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PostPosted: Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:20 pm    Post subject: Megalops #4 - Mid Summer 2017 Report - Tim Visel Reply with quote

The Search for Megalops
“You do not need to be a Scientist to Report”
Megalops Report #4 August 10, 2017
View all Megalops, Environment Conservation and Habitat History Posts on
The Blue Crab Forum™
Tim Visel, The Sound School, New Haven, CT 06519

• Sound School Reports – Guilford and Old Lyme Blue Crabbing Reports
• Heat and Natural Die-Offs of Eelgrass Habitats
• Eelgrass Meadows As Possible Disease Inoculants
• Small Crabs Increase In Central Connecticut

Sound School Reports –
Guilford Blue Crabbing Report- Sound School student Joshua Zuniga came into the Aquaculture office at the Sound School recently to give three short reports for the end of June and July. He crabbed on an incoming tide in about 15 feet of water (June 29, 2017), Guilford, CT (6 hours+). Joshua used four hand lines baited with chicken legs and caught 2 crabs- just over the 5-inch point to point shell size, and about 10 2” to 3” crabs. They were white bellies. On July 6, Joshua went again (Guilford, CT) crabbing for about 5 hours with two hand lines baited with cut bunker (Menhaden) and a chicken leg resulting in 5 legal size crabs and 12 crabs in the 2” to 5” size range in five hours of crabbing. On July 20, a 8-hour crabbing trip using 8 lines all baited with chicken legs (and one chum bag with menhaden crushed for scent) yielded 12 keepers, one sponge crab with eggs and about 30 2” to 5” crabs.
The number of small 2” to 3” crabs has been reported increasing along the shore, (mid-August) and may enhance crabbing in the fall.

• Old Lyme Report
On July 30th, I went crabbing with my son Willard in the Black Hall River, one of my habitat research areas following the large sulfide kill of striped bass in January, 2014 and after a recent 2015 dredging project. In a few visits to the Black Hall River post the 2015 dredging, the fishing has improved (fisher observations and comments) after the dredging project and likely from greater oxygen flows. This is common in rivers that had sand deposits block entrances (inlets) after storms and could in fact enhanced sulfide formation in Sapropel. Comments from fishers stated that the Black Hall River outlets had green banks of sea lettuce (Ulva) signs of ammonia purges from Sapropel buildups. (The ammonia from Sapropel “feeds” macro algae matts which can cover banks from making them appear “green”). The evening before July 29th, fishers were catching fluke and last summer it was a popular snapper blues spot. We used three box blue crab traps with bunker and six hand lines with chicken legs. We caught 7 legal crabs, most rusty and had shells that were around 6 inches point to point. We tossed back about 2 dozen or so, 4 plus inch crabs, and saw dozens of 2-inch crabs, a good sign for the fall. We had a nice night and although we did not catch that many crabs, it was nice to be crabbing with Will as it had been several years since we had grabbed the crab nets. The following day I obtained a report that the first blue crabs were caught at Essex Town dock, and only a few caught until August 1st. By August 10th, a steady crab catch rate was between 2 to 6 crabs/hour at the mouth of the Connecticut River.
Many smaller 2-inch crabs are a good sign but the rusty crabs I observed had no “second shell” -very hard and perhaps had stopped shedding? We may have delayed shedding and perhaps slower growth in cooler waters or perhaps cool springs delayed the first shedding. Crabbing has been slow at times and a review of previous climate cycles may provide reasons for the decline. Indicators include a Sapropel/eelgrass habitat cycle.
Heat and Natural Eelgrass Die-offs – A Link to Blue Crabs
There now appears to be a link between the increase of eelgrass Sapropel and the bacterial Vibrios. Some of the first reports of lobster shell disease occurred in the early 1970s reported by offshore lobster fishers; lobsters caught near the offshore dumping areas from New York City. Those organic sludge deposits rich in fats, grease and also cellulose (paper) were the culture media for these vibrio bacteria some of which that consumed shells of living lobsters. I recall some conversations I had with Jake Dykstra in the late 1970s during the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Forum at the Dutch Inn – many Point Judith lobster fishers as did himself reported catching lobsters with shell rot or wasting in areas near human sewage waste dumps, lobsters caught on the beach or other areas of Rhode Island shells were clean, no lesions and without missing shells. Today this vibrio bacterium is termed Chitiniclastica vibrio (species). Shell disease also appears in the blue crab literature but not as common as blue crabs that overwinter in Sapropel, in shallows are subject to oxygen bacteria-- decaying organic matter but usually dig not too deep remaining in the surface oxygen layer. As fall season approaches, cooler water returns the oxygen requiring bacteria that can now survive and the Vibrios “die off”. Blue crabs can now hibernate in it when cooler water changes oxygen levels of Sapropel in time before the blue crabs arrive (hibernate). That is also the bacterial battle described in Environment Conservation # 7, Salt Marshes, A Climate Change Battlefield (posted September 10, 2015- The Blue Crab Forum™). But here in the literature can be found observations of shell rot in blue crabs in areas of sticky muck including soft bottoms from commercial crabbers. “It is the shallow waters that crabs may have an iodine smell” and crab dredgers report in winter in the vicinity of Cape Henry, crabs are often of strong odor, here shells deeply pitted and produce very small quantity of very inferior meat.” (Truitt, 1939) Blue crabs seemed to increase as eelgrass died off- a link perhaps to the changes in bacterial growth related by sea water temperature. Blue crabs that die in Sapropel often termed “winter kill” often carry the black stain of sulfide.

