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Striped Bass Management Heats Up–Will They Rebuild The Stock?

Angler holding a striped bass in the water
Courtesy of Kyle Schaefer / Soul Fly Outfitters

Simply put, striped bass are America’s most popular gamefish. Yet, the species remains at 25-year lows due to short-sighted, irresponsible management. Also, just a week ago, Maryland announced the results of their Juvenile Abundance survey–three years of poor striped bass spawns. Maryland’s survey is a major indicator for the coast-wide population because nearly 70 percent of striped bass use the Chesapeake Bay as a nursery. Things are not going well for this iconic species, which is why many stakeholders and advocates suffered through more than six hours of inaction, with some notable surprises to the benefit of striped bass conservation.

Three years of terrible recruitment provides a grim outlook for the already depleted striped bass stock

The subject of last week’s Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) striped bass meeting was to approve Draft Amendment 7 for public comment. This meeting was a long time coming. Earlier this spring, the ASMFC met to decide what to include in Draft Amendment 7; they put forward management triggers, measures to protect the 2015-year class, conservation equivalency, and recreational release mortality as topics to revisit and possibly modify. Within these topics, there is a great opportunity to improve striped bass management and elevate conservation, but there are several serious landmines to avoid.

For example, Draft Amendment 7 included options to remove or significantly weaken the management triggers, which require conservative action if they’re tripped. There were also some concerning issues of equity in the document. One alternative suggested a moratorium for just the recreational sector. While the recreational sector makes up the majority of the fishery, the commercial side of things plays an indisputable role in the current condition of the stock.

So what happened at this excruciatingly long meeting? Long story short, the Striped Bass Management Board punted, with one caveat. They delayed approval of the draft document until February 2022. However, the Board did make some important decisions that will benefit the ailing striped bass stock:

  • Directed staff to develop a rebuilding plan that will rebuild the stock by 2029 (the deadline, according to ASMFC’s own rules), thanks to Maine Commission, Megan Ware for this measure. This move was a long time coming. The public has vocally indicated their support for rebuilding at nearly every opportunity since the stock was declared overfished nearly three years ago. Former Board Chair, Mike Armstrong, immediately offered his strong support for the motion and added, “I think that this is a lot more important than some of the other things that are in this Amendment 7.”
  • Approved a measure which would hold the Chesapeake Bay accountable for protecting the strong 2015, 2017, and 2018 year-classes. Prior to this motion by Maryland’s Dave Sikorski, the coastal fishery would have been subject to these measures alone, when in fact, these year classes represent a core component of the Bay’s fishery.
  • After some debate, the Board agreed to include a prohibition on using gaffs in the Draft Amendment.
  • The Board rejected a recreational-only moratorium and a unenforceable no-targeting mandate.
  • Unfortunately, the Board removed an alternative that has carried significant public support throughout this entire process, a prohibition on conservation equivalency, arguing it was not their decision and bluntly it wouldn’t happen during final action.

While we do have to wait a couple months to see what the the next version of Draft Amendment 7 will be and even longer for the public comment period to open, there is room for optimism. We will finally have a rebuilding plan with the goal of rebuilding the stock by 2029. Striped bass will need our help during that comment period, especially with the dismal Maryland juvenile survey results, so get ready to fight for this iconic fish.

Cover picture courtesy of Kyle Schaefer / Soul Fly Outfitters.


Fly Angler Lands Potential World-Record Blue Catfish

Photo from Ben Christensen (@pearlsnapflyfishing)

Ben Christensen was taking his new Flycraft out in the rivers of the Texas Hill Country when he spotted a huge Blue Catfish feeding in the margins of the river. Armed with a 4 weight and 12 lb tippet, Ben did what any good fly angler would do, and cast an olive damselfly nymph in front of the feeding fish. When his line came tight, the fight was on with the 31.55 lb fish. According to Christensen, the ensuing fight lasted 40 minutes as he fought to protect the light tippet the fish was struggling against.

