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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Monday, February 18, 2019: Monday, February 18, 2019: SKY-ABOUT: Despite early forecasts of the biggest snow day ...

Still my favorite "wall" event ... 

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"Whadda ya mean, probable cause!"

Monday, February 18, 2019: SKY-ABOUT: Despite early forecasts of the biggest snow day of the year on Wednesday, cooler heads have prevailed -- after making note of the antifreeze impact of expected 40-degree onshore winds.

More up my forecast alley, I’m seeing some normal to above normal temps for days, even weeks, ahead. Of course, we are getting near March. That can always mean March weather madness.

I was surprised to see the weather data indicating this is becoming a very calm and mild winter, overall. I’ll take it – as in NOT having to take it. You might have noticed that the really nasty-ass winter stuff has been clobbering the northern tier of states, missing us by a country mile.

BASS-BE-BACK: With that bit of mildness in tow, it’s not too early to prep for arriving striped bass – if only mentally. And by getting ready to sign up for spring's "Simply Bassing" contest." Starting soon. 

With the failed fishing fall still bitterly entrenched in the angling minds of many a surfcaster, it’s should be remembered that recent springtimes have been decently fishy. In fact, vernal bassing has beaten out autumnal angling for a goodly number of years now.

My thinking: When spring moves in, grab the bass while you can. In fact, don’t wait to hear the starting gun for spring stripers, i.e. the first reports of fish being caught. Get out there and be the first to ferret out some schoolies.

I once found deep-lulling bass near the 113 buoy (off Holgate) and also in the deep water along the Sheepsheads – in February! It began when I was in a kayak and paddled atop flats on a sunny 50-degree day. Suddenly, the glassy water had surface wakes rushing back toward deeper water. I had spooked up at least half a dozen stripers. They had been soaking in the modest-at-best warmth. I commenced to jigging and got the earliest bass ever for me. I’ve heard of the same spring phenomenon on the flats just inside Barnegat Inlet, at the east end of Double Creek.

Wow look at me. I’m actually jonesing to get fishing. When that happens in late winter, I often turn to Pinelands pickerel, calling into service larger spinners or Heddon Torpedoes. I use larger spinner since they’re easier to carefully remove from the gullets of pickerel, which indubitably inhale them. I’m big on saving pickerel by unhooking through the gill plates.

 Image result for spinning lures

I got some further confirmation that quite a load of jumbo blue claw crabs had washed ashore, oceanside. While some folks blamed crab dredgers, I got this interesting observation from Brian Coen. “A very unique occurrence happened on Martin Luther King day this year. An all time blow out low tide and a simultaneous flash freeze. … The sand that adhered to the ice and was sucked out in the blowout exposed the crabs to freezing temps.”

JUST VENTING: It sometimes get frustrating when I write about something newsy -- to rather great length -- then get calls from stop-down folks clueless to what both myself and The SandPaper have been publishing all along. I don’t mind the fact they missed the stories we published. It’s when they message me -- all hot-to-trot -- lambasting us for not informing the public. We have been informing … out the wazoo! Even in the frustration mode, I return messages and usually calm things down – without openly saying, “If you lived here, you’d know all about it.” I instead imply it, nicely. I’m pretty much a people-liking sort, though I’m not always that good at showing it through my social anxiety disorder/complex thing.

This week, calls and emails flooded in about excavation work around 99th Street in LBT. Folks thereabout were miffed and confused after receiving certified mail explaining work being done for the area to receive the soon-to-arrive cross-bay natural gas line.

It’s a redundancy line -- should the natural gas mainline, crossing adjacent to the Causeway, go down or gets overburdened. The line originates in Eagleswood, where it will be attached to a mainline running along Rte. 9. On the mainland end, it has been a bugger for Dock Avenue folks in West Creek, where the work has frustrated travel to and from the Eagleswood bayside park.  

