A recent news release grabbed my attention. Agencies studying Toledo Bend grass decline, as reported here on BassFan, discusses the baffling disappearance of acres of aquatic vegetation on the famed Louisiana-Texas reservoir. Biologists there, themselves avid bass anglers, are concerned about the loss of habitat for their favorite gamefish and are determined to learn the cause.

As usual, about halfway through the story, the scientists begin blaming natural environmental occurrences, while quickly discounting measures to control vegetation through herbicide application. Weíve heard this before.

Granted, Iím far from the Toledo Bend story and trust that the Game and Fish folks will investigate the situation with anglersí interests in mind. Like I said, these guys are bass-heads themselves. In the mean time, however, I am fully engrossed in the disappearing grass mystery here in Florida, on a daily basis, really, and Iím growing tired of the excuses. I hope the back and forth banter Iím subject to doesnít spread to famed waters in other parts of the country.

Without going overboard about the situation in Florida, suffice to say that everywhere, in every corner of this massive state, I can name fisheries suffering from aquatic vegetation declines and corresponding water quality issues. Freshwater and saltwater. Famous places and those under-the-radar. Affecting nearly every species of fish that swims.

I also constantly hear theories for the loss of habitat. Hurricanes. Nutrient loading. Farming. Septic tanks.

What I never hear is anyone in water management who deduces one unquestionable fact: For decades now, public and private organizations have continued to use herbicides (weed killers) and fertilizers all over the state of Florida, assuring they would affect only the areas initially sprayed.

That, quite simply, is ludicrous.

To put it simply, in Florida, what weíre experiencing is large scale loss of aquatic habitat, with a finger pointing firmly at vegetation loss as the reason. And water managers who swear itís nobodyís fault.

I certainly hope this story is not one repeating itself in other parts of the country. But I wonder if it is.

The good news: it appears the managers in Louisiana are being proactive and are trying to get in front of this. Perhaps it is, in fact, a result of normal environmental swings. Or other species in the lake are to blame. Regardless, being transparent and involved will help get to the bottom of things. Itís apparent in the same news release that keeping the grass at Toledo Bend is the objective.

Thatís quite a switch, really, from the way most lake managers once looked at aquatic grasses, especially hydrilla. Not long ago, it was thought that any quick-spreading exotic must be eradicated from our waterways.

But, like it or not, hydrilla, Eurasian milfoil, water hyacinths and other exotics are here to stay. Total eradication as a means of treatment, unless youíre talking about a lifeless water fountain, is unacceptable. That ship has sailed.

Whatís needed is strategic care for a resource that considers the value of these plants as much as the detriment. Weíre seeing that, somewhat, in this case. An agreement that aquatic grasses are, in fact, good for fish and good for fishing, but require control.

Itís simple, yet often overlooked by bass anglers. These exotic grasses are capable of completely decimating waterbodies. Iíve personally seen it. A small, beautiful lake I once frequented Ė which held some of the biggest bass in the world Ė is now a festering shadow of itself, thanks to complete overgrowth of hydrilla and corresponding reckless treatment.

The answer lies somewhere in the middle. Like it or not, managers must fess up to the fact that handling these exotic species requires some to be left intact. Often much more than what the books say.

We hear managers argue that removing aquatic vegetation doesnít curtail the overall numbers of fish, or the fishing; that anglers simply have a harder time catching bass in a lake void of cover. The Toledo Bend report hinted to such a claim.

Enough of that nonsense, too.

The benefits of aquatic vegetation reach much further than whatís accounted for in such a blank statement. Recruitment alone Ė that is, the spawning success of bass and other gamefish Ė is richly dependent on weedbeds for the young to hide. The ability for adult bass to hunt and capture prey also revolves around cover. Escaping predators. Avoiding fishing pressure. The entire concept of fish per acre is overwhelmingly higher in bodies of water with significant cover.

This is a fact that bass anglers have known for decades, yet lake managers still have a hard time finding it in their journals.

Okay, enough of my ramblings. But I have to say, almost nothing gets me fired up like the topic of aquatic grasses and spraying. As I mentioned, I live with it in my back yard. I see how our managers and major fishing organizations simply avoid the truth on this. Because they donít have a feasible answer to the problem.

Remember Lake George? Yes, that giant, beautiful Florida lake that attracted every competitor in the Elite Series field not long ago. Where shots of leaping 10-pounders were, literally, commonplace every day of competition.

Wonder why nobody fishes there anymore, despite big tournaments still being held on the St. Johnís River? Because thereís no grass there, and almost no bass. You pick.

Hurricanes, they say.

Certainly, somethingís to blame.

(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)