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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Thursday, August 05, 2010: Cool water along the beach has surfcasting kinda iffy. However, the upwelled water has given LBI that famed summer air conditioning, which I found out really does make a m…

Thursday, August 05, 2010:

Cool water along the beach has surfcasting kinda iffy. However, the upwelled water has given LBI that famed summer air conditioning, which I found out really does make a major difference. I went to mainland to get in some herptiles hunting, certain the cool air had permeated the mainland, at least a bit. No such luck. It was stifling even in Stafford. While the summer is truly zipping along, we’re still only inching in August so there will likely be many dog days yet to go. Of course, businesses and beach patrols are soon to feel the personnel crunch when kids who swore they’d stay on until Labor Day weekend instead go AWOL, slipping off to get some free time before heading back to school. It’s actually a huge problem hereabouts, as some businesses have to cut back on their hours at the peak of summer season.

During my stint in Stafford yesterday, I did a backbay batifish check and wasn’t overly impressed with the baby bunker or mullet showing in the superheated mosquito ditches and such. It very well might be the heat driving the young-of-year forage fish into slightly deeper water. Per usual, the bulldoggish minnies couldn’t care less about 87 degree water. They were doing their usual frolicking in the frothy water, bubbling from algae gases. Odd observation: One the Road-to-Nowhere, there’s a series of manmade freshwater impounds. I can’t taste any salt at all in those impounds. Still, there are some blue claw crabs that have seemingly adjusted to full freshwater life. I’m not sure if they slide back into nearby saltwater at some point or if they’ve gone the whole switchover route. There are also grass shrimp in the impounds. That’s not as unusual, as grass shrimp can easily adjust to salinity swings.

The bay continues to have a good year, despite the big-picture decline in the water quality. The extreme lack of run-off – due to the extreme lack of storms this summer – might be a contributing factor in why there has been very little brown tide action. Still, over-development and the over using of fertilizers goes on unabated. That’ll grow nothing but environmental trouble.

No emails regarding fluking, most likely because it’s the same old same old. The end of the season is starting to inch up on the horizon so there will likely be something of a final push, though the fishing pressure really can’t get much steadier than we’ve seen it since the season began. I’ve gotten some photos of big flatties but (and I’m being over-critical here) if you’ve seen one fluke you really have seen them all – until we get to the 10-pound category. Face it, they’re really not an overly photogenic fish. You can cut a burlap bag into that shape and you’ve pretty much got an instants look-alike – though fluke taste a helluva sight better.

Blog: If there were annual awards given for the most inexact sciences known to man, hurricane forecasting would lead the list every year it’s tried. Still the famed hurricane doctor, Colorado Stat’es William Gray, keeps at it, certain he’ll either nail it some year – or the law of averages will make it at least seem he has nailed it.

I’ve talked with Dr. Gray on a few occasions, mainly before he become something of a celebrity of trpicla systems. Truth be told, when he first began, it seemed the good doctor was onto something, come oh so close to guesstimating how many named storms would form in a given year. Back then he used very few factors in his predictions, most notable El Nino and storm patterns in the Sahel region of Africa. Over the years, and finally decades, he began adding more and more to the forecast formula, which truly seemed to send the success rate tumbling. In fact, one year a pit bull had way better luck predicting an upcoming hurricane season. The playful the pup would flip a chewed up toy doll into the air so it landed in a circle of penciled in weather predictions. Some wise-ass student took down data from the random landings and came within one named storm of the actual season – and light years ahead of Dr. Gray’s forecast.

Still, Gray’s annual forecast has been a mainstay of the media – and remains so. Here’s the latest, per the nation’s premier hurricane-watch newspaper, the Palm Beach Post. If you’re not on that publication email hurricane list, sign up now. Go to: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/storm.

Colorado State team sticking to June hurricane season forecast

by Eliot Kleinberg, Wednesday, August 4th, 2010, 11:07 am

The hurricane forecasting team at Colorado State University is sticking to its June prediction of 18 named storms, 10 hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes, of Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The historical 1950-2000 average is 9.6, 5.9 and 2.3.

