Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Saturday Aug. 23, 08: Ideal out there -- whether there any fish or not (?)

Saturday, August 23, 2008: Waves: Small. Water clarity: Excellent. Based on weather alone, we’re into a stretch of niceness that just won’t quit. Any type fishing you do is doable this weekend. As I checked the radio chatter and watched the boat launch zones, fluke remains the big go-to target. As to what-else species, I heard a lot of interest in the cocktail bluefishing around the north end. Bassing remains low on the totem. Weakfishing has had flashes of blinding brilliance – and some skunkiness, as a couple folks I know had a hard time tracking them down – though they were not super savvy on sparklers, a must if you want to steadily stalk them. The sharpies are singing the praises of weaks, finding them to the point approaching ad nauseum. Surfcasting are dealing with near too-clear conditions – and water in the 70s. There are so many tiny bluefish that they cover the bottom in some areas. I had a few emails suggesting they might be bunker – and there are apparently some bunkie schools out there – but I noted that bunkies stay in tightly packed schools, usually somewhat balled up and often doing that famed circling movement meant to confuse predators. Kingfishing is excellent once you find them. GULP! pieces rule, with red varieties seemingly best at catching the eye of kingfish. Keep the rig moving to enhance hook ups, Fluke frequently being caught as by-catch to Kingfishing. Rays are not as regular but still out there. Jumbo-sized skate are in the mix. Junk-wise, robins are everywhere and also running very large. Early a.m. bass (small to very small) are a sure thing on plugs or jigs but once you catch the one or two first-cast fish it goes dead quiet bass-wise. A fellow on the North End had a small to-do with a guy leaving the beach with a very obvious undersized bass. I sympathize, but have learned not to go there, at least based on just a single illegal bass walk-off. It’s not worth steaming over the rest of the day. I say that after I did a very similar move, North End, after coming across a couple guys kicking undersized fluke back into the water, purposely using a fierce soccer-kick action, laughing about getting air under the obviously doomed flatties. I think it was their late-day sloppy beer-sipping and the jamming of finished cigarette butts into the sand (the filters sticking up in a little cluster next to their beach chairs) that had me a tad tensed about these seeming numbnuts. After coming on strong with them (early 20s types), they not only apologized profusely (and seemingly seriously) but actually were very careful with the next little fluke they caught (as I watched from a vantage where they couldn’t see me). A funny pass-on by Jay E.: News report: ELKIN, N.C. - David Hayes' granddaughter just asked him to hold her Barbie rod and reel while she went to the bathroom. He did. And seconds later he landed the state record channel catfish at 21 pounds, 1 ounce. Alyssa's father had bought the pink Barbie fishing rod for Christmas and she had caught a few bluegill before her grandfather hauled in the catfish. The Winston-Salem Journal reported the catch Aug. 5 in eastern Wilkes County has been certified as a record by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Hayes and his granddaughter have been fishing in the pond behind his house since she was big enough to hold a pole. Hayes said his granddaughter worried he would break her rod. He landed the 21-pound fish on a 6-pound test line. It was 32 inches long, 2 inches longer than the rod. (Wal-mart can’t figure out why they’re suddenly selling out of Barbie rods!!!)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ BELOW are some very-appreciated emails and a very interesting story on how one state is handling cow-nosed rays. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Jay, Cindy and I fished with the family on the boat Sunday. Seeing some real good marks on the recorder as we reached the LE Whistle, we dropped lines for a drift. In short order, the girls hooked up two healthy-sized skates. After releasing them, we picked up and headed for the LE Reef. Joining the crowd, we made numerous drifts through the area and caught sea robin, sea bass, and fluke. We probably caught over a dozen fluke, but only managed two take homes. My Dad managed a nice keeper sea bass as well. Sea conditions were fabulous until the wind picked up around three. As the drift became a bit more uncomfortable, we decided to troll back to the inlet. We picked up one small blue about 2 minutes into the troll, but nothing after that. All in all, a great day on the water with the family! Hope to get back at it again this weekend. Nick H ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ (Very