Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Saturday, April 23, 2011:

Here I sit, rain pissing all over my plans. I guess I should pity the weekend folks who will  now hear about some super weather and fishing days this past week. Some larger blues and small bass came off the beaches, going for chunk bait or, in the case of stripers, bloodworms. Ray and his wife landed a slammer yesterday.

The bay also had its fair share of stripers, along with occasional spurts of drumfish.

Per usual, better (and more) drumfish are going to the sharpies.

There are some solid techniques for maximizing the take of black drum, though knowing specific drumfish hang-out holes is the first big step to big fish. Arriving drum definitely stage more heavily in certain channels and holes. Uninitiated anglers trying to get at them can get a good pre-outing read on those staging areas by simply studying water depth charts. To speed the discovery process, some tackle shops will offer exact GPS and buoy numbers.

I know some very fine “drumming” locales but have to be discretely quiet, since almost all of them were told to me. That seals my lips. Had I found the sites myself, I’d burn them in a heartbeat. (It makes me frickin’ nuts when I offer up my own unpopulated hot-hooking locales, where, at first, folks rush, thanking me profusely – before instantly claiming said sites as their own and go psycho because I then burn “their” sites.) Anyway, I can’t stop smart fishing folks from looking for better drum sites by using their binoculars to make a visual note of where other boats are already working, in the Little Egg and inside BH Inlet zones.

Speaking of drumfish, I have oft written that drumfish really do making noise as mating season approaches. I hope to have that scientifically confirmed this spring by a researcher who will be using underwater microphones (hydrophones) to listen for any and all sounds generated by marine creatures, near inlets and bays. He’s also a videographer and did some serious recording in Florida and the Bahamas over the winter, nabbing some amazing (to me, anyway) sounds made by “snapping” shrimp and even seemingly silent marine life, including sea urchin and slugs. I hope to write a SandPaper story on the film he’ll be making.

Expectedly, the biggest thing/problem he found was the absolutely deafening underwater racket that arose once human activity entered the maritime environment at sunrise, ruining his work until sunset. As might be guessed, nothing else compared to the disruption caused by personal water craft, when it comes to not only invasive “saturating” sound but also the PWC noise’s ability to penetrate far into the shallows, even when the crafts are far off. However, all vessels added to the noise pollution. Surprisingly, a type of low hum pollution was the result of traffic vibration from bridges and even roads adjacent to waterways. Yes, his movie will be partially about underwater noise pollution.

Some of the oddest, horror movie-grade sounds he’s recorded so far have come from the smallest creatures (crabs, urchins, shrimp) as they ate. Obviously, the sounds had to be intensified many times, still they are nauseating.

One of the cooler “sound observation” involves sharks. Among their already well-known predatory abilities is their near absolute silence when approaching. Anyone who has done significant underwater time will confirm this. Admittedly, few fish arrive with bells and whistles blaring but there’s something somehow menacingly still when it comes to sharks moving on-scene. I can fully confirm, a shark is just instantly there – far, far quieter than anything else out there, be it minimal water displacement or, far more likely, a bare minimal electromagnetic presence. If you think about it, sharks are the planet’s ultra-master at reading electromagnetic signals in the water. To maximize those abilities, nature has seen to it that sharks themselves emit minimal energy noise, at it were. 

OUTDOOR ODDNESS: Only in the bare rarest of cases do I ever report seeing something unexplainable during my jaunts to the outback. Such was the case yesterday – to the highest head-scratching degree. And I wasn’t really in the deep woods but, instead, not far off Rte 9, Mayetta area, where I’m doing an ongoing coyote survey – which, by the way, is not going particularly well, despite ongoing (and now dubious) reports of abundant of coyotes. What I saw late-day Friday was not even in the canine ballpark, though it was definitely a mammal and had thick-ish body hair. I got a solid ten second look at it, at maybe 50 yards away in a heavily wooded area, though it was using a fairly wide trail so I could make out a goodly number of features. It was a blackish color, twice the size of the largest house cat known and had a massive bushy tail that almost touched the ground. Now, the weird part: it walked with its butt high up, the highest part of the body, giving it a wobbly gait. No tracks in the leaf litter. It was so absolutely odd that I’m seriously pondering whether a nearby house, which is loaded with animals, had an exotic pet escape. My closest best guess is (are you ready?) a coatimundi. As I said, I seldom if ever offer such what-the-hells so you better believe it was odd as all get-out.


Charlottetown PEI - Ten days into the hunt for harp seals off the northeast coast of Newfoundland/Labrador "The Front," it has become obvious - a lack of ice and markets has accomplished what all the efforts of anti-sealing groups could not - the traditional seal hunt is no longer economically sustainable. 

The season opened in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where less than one percent (1200 seals) of the allowable quota of 105,000 seals was taken.  The price of a prime pelt remained bottomed out at $21, bringing only $25K into the pockets of the sealers who participated in the hunt. 

Now, after eight days on the melting ice pans off Newfoundland, sealers have taken about 25K seals, around 8 percent of the allowable quota of 344,523. About 25 boats are nudging into ice floes; each day, about half the number in last year's fleet. 

And as the ice melts, and pelt prices make the hunt unprofitable to prosecute, there is little likelihood that enough seals will be killed to supply whatever shreds of a market remain. 

But while the hunt staggers on, the Canadian government is enmeshed in a lawuit it has launched at the World Trade Organization against the European Union's ban on seal products, an enterprise that could cost Canadian taxpayers up to $10 million, according to some legal experts. 

That figure is ten times the gross return to the sealing industry last year, a return sure to shrink again this year. 

In addition, Canadian taxpayers shell out millions each year in Department of Fisheries and Oceans salaries and expenses as its officers supervise the hunt and enforce existing regulations. 

This year the Humane Society International took its opposition to the hunt to the site of negotiations underway in Europe to create a "Canada - EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement." The protesters used a massive outdoor video screen to get across its message that the hunt is bloody , savage and barbaric no matter what regulations are in effect to make it more humane. 

Some EU representatives are apparently having second thoughts about European participation in a trade agreement that is worth up to $12 billion annually. 

Polling in Canada indicates that most Canadians oppose the annual slaughter on the ice. Nevertheless, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea, now campaigning for re-election for Canada's parliament, said "the government of Canada remains committed to defending Canada's sealing industry." 

In contrast, Sheryl Fink, Director of the Fund for Animal Welfare's sealing program, counters with a question; "If hunting seals is a market driven industry; as many people claim, then why isn't the Canadian government listening to what the market is saying, and why are millions of dollars being poured into it?" 

But the collapse of the annual commercial hunt would not end the woes of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  The department estimates the harp seal population at better than nine million fish eating predators; along with their cousins, the grey seals--also despoilers of commercial fish species. 

The grey seal hunt failed this year as well, and for the same reasons--no ice and low prices. 

The demand for a cull for both species is coming loud and clear from fishermen. But DFO is facing severe budget cuts over the next five years. A cull would bring on even more expense than the hunt does at present; as well as a lot of bad images for the federal government. 

And it would create yet another question; What to do with all those pelts and bodies when nobody wants them? 


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