during the gigging season. We fish all winter, and gigging season closes January 15th. By February, we are catching fish with half-healed wounds but not fresh ones, while during the season we catch fish with both half-healed and fresh wounds. I didn't know that natural predators followed the gigging season.

Chief, as to the comparison between giggers and catch and keep anglers, what catch and keep anglers are doing is legal. Sure, they crop off some big ones, but most fish during warm weather when the fish are scattered, and catch one here and there. What we continually see with gigging is that they decimate certain wintering pools. We know these pools on the Meramec, and we know they should hold fish, but some of them mysteriously seem barren of fish over 16 inches after the first few weeks of good gigging conditions. And besides, it's illegal. Do I know how many big ones are being killed by giggers compared to catch and keep anglers? No. But that gigging mortality is over and above however many are caught by the meat fishermen, and we believe it to be significant.

Problem is that neither MDC nor anybody else has studied it to answer those questions. And there isn't any good way of studying it other than closing a section of river to gigging for a few years and monitoring the big bass populations to see if they increase significantly from what they were before the closure. Since they decided a couple decades ago to extend the gigging season from September, when the fish are still in summertime habitat, to January, they can't even electroshock wintering pools to see how many big bass are being taken.

Oh, and about those sucker populations and how they need to be controlled...funny how in places that don't have gigging and have lots of suckers, they don't seem to be causing any problems.

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