‘23 Numbers Are In: Northeast Striped Bass Study - The Fisherman

‘23 Numbers Are In: Northeast Striped Bass Study

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Jack Glassberg with Striped Critter with the MiniPAT device deployed on May 18th during StriperQuest ’23.

A Sat tag deployed in May returns after another summer at the Shoals. 

A good friend approached me at a winter show last year, holding in his hand an anonymously written article claiming how striped bass could not be found 20 miles from shore, an apparent dig at The Fisherman and our Northeast Striped Bass Study.  A tad miffed at first, I just shrugged it off as a child’s petty mouthful of sour grapes.

It’s been well-established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through offshore winter tagging work along the Delmarva Peninsula down off North Carolina’s offshore waters; we were reminded of that in the spring of 2022 when Chuck Many and Bob Bowden placed a Wildlife Computers MiniPAT satellite tracking device in a 48-inch striper named in honor of Northeast Striped Bass Study sponsor Van Staal off the Jersey Coast.  Just before sliding the MiniPAT device and Gray Fishtag Research spaghetti tag into this hefty striper, the Tyman crew noticed the bass already had been tagged with a red streamer from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tagging operation done on February 5, 2017.

“It was one of 240 fish tagged that day and it was tagged offshore, 25 miles, of Virginia,” said Roxanne Willmer from Gray Fishtag Research who had contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to learn how Van Staal was originally tagged aboard Capt. Ryan Rogers’ Midnight Sun 5 years earlier.  In a another “truth is stranger than fiction” moment, Chuck had actually volunteered with the Virginia-based tagging program at the time and was on Capt. Ryan’s boat during the 2017 tagging operation, 25 miles offshore of the Delmarva Peninsula where petty little pot-stirrers say stripers dare not go.

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From the data stored inside the MiniPAT device, it would appear as if Striped Critter’s path remained outside the three-mile-line throughout much of the 5-month period, with a summer spent primarily along Nantucket Shoals.

Another jumbo striper that’s quite personal to me was caught, tagged and released off Sandy Hook, NJ on October 25, 2022.  That morning, my father and I hopped aboard Chuck’s Tyman with a $5,000 MiniPAT device locked tight in a watertight case; the MiniPAT as we’ve written extensively at The Fisherman since 2019 is designed to archive data on water temperature, pressure and light conditions in onboard memory contained within the unit.  A few hours after departing Gateway Marina on the Raritan Bay, we had released a healthy 42-inch striper named in honor of Northeast Striped Bass Study supporters Berkeley Striper Club just east of Sandy Hook (40°25.855’N by 73°55.314’W) with that device implanted along her shoulder flank and set to stay in place for at least 120 days.

The next time we would hear from Berkeley’s tag was February 22, 2023, when the tag’s wet/dry sensor was triggered and the tag began feeding the Argos Satellite at a position (38°1.380’N by 74°37.920’W) some 27 nautical miles offshore of Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland, 148 miles south of where we initially caught, tagged and released her 126 days earlier.

Looking at Berkeley’s tracking chart taken from the satellite-fed information and seems to make sense, as that big striper was well within reach for anglers fishing inside the three-mile-line during the month of November and into December during an epic ’22 fall run.  “My feeling is she stayed there just because we had so much bait,” Many summarized later of that and other big fish during the run.  South of Barnegat Inlet however, no one saw that same “epicness” in their early winter fishery.  As Many added, “It’s almost if the amount of bait changed its migration.”

That was then, this is now; so hold on to your hat Snopesters, we’ve got more juicy fruits for you to suck on in the New Year!

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Tagged during the fall of 2022, the striper named Berkeley departed New Jersey waters in early January of 2023, with the MiniPAT device ultimately contacting the Argos satellites from a position approximately 25 miles east of the DELMARVA Peninsula.

Lost But Found

In 2023, the Northeast Striped Bass Study team deployed a grand total of five MiniPAT devices into Atlantic Coast striped bass, with the first two deployments of the year coming on May 18, 2023 during our inaugural StriperQuest event (learn more at thefisherman.com/category/striped-bass-study).  Once again, Chuck’s Tyman crew had one MiniPAT device, while Dave Glassberg’s team aboard the Critter Catcher had another.  Before the morning was out, Tyman had a 42-incher deployed named Quest I caught by Yo-Zuri’s Chris Bishop, while Dave’s son Jack fought a 44-incher to the boat that was named Striped Critter.

With roughly 150 days before those MiniPAT devices were programmed to release from the tagged fish, we all pretty much went about our business for the summer awaiting the 5-month anniversary for notice of a satellite uplink.  Used by universities and scientists the world over, the MiniPAT developed by Wildlife Computers is a pop-up archival transmitting tag (PAT tag, also known as a PSAT) designed to track the large-scale movements and behavior of fish and other animals which do not spend enough time at the surface to allow the use of real-time Argos satellite tags.  Depth, temperature, and light-level data, among others, are collected and summarized for transmission and archived in onboard memory; upon a preset date set by the researcher, the tag releases from its host, surfaces, and once in contact with air for an extended period of time, the tag begins uploading a summary of the archived data to Argos satellites passing overhead.

