Budget woes could silence bay’s talking buoys


It’s hard to believe that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is so broke that it might mothball the nine Chesapeake Bay “smart buoys” that mark the nation’s first all-water national park.

But apparently, that might happen while the “adults” in Congress continue their sandbox squabbling over the budget.

With the boating and fishing season about to begin, the Chesapeake Conservancy sent a letter this week to NOAA administration Jane Lubchenco, asking her to save the distinctive yellow interpretive markers that guide boaters and school children in classrooms on a guided tour of Capt. John Smith’s adventures on the bay more than 400 years ago. 

The buoys on the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail have a toll-free number (877-BUOY-BAY) and are linked to a website to provide water and weather conditions and commentary on cultural and historical events from Smith’s time.

NOAA was planning to launch a 10th buoy this spring, but now the entire program might go silent. Three buoys already in drydock for repairs–the Patapsco, Susquehanna and upper Potomac markers–would remain on land and six others would be pulled because the $150,000 to run them isn’t in the stop-gap funding measure.

The Conservancy notes that the buoys provide real-time navigational information vital to vessels along with their added value as teaching tools.

The letter adds, “Failure to bridge the current funding gap will not only result in the loss of data and information needed by public and private organizations and individuals but would actually incur costs from removal and result in resources being wasted due to the fact that data analysis and instrument maintenance has already been paid for.”  




Yamaha announces production schedules at Japan plants


Angler says it wasn’t hard to document illegal rockfish charters

Jim Price saw first hand how charter boats out of Virginia Beach and North Carolina illegally fish for striped bass in federal waters each winter.

Price, a former charter captain and waterman, told law enforcement officers this week that he was a paying customer aboard two such boats just last month.

One of his trips during the week of Valentine’s Day was a make-up outing and he shared the charter out of the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center with a bunch of people he didn’t know. Their boat joined a flotilla of 45-50 boats about six to seven miles off the coast, well into federal waters.

Anglers were pulling in striped bass “one about every 20 minutes,” he told members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s law enforcement group.

“If never seen anything on this scale before,” said Price, president of the Chesapeake Bay Ecological Foundation in Easton.

Price’s testimony follows searches earlier this month of charter boats based in Virginia by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration special agents. Armed with search warrants, they seized logs, radios, cell phones, fuel records and client lists. A grand jury is meeting to hear evidence.

Charter boats and commercial vessels are prohibited from fishing for striped bass in the EEZ, a swath of ocean that begins three miles off shore and ends at international waters 200 miles out.

But boats often follow the fish into federal waters, despite increased patrols by the Coast Guard.

When Price asked the mate why boats didn’t stay inside state waters, he was told, “that would be a waste of time.”

As they fished, a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft circled overhead and a large Coast Guard boat appeared nearby. Suddenly a small, inflatable boat with four Coast Guardsmen aboard “came out of the sun” and boarded the charter. When asked what he was targeting, Price said the captain replied, “I’m fishing for everything I can catch.”

After a search, the four men moved onto another boat.

“Anyone out there could see these boats were fishing for striped bass. These boats are not afraid of the Coast Guard, not even after boarding,” Price said.

No one stopped him from shooting video or taking pictures or showing him the results of the day’s adventure when he reached Oregon Inlet.

“There were 50 fish in coolers and 50 fish in trash cans,” said Price, who filed a complaint and photos with NOAA on Feb. 22.

Col. Kyle Overturf, who chaired the meeting and is head of Connecticut’s Environment Conservation Police, said a task force of state and federal agents, such as one one that broke the Chesapeake Bay poaching ring, is needed to clamp down on rampant poaching.  

His counterpart in Maine, Col. Joe Fessenden, agreed. “Everybody knows where the Coast Guard is. You’ve got to use state boats or undercover agents to get the job done. We’ve got to get a handle on this thing. It’s big money.”

