Tagging & Bragging: First Annual StriperQuest - The Fisherman

Tagging & Bragging: First Annual StriperQuest

Jack-Glassberg-and-Greg-DeMello
Capt. Jack Glassberg (left) and Capt. Greg DeMello (right) with the 44-inch striped bass with the MiniPAT tracking device deployed on May 18th from aboard Critter Catcher. Photo by Jim Hutchinson, Jr.

Two more satellite tags and a new tournament format hit the Striper Coast.

The call came in over the VHF just after 7:30 a.m. on May 18 as the Tyman crew had deployed a MiniPAT device in a 42-inch striped bass; one down, one to go.

Fifteen minutes later, just a shade east of Chuck Many’s True World, a rod buckled over aboard Dave Glassberg’s Critter Catcher.  “We’re on,” said Dave’s son Jack, grabbing one of the outfits from the gunnel of the 37 SeaVee, just as another line pulled free from the planer board dancing the live eel below, an instant doubleheader.

The first bass landed on Critter Catcher was about 42 inches long, the same as Many’s tagged bass before.  I was holding the tagging stick in my hand with a rubber band keeping the high-tech MiniPAT device firmly in place before tagging.  With just two of these unique tracking devices available to deploy on this particular trip, we needed everything perfect.  I looked at Dave for an answer and he was quick to reply to my unspoken question, “We can get bigger.”

Bill-Dobbelaer-and-Chris-BIshop
Following the deployment of this MiniPAT device at about 7:30 a.m. on May 18th, Bill Dobbelear (left) from Gray and Chris Bishop (right) from Yo-Zuri enjoyed epic spring action aboard Chuck Many’s Tyman with four bass over 50 pounds caught, tagged and released. Photo by Mike Caruso.

And we did, a 44-incher, during a morning of live eel fishing off Sandy Hook packed with VHF buzz of giant stripers.  Each of the two big striped bass we tagged swam off healthy and strong with both a MiniPAT tracking device and one of the Gray Fishtag Research (GFR) green streamer tags attached.  Each high-tech MiniPAT device manufactured by Wildlife Computers of Washington State was programmed to stay in place for five full months.

In a perfect world, those two jumbo striped bass will carry their informational loads for the entire 150-plus day term, with depth, temperature and light-level data stored inside the pop-up archival tag’s onboard memory to be retrieved later, either via data transmission to the Argos satellites or by way of physical retrieval.

Like I said, perfect world scenario; but the track record of data collection and discoveries through the Northeast Striped Bass Study since 2019 has been pretty impressive, and has led to more industry and community support to hopefully provide more data on this iconic Atlantic Coast fishery.

And that’s what the first annual StriperQuest was really all about, with room to grow in 2024.

justin-poe
Gray Fishtag Research sponsor/supporter Justin Poe of PENN / Pure Fishing enjoyed incredible striper fishing aboard Capt. Fletcher Chayes’ Two River Charters during the first annual StriperQuest event. Photo by Matt Broderick.

Light, Depth & Temp

First, a little background.  The Fisherman Magazine and our friends from GFR initially launched this project in May of 2019 with a pair of sat-tagged stripers in the lower Hudson River.  The price for each of these high-tech pop-up archival transmitting tags (PAT tag, also known as a PSAT) is roughly $5,000.  Since that first year’s deployment of three devices, we’ve been able to deploy a total of 22 MiniPATS in jumbo stripers from the easternmost tip of Long Island down to Cape Charles, VA with some truly remarkable results (learn more online at www.thefisherman.com/category/striped-bass-study.)

“Depth, temperature, and light-level data, among others, are collected and summarized for transmission and archived in onboard memory,” Wildlife Computers explains of the devices, explaining how on a preset date set by the researcher, the tag releases from its host, surfaces, and uploads a summary of the archived data to Argos satellites orbiting overhead.  Developed with a focus on reliability, ruggedness, and ease of use, the Wildlife Computers’ MiniPAT features a stable low-drag shape, a strong integrated nosecone and pin, and a pinger for radio tracking recovery, which has come in handy during previous Northeast Striped Bass Study tag retrievals.