• Eelgrass meadows as possible Vibrio disease incubators
Submerged aquatic vegetation helps form Sapropel as part of an eelgrass peat cycle. In oxygen sufficient waters (cool) eelgrass helps blue crab Megalops, however, in heat - it helps kill them. It can even form a food culture media for bacteria– locked in cellulose the remains of organic matter trapped in the eelgrass cover. This bacteria does not require elemental oxygen but can use sulfate on oxygen containing compound abundant in sea water (non-limiting).
Some of the largest portions of organic matter are the ground up remains of leaves on paved surfaces. Connecticut again is largely forested and post leaf burning bans in the 1970s, the amount of street “storm water filled with organics has increased, especially following storm events. In heat, nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus (described in the literature as a fall leaf “phosphate flush”) are subject to different biochemical pathways determined by bacteria. Early research into the recovery of “forest soils” (US Bureau of Land Reclamation) after severe fires led researchers to the fact plants (except some grasses) could not grow in them because they lacked the bacteria necessary for nutrient exchange in root tissues. Burned forest soils had sufficient carbon (combustion ash residues) but the bacteria that allowed nutrient ion exchange into roots were also destroyed by heat. Restoring forest soils soon focused upon restoring soil bacteria in them. Grasses with shallow roots held organic matter quicker (they could use nitrogen from atmospheric sources called “Poor Man’s fertilizer”) and therefore had a habitat edge we call habitat succession. In time, these soils had sufficient moisture organic matter and bacteria to allow shrubs and low canopy trees – eventually if long enough, trees. That process could take a generation or more.
As some of the first soil scientists discovered, including Dr. Homer Wheeler, University of Rhode Island President in 1902 (organic) soils had some of the richest bacterial populations living under terrestrial grass. In the late 1900s, programs were once developed to strip off surface grasses to harvest bacterial soil “inoculants” below the grass that was so rich in bacteria and would help “new soils” grow plants with “transplanted” bacteria. Terrestrial grasses did what they were supposed to do- bind loose soils and in the process hold organic matter – the trapped sugars of food from plants now trapped in larger molecules -cellulose. This sugar or glucose metabolism is the energy (food) source for bacteria, on land those strains that can live in oxygen, but in the sea many strains that are part of the sulfur cycle that utilize sulfate as an oxygen source; in times of heat these organic deposit composts can become sulfide rich and toxic to eelgrass and sometimes even blue crabs. Sulfides may not directly kill eelgrass, but weaken it causing it to direct energy and oxygen to its roots trying to save them. As heat continues fungal and molds attack, these weakened eelgrass plants as this is part of the sulfide cycle and sulfate metabolism in estuaries. This sulfide buildup eats away the root tissue and without roots, is easily moved by waves. It is the sulfide that produces many of blue crab Jubilees in waters to our south and also the reference of rotten egg smells just before them. The sulfide connection is a matter of degree (heat) and is to subject to climate patterns. In heat the sulfur cycle is connected to blue crab reproductive capacity as Megalops and then hibernating adults.
What is apparent in the literature is that diseases including Vibrio bacteria were becoming prevalent in areas that contained Sapropel. As the 1970s turned into the 1980s, waters continued to warm Vibrio increased and now moved into the shallows; winter flounder, fishers observed catches with necrotic flesh wasting upon winter flounder fins, Vibrio anguillorum, lobsters had Vibrio shell disease and in the warmest of waters Vibrio started to infect blue crabbers themselves (See Environment/Conservation posts (1-14) in the Blue Crab Forum™.
The sulfur cycle has been noticeably absent from many short term eelgrass studies glossing over perhaps a serious flaw in its habitat services – in time eelgrass helps form a toxic sulfide rich compost, Sapropel. In high heat, and less elemental oxygen it is the source of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide gases from it; in cold, more oxygen can create sulfuric acids and release bound metals including toxic aluminum. These habitat successional events are often not included in recent short term eelgrass habitat reports, a type of science bias termed “citation amnesia.” perhaps the forgetting of pre-existing research that includes published state and federal eelgrass reports. It is a rare form of scientific misconduct related to bias, called bibliography negligence. Blue Crab Megalops can set heavily in eelgrass when oxygen levels (cool water) are sufficient, but in heat, Sapropel eelgrass habitats can turn deadly to marine organisms and in time, in high heat, even toxic to itself as well. The blue crab jubilees, when blue crabs try to flee warm oxygen poor and sulfide rich waters, it is the bacterial process on bay and cove bottoms consuming organic matter in the presence of sulfate that drives these sulfide events, toxic to sea life and in severe heat, deadly even to eelgrass itself. Sulfide is a plant toxin, and its toxic impact is evident in swamps- the dead silver tree trunks killed when the sulfur cycle invaded these habitats. In time, eelgrass can be killed by sulfides generated by the bacteria that it helped store nearby as a “rising” sea grass meadow of collected organics that sulfur bacteria consume as glucose metabolism – stored sugars in the plant tissue itself. The impacts of organic matter, temperature and the sulfur cycle have not been fully explained to blue crabbers – my view.
