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BOSTON HARBOR FISHING REPORT - 2019

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I’ve fished 4 very different harbor/southern north shore areas from the rocks in the last 4 days with 2 bass to show for it. Mostly fishing from 9-1 or 2am. I did much better in May than I did in June - no keeper sized fish all month. Been fishing for a while, but this is my first full season in MA. I’m surprised by how much more helpful it seems to have a boat/yak north of like Hull. I quite possibly suck though, curious to hear other people’s reports. 

Edited by greenmachine96

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15 mins ago, greenmachine96 said:

I’ve fished 4 very different harbor/southern north shore areas from the rocks in the last 4 days with 2 bass to show for it. Mostly fishing from 9-1 or 2am. I did much better in May than I did in June - no keeper sized fish all month. Been fishing for a while, but this is my first full season in MA. I’m surprised by how much more helpful it seems to have a boat/yak north of like Hull. I quite possibly suck though, curious to hear other people’s reports. 

It's probably less you and more "the fishing, in general, is way off". Both bass and flounder....

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I've caught fish up to 35# from the surf this past two weeks. Lots of smaller fish, but haven't noticed that the fishing has been "way off". Just keep on pluggin'.

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On 6/28/2019 at 1:46 PM, jason colby said:

Dr. David Pierce, DMF Director did not respond to this email. As a follow up to our last meeting, a week ago (06/21/19) I requested another meeting for 07/08 and I followed up that (ignored) email with 8 phone calls to David Pierce and to his assistant, Shannon Davis. I left many messages and am utterly frustrated. Being in a "pissed off state" (I've had at least a dozen charters from NY and NJ cancel this spring due to "explosive diarrhea", a condition that occurs most often when someone wants an excuse to not be "somewhere" . Manifestations of "Explosive Diarrhea"  can be: "death in the family", "had to take the kid to the emergency room", "I need emergency surgery", "I must leave the country/planet immediately" , etc.), I find myself with unexpected time on my hands today so I wrote the following:

 

Dear Doctor Pierce,
 
Over the past week I have tried to contact you numerous times about meeting with you to discuss the ongoing and worsening situation we have with winter flounder and what can be done about it. I tried Shannon Davis, you and Jared Silva, all to avail.
I'm getting the feeling that you are avoiding me, perhaps because last year you admitted there was an issue and you promised to "do something about it". Here we are a year later and the situation has gotten much worse (and nothing has been done to help).
2019 Boston Harbor flounder numbers are down 95% from what we had just 6 years ago when the state and federal authorities started cranking up the commercial flounder quotas, without any justification other than to give the draggers "something to work on" (AKA: "DECIMATE"). After all, they already killed just about everything else and what they did not wipe out, the fishery managers are trying other avenues to destroy like striped bass for example. (But that is a whole other topic and discussion of "injustice and incompetence").
I have spoken to several Environmental Police Officers and they tell me they hardly see anyone flounder fishing any more and of the "several hundred boats" we had fishing for flounder recreationally six years ago there are less than a 1/2 dozen who even bother to try these past few years.  What is that costing the local tackle shops and the state in lost revenue? Why do we have to buy a saltwater license?
So, to spell this out for you to see in print very plainly:
1. There is virtually no recreational pressure (exponentially less each of the past 6 years as the fishing declined).
2. When there was "more and more" recreational pressure the fishing was actually getting better every year.
3. "Climate Change" is NOT a factor because I have seen the same 90% or more loss of both black sea bass and blackfish over the same 6 year time-frame. If the water was becoming too warm for winter flounder then it would be more favorable for the other two species. The bottom line is that the draggers are wiping up all three species at the same time (and many others, including cod which they should not be killing at all) as they migrate together/close enough to each other into the harbors and estuaries in the spring.
4. This is a simple case of "cause and effect".  The cause of intensified dragging (and gill netting) effort over the past 6 years is producing the effect of little to no flounder available to recreational anglers in Boston Harbor and the surrounding harbors.
If you will not meet with me to discuss this then answer this email and this question:
"What will you do about the situation that you admit exists?"
If I had your job I would think that the responsible thing to do would be to shut down all nets in state waters from Cape Cod Bay north "immediately and indefinitely". Does it make any sense to you that these draggers are pounding the last viable inshore population of this species left on the planet?
 
