SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. — Leading a fizzing study and increasing membership were the golden tickets for an Ontario club and the Michigan chapter, earning them both awards from the Berkley Conservation Institute and the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation.
Each year, the Berkley Conservation Institute recognizes organizations that make outstanding efforts in both conservation and angler recruitment. This year's recipient for the conservation award is the Aurora Bassmasters of Ontario, Canada, for its study on fizzing. The Michigan B.A.S.S. Federation Nation chapter was recognized for expanding its membership by 43 percent.
Jim Martin, conservation director for the Berkley Conservation Institute, rallied for the continuation of these recognition programs, despite the economy being less-than-ideal for giving out money.
"This is a very exciting program put on by Pure Fishing that helps stimulate conservation and Federation Nation recruitment programs across North America," he said. "It was very exciting to work with [BASS Conservation Director] Chris Horton on this. BASS should be proud to have him."
Martin praised both the Aurora Bassmasters and the Michigan Federation Nation for their efforts and said their achievements set a new standard for both member recruitment and conservation initiatives.
"The criteria we were looking for are the scope of the project and the level of partnership with other organizations involved," Martin said. "Of all the applications received, these two clubs demonstrated a high level of involvement with their DNR and communities."
As a fisheries scientist, Martin was especially keen on the Aurora Bassmasters' efforts in collaborating with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR).
Wil Wegman, conservation and media director for the Ontario B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, spearheaded a fizzing project four years ago with help from eight sources, including the OMNR and nearby Queens University. Wegman's original plan has evolved into a project that has branched out into other areas of conservation study.
"The initial goal was to get stakeholders involved and participating in the conservation side of the sport," Wegman said. "Since then, we've spilled over into other aspects of conservation, such as tagging studies. The research and data found on both tagging and fizzing can be applied to other areas of fisheries science as well, so we're proud of the work we've done."
Wegman's group expanded its scope to include a tagging study after reports of tags falling off or failing. So far, he has found merit in double tagging fish because the recapture rate has increased since the groups started double tagging.
The site of their studies is Lake Simcoe, the sixth largest lake in the province of Ontario. It is one hour north of Toronto and covers 280 square miles, or 179,000 acres. Because it is a multispecies lake, Simcoe also sees the most fishing pressure of all the lakes.
The Aurora Bassmasters study earned the club $2,000, which Wegman said will go right back into the project.
"Since we've started double tagging, our costs have doubled, so we could use more tags," he said.
Michigan B.A.S.S. Federation Nation
The Michigan BASS Federation Nation increased its membership by 43 percent through its Drive the State event. The event consisted of collaborating with state clubs, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and several school districts. Paul Sacks, Michigan B.A.S.S. Federation Nation president, credits Tom Boland, youth director and elementary school teacher, for putting the Michigan Federation Nation over the top in terms of memberships.
"Tom knew BASS was involved at the high school and collegiate level, so he thought, 'why not get them before they become involved in anything else?'" Sacks said. "Two years ago we had three youth clubs with about 70 members, and this past year we have expanded to seven clubs and more than 250 members."
Boland holds a monthly meeting in his classroom, where he teaches ethics, conservation and basic angling skills. By summer, he will have Federation Nation members bring their boats to teach the youth about boating safety.
Sacks' group also drew members from veterans associations and two Michigan universities. The Michigan Federation Nation earned a Toyota Tundra, $2,500 cash and $1,000 of Berkley Gulp baits for its achievement. Sacks plans to raffle off the truck and reinvest the proceeds into the chapter.
"Last year, [winning chapter] Alabama got more than $40,000 from the truck, so we're hoping to do some really good stuff with the money," he said. "A big thank you goes out to Berkley, Toyota and BASS."
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