Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Saturday Augst 2, 2008: Feels summerish; yellow fin tops at tourney

Saturday, August 02, 2008-: Waves: Small to nearly flat out there. Water temps: Upper 60s. Water clarity: Very good, approaching too clear.

Well, this is more like ti. Not so much the fishing as the summer water and sky conditions. Easily the warmest water of the season filtered in under light west winds (a.m.) and light afternoon onshore winds.

The fishing was also easy, at least in the sense of an easy go getting outside or hanging in the bay, though periods of no wind allowed this year’s crop of fierce flies to stop by for a bite – and even gnat action toward dark yesterday.

I’ve been working the BHM&TC’s White Marlin Invitational Tournament. The tuna are out there in goodly numbers. Below is one of my blogs for that event. As you’ll see, the only weird side is the lack of other fish besides yellow fin. Still, it’s turning into a very exciting event with all the top tuna very close and the main day (today) to go. And just in case you’re wondering what the big boys play for in a tourney like this, the calcuttas (based on days fished, represented by letters) are Fishing Day A (1): $43,500; Day B (2): $81,000; Day C (3): $109,000; D (Overall winner): $120,000. There is also a special $11,000 calcutta for blue fin tuna – wherever they might be.

Closer to terra firma: Fluking has taken a bit of a dip, though that will surely not last overly long since the flatties haven’t gone anywhere, and will soon start fattening for fall. There have been some jumbo, near-doormats, caught near the ICW and eastern Middle Grounds, just ask “Pop” Anthony Cuccinota.
The clearer nearshore water has kingfish on every seafood lovers catch-some list. These Grade A panfish are in the surf and are especially thick in the bay this year, west Barnegat bay and even in the Middle Grounds and toward Mordecai where jumbo specimens have been taking big baits meant for fluke.
Jigging for small surf stripers is a fun choice for early a.m. casters. I’ve nabbed a couple but have missed a lot of short hits, though they might also be fluke near the jetties.

Here is an important summer flounder message from Bruce Freeman. I have to digest and make some calls to see if it is saying what I think it is, namely, easier fluke times ahead for next year.

Bruce’s report::: The Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) met July 31 to review recommendations of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s staff (Council) concerning the fishery quotas for fluke, bluefish, sea bass and scup for 2009. Recent additions to the Federal Fishery Law now requires the SSC to review changes in annual quotas to make certain they are supported by the best scientific information. In addition, the Council must follow the recommendations of the SSC.

The SSC agreed with the recently completed assessment of the coastwide fluke stock that supports a change to the model used as well as change to a key variable used in the predictive fishery model. These changes, together with the most recent survey data, now indicate that the fluke stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. This means that the fluke resource is more than 75% restored to its maximum sustainable level and at the existing catch rate, we should see a complete recovery of the fluke spawning stock to 151 million pounds by the fall of 2012. Federal Law requires the stock to be rebuilt no later than 2013.

The SSC recommended a total allowable catch level for the 2009 fishing year of 19 million pounds which is divided among recreational fishermen (7.6 million pounds) and commercial fishermen (11.4 millions pounds).

The 2008 coastwide recreational fishery has been held to about 6 million pounds because of concern that the fluke stock will not be fully restored over the next 4 years. The updated analysis and change in model variables now indicate the stock is more improved than previously indicated and that the recreational catch for 2009 could possibly be increased to 7.4 million pounds, a 19% increase, yet be fully restored by 2013.

Here’s one of my blogs from the WMIT:
Friday, August 01, 2008:
As expected, for Day 2, there was some serious canyon cramming going on as some 84 WMIT boats slid out under the cover of darkness last night (rules say you can’t depart before 2 a.m.). The weather included a beautiful night sky with fairly brisk west winds; generally ideal conditions – smooth enough to allow the crew to grab some shuteye before dawn’s early light.

What awaited the competing boats depended on the typical whims of the fish and/or the wisdom of the captain and crews. I heard descriptives from “Really tough out there” to “It was smokin’”

Some 30 boats hooked up with tuna worth a trip to the club’s scales. The other 50 some entrants either didn’t score or weren’t willing to wait in line to weigh-in tuna that wouldn’t stand a prayer against the known leaders. Radio chatter advised arriving entrants on some of the sizes already on the board. A couple boats hung in-line for a while then just bowed out, not wild about the wait but more so unsold on their fishes’ chances of going money.

Dockside, the weigh-in day was something of a tale of two tape measures. Size-wise, about a third of first boats to weigh-in seemed to point to much smaller fish today than yesterday, on average.

As those first weights were logged in – all yellow fin tuna (with one bull mahi) – fish in the upper 60-pound range ruled, seemingly indicating the measure was down by ten pounds, on average, when compared to Day 1. Then things suddenly ratcheted upward, as the winch on the scale began to make that straining sound that captains love to hear.

Resident craft Cap N Crunch got the medium-sized dockside crowd offering some applause as it third-fished a healthy 88.3 yft. At the time it looked very leaderish for the day. Instead, it was actually a sneak look at things to come – as boats were anxiously lined up outside, about 10 deep, waiting to reach the scale.

For the second day in as many, Endless Drifter left its mark before pulling away from the dock. Already well atop the tuna (non bft) leaderboard for its impressive 97-6 yft on Day 1, it first offered the scale an 87.7 yft -- momentarily allowing the fans of Crunch’s 88-3 a sigh of relief. Then came the winch strain and up rose a fat 93-8 yft, indicating the Endless Drifter was “on fire” (as someone in the crowd put it).

Soon after, Milling Around first-dayed an 80-5 followed by an 89-even. So much for fish in the 60s.

Milling was barely out of the channel before local-loaded Hot Tuna went leaderboard seeking with a 90-9.

Beauty boat of the day, Bac In Five, showed a 82-9. (I have to mention that in hopes of John will offer me a ride in that choice craft).

The next torqued up tuna arrived on Ocean 58, which displayed a major yellow fin tuna that looked like it might challenge the Endless Drifter 93-8. When the digital numbers settled, that tuna landed a mere digit short, weighing in at 92-8.

As the sun went red out west, the day once again belonged to Endless Drifter, though both Hot Tuna and Ocean 58 were poised for winnings.

Once again: Drifter’s 97-6 and 93-8 remain the tuna to beat for the tourney. Of course, tomorrow will be the equivalent of a restart final lap finish in NASCAR, with nearly 3/4 of WMIT boats accelerating offshore for their second day – as Drifter can only wait at the dock and dread the sound of a whining winch.

ONE TRICK TOURNEY: Not that it’s hurting the excitement level but there sure seems to be a serious lack of fish beside yellow fin tuna. A few mahi (dolphin) and one wahoo have hardly tested the club’s on-site fish ID expert. Even the PA system announcements of the fish being weighed in have now and again included the words “another yellow fin tuna.” And another and another.

And how about the rudeness of those blue fin tuna? The club goes to all the trouble of not only creating a separate category for them but even a special calcutta and how do they show their appreciation? By not showing up whatsoever. Cretins. Well, there has to be a couple entrants wondering -- as they ready for a turnaround trip tonight – if it might not be worth prowling a tad inside to look for even one weigh-worthy bft, that could by worth more per ounce than even a Japanese businessman will pay.

A question arose about what would happen if no blue fine tuna came to the scales, what would happen to the calcutta. The tourney committee will be pondering that point. I’ll pass that on when I know. Odds are a bft will surely arise tomorrow.

THUMBS UP: The thumbs up of the day award goes to Scott for his masterful traffic directing of the 30- boats weighing in fish. His artful arranging of awaiting vessels was one of the prime reason the weigh-ins went so smoothly -- when coupled with the crack dockside crew, which is now working like a well-oiled Van Staal reel. I stayed topside with Scott most of the weigh-in period and got a quick read on all that goes into directing large to very large vessels all waiting their turn to motor dockside.
Also doing a masterful job were the guys on the Scout Boat, which communicates by radio with entrants arriving through the inlet. Sorry, I didn’t get the name of the Scout Boat folks but they were a key element in readying the arriving boats – and unerringly offering the message “Please turn off your radar, fill out all your paperwork and switch your radio to Channel 68.” Volunteers are wonderful creatures.

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