Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jacksonville Fishing Report 4-09

Ahoy there Anglers,

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted to request an interim rule for red snapper that would close the fishery in federal waters for both commercial and recreational fishermen for 180 days with a possible extension of 186 days. The request for the closure, directed to NOAA Fisheries Service, is designed to help address overfishing for red snapper until more long-term management measures are implemented. A 2008 stock assessment for red snapper in the South Atlantic region shows the stock continues to be overfished and is undergoing overfishing at nine times the sustainable level. If approved, it is anticipated the closure would be implemented in late June or early July, 2009.

The controversial decision to request the interim rule was made in a split vote, 7 to 6 after the Council heard public testimony during its meeting last week in Jekyll Island, Georgia. Fishermen questioned the recent stock assessment and the need for a closure of the fishery, many saying they have observed increases in the number of red snapper, especially along the Georgia and northeast Florida coasts. The stock assessment, conducted through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) process, attributes these increases to strong year classes of red snapper in 1998 and 1999 that have now reached legal size. However, the updated assessment shows the stock continues to be overfished and has been experiencing overfishing since the 1970’s.

OK now, IF the fishery has been experiencing overfishing since the 1970's AND we're seeing more snapper the last two years than we've seen the last 30 years, because of "strong year classes" as per the Council's own words, how does the Council NOT see that their figures are completely bogus. How do you experience "overfishing at 9 times the sustainable level AND see an increase in fish?" They say one thing out of one side of their mouth and then another thing out of the other side. Do they not even realize what they're saying? Or are they really THAT stupid? I think it's that they think we're the stupid ones and we won't realize that they're going to take ALL fishing away from us one species at a time and we won't realize it until it's too late. All fishermen and women had better get together on this deal. The commercial fishermen, recreational anglers as well as all charter Captains had better stop fighting each other and combine their numbers or we won't have any fish that'll be legal for us to fish for.

“There is not a tougher decision than closing a fishery,” said Council Chairman Duane Harris. (Yep, unless of course someone somewhere has some monetary interest in the importation of food fish). “We’ve delayed this vote until now, but the law requires that we have measures in place to address overfishing by this July.” The Council received notice on July 8, 2008 from NOAA Fisheries Service that overfishing was occurring for red snapper. The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires the Council to develop regulations to end overfishing within one year of notification. As a result, the Council began preparing Amendment 17 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan that includes measures to end overfishing and establish a rebuilding plan for red snapper. However, the amendment is currently under development and is not expected to be implemented by the July deadline.

Red snapper are found from North Carolina to the Florida Keys and the Gulf of Mexico. The bulk of landings of red snapper in the South Atlantic come from the recreational fishery. In 1983, a 12” size limit was established for red snapper. Because of concerns for red snapper overfishing, the size limit was increased to 20” in 1991 and a recreational bag limit of 2 fish was implemented. These regulations led to many more fish being released by the recreational sector.

The most recent assessment indicates the large number of discards combined with high release mortality rates (released fish that die) is one of the major factors contributing to overfishing of red snapper in the South Atlantic. Release mortality rates are estimated to be 40% for the recreational sector and 90% for the commercial fishery. For example, using landings data from the recreational fishery for 2004 through 2006, an estimated 41,772 red snapper were harvested. However, the estimated number of fish that died when discarded during this period was 73,147, increasing the total mortality to 114,919 red snapper.

For both the commercial and recreational fishery, a reduction of 88% of the total removals (landings and dead discards) is necessary to end overfishing. The additional regulations proposed in Amendment 17, including area closures, will end overfishing. The amendment also includes options for a red snapper monitoring program involving the head boat industry to collect data to be used in future stock assessments. Public hearings for Amendment 17 will be scheduled later this year and it is anticipated the Council will approve Amendment 17 for review by the Secretary of Commerce in late 2009. “The vote on the interim rule tells what a tough decision this is for the Council,” said Chairman Harris. “But because of the law, it’s a decision we had to make.”

It's not a real tough decision for them. They already know what they're going to do before they meet to vote because they know there won't be enough fishermen raising hell about it. Oh yes, they'll be a few of us but what about the millions of anglers, tackle companies, boat manufacturers, outboard motor manufacturers, boat trailer companies. Which species are they going after next? YOUR'S?

The next meeting of the Council is scheduled for June 8-12, 2009 in Stuart, Florida.