Lastly, after seeing what I've seen in "rapid decline of winter flounder" the past few years I can't help but now believe that inshore dragging is at least 85%-90% responsible for the near total loss of winter flounder in virtually all areas south of The Cape. Predation, pollution, climate change, recreational fishing pressure, etc. can add up to the other 10%-15% but mobile nets are just too efficient and there are far too many of them. In realty, all nets should be removed from inshore waters but that is a different topic again....
 
Yours,
 
 
Captain Jason Colby
Little Sister Charters

 

I'm a bit surprised and disheartened that there were not more comments and input here on the subject of this letter above. Agree or disagree, you would think everyone here should have an opinion. 

My contention has been that the rec anglers have been utilizing the winter flounder fishery in Boston Harbor without much commercial effort from 1999 to 2012 with both increasingly larger numbers of fishermen AND increasingly larger numbers (and sizes) of fish. It was not until they increased the commercial activity in 2013 when we started seeing a steady decline in both size and numbers until we are at the point of the 2019 season where I believe we have less than 10% of the flounder numbers in Boston Harbor compared to 2012/2013. The average fish is much smaller as well. The states own "Saltwater Derby" weigh ins confirm that the sizes have gone down but according to Dr. David Pierce (he finally answered me on Monday. I believe it was because he got a call from The Boston Globe after I contacted them and he told them I'm just a "crazy charter boat captain crying wolf" and he was "about to" answer me.), the recreational flounder fishery is "stronger than ever"!

He also went on to say that IF there were winter flounder cutbacks then they would include recreational fishermen too!

So in summery: The draggers killed the cod and we can't have any and not the draggers killed off the flounder and we will get cutbacks if they do.

Dr. David Pierce seems to be forgetting that in our meeting of July 11th, 2018 (where Ron Powers and I had letters from virtually every tackle shop from Plymouth to Plum Island stating that the flounder fishing is falling apart) he admitted that there was a problem with overfishing by draggers and gill nets and he promised he would do something about it!

 

JC

__________________________________________________________________________________

Jason,
 
 
 
Through your ongoing communications with me and my staff you touch on two general "situations" with Gulf of Maine (GOM) winter flounder: (1) stock status and (2) effort by recreational and commercial interests.
 
 
 
As you no doubt are well aware the GOM winter flounder population has not responded to consistently low catches (far below the overfishing level). Survey indices and age/size structure remain largely unchanged.  For this reason and given the nature of winter flounder spawning in state waters, as the Chair of the ASMFC Winter Flounder Board and Director of MA DMF, I support effective inshore conservation measures for recreational and commercial fisheries.
 
 
However, I have yet to find merit in your proposal to single out the commercial state waters dragger fleet for a complete ban in state waters of the Gulf of Maine. Between 2012 and 2017 the recreational harvest of Gulf of Maine winter flounder exceeded the state-water commercial harvest in every year except 2016. The recreational fishery is responsible for the majority of state water removals in most years.  By your own many accounts (Fisherman magazine) recent flounder fishing reports have been "excellent" to "very good" with steady accounts of "anglers catching their limits of big fish."
 
MRIP data support the consistency of the recreational harvest of winter flounder over the last 6 years, with the exception of a rather high estimate in 2017. Therefore, if one were to suggest that further restrictions on fishery removals might finally kick-start rebuilding, recreational removals must be part of the discussion.
 
 
 
Furthermore, the MA DMF trawl survey numbers do not support your assertion that there is a 'rapid decline of winter flounder."
 
 
You have made your concern and request quite clear on numerous occasions in the past. Unless you have any new information to provide and new arguments to make about stopping commercial fishing, there is no need for us to meet again about an outright ban on commercial fishing.
 
David

 

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I know nothing about winter flounder but the Globe’s interest seems like a good development. You can’t guarantee that they’ll come to the conclusion you want, but if they had letters from every tackle shop in the area about the problem it may be grounds for a good investigative piece.

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@jason colby, I think your lack of response is an indicator of people’s general loss of confidence in anything our fisheries managers do. Can anyone name a species that they feel 100% confident in how it’s been managed. Cod is down so let’s pound haddock, dogfish need protection, shut down the river herring but allow sea herring and the mixed migrating river herring to be scooped up by the ton. Allow a recovered striper stock to once again become overfished. The last stronghold of the winter flounder is Boston/ Quincy bay but allow draggers to capitalize on the remaining biomass. 

I honestly have ZERO confidence that these people have any interest in safeguarding fish stocks for the future and feel that trying to make them is like trying to hold back the tide. 

