Delaware Catfish Is One For The Record Books

State record 36-pound, 3.2-ounce catfish caught from the Nanticoke River near Seaford

Jordan Chelton of Harrington with his state-record 36 lb., 3.2 oz blue catfish. Photo from DNREC

SEAFORD – DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife has confirmed a new state record in the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament: a 36-pound, 3.2-ounce blue catfish, caught June 20 by Jordan Chelton of Harrington. The fish was 38½ inches long and had a girth of 27½ inches.

Chelton caught the fish in the upper Nanticoke River near Seaford on 12-pound test line with a chunk of Atlantic menhaden (bunker). The catfish took the bait about 9:30 p.m. Chelton landed it almost a half hour later.

The record catch was initially confirmed by Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police-officer AFC Adam Roark, and verified at Taylored Tackle Shop in Seaford. Delaware has one state catfish record, now held by Jordan Chelton, that stands for any catfish species caught here. The previous catfish record holder was Gavin Spicer, who caught a 25-pound, 5.6-ounce catfish, also a blue catfish, from the Nanticoke just two months earlier, on April 21. For all state freshwater fishing records, please visit the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Delaware Fishing Records page.

More information on the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament is found in the 2017 Delaware Fishing Guide. The guide also is available in printed form at DNREC’s Dover licensing desk in the Richardson & Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901, and from license agents throughout the state.

Poached eels: US strikes at illegal harvests as value grows

Changes in the worldwide fisheries industry have turned live baby American eels into a commodity that can fetch more than $2,000 a pound at the dock, but the big demand and big prices have spawned a black market that wildlife officials say is jeopardizing the species.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP photo
Changes in the worldwide fisheries industry have turned live baby American eels, known as elvers, into a commodity that can fetch more than $2,000 a pound at the dock, but the big demand and big prices have spawned a black market that wildlife officials say is jeopardizing the species.

Law enforcement authorities have launched a crackdown on unlicensed eel fishermen and illicit sales along the East Coast.

Although not a well-known seafood item like the Maine lobster, wriggling baby eels, or elvers, are a fishery worth many millions of dollars. Elvers often are sold to Asian aquaculture companies to be raised to maturity and sold to the lucrative Japanese restaurant market, where they mainly are served grilled.

But licensed U.S. fishermen complain poaching has become widespread, as prices have climbed in recent years. In response, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies are investigating clandestine harvesting and sales.

Operation Broken Glass, a reference to the eels’ glassy skin, has resulted in 15 guilty pleas for illegal trafficking of about $4 million worth of elvers. Two people are under indictment, and more indictments are expected.

In Maine, more than 400 licensed fishermen make their living fishing for elvers in rivers such as the Penobscot in Brewer and the Passagassawakeag in Belfast every spring. They say law enforcement is vital to protecting the eels and the volatile industry.

Randy Bushey, of Steuben, Maine, has been fishing for elvers since 1993. He said he saw his income balloon from as little as $5,000 per year in the 1990s to more than $350,000 in 2012. He said tighter quotas mean he’s earning less these days, and in the most recent season he made about $57,000.

“I’ve seen the best, and I’ve seen the worst,” Bushey said. “I want to see it preserved. I want to see it straightened out.”

The elvers are legally harvested in the U.S. only in Maine and South Carolina. Massachusetts only has a fishery for older eels, those larger than 9 inches, as do Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.

The American eel fishery was typically worth $1 million to $3 million per year until 2011, when the economics of the industry changed. Asian and European eel stocks dried up, and the value of American eels grew to more than $40 million in 2012 because of demand in China, South Korea and other Asian countries.

Investigators also turned their eyes to poaching in 2011, the Department of Justice told The Associated Press. The investigation of people who catch, sell or export elvers illegally has ranged from Maine to South Carolina; a New York seafood distributor was among those netted.

In one case, federal prosecutors said, three men pleaded guilty in November 2016 to trafficking more than $740,000 worth of elvers harvested illegally from the Cooper River in the Charleston, South Carolina, area. In another, Richard Austin pleaded guilty in federal court in Norfolk, Virginia, to trafficking more than $189,000 in illegally harvested elvers from 2013 to 2015.

The federal agencies involved in the poaching investigations say there’s no end date for their probe. The Department of Justice declined to speculate on how many poachers there are and how many arrests are expected. A conviction for violating the Lacey Act, which prohibits illegal wildlife trade, can carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000.

Investigators go undercover to track poachers, posing as people illegally fishing for elvers, also known as glass eels. They also follow eel migrations, hoping to catch illegal fishermen on the spot. Investigators also track catch records, which are required by states, to look for possible illegal fishing and selling along the supply chain.

The legwork is necessary because illegal trade in elvers jeopardizes the species’ long-term sustainability, said Jeffrey H. Wood, acting assistant attorney general with the Department of Justice’s environmental division.

