Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Wednesday, December 19, 2012: Weather or not; Seals killing bass?; More bluefin this winter; Wicked Tuna boat sinks at dock



Wednesday, December 19, 2012: Feels like a slight touch of fall in the air. Face it, our winter weather – which began, meteorologically, on Dec. 1 -- is getting weird again, vis-à-vis last winter. 

Hope you didn’t take any bets on it being a white Christmas. Maybe up New England way.

We’re in a jet stream pattern that will direct the coldest air slightly north of us, possibly well into January.

There’s no way of telling when the polar jet streams, known as Canadian/Polar (CP), might take a big dip southward, but, again, the pattern is pointing in a direction that often brings unstable air, albeit milder – often tapping into southern moisture and warmth.

As much as I’m all for ultra-mild winters, a few deeper freezes might benefit the bay right about now. I’m still hurting over the shutdown of the clamming near the Middle grounds down to Holgate. What’s more, none of us are too hip on the high storm potential now in place, especially if it holds into spring.

Interestingly, the ocean water temps are near normal, straight out and to the north. Just a tad south, off the Delmarva, they’re warmer than average. That isn’t the best thing for any winter lows that mosey on in, which would have a heightened potential to explode off North Carolina.

For now, the lows moving out of the west have all been taking the northern route, across the Great Lakes. They’re dubbed Alberta Clippers. They’re seldom intense or complex enough to throw energy southward, sparking the famed “reformation” off the Delmarva.

Our largest nor’easters of all-time have occurred when large northern lows, often trailing a cold front that can reach all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico,  have essentially transferred their energy southward, where it explodes as it hits the ocean.

The other common winter scenario revolves around a Gulf of Mexico low that holds together and moves up the Eastern Seaboard, moving off NC, where it hits the energy associated with evaporation and temperature inversions from the ocean.

Storms like Sandy are outrageously rare -- hurricanes morphing into super-tropical nor-easter likes lows. The most famed (until now?) was the The Great “Perfect Storm” of Halloween 1991 – not to be confused with the Great Flood Storm of December 1992.

By the by, there are literally dozen of historic “super storms,” dating back to the 1600s, that are suspiciously similar to Sandy and the Perfect Storm. Lack of advanced weather equipment at the time failed to see the possible combing and aligning of storm elements.

WHAT’S COMING?: The western US is already seeing powerful coastal storms more closely associated with a strong El Nino, instead of the weak to near nonexistent El Nino showing now. That confirms there are more sky factors involved with US Pacific weather than just Nino and Nina.

That western weather can/will have a huge impact on us, often by drawing warm, moist are in from the south as the storms move across the country. The eastward bound storms related to large Pacific storms are not Alberta Clippers but well-formed, often highly complex lows, with warm fronts and cold fronts hanging all over them. Very hard to predict -- and most often huge headaches for the Midwest more than us. However, with the way the skies have been acting I don’t trust anything that has “Low” written on it.


Below is a story I have my doubts about. It blames seals for destroying the striper stocks off New England. The main thing I find inconsistent are the studies off harvested seals which seldom show stripers in belly. Groundfish, on the other hand …

 [Cape Cod Times] by Doug Fraser Dec 18, 2012

PROVINCETOWN — Rich Wood knows the names and faces of the people from New Jersey, New York and Connecticut who used to come here in the fall to surfcast for giant striped bass with the magnificent white dunes as a backdrop and a wild frothy ocean before them.

They don't come anymore to the beaches along the back side of the Outer Cape, Wood said, because it's too hard to catch anything with the number of seals feeding there.

"Business has changed dramatically," said Wood, who recently had to close one of his two tackle shops. "You can't beat July and August, but, traditionally, mid-September to mid-October would be big, my No. 2 season. But people stopped coming."

"My business is really down," he said.

Fishermen and business owners blame the resurgence of the gray seal population on the Cape and Islands over the past decade — 5,611 in 1999 compared with an estimated 15,756 in 2011 - for killing off a traditional fall fishery that brought in money in the off-season and helped the Cape gain a measure of fame in the recreational fishing world for catching big bass.