Its been proven that recreational fisheries contribute far more to local economies but our voices are never heard and I feel it won’t ever change in my lifetime. We bicker amongst ourselves about nonsense while our resources are decimated and we are to blame. Rec fishermen need a united front and a powerful lobby to make any change a reality. 

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@jason colby That's a pretty disappointing response, definitely a head in the sand approach to fisheries management.  I would be interested to see what the angler survey data show, I know that my trips for flounder have plummeted because they just aren't there anymore.

 

They've taken the cod, they've taken the flounder, stripers are in decline and like @giggyfish says, we've lost our confidence in them to do their job.

 

So draggers are netting fish around the areas I would fish for cod from my kayak.  Except I can't fish for cod from my kayak, but I bet they can show up as by catch with the flounder!  

 

The state of fisheries management in MA is dismal.  We once had many species to fish for, now they're mostly gone except stripers.  And as we know, with stripers "overfishing is occurring".

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I was curious about landings of flounder in MA.  Interesting how the rec landings don't track the commercial landings.  One might wonder if the commercial side is grossly under reporting its landings.  Alternatively regulations may have significantly reduced the comm effort?  No comm data yet for the last 2 years.  Recs experienced a spike in landings in 2012, then back to low levels seen through the early 2000s.  I had to estimate the rec pounds as it was reported as number of fish, I assumed 1.7# per fish which may be a little high given a 12" size limit.

 

As to our belief as anglers that the fisheries managers in MA don't manage in a way that encourages fishing, I would point to the trips data from NOAA for MA.  Their failure to manage so many species, not just stripers, has lead to a strong decline in fishing trips.  This must be at a cost of hundreds of jobs and a considerable level of economic activity, if a business had a sales chart that looked like the trips chart, the managers would be fired!

 

All data are from the NOAA website.

flounder.jpg

trips.jpg

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37 mins ago, Slappy said:

I was curious about landings of flounder in MA.  Interesting how the rec landings don't track the commercial landings.  One might wonder if the commercial side is grossly under reporting its landings.  Alternatively regulations may have significantly reduced the comm effort?  No comm data yet for the last 2 years.  Recs experienced a spike in landings in 2012, then back to low levels seen through the early 2000s.  I had to estimate the rec pounds as it was reported as number of fish, I assumed 1.7# per fish which may be a little high given a 12" size limit.

 

As to our belief as anglers that the fisheries managers in MA don't manage in a way that encourages fishing, I would point to the trips data from NOAA for MA.  Their failure to manage so many species, not just stripers, has lead to a strong decline in fishing trips.  This must be at a cost of hundreds of jobs and a considerable level of economic activity, if a business had a sales chart that looked like the trips chart, the managers would be fired!

 

All data are from the NOAA website.

flounder.jpg

trips.jpg

Excellent data research Slappy! It's funny how the number of rec trips peaked at the same time the flounder numbers in Boston Harbor were highest. If you do a little math and say an "angler trip/day" is worth an average of (at least) $100 spent (bait, tackle, fuel, chum, etc...plus restaurants, captains and hotels in many cases) that equals $7 1/2 million/year we are losing now to the Massachusetts economy to harvest $300K worth of flounder. If you multiply the $300K by 10 to exaggerate what it could mean to the economy (fish cutters/packers, truck driver jobs, retail and wholesale exchanges) then recreational contribution is still more than double the commercial side.

I read a study that us taxpayers are funding about $91/rider for every passenger that takes a commuter boat. If you add the cost of the boats, insurance, fuel, labor, maintenance and subtract the fares collected we taxpayers are paying the loss of $91/person. The point is that "the government" does not give a crap what we pay as long as it serves the governments best interest. And here I thought that they were "supposed to be" working for us.....JC 

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And commercial fishing is a heavily subsidized business...so in lieu of a competition based market (rec fishing) we've substituted a government subsidized market that utilizes the resources less efficiently.

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I don't know what's worse.....having the Bass pull out of the rocks because of 12 pogie schools or anglers snagging and dropping pogies for 40lb class fish and then boasting about it to local sportswriters?

 

If there is something to pray about?  I will pray that a pogie boat comes in and swoops up every single pogie so Bass can scrounge again. That will solve everything. Keeps things in order.

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Hit deer island this morning, 2 before and 2 after high all around. Threw the bag for the skunk. Saw a few cormorants searching but not finding anything, and nothing else. Dead quiet  

 

I know where the big girls are, but I assumed id still get some smaller fish inshore there

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Anyone see the pogie boat out there yesterday? I was doing cartwheels from shore.,I felt like pedaling the kayak out and give them a case of beer!

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