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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Tuesday, August 03, 2010: Waves: Small north swell. Conditions remain good to very good for fluking, particularly a.m., right as south winds begin to blow in. later-day winds can be a tad too brisk.…

Tuesday, August 03, 2010: Waves: Small north swell.

Conditions remain good to very good for fluking, particularly a.m., right as south winds begin to blow in. later-day winds can be a tad too brisk.

I appreciate the numerous fluke reports and use them to develop overall patterns.

Right now the pattern is simple: Fluke are everywhere and the only place they’re not being caught is where no one is fishing for them.

More complex: One day I get a e-report that a particular bait or method is taking larger fluke, then, the next day, the same emailer writes back to say “Nix that previous email” --after the former winning method failed to get anything by the following day.

A fellow who’s using live mud mullet for a “slightly better” keeper rate intrigued me. I attribute that to the fact that a fluke has to first mouth a mullet, needing to turn it headfirst to swallow. As I conjectured before, wherever a smaller fish has something it can’t quickly down, a larger fluke will make its move, almost identical to gulls. Could a big fluke down a whole spot? Instantly. An eel? Instantly. A herring? Maybe not instantly but eventually. Is it worth up to 3 bucks a pop to try? Nah.

I had someone read my www.thewmit.com blogs and noticed the segment about a boat hitting a large loggerhead. This boat captain said he has seen more big turtles this year than all his other years combined. I’m half wondering if it has anything to do with these huge marine reptiles heading, en mass, to off Rhode Island, where there is now a huge showing of giant jellyfish. And don’t try to tell me there is no way turtles hundreds of miles from there could know about that massive jellyfish bloom. It is utterly uncanny – almost scary bizarre – the way marine creature just know when things are busting loose far in the distance. There are documented reports of whale pods suddenly changing direction in mid-ocean to beeline, like bats outta hell, for a developing feast so far away it takes them days to get there. How the hell could they know about some explosion of krill in an area where such blooms had never occurred before???

Here’s Jim H’s report:

Some of the boats of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association have been making the long trek to the canyons and returning with some great stories. They have been making some fine catches of tuna, billfish, and mahi-mahi. Captain George Finck of “Sparetime Charters” took Dan Cronin and friends out to the canyon for tuna fishing. In addition to seeing plenty of whales and porpoises, they had five hits and boated a pair of yellowfin tuna to 65-pounds. On another trip he went to the canyon looking for tuna. He first boated two white marlin which he released. He then boated a pair of yellowfin tuna to 80-pounds, and finally five long fin tuna. Captain Lindsay Fuller had a busman’s holiday on the “June Bug” and took out some of his mates and mechanics on a trip to the Lindenkohl Canyon. Art Barstow and Garrett Frey trolled on the “June Bug” before sunup with no luck and then at dawn moved into the deeper water. The first fish boated was a 75-pound yellowfin. During their trolling they picked up an 80-pound yellowfin and had a couple of white marlin which investigated the lines but did not bite. Then they found a 10-foot piece of barnacle encrusted wood that held a school of 10-pound mahi-mahi. Although the mahi would not bite on the trolled lines, they were able to catch as many mahi as they wanted using light spinning tackle with pieces of ballyhoo for bait. After catching all they wanted to eat, they spent time catching and releasing. Captain Lindsay says he feels this is the best year for tuna fishing in at least 20 years. The same two captains have had some inshore trips where they had to work hard through loads of small fluke to find some keepers. Captain George Finck had Leslie Nugent and her 12 year old son Cooper in the bay for fluke with one topping the scale at 3.5 pounds. On another bay trip he had the Glen Linhoff family out for a nice catch of fluke on his mother-in-law’s birthday. Captain George had the Ross family out in the bay for fluke before getting chased in by thunderstorms. Once again fluke ruled the day plus a nice kingfish. For Captain Lindsay Fuller his inshore docket was made up of family reunions. The Potter family of Montreal, Canada, were out for a day’s catch of over 50 short fluke, but no keepers. Another family trip with three children had great action once again on short fluke but keepers were hard to come by.

Additional information on the association can be found at www.BHCFA.com or by calling 1-877-LBI-BHCFA (1-877-524-2423).

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Fishin’ the wires:

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August 3, 2010 - A conservation watchdog accused a Brazilian company of illegally fishing 280,000 sharks which were killed to feed Asia's appetite for sharkfin.

The Environmental Justice Institute, a Brazilian group, on Monday lodged a suit against seafood exporter Sigel do Brasil Comercio demanding $US800 million ($A883 million) in environmental damages.

'As we can't put a value on life, we have calculated the impact on the ecosystem,' the director of the group, Cristiano Pacheco, told AFP.

Advertisement: Story continues below

He said the killing of so many of the predators would have a negative effect on the balance between maritime species.

The company caught the sharks off the northern Brazilian state of Para between March 2009 and May 2010, according to information from the Brazilian state environmental agency Ibama given to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

'We think the sharkfins were exported clandestinely, in containers, likely from the ports of Rio Grande do Sul to the Asian market,' Pacheco said.

The high value Asian diners place on sharkfin means the rest of the shark was often thrown back into the sea in violation of environmental regulations, Ibama said.

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[Times and Transcript] August 2, 2010

At this time of year, we have a sea creature that joins us in often large numbers which the majority of us don't particularly welcome - the lion's mane jellyfish. These big blobs of jelly with those long red tentacles can make a seaside swim enjoyed only with a watchful eye for their proximity.

