Va Dept Game and inland fishery news
A number of fisheries are getting a boost with rules that will take effect July 1, 2006.
Aggressive slot limits designed to increase numbers of big smallmouth bass will be implemented on the entire lengths of the New and upper James rivers.
On the James River, all bass between 14 and 22 inches must immediately be released. The slot limit is 14-20 inches on the New River, where the trophy muskie fishery also got a boost when the minimum for those fish was bumped to a whopping 42 inches.
Not everybody is crazy about the bass rules, which have been in place on small sections of the streams for several years. Obviously, they make things tough for tournament fishermen who love to fill their livewells with 18-inchers.
But tournament fishermen are a minority. Most recreational fishermen will happily toss back an 18-inch bass, especially if they think that action will eventually double their chances of catching a 20-inch smallmouth, which is what department biologists say should happen after these rules have time to work.
Smith Mountain Lake's striper fishery also got a boost.
Starting next fall, striped bass fishermen at the lake will be required to release all stripers between 26 and 36 inches from October through May, when release mortality is low.
Hefty stripers were the lake's hallmark before they were killed in 2003 by a forage shortage compounded by a parasite outbreak.
Some striper fanatics argued that the lake's striper population would bounce back without extra protection. A number of guides and tournament anglers also were not too thrilled with the slot limit.
But, again, the majority of fishermen will be willing to make some sacrifices in the hopes of eventually being able to battle 20- and 30-pounders again.
Of course, a fish consumption advisory in place for the lake's stripers makes the slot limit that much easier to swallow.