Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday April 1 -- 


Sorry my blogs have been a bit splotchy of late. It's been one of those brutal bursts of business, mainly seasonal workloads. I have barely managed outback time, which shows just how worked out I've been. Still, it's a sign of spring -- and my favorite season of spring. Of course, the temps of late haven't made it feel overly springy but I've seen quite a few rods in, on and atop vehicles coming onto LBI. I also know that folks are already working down on the river. Upstream Mullica has seen small, likely winter resident, schoolies. I'm going to drive up to the landings tomorrow on some non-fishing business but will see what the boys working the bridges are doing. 

I had a surprise package left off on my steps. It was over 40 plugs, semi-vintage (1970s), mainly smaller saltwater plugs, some in real nice conditions, including mirrored Red Fins with not so much as a speck of reflection missing. Very nice -- maybe too nice to use, we'll see. Interestingly, there was also a group of classic poppers that had never been finished. These were/are literally blanks with rigging but no hooksa. I'll be having some fun getting these up and running, colors-wise.

As to the dropper off of the bag of fishing fineries, turns out the bag had been chucked by a folks emptying a house. How often does that happen? A whole lot, I kid you not. Folks move away, pass away or fade away and the newbies taking over -- often other family members wanting to rearrange things their way -- couldn't give a rat's ass about the prized possessions of the former folks.; kinda sad, but I guess that's one of those vicious life-goes-on syndromes. In fact, in this case, the plugs were just part of a streetside dump-off that included rods, reels and two unsigned wooden handcrafted decoys. Total value of just what I saw: easily $1,000 -- and the furniture I heard about seemed to dwarf that value. 

As for the woods, they've turned off like someone threw a switch. Short of a couple less-than-enthusiastic frogs singing to themselves, all the rowdy and raucous activity of a couple weeks back has gone back to sleep.  It sure seems it's lining up for another one of those straight-to-summer things, where we go from shivery to sizzling in a no-spring heartbeat. There's no doing anything about it.

I saw a sanguine but telling scene near a backwoods road shoulder. A dead deer was lying with almost an entire car grill stuck to it. Costly meetup -- for all involved. 

