So What is Citizen Science Anyway?
From the NOAA’s Milford Research Lab for aquaculture to Hawaii’s Deep 7 bottom fishery, citizen science plays an important part in effective management of our ocean resources and habitats. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
The wait is over and striper fever is spreading, as evidenced by fisher, guide, and master casting instructor John Bilotta of Madison, who pairs up his 13-foot, 8-weight spey fly rod with this fresh into-the-Sound striped bass before heading to Belize. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Citizen science has been around for 30 years. It’s a science that assists the needs and concerns of citizens and a form of science developed and enacted by the citizens themselves. The platform itself has taken on a life of its own. This is perhaps most notable in the field of birding, such as in the mobile application e-Bird, where data about our feathered friends may be input anywhere in the world by any individual and then accessed in real time.
So why would this concept not be adaptable to the fishing community? It was a question posed from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) right on down to fisheries management teams, where it is now going through a development stage. Information garnered through many public meetings and continually drilled down to what a meaningful fisheries mobile application should contain is at the forefront.
There are gaps in recreational fishery data that fishers can fill. Information can be gleaned about any fish caught or observed in any region of interest and stored for real-time access by anyone. This data can be accessed by those participating for management purposes, research, or just plain curiosity. As time goes on, specific projects can be adapted into the system to suit specific needs or expanded to accommodate other avenues of interest.
At our most recent 3 ½-hour virtual meeting, group discussions took place, describing fish that were caught and released, fish that were caught and kept, fishing effort or trips, fish distribution and movement, fish life history, and fisheries social and economic information. Each of these items were further evaluated, broken down into sub-topics, ranked in order of importance and, subsequently, prioritized.
Ultimately, a mobile application will be developed, tested, and go through the various steps in the chain of command in order become available for people to input recreational fishery related data directly into the system. From there, the data will be validated, become accessible, and fill gaps in recreational fishing data that would otherwise not be possible.
On the Water
April is known as a transition month in which temperatures tend to flip-flop. This year has been warmer than usual and has seen foggy mornings with a good probability of unsettled weather lying ahead. This includes some much-needed rain! While we may be seeing a dip in air temperatures before rebounding, we cannot rule out some remaining cool days on the water. Inshore Long Island Sound water temperatures have been around 46- to 48 degrees with several tidal rivers breaking the 50-degree mark. Of late, seas have been rather calm, touched by gentle breezes, at times roughened up by a dropping barometer.
Trout action remains fairly steady with the end-of-the day bite being the most productive. Early risers can try sunrise when fish begin to stir and forage for food and even later in morning when the hatch materializes. Sizes of the fish caught have ranged from about 12 inches to hefty breeders in excess of five pounds. Rivers and streams have seen a relatively consistent mix of rainbow, brook, and brown trout with the addition of tigers that are receiving attention. Expect a continuation of this trout activity through April and well into May, when many anglers will shift their focus to the briny, but that doesn’t mean that trout will take a sabbatical.
As water temperatures in the lakes and ponds are taking more of an active role in the freshwater scene, bassers are making more casts, catching more pre-spawn fish, and are also looking toward key tidal rivers, especially for smallmouths. Certain coves are seeing an increase in northern pike catches, while carp spawning areas have seen more fish and channel catfish have been caught in rivers, lakes, and ponds. Yellow perch are biting, pickerel continue to be aggressive, and sunnies are up and down. Keep looking for white perch as the spring run of American shad is on the verge of running up the Connecticut River.
Striped bass schoolies and keeper-size catches are up as more fishers are hitting the shoreline and lower tidal rivers. Migrating linesiders have made it here. Circle hooks when bait fishing for stripers is now mandatory. Incidental catches must be returned. Sea worms are currently quite productive, along with topwaters, spoons, jigs, and soft plastics. Tidal rivers are attracting more egrets and herons due to the influx of baitfish as eagles and osprey eye the trout waters.
Most ‘toggers out looking for early season blackfish (tautog) need warmer inshore water temps before the bite improves. However, small fish are being caught from shore and on a few of the reefs—not withstanding the one or two approaching 20-inchers caught on sea worms. Sandy bays are giving up a few 12- to 14-inch winter flounder on worms and clams, but not many of the trailer army are out scouring the bay bottoms and channels for them.
A final decision on summer flounder (fluke), porgy (scup), and black sea bass allocations was pushed until the December 2021 meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in order to allow for the further development of the Recreational Reform Initiative. This initiative focuses on management changes to more appropriately account for uncertainty and variability in the Marine Recreational Information Program data and provide stability in the recreational bag, size, and season limits.
Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and international fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.
For all things fishy including fishing trips, 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.