Daily Archives: April 13, 2013

Angling Couple Holds Records after Catching Tournament-winning Blue Catfish

by Daniel Xu

Outdoor Hub Reporters

Stefanie Stanley hooked a giant-sized blue catfish at the Catfish Chasers Tournament inKansas last Saturday, securing her first place on the podium and the biggest catch recorded in any of the state’s lakes. According to Kansas.com, the Olathe resident was fishing in Milford Reservoir when the catfish took her shad bait.

“We knew he was nice, but then he came up and barrel-rolled beside the boat,” Stefanie said. “We were like, ‘Holy cow, this is a whopper.’ It has shoulders on it like a linebacker.”

It weighed in at a little over 82 pounds and needless to say, she won the tournament by a sizable margin.

“These blue catfish are really growing, they’re making a world-class fishery here inKansas in a lot of our lakes,” said David Studebake, co-owner of the tournament. “It won’t be long before the new state record comes from Milford. It may only be a couple of years.”

Perhaps that new record will come from the same fish. Stanley’s stunning catch was released back into the water after spending some time in a tank while officials weighed it. According to the tournament owners, it is the largest catfish ever caught in Milford Reservoir, and the biggest from any Kansas lake.

Still, it wasn’t entirely unexpected for Stefanie. The Stanleys are known for hauling big fish. Last summer Stephanie’s daughter BayLeigh caught a 70-pound catfish from the Kaw River, which seems small next to her husband’s 102.9-pound catch out of the Missouri River.

“She has the biggest ever from a lake, and he has the biggest from a Kansas river,” said Studebake’s partner Rich Witt. “Those are some nice fish.”

Stefanie’s husband, Robert Stanley, currently holds the state record for the largest blue caught not only in a river, but anywhere in the state.

When FOX4 asked him if he thought his wife was trying to one-up him, Robert replied, “more power to her. I was excited she did it and by herself too.”

Stefanie’s previous personal best was a 48-pounder.

“It’s kind of like giving birth, that feeling you’re just shaking, you’re in awe. It’s an amazing feeling!” Stefanie said. Her team also bagged $2,000 in the tournament.

Part of their success can be attributed to the catch-and-release policies of tournaments like the Catfish Chasers as well as a boom in the species’ population. Although native to Kansaswaters, new regulations and abundant food have led to an increase in the blue catfish. They also serve to decrease the number of invasive zebra mussels, which they munch down on with zeal.

Cornell Labs’ ‘Merlin’ to be a Bird ID Wizard

Krishna Ramanujan

Soon, when you see a bird you can’t identify, Merlin, a new online bird ID tool from Cornell, will be able to help.

When sent a photo, Merlin’s visual recognition system will help ID the bird. If a photo is not available, Merlin will play “20 questions,” asking the inquirer about the location and date of the sighting among other questions before suggesting which species is most likely.

The developers seek the public’s help to train the program, now under development at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (with plans for a prototype later this year). Like a child learning new skills, this artificial intelligence program needs lots of input to become more accurate.

“Right now, the algorithms are being trained to help Merlin understand how people see, remember and describe birds,” said Scott Haber, the project’s digital content manager. “It starts with data, such as observations from the eBird citizen-science project to narrow down which species are most likely to be found at any given location and time of year. But Merlin also learns from interactions as users play with it. We want the public to participate to help make Merlin smarter.”

People can contribute through six activities at http://AllAboutBirds.org/labs. While bolstering Merlin, users also become better birders by learning which features are important. “Mark My Bird” shows users a photo of, say, a cardinal and then asks them to click on graphics to indicate the bird’s color patterns, size and shape. Another activity, “Bird Color Challenge,” flashes a photo of a bird, then asks users to select the most prominent colors they remember.

Some of the activities help the computer-vision program recognize birds in photos. “Image Share” enables people to upload photos for Merlin’s database; “Best Shot” asks users to choose which of two photos has the highest quality; “Bird Crop” asks people to outline the bird’s image to help the computer discern birds from the background; and “Hot Spot” teaches Merlin to recognize bird anatomy when users click on body parts in a photo.

“Each year, thousands of people try to identify birds by typing descriptors into the search box on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website,” said Miyoko Chu, the project’s principal investigator and the lab’s senior director of communications. “But search engines sometimes return confusing and even outlandish results,” she said. “Our goal is to enable someone to describe a bird and get intelligent guidance, the same way they might if they asked a knowledgeable friend.”

If the technique is successful, future products could be developed, such as binoculars that help ID the bird in the viewfinder.

Merlin is a collaboration between Cornell, Northeastern University, Caltech, Universityof CaliforniaBerkeley, and the University of CaliforniaSan Diego, including visiting researchers Serge Belongie and Grant Van Horn at the Cornell NYC Tech campus.

The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.