Atlantic Menhaden Management Board Takes Action
Menhaden fishermen uploading catch onto one of Omega Protein’s motherships off the coast of Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
This could be one of the last albie catches of the season for Bruce Andes of Madison as they bid farewell until next year. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
A key point of interest at the 78th Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) was the harvesting of Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), an important forage fish and filter feeder in marine ecosystems. Progress updates for Atlantic menhaden indicate that the stock is not overfished and that overfishing is not occurring. In addition, ecological reference point benchmark stock assessments indicate that fishing mortality is below the mortality target and threshold.
The only harvesting and reduction facility along the Atlantic coast is Omega Protein (located in Reedsville, Virginia), which processes menhaden into agricultural fertilizer, livestock and aquacultural feed, fish meal, and fish oil. A discussion ensued concerning the 2019 reduction fishery harvest from the Chesapeake Bay. It was determined that the Commonwealth of Virginia was deemed out of compliance with a mandatory measure within Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. This action was taken pursuant to provisions of the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act of 1992.
Specifically, the Commonwealth of Virginia has failed to effectively implement and enforce Section 4.3.7 Chesapeake Bay Reduction Fishery Cap of Amendment 3. In order to come back into compliance, the commonwealth must implement an annual total allowable harvest from the Chesapeake Bay by the reduction fishery of no more than 51,000 mt. According to the Atlantic Menhaden Management Board, the implementation of this measure is necessary to achieve the goals and objectives of Amendment 3 and maintain the Chesapeake Bay marine environment to assure the availability of the ecosystem’s resources on a long-term basis.
The conflict came when the firm fished within the bay, exceeding its 51,000 mt quota. This is not in conflict with the state legislature, but is in conflict with mandatory commission regulations. Those representing Virginia on the commission were apologetic and hopeful that Virginia law will be altered to enable compliance with ASMFC. A representative from Omega Protein attributed fishing within the bay to weather events and the abundance of menhaden.
It was indicted that Omega Protein voluntarily capped the bay harvest at 67,000 mt—well below the 87,000 mt allowed by Virginia. Even with the high harvest this season, they maintain that the overall bay average for the past several years is below the 51,000 mt quota that was implemented in 2017. Subsequently, the Secretary of Commerce will be notified and the appropriate action will be taken in order to bring the commonwealth into compliance.
The coastwise menhaden bait fishery landings (recreation and commercial) increased from 13 percent in 2001 to approximately 25 percent of the total coastwise harvest in 2017, with them majority coming from Virginia and New Jersey. New Englanders can readily feel the effects of that harvesting when attempting to secure them for bait. Although they are a fast-growing species, effective management and enforcement is necessary to ensure an adequate supply of this resource for ecological, commercial, and recreational purposes.
On the Water
Inshore Long Island Sound water temperatures did indeed drop to 55 degrees and, from all indications, will gradually continue to do so. Once again, we entered into a pre-weekend blast of unsettling weather as any prediction of snow along the shoreline fizzled when it became strictly a rain event. Gale seas erupted, stirring up the Sound, before settling into cooler and more seasonable weather just before an Arctic blast of cold hit.
The change in weather was reflected in the fishery, indicated by a fairly good bluefish bite in the Race (smaller ones mid-Sound) and by the way bait and lures were attacked. Chunks, jigs, and umbrella rigs scored down below, while topwaters were successful when the bunker schooled. Unlike the blues, we may have seen taps played on the speedsters as their activity slowed. Any pockets of warmer water might see some latent activity. And do not give up on the low-feeding weakfish just yet.
Striped bass, on the other hand, are on the hunt. There may be a few cows in the curls, but most around are much smaller and greater in numbers. Consider using bait and plugs from shore and jigs or trolling rigs offshore. Check out the lower tidal rivers (since hickories are running) and any rip lines, drop-offs, and reefs in the Sound. Food is their primary focus, so that and anything that resembles fall forage is what should be fished. Meanwhile, brackish water is holding schools of white perch.
Blackfish (tautog) is what most fishers are after. Some decent white chins are being pulled from 40-foot depths, while mostly smaller ‘togs are being hooked in shallower water. Crabs, jigs, and rigs are the best and most efficient way of catching these bulldogs and pulling them from their grounds. If small ones are being caught, move. If the bite is slow to none, move. You may have to do a little exploring, but it could easily be worth the effort. Depending on the reef or other bottom structure, slab scup and humpback black sea bass are still in the running. Go deep!
Trout catches were up again under the umbrella of fall leaves. Small inline spinners and flies cast to the pools produced richly colored fish. The basses varied with the colder temps, which did not seem to bother perch, carp, or catfish. Even a few small pike got into the action. Slow and low has been the ticket
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For all things fishy including bait, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days, located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time, from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better...