So, you're kids are studying hard at college, eh?
Below: Actually, it was the guy with the dog who put up the sign. Nice try, Bubba.
... and to think that Bubba's other sign worked perfectly ...
(Stop by my weekly column: https://thesandpaper.villagesoup.com/p/weird-case-of-indian-chitals... )
Thursday, September 27, 2018: I’m not sure why I feel compelled to start on a bummer note but just a reminder that New Jersey's gas tax will increase 4.3 cents per gallon starting Oct. 1. While recent days has seen a slight dip in prices at the pumps, we’ll all feel the squeeze of this bump-up come next Monday. Getting hit harder than most will be we of a beach-driving ilk – a pastime that drinks gas faster than NASCAR laps.
On to happier things – providing you’re into bluefish of a cocktail size. During yesterday’s astounding showing of mullet in Holgate, one- to two-pound blues abounded – as in bounding clean out of the water at the back cut. I was busily netting but took time for a few throws using a small metal. I quickly landed a couple, the meat of which is now soaking in my personal pre-smoking marinade. They’ll soon be drying in my $19.99 fruit dryer, to produce a jerky hybrid. The final chewy fibery product is very meat-jerky like but also has the taste of smoked fish, since I use a fine organic liquid smoke in the marinade. My "blueifhs jerky" is very unfishy tasting, as is the case with bluefish in general. I’m not sure where bluefish got the rap of tasting too fishy. Just not true.
I also had a small weakfish grab a live mullet I threw out on a 2/0 beak hook, no sinker. I reeled it right to the Back Cut bank before it got off. Not much more than spike sized. Now, there’s a fish (weakfish) with a fishy taste. Just sayin’.
Baitfish note: Since the mullet season is short, the fresh stuff will be gone shortly. Frozen mullet will be the pick, most of which is brought in from down-south waters, mainly Florida. Sometimes the frozen is local. You can tell if a frozen mullet product is locally netted if there is a wide size variation among the individual mullets within a dozen-pack. If every mullet is almost the exact same size – and most often vacuum packed – it’s southern. This is not to say the down-south mullet are a step down, it just shows when bait shops deal with local netters when possible. Of course, even the locally-netted frozen mullet run out, sometimes quickly. Personally, I think our locally-caught mullet thaw out cleaner. Of course, I’m a highly prejudiced netter.
Here’s a look from the last wild mullet run, going back maybe ten years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63vJz7nL7yQ
How to fish for nesting birds ...
Hunters should remember that bear hunting is prohibited on all DEP managed properties including state wildlife management areas, parks, forests and recreation areas as per Governor Murphy’s Executive Order No. 34 and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe’s Administrative Order 2018-24. Segment A of New Jersey’s 2018 black bear hunting season will be held October 8 – 13 andSegment B from December 3-8; and 12-15 (if extended).
You may hunt bears on municipal, county, or federal land open to bear hunting and any private property for which you have permission. If in doubt about a property’s availability, please call the managing agency for that specific property for information.
If you shoot a bear and it runs to state land you should call the Division’s Northern Region Law Enforcement office at (908) 735-8240 before proceeding to pursue or retrieve the bear. If the office is closed, please leave a message on the answering machine that includes your name, CID number, a telephone number where you can be reached and the location where you will be attempting to track and recover the bear.
For comprehensive information regarding the 2018 bear hunting season Click Here
Baitfish: Their Importance To Fisheries and the Food Chain
by Deanna Gambino, Hourly Fisheries Technician
Bureau of Marine Fisheries
September 27, 2018
|Though often overlooked, baitfish are critical to recreational and commercial fishermen both as bait and as a foundation species in the food chain. Learn about the five most common and important species found in the waters off New Jersey.
Atlantic Menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus
Atlantic menhaden are commonly referred to as menhaden or bunker. Historically, these fish were ground up and used as fertilizer for crops or animal feed. According to National Geographic, the menhaden fishery is the largest fishery on the east coast1 of the United States.
