|Manta Rays and Cobia|
from The Fishing Wire
Cobia frequently follow giant manta rays in their migrations, and fishermen targeting the cobia sometimes accidentally hook the rays. Here’s a Q&A from NOAA Fisheries with two well-known Florida skippers on the process and on protecting the relatively rare rays.
As cobia season gets underway in the Southeast U.S., NOAA Fisheries reached out to one of our best resources: our fishermen. We wanted to find out what they do or recommend to fish for cobia while protecting threatened giant manta rays. Understanding the challenges fishermen face helps NOAA biologists and fishery managers find a way to protect threatened and endangered species and still offer fishing opportunities.
Captain Butch Constable and Captain Ira Laks both helped us answer the following questions. Capt. Constable has been fishing offshore in Jupiter, Florida for more than 45 years. Capt. Laks has been a charter captain and commercial fisherman out of Palm Beach, Jupiter, and the Treasure Coast for more than 30 years. Both fishermen observe individual giant manta rays along the beaches of southeast FloridaWe appreciate the input these captains provided when we asked questions about cobia fishing. What time of year do you typically see manta rays arrive along Florida’s east coast?
Capt. Constable: The manta rays used to show up in March, sometimes as early as February in cold weather years, and stay through May. Manta rays would move up the coast as water warmed. However, now there are no manta rays any more off of Jupiter in the early springtime. Warmer water temps have caused a shift in species and now the giant manta rays seem to stay further north. These days no mantas seem to be found in the spring south of Hobe Sound. I discovered another large ray, the Roughtail stingray, often has cobia swimming alongside so I look for them when sight casting.
Capt. Laks: Most of the sight casting for cobia from Jupiter south is done around big sharks. The challenge with that kind of fishing is keeping a hooked cobia away from the shark so that it does not get eaten.
What are some of the best fishing techniques you use when fishing for cobia around manta rays?
Capt. Constable: The best advice is to practice and really have good casting skills from behind and to the side of manta ray. Do not cast in front of the manta ray. That way you can make a bad cast or two and reel in and recast without spooking the fish or hooking the ray.
Capt. Laks: I like to come up slowly and from behind on either side of the manta and keep as much distance as possible to make a good cast. My best approach is with the winds behind me and the angler. That allows for a longer cast and it’s less likely to spook the manta with the boat. It also allows for several attempts in order to make that perfect cast to catch the cobia and not hook the ray. Are there any specific tackle or lures you would recommend to reduce foul hooking manta rays but still are effective at catching cobia?
Capt. Constable: Single hooks! No reason to fish any sort of treble hook. Safer for angler when unhooking, safer for reducing snagging the ray. It would be good if a single hook series of baits and lures came out promoting cobia fishing in a responsible way. Also, anglers should use an oversize landing net and not a gaff for most cobia. Safer for fishermen and for cobia if kept or released.
Capt. Laks: I specialize in live bait fishing and use only single hooks. Treble hooks are not necessary when live bait fishing for cobia. A single hook reduces the chance of snagging a manta ray if a bad cast is made in front of the ray.
If a manta ray becomes foul hooked or snagged, what can fishermen do to reduce injury and trailing line?
Capt. Constable: I recommend moving the boat in front of the ray, reeling up the line and trying to pull the lure gently from that direction. The hook will often pull out of the fish and not leave the lure or trailing line. If not cut the line as close to the ray as possible.
Capt. Laks: I like to position the boat and move carefully as close as possible to the manta. Then I cut the line so as to leave the minimum amount of trailing line as possible.
Have you ever seen a hooked manta ray or a manta ray showing evidence of vessel interactions (e.g., prop scars or cuts)?
Capt. Constable: I have seen a few lures and jigs in rays but cannot recall prop scars or major injuries.
Capt. Laks: I have seen a few with larger scars but not sure the cause of those injuries.
What are some best practices for safe maneuvering your vessel around manta rays?
Capt. Constable: I believe approaching slowly and carefully from behind so that it allows the captain to position the boat in a safe way and not spook the ray or the fish. This gives anglers the time to set up their cast and when the fish is hooked, it will usually swim away from the ray at first. Cobia will sometimes try to return to the ray but if the boat is behind, you can often hold the fish away from the ray and land the fish safely and determine its size.
Capt. Laks: Do not set up in front of the ray. I recommend staying a distance away to allow the manta to stay calm and act normally. I can then set up to fish for cobia from behind and to the side of the animal.
Capt. Laks: I also wanted to remind anglers that just seeing one of these large and amazing creatures is a thrill all by itself. It is a fortunate part of an amazing day of fishing and the overall fishing experience.
|Don’t Remove Billfish from the Water|
Anglers love hero shots with their fish, especially if it’s their first one. Of all the billfish species, sailfish lend themselves particularly well to this type of photo, since they’re usually small enough to lift up, have particularly gorgeous colors and that massive sail to hold out like a giant flag.
But don’t do it! Removing any billfish species from the water, even for a few moments for a photo, is illegal, both in Costa Rica and the United States. Studies have shown that by scraping the fish over the gunwale of the boat, we are actually harming internal organs and removing the fish’s protective slime layer that acts as a barrier coat against harmful diseases, parasites and infections. Even though you intend to release the fish, by removing it from the water you may have just signed its death warrant instead.
Here are a few things you can do to still get a great photo of your catch. First, be ready with the camera. Few things are more frustrating for your captain or mate than having the fish ready at boatside while someone fumbles for a camera deep inside a duffle bag or backpack. Be ready! Take a few shots during the fight, with the angler grinning from ear to ear.
Once the fish is ready for release and the leader has been cut, the angler can don a pair of gloves, lean over the side and hold the fish by the bill and the sail as it’s revived alongside the boat. The cameraperson should lean out over the side and shoot back toward the angler and the fish. After a few moments, the fish is ready for a healthy release.
Another option: the extended selfie stick and GoPro. Many crews are now using this setup to shoot wide-angle shots back at the boat and anglers. It’s simply a GoPro set on camera mode to shoot every second or so after the shutter is activated. It’s mounted to a long pole that’s held out away from the boat, and the images it reveals are usually very memorable.
Video is a third way to remember the fight. Using that same GoPro, mount it to either a fixed mount on the boat or just hold it in your hand to capture a full video of the fight and the release. All smartphones have a video capability these days as well.So really, the need to remove a marlin or sailfish from the water just isn’t there. Be smart, keep them in the water where they belong.
Courtesy The Presidential Flamingo Fishing Rodeo, Joan Vernon: www.preschallenge.com
| Timely Tactics for Tempting Speckled Trout |
from The Fishing Wire
“I can see the grill marks on that one already,” exclaimed Capt. Ryan Lambert as a beautiful Gulf of Mexico speckled trout was wrangled into the net and deposited in his boat’s ice chest.