There is some activity beneath the bridges, at night, mainly the first arriving baitfish. It's still freezing when standing atop those Causeway spans.
East Hampton Star] By Laura Donnelly - March 31, 2011 - 
© Copyright 1996-2011 The East Hampton Star
Shad are the aquatic equivalent of chirping, red-breasted robins, heralding spring. This delicious (but bony) fish begins its migration in early spring, traveling up the East Coast, seeking freshwater rivers to spawn in. The Alosa sapidissima can travel over 300 miles on this mission.
Interestingly, in America, the shad's roe is considered a delicacy, whereas in Europe it's the fish itself that is prized. Shad boning is difficult, and those who are good at it are highly paid this time of year. The flesh is sweet and delicate, fatty, and full of omega-3. The bones are small, and there is a second set of bones perpendicular to the main skeleton, so when you see a fillet, you will notice that there are a number of slits throughout.
The Micmac Indians had a legend about American shad. A porcupine, bored with his life, appealed to the Great Spirit to change him into something else. Rather annoyed, the Great Spirit simply turned the porcupine inside out and tossed it into the river.
Shad have some interesting characteristics. They are able to detect ultrasound, which is thought to help them avoid dolphins, who find their prey using echolocation. And while most are migratory, some species are landlocked; they can be found in Killarney, Ireland, and some lakes in northern Italy. It is also a mystery as to why they strike lures during their migration. In preparation for their long journey, they fatten themselves up and then stop eating. Some believe they strike out of annoyance, trying to keep the darts and flutter spoons away from their spawning beds.
In the 1800s, rivers were black with fish, but the shad population met devastation attributable to overfishing, pollution, and river damming. There have been efforts to clean up rivers along the East Coast, stocking, and even building “elevators” to assist the fish's access to the Susquehanna River. This has helped to some extent, but the shad population varies wildly year to year and this remains a mystery to scientists.
There are numerous festivals celebrating shad season, the most famous being in Lambertville, N.J. There is also the Hudson Maritime Festival, the Grifton (N.C.) Shad Festival, and one called Fishtown in Philadelphia.
“Shad planking” is a term adapted from Wakefield, Va., where in the 1930s friends would gather by the James River to celebrate the fish, drink beer, and smoke tobacco. Originally just a social event, it soon became a popular gathering for Virginia politicians to gossip and speculate on upcoming elections. A man named Paul Cox is credited with teaching everyone about cooking the shad on wooden planks over an open fire, a method he had learned farther down south.
Finding shad roe this time of year is not very difficult. The windows of local fish stores will probably have a sign trumpeting its arrival, just as they do later on for soft-shell crabs. But finding the shad whole, or filleted, or better yet, properly filleted, is trickier. You simply have to ask for it. 
Shad, a member of the herring family, is a rich fish and mildly flavored. The roe is an acquired taste. Some adore the slightly grainy texture and briny taste. It is essential to not overcook the lobes and to not let the heat get too high, lest they explode in your frying pan and all over you! Most recipes call for cooking the roe wrapped in bacon; this provides moisture, fat, and obviously, lots of bacon flavor. A sprinkling of parsley and a squeeze of lemon finish the roe nicely.((((((((((((((((((((((((((()))))))))))))))))))))))))))
Jack MacAndrew- March 31, 2011 - Charlottetown, PEI- For years the fishermen plying the waters off eastern Canada have insisted that the burgeoning herd of grey seals was plundering the fish stocks of the region , gobbling up a variety of species , from codfish to pelagic varieties like herring and mackerel.
              Their complaints were largely ignored. 
              As a result , the grey seal population has boomed from 10,000 animals in 1960 to an estimated 400,000 animals in 2010 , the largest number measured in over 200 years ; and increasing by more than ten per cent in some years.
              An adult grey seal will consume between one and two tons of fish each year.They also transmit a parasite , a larval sealworm , which enters the flesh of the cod , making the flesh of the fish less valuable for human consumption. 
              But now , at long last , fishermen's anecdotal evidence making seals a major predator of valuable commercial stocks has been vindicated.
              A panel of scientists appointed by Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea to examine the scientific evidence has concluded that the grey seal is a major predator competing with the fishermen , and controls are in order to limit the further expansion of the herd. 
              The results of their study have been passed to Minister Shea for her consideration.
              The latest panel contradicts the findings of a previous study conducted in 2001 , which found that " ...there was little evidence that seal predation was having a major impact on most commercial fish stocks. " 
              That comes about because "...considerable new research has been conducted on seal population size , changes in the natural mortality of fish and the impacts of predators. "
              That new research caused a workshop analyzing latest evidence to conclude that "... the weight of indirect evidence suggested that grey seal predation could account for much of the high natural mortality of southern Gulf cod ."              The panel points out that 3 distinct herds are found in 3 marine ecosystems within the geographic range of the grey seal. One is the Gulf of St. Lawrence , the other two are on the Scotian Shelf.The highly mobile grey seal forages in the ocean from Georges Bank on the southern boundary of their range, to the northern extremity of the Gulf of St.Lawrence.
               In all three areas cod stocks have declined at least 80 per cent , and have shown little sign of rebounding even though commercial fishing has been banned for two decades.
               While there have been other contributory causes for the decline of cod stocks , the scientific panel concluded that " predation by grey seals was likely the greatest contributor to the increased mortality in large southern Gulf cod" , as well as " the high natural mortality of winter skate and white hake, two species at high risk of extirpation in the southern Gulf."
               The scientific panel says that if cod and other stocks are to be given any chance of survival , the grey seal population must be reduced in numbers.
               The question is - by how many individual animals?
               Lowering the natural mortality of cod in the Southern Gulf to an acceptable 0.4 ( the point of  recovery ) , would require a 70 per cent cull from a foraging population of just over 100,000 seals . 
             While the grey seal is not considered to be as important a factor in the recovery of cod stocks on the Scotia Shelf, the herds are much larger than those in the southern Gulf . The scientific panel suggests that removal of pups along with contraception of females when the herd comes ashore on Sable Island  is a preferred way of population control.
               The panel recommends the " Design of a controlled experiment to test impact of grey seal targeted removal on mortality of southern Gulf cod " , to test the hypothesis "...that the reduction of grey seal numbers....would lead to recovery of cod and other groundfish populations there . "
               Action , if any ,on the findings and recommendations of the study now awaits  decision of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans . With a federal election now underway , it is unlikely any serious consideration will be given to grey seals and codfish until a new government is sworn in sometime after May 2. 

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