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Archive for the 'Striped Bass' Category

Nov 03 2008

Georgraphical Striped Bass Abundance Does Not Equate to a Healthy Stock

bass eating baitLarge concentrations of bass in some areas doesn’t necessarily equate to a healthy stock

Man, there were some crazy striped bass blitzes in Montauk this year.  The kind that make you just drop your rod and say “Holy *@$%!”.  Truly extraordinary stuff.  Understandably, such blitzes might make one believe that striped bass are extremely abundant.  Unfortunately that is not the case.  In other regions, particularly the Northeast, there are widespread complaints about the lack of quality stripers.  In Maine, guides are going out of business because of the very real lack of what was once a thriving fishery.
As guides like Capt. Dave Pecci and Capt. Doug Jowett point out, it’s not due to the lack of forage as there seems to be abundant bait concentrations in the areas that they fish.  Indeed I fear that Maine’s position at the northernmost part of the striped bass migration makes it a bellwether state.

In light of such Montauk blitzes, I ask you to consider the below passage taken from a University of New Hampshire Department of Natural Resources document titled   A Guide to Fisheries Stock Assessment.  This is the document used to educate members of the fisheries management councils on how fisheries stock assessments are conducted:

“Fishermen will actively seek out areas with greater fish concentrations. As a result, their catch-per-unit effort could remain stable in the face of a declining stock. Consider a stock that contracts its range as the population shrinks, or increases its range as the population grows. Despite the changing range, catch-per-unit effort may remain relatively constant if the fishermen focus their effort on the center of the range, where fish density remains relatively stable.”

With this in mind, I would think managers would be practicing extreme caution when managing striped bass, particularly in light of its immense recreational value.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.   Delaware and Pennsylvania want open two-month fishing seasons targeting mature male
striped bass.  Maryland has proposed to extend non-quota management for its trophy fishery in 2009 and until stock assessment indicates that corrective action is necessary, and Virginia wants to extend its season.   All of these measure will increase fishing mortality on striped bass.  In my opinion they are reckless, and they show no respect for the views of those hardworking Maine guides that are being forced out of business.  Undoubtedly, there seems to be a trend toward killing more bass rather than a move in the other direction.

That’s understandable given the recent stock assessment and the states’ understanding that their anglers want to kill more bass.  But I think there’s a large majority of folks that would rather proceed down a precautionary road.  Once which insures that we have plenty of big fish around in the future.  It’s up to these anglers to let their state reps know their wishes.  It seems as if the kill-more-fish-now folks are the only ones being listened to at this point, and that has to stop.

Captain John McMurray

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Oct 30 2008

Twenty Five Years of Striped Bass Conservation Along the Gulf Coast

Underwater Shot of Striped Bass, Gulf Coast Striped BassI had known that there were over ten different unique populations of striped bass around the United States and even that striped bass along the eastern Atlantic coast migrated all the way down to Florida. However, I never knew we actaully had a striped bass population along the gulf coast. I was reading the newest edition of Eddies today and sure enough not only are there striped bass along the gulf coast, there is a huge restoration effort happening. Pretty cool, read more below.

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The genetically unique Gulf Coaststrain of striped bass was once common to rivers pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. By the 1960’s, its population had declined significantly due to poor water quality and loss of habitat from a wave of dam construction. The last known population of native striped bass survived in low numbers in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river system in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Twenty-five years ago, these states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formed a powerful partnership to restore Gulf striped bass in the ACF. Some remarkable achievements have been made. We know more about its life history and its genetic integrity is safeguarded. The partners evaluate each year the stocking success and food availability; a young-of-year index estimates year-class strength; creel surveys evaluate recreational fishing; and telemetry studies have revealed the waters that provide essential temperatures the fish need. And now many of those coolwater habitats have been protected or rehabilitated. Recreational fishing in these places is carefully managed. Through the partnership, Radium Springs on the Flint River was purchased for habitat protection. Dead Lake Dam on the Chipola River was removed, and the operations at other dams have improved. Biologists have evaluated fish passage problems throughout the basin. Seven state and six federal hatcheries cooperatively stock more than one million Gulf striped bass a year. New recreational fisheries have been created, and anglers have set exciting new records. This work has been a catalyst for striped bass restoration throughout the Gulf region. Today, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi are helping this remarkable 25-yearold partnership ensure the success of this unique and important fish across much of its historic range.