In November 2009, the team had predicted a “well above average” 2010 season, with 11 to 16 named storms, six to eight hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes. In April, it got more specific, calling for 15, eight and four. It then tweaked its forecast more in June.

For today’s update, the team continued to cite unusually warm tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures and the development of La Niña, the opposite of El Niño, the warm water phenomenon that tends to hinder hurricane activity.

“We have witnessed the development of La Niña conditions over the past couple of months, and we believe that a moderate La Niña will be present over the next several months, which is associated with decreased levels of vertical wind shear and increased hurricane activity,” veteran forecaster William Gray said in a release.

Gray’s protege, Phil Klotzbach, also cited especially warm surface temperatures in both the tropics and the North Atlantic.

The team gave a 75 percent chance a major hurricane will strike somewhere along the 3,690-mile coastline from Maine to Florida to Texas; the 1950-2000 historical average is 52 percent.

Florida’s 1,350-mile coastline, from Jacksonville around to Pensacola, accounts for a little more than one third of that. And the 90 or so miles of coastline from Boca Raton to Fort Pierce represents about two percent of the total.

The Colorado State team gave a 50 percent chance a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula; the long-term average is 31 percent.

On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will update its May forecast, which had called for 14-23 named storms, 8-14 hurricanes and 3-7 major hurricanes.

The private forecasting company AccuWeather has reported its hurricane expert, Joe Bastardi, is expecting 16-18 named storms.

For the record, in 2009:

The Colorado State University team called for 14 named storms, of at least tropical storm strength, with seven becoming hurricanes and three of those major hurricanes.

NOAA predicted 14, four-to-seven, and one-to-three.

Accuweather.com predicted 13 storms, eight becoming hurricanes.

They all were pretty much off the mark. The season ended up with 9, 3 and 2.

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Political press release from RFA: (8/5/2010) According to a release from a national tackle group, legislation introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) would amend federal fisheries law to "give federal marine fisheries managers the time, resources and direction necessary to address the chronic deficiencies in data collection and science." The legislation attempts to address the current fisheries management crisis by amending the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act (MSA), which the trade group calls "urgent given 2010 and 2011 MSA deadlines."

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) points out that the national tackle group's statement that "a legislative remedy" is the only given option to deal with today's federal coastal fisheries is welcome news for coastal fishing communities who've rallied for federal fisheries reform since at least 2005.

"With this acknowledgement that there are serious deficiencies in MSA, we're hopeful we can get the senator to support the broader effort in Washington already underway to build support for the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act," said Jim Donofrio, RFA's Executive Director. He added that current bills to amend the federal fisheries law already boast support of nearly 40 federal bipartisan members of the U.S. House and Senate.

"We thank the senator for this attempt to address some of these federal management failures destroying our local fishing communities and we're hopeful that we can get his support for the broader effort by those federal legislators who've sponsored the flexibility bills despite opposition by anti-access groups," Donofrio said, while adding the RFA is continuing to review Sen. Nelson's bill to see how it would impact overall Magnuson reform. "The grassroots community has some concerns with the way the bill is written, specifically how it seems to provide some leverage for individual states to get into the catch share game to meet some of the matching fund components, while also giving more power to the federal fisheries service to make broader use of their emergency power," Donofrio said. "The last thing our community needs now is NMFS using more of their discretion to implement more emergency recreational closures," he said.

In 2006, the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act (MSA) was passed in the Senate by "unanimous consent" and signed into law by then President G.W. Bush soon after in 2007. The act of unanimous consent on the floor of the Senate officially sets aside rules of procedure so as to expedite proceedings, and the bill's quick Senate passage helped to memorialize Sen. Ted Stevens in the naming of our federal fisheries law before his departure from office. According to the RFA, such action also facilitated the rapid progression of poorly worded federal fisheries law without any debate on the floor. During the reauthorization debate occurring as early as 2005, the RFA had been extremely vocal in opposition to "time-specific" deadlines and arbitrary, non-scientific provisions contained within MSA.

