Fish Report 3/16/08
One Piece of Bottom
Fishing's pretty good, at least if you enjoy toggin'. Wednesday and Friday we had good numbers of fish and plenty of tagging - 60 tags on Friday in fact. Moving around, finding a few that would bite. It was enjoyable.
Saturday? Well, the weatherman had us a bit off balance, but being forecasted out of the NW I wasn't too concerned with the wind. The ground swell, however, didn't sound too sporty. Eh, go sneak a look at it ~ see what we see...
The weather doable ~ fishing spectacular. Really. Anchored just once on a spot that we helped sink some years ago. Tagged 70 fish, only 6 of which were under 14 inches, and came in 2 1/2 hours early. Easily one of the top 5 tog trips I've ever had.
I hope the fishing was a sign of things to come.
Tautog are homebodies. With close to 5,000 tags out I've yet to see any sign of migration; just a few wanderers. Putting back as many females as possible and letting them all get to 16 inches (at least on my rig) seems to be maintaining the stock. By increasing the amount of habitat we can increase the number of fish. And are.
It's a slam dunk that they're not always going to bite: the 'one stop shopping' we had Saturday a rare event. Still, management and increasing the habitat footprint should ensure that we can leave this fishery better than we found it.
Could probably do that with a lot of our still-diminished fisheries if we could get the focus off flounder.
Had a flounder tag come back this week, in fact. Stuck it with a yellow ribbon over a piece of natural coral when it was 14 inches this past August. The fish was recaptured at 15 inches near the Norfolk Canyon some 80 miles away ~ overwintering grounds.
The inshore/offshore movement of many fisheries, notably sea bass, scup and flounder, are pretty well documented. I wonder if they use the same type of bottom offshore in winter that they do inshore...
I looked at a piece of bottom in '04 that was so fantastically grown over with sea whip, a type of soft coral, it appeared to be a huge meadow of orange. Incredible.
I looked at the same spot again last March and it was barren rock with a few stalks of whip growing out of crevices.
While I didn't see it happen, it certainly had the appearance of a flounder trawl impact ~ the chain on the bottom of the net scrapping away the corals as I have documented on other rocky bottoms.
A very large area; I wonder what they caught? 10,000 pounds? A ton? 200 pounds?
Were the flounder caught worth the loss of so much seafloor habitat; worth the loss to the trap fisherman's gear; worth the loss of marine production ~ the sea bass, flounder and tog that would have settled there as juveniles and grown larger; worth the loss...
There has to be a better way.
Surely trawls can make their quotas without towing over the coral bottoms, perhaps augmenting their catch with flounder traps set near the rocky areas. Possible.
The Magnusson Act plainly calls for managers to minimize impacts to habitat caused by fishing. We need to heed that law in the Mid-Atlantic.
It's years away. My example above is just one piece of bottom; noticed purely by chance. There's 10's of thousands of square miles of seafloor that we know virtually nothing about ~ at least from a management perspective. Probably ought to get busy with it...
Meanwhile, I'm going toggin'. It's not a fishery for everyone ~ do not think 'one stop shopping' is your certain fate! Oh no... Mr. Murphy has a plan for folks that "KNOW" they're going to wear themselves out catching tog. Made that mistake myself last Tuesday..
I hate that kind of day.
With that in mind, I'm opening up Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday - March 19th through the 23rd - 2008. Weather? Don't know ~ for Easter weekend we'll just have to take our chances. Boat sells out at 15 people for tog ~ green crabs provided ~ leave at 7AM, return 3(ish) ~ State limit 4 tog at 14 inches ~ boat strongly encourages 16 inches and release of most females.
I've got 210 tags to run through...