When first publicizing the plan, I marveled over the new-age tunneling/boring technique being used to cross beneath the bay to accommodate the line. The method did virtually nothing to disturb the delicate bay bottom.

In the past, bay-crossing pipelines brutalized the bottom – and any creatures therein or thereon. This new technique is a winner by my measure, hanging over 15 feet down. There is very few lifeforms at that deep. In fact, it’s most often an anaerobic environment, suited only to a few select bacteria. 

One aspect we’re only now reporting upon is what the receiving end of the Eagleswood/LBI pipeline will look like. It's already under construction. Over at the end of Dock Road, a rather involved structure has been built to allow access to the pipeline should any problem arise. We are looking into what will be built on our LBI side of things. 

THUMBS UP: I want to put in a real good word for Manahawkin Shell on Rte. 72. I often use their fine service, especially tires and engine woes. Talk about old-fashioned know-how. My highest rating. Tell them I sent you. Below: Louis Buckley

TRAP HAPPY: Trapping for dollars. It’s one of those things, those crazy things, the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife wholeheartedly hypes. For such small state, we certainly allow a slew of critters to be trapped, head-shot … and scalped.

I won’t pull any punches: Commercial trapping is a hideous thing. It sucks to high heaven. While I’ve heard idle chatter that somebody has to do it – to keep stocks in check – I can’t fathom the following trap takes being needed to keep a proper ecological balance. What’s more, the worth of the pelts is paltry compared to the need for living breathing wildlife to survive in our overdeveloped state. You can also bet only half of all wildlife being trapped and scalped are being reported. Almost 10,000 muskrats, 3,822 red foxes and 198 coyotes! Come on, NJ!

Per www.njfishandwildlife.com: An estimated 692 trapping license holders actively trapped during the 2017-18 season, enjoying an estimated 22,000 recreation-days afield while harvesting an estimated 824 mink, 9,279 muskrats, 97 gray fox, 3,822 red fox, 467 opossums, 4,233 raccoons, 129 skunks, and 3 weasels in addition to the reported harvest of 613 beavers, 51 river otters, and 198 coyotes. The raw fur value was estimated at $120,835 based on average prices from international and local auctions.

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(This is one opinion ... )

Editorial: The Plight of the Stripers

Copyright © 2019 Vineyard Gazette
February 18, 2019

Atlantic striped bass are in trouble again. And not unlike American bankers and investors who are hyper-monitoring stock markets these days, fishermen and federal regulators alike are paying extra close attention to the trends and indicators for this historically important game fish.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission met early this month to discuss a 2018 benchmark stock assessment prepared late last year for striped bass. Although the report was still in draft form and had not received final approval due to the government shutdown, it shows clearly that the stocks are in a state of decline. The stock assessment is highly technical but the main theme of the report is clear: overfishing is the cause of the decline. That’s a change from two years earlier, and regulators are preparing to take steps to reverse the trend. The commission’s striped bass board meets again in May, when it is expected that the report will be approved and a new fishery management plan will be set in motion.

Catch reductions, raising minimum size limits and other restrictions are all expected to be on the table for discussion.

“We know it is going to be pretty drastic,” John Clark, a member of the ASFMC striped bass board from Delaware told the Bay Journal, a nonprofit newspaper based in the Chesapeake, this week.

For striped bass fishermen on Martha’s Vineyard, the news comes as little surprise. Experienced anglers know what they have been seeing out on the water — fewer big fish, which means fewer breeding females, and they’re concerned.

Many of them have been here before.

Overfishing led to the collapse of striped bass stocks in the 1980s. It was so bad in those years that between 1985 and 1993 bass were removed from the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.

Today many more complicating factors are tied to the decline of striped bass, including warming waters due to climate change and disappearing baitfish populations such as menhaden, thought to be due to offshore factory ships.

At the same time, advances in technology have also improved the science for monitoring fish stocks, hopefully leading to decision-making by regulators that is better informed.

