Short Strikes No. 9

This week, Short Strikes heads to the bayou to test new gear from Shimano, delves into EPA reports on climate change, and asks if science really can save troubled fisheries.

No Coldwater for Old Men?

A 2012 Southwick Associates report listed the estimated number of fly anglers in the U.S. at just shy of 4 million. Among those, analysts say that about 1.5 million are “enthusiasts.” Southwick also says 56 percent of fly fishing sales take place west of the Rocky Mountains, though nearly 25 percent goes to the southeast. The total economic impact of fly fishing in the U.S? In 2012, the estimate hit $750 million—to independent retailers alone.

The strike: According to an Environmental Protection Agency study of fisheries and climate change, cold water fisheries could all but vanish from large swaths of the U.S. within 70 years. That’s during the lifetime of some of you readers, and certainly within the lifetime of your children or grandchildren.

The hardest hit areas will be Appalachia and the West. Basically, trout or salmon fishing in any region you see in red below could be completely annihilated by climate change … and quickly. Not a fly fisherman? Still a problem. The brown areas indicate warm water (read “bass”) fisheries that will turn rough, becoming havens for trash fish like carp and catfish, but not bass.

The EPA has a plan to mitigate the damage: one which could reduce the loss of habitat from 65-percent to just 12-percent and save hundreds of millions of dollars in fishing-related spending from disappearing. Read up on the complete findings here.

Figure: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Bantamweight Baller

Short Strikes had the opportunity to get hands-on with Shimano’s latest casting reel in the muggy marshes of Louisiana this week. After a solid 16 hours of abuse, I’ll vouch for the all-new Bantam MGL. At $349, Bantam MGL slides between Chronarch ($280) and Metanium ($420) in Shimano’s bass blasting lineup. What stands out? Bantam is solid as a rock, being largely constructed of a single piece of aluminum, and forged in Shimano’s legendary Osaka-based factories. Shimano says that gives Bantam more durability than even the higher-priced Metanium. In fact, Bantam is targeted specifically for heavy-use anglers who plan to beat the snot out of their gear for six to eight years. I say the unique construction gives Bantam a detailed, smooth look that you’re not likely to stumble upon amidst its competition.

A more weighty word: “The big thing with Bantam is extreme cast-ability,” says Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jonathon VanDam. “I’m using it for crankbaits, bladed jigs and other search baits. Because of its solid construction, the reel itself becomes more a part of the rod, and its a little smaller profile than some of the other reels, so you can palm it easily.”

JVD isn’t off. The Bantam’s construction did appear to add sensitivity to a swim jig setup that I threw on both the Curado K and Bantam. With the Bantam, I could absolutely feel the flippers on a Strike King Rage Tail trailer thumping through the reel. I tried this test on a range of Shimano rods from the Curado stable to the Zodias and G.Loomis Conquest. Sensitivity naturally went up as rod quality increased; however, the uptick in feel was palpable across the line when paired with Bantam.

The strike: One of those legendary Osaka-based factories caught fire this week. So far, Shimano says impact on order fulfillment will be minimal. The guess right now is that most of the impacted facilities centered around bicycle components, but Shimano’s fishing department hasn’t released a detailed statement yet. Short Strikes doesn’t expect Bantam fulfillment to be impacted—the Shimano crew in Louisiana thought most of the fire was over a cafeteria—but Shimano Japan isn’t saying anything for sure just yet.

Holy Mackerel

In the mid-2000s, Pacific jack mackerel were in dire straights. The fish, which loiter in international waters hundreds of miles off the South American coast, were being hit hard by Chilean, Russian, Chinese and Korean commercial fishermen. As catches rose from hundreds of tons in the 1970s to millions of tons in the ’80s and ’90s, the jack mackerel population in the Pacific appeared to be headed for an irreversible collapse. A population that was estimated at 13 million when Led Zeppelin was topping the charts dwindled to around 2 million by the time Britney Spears stopped producing hit singles.

International meetings cranked up in 2006, pitting fishery scientists from across the globe against commercial fishermen. Reason prevailed as both groups began to work together to save the fishery, creating the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization, headed by the U.S., Russia and Chile. By 2013, the jack mackerel catch was down from a million to 450,000 tons. And last year, jack mackerel population estimates hit 5 million.

The strike: Scientists say they can’t declare victory yet. Jack mackerel numbers will have to continue to grow upwards of 5 million, even as a milestone approaches. In 2019, catch limits could be increased, placing the fish in peril once again. Still, in a world where skepticism looms over science-based fishery management, the parable of the jack mackerel is a lesson that perhaps its not too late when anglers, businesses, scientists and lawmakers work together.