YES, FISH EAT OTHER FISH

Drum roll please for the winners of PENN Fishing giveaway of Three Prevail PRESF1530S10 Surf Rods. Once again I would like to thank folks from PENN Fishing for making this possible. There were ,gasp, 921 entries and we had to choose three randomly.
The winners are
Jack Mcgurin mcjack1@comcast.net
Jeff Plummer plummer.jacts319@gmail.com
Andy K jackslrf@gmail.com
all winners, you MUST contact us at info@surfcastersjournal.com with your shipping address which we will forward to the folks at PENN Fishing
Congrats to all winners

PREVAIL_SURF_spinning11

I just read the latest blog post by Charlie Witek and found it fascinating, educational and entertaining. No author I’ve ever read has the ability to lay out the world in front of you so clearly. I think you guys should visit his blog at http://oneanglersvoyage.blogspot.com/ and subscribe to recive update anytime he posts something.
Here is his latest piece

Sunday, August 31, 2014

By Charles Witek  http://oneanglersvoyage.blogspot.com/ 

YES, FISH EAT OTHER FISH (AND HAVE, SINCE THE ORDOVICIAN)
I was reading through the Draft Addendum IV to Amendment 6 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Interstate Fishery Management Plan when a somewhat strange passage caught my eye.
It came in Section 2.2.3 of the Draft Addendum, which is entitled “Ecosystem Considerations,” and it said

“When fishery management changes are being contemplated, food web relationships should be considered…Striped bass are predators of other Commission managed species, including weakfish and shad and river herring. As the striped bass population grows the demand on prey species also increases. The increased demand on prey species may have impacts on those species undergoing rebuilding plans. The current addendum’s goal of reducing fishing mortality to target levels may impact predation on other ASMFC-managed species.”
I don’t have any problems with the premise that striped bass eat fish—that’s certainly true—but I do have concerns about the overall tone of the section.

Because the best that I can tell, fish have been eating other fish since the Ordovician Period, about 450 million years ago; at least that’s when the first remains of presumably jawed and piscivorous sharks appear in the fossil record.

Bony fish (as opposed to the cartilaginous sharks) started eating other fish about ten million years later, when the long-extinct Acanthodians appeared on the scene in the early Silurian.

In his book Discovering Fossil Fishes, Dr. John G. Maisey of the American Museum of Natural History noted that

“The developmental and anatomical complexity attained by gnathostomes [i.e., jawed animals] has been relatively stable at least since the Silurian. We can view the rise of the gnathostomes as a second punctuated event, followed by more than 400 million years of relative stasis.
“It is quite remarkable that the basic diversity of jawed craniates became fixed so early in their evolution. Sharks, ray-finned fishes and lobe-finned fishes all appeared about 400 million years ago and have survived to the present day. Conservatism of design is striking…”
In other words, fish have been eating each other on a regular basis for a very long time. Yet somehow, they survived—in fact, thrived and radiated out into an ever-changing plethora of species—for hundreds of millions of years, even though for all but a tiniest fraction of that time, predators existed at far higher levels than they did today—at 100% of their spawning potential, the level of an unfished stock.

There were no people around to control predators’ “demand on prey species.” And there was no worry about predators affecting stock rebuilding plans, because with no people around to overfish forage fish stocks, there were no such plans and no need for rebuilding in the first place.

So let’s put the blame where the blame belongs, and stop blaming striped bass—or any other species—for fisheries problems.

If we’re talking about a lack of weakfish, let’s talk about ASMFC’s refusal to accept scientific advice to put a moratorium in place to assist in their rebuilding.

After being told by ASMFC’s Weakfish Technical Committee that
“The main discussion was a moratorium is more than likely the best way to go at this time…”
and public comment supported such moratorium by a two-to-one margin, ASMFC’s Weakfish Management Board heard comments such as those of Tom Fote, the current governor’s appointee from New Jersey, who said

“…I’m looking at a situation that doesn’t basically shut down a complete fishery and basically allow the person, if he catches a weakfish of a lifetime or something like that or the kid on a beach actually catches a weakfish on that rare occasion, they can go home with one weakfish.
“…at least they’ll have, you know, one fish to take home…
“You know, we also talk about we’re supposed to build a sustainable fishery for a sustainable industry. If you start closing down both those industries, it takes a long time for that industry to recover…”
and seemed to consider such argument reasonable. The Management Board rejected both the Technical Committee’s comments and their endorsement by the public, and left both the recreational and commercial fisheries open, although at much reduced harvest levels.

They didn’t seem to consider the possibility that, if you keep taking fish out of an already badly depleted weakfish stock, the stock will take at least as long to recover as the fishing industry—which, in the end, at least has many viable alternatives to harvesting weakfish.

Weakfish, on the other hand, have no alternatives if they get caught and die.

And now, a lot of the same folks who sat on that management board apparently want to blame the striped bass for the weakfish’s problems…

In the case of American shad, Amendment 1 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Shad & River Herring noted, as early as 1998, that

“Historically, American shad (Alosa sapidissima), hickory shad (Alosa mediocris), alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) (collectively termed alosines) were extremely important resource species and supported very large commercial fisheries along the east coast of both the United States and Canada…large declines in commercial landings were perceived as an indication that management action would be required to restore alosine stocks to their former levels of abundance…”
However, as is so often true with ASMFC plans, managers did not take decisive steps to reduce harvest, and declines continued. ASMFC allowed many of the river-specific stocks to decline so badly that, in the case of shad in New York’s Hudson River, the latest stock assessment found that

“Over the last 20 years, the Hudson River stock of American shad has shown consistent signs of excessive mortality on mature fish…high adult mortality was caused by fishing and that this excessive fishing has now affected recruitment.
“…Results of this fishing pressure has left the stock in a historically depressed condition with high uncertainty regarding its recovery. Few year-classes currently remain at high enough abundance to rebuild the spawning stock.”
Twelve years passed, while “high adult mortality caused by fishing” continued to drive down the stocks in the Hudson and elsewhere, before ASMFC finally decided to adopt more effective measures in 2010. Unfortunately, by then things had gotten so bad that, at least in the Hudson, there is now “high uncertainty” regarding the stock’s recovery.

Yet ASMFC has the temerity to suggest that striped bass are to blame…

In the case of the alewife and blueback herring—the “river herring” referred to in the shad and river herring management plan—ASMFC decided merely to monitor the stocks—effectively, to just watch them decline—in 1989.

It took them two full decades, after runs in many rivers had all but disappeared and the Natural Resources Defense Council had filed an ultimately unsuccessful petition to have river herring listed under the Endangered Species Act, to finally require states to take regulatory action in Amendment 2 to the Interstate Management Plan for Shad and River Herring.

But, once again, ASMFC wants to blame striped bass for river herring problems…

Yes, striped bass eat some weakfish, American shad and river herring. They’re opportunistic feeders, which means that they eat most of the species that ASMFC manages—and a lot that it doesn’t—at some point in their travels along the coast. But they’ve been doing that for millenia before Henry Hudson sailed up his eponymous river, where so many big stripers still breed.

Yet there is no indication that the bass posed mortal threat to weakfish, herring or shad before the first waves of colonists came over from Europe and began to “save” such fish from striped bass (and to save other prey from every other predator that, with a bit of work, could be converted into food, funds or fertilizer).

Somehow, before Europeans arrived to catch the ravenous striped bass (and everything else) with their nets, hooks and lines, “unprotected” weakfish, shad and herring still managed to thrive. Before the otter trawl, haul seines, purse seines, pound nets, gill nets, fykes and baited lines, striped bass, river herring, weakfish and shad managed to live in a sort of harmony that allowed them all to exist at or near 100% of their spawning potential (although the oldest residents of the east coast, who walked there all the way here from Siberia, did kill a few).

