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  #1  
Old 01-17-2006, 08:07 AM
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HERRING EDITORIAL - Cape Cod Times

Here's today's editorial from the Cape Cod Times

Net effect
Pssst...wanna buy a herring?



River herring, or alewives, are a can't-miss bait when trophy striped bass return to Cape waters in early spring. That's because the bass are already salivating, chomping their way through the schools of herring that assemble for their annual trips up creeks to spawn in fresh water.

This year, sport fishermen will be scrambling for alternatives, because possession of river herring has been banned for three years by the state Division of Marine Fisheries in an effort to build up the stock.

Will it be frozen ocean herring, a different and much more abundant species? Mackerel? Artificial lures and flies, which usually come out of the tackle box a little later in the season?

Or will live herring get spirited around and sold on the sly?

Although towns like Harwich have battled poaching and overfishing for the bait trade in regulated town runs for several years now, there's anecdotal evidence that sport fishermen won't participate in a black market herring trade.

At hearings on the ban last fall, sport fishermen who attended were mostly on board with the closures.

''I was truly surprised at the lack of opposition,'' Mike Armstrong, the DMF's director of recreational and anadromous fisheries, told Catherine Cramer of On The Water magazine. ''I thought we would hear from live-liners but we didn't. People know how bad it is and are willing to make a sacrifice to help out.''

Cramer writes that ''At recent public hearings, with the exception of just two fishermen, all of the comments collected were in support of closing the runs.''

''We support the closure,'' said one angler. ''It's not our fault, but it is our problem.''

That spirit among East Coast striper fans is one of the reasons (clean-up in the Chesapeake Bay watershed being the other) the striped bass is back in numbers being compared to those before pre-European colonization. Recreational fishermen embraced size and creel limits as a matter of honor as well as biology. Year by year through the 1980s and 90s the allowed length crept up as the fish multiplied, and even then fishermen would set their personal bar higher.

But no one believes the annual striper-bait market is even a drop in the bucket in causing the marked declines at the runs the past few years.

Drought and resulting low water for the hatchlings in mid-summer is one theory. Armstrong is developing a study of whether a whole ''year class'' of fry went missing, cut off and trapped in fresh water. The clogged condition of many herring runs is another factor. The striped bass themselves may be eating too much; ditto the 6,000 harbor seals on Monomoy.

But recent inshore commercial herring fishing (for human food, fish meal and oil) may be the biggest wild card. Counts show only 1 percent of the hauls in the Gulf of Maine are river herring, but that adds up to 1.8 million pounds. And if hauls happen to catch schooling river herring before they come ashore, a whole region's fish can be decimated.

The three-year moratorium will give biologists time to narrow the cause. In the meantime, recreational fishermen like the Cape Cod Salties club will go out with saws and shovels and clean a herring run.

Every little bit helps.

(Published: January 17, 2006)
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  #2  
Old 01-17-2006, 08:54 AM
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Counts show only 1 percent of the hauls in the Gulf of Maine are river herring, but that adds up to 1.8 million pounds. And if hauls happen to catch schooling river herring before they come ashore, a whole region's fish can be decimated. quote

As our runs continue to get smaller and smaller, that becomes a distinct possibilty. If your local run has dwindled down to 50,000-75,000 fish, along come a couple of trawlers, they just happen to circle the school containing the alewives with your local run imprinted on their tiny brain, and there goes an entire adult year class of herring. I realize this is a hypothetical scenerio, but it can happen, and to a certain extent, probably already has.

Drought, esp in the fall can be a contributing factor. Several years back in Bournedale we dodged a bullet with a massive hatch of fry. We had a great hatch that spring, and Great Herring Pond was full of fry just waiting to get big enough to drop back in the fall. Severe drough conditions that summer and fall dropped the water levels to such a point that the herring fry were in danger of getting trapped in the pond, and remaining there. Luckily, heavy rains arrived in mid Nov and raised the water levels in the pond and stream and all the herring fry left on the next full moon.

Much to their credit, bass fishermen have been remarkably suppotive of these restrictions. In talking to guys I meet on the canal, most guys seemed more concerned with the plight of the herring than the lack of haerring as bait. Sure, we all love live-lining herring each spring. But I think we all realize that losing the herring means far worse things that not having them for bait.
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Old 01-17-2006, 04:21 PM
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A friend of mine who works at NMFS law enforcement tells me that they don't really have any idea of the % Alewife mixed into the catch - expecially on those big pair-trawlers. They pump the fish out of the sein net once it is pursed and pump it out again at the pier. Unless there is an observer aboard, it's the word of the capt. Less than 1% of the trips each year has an observer aboard but, that is supposed to be increased in 2006.

