2017 Saltwater Report Card - The Fisherman

2017 Saltwater Report Card

This is, unfortunately, the final issue of The Fisherman Magazine for the 2017 print schedule. The season has had its share of ups and downs for a variety of species, so let’s give a little lookback and see how things fared across New England for some of our more popular species.

If not for the objectionable seasonal closures in Massachusetts in August, followed by Rhode Island and Federal waters for a month in the fall, I’d have given this one an A+ without hesitation. From opening day right on through to my typing away on the computer today, black sea bass catches have been exceptional. At times it feels as if the ocean bottom is paved with sea bass of all sizes, and more than a few fishermen have begun to refer to them as “nuisance fish,” but there is one thing anyone who is actually out on the water can tell and that is that the black sea bass saved a lot trips for a lot of anglers this year.

This one is a touch premature as the season is just ramping up in a lot of places as I type this out. The spring fishery where open was good for shorts to just-keepers with only a small sprinkling of fish approaching the 10-pound mark landed, and we didn’t even receive a Dream Boat entry from New England until October. And then when the fall fishery did kick into gear it was slow to get going due to warm water temps. But with all that said, things stand to only improve from here on out until the seasons close in each state.

I am by no means a tuna guru, but I follow their catches nonetheless across New England. The early bite took some time to get going, but once it gained momentum it kept getting better. But what kept me from going higher on the grade was the limited range of the success for New England anglers. Those of us in Southern New England didn’t do too much on the bluefin this year unless you were willing to run north (which many did). Those of us on the Cape and around the Gulf of Maine, however, had one of the best seasons in recent memory with great catches of fish from schoolies on up to 1,000-pound-plus giants.

I considered giving this one a full-on F, but the rather solid summertime snapper bluefish season saved the grade. Bluefish keep me scratching my head in recent years; sure we have good shots of fish in the spring off the south side of the Cape, and sprinkled-in here and there throughout the season, but for many there has been a decided drop in bluefish landings overall and they are simply not showing up in large numbers where and when they have traditionally done so.

Normally I would lump bonito in with albies, but had I done so it would have brought the score down substantially as I just didn’t hear about all that many being landed this year. False albacore, on the other hand, have been the “Energizer Bunny” of the Fall Run. From Cape Cod to Long Island Sound, albies are everywhere and they show no signs of leaving. That, of course, means that between my typing today and your reading of this editor’s log they’ll vanish on us, but until then get out there and melt some drag washers!

We currently have only two of the top ten Dream Boat Challenge spots held down by New England anglers while Long Island holds seven and New Jersey just one. This kind of tells me how the local fishing was this year for the summer flounder as I simply did not hear of anyone that feels it was a great season, and doormats were rather tough to come by. Is the stock in the toilet, or did new regulations hamper success? Perhaps it is a bit of both and more.

It’s tough to say anything bad about the porgy season this year. Both shore and boat anglers seemed to load up on them almost at will, and the only species seemingly more populous in local waters is the black sea bass. With generous limits and lengthy seasons, the porgy has become the new savior of the for-hire fleet (again, along with sea bass).

Some of you might feel this grade is too high, while others probably think I’m crazy for not giving it an A++++++, but unless you happened to be fishing in one of the FEW spots where the fish congregated this year (around Boston, in the Canal, etc.) then your season was rather poor. Much like the bluefish, they simply did not show up where, when and in the numbers expected of a healthy fishery. And since my goal here is to average-out the grade across all of New England, I am confident that I got it right.

I really wanted to give this one a better grade as the bite was very good at times, but that was really only in a few small areas so I again averaged things out. I didn’t hear much about the spring bite in Buzzards Bay this year, Rhode Island completely stayed off my report radar and Connecticut/Long Island Sound had steady catches from late April through the fall. It was almost, I guess, the new normal for weakfish angling here in New England being that if you wanted to catch one and were willing to travel to find them, then you caught a few. One item of note, however, was that the vast majority of the fish caught were on the smaller side so perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a resurgence in the population in the norther end of their range.


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