After landing the fish, Ben took it to Texas Parks and Wildlife to have it weighed and measured to confirm what he thought, that the fish was a new record for the Pedernales River. What Christensen may have not known, was that the fish may surpass the current Blue Catfish 12-pound tippet record that previously stood at 26.25 lbs.

To learn more about the catch, check out this article from USA Today!


Shore Lunch

brook trout
photo via Dinapsphoto

I clambered over rocks and under fallen trees. My boots slid on slick boulders making the coffee in my stomach slosh against the eggs and biscuit I had for breakfast.

I threw the Copper John in a small pool and watched as it drifted through the water. A flash of orange shot out from under a rock and the fly vanished. With a quick rise of the rod, the hook stuck in the trout’s jaw.

Red dots speckled its side and blue halos enclosed them. A fish just a hair longer than my middle finger lay half in the water and half in my palm. Batting its tail against my thumb, it plunged back down behind its rock.

The first native Brook Trout is always a turning point. Soon, the dark brown Virginia winters will be overpowered by bright redbuds, flowering dogwoods, and hungry fish. A welcome sight after the dreary cold.

My wife and I had spent the winter, like most, quarantining. Our first child had been born in September and with a virus spreading across the country we took few chances. Often, a trip to the grocery was our only time out of the house.

This was a far cry from the spring and summer when my wife was pregnant. In nice weather, we would fish and walk by the local lakes and rivers. Often eating shore lunches of roast chicken before heading back home to the air conditioning where I would have bourbon to finish off the day and my wife some watermelon slices sprinkled with salt.

When the Virginia humidity became too much we would forgo the walk and spent time in an inflatable pool in the driveway. My wife would listen to podcasts about serial killers and would oooh and ahhh as the case unfolded. Those days I kept a close eye on the baseball bat downstairs and the ax in the shed just in case she got a wild hair to collect on the life insurance.

We had our son in Mid September. Shore lunches and fishing stopped but the occasional quick walk by the river remained. Getting outside and regaining our sanity from the bedlam of having a newborn was needed.

Soon the bright colors of Autumn that were prevalent in my son’s first month dropped and the gloom of winter set in. Temperatures fell and Covid spread, so we hunkered.

With everything else going on there was also an election, and with so many people at home, it was easy for the 24-hour news cycle to whip the public into a frenzy. Most everyone had already seen Tiger King by then so there wasn’t much else to do.

In January, the country boiled over. Political pressure, Covid exhaustion, and civil unrest fueled the fire. We worried about what kind of world we brought our child into. With our anxiety running hot, something happened. Our son had forgotten how to sleep for more than two hours at a time.

For better or for worse our attention was pulled away from the news and anything from the outside world as for the next few months the three of us struggled to rest.

By the end of February, he was sleeping normally again thanks to dairy-free formula and rigorous sleep training. All of us poked our heads out of our home like groundhogs and saw the sun. Spring was coming.

The outdoors always grounded me and my wife. What does eastern medicine say? Center your Chi? Yeah, that’s it. Like most of the world, we misplaced our Chi.

That early spring morning we went looking for it again.

The warm eggs folded nicely in the flakey biscuit and it tasted even better streamside.

A well-maintained gravel path ran adjacent to the little stream. The George Washington National Forest has some great secluded areas but my wife and son were set to meet me after his nap. So a long drive and hike were not in the cards with a six-month-old.

I fished for two hours before my wife and son met me just a quarter-mile from the trailhead. The fishing was red hot, having lost count soon after arriving.

We walked to an area that had a rocky bank where we all could stand by the water. In front was a long and narrow plunge pool with a small waterfall that fed it. Our son held close to my wife’s chest as I watched the water.

The magnitude of the moment hit me. My son’s first time on the river and even though he wouldn’t remember this, the need to catch a fish for him was overwhelming. I drew a breath and cast, watching as the fly danced on the surface untouched.

A second cast, no bites.

My heart sank as the third cast yielded the same result. A fourth cast landed at the base of the waterfall and the fly zipped downstream. A white fin tip flew from the water and the body of the fish went airborne with the hook poking out of the side of its mouth.