STUDY SPONSORS
Major sponsors of the ongoing Northeast Striped Bass Study partnership with Gray Fishtag Research and The Fisherman Magazine in 2024 include American Fishing Wiring (AFW), Berkeley Striper Club, Caterpillar Marine, Fin-Nor, the Fisheries Conservation Trust, Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, LBI Surf Fishing Classic, the Many, Glassberg and Nova families, Montauk Surfcasters Association, New York Sportfishing Federation, PENN, Raritan Bay Anglers Club, Ross Brewery, Seaguar, Simrad, Southernmost Apparel, Yo-Zuri, and Van Staal.

If this study is interesting to you, if you’d like to see more research like this, and if you believe that gathering more data about the striped bass migration is important, then we hope you come aboard.   For a $25 tax-deductible charitable donation to Gray Fishtag Research, you’ll receive a custom decal from marine artist Carey Chen that allows you to show your support for the Northeast Striped Bass Study.  Contact Roxanne Willmer at 844-824-8353 or Roxanne@grayfishtag.org or go to grayfishtag.org.

Striped Critter put that “extended period of time” concept to an amazing test this season.  On June 2, 15 days after being tagged off Sandy Hook, Long Island angler Mike Belsito caught Striped Critter and immediately recognized the MiniPAT device. “Mike realized that the fish was satellite tagged and released her with the satellite tag intact,” Willmer said.  Suffice to say, there was a little bit of nervousness surrounding this tag; the tag is designed to float to the surface so that data can be transmitted to the Argos satellites, with a battery life of roughly two weeks.

“Her tag remained intact the full 5-month duration and released as programmed,” Roxanne Willmer said later.  “However, once released the tag washed ashore the antenna was obstructed, and transmission ended.”  Regrettably, Quest I was never heard from again, which made finding one or both of these tags the only way to physically retrieve 5 months of migratory data.

“The tag was silent for a few days but were hopeful that the weekend weather report would wash the tag back offshore,” Willmer said. Then on Monday, October 16, the Northeast Striped Bass Study Team began receiving GPS transmission uplink locations.  “However, the tag seemed to be traveling on land,” Willmer said.

As it turns out, a college-aged volunteer doing a beach cleanup along the Raritan Bayshore at Keyport with the folks from Clean Ocean Action found the tag and eventually called the phone number on the MiniPAT device. Willmer received the actual tag in November, while the young Clean Ocean Action volunteer was rewarded with a $250 pair of sunglasses from Northeast Study Sponsors at Fin-Nor.

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For the first time since the Northeast Striped Bass Study launched in 2019, one of our sat-tagged stripers was caught and released a second time between the deployment date and the time of the tag’s release.

The Results Are In

After being released a second time, information stored inside the MiniPAT device shows that Striped Critter stuck around off Sandy Hook for another week or so before heading almost due east (with at least one little wobble along a parallel path with the Hudson Shelf Valley).  Like the majority of striped bass our team has tagged going back to the spring of 2019, Striped Critter arrived along the area of the Nantucket Shoals around July 7, where she remained until around September 19 before heading west again towards the Jersey Shore to begin yet another incredible fall run at the Jersey Shore.

The Monday that Striped Critter’s MiniPAT first made contact with the Argos satellites, North Jersey field editor JB Kasper’s weekly report for The Fisherman noted a “striper explosion” in and around the Raritan Bay.  “It was all bass, all week in the bay and surrounding waters,” said Phil Sciortino in his October 15th Tackle Box report, noting how striper fishing had exploded the week prior with bass to 50 inches.  By Sunday, October 21, Nick Honachefsky’s surf report for New Jersey had reports of bass blitzes from Sand Hook to Monmouth Beach with 40-inch class whacking poppers, plugs and swim shads.  While working at my desk on Monday, October 23, a friend texted me from Sandy Hook, short, sweet and to the point – “E Lot is going off.”  For the next 30 days, it became bass bedlam.

STRIPER QUEST ‘24
The second annual 100% catch and release StriperQuest returns on Thursday, May 16 as the folks from Gray Fishtag Research and Northeast Striped Bass Study supporters and sponsors return to Raritan Bay and surrounding waters for what is hoped to be the largest single day of striped bass tagging in history.  To participate in this year’s event see the full page ad in this edition of The Fisherman Magazine and use the QR code to visit grayfishtagresearch.org/striper-quest.

Towards the tail end of the ’23 fall run, November 27, Alex Katyan fought a 38-inch striper to net aboard Chuck Many’s Tyman alongside a crew of Bob Bowden, Cesar Carranza and Rick Carpentier, marking the third MiniPAT device in a striped bass for the season.  Tags four and five would come on Thursday, December 14 down on the Chesapeake Bay out of Cape Charles, VA aboard Capt. Clint Lessard’s SHO-NUF Sportfishing, a 47-incher (44 pounds) and a 49-incher (52 pounds), clearly fattened up from their ocean voyage.

“These tags are programmed for a longer than usual duration with the hopes we can gather spawning and after migration and behavior patterns,” Willmer said, adding how the anticipated tag returns from these final three tagged specimens will be sometime in April, just as the Raritan Bay striper fishery comes alive again and the cycle begins again along the Striper Coast.

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