Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Sunday, September 04, 2011
I got half a dozen reports, all of them pretty bad.
The ocean remains testy and fairly dirty, mainly stirred up, not necessarily loaded with bad stuff. The bay, on the other hand, is likely reaching the height of the revolting runoff that was washed off the roadways and yards last weekend. Yes, it takes that long for the runoff to permeate the entire bay, before getting essentially diluted -- or, in a worse case scenario, settles onto the bottom.
Being the usual bearer of bad news, it looks the coming week could offer some serious downpour doses, possibly super exceeding the couple/few inches of rain from Irene. It depends on how directly TS Lee travels up the Tennessee Valley, loosing its amazing load of Gulf moisture. If the moisturey mess shifts more easterly, it could spell hideous problems for the still flooded areas of the state.
Then there's Hurricane Katia -- with one of those what-were-they-thinking names. You're telling me that’s the best "K" letter female names the hurricane folks could come up with? I think they have way too much time during the off-season. Even as we try to home in on properly saying "Katia," I just know they're out there somewhere openly chuckling millions of people trying to say Katia.
Anyway, she’s slowly working her way toward Hatteras. And anytime you hear something is happenin’ in Hatteras, that’s getting tad too close for comfort.
All said, this coming week is going to be tricky and testy. Let’s hope our Irene-ian luck holds out as storms hit land.
Another short report this week as three scheduled trips were canceled due to the widespread power outages and flooding caused by the storm, keeping clients at home with their families tending to much more important matters. A lot of people were severely impacted by this storm, so let's all hope that their lives can return to normal as quickly as possible.
We did get a trip in yesterday, but it sure looks like it's going to take some time for fluke fishing in the bay to return to normal. The bay water is still extremely dirty from the continuing runoff from the storm, and with more rain in the forecast and another storm potentially coming in late next week it looks like it could be a slow recovery. The good news is that there are still some fluke around (live lining peanut bunker produced some success in the inlet yesterday), and there's no shortage of small bluefish, blowfish, kingfish and even some small weakfish roaming the back bay areas. Baitfish are starting to move out of the bay, so we should start seeing albies and larger blues making their appearance shortly.
The cool air the last couple of mornings is a reminder that fall striper fishing is right around the corner. I still have one weekend date available in November (11/19) and a number of mid-week dates open. As in the past, we'll be mixing it up between live lining spot in the bay and run-and-gun jugging along the beachfront when weather permits.
Until next week.
Capt. Jack Shea
Barnegat Bay Fishing Charters
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is proposing a 56 percent — or 17 million pound — increase in this year's skate catch.
The action is based on what NOAA says is new scientific information, data that also reflects longstanding industry insistence that skates — taken largely as bycatch by groundfishermen — are a stock complex in far better shape than the government believed or was willing to admit.
Skates have been about an $8-10 million annual industry based on vessel revenues in recent years.
NOAA's proposed "emergency" action cannot become rule until after the closing of the public comment period on Sept. 14.
Because trip limits would not change, the proposal is seen as allowing the region's major skate processors in Gloucester and New Bedford to maintain supplies throughout the 12-month fishing cycle, which for skates and groundfish end April 30.
Due to a smaller catch limit, skate landings were effectively shut off in the fall of 2010, barely halfway through the 12-month cycle.
The complex of seven species is managed as one, and is divided into two parts — whole skates are landed for lobster bait, while the wings are processed for human consumption and exported to France where they are considered a pricey delicacy.
In 2010, skate wings were landed by 503 vessels while whole skates for lobster bait were landed by 56 boats, according to official figures. The wing table food sub sector is led by processors in New Bedford and secondarily Gloucester; the bait sector is based in Pt. Judith, RI.
As a table food, skates are late arrivals; skates were the fish du jour at the Seafood Throwdown in the Cape Ann Farmers' Market earlier this month.
"We've been lobbying for this for more than a year," said Kristian Kristensen, CEO of Zeus Packing Co. of Harbor Loop. "We told them to look at the science. But the emergency action is good."
"We made a commitment to respond as quickly as possible when new scientific information affects management decisions," Eric Schwaab, administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, said in a prepared statement. "The proposed quota increase will result in considerable increases in revenues for fishermen and positive economic effects to the businesses that support the fishery, while maintaining important conservation objectives."
Emily Keiley, a research assistant at the School of Marine Science and Technology of University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, said Tuesday that the government is responding to new data showing that the skate biomass is increasing and the presumed discard rate was too high.
"They're taking two important steps," Keiley said. "This will help the industry. The increased landings limit is likely to extend the season, consistency of availability is important because they go and get international contracts (and when supplies stop) they lose cargo space."
The split between wings and bait remains at the same proportion: each would go up by 56 percent. Wings would go from 9,209 metric tons to 14, 338, and bait boats would be allowed to increase landings from 4,639 metric tons to 7,223 metric tons.
The assumed discard rate would drop from 52 percent to 36.3 percent.
Under the proposed rule, which was recommended to NOAA by the New England Fishery Management Council, the government said that "significant increases" in the survey biomass of little and winter skates — two of the seven species — through autumn 2010 support increases in the acceptable biological catch.
"Additionally, new research on the discard mortality of winter and little skates in trawl gear indicates that the assumed discard mortality rate of 50 percent is too high, and that the dead discard portion of the catch has been overestimated in the past," NOAA said in announcing its proposed rule.
Political pressure to loosen limits on skate has been brought by Congressman Barney Frank, who represents New Bedford and UMass-Dartmouth's School of Marine Science and Technology. That's the program that, last December, released a research paper that asserted that NOAA was sitting on unreleased trawl data showing no need for the reduced trip limits.
Last year, the limits collapsed the skate fishery, leaving European buyers to South American exporters.