Thursday, May 19, 2011

Striped Bass Have Been On A Drastic Decline..........

I have been studying a bit about migrating fish and am now thinking that the Striped Bass may be experiencing the same plight as the Atlantic Salmon in reverse. I also believe this is not a new occurrence but one that ebbs and flows every 35 years or so. 

Let's just look, for now, at recent history. How was the bass fishing back in 1980? On the increase or decline? I think that the answer is increase. Conversely, how was the Atlantic Salmon fishing in 1980? Increase or decrease? Decrease is the answer. Today the reverse is in place, and if I am correct in my observations, Bass anglers are in for 30 more years of change with the bottom happening in 10 to 15 years. Bad for bass and a good time to be a Salmon angler.  I always blamed the Bass for showing up in New England at the same time our beautiful smolts were going to sea.   Yes, a factor, but not a conclusion.

I have been studying what is called the Multidecadal Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation and their combine effects on food source availability and ease of capture for migrating fish species in the North Atlantic.

For Bass,  I do understand that the commercial over harvesting of Juvenal and Adult Menhaden as well as climate change, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and the like have put an extra burden on Menhaden and other prey such as crabs and anchovies. Yet again, not the straw that breaks the back.  This has only caused the downward numbers of Bass to be a bit more dramatic yet not the main cause. The cause is natural and has to do with climate change cycles that have gone on for thousands of years. 

If you want to do the research it will open the door for you. If not, here is the simple version as I have tried to understand.

Cycles cause weather that starts in the Gulf of Mexico, moves north and east, and depending on where the path between the natural Icelandic Low and the Azores High is located, positions the path of these storms to move into the Atlantic Ocean and across to Europe and therefore determines the amount of ocean churning in that longitude determining how easy it is for predatory species to find prey.  

When the cycle is positive the space between these oscillating climate patterns is further north, when negative the path will be further south. Today's cycle is negative overall. When Chesapeake Bay is being battered by winter storm after storm a disruption and scattering of food as well as a change in the salt content of the estuary occurs and Bass find less to eat. Same problem for salmon in the North Atlantic when the storms move higher through Pennsylvania and Nor Easters are pushed further up into the North Atlantic. Survival of the species will cause weaker members to die for the benefit of the masses. In the case of lower tournament weights for Bass, as written in the Marthas Vineyard Gazette,  I believe is a direct influence of food availability.

Remember, this is a law of averages over 35 or more year cycles. Not every season will be bad or good. 

There is reason to act on the reduction of over harvesting of prey by man for commercial use as well as climate related issues. The reason is Critical Mass. If a species declines for what ever reason below a certain value, critical mass is lost and the species will also be lost. We need only watch the Running The Gauntlet video to understand that migrating fish can lose critical mass with man's help. A good thing for the Pacific Salmon and Steelhead is that the Pacific Oscillations are in change for the better as well.

There are many resources for information toward my hypothesis. I am not a scientist but an angler that likes to understand the reasons why. My studies have been mainly influenced by my love of Salar, but seem to have a direct relationship to Striped Bass.  I gave up blaming all the individual reasons for the Atlantic salmon decline and now believe there is a higher power. 


No comments: