Thursday, March 29, 2012
A new Oklahoma state record largemouth bass was caught Friday, March 23, at Cedar Lake in southeast Oklahoma. The fish weighed 14 lbs. 12.3 oz. and was caught by Poteau angler Benny Williams, Jr. while on a camping trip at the 78-acre LeFlore Co. lake.
Williams caught the bass at 11 a.m. on a ¼ oz. Strike King jig. This fish measured 26 inches in length and 22 3/8 inches in girth.
Williams' fish breaks a state record held since 1999 when William Cross caught a 14-lb. 11.52-oz. bass from Broken Bow Lake.
"Catching the state record largemouth bass in Oklahoma is a big deal and catching a fish this large is a big deal," said Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It speaks to the quality of fishing we have in Oklahoma and also to the anglers who get out there and fish for them. We congratulate him on his great catch."
The last two state record largemouth bass as well as several from the state's Top 20 Largemouth Bass List have been caught in the southern and southeast regions of the state. Fish are cold-blooded, so their metabolisms work faster in warmer conditions and they grow more rapidly. Lakes in the southeast region of the state tend to warm up earlier and cool off later in the year than in other regions, which affords these fish a longer growing season.
According to Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department, Cedar Lake has been known to produce big largemouth bass for anglers in recent years - not only because of its southeastern location, but also because it has a history of receiving Florida strain largemouth bass through the state's stocking program.
"They grow pretty fast down in that part of the state," Gilliland said. "Cedar Lake has produced several double-digit fish in the last five years."
Anglers who believe they may have hooked a record fish must weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale, and a Wildlife Department employee must verify the weight. For a complete list of record fish and the procedures for certifying a state record, consult the current "Oklahoma Fishing Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
When James D. Hitchens of Georgetown set out yesterday for his favorite Sussex County fishing hole, he planned to catch largemouth bass, baiting his line with a live shiner minnow. However, he didn’t expect to set a new state record with the big bass that took his bait. “I’ve never had one over eight pounds,” Hitchens said. “So I was hoping for over eight pounds.”
Hitchens got his wish and then some when he reeled in a 10-pound, 10-ounce female largemouth measuring 26 inches long and 18 3/4 inches in girth, as measured at Taylored Tackle Shop in Seaford and verified by DNREC Fisheries biologists Nathan Rust and Jordan Zimmerman. During the certification process, the tackle shop kept the fish in an aerated tank, and after it was measured and verified, Hitchens released it, alive, back into the pond where he caught it. "I put her right back where she came from," said Hitchens, a longtime Delaware angler. "I release all my big fish."
Fisheries staff applauded Hitchens’ good sportsmanship in releasing his record catch. "We encourage catch and release fishing in Delaware, especially with larger fish like this one," said Fisheries biologist Cathy Martin. "Not only will this fish be back out there for other anglers to enjoy, it should also see another spawning season to pass on its good genes to another generation of largemouth bass and thereby improve our bass stock."
Division of Fish and Wildlife Fisheries staff monitor Delaware’s freshwater ponds and their fish populations, Martin said. Biologists have a variety of tools for managing fisheries: specialized regulations such as slot limits, stocking programs to bolster the population, removing specific size groups to reduce overcrowding and balance populations, habitat changes such as removal of invasive species, and supplementing food supply, for example, by stocking shiners. "Having healthy fish the size of the new record-holder largemouth bass in our ponds is a good indicator of the success of these management practices," Martin added.
Since 1937, Delaware also has received funding from the federal Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program. Last year, the state Fisheries Section received about $3.5 million in federal matching funds to help support state fisheries restoration work, with Delaware fishing license fees supplying the match for the federal program.
“Later this year we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of this longstanding state and federal partnership, which is a great model for how to accomplish cost-effective resource management funded by those who directly benefit from the resource – the anglers. The general public benefits from this funding model and partnership as well,” said David Saveikis, Director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Meanwhile, we also look forward to more signs of success from our Fisheries management practices.”
Friday, March 16, 2012
Photos of a mammoth spider devouring a bird in a Queensland backyard are sweeping email inboxes — and according to experts, it's all real.
The photos — which are reported to have been taken this week in Atherton, west of Cairns — show the spider clenching its legs around a lifeless bird trapped in a web.
Head spider keeper at the Australian Reptile Park at Gosford on NSW central coast, Joel Shakespeare, said the spider was a Golden Orb Weaver.
"Normally they prey on large insects… it's unusual to see one eating a bird," he told ninemsn.