I raised the tip and the rod bent as a long white and orange belly flashed. A Brook Trout had risen and gulped the fly from the surface.

I pulled the fish in the net to show my son. He leapt forward hands first attempting to grab it. My wife scrambling to maintain control of the wriggling child.

I splashed some water on his hand and let him feel the fish’s tail and back before letting it go back into the water. With the fish now gone my son fussed as all of our stomachs growled. Before packing up we had the ceremonial last cast.

One drift through the current and a flash of silver burst through the water and took the fly back under with it. The trout was overpowering as my rod and line were made for a fish half its size.

Leaping a foot out of the water it came down with a splash. The violence of the trout’s head shakes could be felt down the rod, through the handle, up my arm, and in my chest. It stripped line from between my fingers as it used the length of the pool to its advantage.

With another jump and run the trout began to tire as I pulled in the last bit of line and slung it in the net.

Grabbing the tail with my right hand and stomach with the left I lifted it out of the net as my son again shot from his mom’s arms to grab the fish. He pet the sides and watched as I set it back in the water and it pushed itself back into the deep pool.

“A good one to end on”. My wife says.

South of the stream is a brewery where we stopped for lunch. At the edge of the property, a line of Adirondack chairs dot the shore of another stream.

The water trickled over the rocks as our son sipped his bottle. My wife and I sat and drank our beers and ate our fried chicken sandwiches. The three of us centered and enjoying our first shore lunch.

Article by Dallas Hudgens @dallas.hudgens, a father and angler based in Virginia. 

Header photo courtesy of Dinapsphoto

Why My Kids Think Fly Fishing is all Sunshine, Rainbows, and Unicorns


Opening Day at Pyramid Lake

October 1st is the opening day on Pyramid Lake and for us, it’s like Christmas morning.

The gigantic trout are what brings us here but the sunrises on Pyramid are some of the most stunning skies you will ever witness.

We look forward to our opening week trip all year long. Always hoping for good weather and reminiscing on years past when everything came together.

She ain’t pretty but Jimmy’s little old trailer sure but it’s getting sandblasted by wind and tying flies in your truck all night. There’s something about dry camping on a desolate beach with no cell service that makes me feel alive

In the fall we pray for warm days and calm water on Pyramid, which is rare for those of you who aren’t familiar with the lake.

When those ideal conditions line up it creates a natural phenomenon where baitfish ball up the size of your house and are herded by the largest cutthroat trout in the world-devouring them from all angles. It’s a truly rare sight to see, especially when you are trout fishing.

Once the lake receives its first cold snap of weather each year the fishing becomes far tougher, which usually comes ironically a few days before the opener.

28 Lbs in one net. Nothing better than sharing triple hookups with a couple of your best buds all day long!

The baitfish disperse and dive down to the deep depths of the lake taking the trout with them.

Each year we take the gamble that it’s going to be an epic opener but most of the time we strike out, go anyway and grind out a few fish in nasty winds.

Well, this was not one of those years and conditions were as good as it gets. By the end of our trip, we had sore arms, blistered hands, and in the evening on the way back to the beach even our faces hurt from smiling all day long!

Out here we measure fish in pounds not inches. Years ago we were all looking for that 10+ pounder. Nowadays as these fish rapidly grow the 10+ pounder is more common and we have shifted to looking for that 20+ pounder!

It’s hard to describe the glowing turquoise water when the sun hits the surface but it sure is captivating

It all came together again this year and everyone was scoring! Until next year!

Words from Tom Lippen @rippenlippen, photos from Jimmy Goodman @goodmannnnnn. Additional anglers include Alex Filmore @fillyfillmore
and Pyramid Lake guide Sam Vasily @samvasily.

No Bad Days at PYRAMID LAKE!!!!!

An Allure for the Golden Trout


Fishing Tips: How To Fish With Streamers

Check out this episode of The New Fly Fisher for a comprehensive video of how to fish with streamers. From reading water, to fly selection, to casting, this resource will surely improve your approach to slinging meat.