Commercially, the menhaden fishery is made up of a reduction fishery and a bait fishery2. The majority of menhaden are fished for reduction, which reduces the menhaden into a fish oil supplement. The remaining commercially fished menhaden are used as bait for the blue crab fishery and for larger fish such as striped bass, weakfish, bluefish and cod. In either case, the fish are caught using a purse seine net. This technique surrounds a school of fish with a net that has a drawstring bottom. This prevents the fish from swimming down to escape.
Click to enlarge
Menhaden are also caught by recreational fishermen with cast nets. These fish are then used as bait for larger species.
Menhaden and other small bait fish are vital to the food chain. They feed on the primary producers of the ocean, such as plankton. In turn, menhaden are a useable source of energy for animals higher in the food chain that feed on them. Menhaden are a common source of food for a wide array of marine life from shellfish to finfish to marine mammals, as well as large shorebirds and other terrestrial animals.
|Atlantic Silverside Menidia menidia
Atlantic silversides are commonly referred to as silversides or spearing. Silversides are relatively small baitfish with a shore lifespan of 1-2 years.
Silversides are the most common fish in the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary3. However, there is little to no documentation on a silverside fishery. Commercially and recreationally, silversides are caught using minnow traps and small seines and used for bait4. In Rhode Island, silversides are known to be used to bait eel pots5.
Silversides are vital to the food chain because they feed on the primary producers of the ocean, such as zooplankton, algae and copepods. Just like menhaden, silversides are a useable source of energy for animals higher in the food chain. Examples of species that feed on silversides include striped bass, bluefish, egrets, gulls and cormorants. Silverside larvae and eggs are a common source of food for blue crabs, mummichogs, ruddy turnstones and semipalmated sandpipers.
Click to enlarge
|American Eel Anguilla rostrata
American eels are the only catadromous fish found in North America. As opposed to anadromous fish, catadromous fish migrate out of freshwater rivers and estuaries to spawn in the ocean. These eels have a complex life cycle that includes many stages. Eels have been fished and farmed for years because they are considered a delicacy in Europe and Asia7. In the 1970s, the juvenile stage of eels known as glass eels was heavily fished in the United States and sold to the Asian market for over $1200 a pound. Since then, states have been regulating and restricting American eel harvesting.
In the United States, commercial and recreational fisheries exist for American eels and they are very similar. In both fisheries, eels are harvested for bait and for human consumption. Commercial fisheries are directed at all life stages of eel, from glass eel through silver eel. Recent changes in size regulations have eliminated the glass eel fishery in all states except Maine and South Carolina. Generally, eels are targeted using baited pots or fyke nets. Recreational landings of American eel have been on the decline since the 1980s when recreational harvest peaked.
Click to enlarge
American Eels are extremely important to the food chain. In freshwater, they are a top predator that serve as a population check on local organisms. During earlier stages of their life cycle, eels can serve as a food source to larger fish and large shorebirds.
|Mummichog Fundulus heteroclitus
Mummichogs, also known as mummies or minnows, are another relatively small baitfish in New Jersey. Mummichogs are an example of an indicator species11. In the presence of carcinogenic water pollutants, mummies will form tumors, thus indicating the presence of carcinogens, substances that can cause cancer to living tissues. Mummichogs are commercially and recreationally harvested for bait, mainly for summer flounder. Mummies are caught using minnow traps and small seines. Outreach and educational programs commonly use mummichogs as an education tool because of the fish's resiliency to being handled11.
Mummies serve an ecological importance as mosquito control, by feeding on as many as 2,000 larvae per day11. The diets of mummies include insects, algae, diatoms, larvae and other primary organisms. Mummichogs are also an important part of larger fish and shorebird's diets.
Click to enlarge
|Spot Leiostomus xanthurus
Spot are a short-lived baitfish that are also known as spot croaker or flat croaker. Spot are part of the drum family and the males can make a drumming noise with their swim bladder. They are a schooling fish that can tolerate a wide range of temperature and salinity, making them common to a variety of habitats in large numbers.
