A Happy Ending To A Fishy Story

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Gotta love all those happy bass. The latest figures from the Arizona Game and Fish Department confirm what anglers have learned: Roosevelt Lake has turned into bass heaven.

As a result, Arizona Game and Fish biologists say the state can lift the restriction on keeping 13- to 16-inch-long bass that has been in place for the past eight years.

That good news comes just in time for the FLW National Guard Bass Tournament, which should bring some of the country’s best bass fishermen and a gleaming school of fans and television cameras to Rim Country in September.

Hopefully, the Game and Fish Commission will act on the recommendation of its fish experts on Aug. 7 and lift the slot limit.

Back when the commission imposed the restrictions, it took the average fisherman eight hours to nab a bass —which perhaps explains why they kept half of the bass they caught. Now, it takes an hour, on average and fishermen keep just 7 percent of the fish they catch.

Moreover, the lake has risen to record levels — submerging shoreline vegetation. The nutrients injected into the water creates a “new lake” effect, with a boom in both bait fish and bass.

Studies show that the average fisherman spends about $200 a day and that Roosevelt generates more than 300,000 angler days annually. The FLW tournament will only boost that impact, thanks to the national exposure such a tournament yields.

Tournament advocates worried about the impact of the slot limit on that exposure. Tournament fishermen keep their five biggest fish for weigh in, but the slot limit would have forced them to throw a lot of fish back — even though they would release all the fish alive at the end of the tournament. Because of the limit, a worrisome number of anglers showed up at the televised weigh in with just three or four fish — or with a couple of small fish under the slot limit.

Fortunately, Game and Fish completed the study just in time and thoughtfully moved up the meeting to make a decision before the tournament

So now the biologists are happy. The anglers are happy.

And best of all — them bass be happy.

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