Would citizen science build trust in fish stock assessments?


Albies rushed to Montauk, New York, lighting up the surface while chasing bite-sized schools of baitfish as avid Madison angler Paul Merwin timed his solo trip to just the right moment. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

Guilford’s Jeremy Brettman caught and released this Faulkner Island bluefish chopper while fishing with a live bunker. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

Whether angling from a dock, casting from shore, or jigging from a vessel, recreational anglers documenting their catch through citizen science helps fisheries managers address data gaps in stock assessments. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

The gathering of starlings signals a drop in temperatures and a time for fast ribs (false albacore) to chase rainbait through the rips in Long Island Sound. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

This year, the joint session of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting to review grant proposals submitted by Atlantic States partners and comprised of Operations and Advisors from the Cooperative Coastal Statistics Program of the Atlantic was held in Arlington, Virginia on September 21-22. During the many proposals discussed, the light was again thrown on citizen science. As you may recall, citizen science, in this case dealing with fish, is a process by which recreational anglers can submit a variety of data related to their catch, such as photos, species, measurements, date, time, location and releases. This information, in turn, would be published in an app and would then be accessible worldwide.

Since 1979, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Fisheries Administration has been collecting recreational fishing data. To further improve data quality, in 2008 the Marine Recreation Information Program (MRIP) was established to meet the growing demand for precise, more accurate and timely catch estimates among state, regional and federal. Once fishers are onboarded, they can be contacted to complete catch and effort surveys, in addition to being interviewed at the dock, boat ramps or other locations. appointed. The collected estimates are then combined with commercial data and biological research with the aim of assessing and maintaining sustainable fish stocks.

After working with the main management database, over time it was realized that data accuracy, validation and gaps were issues that, in part, trickle down to create results potentially questionable and, in some cases, misleading. Citizen science is coming to the fore as a possible answer to fill these gaps, such as discard data, which fisheries managers need to accurately compile stock assessments.

Needless to say, MRIP is not going away, but to complement it many believe that collecting additional data obtained through recreational fishers would help improve stock management and provide good validated single data that could be incorporated into inventory valuations in a cost effective manner. This is when in-depth discussions around the proposal, “Collection of Recreational Fisheries Data from Citizen Science Sources”, were generated, focusing on issues such as costs, standardization , marketing, reliable data and remote data upload to an already clean used database. by managers, scientists and stakeholders.

It was felt that additional data sources would go a long way to balancing the MRIP data already obtained, in addition to better aligning overall stock assessments, especially when augmented with previously unknown recreational discard data. The only dissent registered by some was that this particular grant proposal did not comply with core grant protocols, although a majority felt that it had good merit and that funding should be continued. If funding is eventually granted, it was also felt that much of the rental fleet would, over time, be more receptive to surveys, as additional species data from other established sources would offset or supplement the only recreational and somewhat questionable management data currently. in use today.

On the water

A cold front moved in before a brief anticyclonic system, followed by a strong passage of cold front, severe thunderstorms and moderate flash flooding. Actual fall temperatures surfaced as early morning air temperatures dipped into the 40s and daytime air temperatures fluctuated between the 60s and 70s. Another high pressure surfaced as typical fall temperatures continued, while in Long Island Sound water temperatures remained in the 70s. Seas fluctuated from calm to 3 feet as winds gusted to 25 knots, giving anglers a break to rethink their plans, especially as the seas of New England were influenced by passing storms offshore.

Albie’s action picked up in the Sound as the hardtail speedsters worked the inshore reefs and rip lines on top before fading and diving to the bottom. Thin epoxies, school-leading, fast-recovery realistic lures, and rainbait-mimicking flies drew strikes with lightning-fast, punchy strokes. Unsurprisingly, word spread that more albie races were taking place and, soon after, anglers in small boats or casting from shore began to appear with fly rods and tackle. spinning, even throwing surface poppers.

The excitement continued as the 40-inch striped bass worked best inshore hollows, inshore reefs and inshore bays, consuming anything from silversides, peanut bunker, shad in hickory and a variety of hard and soft lures, especially bucktails and hog rinds. Intermittent weather caused schools of stripes to move in and out with baitfish before resuming feeding in rivers and near shore. Live eels, bunker, plugs, and swim shads are the bait of choice, however, trolling spoons, diamond jigs, and swim lures hook up. Check out Six Mile, the Southwest Reef Inner and Outer, Faulkner’s, in and around the Thimbles, and the Beacon for slot-limit fish or better. Good school action can be found in lower tide rivers when the tides and weather are in sync. It was a good new moon!

Bluefish stock remains status quo. Periodic bird activity and dotted flashes of upper water break up the otherwise serene strait. Large schools of Atlantic menhaden are spread across inshore and offshore waters, providing plenty of fodder for a wide range of helicopters, many of which can be seen finning on the surface. Chunking, casting and jigging catch these aggressive fish by Hammo, The S’s, Kimberly Reef and Faulkner’s, to name a few productive spots. Snappers swell and strike snappers, spinners, and minnows on most incoming tides. When drifting or trolling for the blues, go deeper in the water column for a potential connection with low potential fish. Fall is a good time for them.

Although the fluke catches weren’t great, several anglers enjoyed how their season went, navigating several mini mats and a few big fish when fishing deep water with big bait. Shorts still prevail, but Guardians’ fluke took bucktails with premium squids and teasers, swimming mullets and an array of drift rigs. Try drifting at depths of 40-60 or 90-110 feet.

The activity of scup and black bass intensified at the passage of the autumnal equinox. Catches of the two resulted in a mixed bag of sizes with larger specimens generally crawling up the deeper reefs and smaller fish scattered about. Squid is the #1 bait, although the scup rarely lets a sea worm through. Even scented imitations on a single hook or small jig will work when a little jigging action is imparted.

Water temperatures stay warm, giving bottom fishing more resilience. Catches of sand sharks and dogfish continue to be good, as well as a few rays, large blackbirds, king mackerels, gray triggerfish and quality toads. The estuaries are teeming with blue crabs, but they’ve played dodgeball with the weather, producing better catches in undisturbed, clearer water. They either retreated or sank deep when severe storms hit, only to return after a brief slowdown.

The recent rain has again added to our much needed supply and improved the level and flow of the rivers. This brought life to fall trout anglers eager to hook up with native brookies and serious browns. You still have to be careful at low water where the trout can still be stressed. Lakes and ponds were a different story as the largemouth bass were very active taking surface waters, soft plastics, spinnerbaits and live bait. The young followed suit, feeding early in the morning and late in the day. The fodder moved closer to the shore. The pike bite was good, as well as the channel catfish and popular species of panfish. Both live and artificial fall baits have been productive.

Note: Email us photos of your catch to share with our US and international angler friends who keep up to date with the latest fishing news and social media.

For all things fishy, ​​including fly fishing, head to the store (203-245-8665) open seven days at 21 Boston Post Road in Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter, where we don’t make the angler, we make the angler better.

tight lines,

Captain Morgan

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