Taggin’ & Braggin’: What Striped Bass Are Doing, Or Not - The Fisherman

Taggin’ & Braggin’: What Striped Bass Are Doing, Or Not

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Northeast Striped Bass Study
There’s so much more to learn about this iconic species of fish through the Northeast Striped Bass Study. Photo by Scotty Sevins

An end of the year status report from your Northeast Striped Bass Study leads. 

Hopefully, you have been following our cutting-edge Northeast Striped Bass satellite tagging study published by The Fisherman Magazine. If you have not, you must; The Fisherman has led the way in making this study possible.

When Gray FishTag Research was approached to study the habits and movements of striped bass, the immediate response of our team was to ask ourselves and others the question, “What do we already know?”

It is an important part of our work to consult with expert professional fishermen first. We admire and respect the men and women who spend countless hours at sea fishing. We value the knowledge of those who are on the water day in and day out; so, why not speak with them first?

Gray FishTag Research is a not for profit, all species, fish tagging program powered by professional fishermen around the world. We depend solely on contributions and donations for our research efforts.

We at Gray FishTag Research (GFR) will always educate ourselves on the past, ask questions of the work in front of us, then refer to fishermen for the road map to study the actual fish. We know that striped bass are the treasure of all “inshore” species and accessible to so many, making them the “million-dollar fish.” When asked, striped bass anglers of many skill levels line up to tell you what these fish do, what to expect, and what has been proven in the past. These beliefs are shared by so many striped bass enthusiasts, as well as knowledgeable captains and mates who have fished the species for decades; yet often their beliefs conflicts with scientists and fisheries managers.

Striped Bass Doing PHOTO 1A 20P0431(DATED MAP) CORA
Striped Bass Doing PHOTO 1B 20P0433(DATED MAP) RONA
In 2020, tagged stripers named Cora (top) and Rona (bottom) traveled extensively throughout offshore waters, moving from the Hudson Canyon up well beyond Long Island’s three-mile line and spending considerable time on Nantucket Shoals.

There have been years of studies on this well sought-after fish by so many; but, none have implemented the technology of satellite tagging, to the extent our team has over the past two seasons, until now. Our striped bass were tagged with Wildlife Computers MiniPAT pop-off tags that have three components to collect data – light-based geolocation for tracking, time-at-depth histograms for measuring diving behavior, and a profile of depth and temperature.

With that data stored in the MiniPSAT devices, and ultimately fed to the Argos satellite overhead, it’s important to always remember that fish in the ocean or wild never swim in a straight line; the graphs that are created are averages based upon light sensors, temperature, and depth information.

Thus, our team’s mission in our tagging work is to always keep the data collected as Open Access to all. We will only conclude on the tagged specimen that we are studying, assume nothing of other fish movements or patterns, and continue to look for ways to evolve our own model.

With that being said, we are sure that our specimens being studied are shattering past beliefs. Their groundbreaking movements let us know that the need for further striped bass work is apparent. Of the five large striped bass tagged thus far in the Northeast Striped Bass Study – Liberty and Freedom in 2019, and Cora, Rona and Independence in 2020 – four have shown to travel a remarkable journey from the New York Bight in the spring, eastwards to the deepwater canyons during the summer.  From there, Liberty, Freedom, Cora and Rona have each displayed a much different behavior than most people previously believed, spending a significant amount of time well offshore and significant distances away from the three-mile federal line.

Striped Bass Doing 02A FREEDOM CHART
Striped Bass Doing 02B LIBERTY CHART
Launched in 2019, the Northeast Striped Bass Study first deployed MiniPSAT devices in a pair of fish named Freedom (top) and Liberty (bottom) which left the lower Hudson after tagging and headed southeast to waters not expected to hold striped bass.

What is staggering of course is the amount of time our tagged stripers are spending well offshore; but equally shocking is the speed and distance in which these fish traveled in a relatively short period of time. This information is so contrary to what we all have been told.

So, what do we do with this astounding information and where do we go from here?  At Gray FishTag Research, through our staff and qualified advisors, we’ve set four key initiatives moving forward on the Northeast Striped Bass Study:

  • We take the time to focus our efforts to once again include the professional fishermen first to lead this effort.
  • We work with knowledgeable recreational fishermen who are eager to be involved and trained on proper fish handling techniques, proper tag placement and data collection.
  • We expand our tagging model to gather data from thousands of tagged striped bass from the Mid-Atlantic States throughout the Northeast.
  • We use telemetry tagging with a robust spaghetti tagging effort to not only track mortality and migration, but really understand if this new offshore lifestyle “is the norm.”

We are proud to be in the company of some many passionate fishermen. We are excited and intend to work closely with anyone wanting to know the answers to the questions:

  1. “What do striped bass really do?”
  2. “Where do they go?”
  3. “How do we protect and continue to enjoy more striped bass fishing for years to come?”

Gray FishTag Research would like to express our sincere appreciation for the efforts that Mike Caruso and Jim Hutchinson and the team at The Fisherman Magazine took amid these unprecedented pandemic times to continue the 2020 Northeast Striped Bass Study. Their commitment to the striped bass fishery and this study is unwavering. We have counted on them to get the word out which they have done with great success.

A special thank you for those who make this work possible: Capt. Frank Wagenhoffer, Capt. Chuck Many and Dave Glassberg, Capt. Howard Owens, and Capt. Savio Mizzi. Without their expertise we would not have been able to satellite tag such great candidates this year.

THE GIFT OF RESEARCH

Avid fishermen have shown great interest in the Northeast Striped Bass Study over the past 2 years, and have expressed serious interest in helping ramp up our efforts to understand striped bass. Now we need you to get involved and be a part of the excitement; you are our most important partner in this groundbreaking study. Gray FishTag Research is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and any contribution, no matter how big or how small, is tax-deductible.

When noted, all proceeds received will go directly to research efforts of striped bass. Your one-time donation, or a recurring monthly commitment, will allow us to continue our striped bass research work. Please consider joining us by donating today at www.grayfishtagresearch.org.

Of course, Gray FishTag Research operates thanks to conscientious advisors like Capt. Dave Marciano, and generous sponsors like Navionics (a Garmin Company); the Fisheries Conservation Trust through the Recreational Fishing Alliance; Tsunami Tackle/Salt X; American Fishing Wire (AFW); Seaguar; Southernmost Apparel; the Many, Glassberg and John Treat families; Berkeley Striper Club of New Jersey; the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association; High Hill Striper Club, Long Island Beach Buggy Association, and of course the hundreds of contributors to The Fisherman Magazine’s 3R Striped Bass decal program.  It is thanks to each of you that we are able to continue this astonishing work.

Stay tuned we are just getting started. One day we plan to find them well offshore and satellite tag them there, as we hope to expand the range and scope of the Northeast Striped Bass Study in the future.

Bill Dobbelaer is President of Gray FishTag Research, and Roxanne Willmer is Director; the facility is located at 803 SW 14th Court in Pompano Beach, FL 33060.   For any questions you can call 844-824-8353 or email Roxanne directly at Roxanne@grayfishtag.org.

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