Capt. Dave Peros: Unfortunate State of the Striped Bass Stock
By: Captain Dave Peros, October 10, 2013
Well, folks, if you’re a fan of numbers, then you will be happy to take a look at the latest figures garnered from the latest Atlantic Striped Bass Stock Assessment. In short, the figures that are offered regarding the number of bass that are estimated, using the best available science and modeling, are included below.
“In 2012 the Atlantic striped bass stock was not overfished or experiencing overfishing relative to the new reference points from the 2013 SAW/SARC57. Female spawning stock biomass (SSB) was estimated at 61.5 thousand metric tons (mt) (136 million lbs), above the SSB threshold of 57,904 mt, but below the SSB target of 72,380 mt. Total fishing mortality was estimated at 0.188, below the F threshold of 0.213 but above the F target of 0.175. When compared to the biological reference points currently used in management (ASMFC 2008), the stock is neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing. Female SSB in 2012 is above both the target (46,101 mt) and the threshold (36,000 mt), and F2012 is below both the target (0.30) and the threshold (0.34).”
I recognize that I am not a particularly bright guy when it comes to fisheries management mumbo jumbo, particularly when it uses the terms “the stock is neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing.” In my simplistic world, something is either overfished or not and it doesn’t matter if it were overfished or is currently being overfished.
Rounding out the numbers, it seems to me that female spawning stock biomass is much closer to threshold that results in corrective or emergency action (61.5 thousand mt to 57,904 mt) than it is to what the goal or target is (61.5 thousand to 72,380 mt) so we are closer to a problem than a positive. As far as fishing mortality goes, which is that F number, we are killing more bass (0.188) than what is wanted (0.175) but below 0.213, which would call for corrective or emergency action.
Ultimately, the assessment states that by 2015-2016, the stocks will continue to decline and most likely dip below the threshold number. If no corrective action is taken until 2014 or 2015, the likelihood that the stocks will fall below the threshold increases significantly.
After 2016, the stocks will most likely begin to rebound slightly if the 2011 year class produces enough recruits (or new fish to the overall spawning stock). That is certainly not guaranteed and puts a whole lot of eggs into one basket, that one year class, since those up to then were below average and 2012 was the lowest ever in the 50 years of the young-of-the year survey.
In the end, there is only one solution: a significant cut in the recreational catch in the order of 50 to 60 percent and a similar cut for the commercial sector. No doubt, this is going to create a lot of pain for a lot folks who rely on bass, but that is the price you pay for fisheries’ mismanagement, plain and simple. In other words, the incompetence of the ASMFC Striped Bass Board has pushed us to the brink once more and we all bought in to the notion that it wasn’t possible after the crash in the ’80s.
Fortunately, there are still enough bass out there to be caught that many folks aren’t feeling the pain just yet and that certainly is good news—and it is my fervent hope that something is done soon that we don’t reach the same nadir.
According to Bruce Miller, the canal is still producing some solid stripers, although it did acknowledge that it has slowed. The largest fish he weighed in on Tuesday was a 37-pounder, with most of the big bass taken on live eels from dusk to dawn. There are some spike mackerel showing around the east end of the canal, with young-of-the year herring dropping out of the run, mixing with sea herring and butterfish as well.
That said, Stan Darmofalski spoke of good lure action on Tuesday, with bass spread throughout the Big Ditch. A variety of artificials worked, including Guppy pencil poppers, Savage Sand Eels, Daiwa SP Minnows, and metal jigs, and with bluefish also present in the canal, Stan pointed out that where you happened to be determined whether you were into bass or blues.
Breaking Tides This Weekend At Canal
Starting at the end of the week and perfectly timed for the weekend, as Mike Thomas pointed out, there is another set of breaking tides in the canal and when combined with a new moon on Saturday there is a very good chance that a push of stripers from Cape Cod Bay and up around Plymouth and spots north will move into the land cut.
Speaking of the bay, Bruce Miller reported that there is still a pick of fish out in deeper water from Fisherman’s Ledge to the Dump, with the tube-and-worm or live eels remaining the offerings of choice.