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Oct 19 2008

East Coast Striped Bass Population – Do We Really Know What it is or Are We Victim’s of the Shifting Baseline Syndrome?

Striped Bass Management, Striped Bass Light Tackle Fishing, Striped Bass Fly Fishing, Striped Bass Commerical FishingI received a call from fishing buddy Wild Bill yesterday saying he was reading an article in Smithsonian Magazine that was talking about how the size and numbers of fish have decreased over the years. The Senior Editor, Laura, of the Smithsonian printed pictures of typical catches from a Key West boat named Gulf Stream in 1957 and again in 1958 , 1983 and 2007. The boat has been updated to the Gulf Stream III and runs from the same slip. The contrast in the catches is striking. A link is not year on their site. If you have access to the Smithsonian, look at pages 56 to 58 in the September issue for a pictorial of how the fishing has changed. The catch in 1957 compared to 2007 is beyond startling. Laura fished a day on the Gulf Stream III and ends the editorial with: ” It was poignant to see so much excitement over catching [little] fish. The people on the boat don’t have any sense that it has changed so much.”

Wild Bill’s call sparked some interest so I went to the Smithsonian website to look around. I came across an article titled “Our Imperiled Oceans: Victory at Sea“which talks about a large reserve that was created in the Phoenix Islands in the Pacific, “Phoenix Islands, a remote, largely unpopulated archipelago 1,000 miles east of Tarawa. The 158,000-square-mile Phoenix Islands Protected Area, covering about 12 percent of Kiribati’s watery domain, holds some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs as well as a great abundance and diversity of tropical marine life. And it’s the first reserve to place such a large area of open ocean off-limits to commercial fishing. The reserve is one of the planet’s ecological bright spots, the boldest, most dramatic effort to save the oceans’ coral reefs, the richest habitat in the seas.”

While the reserve part of the article is interesting, what is even more interesting is a discussion relating a syndrome called “the shifting baseline syndrome

It was only in the 1990s that marine scientists became aware of what Daniel Pauly, a fisheries biologist at the University of British Columbia, calls the shifting baseline syndrome—the problem of establishing historic populations of marine life in a given species or community. Just what is a healthy number of, say, red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico? “Each generation [of scientists] accepts as a base line the stock size and species composition that occurred at the beginning of [that generation’s] career,”says Pauly. The result is that, over time, the expectation of the natural number of fish in the sea gets smaller and smaller—until the population is so small that even a modest environmental perturbation, or a tad more fishing, causes it to unexpectedly collapse as the cod population collapsed off Newfoundland and Labrador in the early 1990s. Sound familiar?

  • Think that happened with blue crabs in the Chesapeake?….sure did.
  • Think that happened with sea trout in the Chesapeake and along the east coast?…..sure did
  • Think that happened with sturgeon in the Chesapeake?……sure did, wiped them out
  • Think that happened with [u]oysters in the Chesaepake?….sure did, in fact our fisheries managers are so wacko that while they say we are at 1% of historic levels, they still allow for a commerical fishery that is clearly NOT sustainable…total joke (still waiting for CBF to come to their senses and make a statement like they did 10 years ago)
  • Think that is what happened with Atlantic [U]blue fin tuna[/U].?..sure did, they will be gone soon, the NC fishery is about all gone already
  • Think that is what happened with[U] tile fish [/U]in Florida, and almost happened in Virgina?…sure did
  • Think that is what happened with [U]cod[/U] in the Northeast? ….sure did
  • Think that is what is happening/happened with [U]menhaden [/U]along the east coast and now in the Chesapeake Bay?….bet it is…well in fact we know it happened, used to be 100 factories along the coast doing menhaden catching and processing, now we have one(1). Why is that? It’s because there are no more freaking menhaden to support the factories.
  • Think that is what is happening again with [U]striped bass[/U]? (you would have thought we learned our lesson the first time)……I bet it is!