Outdoor Girl: Angler says it wasn’t hard to document illegal rockfish charters

Extreme How-To Skills – How to Catch a 1,000 Pound Fish


Charlie Levine, former Senior Editor of Marlin Magazine, has chased all sorts of big-game fish up and down the East Coast, Mexico, Caribbean and beyond. “Anyone can do it,” Levine says. “You don’t need to be a huge dude to catch a giant fish. I’ve seen 90-pound girls do it and elderly people, too. The saying is true, ‘It’s better to be lucky than to be good,’ but if you do your homework and find a good charter boat operation in a known hot spot, you stand a good chance. If you’re looking for a benchmark 1,000 lb.-and-up fish, you’re aiming for a blue or black marlin, a shark or a giant tuna.
The amount of time spent on the hunt varies, Levine says. “Back in 2008, a woman from Chicago named Carrie Poleski went on a charter fishing trip on the boat Wound Up with Capt. James Robertson in Bermuda. She was there on business and had never done any offshore fishing. She ended up catching a 1,049-pound blue marlin on her first try. But that’s unusual. You normally have to put a lot of time in before you see a fish like that. It can be an expensive hobby. In terms of fighting the fish itself, it helps to have a good captain who will chase the fish with the boat and back down on it.”
Tools Required:
A top-notch captain, sportfishing boat and crew. You also need the proper equipment such as a fighting chair, two-speed reel, stout rod and a determined will. “When you charter a boat they’ll take care of all the tackle, rods, hooks, lures, bait, and everything else that you’ll need. When you’re going out for big game fish with a well-respected crew, you’re generally on on a 40- to 60-foot sport fishing boat.”
1. Find A Fish
“If you’re looking for a 1,000-pound marlin the best places to go are Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Bermuda, Hawaii, Brazil, Madeira or the Azores. Marlin Magazine offers a program called Marlin University, which hosts several trips each year to known marlin hot spots. It’s great for novice anglers looking to fish with some experts and learn how to do it. They get a lot of hands-on experience on how to fight the fish, rig baits, tie knots, etc.”
2. Hire A Captain
“If you’re a novice angler, odds are you’re not going to catch a big fish on your own right out of the box. So do some research and hire a reputable charter boat. That’s the most important thing.” Join a forum like bloodydecks.com, get a referral and call the captain. A good one will put you in touch with a previous customer for a testimonial.
3. Shut Up and Listen
“Just do what the captain and mates tell you to do and you’ll be fine. In a lot of cases, a fishing boat captain prefers working with a novice rather than a blowhard who thinks he’s an expert. The captain and crew will be happy to coach you through it. They want to catch the fish just as bad as you do.”
4. Head To Sea
“The boat will troll along at about 7-10 knots, pulling lures, rigged baits or both. The crew will handle the baiting and the lures. Some of these lures and teasers are as big as your leg. Unless you really know what you’re doing, you’ll just mess it up. You can be out there cruising along for a long, long time, but once you see that bite and the marlin take off, it’s well worth it.”
5. Hook, Crank and Hope
“There’s nothing like that first five seconds of pure pandemonium when you realize you have what is essentially a live patriot missile at the end of your line. If you have an aggressive captain he’ll start screaming “Reel! Reel! Reel!” as he turns and chases the fish. A good captain makes all the difference but when you hook a fish that size, there’s no way around it, reeling it in can take all afternoon. But it’s exhilarating.”
6. Capture the Catch
Take a photo of your catch just before you release it and make it your new Facebook profile picture. “As tempting as it may be to kill that big fish and bring it back to port, you really should release it. Marlin populations are only a fraction of what they were 50 years ago and if you want your kids to experience marlin fishing, it’s best to practice catch and release. ” Take as many photos as you like as the crew revives the fish next to the boat, then set it free and watch it swim off to fight another day.
Interesting Fact:
“The largest marlin are females — all the more reason to release them since they’re the breeders. The world-record black marlin weighed 1,560 pounds and was caught off of Peru in the early 1950s.” Visit www.igfa.org to get a photo.
Warnings: “Once you’re tight to a big fish and you get in that fighting chair, you’re in it for the long haul. There’s no getting out. Technically you can switch with another angler, but it’s not the sportsmanlike thing to do. So, no matter how tired you are, you’re locked in until that fish comes in or breaks off. You better pack a lunch.”

Extreme How-To Skills – How to Catch a 1,000 Pound Fish – Popular Mechanics

Let ’em eat cake, says CCA


Dare County Board of Commissioners voted on Monday to adopt a resolution opposing a bill now in the General Assembly that, if passed and signed into law, will give striped bass – aka rockfish, Red Drum and spotted seatrout gamefish status and thus will make it illegal for commercial fishermen to land and sell the three species.
“By God, we are going in the wrong direction and doing so quickly,” said Commissioner Mike Johnson. “This is a travesty.”
His remarks were echoed by other board members who, like Johnson, were visibly angry at the attempt to remove the public-trust resource from the reach of the consumers and nonfishing public and add more burden to the beleaguered fishing industry.
In addition to the negative economic impact on the commercial fishing industry, such a law also would impact consumers, fish markets and restaurants, said area businesspeople.
“It would be devastating,” said Christina Brodeur of Carawan Seafood Co. in Kitty Hawk. “All the regulations already have been hurting seafood markets and commercial fishermen. Rockfish and Red Drum are two of our biggest sellers when they are in season.”
Ervin Bateman, owner of Sugar Shack Seafood Market and Sugar Creek Restaurant on the causeway in Nags Head, echoed Brodeur’s assessment.
“Flounder is our number-one fish at Sugar Creek and we already are having problems finding that, because the fishermen have been so limited as to what they can catch.”

Like Brodeur, Bateman described the economic impact to fishermen and their families, as well as other businesses, as “devastating.”
And, he said, the loss of income will come at a time when both local and state governments are wrestling with budget short-falls and falling property values.

The Outer Banks Sentinel

Throw back gamefish bill, Commissioners Say


State legislation to classify striped bass, red drum and speckled trout as gamefish was denounced Monday by Dare County commissioners, who said it would be another blow to the commercial industry and take the popular fish off consumers’ dinner tables.