Lambert, the owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras Louisiana, has been guiding clients to spectacular speckled trout, boisterous bull reds, and more for over 41 years. Collectively, Lambert and his guides spend tens of thousands of hours on the water every year, and one lesson they have gleaned from these fertile marshes and bayous is not about baits or locations, but instead, about their lines and leaders.
“Many of the largest trout we see every year come from water that is surprisingly clear,” notes Lambert, “and those fish can be pretty skittish. The key to getting more of those fish in the box is to rig up with a clear fluorocarbon leader.”
Lambert and his guides like Seaguar Gold Label for its low visibility, knot strength and its toughness.One of Lambert’s guides, Capt. Joe DiMarco, puts it this way: “in the fall, trout move off the shallow flats and into cuts and channels where the water is deeper. There, they sit close to the bottom, in water that is warmer, saltier, and cleaner. The water might not look great from above, but often, just below the surface, chocolate milk-colored water can rapidly change to a perfect ‘trout green’.
That’s where a Seaguar Gold Label leader can make the difference between a few small fish and some spectacular photo-ops.”
Gold Label from Seaguar is a 100% fluorocarbon leader manufactured using a proprietary coextrusion process that unites a strong, sensitive core with a soft, supple exterior. The result is a double-structure fluorocarbon leader that exhibits the beneficial attributes of each of its two resins. With line diameters that are as much as 23% smaller than comparable fluorocarbons, Seaguar Gold Label is the thinnest 100% fluorocarbon leader available and is perfect for stealthy trout presentations. “Thinner leaders are always better,” asserts Capt. Mark Davis, host of BigWater Adventures TV. “When I fish with Gold Label, baits swim more naturally, triggering more bites and helping me to catch more fish.”
Yes, thinner is better. But that’s not the end of the Gold Label story; rather, it’s just the beginning. Seaguar Gold Label excels at any presentation for line-shy fish, like fall speckled trout, because it is nearly invisible underwater. With a refractive index that more closely matches that of water than any other line choice, Seaguar 100% fluorocarbon leaders virtually disappear beneath the surface, ensuring that fish see your bait long before they ever detect your line.
In addition, because Seaguar fluorocarbon leaders offer enhanced abrasion resistance compared to monofilament or braid, you’ll experience fewer line failures from sharp speckled trout teeth, or from the shell beds they frequently hold near.
Moreover, the supple outer shell of Seaguar Gold Label ensures that knots snug down tight and strong, whether you’re connecting Gold Label to Seaguar Smackdown braided main line, or tying a jig to the business end of your leader. The exceptional tensile and knot strength that you’ll experience with Gold Label means fewer heartbreaks after the strike.
Lambert says he targets speckled trout with one of two presentations – either tight-lining with a jig, or with a bait suspended beneath a popping cork.”I prefer tight-lining because the sensitivity of Gold Label, when paired with Seaguar Smackdown braid, lets me feel everything that is happening to the jig,” says Lambert.
Gear up with a 7-foot, medium-heavy power, fast action rod equipped with a 3000-series spinning reel. Spool the reel with 30 lb. test Seaguar Smackdown in Stealth Gray, and use an Albright or Double Uni knot to tie on a 3-foot section of 20 lb test Gold Label. Add a ¼ oz jig like the Z-Man Trout Eye jighead dressed with a Z-Man Swimmin’ TroutTrick, and you’re ready for fall trout.”The wide spectrum of Z-Man TroutTrick and Swimmin’ TroutTrick colors will help you trigger speckled trout under lots of sky and water conditions, but if I had to choose just one, it would be Pumpkin/Chartreuse tail,” says Lambert.
The ultra-thin diameter, near invisibility underwater, abrasion resistance, and exceptional knot and tensile strength of Seaguar Gold Label will elevate your speckled trout fishing to the next level. Gold Label leader is offered in 25-yard spools, and is available in 15, 20, 25, 30, and 40 lb tests with MSRP $18.99-$34.99.For more, visit www.seaguar.com.
About Seaguar Fishing Lines
As the inventor of fluorocarbon fishing lines in 1971, Seaguar has played a prominent role in the advancement of technologies to improve the performance of lines and leader material for both fresh and salt water anglers. Seaguar is the only manufacturer of fluorocarbon fishing lines that produces its own resins and controls the manufacturing process from start to finished product. Today, Seaguar is the #1 brand of fluorocarbon lines and offers a full spectrum of premium products including fluorocarbon mainlines and leader material, 8-strand and 16-strand braid fishing lines.
“Spinfishing” for Puget Sound Blackmouth
|By Captain John Keizer So how do you find Puget Sound winter blackmouth? The answer is don’t look for the blackmouth but rather look for what attracts blackmouth.|
Blackmouth are a delayed released hatchery king salmon that don’t migrate to Alaska but instead inhabits the waters of Puget Sound after being released. The name blackmouth comes from the black gumline that identifies it as a resident chinook salmon. Blackmouth range from the legal size of 22 inches up to fish taken in the upper teens.
In the many years I have fished Puget Sound I have found that Puget Sound blackmouth relate to three things, structure, current and food.We have all heard the line, “Find the bait-find the fish.” It sounds so easy but so many anglers ignore this simple advice in locating blackmouth. Blackmouth salmon are voracious feeders and will be looking for sand lance (candlefish) or herring to fill their bellies year around in Puget Sound.
The sand lance, which are also known locally as “candlefish,” because pioneers used to dry them and make candles out of them due to their high oil content are an ecologically important forage fish throughout Puget Sound where they school in many bays, banks and inlets. Sand lance are important food for young salmon who crave the high oil content; 35% of juvenile salmon diets are composed of sand lance and blackmouth salmon depend on sand lance for 60% of their diet.
Sand lance spawning occurs at high tide in shallow water on sand-gravel beaches. Sand lance will also use sandy beaches for spawning. Knowing when and where this food source is will directly reflect on locating winter blackmouth.
Herring can be located at resting spots that are dictated by the current. As in river fishing, bait will be pushed into the lee of a current flow behind points, islands and land masses. The same is true in Puget Sound, knowing the position of the tide will allow you to find the best location to find baitfish and salmon feeding on it.
Trolling a downrigger is in my opinion the best method for consistently hooking blackmouth. I spend much of the winter season employing this method of fishing. I run 3 Hi Performance Scotty 2106 downriggers onboard Salt Patrol my 27ft North River O/S. Being able to cover lots of water with your tackle at a controlled depth is an extremely effective way to fish for winter chinook that like to inhabit the deep waters of Puget Sound.