“The tag’s antenna must completely clear the surface of the water to successfully transmit messages to the low-orbiting Argos satellites,” said Wildlife Computers, adding “Doppler shift is then used to calculate locations. The satellites relay the messages to earth-based receiving stations for location processing and distribution.”

Gerry-Benedicto
Gerry Benedicto from Seguar with another solid striped bass which was quickly fitted with a Gray Fishtag Researcher green streamer tag before release aboard Two River Charters out of Bahr’s Landing Marina Highlands, NJ. Photo by Matt Broderick.

Going into our fifth full season of striper tagging, the GFR team of Bill Dobbelear and Roxanne Willmer arrived at the Jersey Shore for this year’s tagging event, with dozens of friends and supporters in tow.  “This year we extended invitations to our supporting fishing clubs and local anglers who wanted to be a part of the excitement,” Willmer said later, saying that in addition to the five sponsor boats, the Northeast Striped Bass Study steam also launched a new catch and release tournament aspect with nine teams competing for the top awards for the Most Striped Bass Tagged.

“The boats were equipped with hundreds of GFR green spaghetti tags, and two MiniPAT satellite tags,” said Willmer, explaining how major study sponsors Many (Tyman) and Glassberg (Critter Catcher) each carried satellite tags.  “Our goal for the day was to tag as many striped bass as possible to add to our increasing database and to locate two 40-inch plus striped bass to carry each satellite tag,” she added, explaining further how the five-month deployment hopes to track the migration and behavior patterns of these big striped bass.

Mike-Shields
Gray Fishtag Research sponsor AFW/Hi-Seas sent a crew in from Pennsylvania to take part in StriperQuest, with VP of Sales & Marketing Mike Shields catching and tagging a number of bass inside Sandy Hook aboard Capt. Frank Wags’ Fin-Chasers. Photo by Jenni Ackerman.

The Quest For Data

As Critter Catcher and Tyman continued to drift a spread of live eels under planers for monster stripers off Sandy Hook (Chuck’s ended up catching and release four bass over 50 pounds; more on that in a moment) following successful MiniPAT deployments in the morning, the other teams consisting of GFR sponsors and members of the public were out and about in search of numbers.  In fact, at 7:03 a.m. (180 seconds after the official “lines in” call), team Sherri Berri captained by Hans Kaspersetz radioed in the very first tag and release of the day.

“Our end-of-day count was 203 fish released with GFR green tags,” Willmer said later, explaining the great value to the green spaghetti tagging to support the satellite tagging data. “In the past few years, our program has seen remarkable recoveries from our green tagging efforts,” she added.

Tallying up the results at the conclusion of the event back Bahr’s Landing in Highlands, it was the Sherri Berri crew collecting top honors, followed by Capt. Chris Buchta’s team Century Rods, with third place going to Capt. Guy Buono’s Krunch squad.  “It was an unbelievable day of data collection with record-setting fishing and a mass competitive fish tagging effort like none other,” Willmer added.

Shawn-Carpenter
Dragging mojos and umbrella rigs remains an effective way of quickly reeling in solid numbers of striped bass, as Shawn Carpenter from AFW/Hi-Seas showed with a double-header catch of fish. Photo by Jenni Ackerman.

Both Sherri Berri and team Century Rods maxed on their GFR streamer tags – 30 per boat – with a tiebreaker going to the team who released the first tagged fish of the day.  With two streamer tags also affixed to the satellite-tagging fish, and another 201 streamer tags deployed between 7 a.m. and lines out at 2:30 p.m., it may be the largest single day striper tagging event ever held; but records are made to be broken as we begin to put our collective eyes on 2024.

’23 SPONSORS
The ongoing Northeast Striped Bass Study partnership with Gray Fishtag Research and The Fisherman would not be possible without the incredible financial support of our sponsors, including 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 Jersey Beach Buggy Association, New York Sportfishing Federation, PENN, Raritan Bay Anglers Club, Ross Brewery, Seaguar, Simrad, Southernmost Apparel, Yo-Zuri and Van Staal.

To learn more about Gray Fishtag Research and how you can make a tax-deductible charitable donation to the Northeast Striped Bass Study contact Roxanne at 844-824-8353 or [email protected].

