Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 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.