Striped bass decline still in question
Last week Captain Jim White, a noted author and charter captain (www.whiteghostcharters.com), said, “Researches have said as much as 75 percent of the striped bass [in the Chesapeake Bay] are infected by mycobacteriosis and they are dying from the disease. “Captain White presented this and other information about striper decline at the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association monthly seminar meeting held last week at the West Valley Inn in West Warwick.
Captain White continued to say that the striped bass stock has been on the decline since 2003 and related that scientists believe it will continue to do so for the next four or five years. Mycobacteriosis was cited as one of the causes of decline. He said, “Additional reasons for decline include poaching, a drastic reduction in food supply [fewer Atlantic Menhaden to eat due to overfishing of this species] and possibly overfishing by commercial and recreation anglers.”
White said, “Because of these and other reasons the species is on the decline, so what I am saying is that fish managers and regulators need to take action to prevent the species from crashing.”
Captain White said that at their December meeting the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which regulates fishing regionally, decided not to reduce striped bass commercial and recreational quotas. “This was a mistake,” said Captain White. “They had Addendum III on the table but declined to do anything.” Addendum III suggested a reduction in the commercial and recreational striped bass harvest for 2012.
Positive striped bass news
At their meeting ASMFC members deciding not to change striped bass harvest amounts pointed to results from a 2011 survey conducted by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) that suggested the production of a strong class of young-of-year striped bass in the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay. The 2011 year class represents the group of fish hatched this spring. The news was positive and seemed to have influenced fish managers at the meeting. This class of striped bass is expected to grow to fishable size in three to four years; the bass migrate north in the spring to as far as Maine and then migrate back to the Chesapeake Bay area in the fall. The 2011 study recorded more than 27 fish per seine haul, significantly higher than the historic average of 7.5 fish per seine haul. This is a significant increase from recent years, during which catches of young fish were average. Follow link for study release: www.vims.edu/newsandevents/topstories/striped_bass_survey_results.php.
Malnutrition accelerates mycobacteriosis
In a past 2009 No Fluke column on mycobacteriosis (visit www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com, search mycobacteriosis), it was reported that striped bass were starving as they wintered in the Chesapeake Bay because of a reduced supply of Atlantic menhaden (their primary food) due to commercial over fishing. Lack of food has been substantiated by tag-recapture data studies from spring spawning grounds in Maryland and Virginia. Fish captured in autumn are the same size as fish that are starved in a lab for two months. Malnutrition makes the population vulnerable to mycobacteriosis. The disease causes loss of scales, skin ulcers, severe weight loss and lesions in striped bass. Officials estimate that 60 to 75 percent of the striped bass in Chesapeake Bay are infected. This study was conducted in 2008; preliminary reports on a new study indicate that the effect of mycobacteriosis on striped bass may not be this bad. Watch for the release of this study in the future.
Where’s the bite
Mackerel, squid and porpoise off Newport. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “Customers caught large numbers of both mackerel and squid at the Goat Island causeway bridge in Newport this week. The mackerel were so thick that porpoises were crashing them in and around Newport.”
Cod fishing was slow this week, however anglers going out for cod continue to catch large numbers of black sea bass and large scup. The Seven B’s (www.sevenbs.com) and Francis Fleet boats (www.francisfleet.com ) are fishing for cod and black sea bass. Larry Norin fished the Francis Fleet Saturday and reports the following on the RISAA blog, “[Me and] 25 others were out on the Frances Fleet. The weather was awesome, 50-plus degrees and calm seas with a light wind out of the SW. Oh, and an hour or so of pouring rain from noon to 1 p.m. was awesome partially because my rod was constantly bent over. We had a two-hour ride out south and mostly east of Block Island. We drifted almost all day except for the last hour. The drift speed was very slow, under .5 knots and we were fishing in about 100 feet of water. Most people used clams all day and a few jigged with not much luck. None stop action all day; the only disappointment was that the cod never showed up [two keepers on the whole boat]. I caught and released about six cod that were 18 to 20 inches. I caught my limit of black sea bass [four fish in the 20-inch range] and limited out on porgies; some were 17 inches and 2-plus pounds. I also caught some ocean perch, red hake, and two huge Christmas eels. I didn't see any pollock or other species except one blue fish and a few dogfish here and there. On the ride home, we stopped to watch a whale do its thing and splash a few times right next to the boat.”
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license, a charter fishing license, and is a member of the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council. Your fishing photos in JPEG form, stories, comments and questions are welcome ... there’s more than one way to catch a fish. Visit Captain Dave’s No Fluke website at www.noflukefishing.com, his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com or e-mail him at email@example.com.