And I could go on, but I think everyone gets the point. If we do not get our head out of our rears sooner then later fishing for our next generation is going to put mildly, stink if not non-existent for many species. Will among the list of species not around in 50 years be striped bass? Is striped bass management a victim of shifting baseline syndrome? What do you think? Leave your comments, I’d be interested in hearing them

Brandon

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Sep 17 2008

Overfished Stocks in the United States

I was doing some research on Striped Bass  concerning what is known about the health of the population along the east coast. Some say the striper  population is fine, while others of us are a bit skeptical based on how the data is collected and limitations of the analysis process. While searching around I found this map on the NOAA Fisheries Office of Sustainable Fisheries that summarizes as of second quarter of this year which fish species along the US coasts are considered overfished. Scarey. And even more scary when you start to think about the fact that fish populations do not exist by themselves, but rather they live and thrive via the entire ecosystem. If a food source down the food web chain starts to dwindle, it hurts bigger fish up the chain. It all works together. Take a look at the Highly Migratory Species list, crazy man.

overfished_stocks_usa.jpg

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Sep 07 2008

Virginia Striped Bass Regulations in Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean for 2008

Virginia Striped Bass Fishing, Atlantic Ocean Striper Fishing, Fly Fishing for Striped Bass, Light Tackle for Striped BassThe winter Virginia striper fishery has been nothing less then spectacular over the last several years. Catch and release anglers need not worry too much about the regulations other then to understand that you may not target striped bass beyond the 3 mile limit in the ocean. If on the other hand you are going to keep some stripers for the table you need to know the regulations for the two striped bass fisheries in Virginia: The one stripedbass fishery is in the Chesapeake Bay and then a seperate one with seperate regulations along the coast in the Atlantic Ocean. Each striper fishery has different regulations and it’s important to understand and know the rules when fishing in Virginia waters.

The Virginia Striped Bass regulations for 2008 are summarized below:

Chesapeake Bay fall striped bass recreational fishery:

  • The open season for the bay fall striped bass recreational fishery shall be October 4 through December31.
  • The area open for shall be the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
  • The minimum size limit for this fishery shall be 18 inches in length.
  • The maximum size limit for this fishery shall be 28 inches in length, except as provided in subsection F ..
  • The possession limit for this fishery shall be two fish per person from October 4 through December 9. (A TWO FISH SEASON)The possession limit for this fishery shall be one fish per person from December 10 through December 31. (A ONE FISH SEASON)
  • DURING THE ENTIRE SEASON, ONLY ONE striped bass 34 inches or greater. CAN BE IN POSSESSION.

Coastal striped bass recreational fishery. (Demarcation line to 3 miles out in Atlantic)

  • The open seasons for the coastal striped bass recreational fishery shall be January 1 through March 31
  • and May 16 through December 31, (FROM NOW TO END OF YEAR)
  • The area open is Demarcation line to 3 miles out in Atlantic)
  • The minimum size limit for this fishery shall be 28 inches total length.
  • The possession limit for this fishery shall be two fish per person( two large fish can be kept in the
  • Coastal fishery as opposed to only one large fish in the Chesapeake Bay fishery.)

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Aug 28 2008

New Panel to Look Into “Ecological” Management of Menhaden

Striped Bass Diet Menhaden Chesapeake BayLast week at their 3-day summer meeting, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) took important steps toward improving management of menhaden, river herring and American shad – species that are particularly important as prey for striped bass and numerous other predators.In a public statement at the start of the August 20th meeting, NCMC president Ken Hinman reminded the ASMFC Atlantic Menhaden Management Board that we are now halfway through the five-year cap on menhaden harvest in Chesapeake Bay, that ASMFC-requested research is underway looking into the status of menhaden as a forage fish, and that a new stock assessment will be performed in 2009. “The ball you’ve handed the scientists is about to be tossed back into your court,” Hinman said. “The Board needs to begin now figuring out how it’s going to use the available information to implement a new management regime when the present one expires in 2010.”

After a number of Commissioners shared their concern that the move to an ecosystem-based approach to managing the menhaden fishery had “lost momentum,” (which perplexes me that commissioners act on momentum vs. a smart way to manage fish populations) the Board accepted NCMC’s recommendation to appoint a Working Group to develop ecological reference points – e.g., target population size, age structure, and set-aside for predators – by the completion of next year’s stock assessment. ASMFC staff were directed to identify participants, including scientists and managers with experience in ecosystem-based management, and develop a work plan by the Commission’s next meeting, in October 2008.

Commission Also Prioritizes Investigating At-Sea Bycatch for River Herring and Shad Recovery

The following day during the meeting of the ASMFC Shad and River Herring Management Board, a draft river herring amendment was approved for public review that included strong options for regulating bycatch in other fisheries, both in state and federal waters, with emphasis placed on bycatch limits, mandatory reporting, and monitoring programs that allow for reliable estimation. At-sea bycatch is a prime suspect in the decline of both alewives and blueback herring. Landings of these species have fallen by 90% in the last twenty years, coinciding with a rise in mid-water trawling for sea herring and Atlantic mackerel.