And there is always more to learn.

For example, while the vast majority of the striped bass landed by recreational fishermen today are caught and released, the mortality rate is growing. As a result new rules are being proposed that include circle hooks for fishermen who use bait, and a ban on the practice of gaffing for landing fish.

Meanwhile, conservation-minded fishing groups are beginning to take symbolic action that’s a little reminiscent of the derby in the 1980s.

Organizers of The Striper Cup, an annual tournament hosted by On the Water magazine, announced early this month that there will be no weigh-in this year. Instead anglers will compete for prizes through photographs of fish that are caught and released.

Whether the Vineyard derby should follow suit is a question best left to the organizers.

But writing late last year for Fissues.org, an online news and opinion site devoted to fishing and conservation, Tony Friedrich summed up the plight of the stripers in poignant terms. “It rests on our shoulders and ours alone to make sure the striped bass population recovers,” he wrote. “It will take a herculean effort to turn the tide. But we can do it. Do we have any other choice?

“Striped bass have given us all countless good memories. They have taught our children countless lessons about the ocean and how to care for it. They have helped forge friendships. They have created a mutual bond across the coast.”

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(And another) 

Rockfish Population in Trouble, New Study Finds; Catch Limits Likely

February 17, 2019

https://smnewsnet.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Rockfish-striped_bass.jpg 695w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />Striped bass or rockfish, one of the most prized species in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic Coast, are being overfished according to a new assessment of the stock’s health — a finding that will likely trigger catch reductions for a species long touted as a fisheries management success.

The bleak preliminary findings of the assessment were presented to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a panel of fisheries managers last week.

The full analysis was not available. Its completion was delayed by the partial government shutdown, which sidelined biologists in the National Marine Fisheries Service who were working to complete the report.

But, noted Mike Armstrong of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, who also chairs the ASMFC’s Striped Bass Management Board, the final results “will likely be the same when [the report] comes out.”

The board asked its technical advisers to estimate the level of catch reductions needed to bring the stock above management targets at its May meeting, when the stock assessment is expected to be ready for approval.

“We know it is going to be pretty drastic,” said John Clark of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, a member of the board.

Findings a surprise

The findings of the assessment were a bit of a surprise. Though the overall population was known to be declining, striped bass are often considered a signature success for fishery management.

The overharvest of striped bass, also called rockfish, sent their population to critically low levels in the early 1980s, eventually leading to a catch moratorium. The population rebounded, allowing catches to resume, and by 1997 the population recovered to an estimated 419 million fish aged one year or more.

After staying at relatively high numbers for nearly 10 years, the population began to decline, in part because of less reproductive success during the past decade and a half — a rate which is greatly influenced by weather patterns.

The decline led to fishing restrictions in recent years, but the new assessment shows that those restrictions failed to reduce the overall trajectory for the stock.

Using new information and a new computer model, the assessment has produced a more dire picture of the striped bass population.

The threshold for taking management action to conserve the population is triggered when the “spawning stock biomass” — an estimate of the number and size of reproductive age females in the stock — falls below 91,436 metric tons along the coast. The preliminary assessment found the spawning stock biomass fell to 68,476 metric tons in 2017.

The assessment also indicates that the spawning stock was not only being overfished, but had fallen below the threshold for several years. The scientists producing the report were confident in their conclusion.

“The probability is very high that that is the case,” said Mike Celestino, a member of the ASMFC’s Assessment Science Committee who briefed the commission on the findings.

Alarming side effects

In a preview of the difficulty in finding management solutions, the assessment also suggests that, to some extent, some of the previous actions to control harvest had alarming side effects.

Restrictions that increased the minimum catch sizes in recent years appear to have increased the number of undersize fish that were caught, handled, released and died. Scientists estimate that 10 percent of caught-and-released fish ultimately die.

Data in the summary provided to the board showed that the number of fish that died after being handled by recreational anglers in 2017 exceeded the number they actually kept.

