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Atlantic Fisheries Program Year in Review- 2008

Atlantic Program efforts were concentrated on the Coastal Bays Fisheries Investigation (CBFI) and the Survey of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and Billfish (White Marlin, Blue Marlin, Swordfish and Sailfish) Recreational Landings in Maryland. The CBFI has four annual components: the trawl and beach seine survey, offshore trawl survey, seafood dealer catch monitoring, and the Maryland volunteer angler summer flounder survey. A new component of the CBFI expands on the trawl and beach seine survey to sample fish and invertebrates in submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) using a new gear called a drop net. In addition to the previous two programs, staff cooperatively worked with the Coastal Bays Program to monitor horseshoe crab spawning on the beaches near the Ocean City Inlet. Last but not least, Atlantic Program staff monitored recreational fishing.

Coastal Bays Fisheries Investigation

DropnetThe annual Trawl and Beach Seine Survey is the longest running component of the CBFI. Each month, April through October, our staff samples many sites in the back bays of Maryland, from the Delaware line to the Virginia line, with a 16 foot trawl net pulled behind the boat. Twice a year, in June and September, a 100 foot beach seine is used to sample 19 sites in shallow water portions of the bays. Everything caught is identified, counted, and measured. A running inventory of the species and their abundance in the bays is documented over a long time period. These gears are excellent at sampling young of the year fishes and provide an idea about reproductive success for a given species in a year. This year, catches included an abundance of brown shrimp, summer flounder, black sea bass, and spot. Information from the trawl and beach seine survey is used in the management of summer flounder, weakfish, tautog, bluefish, and many other fish species.

Drop net sampling allowed us to document fish utilizing SAV and nearby unvegetated bottom. Samples were taken each month from June through September. So far, over 15 species of fish and invertebrates have been collected from one sample site in Sinepuxent Bay. A few of the collected species include: summer flounder, black sea bass, silver perch, pipefish, silversides, anchovies, shrimps, and blue crabs. Documenting species diversity in SAV is important to fisheries management because of potential impacts to commercial and recreational fisheries, changes in the food web, and displacement of native species from removal or loss of SAV.

Offshore Trawl Survey

Catches were sampled onboard commercial trawlers fishing out of Ocean City from late summer into the winter months. This surveying provided the Atlantic Program with data on adult finfish and invertebrate size frequencies that are not available from the inshore trawl and beach seine survey. Species sampled for lengths in 2008 include summer flounder, spiny dogfish, whelks, croaker, spot, butterfish, weakfish, rays, skates, sturgeon, and horseshoe crabs. Those data will be used for fisheries management. Maryland biologists participate in evaluation of Atlantic stocks in the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and Mid Atlantic Fisheries Management Council species technical committees. These data are important in setting quotas, and seasons for commercial and recreational harvest.

Seafood Dealer Catch Monitoring

We sampled commercial harvests of summer flounder, striped bass, and weakfish from two Ocean City seafood dealers. Length, weight and age data was collected on these species and this information is used in their management. In recent years the local commercial harvest of these species has been concentrated in November, December, and January.

Maryland Volunteer Angler Summer Flounder Survey Summary - 2008

Summer Flounder Length Frequency Histogram

  • 5,548 anglers fished
  • 130 anglers reported
  • Most were from MD, PA, DE
  • 27% belonged to an organization
    THE FISH...
  • 11,056 fish reported caught
  • 7,299 fish measured
  • Average length: 13.4 inches
  • The length distribution of the overall summer flounder catch has been steady for the past 7 years (2002-2008).
    THE TRIPS...
  • 883 trips reported: 829 trips along the Atlantic Coast (94%), 54 trips in the Chesapeake Bay (6%).
  • 93 skunked trips: 88 Atlantic coast (10%), 5 Chesapeake Bay (0.01%).
    These data are used to calculate:
  • population length distribution;
  • creel (minimum size) analysis;
  • and guide the management approach for Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay populations.

Participation in this survey is very important to summer flounder management along the East Coast. 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 2009, Fisheries Service asks fishermen 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 ľ inch (very important for determining minimum size limits);
  • continue to report trips where summer flounder were targeted but none were caught.

Survey of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and Billfish Recreational Landings in Maryland

This was our 10th year collecting dockside harvest information on all bluefin tuna and billfishes landed in Maryland. These data (permit number, length, girth, etc.) are collected from anglerís completing a catch card in order to receive a tag, which legally allows the fish to be removed from a vessel. In a cooperative program with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the data are used to track the bluefin tuna recreational harvest. In 2008, length and harvest information were collected from 1,271 bluefin tuna, 25 white marlin, and three blue marlin.

Horseshoe Crab Spawning Survey

Horseshoe CrabThe survey is a cooperative monitoring effort with the Coastal Bays Program and community volunteers at several beaches around the Ocean City Inlet. Data were collected on the temporal and spatial extent of the spawning concentrations as well as counting, sexing, documenting behavior (e.g. spawning or swimming), and measuring individual horseshoe crabs.

In 2008, horseshoe crab spawning in the Maryland coastal bays started later in the year and lasted longer than usual. The main spawning event began in late June and ran until early August. Typically, horseshoe crabs are expected to spawn in May and June along the mid-Atlantic.

This year, 86 surveys were conducted at eight locations and 10,690 horseshoe crabs were counted. Since the survey began in 2002, this was the highest count on record. Most of the horseshoe crabs were male (78%) and 92% of all crabs were spawning. Out of the 10,690 counted horseshoe crabs, 548 of them were also measured (prosomal width). The smallest measured 6 inches and was male. The largest was a 14.5 inch female. The average width of the measured males was 8 inches and nearly 11 inches for the females.

Recreational Fishing

WahooOffshore there was good fishing for large bluefin tuna (average 100 pounds) and bluefish early in the season at the Hambone. Yellowfin tuna never showed up and there was a great wahoo and marlin bite late in September into October. There was a three day wahoo bite in October where over 500 wahoo were brought to the dock at the three biggest marinas. At about the same time, a few boats recorded double digit releases on white marlin. Dolphin were omnipresent through the summer inhabiting anything that floated at the edge of the canyons. It was the best dolphin fishing year in the past 15 years.

Near shore, the best fishing for black sea bass was found in early spring and late fall. There were a lot of throwbacks, which may be indicative of a decent year class coming into the fishery next year. Flounder showed up on the near shore wrecks in October and provided a few weeks of great fishing until the season was closed for the year.

Inshore, in spring and fall, there was great tautog fishing on the rocks. Flounder were unpredictable, but there was a shot of big fish, a few up to ten pounds, that were caught in August. Stripers were spotty with a few filtering in through December.

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

Click here to view recent bay region satellite images at

Offshore Map

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Please click for the latest sea surface temperatures from Rutgers University Marine Remote Sensing

Buoy graphic

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weather observations from
Station 44009 - DELAWARE BAY 26 NM
Southeast of Cape May, NJ

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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 600 pixels. Please keep the file size under one megabyte if possible. 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:

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. By sending any photos or art to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources you are giving DNR permission to use the image(s) online and in print. You are also giving DNR permission to distribute the photo for non-commercial purposes to other media, print, digital and television for their use. You are not giving up your copyright, but are allowing the photo(s) to be used for educational and news purposes.

Send your photos and information to Keith Lockwood

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