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Walt Amacker's weekly fishing report in the Times Dispatch consistently blames flatheads for the demise of smallmouth fishing on the upper James. Odd how we willingly writes the same anti-flathead report week after week - Perhaps he is a smallmouth fisherman? My concern is that the report may not be biologically correct yet flatheads could receive some negative pressure if viewed as a nuisance fish.

[q]"A few smallmouth bass have been landed, but flathead catfish are the biggest problems for bass fishermen."[/q]

I spoke with a central Virginia game warden on the issue and he said the recent droughts had much more to do with the smallmouth decline (if there even is a decline) than flatheads. If anything, the flatheads also eat bluegills which should decrease the number of smallnouth fry devoured by bluegill. Bluegill are hell on smallmouth fry.
 

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I hear it all the time Wasabi. It's funny that the Shenandoah has had bad smallmouth fishing the past two years and no flatheads up there. The New has also had a down past couple of years. The educated smallmouth guides tell me that the smallmouths have been suffering b/c of too much rain over the past few years. They say it has really affected their spawn. The rain has also been blamed on the Susequahana(spelling?) River in Pennsylvania.

Now I'm not going to rule out the flathead b/c I don't have any scientific proof or studies to back up any argument....but the same should go for them before they post articles like that. They have no real proof about the flatheads but they blame them anyway. The Times-Dispatch blamed the blue catfish a couple of years ago for wiping out the Hickory/American Shad population(prior to their resurgence) with no proof. (hmm, I guess stripers are vegetarians)

I love to smallmouth fish. I haven't had too many opportunities to go lately but there still seems to be a great population of them above Richmond. Heck(good one Dayton), it's easy to fish for them with minnows and catch 50 or more in a single day. A buddy of mine caught and released a 7 pounder last year above Columbia. He says he catches length citations on a consistant basis.
 

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being a pennsylvania transplant to this land down under i can agree with the rain being the cause for slower smallmouth fishing on the susquehanna

i'd also like to point out that the allegheny river in pennsylvania is another amazing smallmouth river which is LOADED with flatheads .. yet the smallmouth fishing is still awesome

the comments are unfounded and AGAINST most studies that i've read .. flatheads don't get big by chasing fish around .. they're lazy .. i can't see a flathead chasing down a smallmouth for every meal .. they much prefer easy meals

i also agree with the flathead helping to curb the bluegill population and HELPING the smallmouth population .. just yesterday i was fishing in a backwater creek and there were largemouth and beds everywhere .. i bet you i saw 1000 bluegill just hanging out waiting for their chance to hop in there for a meal

that's enough from me .. too much bass talk on the catfishing board
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I more or less sent this same information to Walt Amaker in an email several weeks ago and he never bothered to respond or dispute my input by citing his sources. I hear A LOT OF PEOPLE say "flatheads are eating all the smallmouth" and can only imagine many of them get their fishing information from his column. I'm pretty sure has no opinion himself, he's just writing what the upper James guide(s) tell him. But to keep printing the exact same thing week after week makes one (me at least) question both the accuracy and timeliness of the information he passes along to us. Posting the same boilerplate "fishing report" is boring and not what I expect from an outdoor writer.

The fact I brought this up with him and he has chosen to keep printing the same stuff says something. Hell, a story proving me wrong by citing various informed sources would be interesting and appropriate.

Wish me luck - I'm going Drum, Striper, Blue, Trout, Flounder and Shark fishing next week! I hope i catch something besides rays.
 

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[q]James River Runners, (434) 286-2338, reports sluggish fish and high water continue to hamper anglers. A few smallmouth bass have been landed, but flathead catfish are the biggest problems for bass fishermen. Reports are that the water level is coming down but still is very high. More up-to-date information on the Upper James can be obtained on the Web at jamesriverrunners.com.[/q]

I wrote him and informed him that his report for the upper james is completly inaccurate. I told him that that the water is not high at all. For the last month the river has looked great. I am going to catch a smallmouth this week just so I can send in a smallmouth report. If he is really getting this information from james river runners, I wonder when the last was they were on the river.
 

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It's a horrible fishing report with little effort. I think that if he cannot dedicate the time and canvas folks for a better and certainly more accurate report he should step aside. I too have emailed constructive comments with no replys.
 

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Flatheads are thick on the upper James, but low spawn numbers for the last 4 years is why the smallmouth population is off.

Went fishing last night out of Big Island and we only caught smallmouths and a few sunfish. No flatheads bite at all. Water temp is 70 degrees, so I think the spawn is on for the flatheads.

We are all fishermen and we all know when we have a not so good day of fishing (there is never a BAD day of fishing), we look for all types of excuses to use.

Not the right bait, water too low, water to high, low pressure system, didn't have my lucky rabbits foot, etc, etc!

So blaming the flatheads is a easy excuse to use.

Send this tip to the reporter, on the upper James live bait out catches artificials 2 to 1.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
It was not my intent to bash the outdoor writer - my comments were specifically about the repeated, negative flathead reporting. I did single him out, but of course it is (seemingly) his fishing report. To his credit he does routinely report the catfish bite so he appears to have open lines of communication with the guides (even if the reporting seems monotonously routine). Chris's sturgeon was reported - that was good and interesting - but the report has become quite stale and I find I rarely even bother to read it now. No sense when so much is the same (and often word for word) week to week. Maybe he should go fishing with me - something unique always seems to happen :)
 

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No VGIF report I have ever seen documents Flatheads being a major predator of smallies. Will they eat one? Sure; they will eat any live fish if they can get their mouths around it I think, though they love bluegills best judging by what bait the flathead crowd chooses to use. Stomach content analysis shows sunfish make up the majority of flathead diet, just as the muskie in the upper James eat suckers and not smallies.

Spawning recruitment for smallmouth (Recruitment being the number of fish added to the population every year by spawning.) was poor for 2000-2003 in most smallie rivers in VA. That is why the fishing is off on the James, New, and other VA smallie flows. And by poor I mean almost 0 new fish added. If those fish had survived the drought conditions and then flooding of the first few years of the decade they would be the 10-12 inchers folks catch on most smallie trips. There are still plenty of bigger smallies finning around, thanks largely to the excellent 1997 spawning class, and the 1998 class which was average. These are the majority of the 18-20 inch fish being caught by smallie anglers. A few bruisers from 1993 are left, and they could be up to 24 inches long by now.

Just a side note, notice how long it takes a smallie to reach prime size. Citation smallies are rarer than about any other species of fish in VA, maybe with a couple of exceptions. Weight citations certainly as a 20 inch smallmouth doesn't weigh anywhere near 5lb, even in prespawn in most cases.

Finally, the 2004 spawn is the best documented on record in most VA smallie rivers. These fish will start to show as 8-9 inch fish late this summer. Another super spawn would sure help the smallie fishing if numbers are your game. If you want big fish, then they are there but you won't find many catches of high numbers as there are just never as many big smallies in a river as there are dinks.

VGIF uses June streamflow levels to predict smallie spawns. Seems too high or too low water in June are equally as bad for the fry: too high they wash away in the current; too low they cannot get into cover to hide from predators. Last year June flows on most rivers were slightly above average annual which is exactly where the VGIF model says they should be for the best spawning recruitment.
 

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My father and I do a couple of float trips on the James ( Springwood to Buchanon or Glen Wilton to Eagle Rock) every year and thats the far upper James. While we do catch a couple of flatheads on every trip, we average about 50-75 smallmouth each trip.[smile]

DARREN
 
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