• Small Crabs increase in Central Connecticut
In some areas, Clinton, Guilford and Old Lyme, the amount of 2-inch crabs have increased. Observations of Old Lyme, Black Hall River the first week in August had dozens of 2-inch crabs. The Oyster River in Old Saybrook also had larger numbers of shorts. By the end of July and the first week of August, crabbing however, remained slow. I spoke with a crabber at the Oyster River who had crabbed from 2 a.m. in the morning until 9 a.m. and only caught 3 large crabs.
The crabbing in the deep holes has been much better but nowhere near the seasons of 2008 to 2012. Several reports here mentioned a difference in the season so far- and questions to me at the Sound School – what is happening? – or where are the crabs?
For these crabbers who started crabbing in 2008 and watched crabbers at the Essex dock this year, it is very different. I saw the first blue crab at the Essex town dock on July 26th, one crab since then until August 10th. Crabbers have reported 2 or 3 crabs per trip – less than one crab per hour until the middle of August.
I outlined some possible reasons in Megalops #3, a change in the weather pattern, a change in Megalops drift, an increase in a major predator, the Black Sea Bass and spring’s cooler temperatures delaying movement from winter hibernation areas. As the only things we can examine short term is temperature and storm tracks and that discussion will follow below. The general trend is for lower catches as our weather pattern changed dramatically in 2011. From 1972 to 2010, we were in a general positive NAO, droughts higher temperatures and a more easterly storm track which meant a lessening of hurricane activity for New England. The period 1972 to 2010 had few strong storms, five in total counting the Halloween Gale of 1991 and the Blizzard of 1978. From 1931 to 1972 New England had twenty-two storms from 1890 to 1930, also only three hurricanes. The 1890 to 1930 period saw blue crab populations rise dramatically, then fall back to lower levels in the 1950s and 1960s. (Some may recall that the hurricane season of 1955 had two hurricanes Connie and Diane that hit New England only eight days apart!) The colder temperatures and more active storm pattern was not kind to New England’s blue crab populations in the 1950s and 1960s. They “retreated” in to the last suitable habitats – salt ponds and some tidal rivers. That was the subject of my 2011 West Haven Land Trust talk, “Can the Past Help Us Now” at the St. John Vianney Church on June 8, 2011. It was very hot, and I was watching the NAO index bottom out, going into a negative phase, such negative numbers not seen since the 1950s.
As part of the paper, I had researched blue crab markets in the early teens, and then in the 1950s productive habitat’s had changed because the temperature had changed. In heat (1890s) blue crabs had surged here and then fell in the cold period that followed. It was at times difficult talking about the possible return of colder winters and higher snow falls (it was so hot in the church hall people were near fainting- (it was in the high 90’s) and that seafood appeared to be in the catch records as cycles. But everyone was very polite and we had a great evening at 300 Captain Thomas Boulevard talking about local fisheries – including the alewife. I obtained much the same reaction a year later while meeting with members of the State Legislature Environment Meeting in Branford on August 9, 2012, unaware of the NAO (Northeast Atlantic Oscillation) or what John Hammond termed the New England Oscillation on Cape Cod was now “negative”. Mr. Hammond, a retired oyster farmer (he would often correct me that the correct term was planter) in Chatham had kept records on the number intensity of storms hitting Cape Cod and believed these patterns were associated with larger climate cycles. The one he called the New England Oscillation is better known as the NAO and it was going to get colder. (Ten weeks after the Environment Committee meeting Sandy struck.)
[In 2010 and 2011, the NAO index (the NAO is monitored by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center since 1950) turned sharply negative (blue)- represented as a color recording of positive – red – or negative phases as blue. When I mentioned this at an August 9, 2012 Branford CT meeting of environment committee members did not know about the NAO or its effect upon our coast. I could not be that critical, most forecasters almost never mention the NAO – long associated with cycles in the negative literature as the Icelandic low as the graveyard of storms in the Northern hemisphere .A negative NAO meant that the door to hurricanes was now open. When John Hammond mentioned it to me in the early 1980s, I had no idea that Hurd Willet, a meteorologist at MIT wrote about the NAO in the 1960s. I have his article about “Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation as Factors in Glacial-Interglacial Changes of Climate” in the 1953 book Climatic Change – Evidence, Causes and Effects, edited by Shapley, Harlow (Harvard University Press). His research looked at the cycles of climate in the 1930s. He passed away in 1992. This is an excerpt from the MIT News about his passing in 1992.
Professor H.C. Willett Dies - MIT News

