Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

140-pound teen lands 201-pound catfish

Jake North with his catch

The Daily Mail (the one in London, not our sister paper here in Charleston) has a cool story about a British 13-year-old, Jake North, landed a 201-pound wels catfish during a vaction in Spain.

Jake landed the fish by himself, but his guide had to hold the boy by the waist to keep him from being dragged into the river.


Snuffbox mussel

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed Endangered Species act protection for two species of freshwater mussels known to exist in West Virginia.

One species, the rayed bean mussel, was believed to have been extirpated from the state until a 2006 survey found a population in the Elk River. The other species, the snuffbox mussel, has been found in the Elk River, the North Fork of the Hughes River and Middle Island Creek. Another snuffbox population had been found in Dunkard Creek, but  that was before a pollution-triggered algae bloom killed off almost all the aquatic life in that stream.

Fish and Wildlife officials will hold a public hearing to help determine whether to grant Endangered Species Act protection to the two species. The decision could have ramifications that extend far past the mussels themselves.

When critters attain endangered status, their habitat must be protected. In the case of mussels, the factors that most affect them are water quality and stream bottom disturbance. If the aforementioned streams are determined to be critical habitat for the two species, businesses likely will find it much more difficult to build, dig, drill or extract water within those streams’ drainage systems.

Fisheries biologists have long sought watershed-wide protection for the Elk, which through the years has suffered damage from mining, oil and gas drilling, road construction, dam building, private development and other human-related insults. The biologists believe a watershed protection plan would, among other things,  improve fishing by forcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain more mussel- and fish-friendly flows from Sutton Dam downstream.

It will be interesting to see if that happens.

Nitro to stock trout for this weekend

Coming to Nitro on Friday

Nitro Mayor Rusty Casto sent an e-mail with information that should be of interest to Charleston-area trout-fishing enthusiasts:

The City of Nitro will conduct a trout stocking at 8 a.m. Oct. 29 at Ridenour Lake.
The lake will be open to anglers of all ages. Anglers age 15 to 64 must have valid West Virginia fishing licenses with trout stamps.
Brookies preparing a nest

As hobbies go, Steve Brown’s is a bit out of the ordinary. Yeah, he’s a fisherman, but that’s not the least bit unusual. What sets Brown apart from other anglers is what he does when he doesn’t have a fly rod in his hand.

He photographs spawning brook trout. He catches them preparing their nests, going through courtship rituals and consummating their ardor.

The lead feature on this week’s Gazette-Mail Woods & Waters page chronicles Brown’s offbeat pursuit.

The app's fish ID feature

I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone came up with a fish identification/record catch database application for all the iDevices. The International Game Fish Association just made the announcement:

DANIA BEACH, Fla., USA — You’re still reeling from your fish fight and the one you just brought to the boat is definitely your biggest yet – but is it an IGFA World Record?  How will you weigh it, and how will you share the moment with your buddies back on land?
Finally, the IGFA has an iPhone app anglers have been asking for. The IGFA Mobile App will amaze your friends and inspire your fishing adventures with all the knowledge you’ll have at your fingertips. You can quickly identify your catches with stunning full-color images, then search for vacant, pending, and standing IGFA World Records, all from this amazing app.
Even if your fish is a pound shy of a record, this app has plenty of functions for every angler. From planning your next trip to tracking your IGFA Slam Club progress to sharing your catches with family and friends, the IGFA Mobile has you covered.
Check out some of its many features:
  • World Record Database – Want to know how your catch measures up to the world’s greatest? The app is automatically updated with the latest records on over 1100 species when it is opened and connected to a cellular or wi-if connection. Great for comparing what you’ve hooked – or planning to fill a vacant record. It’s an IGFA exclusive.
  • IGFA Species ID – Along with marine artists Diane Rome Peebles’ and Duane Ravers’ incredible full-color images of every record game species, the ID descriptions include extensive reference material from the IGFA including thorough habitat information, geographic distribution and anatomy and it’s only available from the experts at the IGFA.
  • My Catches – Take a photo (iPhone 3Gs or 4) of the monster fish you land, enter the details of your fight and upload to Facebook or email with one easy step. On the iPhone or iPad, GPS functions will automatically record the location of your catches as you log them.
  • Quest List – This is for anglers on a mission. Track your progress towards your next IGFA Weight Club (for bass, snook, or bonefish) or IGFA Slam Club. You can also create your own customizable quest.
  • IGFA Weigh Stations – Do you think your catch is close to the current record? One quick tap and you’ll know how close you are to an official IGFA Weigh Station, with maps to help you get there, and it’s also an IGFA exclusive.
  • Trip Planning List – A successful angler is a prepared angler, and using your list will give you the best shot of having a great day on the water.
  • IGFA Rules – Make sure your catch counts every time. Consult the IGFA International Angling Rules – for both conventional and flyrod – to make sure your next catch won’t be disqualified and it’s only available from the IGFA.

The app carries an introductory price of $8.99. Information is available from the IGFA website.