Maine’s fishery for elvers is the biggest on the East Coast, making it the sole reliable source of the eels in the U.S. To prevent overfishing, fishermen are limited to catching them for only a few weeks every spring.

As prices and competition for licenses in Maine have climbed, poachers have come to Massachusetts to catch the elvers and bring them back to Maine to sell. Transporting the elvers across state lines is a federal offense. If caught in Massachusetts, poachers face a fine of $100 per elver and have all equipment, including vehicles, associated with the poaching operation confiscated.

The eels hatch in the ocean waters of the Sargasso Sea, a weedy patch of the Atlantic Ocean between the West Indies and the Azores. They then follow currents back to rivers and streams from Greenland to Brazil, including those on Cape Ann. A population of American eels travel the 2,000 miles to Mill Stream and Mill Pond, staying as much as 30 years in the watershed, said Eric Hutchins, marine habitat restoration specialist in the NOAA Restoration Center in Gloucester.

Mature eels that avoid hazards including fishermen’s nets, predatory fish and the turbines of hydroelectric plants will one day return to spawn in the Sargasso.

The baby eels are tiny at the time of harvest, weighing only a few grams when they are scooped with dip-nets or trapped with larger nets that resemble small soccer goals.

A well-managed eel fishery is critical to the health of the rivers and streams they swim in, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Chief of Law Enforcement Ed Grace. Eels are important to the marine ecosystem because they serve as both predator and prey, feeding on fish and mollusks and serving as food for larger fish, seabirds and turtles.

“While the big charismatic animals like bears, big cats and eagles tend to grab all the public attention, it’s often the smaller, more obscure animals that are crucial to regional ecosystems and economies,” Grace said.

Some eels harvested in Maine eventually return to the U.S. to be sold in Japanese restaurants, usually grilled and served on rice.

Sunny Chung, chef and owner at Yobo in Portland, gets Maine eels from American Unagi, the only American eel farm in the state. He described Maine eels as a top-notch product and “the only eel that we use.”

Going after scofflaw fishermen will help ensure the eels keep filling that commercial role, said state Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, a Republican from Dresden who’s adviser to the Maine Elver Fishermen’s Association.

“We are committed to ending these problems,” Pierce said. “It behooves us to.”

Material from Times staff writers was used in this report.

Courtesy of the Gloucester Times by Patrick Whittle AP

Fastest Shark in Ocean Threatened By Over Fishing

Shortfin mako shark fishing mortality rate is much higher than previously thought

More bad news for sharks.

A new study using satellite tracking by researchers from Nova Southeastern University’s Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI), the University of Rhode Island and other colleagues shows that the fishing mortality rate of the shortfin mako in the western North Atlantic is considerably higher than previously estimated from catches reported by fishermen. These data suggest that this major ocean apex predator is experiencing overfishing, raising serious concerns about whether the current levels of fishery catches in the North Atlantic are sustainable.

Mako shark.
Credit: George Schellenger, GHOF

The new study has been published in the Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Traditionally, the data obtained to determine the rate of fishing mortality, a key parameter used to help gauge the health of shark stocks, has depended largely on fishermen self-reporting any mako sharks they may have caught,” said Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., senior author of the study and director of the NSU’s GHRI. “The challenge is that not all fishermen report the same way or some may underreport or even not report their mako shark captures at all, so the these catch data are known to be of questionable reliability.”

Shivji said that near real-time tracking of mako sharks using satellite tags and directly seeing how many were captured allowed researchers to bypass the dependency on self-reporting by fishermen.

“Using satellite tags for makos and possibly other fished species can be a time-efficient way and a fisheries-independent tool for gathering useful fisheries-interaction data, including answering fundamental questions about the levels of fishing survival and mortality,” said Michael Byrne, Ph.D., the paper’s lead author and postdoctoral fellow at NSU’s GHRI when the study was done. “The tracking data also showed these mako sharks entered the management zones of 19 countries, underscoring how critical it is for countries to work together closely to manage and conserve these long-distance oceanic travelers.” When the researchers began to gather, compile, disaggregate and review the data, the results were startling.

An unexpectedly high proportion, 30% of the 40 satellite tagged sharks, were captured in fisheries. After modelling the probability that a mako shark would survive a year without being captured (a 72% chance) and calculating the fishing mortality rates, researchers determined that the rate at which shortfin makos were being killed in fisheries was actually 10 times higher than previously believed.

“From a conservation and protection point of view, this is huge,” said Bradley Wetherbee, Ph.D., a research scientist from the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Biological Sciences and a member of NSU’s GHRI. “It’s vital that we have the most accurate data possible to aid decision-makers in managing marine life populations sustainably. If they have inaccurate information, it’s much more difficult to make the correct decisions for properly managing populations. Everyone wants the populations managed in a sustainable way.”

