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Joined: 29 Jun 2011
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Location: New Haven/Madison/Essex

PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:51 am    Post subject: 2017 Blue Crab Season Start - Megalops #1, 2017 Reply with quote

The 2017 Blue Crab Season Start – Megalops #1, 2017
The Search for Megalops
“You Do Not Need To Be A Scientist to Report”
Report #1 – April 15, 2017
View all Megalops, Environment and Habitat History Posts on The Blue Crab Forum™
Tim Visel, The Sound School, New Haven, CT 06519

A Long Cool Spring
I was very optimistic about an early spring blue crabbing season in January and early February it was mild and I had even had a good report of some blue crabs moving behind the West Haven – New Haven Breakwater in February, then as in the previous two years a warm fall was followed by a very cool spring. I am writing this on April 9th and Vermont is still digging out from a half foot of snow. The temperature is scheduled to moderate next week, but the damage is already done, between February 15 and March 15, Long Island Sound temperatures dipped about 6 degrees to 39f. The water temperature has recovered to 45f, just a few degrees below 47f at which crabs begin to move and feed. I don’t think we will see the sulfide winter kill this year, crabs should have made it to present without running out of food (the fall was very warm).
Look for the best early crabbing in areas of habitat refugia, those deep holes with high oxygen (close to Long Island Sound) yet containing deposits of Sapropel. The best fall crabbing spots will once again be the first best spots this spring.
The absence of a good Megalops set continues to be a concern; I did see good recruitment between the Oyster River, Old Saybrook and the Indian River in Clinton last year. These areas had good numbers of small crabs, and the Indian River was filled with very small crabs last year. Clinton Harbor could be the best early indication of our blue crabs season ahead.
Last fall Goshen Salt Pond had a breach, as reduced salinity would have killed these blue crabs without some salt water. While the salt pond was open blue crabs marched out by the thousands, many as a group, “a school”, it was amazing to see pictures of this event and adds credibility of accounts from blue crabbers, of reports of blue crabs moving together in an organized direction in this case, out to sea.
This year the NAO weather pattern is unstable and the cause, I believe of the past three years last season, late polar vortex, (and the cold springs) although this year not as strong as years before. A colder spring delays any egg production here in CT, by the time that occurs, it is late fall and the southwest winds turn to northwest, perhaps blowing the Megalops away and not towards our salt marshes. That is why recent falls, see Megalops Report #14 October 9, 2014 and Megalops Report #6 October 24, 2013 had reports of Black Sea Bass feeding upon small blue crabs in 90 feet of water, far from the protection and winter refugia of coastal salt marshes and creek habitats.
A very hot late spring could provide the southerly winds to take some of the Gulf Stream blue crab Megalops our way. That weather pattern has allowed blue crabs to exist in areas that had few sponge crabs before and I doubt that we have the reproductive capacity that was here between 2008 and 2012. Since 2011 our winters have been generally cooler and storm intensity/prevalence is on the increase, together poor indicators for blue crabs here in Connecticut.
A few years ago some may recall that blue crabs started feeding actively three weeks before the season actually opened May 1- those winters then were exceptionally “warm” with April water temperatures in the mid 50’s, and at a degree each week, that would put this year’s season picking up, in the third week of May about a month’s difference. That may seem small adjustment on the calendar but with egg ripening and spawning a large difference.
Temperature greatly impacts the blue crab in our region. A larger report on the blue crab will be finished in a couple of weeks which will review habitat conditions.
All habitat reports are important as we continue to learn more about the blue crab in our region. Until then have a great safe and productive blue crab season.
See you at the docks.
Blue Chip.
All comments, reports and suggestions welcome. I respond to all emails at tim.visel@new-haven.k12.ct.us
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