Similar options to address bycatch were chosen for an American shad amendment, which is being developed in response to the grim findings of a 2007 stock assessment. “I am greatly encouraged that the Board recognized that at-sea bycatch is also a major threat to American shad stocks, which like river herring are at historic lows. The Board voted 17-1 to include recommendations from both the stock assessment team and the advisory panel (AP) that called for quantifying bycatch and employing observer coverage to verify reporting,” said NCMC Executive Director Pam Lyons Gromen who serves on the Shad and River Herring AP and was present at the Board meeting. The AP also recommended research to identify the major predators of shad in order to quantify consumption, information which is needed for managers to ensure that enough shad is left in the water to fulfill their role as prey. The draft shad amendment is scheduled to be released for public review in November.

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Aug 21 2008

Striped Bass Populations Healthy Along the East Coast, really?

There has been a lot of talk from stiped bass anglers all along the east coast and though out the Chesapeake Bay about the Striped Bass population. Some claim it’s declining, some say it’s fine, some say it’s so fine that striped bass are eating all the crabs in the Chesapeake and we should harvest more then we ever have (that last part is more of a smartypants comment based on a previous blog post here) I am not that old, but I have been around to see some really good striped bass fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Alantic Coast. When I say “good” I mean a lot of fish and a lot of big fish. After the mortorium we had that “good” fishing. The last few years I have to say that I have seen less and less big fish in the Chesapeake as well as along the Atlantic Coast. However,  that is just my experience and it’s certianly not based on a scientific experiement. At the same time I also hear anglers double my age saying the same thing. One friend who is in his early to middle 60’s has been fishing and targeting big striped bass his whole life. He says the same thing, simply not as many big fish. This is a guy that chases them all along the east coast every year and has been for decades. And there are a lot of guys like him I talk with that share the setiment. Even some editors/wrtiers of some magazines in the northeast have been suggesting we do not have as many striped bass and certainly not as many big striped bass as before. Are we overharvesting? Do the striped bass not have enough to eat? Is the habitat decreasing where they live and spawn meaning less fish? Is it a combination of two or all three? I do not know the answer, but a report was released the other day that suggests the Striped Bass population along the east coast is healthy. What “healthy” means I have yet to figure out. More to come on this from me as I do some reseach, but in the mean time read below and see what you think. Comments are welcome.

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Updated Biological Reference Points for Atlantic Striped Bass Confirm Previously Released Stock Status

The Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board approved new estimates of the biological reference points established in Amendment 6, as well as improved estimates of female spawning stock biomass for 1982-2006 (see accompanying Table 1 and Figures 1 & 2). This action was taken in response to recommendations of the 46th Stock Assessment Review Committee, which reviewed the 2007 striped bass stock assessment.

With these updates, the stock status of Atlantic striped bass remains not overfished and not experiencing overfishing. The new estimate of female spawning stock biomass (SSB) in 2006 (40,639 metric tons) is above the new threshold and target levels (30,000 mt and 37,500 mt, respectively). The 2006 estimate of fishing mortality (F) from the statistical catch at age model (0.31) is below the new threshold of 0.34. Retrospective estimates of F from the statistical catch at age (SCA) model, as well as tag-based estimates of F, indicate that the 2006 fishing mortality is likely below the target F rate, which remains at 0.30.

Striped Bass Population along the east coast

In its review of the 2007 stock assessment, the Review Committee recommended that the Striped Bass Technical Committee reconsider the ratio of male to female fish used in the estimation of female SSB. The Review Committee also recommended that the Technical Committee re-estimate the fishing mortality threshold based on data from the new preferred assessment model (the SCA model), and that the female SSB target and threshold be linked to the new assessment. The estimates of these reference points for Amendment 6 were based on data from the 2001 virtual population analysis stock assessment. Implementing these changes to the biological reference points does not change their definitions, but rather updates them with new data and estimates of stock size.