"I have heard the same things," said Owen Nichols, director of marine fisheries research at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.

Nichols is researching the interaction among seals, fishermen and their prey. He is also a member of the newly formed Northwest Atlantic Seal Research Consortium, based at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which brings scientists, fishery managers and fishermen together to tackle some of these problems.

"It's very difficult to quantify without direct observation of how much seals are capturing or the more complicated issue of them driving fish offshore," Nichols said. "Fishermen at this point are the best source of the information we do have; however, we need more quantitative evidence."

Nichols said a public forum on seals is in the works for March.

Before he bought Nelson's Bait & Tackle in Provincetown eight years ago, Wood was one of those fall fishermen. He traveled from Connecticut and stayed for two weeks at the end of September into the beginning of October, at the iconic Days' Cottages along Route 6A in North Truro. Now, when he drives by, he can't help but take a wistful glance at the cottages.

"I look over at those little Monopoly cottages and see the cars and see if they have any rod racks on them," Wood recalled. "Normally, there'd be one in front of every little cottage. Now? Nothing."

"I never thought I'd see the day," said Tony Stetzko of Orleans, who once held the International Game Fish Association all-tackle world record with a 73-pound striper caught on Nauset Beach in Orleans in 1981. He used to go by boat to relatively isolated beaches on Monomoy Island off Chatham to get away from the fall crowds. This fall, he said he pretty much had Nauset Beach to himself.

"It's all done. Everybody knows it now," said Stetzko, who said his fishing guide business has suffered from the decline.

"The Outer Beach doesn't do it anymore in the fall," said Lee Boisvert, owner of Riverview Bait and Tackle in South Yarmouth. Boisvert said his beach surfcasting business is way down with most people opting to go on boats or fish the Cape Cod Canal where the seals haven't yet had a big impact.

"I've pretty much stopped fishing the back shore due to the presence of seals," said longtime fisherman Lou MacKeil, vice president in charge of environmental affairs for the Cape Cod Salties sportfishing club. "Trying to get a striped bass in among those seals is impossible. That's why no one is fishing out there in the fall."

The abundance of seals is just one of many possible reasons given for a 74 percent drop in the recreational landing of striped bass between 2006 and 2011. In recent years, bad weather and environmental conditions have led to poor survival rates for larval and juvenile bass in the Chesapeake Bay, where many of our fish originate. Mycobacteriosis, an opportunistic, widespread and potentially fatal bacterial disease, may also be affecting Chesapeake populations.

Still, scientists and fishery managers say the striped bass population is robust, with the females 148 percent over what is considered a healthy threshold. On Cape, some wonder if warming inshore water temperatures may be too high for bass. There are also fewer small fish inshore, possibly driving the bass offshore beyond the reach of a rod cast from the beach.

"We've had tons of sand eels, but not close to shore," Wood said. The 100 or so vessels visible off beaches in the summer commercial season are catching bass that no longer come inshore, Stetzko said, because seals have eaten the smaller fish.

Stetzko made a clapping sound over the phone, mimicking the sound of small flounder known as sand dabs that would wash ashore at night.

"They'd be everywhere, and you'd hear them flapping at your feet," he said. He thinks the seals have gobbled them up.

"As soon as dusk came, you could go hole to hole until you found the bait fish and if you knew what you were doing you'd find (bass)," Stetzko said. "Those are the bass that used to come onto the shore at night, but the fish know if they come in, they will be harassed by those seals — and those were big fish."

MacKeil and Boisvert said the seals are spreading into Nantucket Sound and are now a relatively common sight at many of the Cape's rivers.

"Every day, every month, every year, there are more and more," Stetzko said. "It's just devastating what has happened to surf fishermen along Cape Cod."…


Examiner] - December 18, 2012 - 

Fisherman can catch more Atlantic bluefin tuna this winter. 