And it wasn’t because the striped bass had been vegetarians before the white man arrived on this coast.

We are far more effective predators than the striped bass could ever hope to be, and we compete with them for every forage species. Yet when forage declines, it’s always the striper’s fault.

It’s not a pattern unique to striped bass. On every coast, we hear the same arguments.

In Chesapeake Bay, and down in North Carolina, the talk is all about blue crabs being killed by red drum, with one fish wholesaler saying

“If they don’t do something about this fish population and restoration of this habitat, I don’t see where crabs are going to have a chance.”
Down in the Gulf of Mexico, you hear folks talking about red snapper eating everything else on the reef.

Perhaps the best story came from a former executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association’s Florida chapter, who related a story about being at a shrimp bycatch hearing in Panama City when a woman wandered up to the microphone and said

“You all are trying to stop bycatch, but I’ll tell you that bycatch is good. Back in the old days, we didn’t worry about bycatch. We caught jacks and mackerel and things, and there was plenty of mullet and bait and everything was fine. But now you’re stopping the bycatch, and the fish are eating everything so that there’s no bait around, and the pelicans are starving.
“And that’s why you’ll see the pelicans flying around and eating stray cats on the street in Panama City!”
It’s no less credible than the other tales, which are all aimed at convincing regulators to let fishermen do nature a “favor” and help drive down populations of striped bass, red drum or whatever the species in question might be, so that they can be as depleted as their forage and “balance” can be restored.

Of course, cutting back harvest and restoring the forage base is never a viable option…

That sort of thinking is probably understandable when it comes from folks looking out for their wallets.

But when it comes from folks who are supposed to be looking out for our fisheries, it’s just not excusable.

 

and a little craziness at the end..possibly the craziest surf fishing video ever

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ASMFC Hearings….Time For Action

Editors note #1

Bill Muller and Ross Squire drafted the attached guide to walk people through the public comment process.The guide presents the options that will most enhance the long-term quality of striped bass fishing, conserve the population, and is the most practical to implement.most conservation friendly. I hope none of our readers will be the one that will piss and moan online about striped bass stocks and yet when its time for action they will find a reason not to go to the hearings. If you can attend, please do.

Zeno

 

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)

Addendum IV to Reduce Striped Bass Mortality

Under Amendment 6 of Striped Bass Management Plan

 

Purpose of this Guide: The addendum is a long document with occasional overlapping sections, it is sometimes confusing with regard to one and three-year approaches, and provides tables and graphs that are not always self-explanatory for the average angler, since the document has been prepared for commissioners, scientists, and managers.

The following is an attempt to distill 36 pages for quick consumption. It provides a guideline that anglers can use when writing letters or making comments at the upcoming hearing on Tuesday, September 16, 2014. The guide should assist in selecting addendum options and management scenario options that best benefit striped bass and the typical striped bass angler.

Written Response Period: Anytime until 5:00 PM September 30, 2014. Respond via e-mail or in writing. Your letter should be short so that managers will read it, and reflect your addendum and management option preferences.

 

The Long Island Public Comment Hearing: If you plan to attend to support proper striped bass management and you desire to speak, please see an ASMFC representative and fill out a speaker’s card. Please keep your comments short (ASMFC typically provides only a few minutes to speak per person) and your comments should reflect your preferred options and management sub-options. You may hand in a written version of your comments, too.

Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Time: 7:00-9:00 pm

Location: Stony Brook University Wang Center – Room 201

A schedule of other Public Comment hearings 

Massachusetts

September 2, 2014
10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Nantucket Community Room
4 Fairgrounds Road
Nantucket, Massachusetts
jared.silva@state.ma.us

Massachusetts

September 2, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Admiral’s Hall
101 Academy Drive
Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts
jared.silva@state.ma.us

Massachusetts

September 3, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
MA DMF
Annisquam River Station
30 Emerson Avenue
Gloucester, Massachusetts
jared.silva@state.ma.us

New Jersey

September 4, 2014
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Galloway Twp. Branch of the Atlantic Co. Library
306 East Jimmie Leeds Road
Galloway, New Jersey
russ.allen@dep.nj.gov

Massachusetts

September 4, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Viking Club
410 Quincy Avenue (Route 53)
Braintree, Massachusetts
jared.silva@state.ma.us

Maine
September 4, 2014
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Orion Performing Arts Center, MSAD#75
Mt. Ararat Middle School
66 Republic Avenue
Topsham, Maine
Terry.Stockwell@maine.gov

New Jersey

September 9, 2014
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Ridgefield Park Elks Lodge #1506
Corner of Spruce Avenue and Cedar Street
Ridgefield Park, New Jersey
russ.allen@dep.nj.gov

Delaware

September 11, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
DNREC Auditorium
89 Kings Highway
Dover, Delaware
john.clark@state.de.us

New Jersey

September 15, 2014
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Toms River Town Hall
L. M. Hirshblond Room
33 Washington Street
Toms River, New Jersey
russ.allen@dep.nj.gov

New York

September 16, 2014
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Stony Brook University Wang Center
Room 201
Stony Brook, New York
Carol Hoffman at 631.444.0476
carol.hoffman@dec.ny.gov

Rhode Island

September 17, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
University of Rhode Island
Corless Auditorium
South Ferry Road
Narragansett, Rhode Island
nicole.lengyel@dem.ri.gov

Pennsylvania

September 17, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Silver Lake Nature Center
1206 Bath Road
Bristol, Pennsylvania
elevis@pa.gov

Virginia

September 22, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Virginia Marine Resources Commission
2600 Washington Avenue, 4th Floor
Newport News, Virginia
rob.oreilly@mrc.virginia.gov


 
Potomac River Fisheries

September 23, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Potomac River Fisheries Commission
222 Taylor Street
Colonial Beach, VA
martingary.prfc@verizon.net

New York

September 23, 2014
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
NYSDEC Region 3 Office
21 South Putt Corners Road
New Paltz, New York
Kathy.Hattala@dec.ny.gov

Maryland

September 25, 2014
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Cadby Theater,
Kent Humanities Building
Chesapeake College
1000 College Circle
Wye Mills, MD
mluisi@dnr.state.md.us

North Carolina

September 29, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Dare County Government Complex
954 Marshall C. Collins Drive
Manteo, North Carolina
michelle.duval@ncdenr.gov

Importance: Striped bass stocks are down again due to poor spawning and overharvesting. We need meaningful management measures to reduce the harvest by 25%. Your letters and attendance can help drive home what we anglers need and want in order to protect striped bass and the quality of our fishing.

Guide To Responding

Directions: Your letters and oral presentation at the public hearing needs to contain the following for each relevant category.

  1. Select and/or state an option   (A, B, C, etc.)
  2. Select and/or state a management scenario option (example: B3, B17) under that option.
  3. Send your comments to:
Contact

Email

Sen. Philip BoyleNew York 4th Senate District
69 West Main StreetBay Shore, NY 11706-8313

Phone: 518-455-3411

Position:Commissioner Legislative

philmjboyle@gmail.com

James Gilmore, DirectorNYS DEC Bureau of Marine Resources205 N Belle Mead Rd. Ste 1

E. Setauket, NY 11733-3456

Phone: 631 444-0430

Position: Commissioner Administrative

jjgilmor@gw.dec.state.ny.us

Emerson HasbrouckCornell Cooperative Exten Marine Prog423 Griffing Ave, #100

Riverhead, NY 11901-3071 Phone: 631 727-7850

Position: Gov. Appointee

ech12@cornell.edu
Mr. Mike WaineASMFCFishery Management Plan Coordinator

1050 North Highland Street, Suite 200 A-N

Arlington, VA 22201

mwaine@ASMFC.org
The Honorable Andrew M. CuomoGovernor of N.Y. StateNYS Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224

Phone: (518) 474-8390

A listing of all ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board representatives can be found at:

http://www.asmfc.org/files/CommitteeLists/atlanticStripedBassBoard.pdf.