My rod & reel setup is a Shimano Tekota-A 600 Line counter reel matched with a G. Loomis E6X 1265 moderate action rod. The reels are spooled up with 30-pound test mono main line. Yes, downrigger fishing is the one fishery that I still run mono line for.
New from Yakima Bait is the Spinfish bait-holding lure, representing a new design in combining lure-and-bait to produce more and bigger salmon. The SpinFish features a pull-apart fillable bait chamber with a scent-dispersing design. When trolled behind a downrigger this lure will produce a vibrating, spinning, wounded-baitfish action that salmon can’t resist.
Yakima SpinfishI was lucky to get to test the prototypes for the Spinfish last winter. My first experience with the Spinfish started with targeting winter blackmouth out of Port Townsend located on the northern part of Puget Sound. We ran the Spinfish behind 11” rotating flashers and medium size Fish Flash and had very good success on blackmouth up into the mid-teens. The strike on the Spinfish is not like on light tap on a bait bite. The blackmouth will hit the Spinfish hard, run a bunch of line out of the reel and then race to the surface for the rest of the fight.
Several times the rod tip would be in the water when we went to take the rod out of the holder.
To ready the Spinfish you just pull apart the body and fill with any bait including tuna, herring or sardines. I had the best results using canned Chicken of the Sea Tuna (packed in oil). Pour the canned tuna into a plastic container with the all the oil in the can. At this point I will add scents from Pro-Cure. Mix in some Bloody Tuna or your choice scent and mix and you’re ready to charge the Spinfish body. Pack the Spinfish body with tuna and put the two parts back together.
I rig my Spinfish 25-40 inches behind a Fish Flash or 35-45 inches behind rotating flashers. My setup last year was to tie two 4/0 Mustad octopus hooks close together on 30lb Seaguar fluorocarbon leader and add one glow bead above the top hook to act as a ball bearing. Slide the Spinfish on the leader and tie to swivel and then attach to the Fish Flash or rotating flasher and you’re ready to fish.Yakima Fish FlashThe SpinFish can be rigged to spin clockwise or counterclockwise and unlike other bait holding lures, it needs no rubber bands to keep the lure together. The precisely drilled sent holes in the Spinfish will disperse a sent pattern into the water and salmon will follow the scent trail back to the lure. Just like any lure bring your gear up every 20 minutes and check it for shakers (undersize salmon) and re-charge the Spinfish body with fresh tuna.
I normally have 4-5 Spinfish loaded with different bait scents and ready to swap out each time I check my gear. Blackmouth bites windows are short and you don’t want to waste time during the prime bite times rigging tackle.
The new SpinFish comes in two sizes, a three inch and a four-inch version, that now both come fully rigged and ready to fish. The three-inch size comes in 20 of the hottest colors Yakima Bait producers. The four-inch version comes in 10 proven fish-attracting colors. All the Spinfish colors are coated in UV blackmouth catching finishes.
Blackmouth like to do their feeding where the bait is. They are aggressive feeders and tend to feed when the current is minimal to expend as little energy as possible. That means the best time to catch them is when you’re fishing in the right current flow or lack of current movement. You may have heard that the best fishing for blackmouth is one to two hours before or after a tide change. Really its right before or right after a current change as that’s when the water goes slack and the fish will expend the least energy finding baitfish.
The Salty Ned Rig, with Captain C.A. Richardson
|Captain C.A. Richardson believes the ‘Salty Ned’ shines during the toughest conditions.|
Ladson, SC “We call it the ‘Salty Ned,’” quips exceptional inshore guide, Captain C.A. Richardson. “A lot of days, it’s even better than livebait.”
In recent years, as Richardson and other intelligent inshore anglers recognized the parallels between freshwater bass tactics and those for redfish, seatrout and other saltwater species, a fresh approach began to emerge.
“We followed the evolution of freshwater finesse techniques and the rise of the Ned Rig for smallmouth and largemouth bass,” says Richardson, the brains behind Flats Class TV and University. “It made perfect sense that similar methods and baits could excel in saltwater for a lot of reasons.”
While cold-fronts, heavy fishing pressure and other adverse factors often make bass tough to catch, these same dynamics can have a multiplier impact on saltwater species. “From the first day we experimented with a Ned Rig under cold, bluebird skies our results spoke volumes. Three little baits—a 2-3/4-inch Finesse TRD™, TRD TicklerZ™ or TRD CrawZ™— on a 1/10-ounce Finesse ShroomZ™ jighead are all you really need to continue catching fish when conditions turn tough. With water temps in the high 50s and low 60s, we start fishing a Salty Ned around December 1 in Florida and catch fish with it all the way through the first half of March.”
Richardson, who today focuses much of his redfish, trout and snook efforts on the fertile though popular waters between Tampa to Fort Myers, believes a Salty Ned easily outfishes previous-era finesse baits like a 3-inch stingray grub or a small bucktail jig. On some days even a live, juicy shrimp or strip of cutbait can’t equal the appeal of a soft, buoyant ElaZtech® bait on a small jighead.
“Even for a novice or someone accustomed to using shrimp on a jighead, it’s an easy-to-fish bait that also eliminates pinfish and other nuisance biters. Admittedly, you’ll often catch smaller reds, trout and flounder, but you certainly won’t lack action.“The buoyant nature of ElaZtech and the mushroom-shaped jighead make the bait pivot and float tail-up off the bottom when you stop your retrieve,” says Richardson. “These baits are the perfect match for so many of the small creatures eaten by inshore predators—marine worms, shrimp and other invertebrates as well as sea horses. The upright posture of a TRD on a jighead shows fish a lively morsel that moves with the slightest underwater current—even when you’re not moving your rod at all.”
A Z-Man Ned rig remains affixed to Captain Greg Peralta’s inshore rods at least eighty-percent of the time, all year long.Like its freshwater counterpart, fishing the saltwater Ned Rig is all about keeping the bait close to the bottom, letting its buoyancy and soft, active composition do the heavy lifting. “We might fish the Ned a little more aggressively in saltwater,” notes Richardson. “The best presentation I’ve found is to let the bait sink to bottom and then shake the rodtip to make it quiver. Give the jig a 6- to 12-inch pull, pause and then reel slack and repeat. You’re making the back of the bait quiver; when you stop, the bait pivots and goes tail-up.
With a bait like the TRD TicklerZ or TRD CrawZ, you’ve also got little appendages that undulate subtly in the current. The bait never really stops working for you.”Even while fishing high-pressure zones like Tampa Bay, Richardson says the Salty Ned remains a non-threatening presentation to which fish react positively. “What’s also cool is you can sight fish for really spooky reds up on clear shallow flats because the bait touches down with such a small, compact signature.” To fish the Salty Ned on featureless flats, in depressions on flats and bends in creeks with deep holes, Richardson rigs one of the aforementioned Z-Man TRD baits on a 1/10-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jighead. He spools with 6-pound test braid and a 50-inch leader of 15-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon. Wielding a medium-light to light action 7-foot spinning rod, he can cast a light jig close to 30 yards.
