A healthy menhaden population is necessary for striped bass
Jim Price of the Chesapeake Bay Ecological Foundation sent me a press release with unbiased, scientifically-based information regarding the management of Atlantic menhaden and striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay. The ecological foundation disagrees with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s 2015 menhaden stock assessment’s conclusion that menhaden have not been overfished in five decades.
According to the CBEF, the “assessment does not address ecological overfishing (unsustainable harvest levels that disrupt the natural balance between predators and prey). Although the 2015 assessment indicated menhaden reproductive potential may be greater than previously thought, total abundance of this indispensable prey species is low and continuing to decline.”
CBEF has extensive data on the feeding habits of striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay. Menhaden are crucial for a healthy diet for striped bass over 12 inches and represent up to 75 percent of the their diet. Poor year-classes of young menhaden in the Chesapeake has become the norm since the early 1990’s. In addition to serving their function in the ecological food chain, menhaden are filter feeders that naturally clean the bay’s waters.
As stated in the release, the “natural life span of menhaden is 10-12 years. However, according to data collected by NMFS, very few menhaden over age 5 are present in the reduction fishery landings. Based on this truncated age structure and consistently low numbers of juveniles in the Chesapeake Bay over the past 22 years (annual MD DNR surveys) fisheries scientists would logically conclude that menhaden have been overfished for at least 2 decades.”
In my opinion, the most practical and ethical solution to increase the age structure of menhaden is a reduction in the purse seine fishery. If protein is needed for pet food, there are plenty of protein sources elsewhere. For example, there are millions of invasive Asian carp jumping around in the Mississippi River right now that would supply Omega Protein Company with all the fish it needs.
As CBEF points out, a “fundamental problem of managing Atlantic menhaden is the allocation of the resource between the fishing industry and ecological services . ... The Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coast ecosystems would be more productive if the menhaden population was ecologically sound. Either a further reduction in the purse seine fishery harvest or maintaining the current TAC [total allowable catch] for approximately 5 years would be a precautionary approach that could be taken by the ASMFC until explicit ecological reference points can be developed for Atlantic menhaden.”
* * * For the Ducks The Bay Hundred Ducks Unlimited chapter will hold its 13th annual Clayton Katski Memorial Ladies Fishing Tournament on Sunday, June 12 at Harrison’s Chesapeake House, Tilghman Island. The tournament is ladies only; men can captain or be mates. Trophies will be awarded for the five top rockfish caught and door prizes will be offered. Refreshments and lunch are included. Call 410-886-1072 for information and sign-up sheets. A limited number of boats and captains are available for anglers needing them.
* * * CCA tournament The Bass Pro Shops CCA (Coastal Conservation Association) Kent Narrows Fly and Light Tackle Tournament will take place on June 4 this year. This catch-andrelease photo tournament is one of the most competitive fly and light tackle tournaments on the Chesapeake. Captains meetings are scheduled at Bass Pro Shops on June 1 and Shore Tackle and Custom Rods on June 2. Tournament rulers will be handed out at the meetings. Complete information is available on the CCA website (ccamd.org).
* * * Fishing report The upper Chesapeake Bay trophy striped bass fishery has slowed after some excellent catches. Some large stripers are still making their way down from the Susquehanna Flats. Trolling in the upper bay channel edges at places like the Triple Buoys, Love Point, and Dumping Grounds are producing fish, lured by 8-ounce bucktails dressed with sassy shads in chartreuse or white. Anglers have been seeing better results when trolling tandem lures deeper behind heavy inline weights or planers rather than higher in the water column off planer boards. Trolling along the shipping channel edges in 30 to 90 feet has tended to be the best tactic in the middle bay. Rockfish are coming from deeper lines trolled behind planers or inline weights to get the large bucktails down to the fish. Spoons are also a fine option, with a falling tide a good time to try your luck.
The western edge of the shipping channel from Thomas Point south has been an excellent place to troll as well as Bloody Point Light, Buoy 83, the False Channel, RN2 off the Little Choptank, and the inside edge of the CP Buoy off Taylor’s Island.
On the freshwater scene, female largemouth bass are moving up into the shallower spawning areas and selecting nest sites made by males. Soft plastics are a good choice as are topwater lures. In shallows of tidal waters, northern snakeheads have the same spawning aspirations and can be found near thick grass. Noisy lures such as chatterbaits and buzzbaits as well as other topwater lures will get their attention. Crappie and bluegill can be caught on fly-rod poppers fished near fallen trees.
At the Ocean City beaches, surf casters are catching some large bluefish on finger mullet and cut menhaden baits along with a few black drum and stripers. Tautog are being caught at the inlet and near-shore wreck and reef sites. The recreational sea bass season opens on May 15. * * * Duck blind know-it-all Human injuries from frightened, leaping carp have included cuts from fins, black eyes, broken bones, back injuries, and concussions. Follow me on Twitter @csknauss Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org