Recommended Options

The following options are recommended as those that will most enhance the long-term quality of striped bass fishing, conserve the population, and is the most practical to implement. The full Draft Addendum can be viewed at:

http://www.asmfc.org/files/PublicInput/StripedBassDraftAddendumIV_PublicComment.pdf

Section

Option

Section 2.5.1: Stock assessment Reference Point Option

Option B:     Uses the preferred 2013-benchmark assessment

Section 2.5.2: Chesapeake Bay Assessment Reference Point Option

Option B: Uses a preferred stock assessment reference point

Section 2.5.3: Albemarle/Roanoke Reference Points

Option B: To be managed by State of North Carolina

 

Section 2.6:   Timeline To Reach Harvest Reduction (mortality)

Option A: Reduce mortality by 25% in one year

Section 3.0:   Proposed Management Scenario Options

Coastal Recreational Fishery: Select B3 (one fish @ 32″) Chesapeake Recreational Fishery: Select B10

 

Chesapeake Commercial Fishery: Select B17

 

Section 3.1:     Commercial Quota Transfers

Option A: Prohibits the transfer of quotas from one are to another should quotas not be reached among fishers in a given region.

Section 3.2: Commercial Size Limits

Option A: Would require the same size limits for commercial harvesters should the recreational size limit be increased

 

 

Editors note #2

Here is newest blog post by John McMurray from reel-time.com

We hope this will make you understand the process a little better

Zeno

Striped Bass Hearings Set

Time to be heard, but know what to say…

Photo by John McMurray

Well, after about eight years of a painfully noticeable decline in striped bass abundance, and the slow and arduous crawl toward doing something about it, the rubber is finally beginning to hit the road here. A draft version of Striped Bass Draft Addendum IV, which seeks to reduce fishing mortality on striped bass, has been released, and public hearings are set. You may find the complete document here: Draft Addendum IVAnd the hearing schedule here: Public Hearings. (Note: If you are not a regular reader of this blog, or are not familiar with the situation, you may find some background here:Where we are With Striped Bass.)

The Draft Addendum isn’t a terribly difficult read if you are familiar the subject matter, but it is filled with the sort of technical jargon that can take a little time to understand if you don’t immerse yourself in this stuff daily. So I’m gonna try and simplify it here and maybe boil it down to a few things we should really be aware of, including what we should support and what we should oppose.

Before getting to it though, I wanted to point out Section 2.2.3, which talks about “Ecosystem Considerations” in the decision-making context. Yes, of course it’s good to incorporate ecosystem considerations (to greatly simplify it, we’re talking about the what-eats-what here) into any fisheries management decision. But I have to admit, the way that this was done concerns me a little. It seems to set up and support arguments for those folks who have historically, and still do claim that striped bass are eating all the blue-claw crabs, river herring, winter flounder, weakfish, you name it.

This sort of thing gives managers cover to allow excessive harvest of striped bass, and to disregard pleas to manage striped bass for abundance… And, well, it’s bullshit. There is very little if any science to back up the notion that striped bass abundance harms other species. Yes, they’re opportunistic feeders, which means that at some point in their lives, along some section of coast, they’re likely eating a little of everything that’s managed by ASMFC. I’ve said it before in other blogs, striped bass have existed in abundant numbers alongside these other species since, well, since they existed. Believe me, it’s no coincidence that the folks often making such arguments are the ones who just want to kill more striped bass, or allow their constituents to do so.

But moving on, let’s talk about what we should be focusing on for the purpose of providing public comment on the document.

The first section we should be concerned about is Section 2.5.1 Coastwide Reference Point Options. “Reference points” in this case are simply the thresholds that require management action. In other words if fishing mortality gets above a certain point, something needs to be done about it. Likewise if the spawning stock biomass gets below a certain point there should be some management action. If you want a better understanding of this I suggest reading my blog on this from last year. ASMFC Moves on Striped Bass. If you are a regular reader you know that there was a new stock assessment completed last year, which of course uses better, more up-to-date science. It recommends a lower, more appropriate fishing mortality reference point.

There are, two options in this Section 2.5.1: Option A, Status Quo (in other words, using the older outdated science) or Option B, using the 2013 Benchmark Assessment reference points. Obviously, we should support Option B in Section 2.5.1. I don’t expect there to be a lot of debate on this one, but we should still let it be known that we support the use of the new and better science.

Photo by Capt. John McMurray

We should also be somewhat concerned with Section 2.5.2 Chesapeake Bay Stock Reference Point OptionsHistorically, the Chesapeake fishery exploited smaller fish, and fished under a lower reference point, than did fishermen on the coast. Option A would reverse that relationship, and permit Chesapeake fishermen to exceed the overfishing threshold in the latest stock assessment. That should be a non-starter. Everyone should support Option B: Use coastwide population F reference points as established in Section 2.5.1.

The really important part of this document is Section 2.6, which deals with whether or not we choose to reduce fishing mortality in one year, or phase in (read: “delay”) such reduction over three years. We most certainly want Option A here, which would require the reduction to occur all at once in the 2015 fishing year. Option B would allow a much smaller reduction to be imposed over three years. Seriously man… we’ve had enough delay up to this point. I think most readers of this column would agree, we need a significant reduction ASAP. So… Support Option A under Section 2.6. Make a note.

Section 3.0 Proposed Management Program kinda piggybacks on this. Option A is status quo, meaning no reduction in fishing mortality at all. Obviously we do not want this! Option Brequires a full 25-percent harvest reduction from 2013 levels to take place next year. Option Crequires a 17-percent harvest reduction next year, which would achieve the required harvest reduction over three years. Option D would require an incremental seven-percent reduction over the course of three years, which is well, pretty close to doing nothing at all. So… what we want here is Option B under Section 3.0, which would achieve the full 25-percent reduction in harvest by next year. Got it? Okay, let’s move on.

The rest of this section goes on to specifics, i.e. bag and size limits. Of course this all depends on whether or not the Commission chooses Option A, B, C or D, so I’m not gonna go into them all, but assuming the Commission does the right thing and chooses Option B, requiring the full 25-percent reduction to be taken in 2015, we should support Option B3 – a one fish bag limit and a 32” size limit. This is the most conservative and most precautionary option and appears to result in a greater than 31-percent harvest reduction. For the Chesapeake Bay Management Areas we should support most conservative option there also. There appear to be two equally conservative options here: Option B10 – one fish at 18” or Option B15 which sets a hard quota. It would be up to the states to set size and bag limits. If we go by numbers alone B15 results in a slightly greater reduction (32-percent vs. 31-percent), so we should probably go with Option B15… but either one works.

Of course if the Commission doesn’t go with Option B then, well, it’s a whole different ball game. Intuitively, none of those size and bag limit options under Option C and D really appear to do much to me, especially not the ones under Option D. Look at the table for yourself. We shouldn’t support the three year timeline in any case, so I’m not sure we should even consider commenting on any of these options. Doing so might make some managers believe that we’re not completely opposed to the phase-in.