For fishing around heavy cover or docks, Richardson switches to abrasion resistant monofilament line and a Pro ShroomZ™ Weedless jighead.The TRD TicklerZ quivers subtly, even at rest.
Summer Catches “Although we primarily finesse-rig in the winter, I’d argue with my guide buddies that even in the warmer months, when spooky, pressured fish won’t hit a faster-moving reaction bait, I can still get bit with a Salty Ned,” Richardson offers.It’s a notion shared by Charleston, South Carolina based Captain Greg Peralta, a now-retired guide who still fishes almost every day of the season. “Several years ago, we started fishing a Finesse TRD with a 1/5- or 1/6-ounce NedlockZ™ jighead and found it to be a super productive coldwater and post-coldfront bait. But when it got warm, we kept fishing the Ned Rig to see when they’d stop biting it. They never did.”
These days, Peralta says he fishes the Salty Ned about eighty-percent of the time. Particularly when the water gets warm, Peralta prefers a slightly more aggressive retrieve to entice a reaction. Keeping his rodtip low, Peralta gives the bait a hard snap, followed by a pause. He describes the cadence as similar to working a jerkbait.Z-Man Trick ShotZ on a NedlockZ HD jighead.
“Snap and give slack,” he explains. “The lure will pitch or roll left or right, showing fish alternating flashes of dark and light. Color becomes a critical factor because flash is a key indicator of something alive—dark on top, light on the bottom. It’s why I choose colors like The Deal in clear water. As clarity fades, I go brighter with patterns like Hot Snakes—still has that dark-to-light transition, but with a louder chartreuse belly.
”Peralta notes that the length of the pause between snaps depends on conditions. “Colder water, coldfronts and when the barometer is switching from low to high, I go with a longer pause. Because fish typically strike after the snap, when the bait is descending, I like using high-vis 8-pound braid. You don’t always feel the bite on the rodtip; you’re watching your line for a pop or a sudden acceleration.
“I can’t say the TRD looks like anything they eat. The action you give it just instinctively makes fish react to and bite it. But it’s so versatile, durable and buoyant you can fish it almost anywhere. I can even throw it on top of an oyster bed or other gnarly areas in a foot of water. The bait’s buoyancy largely keeps it out of trouble. But it also works for fish hunkered down in 15-foot holes. Catches all three of species—redfish, trout and flounder— with regularity; what we call a Lowcountry Slam.”Texas angler Chris Bush fooled a rare 30-inch seatrout with a Finesse TRD on a NedlockZ jighead.
The Speckled Truth Even while redfish and snook garner much of the spotlight, select anglers like Chris Bush place the highest esteem on seatrout of trophy proportions. This past September, Bush, who authors a blog called the Speckled Truth, caught a monster 30-inch trout from Upper Laguna Madre, Texas. Stuck in the fish’s jaw was the bait Bush describes as possessing “magic appeal.”
A PB&J or The Deal-pattern TRD rigged on a 1/10-ounce NedlockZ, says Bush, has proven itself when the water’s warm and seatrout aren’t responding to traditional presentations. “A Ned Rig has been really effective when other baits aren’t—when there’s so many baitfish in the water that trout aren’t looking for huge meals, but for selective opportunities. Same deal under heavy fishing pressure. The fish are just chilling, feeding opportunistically for short windows. That’s when it’s so effective to put a little TRD down there and sort of invade their personal space.
“I give the bait one or two hard twitches and let it fall back to bottom. I try to maintain contact with it at all times, because these big, sluggish trout don’t thump the bait aggressively. Rather, they sort of sit on it, and all you feel is a sudden weight on the line, almost like you’re hung on the bottom.Bush adds that the smallest 3.5-inch Trick ShotZ™ rigged on the same jighead, at times, yields equally productive results as the TRD. “Fished on light tackle in the most grueling situations, these little bitty baits just seem to have a magic appeal for really big trout.”
About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic Charleston, South Carolina based company, Z-Man Fishing Products has melded leading edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been among the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits and other lures. Creator of the Original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovators of 10X Tough ElaZtech softbaits, fast becoming the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide.
About ElaZtech®: Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech material is remarkably soft, pliable, and 10X tougher than traditional soft plastics. ElaZtech resists nicks, cuts, and tears better than other softbaits and boasts one of the highest fish-per-bait ratings in the industry, resulting in anglers not having to waste time searching for a new bait when the fish are biting. This unique material is naturally buoyant, creating a more visible, lifelike, and attractive target to gamefish. Unlike most other soft plastic baits, ElaZtech contains no PVC, plastisol or phthalates, and is non-toxic.
Florida Sawfish–Help to Keep Them Healthy
|By Jasmin Graham, FFWCC|
When I started graduate school at Florida State University, I had never seen a sawfish in the wild but I was excited to be part of the recovery of a species I had been so awestruck by in aquariums.
The smalltooth sawfish, the only sawfish found in Florida, has been protected in Florida since 1992 and became federally listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2003. Little was known about the species when it became listed but since that time, scientists have learned a lot about its biology and ecology.
As sawfish recovery efforts continue, we expect there to be more sawfish sightings, especially in Florida. This includes anglers who may accidentally catch one on hook-and-line while fishing for other species.
Sawfish encounters Sawfish can be encountered when participating in a number of activities including boating, diving and fishing. Further, the species may be encountered by waterfront homeowners and beach goers in the southern half of the state where juvenile sawfish rely on shallow, nearshore environments as nursery habitats.
When fishing, targeting sawfish is prohibited under the ESA, though incidental captures do occur while fishing for other species. Knowing how to properly handle a hooked sawfish is imperative as sawfish can be potentially hazardous to you. One of the first things that stood out to me while conducting permitted research was the speed at which a sawfish can swing its rostrum (commonly referred to as the saw).
For creatures that glide along the bottom so slowly and gracefully, they sure can make quick movements when they want to. It’s best to keep a safe distance between you and the saw. If you happen to catch a sawfish while fishing, do not pull it out of the water and do not try to handle it. Refrain from using ropes or restraining the animal in any way, and never remove the saw. It is important that you untangle it if necessary and release the sawfish as quickly as possible by cutting the line as close to the hook as you can.
Proper release techniques ensure a high post-release survival of sawfish. Scientific studies show us that following these guidelines will limit the amount of stress a sawfish experiences as a result of capture. Note that a recent change in shark fishing rules requires use of circle hooks, which results in better hook sets, minimizes gut hooking, and also maximizes post-release survival. In addition to capture on hook-and-line, sawfish can easily become entangled in lost fishing gear or nets.