interesting insights via this email): Hey Jay, I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for updating us on what they are saying in all the bait shops each week while making us laugh. I’m writing you because I’m tired of hearing people complain about the keeper fluke ratio. Yes, it was much better in the 80s and 90s. Yes, the marine biologists’ methodology in taking fish counts is probably a little conservative / flawed. Yes, the size could probably be lowered. Yes, it sucks commercial fisherman take whatever they want. I’m in full agreement on all that stuff. I think people need to try different spots, different baits, different rigging, etc. a little more before they complain. I’ve heard people come back from Little Egg Reef saying they caught 20 fluke on GULP! with no keepers. I can’t help but think to myself, “There were 50 boats fishing fluke on GULP! there every day of every weekend for the past 2 months!” That reef is so over-fished it should be closed for a season to recover. I started off with a very low keeper ratio, but I’ve steadily worked up to about 30% consistently. For the first time ever, I’ve kept a log of what baits worked where and at what times. When I fish someplace for the first time I’ll use a hi-lo rig and put 2 different baits on each hook. If I get consistent bites on one bait type, I’ll switch it up and put that bait on both hooks (or switch rigging if nothing’s working)….etc. etc. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ [The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA] - August 22, 2008 - Breaking a link in the food chain may be the first step toward reviving a North Carolina scallop population decimated by millions of migrating cownose rays. Scientists believe that three new sanctuaries in coastal sound waters will protect scallops during the summer onslaught of feeding rays, which have proliferated with the decline of great shark species. 'They range upwards to the size of the infield of a baseball diamond,' UNC Chapel Hill Professor Charles 'Pete' Peterson said of the sanctuaries, which are referred to as stockades. Peterson is part of a team from the school's Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City that worked in recent weeks to build the sanctuaries in the Bogue, Back and Core sounds. The enclosures, which Peterson said have proved successful in the past, will keep the rays from eating some of the scallops during the spawning season. They are created by placing PVC pipes vertically in the water close enough together that the rays can't enter. Peterson said the hope is that enough scallops survive the ray migration that the population can start to rebuild itself. 'We know that it works,' he said. 'The issue is on what level do you do this?' The cownose ray has been blamed for nearly finishing off a Chesapeake Bay oyster population already ravaged by disease. The winged marine animal has also taken a heavy toll on North Carolina's scallop fishery, which has been closed since 2004. The ray population has grown as the number of great sharks - their predators - has fallen from overfishing, Peterson said. Peterson co-authored an article published in the journal Science last year. He and fellow marine researchers presented the results of numerous marine studies conducted since the early 1970s. 'In that 30-year period, they're down dramatically - almost to the point of disappearance,' Peterson said of the great sharks during a recent phone interview. And that trickled down to the scallops, according to the article. As the great sharks died off, their prey found themselves with no threats and no population control. The cownose ray population was estimated at 40 million several years ago based on projections taken from flights over the Chesapeake Bay and knowledge of their rate of increase, Peterson said. David Gaskill , a commercial fisherman who lives on Cedar Island, said the business of catching scallops in North Carolina's sounds had been popular until the past decade or so. 'Maybe 15 or 20 years ago, there were a bunch of people doing it,' he said . But leading up to the closure, the industry had fizzled out, he said. This year, Gaskill has seen an increase in scallops. They are 'everywhere you look,' he said. The cownose rays crush shells with their razor-sharp teeth and also eat oysters, soft- and hard-shell clams, and other small bivalves. Peterson said the return of the scallop population will largely depend on whether enough great sharks can be brought back to provide population control for the rays again. That will require continued government intervention, he said. 'It's all a function of the management of the fishing, plain and simple.' The cownose ray has been blamed for depleting Chesapeake Bay oysters and North Carolina's scallop fishery.

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