Photo by Capt. John McMurray

Moving on, let’s talk about theProposed Commercial Fishery Management Options for a minute.Option B16 takes a 25-percent reduction from the Amendment 6 coastal quota. The draft addendum doesn’t give us a lot of choice here, as the Management Board voted to remove what was really the right option—a 25-percent reduction from the actual commercial catch (which would subject the commercial fishery to the same standard being imposed on us.) Option B16 won’t necessarily achieve the needed reduction, but as it’s better than nothing, it’s what we’re going to have to live with.

Down in the Chesapeake, Option B17 takes a 25-percent reduction from 2013 commercial quota. Option B18 Takes a 25-percent reduction from 2012 commercial harvest. This is a difficult call. Option B17 yields the greatest harvest reduction, and is consistent with the approach taken with the coastal quota. On the other hand, Option B18 is a reduction from actual harvest, and is consistent with how the recreational reduction is calculated. For reasons of both consistency and practicality—it keeps more fish alive—B17 is probably the preferable option.

So, in short here are the basics you should know if you plan on attending one of the hearings or submitting writer comments (and you certainly should be doing one or the other.) First, in Sections 2.5.1 and 2.5.2, we want Option B, which simply adopts the best available science, as set out in the 2013 Benchmark Assessment. In Section 2.6, we should be supporting Option A, which would prevent the three-year phase-in of the harvest reduction from being adopted. Option B of Section 3.0 affirmatively requires the full reduction to be imposed next year, so we should support that one, too, and oppose any option to stretch out harvest reductions over three years. We DO NOT want more delay. As far as size and bag limits go, we should support the most precautionary option, Option B3 – a one fish bag limit and a 32” size limit—on the coast, and B15—a hard quota—in the Chesapeake. These options are certainly the most important, and really the only ones that you need to comment on at this point.

I would also, however, recommend commenting about your personal experiences with striped bass. How the decline has affected you and the businesses around you. Because Commissioners need to hear about the real public and economic pain that has come from the decline of this once abundant resource. They need to know that there are real people and real businesses that have and are depending on this resource. They need to know that managing for abundance benefits more than just the few narrow interests that may benefit from liberal size and bag limits.

Please do go to a public hearing. If you can’t, well, then you have to submit written comments, which will be accepted until September 30. Such comments should be sent to Mike Waine, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at mwaine@asmfc.org (Subject line: Draft Addendum IV.)

If you sit on your ass for this one, well, then you have no one to blame but yourself. As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, we haven’t been as loud as the pro-harvest folks. It’s time for us to be loud.

avatar

After obtaining an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Loyola College in Maryland, Captain John McMurray served in the US Coast Guard for four years as a small-boat coxswain and marine-fisheries law enforcement officer. He was then recruited to become the first Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association New York. He is currently the Director of Grants Programs at the Norcross Wildlife Foundation in New York. He is the owner and primary operator of “One More Cast” Charters. John is a well known and well published outdoor writer, specializing in fisheries conservation issues. In 2006 John was awarded the Coastal Conservation Association New York Friend of Fisheries Conservation

Montauk Time & Tide : Episode # 2 – The Bucktail

We don’t do this often, but since I am working on a new Montauk Time & Tide Episode “Favorite Montauk Lure” for upcoming September issue I thought it would be neat to make this one public.

For those of you that are not familiar, Montauk Time & Tide is an exclusive series on fishing Montauk Point beaches featuring many of the most respected Montauk Regulars. Vito Orlando, Jack Yee, Joe Bragan, Bill Wetzel, Don Musso, Charlie Rugger, Many Moreno, Fred Schwab, Willy Young , Ritchie Gerbe and others

Its my incompetent way of trying to capture some of the surf fishing history at Montauk Point over the years

Grab a chair and sit back and enjoy

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and speaking of Montauk, lures and fall run

this is on tap for September 11..see you guys there

FishingSurfShow1411

 

Win one of three PENN Prevail Surf Rods

PENN Fishing in conjunction with Surfcaster’s Journal Magazine is bringing you a very special giveaway today.

PENN Fishing will award three SJ Blog readers a ten foot PENN Prevail Surf Rod , model PRESF1530S10

PREVAIL_SURF_spinning11

We will pick three random winners on Sunday September 1st and post the list of winners here on the blog. After the winners furnish their shipping addresses, we will forward them to the great folks at PENN Fishing who will ship the new Prevail 10′ surf rod right to your doors.

A giveaway from two great names in surf fishing, PENN Fishing and Surfcaster’s Journal Online Magazine. Our sincerest thanks to folks at PENN Fishing for making this possible

Here are some details on Prevail Rods

Stainless steel guides with aluminum oxide inserts

Rubber shrink tube handles

it’s not often you can find everything you want in a high-end surf rod at half the price. The Prevail provides strength and performance with a two-piece graphite composite rod blank. Stainless steel frames with aluminum oxide inserts create a lightweight and durable guide perfect for fishing mono or braid.

The rubber shrink tube handle design provides a secure grip whether wet or dry. The Prevail is a perfect match for PENN Sargus, Fierce or Pursuit spinning reels .

Carbon Shield™ Prevail rods have woven carbon fiber applied as an outer shield to protect rod blanks and guide wraps.

and a product video

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Enter with “I am in” or “I want this rod” or whatever you want

but do enter because you Have To Be In It To Win It!

First Beach Buggies in Montauk Point, NY

Beach buggies and Surfcasters go together like peanut butter and jelly. You can have one without another, its still good but put them together and you got awesome stuff. Here is a look at post WWII buggies in a video featuring two guys who should know, Fred Schwab and Richie Gerbe, both members of High Hill Striper Club and Montauk Regulars during the post WWII years. YouTube Preview Image

 

And winners of our MEGA giveaway

Big Fish Co Prey Swimmer goes to Patrick Gilmartin

Guppy Pencil Popper goes to   Delawaresurfman

One Spool of SpiderWire Ultracast InvisiBraid goes to Rob Rader

Second Spool of SpiderWire Ultracast  InvisiBraid goes to Spencer K

Third Spool of SpiderWire Ultracast InvisiBraid goes to Ron Mattson Sr

 

All winners, you have 5 days to email us your name and shipping address to info@surfcastersjournal.com

Why are they not inshore?

I been thinking about the state of fisheries lately. Mostly at work since I been going 7 days a week for awhile now. No, I really don’t think there is   a point in debating if the striped bass fishery is in trouble. If you think all is hunky dory, then I wouldn’t try to change your mind, at least not in this post. I’ve done plenty of them over the years talking from personal perspective and shared post by others.

Darn, I remember sitting on tailgate in Montauk Point with Vito Orlando and Bill Wetzel years ago. Bill at the time was not a believer in what we thought was coming. White bait blitzes were in full force, his customers were catching fish, I cant say I blamed him. He was always a big advocate of catch and release or responsible harvest. He just didn’t believe that the inshore striped bass fishery would look like this in only few years. Hell, I am having a hard time believing what I am seeing. And I expected it!…but not to this extent.

Which brings me back to my original thought…why?

No, I wont buy the argument that it was Sandy, lack of bait, changed migration route, water temps. There is a precedent for what is going on today and you have to reach far, far back in the time capsule….

During the last collapse, there were pockets of good fishing, particularly at Cape Cod and later at   Block Island. There were pockets of good fishing this year too , on bunker schools that wrapped around NJ, to LI to Montauk Point. There were big fish, really big fish , and if you didn’t get on them in time, you could shove a thumb up your ass becouse the resident fish were not staying behind these schools. To be fair, Cape Cod Canal had insane blitzes last few weeks and you’d be happy to know (or not) that thousands of big fish were caught and dragged to the trucks. Often by same guys who were whining to me few weeks ago when I was there in late May how terrible fishing was, how we need a moratorium or higher limits. Story for another day I guess..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back to why inshore is bare. If you are having a hard time getting a bump on your local beach, you are not alone. Most of my crew is either fluke fishing or grilling in the back yard. Not too many are putting any effort and when they do, they are getting a lot of exercise and not much more. I am hearing the same from friends along the coast from NJ to ME with Cape Canal again being the exception.

