Posted by TroyJ on February 28, 2005 at 23:25:23:
In Reply to: Gill nets in Alabama posted by Kerry Grissett on February 27, 2005 at 01:43:17:
It's complicated from a humanistic standpoint. Most of the netters are independents, many basically forced into poverty when the state threw it support behind commercial catfish ponds. Commercial ponds make sense, they provide the needed product without the many drawbacks to the increasing recreational use of public waters. Some of the remaining netters are 3rd and 4th generation commercial fishermen at the end of the perverbial rope. A lot of them are good people, but their lifestyle is no longer "PC" and no longer really profitable. The netting does not fit in with the progress of recreational fishing.
The remaining commercial netters do have a right to make a living, and they should be ensured that right. But, no one has the right to make a living when it's a detriment to other industry. The tourism/recreational fishing industry is now the dominate revenue source, as opposed to how things were 30 years ago. We can't continue the slaughter the game fish in order to get cats or rough fish.
Most of the game fish are caught in nets during the spawn cycle. The larger bass, crappie, stripe and bream are wasted in the nets due to the net size. The nets effectively "high grade", thinning out the best gene pool during a critical time. 1 dead egg layden crappie in a net means 500+ dead crappie for next year.
The netters explain that most of the game fish are released alive. That is not what I've personally seen, most I've seen in nets have been dead or near dead. The state seems to believe that there is no detriment to the over all fishery due to netting. That is also not what I've personally seen. I believe there is a major detriment to the biological and economical aspect of our recreational fishery. One netter described to me several years ago that he puts out 20 to 30 nets a day. He described to me that he can find from 10 to 20 bass a day in each net. That's just one netter, there are sometimes over 100 nets on G'ville. You do the math. Let's say you have just 50 nets, 3 days a week and only 10 bass per net during the spawn. That's 1,500 bass over 3 pounds at risk in the nets every week, and that's conservative. I've seen schools of crappie in the nets, we won't even talk about those numbers. I caught a net in my motor on Wheeler one day a few years ago with 20 bass over 3 pounds in it. There were many nets strung out across the flats that day. You have to wonder how we catch any fish at all out there.
The state says that everything we see is misinformation. I guess I'm hallucinating... Maybe we should do a study, get the state to take a few witnesses from the press on a trip up the entire river, pull up the nets and do a count...
We can't blame the netters, those that are legal are doing what they need to do to live. We can blame the state, they need to find a way to take care of the remaining netters, incorporate a more selective method of commercial fishing and get the dadgum gill nets out.
You hear all the time that removing the "rough" fish helps the fishery. Hmmm, a lot of impoundments and rivers don't have nets and seem to get along fine with regard to rough fish...
There are sometimes more gamefish in the nets than rough fish, how does that equasion work? My friend who found the net on G'ville last weekend (shown on ESPN) noted there were more bass and stripe than catfish.
It's a tough situation, and complicated with respect to the law. The more recreational traffic we have out there, the more and more the nets are in the way. I sympathize with the netters, but change is long over due.
I guess it will take someone getting shot over it, or some kid drowning in a net while swimming or skiing to get the state to take some real legislative action. We've found many loons in the nets, I've found them struggling near death on the surface trying to escape, so even birds are at risk.
Since the law protects the netters, it is important to follow the regs. If you get a bait caught in a net, remove it easy and don't tear up or cut the net. Don't get the boat motor or trolling motor anywhere near the net. Don't pull the net, walk it down or damage it. You can be prosecuted and hauled off to jail like Dustin Wilks was last weekend.
I think the netters would work with us on some issues until the nets are gone if we don't destroy their nets. Their nets are expensive.
One of the things I've heard is that when some of the netters get mad, they purposly put an icepick through the game fish. We don't need that.
If you're in a net and confronted by the netter, take it easy, we don't need big words or gun play out there. Those netters I know will actually help you get out of the net if you are cool headded and not destroying their property.
If rec anglers work toward a net ban, we don't need to leave those who've been feeding their families high and dry.
Maybe we can find ways to ease the tension, save a few nets and save a few game fish until the nets are out of our rivers.
Troy Jens (Former Tennessee River Guide).
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