The tracks of the tagged mako sharks, including the ones captured, can be viewed online on NSU’s GHRI shark tracking website.

Globally, many shark species have seen significant declines in their numbers, with fisheries overexploitation cited as a major cause. This can happen in many ways — some shark species are specifically targeted while others are captured by accident (called bycatch.) No matter how sharks are taken from the world’s oceans, the fact remains that the current levels of removal for many species are unsustainable.

The researchers stress that the work they are doing has the goal of providing the most accurate information possible to those in positions to take action to manage mako and other shark species. They both say that the goal is create successful fisheries management and conservation — to avoid declining populations, and to do that, we must have as much accurate data as possible.

“We have to have sustainable approaches to fishing,” Dr. Shivji said. “Sharks might get a bit of a bad rap in the media, but these apex predators are vital to the overall health of our oceans. You remove them from the equation and, quite honestly, we don’t know how far those ripples will be felt. One thing we do know is it won’t be inconsequential.”

Courtesy of Science Daily
Materials provided by Nova Southeastern University.

State Record Alert: New Jersey Grass Carp Bowfishing

The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife has officially certified, and is pleased to announce, the catch of a new state record freshwater fish.

Hunter Whitehead of Frenchtown, NJ, landed the new state record Grass Carp for archery on June 3, 2017. The fish weighed in at 65 pounds, 13 ounces, eclipsing the previous state record by 13 ounces. The fish measured 48″ in length and had a girth of 36″. Hunter was bowfishing in the Delaware River when he got the fish.

For more information on the Record Fish Program, visit

Courtesy of New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife

New Washington State Record For Pacific Sanddab

OLYMPIA – A King County angler– and recently retired regional director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)– has set a new record for the biggest Pacific sanddab caught in state waters, fishery managers confirmed today.

Bob Everitt of Kirkland didn’t waste any time making a name for himself in the fishing world after his retirement. Retired for one day after a 37-year career at WDFW, Everitt caught one of the biggest, little fish around on July 1 at Jefferson head in Puget Sound.

“We were mooching deep, looking for salmon, and two sanddabs hit the two hooks on my line,” said Everitt, who was the director of regional operations in northern Puget Sound.  “These are small fish, and I thought about shaking them off,” he added.

But, Danny Garrett, Everitt’s fishing partner and a WDFW biologist, took a second look and noted that one of the fish might be a record, which was later confirmed at a certified scale in Bothell.

Everitt’s sanddab weighed in at 1.22 lb. and measured 14 inches.

Juan Valero of Seattle set the previous record of 1 lb. and 12.5 inches on May 25 while fishing near Possession Point in Puget Sound.

“I had a fun day and a fun career, and if I had any advice for anglers, it would be to get out there and fish often,” said Everitt. “You never know what you might catch.”

A Pacific sanddab is a small, left-eyed, flatfish that prefers sand or mud bottoms. Most weigh less than a third of a pound.

354 Pound Bull Shark Sets New Mississippi State Record

Brett Rutledge of Mobile, Alabama was fishing in the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo on July 3 when he landed the new Mississippi state record for bull shark species (354.25 pounds). Not only did he shatter the old record by 151 pounds (previous record 203 pounds) but once he passes the polygraph test that he was the only one to fight the fish while bringing it in, he will be awarded a $20,000 check in prize money for the record fish.

Can Male Fish Lay Eggs?

Common sense should dictate that by definition, Arnold Schwarzenegger and male fish have at least one thing in common – they can’t reproduce. But just as Arnie gave birth in the film Junior, male fish in rivers all across England are defying logic and convention by laying eggs.

The bizarre discovery was made by scientists the University of Exeter, who carried out investigations at 50 different test sites throughout the country. Though the exact reasons behind the phenomenon are not certain, it’s thought that excessive levels of oestrogen and progesterone – probably caused by the use of contraceptive pills – in the water is to blame.

A gender-bending study

Though it’s not the first study to highlight the sex-changing effects of oestrogen on marine life, it is the first one to take place in the UK. The University of Exeter study took samples of freshwater fish from 50 sites across England, including species such as roach, and found that one in five of them were exhibiting “feminised” traits and even laying eggs.

Most commonly, this behaviour manifested itself in less aggressive attitudes and reduced competitivity, which is thought likely to affect the fish’s ability to find a mate and procreate. Even more concerning, it’s believed that the offspring of the affected fish will be even more susceptible to having their behaviour and physiology affected by the chemicals, potentially resulting in a snowballing effect.

“We are showing that some of these chemicals can have much wider health effects on fish that we expected. Using specially created transgenic fish that allow us to see responses to these chemicals in the bodies of fish in real time, for example, we have shown that oestrogens found in some plastics affect the valves in the heart,” explained Professor Charles Tyler, keynote speaker on the subject.