The Board of Commissioners passed a resolution opposing the House bill, which was introduced a month after striped bass kills that touched off a public uproar during this winter’s commercial trawling season.

Commissioner Mike Johnson said his objections to the legislation center on access. Gamefish cannot be harvested or sold commercially, so the designation would essentially limit catching and consuming them to recreational angers with boats, he said.

A provision to provide compensation for losses was an insult to watermen, Johnson suggested, saying “never, ever have you heard a commercial fisherman say please send us a check, please give us a subsidy.”

“The only thing these men ever asked is to let them go to work,” he said.

After the resolution was passed, Commissioner Allen Burrus was blunter. He said the legislation was being pushed by what he described as elitists seeking exclusive access to a resource.

“Only those that can afford boats that are $40,000 or more are going to have the opportunity it to catch it,” he said.

The legislation runs counter to the 1997 Fisheries Reform Act, which seeks to strike a balance between commercial and recreational interests to protect resources, the resolution said.

Om Monday night, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners also passed a resolution opposing the bill.

It said that “allocating 100 percent of the resource to less than 3 percent of the population of our state and to specific user groups would be a travesty of fairness, a violation of the FRA and devastating to the economies of coastal communities.”

The legislation comes at a particularly sensitive time on the Outer Banks. Dredges cannot keep up with severe shoaling in Oregon Inlet, and trawlers are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to get in and out. The president’s proposed budget includes only $1 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue dredging the channel. Historically, the cost for minimal upkeep has ranged from $5 million to $7 million annually.

While the commissioners said the legislation would hurt commercial fishing, the Coastal Conservation Association, which is behind the bill, contends it is aimed at protecting resources from wasteful practices.

“It’s time the State recognized the overwhelming economic contribution recreational saltwater fishing makes to coastal communities,” Jay Dail, chairman of CCA NC, said in a statement. “Managed properly, our fishery in N.C. would bring much needed relief, in the way of jobs and tourism, benefiting local businesses along our coast.”

The House bill would put all three species off limits to commercial operations.

Previous legislation to designate red drum and speckled trout gamefish made no headway in the General Assembly. But with the added attention to the striped bass and many new lawmakers in Raleigh, that could change.

Commercial watermen argue that recreational throwbacks are responsible for just as many or more fish mortalities.

Two widely publicized fish kills this winter led to changes in the rules for commercial catches of striped bass.

The first one involved the release of fish from an overloaded net, the state Marine Fisheries Commission said. The second, smaller one took place the day trawlers were allowed back out under new rules that set the daily limit at 2,000 pounds and allowed the transfer of fish exceeding that to other licensed boats. The mortalities were apparently the result of culling fish from catches.

Fisheries officials subsequently decided to re-open the season one day at a time and limit trawls of nets to 30 minutes.

The bill, introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators, would restrict catches to hook and line in coastal waters. The legislation would prohibit selling or trading the fish and possessing them for sale inside or outside the state.

It calls for setting up a compensation fund that would pay commercial operations the equivalent of the average annual income from the species over a period of three years. The fund would also provide compensation for gear that could no longer be used because of the new prohibition.

Total payouts would be limited to $1 million.

Throw back gamefish bill, commissioners say « The Outer Banks Voice

Dredging Today – USA: Great Egg Harbor Inlet Needs Dredging

Everyone was under the impression the Coast Guard was going to do something about it,” said Perry, the owner of the Harbour Cove Marine Services in Somers Point. “Nothing has been done and it’s almost impossible to get through.”

Many boaters use the inlet, which connects the Great Egg Harbor Bay with the Atlantic Ocean. It is located near the Ocean City-Longport Bridge. Local residents are concerned the upcoming boating season could be hazardous for visitors to the area, especially those with larger boats, who may be unfamiliar with the problem of outdated navigation markers on the water. They fear this could lead to more damaged and capsized boats and serious injuries.

That was almost the case Friday when a 55-foot commercial fishing trawler ran aground on a sandbank and had to be towed across the bay to Somers Point.

It’s a very nasty inlet,” said John Bodin, operations manager for Towboat U.S. who also serves as the Marine Safety Officer for Somers Point. “The best way I can describe it is driving down a road that leads to a brick wall. You are going to crash.”

The change in tides causes a lot of shifting sand in the area, and this inlet is more problematic than others in the region, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Corrina Ott said.

“It’s a very fluctuating environment there,” she said. “It’s one of the areas we pay attention to.

The Coast Guard surveyed the inlet at the end of last year and approved changes this winter for the buoys that direct boat traffic, said Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Dave Pilitowski. A team from the navigation unit in Cape May plans to make the changes to the markers to direct boaters more northward as early as Monday, depending on the weather.

The team will survey the area a few times a season and change the markers as needed, but Pilitowski said they are dependent on local residents to update them of changes.

Dredging Today – USA: Great Egg Harbor Inlet Needs Dredging