According to another friend who was a manager at Shaftmaster, Inc. in Portsmouth, NH; there are plenty of Alewife being landed with the Atlantic Herring. Shaftmaster is operating five BIG seiners for herring and Mackerel.
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Old 01-17-2006, 04:56 PM
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Arrow Red Brook Pond

Quote:
Drought and resulting low water for the hatchlings in mid-summer is one theory. Armstrong is developing a study of whether a whole ''year class'' of fry went missing, cut off and trapped in fresh water. The clogged condition of many herring runs is another factor.


this quote encompasses what many people fear may be the causes of the death of the Red Brook Pond run in cataumet. as a small child (im only 26) i can remember catching a lot of herring out of this run, but today it is dead. its gone. kaput. nada. the reason could fall into any of the thoughts in the quote above, im not really sure if it is one or all.
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Old 01-17-2006, 07:35 PM
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Clambelly,

I have some history on the Red Brook run you might find interesting.
Believe it or not, that run was almost as strong as the Bournedale run at one point in time. That is where us "local guys" got out live bait back in the late 60's, and early to mid 70's. Around 1971 or 72, the railroad decided to rebuild the section of tracks just above Kingman's Marine. With no watchdog agencies to monitor their work, they did their work in the most economical way possible, with no thought to the herring. They actually began their work just as the herring were starting to return to spawn!
They removed and replaced the culvert which is presently there, all the while no herring were able to get up to spawn. I'm almsot certain that year class was lost.
When the R.R. was finished, they simply picked up their equipment, and left.
All the rumble and stone rolled down the embankment into the water below the culvert, the area silted in, and it was impossible for herring to get up to spawn, except for an hour or two window, only at high tide.
From that point on, the run began to decline. There were still some herring there as recently as five years ago. But sadly, none are left.
We attempted to install some homemade fish ladders below the tracks with plans supplied by Ken Rebeck (retired, DMF) so the herring could get upstream during low tide. But tragically, it was too little too late. The damage caused by the R.R. was more than the herring could withstand.
But, you've got to understand there were many other small runs similar to Red Brook which have died off in the past ten years. The whole process of just sympomatic of what's happening to all our river herring in New England.
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Old 01-17-2006, 08:31 PM
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Arrow some more thoughts....

thats very interesting bob. i always enjoy learning a bit of history about our area. i never got to see those great numbers that you described, but i do remember my father bringing me down there in the spring and snaging the herring as they were dropping back and attempting to make it up the run. we also did very well catching schoolies and from time to time a nice fish would be mixed in.

in my minds eye i can see the railroad track and how the mountain that they built there would cause a lot of falling rocks to block the run. ive been shellfishing down there at low tide and there is very very little water that runs through there; not nearly enough to allow fish to climb through.

another factor that concerns me, especially with the herring fry is the comorant population explosion in our area. ive seen on many occasions, not only at that run, but in bournedale and in numerous other small streams, the comorants lying in wait for the small bait to come swimming by. it worries me that these birds may be putting a large dent in any kind of fry that may be surviving.

i remember a story from a couple of years ago over in aquinna when a tribe member was caught shooting these birds b/c they were gorging on the herring. they were reportedly so full they couldn't fly away when he began shooting. anyways, i think he got into some kind of trouble but im not sure how the story ended...
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Old 01-17-2006, 09:01 PM
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comorants

Without a doubt, comorants are a factor. Possibly a major one. They didn't exsist in this area in these numbers until the past few years. In the past decade, their population exploded.
I once spoke with a biologist at the Bournedale run some years back, and he was conducting a comorant count. He told me an adult comorant eats 6-8 herring per day. That day, at any given time when you looked out onto the canal, you could see 30-40 comorants at any given time. Some were feeding directly in front of the run, others were in the middle, while others were 4-5 light poles in either direction. So lets say there are 100 comorant using the area in and around the herring run to hunt for food in the course of a day , thats 600-800 herring per day, every day for the entire duration of the run that get taken right out of the equation.
While it's not the 'smoking gun' everyone is looking for, it's certainly one small piece of the puzzle.
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Old 01-18-2006, 09:28 AM
clambelly clambelly is offline
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Exclamation yikes...

Quote:
Originally Posted by BobG
So lets say there are 100 comorant using the area in and around the herring run to hunt for food in the course of a day , thats 600-800 herring per day, every day for the entire duration of the run that get taken right out of the equation.
While it's not the 'smoking gun' everyone is looking for, it's certainly one small piece of the puzzle.
so if you add these number together with the numbers that the folks with the permits were taking, say 15 herring per person for a low guess of 100 people per day, thats over 2000 herring per day!

YIKES!
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Old 01-18-2006, 01:24 PM
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Clambelly,

Those numbers might have been in line until last season (05), when the run collapsed all together. Last spring, the town's catchers were only able to net 18 herring in three days before the town closed the run for the season.
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