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Atantic Ocean & Cosatal Bays of Maryland 2007 Year In Review

Real-time water information for selected points in the Coastal Bay


Atlantic Program Year in Review 2007

Last year was extremely hectic for Atlantic Program staff with commitments to participate on numerous state, federal, and local committees covering a wide array of subjects, independent and dependent surveys, data analyses, and report writing. Field work concentrated on three main projects that included the annual Trawl and Beach Seine Survey, Survey of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and Billfish Recreational Landings (bluefin tuna catch card and tagging program), and the Bluefin Tuna Biological Data Collection Program (dockside bluefin tuna weighing and measuring). In addition to field work, staff managed the Maryland Volunteer Angler Summer Flounder Survey.

Trawl and Beach Seine Survey

The annual Trawl and Beach Seine Survey is the longest running component of the Atlantic Program with 32 years of continuous operation. This survey is an excellent way to sample young of the year fishes to get an idea on reproductive success for a given species. Each month, April through October, staff samples 20 sites in the back bays of Maryland, from the Delaware line to the Virginia line, with a16 foot trawl net which is pulled behind the boat.Seine Catch Twice a year in June and September, a 100 foot beach seine is pulled by two people wading in the bay at 19 sites. Everything caught is identified, counted, and measured resulting in a species inventory and estimates of relative abundance in the bays over a long time period. Information from the Trawl and Beach Seine Survey are used in the management of summer flounder, weakfish, tautog, bluefish, and many other fish species.

Every year some really curious fish species show up in the Trawl and Beach Seine Survey. The variety of over 130 fishes and invertebrates collected from this survey is truly astounding. Seeing what different species the year brings, is one of the better perks of the job. This year some of the most noteworthy catches included lots of juvenile sheepshead, spot, white mullet and brown shrimp. The latter two species are toward the northern end of their range (Cape Cod) and we’ve caught more of those species in the past few years. Unfortunately for anglers, the mullet and spot left before the large stripers showed up in late December, which may help explain why they [the large stripers] never really made a big move into the bays.

Survey of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and Billfish Recreational Landings

For the past 9 years, recreational dockside harvest information of bluefin tuna and billfishes has been collected for a coast-wide program called the Survey of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and Billfish Recreational Landings. This is a cooperative program with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) which requires anglers to provide length and harvest data on every bluefin tuna and billfish landed. In Maryland, those data are collected when the angler or captain completes a catch card that is obtained from one of nine reporting stations. Blue Marlin Reporting stations give the angler a tag after a completed catch card is turned in, which then allows them to legally remove the tuna from the boat once the tag is affixed to the fish. In 2007, data was obtained on 1629 bluefin tuna, 21 white marlin, 6 blue marlin, and 4 swordfish.

In the past, other states implemented a call in procedure to register bluefin tuna and billfishes rather than a catch card program; but now NMFS is transitioning to an Internet check-in for those states. Maryland will continue to use the same procedure as in the past few years. It is time consuming to distribute, collect, and account for all the tags, but many people feel that given Maryland’s small coastal size with one port, and the acceptance of anglers to work with the program, that the data obtained is the most accurate available.

Bluefin Tuna Biological Data Collection Program

The Atlantic Program participated in another cooperative program, the Large Pelagics Biological Survey, last year with NMFS. This survey is an extension of the catch card program and the objective is to have state staff obtain measurements for the lower jaw curved fork length, straight fork length, and half girth measurements as well as weights on bluefin tuna. These data are needed to develop a weight-length relationship that will be used to improve fisheries management. Measure and weigh a fish. How hard does that sound? measuring bluefin tuna

Obtaining the additional length and weight measurements turned out to be challenging. While there were plenty of bluefin tuna caught this year, their dockside arrival was anything but predictable. The biggest obstacle we had at first was trying to figure out when the boats would return to port so we could be ready with our scales and measuring tapes. Fish hit the docks at all times of the day from early morning from an overnight fishing trip, to late Sunday night on a day trip. Staff persevered and with the cooperation of marina and charterboat staff, we figured out the best times and sampled fish, a lot of fish.