Mr Shakepeare said he had seen Golden Orb Weaver spiders as big as a human hand but the northern species in tropical areas were known to grow larger.
Queensland Museum identified the bird as a native finch called the Chestnut–breasted Mannikin.
The bird, which appears frozen in an angel-like pose, most likely flew into the web and got caught, according to Mr Shakepeare.
"It wouldn't eat the whole bird," he said.
But the spider would probably prepare a liquid soup with the finch — as it does with insects — and discard of what it doesn't need.
"It uses its venom to break down the bird for eating and what it leaves is a food parcel," he said.
Greg Czechura from Queensland Museum said cases of the Golden Orb Weaver eating small birds were "well known but rare".
"It builds a very strong web," he said.
But he said the spider would not have attacked until the bird weakened.
"They blunder into [the webs] and their feathers get entangled," he said.
"The more they struggle, the more tangled up and exhausted they get and they go into stress."
The Golden Orb Weaver spins a strong web high in protein because it depends on it to capture large insects for food, unlike funnel web and wolf spiders that actively hunt their prey.
Another species called the bird-eating spider does not actually eat birds.
"If a spider gets a bird, it's a very lucky spider," Mr Czechura said.
Felix's words from facebook.com:
First Test jump was a total success listen up everybody - I am back on earth:) You already now what happened but I just wanted to post a couple of words in respect to all of you. I know you have been with me - all the way UP and Down!! I am still stoked and can't find the words to describe what happened today at 7 30 A...M. Anyway, I have seen a lot of happy faces on site and nothing else matters. The happiest one is probably my buddy and suit guy Mike Todd, who was the first on in the dessert to pick me up. I stepped of at 21.818 meters and reached 587 km/h. Free fall time was 3 min 33 seconds. There is only 2 more guys who skydived from a higher altitude. No 1 is our friend Joe Kittinger and No 2 is Roger Eugene Andreyev from Russia! Pretty small club, isn't it. Love you all FELIX, going to bed now before the party start here in Roswell. 71,000 feet
"Fearless Felix" Baumgartner has jumped 2,500 times from planes and helicopters, as well as some of the highest landmarks and skyscrapers on the planet – the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, the Millau Viaduct in southern France, the 101-story Taipei 101 in Taiwan.
He's also leapt face-first into a pitch-dark, 620-foot-deep cave in Croatia – his most dangerous feat yet, he says, but soon to be outdone.
This summer, Baumgartner hopes to hurtle toward Earth at supersonic speed from a record 23 miles up, breaking the sound barrier with only his body.
He made it more than halfway there during a critical dress rehearsal Thursday, ascending from the New Mexico desert in a helium balloon and jumping from more than 13 miles up. He is believed to be only the third person to leap from such a high altitude and free fall to a safe landing – and the first to do so in 50 years. The record is Air Force test pilot Joe Kittinger's jump from 102,800 feet – 19.5 miles – in 1960.
"I'm now a member of a pretty small club," Baumgartner said in remarks provided by representatives.
Baumgartner tested the same pressurized capsule and full-pressure suit that he will use in a few months for a record-setting free fall from 120,000 feet. The extra protection is needed because there's virtually no atmosphere at such heights.
That's nowhere near space, but high enough to grab NASA's attention.
Engineers working on astronaut escape systems for future spacecraft have their eyes on this Austrian skydiver, former military parachutist, extreme athlete and, yes, daredevil known as "Fearless Felix."
"I like to challenge myself," Baumgartner, 42, explained in a recent interview, "and this is the ultimate skydive. I think there's nothing bigger than that."
Thursday's test run provided the boost Baumgartner was hoping for.
"That was the momentum we needed for the whole team. Now we are ready for the 90,000 jump," Baumgartner said, referring to the next trial run.
"I could not really feel my hands in free fall as it was so cold. We have to work on this," he added.
Baumgartner's 100-foot helium balloon and pressurized capsule lifted off from Roswell, N.M., on Thursday morning. He jumped at 71,581 feet – 13.6 miles – and landed safely eight minutes and eight seconds later, according to spokeswoman Trish Medalen. He reached speeds of up to 364.4 mph and was in free fall for three minutes and 43 seconds, before pulling his parachute cords, Medalen said.
"The view is amazing, way better than I thought," Baumgartner said after the practice jump.
(Commercial jets generally cruise at just over 30,000 feet.)