However, there's another sea creature that would beg to differ with our negative view of these jellyfish. The leatherback turtle finds them absolutely haute cuisine and travels all the way from tropical waters just to enjoy the jellyfish season with us in Atlantic Canada.

Four species of sea turtle join us in Atlantic Canada each summer. The loggerhead turtle is moderately common, particularly in warmer offshore waters, with lower numbers of green sea turtles and occasional visits from the Kemp's ridley sea turtle. Then there is the largest of sea turtles, the leatherback, that makes that long trek to enjoy the jellyfish buffet off our Atlantic Coast.

One may really wonder how such a large creature can not only survive on a jellyfish diet, but gains sufficient energy in the form of abundant fat reserves to head several thousand kilometres south to feeding and breeding areas come October.

Nesting grounds for leatherbacks found in Canadian waters include selected sand beaches from Florida to South America. When leatherback eggs hatch, they are about the size of a chocolate bar, weighing in at approximately 60 grams. There are a myriad of predators gathered on the beach when the hatchlings emerge from the sand and scramble to sea. Turtle eggs are also collected by humans as a culinary delicacy. Mature females represent the most studied portion of the leatherback population, as they are easily observed while nesting. In contrast, the males are somewhat more elusive. Research has revealed that mating occurs adjacent nesting beaches, but males never come ashore.

A mature leatherback turtle is one 'whopper' of a turtle. The average mass of individuals roaming about the jellyfish 'fields' of eastern Canada is roughly 350 kg (800 pounds). One individual found off the coast of Wales weighed 918 kg (2,000 pounds)! With a top shell (carapace) normally measuring over 1.5 metres, a mature leatherback is one supersized turtle!

Until recently, very little was known about the life and times of the leatherback turtle. Observations of this huge turtle off the Atlantic coast had been meticulously chronicled in the 1960s by Sherman Bleakney, a biology professor at Acadia University.

However, many questions surrounding the species' biology persisted over 30 years later. For example, it was not known where turtles in Canadian waters came from, what they were doing here, where they were concentrated, how many there were, and lots more.

In 1998, a young University graduate student, Mike James, became very interested in sleuthing the many unknowns about this huge turtle. He started out by collecting information from fishermen and observations from the general public via a public education program that included placing posters at government wharfs across Nova Scotia. After only one summer of data collection, James was surprised by both the number of people who reported their observations of leatherbacks, and the distribution of sightings, which included records from the Scotian shelf, south coast of Newfoundland, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

James was now hooked on studying the species and embarked on a Ph.D. program at Dalhousie University to learn more. Today, Dr. Mike James works at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (DFO) and Dalhousie University and has become one of the world's leading authorities on the leatherback turtle.

With excellent cooperation from the fishing community, fostered through the efforts of the Canadian Sea Turtle Network, a Halifax-based non-profit group dedicated to conservation of sea turtles. With the use of a variety of tagging and wildlife tracking techniques, a lot has been learned.

For example, it is now known that many sub-adult and adult leatherbacks (likely several thousand) make yearly migrations to Canadian waters to feast on jellyfish. In fact, Canada is now thought to host the largest seasonal foraging population of leatherbacks in the North Atlantic, and maybe even the world.

Tracking of leatherbacks via satellite dish show individuals will return to the same feeding areas annually, with most turtles initiating southward migration in late September or October. Turtles tagged in Canadian waters have been found nesting in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Florida. Identifying the beaches these giants favour has facilitated international collaboration in leatherback research and conservation work.

All leatherbacks have a unique pink patch (or 'pink spot') on the top of their head, looking a bit like a bathing cap that varies greatly in size and shape. This area is thought to be a light-sensitive gland area of their anatomy that may be important to navigation and is another feature to identify individual animals.

Mike James's research team was the first to deploy satellite tags on leatherbacks at sea, track the movements of male leatherbacks, and deploy cameras on the species. The camerawork has been particularly intriguing as it has provided the first opportunities to observe leatherbacks feeding at depth. This camera deployment was a feat never having been achieved before. Watching this footage of exactly the way the leatherback turtle sees and gorges on the jellyfish delicacies is a truly intriguing bit of 'seeing it like it really is.'

Despite much progress in understanding the behavior of leatherbacks at sea, many questions surrounding the biology of the species remain unanswered. For example, recent research suggests that the species takes between 20-26 years to sexually mature. However, the developmental habitat of juvenile leatherbacks has not yet been identified. There has to be a lot of juveniles out there, somewhere!

While adult leatherbacks have few natural predators, their long front flippers and occurrence in coastal waters make them vulnerable to becoming entangled in fishing gear. While many turtles are released safely, turtles that are entangled for long periods of time, or at depth, will often drown.

The number of jellyfish required to fatten up an animal that can reach such massive sizes must be awesome. Unfortunately, plastic debris that makes its way into the oceans, including balloons and shopping bags, are regularly consumed by leatherbacks, possibly because of their likeness to their jellyfish prey. Unfortunately, downward pointing spines that line the esophagus make it difficult for leatherbacks to regurgitate marine debris and can obstruct their digestive tract, occasionally resulting in starvation and death.

Seeing a leatherback turtle is a special moment and for those lucky enough to see one, it will undoubtedly be a matter of being in the right place at the right time for that chance encounter.

As they spend most of their time under the surface, they can be difficult to spot. Distinguishing features include a large head (likened by many to the size of a five gallon bucket), their large size, and ridges running the length of their back (carapace).

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