By Dan Armitage, Buckeye Sportsman
A 10.15-pound smallmouth bass caught by an Ohio angler from Ontario, Canada, waters of Lake Erie was a 16-year-old female and is the only known 10-pound-or-greater smallmouth bass ever caught in a Great Lakes state or province. On Nov. 3, 2022, Gregg Gallagher of Fremont caught the behemoth bass while fishing in Ontario provincial waters of Lake Erie. The fish was larger than the previous Ontario record, a 9.84-pound bass caught in 1984, and larger than Ohio’s current smallmouth bass record, a 9.5-pound fish. The new Ontario provincial record was weighed soon after the catch on a certified scale in Port Clinton.
The bass was transferred to the Division of Wildlife’s Sandusky Fisheries Research Station for species identification validation and measurements. The fish was measured as 23.75 inches in length and 19 inches in girth. The Division of Wildlife sampled the record bass and determined it to be a 16-year-old female that was hatched in 2006. The fish was aged by analyzing its otoliths, inner-ear structures that develop annuli much like the rings on a tree, and it’s rare for a smallmouth bass to exceed 14 years in age.
Division of Wildlife fish management staff routinely survey smallmouth bass in Lake Erie to aid in population monitoring. Smallmouth bass captured in these surveys are typically less than 20 inches and weigh fewer than 7 pounds. The bass caught by Gallagher surpassed the size of all surveyed fish.
Smallmouth bass spawn in late spring, and to reduce fishing pressure on bass there is a daily harvest limit on Lake Erie of one bass from May 1 to June 23 this season, with an 18-inch minimum size. Outside of that timeframe, the daily limit for smallmouth bass is five, with a 14-inch minimum size.
Lake Erie fishing reports, information on Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, maps, and links to other Lake Erie web resources are available at wildohio.gov. The current fishing regulations can be found on the HuntFish OH app or at wildohio.gov and where fishing licenses are sold.
USFWS co-ops with RBFF
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced a new cooperative agreement with the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) in the amount of $70 million dollars over a 5-year period to implement the National Outreach and Communication Program (NOCP).
The National Outreach and Communication Program is a visionary long-term effort established in 1998 to improve communications with anglers, boaters, and the public regarding fishing and boating opportunities, reduce barriers to participation, and promote safe fishing and boating practices as well as the conservation and the responsible use of the Nation’s aquatic resources. The NOCP is funded from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund that is supported by manufactures excise taxes on fishing equipment, motorboat fuel, and other sources.
Thanks in part to efforts funded through the NOCP over the past two decades, recreational fishing has experienced rapid growth in recent years — with substantial increases in women anglers, urban and multicultural families, and youth. This five-year, approximately $14-million-per-year agreement will allow the USFWS and RBFF to work together with states, Tribes, industries, and non-profits to continue to improve fishing and boating access while engaging outdoor enthusiasts in natural resource stewardship.
The fishing and boating industry excise tax has been crucial to American conservation for decades. The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, known as Dingell-Johnson, was passed in 1950 with strong support from industry, conservation groups and the public. Grant funds from fishing equipment and motorboat fuel tax have allowed the partners to increase sport fishing and boating access, address the spread of invasive species, and support healthy fish populations and their habitats. Every year these funds support clean water and habitat, healthy fish populations, almost 9,000 boating access sites and 1 billion fish produced by 321 state fish hatcheries across the country.
Fishing and boating participation is also important to the nation’s economy and funds much of our nation’s aquatic resource conservation through the sale of state fishing licenses and the grant programs funded from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works closely with state fish and wildlife agencies, communities, and partners to ensure that the nation’s fisheries are safe, productive, and sustainable for everyone to enjoy.
RBFF was selected as the grant recipient based on the organization’s extensive experience and proven success in marketing, outreach and education to increase fishing and boating in the United States. Since its inception in 1998, RBFF via its consumer-facing brand Take Me Fishing™ has spearheaded innovative national outreach and education programs to promote fishing and boating and to educate the public on their conservation benefits.
For more information about RBFF or the National Outreach and Communication program visit www.takemefishing.org or www.fws.gov/service/national-outreach-and-communications-program.
New WLOs sworn in
Eleven state wildlife officers from the 31st Wildlife Officer Pre-Service Training Academy have been sworn in, hired from a pool of nearly 800 applicants and completed seven months of conservation and law enforcement training.
“I am excited to welcome this new group into our Division of Wildlife,” Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz said. “Each one has a passion for conservation, a commitment to law enforcement, and a dedication to public service — all qualities that will better serve Ohio sportsmen and everyone in our state.”
The new wildlife officers completed 21 weeks of Ohio Peace Officer Basic Training with an additional 10 weeks of specialized training from the Division of Wildlife. Training included law enforcement procedures as well as wildlife and fisheries management, communications skills, ATV and vehicle operations, and advanced firearms and self-defense topics.
The newest state wildlife officers, their hometowns, and their assignments are:
• Corey R. Burroughs, of Canal Fulton, assigned to Holmes County
• Micah T. Collier, of Jackson, Mo., assigned to Brown County
• Taylor N. Combs, of Mount Vernon, assigned to Guernsey County
• Andrew S. Dowdell, of North Ridgeville, assigned to Butler County
• Tyler S. Fields, of Pomeroy, assigned to Scioto County
• Scot D. Gardner, of Malta, assigned to Washington County
• Isaiah T. Gifford, of Zanesville, assigned to Clinton County
• Michael J. Greer, of Bainbridge Township, assigned at-large in northeast Ohio
• Nicholas J. Oliver, of Delaware, assigned to Champaign County
• Caitlin N. Perry, of Athens, assigned to Noble County
• Mark T. Williams, Jr., of Vermilion, assigned to Ashtabula County
Ohio wildlife officers have statewide authority to enforce wildlife regulations and protect state lands, waterways, and property. As state law enforcement officers, they contribute to public safety in their local areas and Ohio’s great outdoors. They also speak to hundreds of clubs and groups about conservation and wildlife programs, perform fish and wildlife conservation duties, and provide technical advice and instruction about wildlife management issues, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor related recreation. For information on the Division of Wildlife and its programs visit wildohio.gov. To learn more about Ohio wildlife officers, go to ohiodnr.gov/careers and see the Becoming an Ohio Wildlife Officer icon.