I believe that when the fisheries are healthy and fish are plentiful, the competition for food is fierce and stripers take residence all over the coast in search of food. In fall, they reunite in big schools for their migration southward but for most of spring and summer, they feed in smaller schools in local inlets, harbors, rivers and such. That is why NJ guys and NY guys and MA guys used to all have a good bite in June when today only one out of those three for example, will have it AND it will be limited to a specific place, not spread out throughout the region. And yes, there were always fish in deep water too. Boats caught fish, surfcasters caught fish, kayak guys caught fish.

So now we have smaller schools, which do not need as much food to sustain themselves. Hell, there is more food (bait) last few years than I have ever seen but nothing is chasing these baitfish. Just like baitfish congregate in numbers for safety, is it possible that striped bass do too? Maybe as a survival instinct? Why would they come inshore when there is plenty off food offshore and no competition?I think there might be something to that but as of right now, striped bass are refusing any interviews due to what they perceive is a lack of respect by the general public.

I honestly have no desire to beat the drum continually and yell Sky is Falling, that is not the point of this post. I think its little too late for that. In all honestly, I am curios why many of you think that suddenly the resident fish are missing ffrontier usual inshore spots?

btw

I got a feeling we are going to get an early fall run, whatever it might look like, this year. In fact, I would not be surprised if it started already in few places. Reason? Nothing more than temperatures. This is unseasonably cool for too long not to have an effect

thanks to our friend Dennis Zambrotta for this 1977 article from Boston Globe

Montgomery-SB-1977

MEGA giveaway, Big Fish swimmer, Guppy Pencil AND Spiderwire InvisiBraid

A new giveaway for our readers. Been meaning to do this for awhile but unfortunately I haven’t had time to sit down for a minute in weeks.

First the winners of last week giveaway of 3 1/2 ounce Wally’s Lures Danny Swimmer and a Wally’s Lures 1 1/8 ounce Stubby Needlefish. You can get more information about Wally’s Lures at http://www.wallysluresandtackle.com/

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The winners are

nnojj@aol.com

and

Tomhiggins77@gmail.com

You both have 5 days to email us your shipping address at info@surfcastersjournal.com

And now for today MEGA giveaway as Tommy would say, so lets get to it

First, a stunning Big Fish Bait Co , Prey Swimmers, made by our friend and reader Larry Wentworth. You can reach Larry trough FB at https://www.facebook.com/pages/BigFish-Bait-Co/122594234465082

He does not sell in the stores but I do know that he makes small batches available trough FB

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Second, and by no means less of prize is Guppy 1 /14 ounce Pencil Popper, made by Hess Family. You will get a chance to read a full interview with Peter and Wayne Hess in the September issue of the Surfcaster’s Journal and some videos to follow. You can get more info about Guppy Lures at http://www.guppylure.com/

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Third, hell, lets get crazy, fourth and fifth winners. Each will recive one spool of Spiderwire Ultra Cast InvisiBraid

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Courtesy of our friends at SpiderWire. You can read all about this line at http://spiderwire.com/

and a Public Service announcment

Our Friend Bob Jones wanted to make us aware of a special  show/benefit for the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum.

 “We will be displaying lures and artifacts from WW-2 until the present.
Frank Pintauro’s sister is the Director of the Museum and his nephew: Steven Lobosco and Richard Doctorow organized it. It should be pretty cool. I lent them 4 showcases full of lures and a few other choice items; including a homemade Campo Bag.
The reception is this Friday at 6PM. And the show runs until August 25th
There is no admission charge. Bring the kids.”
!cid_ii_hyit9phx0_147abf01b8ae4b8b
and last but never least, Montauk Surfcasters Association Picnic
Saturday, August, 23 – 10 AM.-4 PM.
Third house,Theodore Roosevelt Park, Montauk
Coffee-doughnuts-soda-hamburgers-franks-salads-corn-watermelon
Casting contest – raffle
Adults $5.00, children under 16 free
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Where We are With Striped Bass..By John McMurray

If I been MIA a bi, its becouse I am working seven days a week now and late on most days. Its getting to the point where I am just thrilled if I get to see my whole family at least for a minute each day but even that, with kids all over the place is not given. Construction is feast or famine and with new WTC sucking half of our company talent, its been crazy busy. Then again my son is starting college next week so I’ll take any work that comes my way for a long, long time. I thought you should read this..even if you think sky in not falling

Zeno

This post appeared originally at www.reel-tide.com on August 13th

Here is the link to original piece

http://www.reel-time.com/articles/conservation/striped-bass/

Where We are With Striped Bass

ASMFC moves ahead with an addendum to reduce fishing mortality, but getting the cuts we need will not be easy.

Photo by Capt. John McMurray

This is, I dunno, part 10 or something in my disjointed series on the decline of the striped bass resource and what the Atlantic States Fisheries Management Commission (ASFMC, or the consortium of states that manages striped bass) is going to do about it.

Yes, I write about striped bass a lot, and I do hope readers aren’t rolling their eyes right now. But, I can see which blogs drive traffic. And if I so much as mention striped bass in the title, the number of readers goes through the roof. So I really don’t think so. The point is, striped bass “is” (or crap, maybe I should start saying, “used to be”) really, really important to me… to just about all of us that fish in this region really. I’m not gonna get into why, because I’ve already waxed a few times about how that stupid fish has actually driven my life up to this point. How my business depends upon it, etc. So I’ll spare you that part this time. What I’d like to do this week is to bring readers up to speed on the good, the bad and the ugly on where we are as of last week’s ASMFC meeting.

Yes, the ASMFC Striped Bass Board did meet last Tuesday to discuss (read: add and remove options) to an Addendum to the management plan which is intended to reduce fishing mortality on striped bass. If you haven’t been reading my other blogs, the really short version is that striped bass numbers have declined precipitously over the last eight or so years. Of course if you fish, you already know that. But it’s a fact that we’ve currently exceeded some of the management “targets” that are supposed to require prompt action. Yes, it’s taken a long time to get to the point where we are beginning to see any glimmer of light, but Addendum IV is indeed a “light” of some sort. Even the most precautionary option may not be, and probably isn’t enough (I’ll get to that later) but there will most likely be some action in 2015.

So, last week, after some debate, ASMFC voted out a Draft Addendum IV to Amendment 6 of the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass for Public Comment. It includes a bunch of options to reduce harvest along the coast and in the Chesapeake Bay. Some are good, others, not so good.

But before I get to that, let’s talk about Maryland and Virginia because they are really beginning to annoy me. Those two states have been working really hard to water down/chip away at the Addendum, and to some extent they’ve been successful. Through various letters and of course the public record, it’s become very clear that they don’t appear to want any sort of reduction at all, despite all the anecdotal warning signs, the pleas from the public to do something, and, well, the science.

Lou releases a nice one...photo by Capt. John McMurray

I do understand why. They have a very vocal and influential commercial fishing community. And, not surprisingly, there are a handful of really loud charter boat captains that apparently don’t want to have to stop killing lots of fish. I get it… Watermen are suffering down there. Crabs have crashed, although certainly that’s not the fault of “too many” striped bass, as commercials and even some managers may argue. (Note: there is absolutely no science to back up such a contention, and it should be pretty well known by now that those two species have existed together in abundant numbers since, well, since they both first existed.) But hard lessons learned quite recently with cod in New England should show us pretty clearly what happens when you focus on keeping the commercial fishery fishing on a depleted stock.