After one more trial run, he'll attempt 120,000 feet, or 22.8 miles. The launch window opens in July and extends until the beginning of October; it's based on optimal weather at the Roswell site.
"Keep in mind that at 120,000 feet ... there is no atmosphere to sustain human life," said Dustin Gohmert, manager of NASA's crew survival engineering office at Johnson Space Center in Houston. "To the body, it's no different than being in deep space, save from possibly more radiation shielding from the little atmosphere you have. You need the full protection of the pressure suit."
The record-holder Kittinger was in free fall for four minutes, 36 seconds, and accelerated to 614 mph, equivalent to Mach 0.9, just shy of the sound barrier. For his grand finale, Baumgartner expects to be in free fall for five minutes, 35 seconds, and achieve Mach 1, or 690 mph. All told, the descent should take 15 to 20 minutes.
Dr. Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon who heads Baumgartner's medical team, puts the chance of survival as "very high." Injury is possible.
"Sure, I fear" for Baumgartner's life, said Clark, whose astronaut wife, Laurel, died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003. "I mean, this is high-risk stuff."
Baumgartner is a perfectionist with a test pilot's personality and drive, according to Clark, and definitely not a flamboyant risk taker. He's survived as a BASE jumper, Clark noted, referring to the sport of jumping off fixed structures and using parachutes to break the fall. "They don't live long if they're not good."
The project, called Red Bull Stratos, is sponsored by the energy drink maker. (Stratos refers to the stratosphere.) The project costs have not been disclosed.
Kittinger's Excelsior mission was Air Force; he was a test pilot when he made his record-setting jump from an open, unpressurized gondola, long before anyone had rocketed into space.
Now 83, Kittinger lives near Orlando, Fla., and has been working with Baumgartner for three years. He took part in Thursday's test, as did Clark.
Kittinger is amazed no one has broken his free-falling record, after so many decades.
"In the 52 years since I did it, there have been a lot of improvements in pressure suits, in communications and life-support systems. But the only thing that really has not changed is how hostile it is at that altitude," Kittinger said. "It's almost a complete vacuum."
That's why NASA is so interested, even though space officially begins considerably higher at an even 100 kilometers, 328,084 feet or 62 miles.
In the nine years since the Columbia tragedy, emergency escape has been a top priority for NASA. The seven astronauts were killed during re-entry at just over 200,000 feet, nearly double Baumgartner's targeted altitude.
Granted, NASA's retired space shuttles will never fly again. But with so many different types of spacecraft in development by so many different companies, NASA wants to keep astronauts as safe as possible and provide a means for escape in the decades ahead.
Baumgartner's experience is sure to provide important lessons, Gohmert said.
Indeed, Baumgartner considers himself a pioneer – and a cautious one. He's following Kittinger's example of jumping in incrementally higher stages.
Kittinger nearly died trying on his own first dress rehearsal.
While jumping from 76,400 feet in 1959, Kittinger's small, stabilizing parachute opened too soon and got tangled around his neck. He went into a downward spin and blacked out. He was saved only by the automatic deployment of his emergency chute.
"I had confidence in myself and my equipment and my team. That never varied," Kittinger said. "Felix has to have the same thing."
Baumgartner insists he won't take any chances. Plus he's spent the past five years surrounding himself with "the right people," most notably Kittinger, a retired Air Force colonel and former Vietnam POW. A lawsuit, claiming theft by Red Bull of the idea, held things up; it was settled out of court last year.
Baumgartner – a lean but muscular 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds – said he minimizes risk through preparation.
"We're not going from zero to hero," Baumgartner said last month.
Like NASA, he's put together a big what-if list: What if this goes wrong? What if that does?
What scares him most, Baumgartner said, sounding like so many astronauts, are the things he hasn't thought of yet.
Simply put, the unknown unknown
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Just shy of 36 years. That's how long the Arkansas state record for largemouth bass has stood. Until yesterday.
Paul Crowder of Forrest City, Ark., has caught what is now the state record largemouth on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Crowder was said to be fishing for catfish all day without any luck on Lake Dunn, near Wynne, Ark. He cast a 6-inch Mann's Jelly Worm out on a Texas rig with 14-pound Trilene and set his rod down. Next thing he knows, the rod is going out of the boat. He grabbed it, fought the bass for a bit and lipped it.
The fish was 16.5 pounds, measured 26.5 inches long and 22.75 inches in girth.
For full details on Crowder's catch and more pictures of the fish, visit ArkansasMatters.com.