If you observe an injured or entangled sawfish, be sure to report it immediately but do not approach the sawfish.
Seeing a sawfish up close can be an exciting experience but you must remember that it is an endangered species with strict protections.If you are diving and see a sawfish, observe at a distance. Do not approach or harass them. This is illegal and this guidance is for your safety as well as theirs.An important component of any sawfish encounter is sharing that information with scientists. Your encounter reports help managers track the population status of this species.
If you encounter a sawfish while diving, fishing or boating, please report the encounter. Take a quick photo if possible (with the sawfish still in the water and from a safe distance), estimate its length including the saw and note the location of the encounter. The more details you can give scientists, the better we can understand how sawfish are using Florida waters and the better we can understand the recovery of the population.
Submit reports at SawfishRecovery.org, email sawfish@MyFWC.com or phone at 1-844-4SAWFISH.
Sawfish background Sawfishes, of which there are five species in the world, are named for their long, toothed “saw” or rostrum, which they use for hunting prey and defense. In the U.S., the smalltooth sawfish was once found regularly from North Carolina to Texas but its range is now mostly limited to Florida waters.
In general, sawfish populations declined for a variety of reasons. The primary reason for decline is that they were frequently caught accidentally in commercial fisheries that used gill nets and trawls. Additional contributing factors include recreational fisheries and habitat loss. As industrialization and urbanization changed coastlines, the mangroves that most sawfishes used as nursery habitat also became less accessible. For a species that grows slowly and has a low reproductive rate, the combination of these threats proved to be too much.
Engaging in sawfish recovery During my thesis research, which focuses on tracking the movements of large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish, each tagging encounter is a surreal experience.The first sawfish I saw was an adult, and what struck me the most was just how big it was. I also remember being enamored by its mouth. Like all other rays, its mouth is on the underside of its body. The mouth looks like a shy smile and I found it almost humorous how different the top of the sawfish was compared to the bottom. After seeing my first baby sawfish, the contrast seemed even greater. It’s hard to believe upon seeing a 2 to 3 foot sawfish that it could one day be 16 feet long! No matter the size, anyone who has encountered a sawfish will tell you it’s an experience like no other.
The hope is that one day the sawfish population will be thriving once again, and more people will be able to experience safe and memorable encounters with these incredible animals. Hopefully, we can coexist with sawfish in a sustainable and positive way in the future.For more information on sawfish, including FWC’s sawfish research visit:
MyFWC.com/research, click on “Saltwater” then “Sawfish.
”For more information on smalltooth sawfish and their recovery watch:
Alabama’s Coastal Hatchery Restocks Gulf Coast Waters
|The Alabama Marine Resources Division (AMRD) maintains the Claude Peteet Mariculture Center (CPMC) located in Gulf Shores, Alabama. CPMC was created in 1970 when 40 acres of land were donated to the State by Ms. Mildred Casey. An additional 5 acres was purchased by the State which provided access to the Intracoastal Waterway and a brackish water source needed to fill ponds. |
By 1973, thirty-five (35) 0.2-acre ponds and a small pump station located on the intracoastal waterway were installed on the property. A small hatchery building used for broodstock holding and egg fertilization and hatching was completed in 1975. From 1970 through the early 1980s the infrastructure and operational costs of CPMC were primarily funded with federal grants related to the culture and stocking of Gulf of Mexico strain striped bass (Morone saxatilis)in Alabama waters.
During the mid-1980s through the mid-2000s, a variety of species were cultured at CPMC including spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus), red drum(Sciaenops ocellatus), Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus). During this period the ponds were lined with high density polyethylene to prevent seepage and greenhouse structures with tanks and recirculating water systems were completed. Beginning in the mid-2000s, shrimp and Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) were the primary species cultured at CPMC. A saltwater supply line which begins at the Gulf State Park Pier was installed in 2004 but the intake was destroyed by hurricane Ivan. The intake was not replaced until 2009.
In July 2013, a new 23,000 square foot hatchery building was completed replacing the old hatchery building. The new building provides a significant upgrade in fish production capacity. It contains areas for broodfish spawning, algae production, live food production, egg incubation, larval rearing, and juvenile holding. The hatchery also includes a greenhouse complex containing several re-circulating tank systems.
Currently, three species of fish popular among Alabama saltwater anglers are cultured at CPMC including red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus), and southern flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma). Southern flounder broodstock were collected in 2018; however, due to a protracted acclimation period documented by other southern flounder researchers spawning is not anticipated by CPMC staff until early 2020.
Although most fish reared at CPMC are primarily for stock enhancement purposes, some fish may be tagged prior to release to assist with determining growth rates and movement patterns. AMRD is also planning to modify the infrastructure to allow for the culture of the Eastern oyster by Spring 2020. Oyster spat produced in the hatchery will be used to repopulate natural oyster reef areas in Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound which have degraded in the last decade due to various natural and man-made causes.
Fish Culture Method:Juvenile Florida Pompano Raised at CPMCBroodstock (parent fish) are collected from local waters and relocated to maturation tanks within the hatchery. Collected fish undergo temperature and photoperiod manipulation within the maturation tanks to mimic natural conditions and stimulate spawning activity. Broodstock will spawn on their own within the maturation tanks or be removed from the tanks and strip spawned, the technique of manually removing eggs and milt (sperm) which are combined to initiate fertilization. Fertilized eggs collected from egg collectors built into each broodstock tank or from mixing containers used during strip spawning are counted using a volumetric method and distributed among hatching jars/tanks.
Eggs hatch within a 36-48-hour period and larval fish are counted by sampling a portion of the water column. From this point, larvae will either be stocked into ponds or remain in within the hatchery. Tank Culture:Conditions affecting growth and survival are maintained much more easily in a tank system; however, labor and operational costs needed to maintain fish in an indoor culture system are greater than a pond system. Larval fish are maintained in a temperature-controlled re-circulating system using full strength seawater (salinity greater than 30 ppt). Twenty-four hour care is provided for larval fish in a tank culture system soon after the eggs hatch. Once eggs hatch, the hatchlings are considered yolk-sac larvae. At this point, they have no mouths or eyes, but will develop them over the next 36-48 hours.
Once fish develop their eyes, they need to eat immediately. From here, the fish need to be moved from hatching containers to the larval rearing systems for further grow out.Larval fish cultured at CPMC require live foods for the first 14-16 days after hatching. The fish require a certain size of food particle that can be captured and ingested. Two types of zooplankton are used to feed the young larval fish. Rotifers are used as a first food for the first 8-10 days after hatching. Brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) is used as a second live food. As fish continue to grow, they require larger sized prey items, thus the need to change food sources. Larvae are weened onto brine shrimp Artemia spp. starting around 8 days after hatching. At the same time, larval fish are also introduced to a formulated feed. Fish will be completely weened to an artificial diet by approximately day 16 after hatching.
