Wednesday, October 21, 2009: Waves: Small. Water clarity: Ideal. Water temps: Upper 50s to 60.
I fished a lot today, plugged mainly. Squat and a half but I wasn’t overly concerned. It was just plain ideal out there. Mild but fallish, sun and blue skies, light winds, clean water. And quite a few folks cashed in on the great conditions. A bass of 35 pound taken by Joe Carmelengo somewhere in Brant Beach. I don’t always give towns but Brant Beach is very large – and has some of the best water on LBI. Joe used bunker. There was also a fish a non-tourney bass in the upper 20-pound zone taken in Jap Hole. A couple other Classic fish in the 15 to 20-pound range also hit the scales. A nice 12/15 slammer blue was weighed in by Ted Milewski. He was using bunker mid-Island.
The beaches are decent for driving but there are some nasty-ass bad spots. One of the worst is the last jetty in the Jap Hole zone – the last jetty before you exit. It so chewed up there that only larger vehicles can get by – and if you don’t make it you’ll either bog down or sideslip into a jetty post. It’s best to not even mess with that place.
Note: As I often write, beaches often self-repair very quickly after nor’easters. Sure enough, the washed away beach sand is berming up rapidly with each high tide. Unfortunately, that berm sand can’t reach the dune and buggy access zones. Still, by tomorrow many of the jetty ends around can be avoided by sand covering the jetty pilings and allowing passage closer to the water.
Another reason I was pretty accepting of bad plugging was the fact I took a couple hours out to eye through wrack lines. I found four plugs, all in very decent shape. Best was a cobalt Gibb’s Polaris, hook rotted off, in only slightly bluefish bitten condition. I could tell by the great enamel it was a significantly older model. With the price of plugs now, that’s a pretty profitable session. I topped that off with a surprise find of a dozen huge surf clams. Hey, I’ve been around ocean clams a long time so when I say these were huge, believe it. Every one of them was just about the exact same jumbo size. Those clams were a bit of upbeatness considering how few show up after storms nowadays.
Holgate happenings: Just more bad news. The area where the Osprey Nest used to be has virtually no more uplands. When you sated at the highest point and look bayward, the only vegetation in sight is meadow grass related to a bayshore ecology. No laurels, bayberry, etc. that mark a dune habitat. The drive down to the Rip is decent after the tide has dropped a bit. For the near future, there will be no problems buggying the beach since there is so much sand oceanward of the dead vegetation.
A proposal to expand the commercial catch of striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay region could threaten Maine's most valuable coastal sport fish, say anglers, fishing guides and state officials.
Striper fishing along the Maine coast was off this summer for a second straight year, they say, and concerns are growing that the recreational fishery could face a painful decline.
'I'm worried,' said Doug Jowett, a guide who takes customers fishing in Casco Bay and off Cape Cod. 'It's going to be declining steadily because nothing is being done to improve it.'
Maine is one of several states that prohibits commercial fishing for stripers as they migrate up and down the East Coast. Here, the fish is the primary attraction for coastal anglers, who spend $25 million to $30 million in a typical summer on everything from gasoline to bait and artificial lures, according to the state.
Under a rule change proposed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, commercial fishing operations in other states would be allowed to carry over some of their quota from one year to the next. If boats didn't catch the full quota one year, under the rule change, they would be allowed to add to their quota for the next year.
The commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal Nov. 2 in Newport, R.I., after reviewing a yet-to-be-released report on the health of the striper population.
Fishermen in Maine may see a decline related to spawning in Chesapeake Bay, but the striper population is not considered to be in immediate trouble, said Nichola Meserve, a fishery management coordinator for the multistate fisheries commission.
'The stock is not overfished,' she said.
A subcommittee of the commission concluded that the rule change would increase the overall annual catch by only about 1.7 percent.
That's because most stripers are caught and killed by recreational anglers, who aren't limited by annual quotas, Meserve said.
In 2006, for example, recreational fishermen landed about 29 million pounds of striped bass and commercial boats landed about 7 million pounds. The numbers do not include fish caught and thrown back.
The numbers have not reassured Maine anglers or state officials, who say there are clear warning signs that it is the wrong time to expand the commercial catch, especially in Chesapeake Bay.
'The stock assessment is not showing us doom and gloom, but the anecdotal information from fishermen is showing us otherwise,' said Patrick Keliher, director of sea-run fisheries and habitat for the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
In Maine, anglers caught about 49,000 stripers - 238,000 pounds - in 2008.
It was the second-smallest catch in Maine in the decade, and a 31 percent drop from the year before.
Guides and fishermen say the fishing this summer was somewhat better, but still much slower than in previous years. Business has dropped so much as a result, Jowett said, that several guides have gone out of business.
What worries people most is that the number of young fish has dropped fastest. That suggests catches will continue to shrink.
'That seems to be a consensus up and down the whole coast. There just aren't that many little fish around,' Jowett said.
The drop in younger fish is believed to be tied to reduced production in Chesapeake Bay, the primary spawning and nursery area for the fish.
There is growing concern in the Chesapeake Bay region about a deadly fish disease called mycobacteriosis, although its effects on the population are still not clear.
The Chesapeake is one of the areas where commercial fisherman would be able to carry over their unused quotas under the proposed rule change.
'We'll certainly be voting against' the proposal, said Terry Stockwell, director of external affairs for the Maine Department of Marine Resources and a member of the regional fisheries commission. The proposal is the latest in a series of incremental increases in fishing pressure, he said.
'Now is not the time, when it seems that there's something wrong,' he said.
The Maine catch is considered a bellwether for the health of the striped bass population, Stockwell said. 'And we don't have a robust fishery anymore.'