Spot are commercially and recreationally fished for as bait using gill nets, cast nets and haul seines12. It is not uncommon for fishermen to use spot as live bait. They can do this by hooking the fish using a Sabiki rig. These rigs are multi-lure rigs that are made to be able to cast into a school of baitfish. Spot are considered good to eat and are commonly harvested as food. Commercially harvested spot are also used by pet food processers.
Spot feed on benthic invertebrates, including copepods and polychaetes. Similar to previously discussed baitfish, spot turn these primary producers into sources of energy for species higher in the food chain. Adults are fed on by striped bass, sharks, seatrout, bluefish, mackerels, gars and flounder.
Click to enlarge
For more information on New Jersey's baitfish check out this 2015 article: Baitfish: Profiles of the Top Five.
(To the above story I'll also give a quick shout-out to rainfish (bay anchovies) and Mullet)
Seattle Sea Cucumber Poachers Reeled in $1.5m
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [The Guardian] by Levi Pulkkinen - September 27, 2018
Washington man faces prison for role in years-long operation to poach and sell 250,000lb of poorly understood creature
A Seattle-area fish processor who hoped to cash in on China’s appetite for sea cucumber faces years in prison for his role in a $1.5m poaching scheme that rocked an already unstable fishery.
Federal prosecutors claim Hoon Namkoong led a years-long operation to poach and sell sea cucumbers as regulators were cutting the struggling Washington state fishery. Dozens of divers are also implicated in the poaching ring. Namkoong bought at least 250,000lb of stolen sea cucumber taken illegally from waters once rich with the echinoderms.
A leading US sea cucumber wholesaler, Namkoong made millions selling to buyers domestically and in China, where demand has spiked for sea cucumber. Namkoong, 62, faces up to two years in prison when he is sentenced on Friday.
Sea cucumber is a luxury food and traditional medicine in China. Demand for them has risen as Chinese incomes have grown, and the inflation-adjusted price paid to fishermen has more than doubled since the early 1990s. Sea cucumber stocks are under threat globally as fishermen dive to meet demand.
“My old boss says they make a really good clam dip,” joked Hank Carson, a Washington department of fish and wildlife research scientist who studies and manages the state sea cucumber fishery.
Cousins to the starfish and sea urchin, sea cucumbers are prized for the five bands of muscle cocooning their gooey centers. They are collected by divers linked to the surface by hose, then split and drained at sea. Processors like Namkoong buy the gutted cucumber, which is then dehydrated for sale.
For being such simple creatures … they’re really bizarre
Sea cucumber stocks in Washington fell dramatically during what Carson described as the fishery’s “gold rush” in the late 1980s and 1990s. In a pattern repeated in fisheries worldwide, Washington’s sea cucumber harvest – once America’s largest – ballooned to an unsustainable level before fears of a collapse prompted regulation to protect the poorly understood creature.
“They’re really mysterious animals,” Carson said. “For being such simple creatures … they’re really bizarre.”
Sea cucumber change their size and weight on demand, spewing or inhaling water. Their migration patterns are unknown and the age of an individual cucumber is impossible to discern. They sometimes eviscerate themselves, expelling their internal organs, though researchers aren’t sure why they do so.
Carson, who was Washington’s leading sea cucumber regulator while the poaching was occurring, said he is optimistic the fishery can rebound. Tribal fishermen, whose treaty rights afford them half the sea cucumber catch, and their non-tribal counterparts had been sacrificing to preserve the fishery. The poachers threatened that work.
Sea cucumber fishermen must report their catch to regulators, who decide when the 600,000lb annual quota has been harvested. Namkoong and more than 34 fishermen cheated the system by dramatically underreporting the catch, which Namkoong paid for in part with cash. Poached sea cucumbers were salted and dried at Orient Seafood Production, Namkoong’s suburban Seattle processing plant.
“That was a big setback,” said Carson, describing the poaching ring’s impact on the fishery’s management. “Lawful harvesters were making cuts, and unlawful harvesters were taking more.”