CPMC Tank Culture Facilities For red drum and Florida pompano, the culture period is approximately 35-45 days to grow to a 1-2-inch fingerling. Southern flounder require approximately 60-75 days to grow to a 1-2-inch fingerling. At 1-2-inches the fish are of ideal size for harvesting and transporting to the release site. Once fish reach the appropriate size and after a sample of each group of fish pass inspection for common diseases, they are released in coastal Alabama waters.Pond Culture:For extensive systems, ponds are utilized, and less care is required. Prior to a spawning event, ponds are filled with brackish water, then fertilized with both organic and inorganic fertilizers to establish a phytoplankton bloom.
This phytoplankton bloom is the food source for the zooplankton in the water. As the phytoplankton blooms, the zooplankton populations will increase and “bloom” as well. These zooplankton are the food source for newly hatched fish. Once fish develop and eye, they are transferred to the ponds for further grow out. During the transfer process, fish are acclimated to pond temperature and salinity. Fish will grow on the natural foods in the ponds for approximately 20 days. After that time, a crumbled, pelleted feed will be provided for the rest of the culture period. The culture period lasts approximately 45-60 days after which fish will be 1-2 inches in length. Once fish are of size and after a sample of each group of fish pass inspection for common diseases, they are harvested from the ponds and released in Alabama waters.
In recent years, the operations and maintenance of CPMC has been funded through the Fish and Wildlife’s Sport Fish Restoration Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and your fishing license purchases.
|Caris and Broderick on the Right Surf Rods at the Right Time|
|Handcrafted in the USA, redesigned St. Croix Avid® Surf and Legend® Surf rods provide surfcasters a significant edge|
|Park Falls, WI (February 5, 2020) – Serious surfcasters encounter an incredible variety of conditions over the course of their fishing seasons. From working chilly back bay flats in early spring to the roaring rips of major inlets during mid-summer, and the heavy, wind-driven suds along open ocean beaches come fall, the challenges are wide-ranging. Add multiple presentations for varying species, and the difficulties are compounded.The bottom line?|
A surfcaster’s gear must not only be up-to-task, but also be well-matched to the conditions and opportunities at hand.“That’s why I love my Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods,” says St. Croix pro-staffer Matt Broderick of Medford, NY. “Between them, I can cover any surf-fishing situation Mother Nature tosses my way.” It’s the classic tale of having the right tool for the job at hand and these two families of American-crafted surf sticks let me fish with confidence throughout the season – whether I’m dealing with schoolies or cows in quiet waters, a rough-and-tumble surf, or anything in between.”
|Broderick likes the versatility of both St. Croix series, but notes that each has a special place in his arsenal. Together, he explains, they allow surfcasters to cover all the bases, throw lure weights and styles to probe any kind of water from top to bottom, and turn big fish before they reach the nearest snag.“Take the newly revamped Avid Surf series,” Broderick explains. “Featuring premium SCIII carbon blanks and IPC technology, these smooth and powerful rods are designed for maximum casting distance and superior fish-fighting performance. I really like the 10’ medium power fast action (VSS100MF2) model. It’s a terrific plugging rod that also excels working big pencil poppers and smaller options like bucktails, too. I’ll use it to toss anything from a half-ounce jigs to 2.5-ounce Super Strike, Cotton Cordell or Tsunami poppers. It has a sensitive tip and loads smoothly on the cast so you can throw those bigger lures a mile. It also has plenty of backbone, so I have no fear of targeting big fish around nasty structure.”|
|While Broderick lauds the Avid Surf series for its versatility, dependability, power and value, he says the Legend Surf series pushes the performance needle even further with high-modulus/high-strain SCIV carbon and FRS for unparalleled strength and durability, plus upgraded components and grips.“Legend Surf series sticks are extremely sensitive,” notes the 25-year-old striper sharpie. “The blanks and guide trains combine to create rods that cast exceptionally well and allow anglers to respond to the slightest bump or strike with an instant lure adjustment or powerful hook set. They also have tremendous stopping power. |
Overall, Legend Surf rods deliver an edge in every department, which really comes in handy when the fish are far off the beach, while fishing in tight quarters, or when the bite is cautious and light.
”Broderick’s overall favorite surf stick is a Legend Surf 10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2) model rated for lures ranging from 2 to 6 ounces. It’s his go-to rod when using finesse techniques in rocky areas and inlets along the Long Island coast.“There was a night last year when I was throwing 2-ounce jigs tipped with soft plastics at a single piece of structure protected by numerous boulders,” Broderick recalls. “A lot of lures are lost in that stretch, but the sensitivity of my Legend Surf 10’6” allowed me to pop those jigs up and over the rocks the instant I felt them. That placed my lure perfectly in the rip where I knew those bass were waiting. The stripers were biting light that night, but with the Legend’s super sensitivity and power, I was able to respond instantly to the pick-ups, drive the point home, and guide my fish out of the trouble zone before anything could go wrong.
”Like Broderick, St. Croix pro Shell Caris puts both his Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods to work targeting everything from schoolies to slobs as he mines the New Jersey Shore each spring before heading up to the Cape Cod Canal to concentrate on bigger bass.
|“I use every one of the Avid and Legend rods during the course of the year,” he says proudly. “Among my favorites for stripers and blues are the Avid Surf 10’ medium power fast action (VSS100MF2) model, which I love for its backbone and overall versatility; the Legend Surf 10’6” medium-heavy power moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2) model, which is my go-to rod in spring and early summer; and the Legend Surf 11’ medium-heavy moderate-fast (GSS110MHMF2) model, which is perfect for making really long casts and battling cow bass in the Cape Cod Canal. I match any of these three rods with 30- to 50-pound test braided line.|
”Caris, 73, finds the backbone of the Avid Surf 10’ medium power, fast action model especially helpful when working big bass and chopper blues around large baitfish like adult bunker along the Jersey Shore in the early spring. He appreciates Avid Surf’s new charcoal color as an aesthetic improvement, noting this redesigned series now “looks as serious as it fishes.” He’ll grab his 10’6” medium-heavy, moderate-fast Legend Surf model when tossing smaller lures or tangling with anything from school bass to 20- and 30-pounders. On Cape Cod Canal, he enjoys the fast action, sensitivity and responsiveness of his 11’ Legend Surf stick, noting that with today’s braided lines, this is a rod that can cast far off the shore and still have the responsiveness to work a pencil popper or walk the dog with a surface lure.“I love that you don’t have to retrieve surface lures at bluefish speeds with this rod,” he says. “Just reel at a steady pace with a short, sharp twitching motion and it provides a tantalizing action that calls predators to the surface.”
|Both Broderick and Caris believe that the recently redesigned St. Croix Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods give them an added advantage whenever they step up to the water’s edge. “You need a rod that can really stand up to big fish, tough conditions and a lot of time in the suds,” notes Broderick.|
“These St. Croix surf rods have the pedigree and the new enhancements that prove themselves as superior fishing tools day after day and night after night.”Caris agrees. “To be successful in the surf, you’ve got to put in the time – so you might as well put your best foot forward with the Best Rods on Earth®.”Designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, U.S.A. for maximum casting and fish-fighting ability, the St. Croix Avid Surf Series features seven spinning and three casting models ranging from 7’ to 12’ in length.