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) adjusted two elements of the quotas for the fish in the short term. It announced the changes yesterday.

First, NMFS transferred 40 metric tons of the fish from the reserve category to the general category for the remainder of 2012. Based on migratory patterns, history and catch landed so far, NMFS determined it can allow more catch through New Year's Eve, effective immediately. The added fishing can be caught by net, harpoon and trap but not by angling, which is governed separately.

NMFS determined that “the risk of exceeding the overall quota is extremely small” under federal law and international fishing treaty.

NMFS will also allow more bluefin catch for the winter period beginning New Year's Day. It set the daily limit per boat at two medium or one giant fish through March, up from a one-fish limit. 

If too many fish are caught in January, NMFS may cut back.


 [Gloucester Daily Times] By Gail McCarthy - December 18, 2012 - 

Capt. Dave Marciano, one of the stars of the Gloucester-based “Wicked Tuna” reality television show, saw his business reality take a wicked turn over the weekend.

Marciano found his fishing vessel, Hard Merchandise, submerged at the dock at the Gloucester Marine Railways in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Marciano, a lifelong fisherman, said in an interview at the dock Monday that he received a call from the U.S. Coast Guard around 1 a.m. Sunday saying that the agency had received a “ping” from the vessel's Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), which activates when a vessel hits the water.

At the time, Marciano said, he was at his Beverly home watching “Moonshiners,” another reality television show.

“I was on the couch starting to nod and was planning on going to bed when I got the call,” he said. “The Coast Guard said it wasn't getting good positioning on the ping and wanted to know if the boat was out fishing and if there was an emergency.

“I told them the boat was at the dock and I was going right over,” he said. “When I got there, all I saw was the antenna sticking out of the water — and that's not a good feeling.”

Near the end of the effort to pull the boat out of the water, Marciano said crews found a break in a thru-hull fitting that caused the 36-foot fiberglass boat to fill up with water and sink.

“This could have let go 100 miles off shore. That's the blessing, because this could have happened when we were out fishing and there would have been no way to stop it completely, although I could slow it down with a pump,” said Marciano, who recalled being on a sinking vessel in the past.

On Jan. 13, 2004, he was on his 38-foot wooden fishing vessel, the wooden Angelica Joseph, about 16 miles off shore when a plank opened up and the boat started taking on water.

“It's a hazard of wooden boats. We were returning from Jeffrey's Ledge, and that boat sank in 33 minutes,” recalled Marciano. “There was another fishing vessel on the scene, the Partner, that plucked us out of the water. After that experience, I found this boat.”

He also lost 10,000 pounds of fish when the previous boat sank, but Marciano and the crew — Gloucester residents Shawn Doyle and Sarah Pyndus — escaped without injury.

In the Hard Merchandise sinking, efforts began to raise the vessel and pump it out once daylight arrived Sunday morning.

First, oil booms were deployed. But Marciano noted that, fortunately, most of the fuel was gone after his last fishing trip so there was little or no environmental impact. Divers entered the water to install deflated bags under the bow, after which air was pumped into the bags to bring the boat to the surface. Once the rails were above water, they began using the pumps.

“We started at 8 a.m. and by 3 p.m. it was up on the sling,” said Marciano. “We will salvage what we can. The engine is the priority, and the hull integrity seems OK.”

Marciano was back at the Railways Monday with his first mate, Jason Muenzner, who is also his nephew, clearing the boat.

Until 2010, when fishing regulations changed, Marciano would have been fishing all year long. But this year, he would have worked on other boats until April when he starts his charter business again in the spring.

“We had a good season and the plan was to coast until after the holidays and relax a little bit. But that's not going to happen and we will be in a scramble mode,” said Marciano.

“I am insured, and we will rebuild,” he said. “This will become part of my story.”

Part of that story begins again with the second season of the National Geographic Channel's hit “Wicked Tuna,” scheduled to air some time beginning in January. In fact, the show was filming Marciano's recovery at the dock on Monday.



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