"The inflexibility of the fisheries law to respond to an ever-changing marine ecosystem coupled with grossly inadequate management information systems within the federal fisheries service has contributed to a major industry collapse," Donofrio said, adding there are very few in the fishing community who would disagree that the management regime created by MSA is badly broken and eliminating recreational fishing opportunities and jobs every day. "Fishermen are fed up, they have been for years," he said. In response, RFA has openly supported and lobbied for passage of the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act, legislation which first introduced in 2007 by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

"It should be clear to all what's happened to our fishing communities the past 5 years," said Donofrio, adding "thankfully, Congressman Pallone had the vision to put a Magnuson reform bill in place before the presidential signature was even dry back in 2007."

Donofrio said former assistant administrator of fisheries for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Dr. William Hogarth, had first warned of pending problems back in 2007 when the Pallone bill was first introduced. "Dr. Hogarth told the fishing community that these changes to MSA would lead to a management train wreck in 2010, and here we are, right on schedule," Donofrio said. He explained that new language in the reauthorization included insertion of rigid, inflexible rebuilding deadlines, the use of annual catch limits and accountability measures, along with a new statutory definition of 'overfishing' which has contributed to draconian management efforts on important recreational species like red snapper, summer flounder and black sea bass.

"We did not support the language then, and we've been pretty vocal about what actually needs to be done to fix the problem ever since," Donofrio added. Although numerous groups supported and praised the new MSA and questioned the RFA's criticism of its most damaging provisions, RFA is happy to see some of these same groups join in the call for reform. In 2009, the legislative effort to amend MSA picked up additional support when Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) sponsored a Senate version of the aptly named Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act. The House bill (HR1584) currently boasts 33 co-sponsors, while the Senate bill (S1255) has four additional co-sponsors. "We know the management system imposed by the MSA does not yield the most productive use of marine resources, and the flexibility bill will help address that problem," he said.

In February, the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act gathered additional support in DC when 5,000 American fishermen rallied at Upper Senate Park near the Capitol in support for federal fisheries reform. Rally attendees and organizers argued that strict enforcement of the MSA provisions has led to rapidly expanding denial of public access to both rebuilt and rebuilding fisheries, making it clear to the majority of anglers and fishing organizations that the federal fisheries law must be fixed. RFA says rally participants from Florida have since put heavy pressure on Sen. Nelson to support efforts to amend the law through support of the Schumer bill.

Efforts by some national sportfishing groups to block MSA reform in the past prompted RFA's Managing Director, Jim Hutchinson, Jr. to add, "Our grassroots coalition helped bring national attention to our fisheries problems with the February rally, and now we're hopeful that the money which was previously spent to block our efforts to instill flexibility in fisheries management might be redirected to a common cause of creating a management system that allows for enhanced recreational fishing opportunities and sustainable recreational fishing communities. Our local business owners trying to eke out a living deserve that much."

Donofrio hopes this is another step toward getting federal fisheries law reform movement going now to help improve access for all of America's coastal fishermen before the year is out. "The support of these other national groups marks what we hope is an end to the strong criticism they have leveled at RFA as we've attacked faulty science and the opportunities stolen from the recreational fishing community because of it. We are optimistic that this represents another step toward fixing the fatal flaws of the MSA," he added.

Pew Environment Group was quick to levy opposition to the Nelson bill, which Donofrio believes is mostly a smokescreen. "To end most overfishing situations, all you have to do is extend the rebuilding timelines for improving stocks," Donofrio said, a key point with the Pallone/Schumer legislation. "Put an end to overfishing and a few dozen showroom environmentalists will find themselves on the unemployment line."

"All Pew did here was toss a match into a garbage can to distract attention from RFA's bonfire," Donofrio said.

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