“Other research has shown that many other chemicals that are discharged through sewage treatment works can affect fish including antidepressant drugs, which reduce the natural shyness of some fish species, including the way they react to predators.”

Chemicals to blame

An influx of oestrogen into rivers, streams and other bodies of water is the most likely culprit behind the transgender fish. Where that oestrogen comes from, however, is a more complicated matter.

One school of thought believes that abundant use of contraceptives among the female population in the UK is affecting the urine composition of those who take them, which in turn is being flushed out into the sewage system and finding its way into these fish. Others are suggesting that pills are being flushed themselves, though it seems more likely that the urine is the principal cause.

However, a recent study concluded that our waters are even more polluted than we thought and there are over 200 household products including cosmetics, plastic items and cleaning agents which are known to contain oestrogen in some capacity. Therefore, there are a whole variety of possible sources from whence the offending chemical could have come.

Professor Tyler presented his work at the 50th Anniversary Symposium of the British Fisheries Society, which took place earlier this month. It was the opening lecture among dozens of others about the various threats which fish face from humans and climate change.

Courtesy of Environmental Technology

Madawaska 10-year-old lands 47-inch muskie on the St. John River

Alayna Deschaine is an avid angler, and loves to go fishing with her dad, Kevin. And on Saturday, the 10-year-old Madawaska girl caught the fish of a lifetime while trolling on the St. John River in Grand Isle.

Alayna Deschaine, 10, of Madawaska, shows off the 47-inch muskellunge she caught in the St. John River on July 15, 2017, while fishing with her father, Kevin Deschaine and Nate Derosier. The fish weighed 25 pounds. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Deschaine).

“We started fishing early in the morning,” Kevin Deshaine said. “There’s this lure that we bought together, and she kept saying, ‘Daddy, that will work so good. We’ve got to use that one.’ So I put [that lure] on my pole and gave her another one that I caught a fish on the night before.”

Before long, that new, lucky lure paid off, as Kevin Deschaine’s rod bent to a strike.

“I had it on for a minute and told [Alayna] to reel up her line and get it out of the way. Then I said, ‘You ready?’ She grabbed the pole and brought [the fish] in the rest of the way,” he said.

The fish was a monstrous muskellunge, measuring 47 inches long and weighing 25 pounds.

In fact, the fish was nearly as long as Alayna is tall.

“She must be right around 50 inches [tall],” her dad said. “Maybe 52.”

Kevin Deschaine said he was trying to capture video of Alayna bringing the fish to the boat, but had to give up at one point.

“I had to put the [camera] down to lift the fish and put it in the net because the net was too small,” he said. “When it was in the net, we put it in the boat and she said, ‘I’m keeping that one! I’m keeping that one!’”

She did, and she’ll be able to enjoy it for a long, long time: The fish is being taken to a taxidermist to be mounted.

Afterward, it took some time for the excitement to wear off.

“She said, ‘Dad, my hands are shaking. My hands are shaking. What’s going on?’” Kevin Deschaine said. “I said, ‘This is why we do this. Mine too.’”

The duo did have one tiny regret: Kevin Deschaine pointed out that if they’d caught the fish during the annual Fort Kent International Muskie Derby instead of on a pleasure fishing trip, they would likely have won a hefty cash prize.

The good news: There are plenty more muskies where that one came from. And they’ve got some time left to make a plan for this year’s derby, which runs from Aug. 11 through Aug. 13.

Courtesy of The Bangor Daily News by John Holyoke

64 more Atlantic salmon reach Milford; Season total at 786

For nearly 40 years, biologists have counted the Atlantic salmon that return to the Penobscot River each year.

An Atlantic salmon makes its way to a holding tank at the Milford Dam fishway at Brookfield Energy in Milford back in 2015. (BDN file photo)

And recently, the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ Division of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat has issued a weekly report highlighting not only salmon returns, but the multitude of other species that are caught in the fish trap at the Milford Dam.

You can check the chart here: Milford July 14 2017

Late last week, marine resource scientist Jason Valliere sent along the most recent report and chart, with some good news: Despite working our way into the heart of summer, when warming waters sometimes slow or halt the salmon returns, fish were still heading upstream last week.

Valliere said that 64 new salmon were caught at Milford last week, bringing the total yearly count to 786. Of those, 280 were grilse; the remainder were older, multi-sea-winter fish. And as of July 14, 42 of those multi-sea-winter fish and 223 of the grilse had been released upstream of Milford.

Another highlight: The first shortnose sturgeon of the year was also caught at Milford. It was released back into the water downstream of the dam.

Courtesy of The Bangor Daily News by John Holyoke

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