Namkoong pleaded guilty in April to conspiring to violate a federal law prohibiting poaching and wildlife trafficking. Prosecutors have asked that he be ordered to pay $1.5m in restitution and serve a two-year prison term.
“Namkoong caused this stressed resource to be over-harvested by over 250,000 pounds,” the assistant US attorney Matthew Diggs said in court papers. “He did so for the sole reason of enriching himself.”
In letters filed with the court, Namkoong’s friends described him as a generous, hardworking business owner well-regarded within his industry. Defense attorney Wayne Fricke argued that Namkoong was motivated in part by a desire to “help those divers who were attempting to make a living”.
While Namkoong hopes to be spared prison when he is sentenced on Friday, prosecutors have asked that he receive a two-year term. He is expected to be sentenced by the US district judge Ricardo Martinez in Seattle.
With the closing of the Oyster Creek nuke plant, I hearken back to how close we came to bypass the Oyster Creek site to instead build the nation's only ocean-top nuclear power-generating facility ... right off Little Egg Inlet. They could have named it the 18-Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station. What could have possibly gone wrong?
Could Offshore Wind Energy Construction Affect Black Sea Bass Behavior?
Scientists from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center are presenting their research at the 2018 American Fisheries Society (AFS) annual conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey, from August 19 - 23. Junior acoustician Katharine Shelledy’s AFS presentation focuses on her collaborative work looking at how renewable offshore energy construction might affect the behavior of black sea bass. This feature story is an extension of her presentation for AFS participants and those involved in fisheries science and natural resource management.
Tap to enlarge image
Black sea bass could be affected by construction noise from offshore wind energy. This black sea bass was part of a series of experiments looking at addressing this question. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Katharine Shelledy.Here one black sea bass inspects the underwater GoPro camera used to collect footage for behavior classification. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Katharine Shelledy.
Black sea bass (Centropristis striata) live along the East Coast of the United States, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. They’re ecologically and economically important fish supporting a valuable commercial and recreational fishery. Black sea bass are attracted to structurally complex habitats and are often found around rocky reefs, cobble and rock fields, mussel beds, artificial habitats (e.g., marine debris, shipwrecks), and other similar types of three dimensional structures. Unfortunately, existing energy leases and areas planned for wind energy development overlap, either seasonally or throughout the year, with many of these habitats. Commercial and recreational fishermen have expressed concern about how the sounds associated with offshore wind development might impact black sea bass. Construction of offshore wind farms relies on pile-driving, which emits high intensity, intermittent impulsive sounds found to trigger stress responses in other fish species. That’s why Katharine Shelledy, junior acoustician at the Science Center, and her colleagues are looking at how offshore wind energy construction sounds might affect black sea bass behavior.
“We need to determine the effect, if any, on black sea bass because they are a target species for commercial and recreational fisheries,” said Shelledy about wind energy construction sounds. “There may be economic implications if development sounds disrupt black sea bass populations’ site fidelity or ability to reproduce.” Shelledy also has concerns that construction sounds could disrupt things like catchability, and that there could be long-term sub-lethal effects since this kind of noise may prevent the fish from accessing feeding and spawning habitats, or communicating with each other.
How They Did It
The team chartered a local recreational fishing crew to help them catch black sea bass for their experiments. Fish were transported back to the Center’s Sandy Hook Lab in New Jersey, held in holding tanks and exposed to normal laboratory sounds. The scientists used three acoustic recording types taken during the construction of Block Island wind farm located off the coast of Rhode Island. Each recording varied slightly by the length of time between pile-driving strikes. The team performed experiments in a 390-gallon, 6-foot tank. The night before a set of trials, the team placed fish into the experimental tank and held them overnight to acclimate them to the new environment.
The scientists performed two types of trials: trials with one fish and trials with a group of three fish. They ran three trials per day during the day to mimic normal pile-driving and construction times. Each trial lasted 45 minutes. and consisted of 15 minutes with no sound (pre-treatment), followed by 15 minutes of pile-driving track (exposure treatment) or silent track (control) playing, and ended with 15 minutes of no sound (post-treatment).