How to Tie: The Hottie Midge

In this week’s “How to Tie” video feature, Piscator Flies gives us a tutorial on how to tie a winter season killer created by Tyler Boroff, the Hottie Midge.

As winter and the colder months approach, midges take a large quantity of a trouts diet. Becoming lethargic with declining temperatures, trout often will find deeper water where they can use as little energy as possible. Smaller food items, such as midges, become their main source of food as they are easily accessible and plentiful. The Hottie Midge is a fly that will serve as an attractor style midge and may just turn on those lethargic trout.

Another simple and easy fly added to the How to Tie series, the Hottie Midge is one that fly tyers of all skill levels can perfect. Tying on small hooks may be difficult at first but using 8/0 (70 denier) thread will ensure you do not crowd the hook eye. Adding a hot spot to this fly can make slow days turn into productive ones, but it always pays off to carry various midge patterns regardless. For beginners, this fly does not have to be perfect, but crowding the hook eye will make for an unfishable fly, so always keep that in mind while tying this small pattern.

Trout will feed on midges year-round as they are extremely resilient to water conditions and quality. This offers anglers a productive way to fish when others may stay inside and spend their time on the vise, which is a great alternative to those frigid days. The Hottie Midge is another tool in your box that may just be the ticket for connecting with those lethargic winter trout.

Ingredients:

  • Hook: Firehole 316 #16-22
  • Body: 8/0 (70d) wood duck
  • Ribbing: Copper wire fine
  • Thorax: 8/0 (70d) fl. orange or pink
  • Head: 8/0 (70d) wood duck
  • Coating: Bone Dry UV resin

Now you know how to tie the Hottie Midge.

Video and ingredients courtesy of Piscator Flies.


Video of the Week: Fishing with Jay

Image Courtesy: Jeremy Clark

In this week’s episode of Video of the Week, we catch up with the man the myth the legend Jay Johnson and a few low country legends as they target the local redfish on the floodtide. Alongside Jay and the BAJIO crew Scotty Davis, Jeremy Clark, Paul Puckett, and Mike Benson fish for redfish, talk about life, drink beer, and enjoy the local low country that Charleston provides. From tailing Reds in the grass to debating if ketchup should belong on a burger no topic is out of reach and no redfish are safe from this crew. So sit down and enjoy episode 9 of Fishing with Jay from BAJIO Sunglasses.

Check out more of BAJIO and Jay’s adventures here: @BAJIO Sunglasses 

Make sure to check out these other articles as well!

Video of the Week: The Skiff Wanderer: Rough Log Ep. 17

Video of the Week: Eric Estrada’s GladesDays

Video of the Week: End of the Road

 

 

 


Lost Tarpon Caught Off Montauk, New York

Montauk, New York is well known in the fishing world as the Mecca of the Atlantic striped bass’ fall run. Every autumn, anglers from all over, head to the eastern tip of Long Island, hoping to encounter the epic blitzes that have made the headland famous. Typically anglers encounter huge schools of baitfish and the stripers, bluefish, and false albacore that feast on them. Last week, a visiting species made an appearance in one of the fish traps that line the coast, a tarpon.

Not much is known about how tropical fish end up in waters far north of their usual range, but it is well known that tarpon migrate thousands of miles in their lifetimes. One school of thought is that these tropical fish get caught up in the warmth of the Gulf Stream current that comes close to the New England shoreline in the fall and late summer. Another is that fish just get confused. Either way, seeing a Silver King off the New York coast is intriguing.

The fish shown in the video and featured image was released from the net to hopefully find their way back home.

If you want to read more about how tropical fish end up in the cool autumn waters of New England, check out this in-depth article from The Hartford Courant!