In short, neither Maryland nor Virginia appears to give a crap about the hundreds of thousands of anglers in their states who depend on abundant striped bass stocks to be successful, not to mention all the businesses that depend on those anglers. Instead, it’s all about the short term economic gain the Baymen and charter-boats can reap before the stock completely collapses. And I know there are still people who keep saying that the sky isn’t falling. But these are not the people who spend any real amount of time on the water. Listen… The sky is f’n falling.

I could go into more detail here about Maryland and Virginia, but fellow blogger Charlie Witek has already done that quite well here: Maryland Seeks to Slow Striped Bass RecoveryBefore moving on,I would also quickly note that Maryland and Virginia’s biggest allies are commissioners from (you guessed it) New Jersey, (surprisingly) Rhode Island, and (to some extent, though I hate to admit it) New York, as well.

Fortunately, despite all of their efforts, Maryland and Virginia were largely unsuccessful in adding separate reference points for the Chesapeake Bay, which would have allowed them to harvest a significant portion of the 2011 year class–the only good year class we’ve seen since 2003. They also tried to base commercial reduction on quota instead of actual harvest, which in many cases would have resulted in no real reduction at all. Fortunately that effort failed as well.

There are only a few options in Addendum IV that we should focus on going forward… So if I’ve still got you, let’s get to them.

“Option A” is of course, status quo. Believe it or not, there are commissioners who have supported this option, and who will argue for it as we move forward, even though it will have less than a one-percent chance of keeping fishing mortality below the target in one or three years. Obviously we do not want Option A!

“Option B” would reduce fishing mortality to a level that is at or below the target within ONE YEAR. This represents a 25-percent reduction from 2013 total harvest. The reduction would of course be shared by both commercial and recreation fishermen.

Option B is the best of the choices available, but it’s a long way from perfect. If you read some of my other stuff you will recall that the what the Technical Committee was initially recommending was a 31 to 34-percent reduction, but it later revisited the commercial discard numbers (those fish they throw back dead,) which ended up being lower than initially projected (Note: the Technical Committee admits that they don’t have a firm grasp on that number.) Really, it’s hard not to think that the change was political, in some way influenced by the wailing and gnashing of teeth. But I don’t really know.

Photo by Capt. John McMurray

Getting back to the options, “Option C” would reduce fishing to a level that is at or below the target within THREEYEARS. This represents a 17-percent reduction from 2013 total harvest starting in the 2015 fishing year. There are no additional reductions in subsequent years; the 17-percent reduction would be taken all in the first year. Yes, I had to read this a few times also before I understood it. So we’re taking a 17-percent reduction in one year. And theoretically, by doing so it would reduce fishing mortality to at or below the target mortality level by the end of the third year, 2017.

Now, “Option D” would reduce fishing mortality to a level that is at or below the target withinTHREE YEARS also. But instead of doing the reduction in the first year, it would meter it out at seven-percent a year. This is by far the least precautionary option. In fact, a seven-percent reduction over three years is almost as bad as just doing nothing at all.

What I don’t really understand here is how the three year options (C and D) are even compliant! Amendment 6 is pretty clear that if the fishing mortality target is exceeded in two consecutive years and the spawning stock biomass (SBB) falls below the target within either of those years (the fishing mortality target was exceeded in 2011 and 2012, and SSB has been below target since 2006) the Management Board must adjust the striped bass management program to reduce the fishing mortality rate to a level that is at or below the target WITHIN ONE YEAR. WTF man!?

If ASMFC can change its mind any time a management plan becomes inconvenient rather than living up to its promise to the public to take action when a trigger is tripped, then it is telling the public that those management plans aren’t worth the paper that they’re written on. They are saying management plans can be altered at the whim of the management board, regardless of the impact of such change on the health of a public resource. ASMFC has a serious credibility problem if it adopts the three-year phase-in.

But really, who am I kidding. Pretty sure they don’t care.

The point is that Options C and D, which drag things out for three years, are unacceptable. Option B, the 25-percent reduction in one year, is really the best option at this point, and I guess the one we should be advocating for moving forward. But even that isn’t great.

I should note here that all these options, including Option B, have only a 50-percent probability of achieving their goal. In other words, a coin toss. I’m not gonna get into how wrong this is and how given the history of fisheries management we should know better… and how it’s really foolish to not have options that have a greater chance of success because I’ve covered that in other blogs (e.g On Downplaying the Plight of Striped Bass.) And believe me, I voiced that concern at the Striped Bass Advisory Panel meeting. So yeah, I think Option B sucks, but it may be the best we have at this point.

Well, that’s not entirely true. During last week’s ASMFC meeting Massachusetts Commissioner Paul Diodati moved to include an option in the draft addendum for a 30-percent reduction in one year. That makes sense given that the great majority of the public seems to want more significant cuts. But I doubt it will get much support from commissioners. Nonetheless, if that option gets fleshed out and included in the Draft Addendum, we should support it.

Of course there are other more specific options in the document, including bag, size, slot and trophy size limits for the recreational fishery and quota reductions/quota trading for the commercial fishery. But for right now, the goal should be to just get the largest reduction in fishing mortality we can. Because despite what a shrinking number of naysayers are spouting, striped bass are in big trouble.

Having listened to ASMFC discuss the striped bass decline during the last two years, it’s pretty darn apparent that the emphasis is all on money, and whatever economic benefit Commissioners can squeeze out of these fish. But what no one—except for Deodati—seems to be talking about is the loss of income to guys like me. Guys who focus on striped bass charters, guys who depend on abundance. And what about all the surfcasters who are losing access to this fishery very quickly? And all the gear they or any recreational striped bass fishermen buys, the hotels they stay in, the restaurants they eat at? The far-reaching loss of income due to the decline is, I’m sure, extraordinary.

But, of course, it’s the poor commercial fisherman, or the apparently struggling party/charter captains (who can fall back on abundant summer flounder, black seabass and scup stocks) that they listen to, because, well, because they are just louder.

So listen, man. If striped bass are important to you, it’s time to be loud. Really F’n loud! I’m tired of the bullshit. This pro-harvest/F the public mentality has got to go. The Draft Addendum may not be perfect, but we have let ASMFC know that we really want the most risk adverse/precautionary option. Right now that looks like Option B, but before writing, let’s see what they do with the Diodati motion.

The Draft Addendum will be available on the Commission website (www.asmfc.org) underPublic Input the week of August 11th. In the near future there will be public hearings in just about every striped bass state. I’ll be sure to let you know when and where these will happen. If you can’t make the hearing or just find those things as unpleasant as I do (although you can bet your ass I’ll be at the New York one,) written comment will be accepted until the end of September.

That’s all for now. Stand by and I will update you on the public comment situation as it develops.

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After obtaining an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Loyola College in Maryland, Captain John McMurray served in the US Coast Guard for four years as a small-boat coxswain and marine-fisheries law enforcement officer. He was then recruited to become the first Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association New York. He is currently the Director of Grants Programs at the Norcross Wildlife Foundation in New York. He is the owner and primary operator of “One More Cast” Charters. John is a well known and well published outdoor writer, specializing in fisheries conservation issues. In 2006 John was awarded the Coastal Conservation Association New York Friend of Fisheries Conservation Award.

Servicing your Van Staal reel

Did you ever wondered as what kind of process your Van Staal reel undergoes when you send it in for annual maintenance? I’ve read many opinions from keyboard experts over the years and you know what they says about opinions…

So in search of  an answer I went to the Authorized Van Staal service center at White Water Outfitters in Hampton Bays, NY and spoke to their VS technician Bert about the process

Then it hit me, hey, this would be nice to put on a video so that all VS users can see what happens to their reel after they send it in for service

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Some voices of reason….is anyone listening?

