Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Spawning bass need to be protected
Black bass mortality can happen when the male bass is taken from the spawning bed where he stays after the female bass lays her eggs. His presence prevents lots of predation on the eggs, and then the hatched fry, by all sorts of fish and other marine critters.
Fishing the bass beds has been a historic pastime for fishermen in the Granite State. Almost never, even when it's legal, has it been customary for fishermen to keep or kill these fish. Returning them unharmed has always been popular, even before the catch-and-release TV shows.
New Hampshire has done a study that shows that a male bass taken off the spawning beds and immediately returned will go right back to that bed, and often will strike the next lure to become a threat to his bed. The study also showed, that when a male bass is put in a live well and transported a mile or so away, the fish becomes disoriented or looses interest, and doesn't return to it's bed. The predators then have unimpeded access to lots of free meals.
This spring's late, cold weather and water temperatures have created a unique situation that could spell disaster if the sportsmen don't recognize what is happening. The catch-and-keep portion of the bass season is suspended between May 15 and June 15 to protect the spawning bass. No bass can be kept during that period. The problem that I see coming is that in many instances, especially on the larger and colder lakes, the bass have hardly started to spawn, and at this writing beds are as scarce as hen's teeth.
Bass may be spawning and bedding way after the season opens back up, on June 15. Friends, if this happens and lots of bass are taken off those still active beds, the fishing in the future has to suffer the consequences.
Smallmouths, especially, can be seen in the shallows until they have abandoned the nest, only going when their paternal duties are done. Then these bass head for deep water, where they "disappear" for a couple of weeks to recover from the rigors of reproduction. If you run into a lot of bass still on the shorelines of Winnipesaukee, or other large central lakes, practice catch and release, please. The chances are that these bass are still guarding their nests, and for every one you remove, there is a whole generation of his progeny at risk. Until July 1, a good practice would be to put-em'-back alive.
What a great job our F&G Fisheries Division does when it comes to growing and stocking rainbow trout. In my younger days, and when I was a warden, the typical stocked trout that you'd catch, whether brook, brown or rainbow, would be lucky to make the six-inch size limit that prevailed at that time.
We used to boast about those rare "nine inchers." Today, unless you've run into a load of smallish brookies that sometimes do still get stocked, your average stocked trout will probably run about twice the length of those that used to be put out, and weigh three to four times as much. Yearling rainbows are stocked that go up to 14 inches. The fisheries boys grow enough two-year-old trout to sprinkle into the stocking loads to make your chances of catching a two pounder that is 17 inches long very possible, one heck of a good fish in New England.
And it seems to me that unless my taste buds have deteriorated (and my size and penchant for eating belies this theory), the hatchery boys are growing a tasty product that doesn't taste like a mixture of mud and sawdust.
I've cooked my last two meals of trout differently. The first batch, I dowsed with garlic salt and teriyaki sauce, and cooked, skin on, over the coals. The next batch I baked, stuffed with a seafood stuffing. Both meals were gourmet food.
Here's a nice recipe for the seafood stuffing: Put a stack of Ritz crackers in a plastic bag, and crush them with a pastry rolling pin. We also like to add a handful or two of similarly crushed Cheese Its. Put in a large mixing bowl. Chop up about a quarter cup of onions finely. Drain a small can of tiny shrimp, and a small can of chopped clams (you could substitute any seafood that you like), and stir into the onion and cracker crumbs. Stir in two heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise. Add a few shakes of Worstershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, garlic powder and celery salt, and mix in a good tablespoon of horseradish. Melt half a stick of butter or substitute, and stir into the mixture. Lay a sheet of foil on a cookie sheet, stuff the cavities of five large trout, and cover with a loose sheet of foil and bake in a preheated oven set at 375 for about 45 minutes. Take the foil off, turn your oven to broil, and set the fish about five inches beneath the flame. Broil until the stuffing just starts to brown. Enjoy the meal.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.