Winfield fishing access reopens

The Winfield fishing access

Good news just in from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

The fishing access area along U.S. Route 35 at the Winfield Locks and Dam is now open. Corps officials temporarily closed the area Sept. 27 so workers could replace the handrails along the access piers. The opening comes in time for the fall walleye bite, which generally heats up as the Kanawha River’s water temperatures cool down.

Bill Chapman

Congratulations to Bill Chapman of Salt Rock, W.Va., for winning the FLW American Fishing Series’ Northern Division season championship.

Chapman finished the three-tournament series with 561 points, five points more than runner up Darrin Schwenkbeck of Varysburg, N.Y. For winning the season championship, Chapman earns a spot in November’s AFS Championship tournament and a berth in next August’s Forrest Wood Cup.

He also qualified to fish the big-league FLW Tour next year. A season’s worth of fishing on the tour costs $40,000 in entry fees, so the 58-year-old West Virginian is scrambling to try to secure sponsorships. He says that if he gets the necessary sponsors, he’ll spend next year on the FLW cast-for-cash circuit.

Coal mine plan could imperil trout stream

Cassselman River near Grantsville (Md. DNR photo)

For trout fishermen in northeastern West Virginia, Maryland’s Casselman River has long been a popular angling destination.

They’d better enjoy it while they still have it.

Maryland environmental regulators have approved plans for an underground coal mine that would tunnel beneath the river near Grantsville. The coal seam in question is high-sulfur coal, which dramatically increases the likelihood that any discharge from the mine will be highly acidic.

Authorities believe they’ve built enough safeguards into the coal company’s permit to prevent an environmental disaster from happening.

Anglers and environmentalists are up in arms. Here’s an Associated Press synopsis of the controversy:

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Maryland environmental regulators said Friday they have issued the final state permit for an underground coal mine that would tunnel beneath the Casselman River near Grantsville, upstream of a popular trout-fishing section of the western Maryland waterway.

Project opponents said they will challenge the Department of the Environment’s decision favoring mine operator Maryland Energy Resources LLC, a subsidiary of Joseph Peles Coal Co. of Indiana, Pa.

Approval of the water discharge permit followed the Department of Natural Resources’ withdrawal of an objection that water pumped from the mine into the river could harm two state-endangered species downstream — the hellbender salamander and stonecat catfish.

To address that concern, the permit limits the discharge to 144,000 gallons of water per day, less than 30 percent of the 500,000 gallons the company sought. Any increase in the permitted discharge rate would require further DNR evaluation of the potential harm to the endangered species.

The permit also requires continuous monitoring of the river’s pH and flow, hourly temperature readings from May 15 to Sept. 30 and quarterly biomonitoring. To avoid acid mine drainage, which can kill virtually all aquatic life, the mine must be designed and operated in such a manner that water cannot passively flow out of the mine.

The conditions didn’t satisfy opposition leader Steven Putman, of Glenelg, whose family owns 48 acres near the mine site. Putman said his group has twice documented sediment runoff into the river from the company’s preliminary construction work.

“Clearly, this issue warrants immediate action on the State’s behalf to protect this river,” Putman said in a letter Friday to Department of the Environment Secretary Shari T. Wilson. “As we have stated before in previous correspondence with your department, it is our assertion that this permitee lacks the experience and stewardship commitment to protect the river from the adverse affects of their mining operation.”

Joseph Peles didn’t immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press.

The mine would extract an estimated 360,000 tons of coal annually for 20 years from deposits beneath about 3,000 acres south of Grantsville. It would be Maryland’s largest working deep mine.

Peles said previously it could take three to five months from the issuance of the permit to the start of mining operations.

Hunters, anglers help pay for conservation

Today is one of two National Hunting and Fishing Days, both celebrated this weekend.

For those who might wonder why we should celebrate hunting and fishing, consider this: By the late 1920s, wildlife populations were at an ebb. Deer were hard to find. So were elk and pronghorn antelope. Ditto wild turkeys. Ducks numbers were falling steadily.

Then the hunting community came up with a novel idea — an essentially self-imposed excise tax on guns, ammunition and other hunting equipment. The federal government would collect the taxes and return the money to the states for wildlife restoration programs.

Congress put the idea into law in the form of the Pittman-Robertson Act. Not long afterward, the Dingell-Johnson Act imposed a similar excise tax on fishing equipment, with the money going to fisheries-restoration projects.

Today’s hunters and anglers enjoy the fruits of their forebears’ foresightedness. Celebrate? You bet!

Popular W.Va. fishery to close temporarily

The Winfield access piers

One of West Virginia’s most popular fishing spots will be closed for two weeks beginning Sept. 27.

The fishing-access piers at the Kanawha River’s Winfield Locks and Dam will be closed while construction crews install new handrails.

The fishing-access area on the Winfield side of the dam is the only one affected. Anglers will still be able to fish on the Eleanor side.

All facilities on the Winfield side — including the parking lot and the handicap-access ramp — will be closed during the construction. The work is expected to take roughly two weeks. Officials expect the access area to reopen Oct. 9.

The Winfield Locks offer some of the best mixed-bag fishing in the state. Species include largemouth, smallmouth, hybrid striped and white bass; sunfish; channel and flathead catfish; freshwater drum; gar; and sauger and walleye.