All are made using Integrated Poly Curve® (IPC®) mandrel technology with premium, high-modulus SCIII carbon and a charcoal gray color that fades into the background, especially at night. An offset, slim-profile ferrule on two-piece models ensures one-piece performance. Fuji® K-Series KW tangle-free guides with Alconite® rings and Corrosion Control™ (BC matte grey finish), a matte grey Fuji® DPS Deluxe reel seat with Back Stop™ lock nut, and a custom cork tape handle with machined trim pieces provide surf casters maximum casting distance and a firm, comfortable grip. All models carry a 15-year transferrable warranty backed by St. Croix Superstar Service. Retail prices range from $225 to $420.
|ST. CROIX AVID SURF SPINNING ROD MODELS7’0” medium power, fast action (VSS70MF)8’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (VSS80MMF)9’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (VSS90MMF2)9’6” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSS96MHF2)10’0” medium power, fast action (VSS100MF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSS110MHF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (VSS120HMF2)|
ST. CROIX AVID SURF CASTING ROD MODELS10’0” medium power, fast action (VSC100MF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSC110MHF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (VSC120HMF2)Engineered and built for extreme surf-fishing performance, St. Croix’s Legend Surf Series is also designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, U.S.A. It features ten spinning and two casting models ranging from 7’ to 12’ in length, all made using Integrated Poly Curve® (IPC®) mandrel technology and Advanced Reinforcing Technology™ (ART™). They feature premium, high-modulus/high-strain SCIV carbon with FRS for unparalleled strength and durability. An offset, slim-profile ferrule on two-piece models ensures one-piece performance. Fuji® Torzite® RV K-Series tangle-free surf guides with titanium frames provide unrivaled, 100% corrosion-proof performance, while a Fuji® Torzite® surf top with flanged ring greatly reduces line friction. A Fuji® DPS reel seat with PVD-plated hood ensures a rock-solid connection under extreme conditions and a custom neoprene handle improves comfort and durability while providing a positive grip even when wet. All models carry a 15-year transferrable warranty backed by St. Croix Superstar Service. Retail prices range from $470 to $670.
|ST. CROIX LEGEND SURF SPINNING ROD MODELS7’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS70MMF)8’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS80MMF)9’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS90MMF2)9’0” medium power, moderate action (GSS90MM2)10’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS100MMF2)10’6” medium power, moderate action (GSS106MM2)10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS110MHMF2)12’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS120MHMF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS120HMF2)|
ST. CROIX LEGEND SURF CASTING ROD MODELS10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSC106MHMF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSC110MHMF2)
|#CROIXGEARLike the rods? You’ll love our lifestyle apparel. Shop now!|
|MEET OUR MACHINERYComing to northern Wisconsin? We’d love to meet you, and we’d love for you to have the chance to Meet Our Machinery. Call us at 800.826.7042 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a factory tour. Learn more at https://stcroixrods.com/pages/factory-tours.#stcroixrods|
Updated Shark Tagging Atlas Provides More than 50 Years of Tagging and Recapture Data
|A citizen science program more than 50 years old has shed new light on the movements and distribution patterns of dozens of species of sharks.|
From NOAA Fisheries A 52-year database of the distribution and movements of 35 Atlantic shark species revealed new information on some of the least known species. It also uncovered a few surprises about where sharks go and how long they live.
The bull shark is found in coastal tropical and subtropical seas ranging from the western North Atlantic to southern Brazil.
Scientists collected data for sharks tagged and/or recaptured between 1962 and 2013. The sharks were found in the Atlantic Ocean and associated areas, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. Participants tagged a total of 229,810 sharks of 35 species and recaptured 13,419 sharks of 31 species in that time span. The scientific journal Marine Fisheries Review recently published the data.
This new atlas updates an earlier version covering 1962 to 1993 and adds information on 22 species. Detailed profiles are provided for 14 shark species, including bull and tiger sharks and smooth dogfish. The updated data significantly extended their known ranges and movements.
Collaborative, Long-Running Program – The Cooperative Shark Tagging Program is the largest and longest-running in the world. The program is a collaborative effort among recreational anglers, the commercial fishing industry, biologists, and NOAA Fisheries. Its goal is to study the life history of sharks in the Atlantic Ocean. Initiated in 1962 by biologist and shark researcher John “Jack” Casey at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, the original group of 74 volunteer anglers began participating in the project in 1963.
Since then the program has expanded to include thousands of participants along the entire North American and European Atlantic coasts, including the Gulf of Mexico. “The program’s long-term data has shown the importance of tagging large numbers of each species and recording information in a database to determine shark movements,” said Lisa Natanson, a shark researcher in the Apex Predators Program at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Narragansett Laboratory in Rhode Island.
For example, until the tagging program was 34 years old, no one knew that tiger sharks cross the Atlantic. An International EffortTiger sharks have a wide range and are found close to shore and in the open ocean. Photo: NOAA FisheriesAnglers from 32 countries tagged sharks and persons representing 59 countries participated in returns. There are two principal types of tags: the dart or M tag, in use since 1965, and the fin or rototag, used primarily by participating biologists.
Recreational fishermen, most using rod and reel, accomplished the majority of the tagging, followed by biologists using longline and net gear. Commercial fishermen using long line and net gear returned the most tags, followed closely by anglers using rod and reel. Blue sharks accounted for 51 percent of the tags at nearly 118,000, with sandbar sharks a distant second at just under 36,000. Just over 8,200 blue sharks and 1,471 sandbar sharks were recaptured. Of 20 tagged crocodile sharks, none were recaptured. Most species had more than 100 sharks tagged.