The Technical Committee undertook the recommended work. Based on biological sampling data, new estimates of the sex ratio at age were developed, resulting in the improved estimates of female SSB for 1982-2006. Included in this time series was a new estimate of female SSB in 1995 (29,985 mt), the year the Atlantic coast stock was declared restored, and the value upon which the management program female SSB threshold is based. Given that Amendment 6 set the female SSB target as 125 percent of the female SSB threshold, the Technical Committee recommended an updated female SSB threshold of 30,000 mt and an updated female SSB target of 37,500 mt.

The Review Committee’s recommendation to update the F threshold meant re-estimating FMSY, the fishing mortality rate that allows for maximum sustainable yield. Using the new estimates of female SSB and age-1 recruitment from the 2007 assessment, the Technical Committee adopted a model averaging approach to account for uncertainty in the stock-recruitment relationship. The resulting estimate of FMSY was 0.34, which the Technical Committee recommended to the Board for use. The F target in Amendment 6 of 0.30 remains the same because it was not based specifically on estimates of stock size, but is based on the objective to maintain an age structure that provides adequate spawning potential to sustain long-term abundance of striped bass populations.

Figure 1. Atlantic Striped Bass Female Spawning Stock Biomass Estimates and Biological Reference Points
Amendment 6 defines the female SSB threshold as the 1995 level of female SSB, when the stock was declared restored, and the female SSB target as 125 percent of the female SSB threshold. The old female SSB threshold and target are based on data from the 2001 virtual population analysis, while the new female SSB threshold and target are based on data from the 2007 statistical catch at age (SCA) model, incorporating an empirical (based on data) sex ratio. Both sets of female SSB estimates are from the 2007 SCA model; however, the new set incorporates the same empirical sex ratio.

Striped Bass Population along the east coast


Figure 2. Atlantic Striped Bass Fishing Mortality Estimates and Biological Reference Points
Amendment 6 defines the F threshold as FMSY, and the F target based on management objectives. The old F threshold is based on data from the 2001 virtual population analysis, while the new F threshold is based on data from the 2007 statistical catch at age (SCA) model. Estimates from the SCA model were preferred by the 46th Stock Assessment Review Committee for comparison to biological reference points. However, estimates from the tag-based catch equation (CE) model, as well as retrospective estimates of F from the SCA model, are used to indicate that the terminal year F estimate from the SCA model is likely overestimated and will decline below the F target with the addition of future years of data.

Striped Bass Population along the east coast

For more information, please contact Nichola Meserve, FMP Coordinator, at (202) 289-6400 or [email protected]

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Jul 11 2008

North Carolina Saltwater Fishing Reports- Updated July 11 2008

North Carolina Saltwater Fishing Reports
Bill from Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported:
“July 10, 2008 Fishing Report

Some nice big bigeye tunas showed up in the catches today. They ranged in weight from 97 pounds to 187 pounds. More yellowfin catches, one nice one had 10 all running from 40 to 50 pounds a peice. Best dolphin catch recorded was 8 they also had a 177 pound bigeye and 2 yellowfins. Inshore boats caught tailor bluefish trolling in the morning, trigger fish and sea bass bottom fishing in the afternoon. Open boats on all day trips caught cobias. A half day trip caught speckled trout amd flounders. Miss Oregon Inlet caught croakers morning and afternoon.

July 9, 2008 Fishing Report

Offshore dolphin and yellowfin tuna, scattered wahoo. One wahoo weighed 31 pounds. two sailfish and a blue marlin were caught and released. Weather a propblem. Thunder storms throughout the afternoon curtailed some fishing activities. Inshore boats caught tailor bluefish and spanish mackerel trolling. Bottom fishing landed good size triggerfish. An all day inshore trip combined both trolling and bottom fishing with good results on each. Open boats had good speckled trout fishing. An all day trip caught two cobias weighing 35 and 45 pounds. An AM trip caught and released 5 sharks. I missed getting pictures by not getting out there early enough.

July 8, 2008 Fishing Report

Good day’s fishing all around both offshore, inshore and open boat charters. Offshore there were a lot of dolphin caught, some wahoos, blackfin tunas and billfish. The dolphin had a good quantity of gaffer sized amongst the school sized fish. There was a 40 pounder and a 35 pounder. One boat had 55 another 25 dolphin. Billfish- there were 7 sailfish and several white marlins. Inshore good trolling for spanish mackerel and tailor bluefish. Open boats targeted different species. Speckled trout, black drum, flounders and several cobia were caught. Some spanish mackerel and tailor bluefish were caught by Continue Reading »

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