Conservation Corner-Captain Jason ColbyFrom the Fisherman Magazine, 7/31/14

http://www.thefisherman.com/index.cfm?

To say that the bass fishing has been a disappointment so far this year would be an understatement! For the past 7 years I have been telling Mike Armstrong, Assistant Director of the Ma. DMF that there are less and less bass each year and I kept asking “why do you keep increasing commercial quotas”? I was continually subjected to things like : “you are imagining things”, “you don’t know what you are talking about”, “everyone is catching plenty of fish”,etc………

My boat was catching plenty of fish as well but that was not the point I was trying to make and they did not want to know. “Fish management” is all about MONEY and on the state level there is a lot of pressure on the “managers”  to “bring money into the state. Stripers are a bit of a cash cow for Massachusetts because most of the commercial landings go right to New York City and we (state residents) get money for that. Money is then spent (hopefully) in our states retail stores and our local economy is “stimulated”. Other commercial bass sale states see things pretty much the same way so the money comes 1st and the resource comes “somewhere after that”.

For many years that same mentality kept poachers in business as enforcement was not being pushed to take care of the issue. After all, it was just some harmless commerce. By my “rough estimates” and from what I know about poaching (I myself was a poacher for a few years in the late 80′s. I have long since been reformed), the black market “take” of striped bass is at least equal to the legal harvest quota. I believe that the management people know this but intentionally ignore it when they are pushing catch statistics to justify increasing commercial quotas which is what they have done steadily for the past two decades.

Much of the “reasoning” behind the limits that they set were from the “rational” that we are only going up to “traditional harvest levels”. Why didn’t any of those Menza candidates ask: “If the harvest levels of before collapsed the stock before, won’t that happen again”? DUH! “The beginning of the end” before the last stock collapse of the mid eighties was when the draggers out of North Carolina and Virginia started “working on” the bodies of fish that wintered off their coasts in January and February before they went into the estuaries to spawn in late winter. In 1981, my friend and bass fishing partner “Artie Johnson” was showing me the market reports from Fulton Fish Market and how the massive shipments of bass from Va. and NC sent the price of bass down to 10 cents a pound during the prior winters. Back in 2006 those draggers started “ramping up” once again and a few years later, here we are again. Draggers and stripers do not mix well. When they do, it is always bad for the stripers. In fact for awhile a few years back the standard practice for draggers in NC, where they were allowed to take/sell 50 bass a day was to tow through a school of bass and kill 1000 fish and then throw the 975 smallest ones overboard (dead). Then tow again for another 1000 fish to retain the remaining 25 of their daily quota! There were acres of dead bass floating all over the place down there and the practice made such a sensation on the internet that the regulations were quickly changed to curb the practice. Of course the draggers said they were doing nothing illegal and they are right. “Anything moral ?”, is another question.

Do we “need” a total moratorium now to fix things? No! However, a three to four year shutdown of the commercial harvest is surely in order as well as a 50% cut to the recreational take (one fish over  28 or 32 inches would be well served). Then, if/when commercial harvest is brought back, nets of any kind should never be allowed. Further, the “harvest” should never approach any more than 1/2 of what today’s quotas are and any form of poaching, if convicted, should bar that offender from all commercial fishing for a year.  A second conviction should bar them for life. As it is today I have heard poachers and black market dealers refer to the slap on the wrist they get as “the cost of doing business”!

Lastly, we have all heard the argument that charter boats are amongst the biggest offenders and I’m afraid that reputation is somewhat deserved. However the one fish limit should address that nicely with perhaps a one “trophy fish” per trip stipulation thrown in there to appease that user group and their customer base. It’s not a perfect world and there are no easy answers but some things are best kept simple and we need to learn from our past mistakes. Traditional harvest levels on a supposedly rebuilt stock do not work. If nothing else, lets learn from that.

 

Captain Jason Colby
Little Sister Charters
fishinglsister@aol.com
617-755-3740
www.littlesister1.com

 

 

 

From Charles Witek Blog, One Angler’s Voayage

Thursday, July 31, 2014

MARYLAND SEEKS TO SLOW STRIPED BASS RECOVERY

Most of our striped bass are spawned in Chesapeake Bay, and most of those come from the waters of Maryland.  For that reason, Maryland’s striped bass young-of-the-year index has generally been the best future predictor of the future health of the stock.

Thus, folks who care about the striper’s future have been rightly concerned by the fact that the index has been coming in below average for most of the years in the past decade, with the 2012 index the lowest in more than fifty years—even lower than anything recorded during the depths of the last stock collapse.

 

The one bit of good news came in 2011, when a dominant year class was produced.

You would think that the folks who manage bass down in Maryland would be doing whatever they can to help those 2011s live long enough to recruit into the spawning stock, something that should happen in 2017 or so.

 

But if you thought that, you would have been wrong.

Maryland has a long history of killing immature bass (back before the collapse, a legal “pan rock” was just 12 inches long), and it doesn’t look like they’re planning to reform any time soon.

Right now, they’ve got the 2011s fixed dead in their sights.

It started last fall when, despite the steady decline if the spawning stock biomass, the state declared its intention to increase the harvest by 14% in 2014.  I suppose that went over well with the folks who make their money off the heads of dead fish, but folks capable of thinking about the long term—which, in this case, is anything past the current season—figured out that beating up on the only solid year class in the last decade was probably a dumb idea.

Coastal Conservation Association Maryland, which seems to represent the most rational and responsible anglers in the state, made a really solid effort to prevent such foolishness from going forward but, in the end, the chance of plucking more dollars from the heads of dead bass proved far too attractive for the state to change course.

So this year, the Maryland folks are killing more bass, even though a peer-reviewed stock assessment, that was presented to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission last October, and updated  in December, noted that

“If the current fully-recruited [fishing mortality rate] (0.200) is maintained during 2013-2017, the probability of being below the [spawning stock biomass] reference point increases to 0.86 by 2015…If the current fully-recruited [fishing mortality rate] increases to Fthreshold(0.219), and is maintained during 2013-2017, the probability of being below the [spawning stock biomass] reference point reaches 0.93 by 2015 and declines thereafter…

“…there is a probability of 0.46 that the 2012 female [spawning stock biomass] is below or equal to the [spawning stock biomass] threshold, and a probability of 0.31 that the 2012 fully-recruited fishing mortality is above or equal to the fishing mortality threshold…”

The stock assessment also made it clear that, although the stock was not yet overfished and that overfishing did not occur in the past couple of years, the target fishing mortality levels had been exceeded, and the spawning stock biomass had been below target levels since 2006.

Amendment 6 to ASMFC’s striped bass management plansays that

“If the Management Board determines that the fishing mortality target is exceeded in two consecutive years and the female spawning stock biomass falls below the target in either of those years, the Management Board must adjust the striped bass management program to reduce the fishing mortality to a rate that is at or below the target within one year.“

That seems pretty clear, but not if you’re Thomas O’Connell, the marine fisheries director for the State of Maryland.  He took a look at Amendment 6, and its mandate to reduce fishing mortality, but wasn’t too impressed.

Instead of making meaningful changes to the management program in order to reduce fishing mortality to the target level, O’Connell decided that he’d rather make changes to Amendment 6, and allow harvest reductions to be phased in over three full years, instead the one year currently required.