When you have written a column for 20 years, there are moments when you wonder if you have said something previously, but if I have said, “October is for opportunity,” then the phrase still echoes a truth that still holds today. In my conversation with Jeff Clabault, he mentioned that he spoke to some anglers who had a good night around what they said was Scorton Creek late last week with one bass over 30 pounds, another over 20, and a number of other good fish. Jeff happened to be fishing Old Harbor the next night and was bothered by small bass, and eventually the guys he got the report from showed up; he wasn’t sure if they had intentionally mislead him, but Jeff’s main point is that what is hot one night can be dead the next since at this point in the fall the fish are definitely on the move.
Jeff’s most recent trips to Popponesset earlier this week proved the same point; on Monday, he picked up a good number of smaller bass on plugs, while another angler managed a 33-inch fish on a swimming plug. Given the number of headlights shining across the way in Cotuit, there was a fair amount of activity there as well. On Tuesday, however, Jeff encountered a skunk, with no fish to be had.
Kevin Gould pointed out that the beaches in Falmouth are starting to produce some better fish, particularly on live eels, chunk baits, and plugs at night and early in the morning.
On the other hand, the great thing about fall is that you can find good action right in the middle of the day and I have heard of bass caught in good numbers even with the sun highest in the sky, from Cotuit to Poppy to Waquoit.
Boaters are also encountering similar activity, with Capt. Warren Marshall joining with fellow members of the Cape Cod Flyrodders, Vin Foti and Henry Godin, on Tuesday for a great trip along the Elizabeths. Henry managed a fly rod slam, with an albie, bass, and blue, with a good number of the stripers taken sight casting over a white sand stretch.
Warren also ran into Chris Parisi, who has been enjoying good success on albies using Hogy Lures’ new epoxy jig, particularly the pink version, and Chris reported that Lackey’s Bay has had numerous, active schools on a fairly consistent basis.
Albie Fleet Off Lackeys
That gibes with what Jim Young told me about Lackey’s, with a fleet of boats there last Saturday chasing albies, with smaller schools occasionally popping up off of Waquoit, Nobska, and even in Woods Hole. Along with plenty of schoolie activity along our local archipelago, folks tossing live eels and tubing have been catching bass in the 15- to 20-pound class, Jim added.
The word from Kevin Gould is that some large schools of albies have been reported showing in Quicks and Robinsons, but their appearances have been unpredictable, as is their wont.
Mike Thomas had an interesting report from the captain of the Lady K, a headboat out of Onset, who has been running to Quicks Hole where his anglers have been picking up good numbers of weakfish in the 20- to 22-inch range along with the scup, sea bass, and tautog they are targeting with baits such as squid.
Many Vineyard Derby boat anglers are fishing the Elizabeths, explained Doug Asselin who works at Dick’s Bait & Tackle on the island, with chunk pogies and live eels the preferred baits. There is a very good chance that Duane Lynch’s 34.88-pounder that took over the boat division on Monday came from the islands, with the tube-and-worm and wire line jigging still productive this time of year.
And speaking of young Mr. Asselin, he grabbed the shore bass division lead the same day with a 30.70-pounder caught on a live eel. When I spoke to him, he admitted that he won’t even think of winning until about 24 hours before the contest ends and like any good Derby angler, I can assure you that Doug will be out there putting in his time trying to better his fish, perhaps even catching the first 40-pounder of this year’s contest.
Bonito are still being caught around Squibnocket, but they are on the small side, while the Hooter is hit-or-miss on bones, with a friend of Doug’s catching seven one day and then finding only blues the next.
Out east of Chatham, there are still solid numbers of small and medium bluefin, but at this time of the season it’s giants that are on most folks’ minds. In that vein, along with the usual splasher bars, anglers targeting the largest of tuna are mixing in some “meat” into their spreads. This nickname is used for ballyhoo, whether naked or skirted, with Joe Shute lures really catching on this season, especially the blue/white or red models, with other folks preferring skirts from Islander, Canyon Gear, and the Hoo-lure from Iland.
Last week’s reports still had some yellowfin and albacore out around Atlantis, said Kevin Gould, along with some wahoo, but not many anglers are making the run at this point of the season.
Finally, Jeff Clabault reported that the state began its fall trout stocking this week, with Peter’s and Mashpee-Wakeby two ponds that usually see their fair share of fish to go along the holdovers from this spring and years past.