April 1, 1992
“Dr. Hurd C. Willett, an MIT meteorologist renowned for his role in developing five-day weather forecasting techniques and widely known for his attempts at very-long-range forecasting, died March 26 at a West Concord nursing home. He was 89.
A memorial service was held March 30 in Littleton, where he had lived since 1949. Professor Willett, who joined the MIT staff in March 1929, specialized in climatic fluctuations, variable solar influences and long-range weather forecasting. In the 1930s, he was instrumental in the development and adoption of the polar front theory of five-day weather prediction by the Weather Bureau. Later, starting in the late 1950s, he focused his research on discovering the basic patterns he felt exist behind weather conditions.
He developed a theory that climatic conditions on earth follow a cyclical pattern which will become clearer as statistical records extend over longer periods of time. To back up his theory, he did exhaustive surveys of weather conditions going back to prehistoric times.
His long-range forecasting caught the attention of the press to such an extent that in his obituary, the Boston Globe referred to him as a meteorologist "who was prepared to forecast the weather for tomorrow as well as for 10,000 years from now." For several years the wire services regularly carried his annual predictions of what the weather would be over the next 12 months.”
It was Professor Willet who described the Polar Vortex a weakened polar front connected to the strength and position on Icelandic low pressure system off the west coast of Iceland. Mariners had long known of the low pressure area the Icelandic Low, terming it the graveyard of Atlantic Storms. A strong Icelandic low tends to draw a strong westerly wind across the United States, a series of polar fronts are locked up over the Artic and our winters are relatively “mild”, but a weak low off Iceland allows the Polar fronts to sag far to the south bringing cold polar air to our mid-section – a feature that is mentioned on news media –as the Polar Vortex- but not the NAO (which is not the case with El Nino, or LaNina.] The NAO remains an obscure weather pattern to most, but its impact to fisheries as Mr. Hammond suspected, is now being investigated.