Black drum, bull redfish and loads of sheepshead when you can get out there to fish. The winds have been so bad here lately but when we get out to the rocks it's on ! Black drum from 6 to 15 pounds with 8 to 11 pound sheepshead mixed in with them are feeding good on the good hard bottom, rock spots. Don't be surprised if, when you're catching drum, you hook up to a 30 to 80 pounder because they're here for the next 4 weeks or so before they head up to Chesapeake Bay. The sheepshead are fired up along the rocks with fiddlers on my favorite Sure Catch Sheepshead Jigs. I'm sure going to miss the sheepshead again when they stop biting out at the rocks for the summer. Oh well, October will come again and they'll fire back off then. You had better get out there and get them while you can. Won't be long and they'll be gone. Bull redfish which are great fighters are also feeding along the rocks but deeper water next to the bottom. Ring-tail porgies are also being caught but usually these guys only show up on the outgoing tides. A few flounder here and there and if you slip-float fish on the incoming tides just around the corner of the South jetty you can catch spotted trout when your floats drift back towards the end of the rocks. There is still a few black margates and they sure are good eating. We've even picked up a few nice 1 1/2 to 2 pound sea bass and that's nice for not having to be offshore. Spanish are here.

Black drum this size along with the sheepshead shown here are great eating sized fish.

The redfish have been a little off and on in the creeks here lately then I switched to using cut blue crab. Things started picking up again. Seems the redfish just can't resist crab. I know a lot of you have purchased our Just Fishing, Redfish Series DVD's that Captain Mike and I have made and can see how we hook and work the crab baits and the quality redfish we caught in the creeks on the DVD. That's the same way we're doing them now and have picked up the pace on catching the reds again.
Spotted trout are all over the place but there are a lot of small ones. You'll have to catch a lot to get a few slot sized ones. We are also fishing for them with slip-float rigs and live shrimp and it just depends on where we're fishing for them and where they're hanging out. Usually you can pull out the larger trout on fish-looking lures rather than using live shrimp on a jig but the slip-float method works well too.
Flounder are still being caught offshore at this time but we'll start looking for them to show up more in a few weeks. We're catching a few flounder here and there in the creeks when we're using mud minnows but like I mentioned before we're using more crab in the creeks until this wind calms down. They'll be a lot more flounder available in the coming weeks.

Check out Tom's 44 pound drum and Bill's 33 pounder shown here.

Spanish mackerel all up and down the river everywhere on the incoming tides. Last few days you could catch 50 or more right off the shore line or off the Joe Carlucci boat Ramp dock. Thousands of small bluefish all over the river also. In some areas they were so many jumping out of the water that they were hitting the side of the boat.
Black drum, sheepshead and large, oversized redfish are the big bruisers in the river system now. There are still plenty whiting and yellow mouth trout being caught but hey, what's the difference between a whiting or yellow mouth compared to a drum? A huge bend in your rod and hard fight, that's what. So, let me see what I'd like to catch? A 1 pound whiting or a 15 pound drum? No having to flip a coin here. I'll take the bent rod any day. The giant black drum have arrived and man do they bend a rod ! We're catching them on cut crab baits all up and down the river now. Please, revive, vent if need be and release these giants as they'll lay millions of eggs and increase our drum population locally.
Spotted trout up and down the river system along the rock banks and grass edges at the higher tides. I always like the last hour and a half of incoming, high tide and the first hour and a half of outgoing. A couple flounder here and there but seem to be hard to find in the rivers. They'll be back though in about a month or less.

Check out this 50 incher and Clayton's 40", 24 pound redfish.

The whiting have really picked up in the surf. You can catch these good eating fish along with drum, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, pompano and flounder in the surf right now.

The water is starting to warm and the fish are responding. The pogies are starting to show up and when that happens we know we have our pelagic's starting to show up like kingfish, amberjack, barracudas, sharks, and a big favorite to many, the cobia. Bottom fishing is hot for red snapper, beeliners, black sea bass, triggerfish, and flounder are biting good.
That's what's hot and happening nowadays so be sure you get your priorities straight and get out there and fish. You can work anytime, LOL. In all reality though, some of these species won't stick around and feed all year so you have to get on them while they're hot.
Please take a trash bag on board with you so you can take the paper and cans, plastic bottles, etc. back to the ramp with you. Please keep your trash out of the water.

You can say what you want about the South but,
you never hear of anyone retiring and moving up North,,,

Captain Vic Tison
Co-Host of WOKV's 'Just Fishing' Radio Show, Saturdays 6:00am to 8:00am
United States Coast Guard Licensed Captain International Game Fish Assoc. Certified Captain Regional Director for the Florida Guides Assoc.
Member of the National Assoc. of Charterboat Operators
Member of the American Professional Captain's Association
Sponsor of The Inshore Saltwater Anglers Club
Vic2Fish & Adventures, Inc.

P O Box 28208
Jax., Fl. 32226
Web Site

Neither Captain Vic nor Vic2Fish & Adventures, Inc. claims any responsibility for any injury or loss of property arising out of any party using these Fishing Reports.

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