“The phone has been ringing with so many who participated, and others that missed out, all eager to begin planning for 2024,” Willmer said, adding “This was our largest expedition to date; and it was amazing.”

“We were joined by sponsors and contributors who came in from Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, New York, Virginia and throughout New Jersey to take part and add valuable data to our Northeast Striped Bass Study,” she added.

All participants in the first annual StriperQuest event met for the captains meeting at Ross Brewery in Port Monmouth the night before, with each crew receiving a tournament bucket filled with custom-made 2023 study shirt from Southernmost Apparel along with GFR hats and tagging supplies provided by the various event sponsors; along with the great tournament prizes.

MINIPAT
“Depth, temperature, and light-level data, among others, are collected and summarized for transmission and archived in onboard memory,” Wildlife Computers explains of their MiniPAT devices, 22 of which have been deployed in the Northeast Striped Bass Study since 2019. Photo by Jim Hutchinson, Jr.

A Day Of Personal Bests

It’s worth noting that the event itself came just two weeks after the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) decision to lower the coastal recreational slot limit on striped bass to just 31 inches.  From the captains meeting at Ross Brewery, through the tournament fishing and on back to the after party on the back deck at Bahr’s Landing, there was plenty of fisheries management talk about this iconic species; not necessarily complaints and criticisms as a whole, but the need to get even more data about striped bass.  To that end, StriperQuest was a successful day in terms of data collected.

“One very important mission of our GFR program is to collect and share the data received with our local fishermen and the public for free,” said Willmer, adding “As we collaborate and include the local fishing community, we can engage, educate, and bring awareness to this important fishery.”

“Our team relies on the experience and knowledge of our local captains and mates to make our research efforts successful,” she added, noting “They donate their time, boats, and expertise, and, we are grateful that our sponsors support us as we show appreciation to our captains.”

tagging
A total of 203 striped bass of varied sizes and year classes were tagged using Gray Fishtag Research streamer tags on May 18, a number which StriperQuest organizers hope to see doubled – perhaps even tripled – come May of 2024. Photo by Jenni Ackerman.
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO!
To watch 2023 StriperQuest unfold in full video go to TheFisherman.com or visit our YouTube channel and find Tagging and Bragging – StriperQuest 2023.  Or use your smartphone by pointing the camera at the QR Code below.

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And while fisheries managers continue to apply as much of their own experience and knowledge to solving the spawning stock biomass dilemma, the incredible action experienced by many of the StriperQuest participants on May 18th along the Jersey Shore does provide another riddle wrapped in an enigma.  Tyman’s four fish over 50 pounds tally in less than 7 hours of fishing was punctuated by the fact that Yo-Zuri’s Chris Bishop had three of those himself, with the top fish going 58 pounds.

There were countless “personal best” bass in the 40-pound class boated by fishing industry professionals including Justin Poe of PENN, Mike Shields and Shawn Carpenter from AFW/HI-SEAs, and Gerry Benedicto from Seaguar.  At the end of the day, it was a celebration of sponsors and individual anglers fishing for a unique and special cause, striped bass.

Special thanks to participating captains and crews including Chuck Many (Tyman), David and Jack Glassberg (Critter Catcher), Frank Wagenhoffer (Fin Chasers), Fletcher Chayes (Two River Charters), Guy Buono (Krunch Sportfishing Charters), Frank Crescitelli (Fish Heads / Fin Chaser), Hans Kaspersetz (Sherri Berri), Gary Caputi (Pathfinder), Chris Buchta (Century Rods), Jon Bender (Bunkertown), Adam Woodburn (Zack Painting), Jon Pannullo (BCM Lures), Jerry Crean (Reel Shocking) and Brian Miller/Johnnie Ennis (Team Krunch).

Hopefully, we see your crew listed here next July when we write up the second annual StriperQuest event out of Highlands, NJ.  Stay tuned!

Mike-Waine
“It’s nice to have this work done,” said Mike Waine, Atlantic policy director for the American Sportfishing Association who joined the Critter Catcher crew for StriperQuest ’23, while adding “We need as much information as we can on this resource.” Photo by Jim Hutchinson, Jr.

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