After completing a set of three trials, the scientists no longer used fish for sound work. To date the team has completed 15 individual fish trials and eight group trials*. They also recorded water temperature and dissolved oxygen during each trial.
Classifying Fish Behavior
Shelledy first looked at the each fish’s reaction at sound onset using aerial and underwater footage. She then clipped footage from the sound exposure treatment trials into 1-minute clips. Within each 1-minute clip, she tracked the number of seconds each fish spent doing specific behaviors from a suite of classified behaviors. So far, the team has only analyzed the first minute from each pre-, exposure-, and post-treatment trials.
What They've Found So Far
Sound recordings caused black sea bass to spend less time at the surface of the water. Generally, as soon as the recordings came on, the fish tended to swim downwards, move closer together, and pivot. “I anticipated more startling at sound onset. Sometimes in response to a visual stimulus -- like when they see us starting to check water temperatures, etc. -- black sea bass will rapidly change direction, dart, or even jump out of the water. However, black sea bass seemed to have responded to underwater sound recordings more by stillness than increased activity.” So far the team has not found any behavioral difference between males and females.
Shelledy said these experiments represent one phase of their study. In the coming year, the team plans to determine hearing thresholds and observe other ecologically significant effects during prolonged pile-driving sound exposure. Starting this fall the team will perform experiments in a 32,000-gallon research aquarium. “I’m really curious to see how their spatial preferences may be affected since the research aquarium is large enough for there to be a sound gradient.”
This project was funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The results from this study will help inform future noise mitigation strategies for renewable energy development.
* Katharine Shelledy only presented the results for the group fish trails at AFS.
AW SHUCKS: SCIENTISTS USE GOPRO TO STUDY OYSTER HABITATS
GoPro is always chomping at the bit for a good shark story. We’ve had a couple good ones over the years—from Ocean Ramsey freediving with Great Whites to Jeb Corliss and Roberta Mancino capturing the sea creatures in imme.... In light of Shark Week 2018 just wrapping up, we bring to you a story that features more “bite-sized” ocean friends—oysters.
Oysters are a delicacy enjoyed across the world, and their production is ever increasing in the United States. Off the Atlantic coast, farmers responsible for the salty delight employ a cage-farming strategy where oysters are grown in large, “off-bottom vertical cages” under the surface. The cages are stacked atop one another in an effort to more efficiently use space on the sea floor, whilst protecting the vulnerable mollusk from predators. According to local farmers, the cages don’t just protect the oysters, but they are proving to support other sea creatures, too. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has taken interest and is using GoPro to collect data in support of this hypothesis.
The NOAA Milford Laboratory team attached a GoPro to the oyster cage as a way to observe the way local sea life interacted with the aquaculture infrastructure. By pairing GoPro HERO3+ with a Cam Do Blink Time Lapse Controller and GoPro’s Green Water Dive Filter, the team recorded 8 minutes of video, every hour, for 12 hours. After each day of content collecting, a member of the observation team “scores” the video—recording the presence of black sea bass, cunner, Tautog and Scup in the footage.
So far, the footage has revealed early signs that fish at various stages utilize the cages—adults for courtship and young fish for shelter.
“Video from GoPro cameras provides a novel and inexpensive means of observing fish behavior in the field that will allow us to better understand how fish utilize oyster cages for food, shelter, and habitat,” said project co-lead Renee Mercaldo-Allen.
If NOAA research indicates that these vertical oyster habitats help local sea life, it is possible the practice could be expanded, meaning more oysters for our mouths … oh, and more shelter for our fish friends.
Hi-5 to the awesome NOAA research team for innovating under the sea with GoPro—Paul Clark, Mark Dixon, Erick Estela, Yuan Liu, Lisa Milke, Renee Mercaldo-Allen, Gillian Phillips, Jerry Prezioso, Dylan Redman, Julie M. Rose and Barry Smith.