One memorable event involved the logistics of measuring a 200 pound bluefin tuna that had been bent in an icebox for several hours. First, we were at the mercy of the busy dock attendants to weigh the fish because of its huge size. Meanwhile the fish is being admired and photographed by anglers, family of the anglers, and onlookers on the dock. Then, we needed permission to measure the fish which needed to be bent into some semblance of straightness as the length can vary by several inches if measured bent versus straight. The muscles of that fish were like something you would see on the WWF. They were constricted just as tight as they could be from being iced, so straightening it was not an easy task at all. In the meantime, all the people were still admiring and photographing the fish while we were crawling all over this 6 foot fish trying to straighten it out and measure it. Not one of the better perks of the job. To be fair a lot of people pitched in and helped hold the measuring tape.

Maryland Volunteer Angler Summer Flounder Survey

The Maryland Volunteer Angler Summer Flounder Survey recently completed its sixth year of collecting data from anglers with astounding results. This year we had over 3 times the number of anglers reporting, and almost twice the number of fish measured when compared to 2006. This survey is an integral part of summer flounder management in Maryland and we are looking forward to continued success for 2008.

THE ANGLERS...Graph
• 5955 anglers fished
• 190 anglers reported
• Most were from MD, PA, DE
• 21% belonged to an organization

THE FISH...
• 15,472 fish reported caught
• 9,896 fish measured
• Average length: 13.1 inches
• The length distribution of the overall summer flounder catch has been steady for the past 6 years (2002-2007).

THE TRIPS...
• 1166 trips reported: 1098 trips along the Atlantic Coast (94%), 54 trips in the Chesapeake Bay (5%), and 14 trips were reported without a location (1%).
• 122 skunked trips: 114 Atlantic coast (10%), 7 Chesapeake Bay (13%), and 1 unknown location (7%).

USES OF THE DATA...
These data are used to calculate:
• population length distribution;
• perform creel (minimum size) analysis;
• and guide the management approach for Atlantic vs. Chesapeake Bay populations.

CONCLUSIONS...
Your participation in this survey is VERY important to summer flounder management along the East Coast. In addition to Maryland DNR, neighboring states of Delaware and Virginia have used these data to guide their management decisions for establishing creel, minimum size, and season limits. The success of this survey resulted in other states implementing a similar program.

For 2008, please continue to:
• encourage others to participate, including friends fishing the Chesapeake Bay where the average number of trips for the past few years is 30;
• measure to the nearest Ό inch (very important for determining minimum size limits);
• continue to report trips where summer flounder were targeted but none were caught.

Conclusion

Next year we expect more of the same projects as well as new endeavors such as sampling fishes in submerged aquatic vegetation. We look forward to what the New Year will bring in our Trawl and Beach Seine Survey in the way of strange new sea creatures. Anticipation is mounting as we look forward to the first bluefin tuna of the year and the start of another fishing season.

We would like to thank all the anglers that allowed us to measure and weigh their bluefin tuna in exchange for comic relief and daydreams of an episode on the Discovery Channels Dirty Jobs. Thank you to everyone that filled out the bluefin tuna catch cards and to those that participated in and helped to promote the Maryland Volunteer Angler Summer Flounder Survey. Your help is essential to the success of these projects. Wishing you tight lines in 2008.


Click here to view recent bay region satellite images at mddnr.chesapeakebay.net/NASAimagery/EyesInTheSky.cfm


NOAA Fisheries adjusts the daily retention limit for the recreational fishery for Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) for the 2005 Fishing year as described on their website. Read more..

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A Couple of Closing Notes...

Don't hesitate to e-mail your recent fishing/crabbing photos and trip information. Send your photos via E-mail by the following Monday in order to be included in the next update. The file should be in .jpg format with the longest side sized at 320 pixels. Please keep the file size small. The photo should clearly depict the angler(s), fish, and ethical handling practices. For information on ethical angling practices please reference the Catch and Release information located at URL:

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/articles/catch_release.shtml

Include the following information:

  • Date

  • Angler(s)

  • Hometown(s)

  • Photo credit

  • Location

  • Weight/length of catch

  • Bait/lure

Important Note: If anyone in your picture is under 18 years of age, we must have a photo release signed by that person and a parent/guardian before we can post your picture.

Send your photos and information to Keith Lockwood

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