 

As too often happens at ASMFC, it was a matter of elevating short-term economic gains over the need to conserve and rebuild the stock.  At the May Striped Bass Management Board meeting, O’Connell said

“I think it really comes down to a cost-benefit analysis and trying to weigh the impacts versus the likely benefits of our action today…

“I think, as I mentioned earlier, a 32 to 36 percent reduction is going to have large socio-economic impacts as well as potential ecological impacts.  I think we don’t have a stock situation that is in dire need of protection…”

Not everyone on the Management Board shared that view. Paul Deodati, the state fisheries director from Massachusetts, eloquently opposed O’Connell’s approach, correctly noting that

“We’re actually working off the tenets of Amendment 6, which are pretty clear about what this board is supposed to do.  We’re not supposed to wait until new fall down well below the levels that [Thomas O’Connell is] suggesting.  We’re supposed to take an action now.

“It is always difficult when we have to make a cut, especially when our fisheries aren’t completely falling apart; but with striped bass we took a very deliberate approach to how we were going to react to and address changes in stock condition.  This is the change that we identified many years ago as a point in time when we’ll take a serious action to reduce fishing mortality.  We’ve reached that.  In fact, in my belief we have gone well beyond the time that we allowed ourselves to take this action.

“I think that any further delays is going to hurt the credibility of the commission.  It is going to completely tarnish the integrity of the Striped Bass Management Plan, which I think we’ve worked really hard to maintain as a top-notch managed program.  I don’t think that’s our intent, but I’m afraid that would be the result of delaying action on this…“

Pat Augustine, proxy for New York’s legislative appointee, also raised the issue of ASMFC’s credibility, pointing out that

“I think at the end of the day if we just decide we’re not going to follow through on what our commitment was last year to be well on our way to recovery and implementation January of 2015 and come up with anything that is going to dilute the direction we’re going, I think we will totally lose the credibility of the public…

There is a lot of emotion out there; and to do anything other than what we committed to do, we’re going to have mud all over our face and we’re going to embarrass ourselves…“

However, Tom Fote, governor’s appointee from New Jersey and long-time opponent of ever reducing the recreational harvest of anything, regardless of the health of the stock, was quick to jump on the O’Connell bandwagon, trying to discredit Augustine with a somewhat unintelligible argument that

“The credibility is that we’re basically trying to accommodate fishermen.  New York has always wanted one fish.  When we opened the fishery when there is plenty of fish, their surf fishermen wanted one fish.  That is not the reality in New York.

“That is the reality of other states, and this is a compact of all the states that we try to accommodate our fishermen whatever they need…

“I have no problem and our credibility always stands as it is…”

Although, in the end, the facts spoke for themselves, and Deodati was clearly correct.  When ASMFC adopted Amendment 6, it made a covenant with the public to take management action when a trigger was tripped.  Should the Striped Bass Management Board ultimately approve a three-year phase-in of the reduction, it will have violated the public trust, and demonstrated that its word is not to be trusted.

Hopefully, that will not happen, but…

There’s no doubt that Maryland is going to work hard to make that happen, and in the end, it’s easy to understand why.

The 2011 year class won’t recruit into the coastal fishery until 2017.  Until then—perhaps not coincidentally—Maryland and the other Chesapeake fisheries will have them to themselves.  The females will migrate out of the bay for the summer, but most of the males will stick around, and the Maryland fishermen—commercial and recreational—and the Maryland charter boats will be able to pound on them pretty hard while they’re around.

Given that the 2011s are the first good year class since 2003, that 2012 was the worst ever recorded and that we don’t know when the next good spawn will be (although there’s reason to hope that 2013 might be solid), it’s hard to blame Maryland for trying to take what they can while the taking’s good.

Except…even their own anglers are cautious.  CCA Maryland adopted its “My Limit is One” campaign to try to protect some fish and mitigate the damage that the 14% harvest increase will do.

So why does Maryland want to kill so many striped bass?

As O’Connell said, for “socio-economic” reasons.

Which is the nice way of saying that it’s all about the almighty buck, and someone trying to squeeze a little more blood from the stone before casting it aside.

We always have to remember that responsible anglers such as the folks at CCA Maryland aren’t the only people fishing for bass.

Maryland’s commercial sector killed 2,524,181 pounds of stripers in 2012 (compared to the 1,445,187 pounds landed by its anglers), and it has a big charter fleet that puts dead bass high on its list of priorities, killing  46% of the entire recreational harvest.  O’Connell is trying to put a little more money in their pockets today, rather than trying to restore the stock—and so putting more money in their pockets tomorrow.

Even Maryland’s United States senators got into the act.  A letter addressed to Robert Beal, ASMFC’s Executive Director, co-signed by Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin says that the proposed reduction in striped bass harvest

“will adversely impact Maryland’s striped bass fisheries—and could affect entire Bay communities and other fishery industries as a whole—without the benefit of achieving the Commission’s desired level of protection to the spawning stock…

“The Commission is considering action due to concerns over a fishing mortality rate that exceeds the target level, and the dacade long decline in the female spawning stock.  Both of these conditions warrant some conservation action, but that action should not be so extreme as to cause undue economic hardship to coastal communities…

“We ask for the Commission’s continued support for inclusion of a multi-year approach to reducing fishing mortality to the target level…”

In other words, the good senators know that there’s a problem with the striped bass stock, and know that something needs to be done, but doesn’t want ASMFC to do anything that might—according to the best available science—be truly effective, because that might affect the short-term health of some constituents’ bank accounts.

What is worthy of note—and particularly heartening to those who support doing the right thing for the striper—is that the senators’ letter was the only letter received by ASMFC that supported the three-year phase in of harvest reductions.

All 36 of the letters included in the original meeting materials (which include a petition signed by 1,428 people), and the remaining 51 letters included in the supplemental materials, supported imposing meaningful harvest restrictions.  None supported a three-year phase in of harvest reductions, and the vast majority specifically opposed such action.

The other comments received from Maryland residents included 14 letters from individuals, who asked the Management Board to “cut the fishery…as much as you can legally” and one from a Solomons-based charter boat captain, who said that

“The people from Md DNR have done nothing about the decline of the striped bass.  I fish about 100 trips a year that the decline is Very Clear [sic] a limited number of rock fish in a small area that will be wiped out sooner than later.”

It doesn’t seem likely that the captain would appreciate the position taken by O’Connell, his state fishery director, nor with that taken by Senators Mikulski and Cardin…

All 17 letters received from anglers in Virginia, which shares Chesapeake Bay—and any special Chesapeake Bay regulations—with Maryland call for taking action in one year, not three.

Maryland’s staunchest allies on the Management Board, Tom Fote of New Jersey and Rick Bellavance of Rhode Island (who said “..from the folks that I speak to in our neck of the woods, we don’t see a problem”), don’t seem to have much constituent support.  There were no comment letters from New Jersey at all, while the only comment letter from Rhode Island stated that

“THERE ARE FEWERE AND LESS [sic] LARGE BASS AND IT’S GETTING WORSE EVERY YEAR.  Traditional areas of past striped bass abundance are shells of what they used to be…Even the commercial fishermen have to travel farther and farther to target dwindling stocks of striped bass“

and supports

“…drastic action…Complete moratorium on commercial and recreational harvesting of striped bass until stocks are at 2006 levels or at a minimum of one fish at 36 inches…“

So it looks as if Maryland officials—both its fisheries director and its U.S. senators—and their allies from other states have taken a position that is not supported by the public at large, by Amendment 6 to the management plan nor by the stock assessment.

I suppose that only the folks who profit from dead striped bass stand behind them.

Yet they continue to oppose needed conservation measures.

Which just shows, once again, that so long as there is money to be made, there will always be someone trying to do the wrong thing at ASMFC.