A blue shark also set the record for traveling the greatest distance: 3,997 nautical miles. That shark was tagged off Long Island, New York and recaptured in the South Atlantic off Africa after more than 8 years. A sandbar shark holds the record for the longest time before recapture at 27.8 years. Thousands of Volunteer Citizen ScientistsBasking shark. Photo: NOAA FisheriesAtlas authors Nancy Kohler and Patricia Turner worked in the center’s Apex Predators Program at the Narragansett Laboratory and are now both retired from NOAA Fisheries. They noted that the data collected through this program of citizen scientists would not have been possible for any individual, single institution or agency to accomplish.
“A collective of thousands of knowledgeable volunteer recreational and commercial fishermen accomplished this for little more than the cost of the tags, making the cost/benefit ratio for this program extremely low,” according to the update authors. “The Cooperative Shark Tagging program creates an enormous body of scientific data for understanding distributions and migration patterns for shark species.”The geographic distributions and movements for most shark species—particularly over large space and time scales—remain largely unknown, but these data are filling in those gaps. This information is vital for developing appropriate management strategies and determining the usefulness of conservation measures.
“Sustainable management is a dynamic process that requires the best available science,” said Karyl Brewster-Geisz, a fishery management specialist with NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Sustainable Fisheries. “Data from the Cooperative Shark Tagging Program, one of the oldest shark data sets, plays an important role in establishing management measures that provide recreational and commercial fishing opportunities while preventing overfishing.”
According to the authors, “Given the fact that shark species are slow growing, long-lived, and highly mobile, with relatively low return rates for tagged sharks, continued tagging efforts are essential to provide this critical life history and population dynamics information.”
For more information, contact Shelley Dawicki.
Sustainability Successes for Atlantic Highly Migratory Fish Species
|A look back at important scientific findings and management measures in 2019 from NOAA Fisheries.|
Managing Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish, and billfish presents unique challenges. These species can travel vast distances across state and international borders to find food or reproduce. Highly migratory species (HMS) are also some of the most economically important fish in the Atlantic.
Managing them sustainably requires collaboration and the best available science. We took important steps in 2019 to prevent overfishing of HMS while providing commercial and recreational fishing opportunities. Read more about some of these successes below.
Historic Agreement Brings Sharks Under Stronger International ManagementIn November, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) took the first steps toward establishing international management of open-ocean and highly migratory sharks and rays. The commission adopted amendments to its 50-year-old agreement that clarifies its authority to manage these species. The decision, endorsed by 53 countries, concludes a 10-year negotiation led by the United States. The amendments establish a strong foundation for precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management.
Once implemented, they are expected to ensure that all countries with shark fisheries will be required to meet ICCAT conservation measures—just as countries have to do with other ICCAT-managed fisheries like Atlantic bluefin tuna and white marlin. ICCAT also adopted new limits on the number of North Atlantic blue sharks that major fishing nations can catch each year. The decision won’t affect American fishermen since the United States has already set similar limits. This new measure will help hold other ICCAT members accountable to agreed limits and support long-term sustainability. Learn more about U.S. achievements at ICCAT
Lower Total Allowable Catch for Marlin Will Spur Rebuilding The number of blue marlin that countries can fish from the Atlantic will be lower in 2020. ICCAT members agreed in November to reduce the annual total allowable catch for all Atlantic blue marlin to 1,670 tonnes. That’s 330 tonnes less than in past years. Co-sponsored by the United States, the measure is expected to end overfishing and allow the stock to rebuild. U.S. recreational anglers have only been able to keep a combined total of 250 blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish each year since 2001. And commercial fishermen are not allowed to fish for any billfish. Thanks to these well-established conservation measures, the new Atlantic-wide catch limit will not require U.S. fishermen to catch fewer marlin.
Catch Share Program Successfully Reduced Bluefin BycatchWe conducted a formal review this year of our Individual Bluefin Quota Program. Launched in 2015, the program gives fishermen using pelagic longline gear an economic incentive to avoid interactions with bluefin tuna. That allows us to reduce the number of bluefin caught unintentionally while keeping longline fishermen on the water. And it worked. The program reduced the average annual bluefin bycatch by 65 percent compared to the three years before it began. That’s about 330,000 pounds—or around four fully loaded semitrucks—less bycatch each year. There is more work to be done to ensure our regulations are effective in both maintaining the bluefin population and supporting the fishing industry. But it’s clear that this program has successfully made commercial fishermen accountable for reducing bluefin bycatch. Learn more about our review of the Individual Bluefin Quota Program
New Management Measures Mitigate Shortfin Mako OverfishingIn March, we implemented new measures that prevent commercial fishermen from keeping Atlantic shortfin mako sharks that are still alive when pulled to the boat. The rule also set new minimum size requirements in the recreational fishery. These measures allow more shortfin mako to reach maturity before they’re harvested. Additionally, recreational shark fishermen are now required to use circle hooks in all federal waters of the Atlantic. Circle hooks have been shown to reduce the chance that a shark dies after being released. These measures together are helping to end overfishing of Atlantic shortfin mako sharks while providing responsible fishing opportunities. They are also part of an ongoing, international effort through ICCAT to rebuild shortfin mako populations across the Atlantic. The commission is slated to hold a special meeting in July 2020 to consider additional conservation actions. Learn more about these measures
Circle Hook Requirement Will Help Sharks Live After Being ReleasedAn interstate commission voted in 2019 to require recreational fishermen to use circle hooks when fishing for sharks in state waters. The measure, passed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in October, is expected to save thousands of sharks after being caught and released. Unlike the traditional j-hook, circle hooks grab the corner of a shark’s mouth, reducing injury to their stomach and other organs. It’s also easier for fishermen to release a shark caught with a circle hook. Together, these traits increase the chance that a prohibited shark—or one too small to be kept—will survive after being released. The commission’s decision comes after years of collaboration with NOAA Fisheries to create consistent conservation measures in state and federal waters. The commission also voted to extend NOAA Fisheries’ minimum size requirements for shortfin mako sharks to state waters. Beginning in 2020, recreational fishermen from Maine to Florida must release any shortfin mako measuring less than 71 inches for males or 83 inches for females. Learn more about how we manage sharks
Around 30 In-Season Changes Kept Fishermen on the Water While Safeguarding StocksThroughout the year, we used data collected from fishermen and dealers to open and close fisheries, transfer quotas, and tweak retention limits. In-season changes like these are critical to the success of the U.S. fishery management approach. They allow us to give fishermen as many fishing opportunities as possible while protecting stocks from overfishing. In-season actions also ensure that fishermen can take to the water throughout the year. Commercial industries especially rely on that consistent access to provide consumers with sustainable seafood choices. Most of these in-season rules dealt with bluefin tuna, one of the most coveted fish in the Atlantic. We are dedicated to ensuring that high demand doesn’t lead to overfishing. That’s why we oversee, in collaboration with the international community, one of the most comprehensive and responsive fishery management systems in the world.Learn more about how we manage Atlantic bluefin tuna