Andrew Shiels of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission called that “one of the most disturbing of all the issues that’s been presented today.”

By Karl Blankenship
Bay Journal

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Help Reduce Bird Deaths from Building Collisions

The Bird-Safe Buildings Act will help birds like this Scarlet Tanager avoid collisions with buildings.

Building collisions kill millions of bird each year, and many of these needless deaths can be prevented. A new bill would promote bird-friendly materials and design features at federal buildings.

Please urge your members of Congress to cosponsor and support the Bird-Safe Buildings Act, a bipartisan, common-sense solution to help birds avoid collisions with buildings.

Photo: Linda Steele/Audubon Photography Awards

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Couple Finds Message in a Bottle That NOAA Scientists Sent in the Early '60s

 

Copyright © 2019 Cable News Network
By Ryan Prior
February 18, 2019

During their regular walks on the Gulf Coast, Jim and Candy Duke often find treasures, including bottles of various colors and sizes which they post on their backyard fence.

This week, while walking on the National Seashore near Corpus Christi, the couple found a bottle with a special message.

It was one of 7,863 tossed into the ocean in 1962 by US government scientists at a lab in Galveston, Texas.

Inside was a note with large letter: "BREAK BOTTLE."

But the Dukes wanted to open the corked bottle with a wine opener. In a https://www.facebook.com/candy.e.lovins/videos/10213541081022438/ video broadcast on Facebook Live, Candy filmed her husband straining for several minutes against the cork that had been lodged into the bottle for half a century.

"Maybe we've won some grand prize at some place. Maybe a cruise?" Candy joked.

When they finally got the note out of the bottle, Candy read it aloud:

"This bottle is one of a series released at known locations in the Gulf of Mexico by scientists from the Galveston Botanical Laboratories of the US Bureaus of Commercial Fisheries.

"These releases are part of a study to determine the role that water currents play in the movement of young shrimp from offshore spawning grounds to inshore nursery grounds.

"The person finding this bottle should complete the enclosed postcard and mail it at the first opportunity."

Then she laughed.

"A fifty cent reward will be sent for each completed return," she continued. "Thank you for your cooperation and interest."

That's still not much. With inflation, the Bureau of Labor Statics values their reward as the equivalent of $4.20 today.

A time-worn research technique

The Dukes filled out the form in the bottle and snail-mailed it to the address provided for the US Biological Station in Galveston.

That lab has changed names and locations but their note arrived in the office of Matthew Johnson, the current acting lab director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Galveston Laboratories.

Of the 1962 study, he said, "At the time, the shrimp fishery was the largest in the Gulf of Mexico, and this was the first attempt to start managing the species."

Commercial fishermen use this kind of data to set shrimp harvesting quotas, he said.

Of the 7,863 bottles released in 1962 and 1963, the Galveston scientists reported recovering 12% of them within 30 days, he said.

Johnson told CNN he offered to give Candy Duke the 50-cent reward, though it would cost the lab 55 cents for a stamp and $3 to print a convenience check.

Previous bottle finds

The Dukes' bottle is not the first time a half-century-old drift bottle has washed up on shore.

In 2013, a man on Martha's Vineyard found a bottle with a similar message on a beach. That bottle was 54 years old and part of a separate study conducted by the Coast and Geodetic Survey.

NOAA says that survey has been using drift bottles to track ocean currents since 1846, with the last bottles being launched in 1966 off the coast of Alaska.

One of those last bottles, released during the Johnson Administration, wandered the ocean for 47 years until being found 300 miles away on the Aleutian island chain's southern coast in 2011.

Glass bottles are no longer used to study ocean currents, but the technique survives in a modern form. Johnson said "drifter buoys" perform much the same function now, and have the advantage of radio or satellite communication to talk instantaneously with scientists onshore.

"Today, they don't have to drop near as many," Johnson said.

Photo Credit: sculpies/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus


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