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Wes Blow and I started the day tolling for bluefin tuna. We found thick bait, birds, and whales from 2 miles to 6 miles off of the beach. No tuna bites but Wes did catch a gannet on a pink Ilander. We anchored up on a wreck and caught 14 tautog plus some sea bass. One of the sea bass and three of the tautog had already been tagged. We tagged others, collecting DNA samples from each tog. Wes caught our largest tog of the day. It weighed in at 10 pounds 8 ounces. We were using clam, shrimp, and frozen green crab. We caught fish on all of it with the clam being the best bait.

 

While we were togging, Charles and Hunter Southall were in the Elizabeth River. They caught 5 speckled trout to 23.5 inches long.

 

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What is the purpose of the DNA samples?

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What is the purpose of the DNA samples?

Basically, to find out if "our" tog are really our tog. The tagging program is showing no north-south movement which would argue that the current, coast-wide management of tautog is flawed (because tog are overfished off NY does not mean that they are overfished here and so on). ASMFC says yea but....that is not enough to definitely tell us that Virginia tog are not NY tog. If there is mixing of the population up and down the coast, the DNA will be homogenous. If the populations stay local, there will be genetic drift overtime and small differences in the DNA between populations may be found that can show that there are distinctive stocks. So VIMS will be looking at the DNA of our tautog (from the bay and ocean waters) and of tautog from up the coast.

 

There is a similar study that will be looking at speckled trout.

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Ken,

 

I was wondering...hasnt there been a multitude of studies showing tog migrate on an East/West plane?  Why do another just to appease ASMFC and kick the can down the road even though ASMFC says tog are overfished and overfishing is occuring?

 

Most of the time they dont use the science anyways...take a look at striped bass...ASMFC says the stock will experience overfishing in the next two years, yet they allowed maryland in increase in the commercial quota by 1 million pounds?

 

I am not knocking you Ken, it just seems that resources would be better spent on something we dont know, like YOY striped bass recruitment from the Chesapeake Bay tribes to the coastal stock, and why most of them are dying?  Or how about the movement of adult red drum?  Or the correlation between lack of forage (menhaden) and mycobacteriosis in chesapeake bay striped bass?  What about the eel grass and oyster grounds?  Or the fact that herring and shad need more help than can be given?  How about even with oysters at 1% of historical levels they are still allowing a harvest?  How about the fact that the Va general assembly manages menhaden instead of VMRC?  How about the ghost fishing gear on the bottom of the chessie still catching?  What about the fact that commercial discards are >or equal to their landings?  Is a trawl really the best method to catch striped bass commercially if the quota is 100 fish even though the net can catch thousands?  What about the chicken farming on the eastern shore and its contribution to the pollution of the chessie?

 

Rant over for now...

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There have been studies done that show an east-west seasonal migration of tautog up north. We have not shown that to be the case at all here. Basically, our ongoing tagging study and a radio transmitter study done by Jon Lucy show that our tog do not migrate at all. The fish that Jon studied in the bay stayed on their home structures throughout the year, just shifting around locally. No studies have been done on tautog DNA. This will be the first study looking at the possibility of genetically distinct stocks. For fish that do not migrate, there should be genetically distinct stocks but we will see. Tagging studies look at "fish" and with very limited exceptions, our tautog do not move, being recaptured on the same structure year after year. There obviously has to be some movement. A new piece of structure will develop a tautog population. What happens to the fry? Could there north-south dispersal of fry making the tautog one population that should be managed as a single stock or are they distinct stocks that should be managed on a regional or state by state bases or even a bay verses ocean bases. The bay tautog population may be a different stock than those found on the ocean wrecks.

 

Pretty much everything else that you mentioned is being/has been studied. Mycobacteriosis,eel grass, oysters are all continuous projects at VIMS and other places. Trawling for rockfish is a NC thing. It is illegal in VA as the trawlers have to stay outside 3NM where striped bass is closed. Red drum movements are being studied via various tagging programs. I've place pop-up satellite tags in a number of them.

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Ken,

 

Thanks for the work that you do with all of the species study programs.  It's not only great that you share the information about where you are catching fish, and what you are catching them with, but that you are also using your resources to help manage these species.

 

There is a big problem right now with how Black Sea Bass are managed.  Is there any hope on the horizon of changing the flawed way in which catches are counted, along with delineating the seasons up and down the coast?  The miscounts in the northeastern US states have unnecessarily caused our Virginia Black Sea Bass Season to be closed due to 'meeting the quota' in the recent past.  I know that there have been some people involved in studying better ways to count the actual catches, but what is really being done?

 

I'm all about species management, when it's done properly. I'm hopeful that there is something being done, because the method for counting the catch for Black Sea Bass, especially the recreational catch, is not only flawed, but from a statistics methodology is not being done correctly at all.

 

Keep up your work with all of the studies and good luck.  Tight Lines! 

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Ken,

 

What difference would it make if DNA did prove there were distinctive stocks?  Take Striped Bass for example, there are the Delaware, Hudson, and Chesapeake tribes, yet the coastal limit is 2@28, tributaries may be different but coastwide its 2@28 and even if you prove tog are their own respective tribe you can bet your bottom dollar ASMFC will not relinquish management of tog without a fight as there is too much money at stake.  If study after study has proven Va Tog don't move, why continue to do it?

 

Same goes for all those that are studying the aforementioned...we already know why oysters are suffering, but its ok to still allow harvest.  We already know where the menhaden are going, but omega says we need another study to delay protecting the resource while filling their pockets all the while, so lets have another study.  We know runoff and dead zones are a big problem, but lets have another study...you see where I am going...all this studying to kick the can down the road...and continue the status quo...

 

I am not knocking you Ken I am knocking the system...its screwed up and needs fixing, but with money and politicians at the wheel it will never be fixed, they will catch every last fish with a dollar sign on it all the while changing seats on the titanic, then they move on to the next species...effem

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Sounds like very important research Ken, thanks for sharing.

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