Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Dec. 2, 2011 -- Real nice day -- for some

Dec. 2, 2011: 

It sure was pretty out there. The beaches of LBI were lookin' good. All that replen sand still making driving a breeze. The water lost that muddiness and was truly perfect looking. There were even some fish just north of mid-Island. In fact, there were some beaches so hot this a.m. at sunrise that pluggers were counting fish by the dozens. Avas, Slipperies, needlefish, Wildeyes and even Rat'Ls were snatching up bass to 30 inches, though most were well below that. It was hot -- for some.

I, on the other lame hand, can't catch shineola. For three days I've worked the afternoon shift. Did I mention shineola? I thought for sure my first trip onto Holgate in weeks would offer me a welcome back bass or two. Nada. In fact, even the chunk-tossers were hardly making a splash on the South End sands. I did see a huge seal in the Rip. Definitely not a harbor seal.

So why no fish with the reopening of the famed Holgate surf fishing zone? I believe the bass came to the area during this recent lengthy closure and got spooked. 

Bass 1: "Man, this is weird. No fishermen at all. What the ...?"

Bass 2: "I don;t know but I'm gettin' the hell outta here!"

Bass 1: "Me too! Let's go up to North Beach." 

Odd find in Holgate was a spattering of utterly tiny rainfish -- not spearing. These were little more than a couple months old. Weird. Obviously, they terminally beached themselves when something terrible chased them.

I Zeissed a couple boats fishing the Rip and they were as inactive as we were on the beach. 

Holgate should be open for a few days then the full moon does its tide hoisting act. I question if the township will continue to fix the access road once the Classic is over. It's gonna be super tough digging some Christmas clams. I'll get down there even if I have to pull out my mountain bike and air down for a full-blown peddle out. 

I drove the entire beachline from mid-Island to Holgate and there was a healthy helping of anglers. I really don't thin it a "burn" to note that Brant Beach is also showing striper activity. It's actually a very big zone -- and it's not like we're packed with anglers any more. 


I was asked (for the many'th time) if frostfish ever come to LBI.

No simple answer. When talking of frostfish, it's usually silver hake in concept but, hereabouts, it's red hake in reality. Huh?

The term frostfish most often references silver hake, a.k.a. whiting, which is actually a much sought after species famed for it excellence when smoked. In fact, in recent years, the price of silver hake has escalated -- and that sure shows in the price of smoked whiting at the grocery.

Now, locally, we often get a much less attractive type of bottom-feeding winter fish: red hake. It is often dubbed "frostfish," despite having none of the smoking attributes of true whiting/silver hake. What it does have is a very decent edibility when cooked fresh.

Red hake can be caught from now into April. Its bite is a nibble and it offers a bit of a fight on light gear. I have caught them from my kayak in mid-winter to the point of maxing out. However, their beachside presence is absolutely not a sure thing from year to year. They sure seem to have a hankerin' for mild winters. Or, it might be that during bitter winters no one is going to venture out to catch just them -- including me. They take numerous types of baits. I use squid. A 1/0 gold hook works. Fish off the bottom (fluke rig like) or just off the bottom with a dropper loop holding the bait a few inches from the sand -- a small bank sinker on the tag end. 

By the by, I have only rarely caught red hake from the beach. Going out just past the sandbar (perfect kayak distance), they can be packed in. I think the red hake's fear of the surfline shallows might have to do with the danger of getting washed or chased onto the frigid beach sands -- and assuming famed frostfish status, regardless of species. 

I have seen a red hake frostfish wash-up only once. I was out early to metal detect. There were bunker mixed with them. Every fish a-beach was proverbially frozen solid. The gulls were flustered. 

I have never caught silver hake in the surf or even just past the sandbar. Now, that's a fish I'd venture out into the cold to bail. Sure, they smoke amazingly well but they also cook up deliciously, though you need to cook them in the round (skin on) to allow for a thorough removal of the complex bone system. Worst bone-in-throat incident I ever experienced happened with a smoked whiting from Pathmark. 


Below is a cod story. The entire cod biomass has taken a dismal turn for the worse. While it's out of our region, it is somewhat reflective of an equal misread by management on summer flounder. 

[Gloucester Times] Dec 2, 2011 By Richard Gaines Staff Writer

A peer review panel Thursday validated a exceedingly grim stock assessment of Gulf of Maine cod finding that the foundation fish for the inshore dayboat fleet, operating primarily out of Gloucester, is overfished and subject to continued overfishing.

So bad was the assessment — reversing the optimistic report from a benchmark 2008 assessment — that the rebuilding deadline of 2014 could not be met even if all Gulf of Maine landings of cod were halted, experts say.

The peer review panel of four issued its findings during a week-long meeting at the NOAA Science Center in Woods Hole.

"A final assessment report, incorporating the recommendations of the reviewers, will be available by the January New England Fishery Management Council meeting, where it will presented," said NOAA spokeswoman Teri Frady.

Based on the stock assessment, the council's Science and Scientific Committee will develop a recommendation for consideration at the January council meeting.

"The results will have devastating implications for the Gulf of Maine groundfishery," said SSC member and former chairman Steve Cadrin. "Even in the best-case scenario, the impact will still be devastating."

He said the new assessment found that cod mortality was five times the definition of overfishing.

Fishing industry leaders Thursday also saw a grim future based on the new assessment.

"A shutdown for cod is a shutdown for the fishery," said Jackie Odell, executive director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition.

The results could become a driver for the congressional movement to write flexibility into the Magnuson-Stevens Act, she said.

The 1996 reauthorization included a mandate for 10-year rebuilding deadlines for overfished stocks. The Gulf of Maine Cod stock was put on a deadline for full restoration by 2014.

The 2008 benchmark assessment of all groundfish, while primarily made up of discouraging findings, gave Gulf of Maine cod optimistic expectations, and these were matched by fishermen's landings that suggested that the stock could be counted on even as the 2006 reauthorization included hard catch limits to insure the deadlines were met.

Fishermen were generally faced with fractional allocations of Gulf of Maine Cod.

A number of day boat fishermen over the past six months have reported to the Times that larger trip boats — sized, rigged and staffed to work the offshore waters of Georges Bank — had been making brief runs into the Gulf of Maine stocks of Stellwagen Bank on their way to and from the offshore zones.

But Odell said the dramatic reversal of the findings from 2008 and 2011 were difficult to reconcile.

Cadrin, who is on the faculty of School of Marine Science and Technology at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, said very large tows in 2007 and 2008 by the trawl survey vessel seemed to give an exaggeratedly optimistic gloss to the assessment.

The assessment team of several dozen people worked with annual trawl data and reported commercial and recreational landing and discard reports.

He said the assessment science was still largely guesswork. Among many assumptions he said NOAA scientists make, "We make assumptions that cod don't move in and out" and shift between Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine.

Based on the data and assumptions, he said, scientists then create models that can be useful to managing the fishery.

"The challenge," he said, "is to manage the fishery with imprecise science."


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