Rare Cutthroat Species Saved from Hayden Pass Fire, Re-Stocked on Pikes Peak

In July 2016, the Hayden Pass Fire was raging in the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness near Villa Grove, Colorado. In its path laid a population of rare, and genetically unique cutthroat trout found in and named after Hayden Creek. Lucky for these cutties, teams from CPW and the US Forest service crossed the fire lines and captured some of these trout, saving them from the flames. Those fish were taken to hatcheries so biologists could build back their populations over the coming years.

Flash forward to October 2021, and the ancestors of those reduced trout are being stocked high up on Pike’s Peak’s southern slope, preserving the species and their unique genes.

You can learn more about the stocking in South Ruxton Creek, here!


Presidential Action for National Monument Protection

Photo By: Bob Wick, BLM

In the wake of Indigenous People’s Day, President Biden has restored full protections to Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante in southeastern Utah. Protections were also granted to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the New England coast.

Bears Ears National Monument

The 1.36 million acres that make up Bears Ears National Monument remain one of the most ecologically intact and least-roaded regions in the United States. Thus, the area acts as a refuge for threatened, endangered, and rare species of wildlife, fish, and plants. The landscape of Bears Ears is surrounded by the Colorado River to the west and the San Juan river towards the south and offers World-class fishing. The landscape is painted with sandstone canyons, vast mesas, and iconic buttes.

This land is also sacred to the Hopi, Navajo, Ute, and Zuni Tribal Nations. Bears Ears National Monument is a treasured landscape rich in cultural ties and artifacts like cave dwellings, petroglyphs, and ceremonial sites. These and many more were left from the Indigenous peoples who occupied the region before much of time as we know it. The precious sites remain infamous to vandalism from visitors, leaving permanent destructions to the lands. The land is also suspected to be rich in uranium, peaking the interest of mining companies.

Potential Indigenous dwellings in the mountain side
Panoramic view of possible Indigenous dwellings. Photo by: Bob Wick, BLM

Grand Staircase-Escalante

1.87 million acres of extraordinary and eye-catching terrain, also located in southeast Utah, were re-protected with the executive order. The national monument was originally created in 1996 by President Clinton. However, during the Trump administration the monument’s size was cut nearly in half in order to open the land up to potential coal mining operations. The landscape holds significant importance to both Indigenous peoples and the community of Latter-Day Saints.

Devil’s Garden Arch in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park. Photo by: Bob Wick, BLM

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument

The first and only National Marine Monument is located in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod. Nearly 5,000 square miles, an area the size of the state of Conneticut, make up the monument. There are three undersea canyons and four mountains (known as seamounts) protected in the region. One of the canyons, Oceanographer Canyon, is as big as the Grand Canyon and has some phenomenal offshore fishing! Under the new protections, recreational fishing is still allowed but commercial fishing is banned. In 2016, the Obama administration created the National Momument in efforts to protect the vast oceanic biodiversity in the area. These protections were withdrawn by the Trump administration but are now being reinstated.

Secretary of Commerce, who oversees NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service, Gina Raimondo, states that “The rich diversity of species in the monument include rare and endangered marine life—from deep-sea corals and fish, to whales and sea turtles—that continue to be threatened by the climate crisis. With this proclamation we acknowledge the importance to protecting their ongoing contributions to scientific knowledge, ecosystem health, and the sustainability of our planet.”

This map of the NECSMNM shows some of the submarine canyons that cut into the deep seafloor of the continental margin of the eastern United States, and the seamounts offshore. The habitat characteristic of these geological features is discontinuous, with communities isolated by the sediment-covered slope between them. Photo courtesy of NOAA and USFWS.

The new order does not come without tensions. Utah representatives argue that a more collaborative approach should have been taken within Congress to ensure long-term protections for the area. The issued statement reads “President Biden’s decision to expand the monuments is disappointing, though not surprising. For the past ten months, we have consistently offered to work with the Biden Administration on a permanent, legislative solution, one that would end the perpetual enlarging and shrinking of these monuments and bring certainty to their management…”

While permanent protections will likely be a conversation to still be had, right now there’s reason to celebrate the restoration of these National Monuments and increased preservation.