Best on the Shoreline!
It's time to nominate your favorites for the 2021 Best on the Shoreline Awards!
The No. 1 United States commercial fishing port in dollar value 19 years running is New Bedford, Massachusetts—primarily in scallops. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Taking advantage of the exceptional January low tides is Bruce Andes of Madison, who hit the Guilford shellfish beds for this scrumptious catch of oysters. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
As the ice fishing season seems to be slipping by for the shoreline community, those tapping into hard water farther north are having a better time of it. Photo (Illustration courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Ever wonder what fish species are tagged by the Department of Commerce as having the highest value in the United States? Probably not, but a few might surprise you. Statistics such as these provide valuable insight enabling us to track, for example, annual seafood consumption and which ports are the most productive.
Interestingly, the latest update from landing reports revealed that, commercially, there were 9.4 billion pounds of seafood landed, marking a 5.3 percent drop from the previous report. However, during that same period, there was a $5.6 billion value associated with that landing, thus equating to a 2.8 percent increase. These numbers not only give a clue to the hard life a commercial fisher lives, but also to the competitiveness of their occupation in a declining fishery.
Catch reports submitted by United States harvesters documented that the top-dollar value species (in millions) were lobster ($684), crabs ($645), salmon ($598), scallops ($541), and shrimp ($496). Regionally, the Atlantic coast logged 14 percent of the landings with 37 percent of the value, the Gulf of Mexico had 16 percent of the landings with 16 percent of the value, the Pacific coast has 12 percent of the landings and 13 percent of the value, and Alaska had 58 percent of the landings with 32 percent of the value.
Notably, the top ports having the highest volume and highest value are Dutch Harbor, Alaska (22 consecutive years) and New Bedford, Massachusetts (19 consecutive years). Dutch Harbor landed 763 million pounds, while New Bedford generated $431 million. Other key ports were located in Oregon, Hawaii, Virginia, and Louisiana with Empire-Venice ranking second, landing 569 million pounds.
The majority of our management policies implemented as a result of the Magnuson-Stevens Act have a great deal to do with managing fish species for human consumption and commercial harvesting. However, fishery management boards, councils, and commissions throughout the regions have recognized the importance and recreational value of fishing. Therefore, in addition to overseeing commercial markets, they also pay particular attention to recreational fishing not only from the standpoint of that market, but also from a catch and effort, bycatch, biological, and socioeconomic one.
On the Water
Moderate temperatures continued as we left the daytime 40s for the 30s and the nighttime 30s and 20s for the 20s and mid- to high teens. Meanwhile, inshore Long Island Sound water temps remained around 44 degrees as seas were roughened up by periods of stiff wind. Although rainfall curbed some of the clamming as we came off excellent low water moon tides, tidal flows were still favorable for the unaffected shellfish beds.
However, all of those influential weather elements didn’t adversely affect fishing conditions, unless of course you are drawn to ice, which, at best, has been trying to build. Generally, north of I-84 is where four inches of the hard water can be found, especially in the upper northwest and northeast corners of the state. Along the shoreline, though, opportunities have been practically nonexistent. Remember, when using lures to ice fish, each hook point (single, double, or treble) is counted as an individual hook.
More important, be practical and safe. If venturing out, bring along a pair of ice awls, cell phone, change of clothes, a hefty length of rope, and something warm to drink. And by all means, let someone know where you are heading and the approximate time of your return.
Our main tidal rivers for striped bass holdovers continue to produce. The majority of fish caught and generally released fell either within the slot limit or outside of it. Catches were mostly confined to bank casting using soft plastics, small jigs, or long casting swimmers. If using what is classified as bait, be sure to rig up with inline circle hooks.
Along the shoreline, and in many parts of the state, water has varied from open, skimmed with ice, or solid enough to ice fish—four inches minimum. Flowing rivers have seen catches of stocked trout and Atlantic salmon using both conventional and fly gear, while some of the native brook trout waters saw better results with small spinners and nymphs. Lakes and ponds have seen a mix of fish caught ranging from yellow perch, other panfish, bass, pickerel, and a few northern pike. When using lures this time of year, fish these waters slower and a bit deeper, but not on the bottom. Look for drop offs, structure, and outlets that will generally have better oxygenation.
If you are looking for another outdoor activity to take the edge off restrictive entertainment, shellfishing is high on the list of suggestions. You can’t beat the fresh food, winter briny salt air, and exercise that comes along with this very popular pastime. In most cases, a town license is required. Guilford and Madison ones are available at Captain Morgan’s. So, get out this winter and go catch some oysters and clams for a hearty meal or appetizer.
Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and international fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media. Or, contact Captain Morgan for a fly fishing trip of a lifetime to a remote national or international fishing destination.
For all things fishy including permits, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better.