Some attention now is being drawn to Hurd Willett’s work by some meteorologists and those interested in climate patterns; this is a section from an article titled, “Feds Expect More Atlantic Tropical Storms with Last Three Years.” (May 2016)
“It’s unclear whether a decades-long high –activity has ended, said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
The active storm era associated with warm Atlantic temperatures and stronger West African monsoons began in1995, but recent hurricane seasons showed shifts toward cooler phase marked to colder waters and a weaker monsoon, Bell said.
Each era can last 25 to 40 years, and it might take years to determine whether the transition has happened, Bell said.

The last transition to a less active hurricane era happened in the 1970s, without the data and computer models that forecasters have now. ‘“We’re watching it for the first time with very new eyes,” Sullivan said.’
Excerpted from www.theday.com Saturday May 28, 2016

Several days after my talk at the West Haven Land Trust, Tropical storm Lee struck CT, followed by Irene (the end of August) and numerous strong storms. Snow falls have also increased breaking some records. Colder water temperatures and a change in our springs followed. The “Polar Vortex” for a while was mentioned on many news outlets. For those who watch the weather, this climate pattern is one the NOAA climate prediction center keeps in color graphs and mentioning data points, also the color chart I mentioned and since 1980 gives a clue to our blue crabbing – lots of blue negative colder, more reds, warmer summers and better crabbing. I am certain that if we had the index in the 1890s when blue crabbing soared in New England (as they did a century later in the 1990s), it would have been red (hot) and few storms which did happen. What cooler winters and more storms have meant is a regional decline in the blue crab. I urge blue crabbers to check this NAO index out; it may help to answer the many blue crab questions I received this summer.
All blue crab observations are important; please send any questions or comments to Tim.Visel @new-haven.k12.ct.us

Megalops #4 Appendix 1 –Organic Matter and Blue Crab Habitats
Energetics of the Benthos of Long Island Sound Oxygen Utilization of Sediment
Andrew A. Carey, Jr. - Dept. of Oceanography- Oregon State University 1967

Thanks to V.L. Loosanoff for use of space and facilities (Milford Connecticut Shellfish Laboratory)
From Aspects of Oceanography of Long Island Sound, Volume 19, Article 2- Bulletin of the Bingham Oceanographic Collection – Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University
Issued April 1967, New Haven, CT USA
The oxygen uptake of sediment cores from central Long Island Sound was measured in the laboratory, during a study of the energetics of the benthos. There appears to be a seasonal cycle of oxygen utilizing in the sediment with a maximum in late summer. The metabolism of the dominant macro infauna accounting for only a small part of the 02 uptake; the smaller or organisms and bacteria, therefore must consume most of the energy in the bottom of Long Island Sound. Page 136
“When the energy involved both metabolism and biological production of a species population is considered dissimilar species can be directly compared by their energy utilization which their abundance or biomass both may be misleading.”
The described seasonal cycle of sedimentary, oxygen uptake is probably a result of the effects of higher temperatures and rate of organic input on the respiratory and population growth of benthic” pg. 141
“Lonnerblad (1930) indicates (lake sediment studies) that the major part of microorganisms’ respiration is “bacterial” using mud from productive lakes, Lonnerblad found that oxygen uptake could be prevented by poisoning the bacteria “pg. 142
A mud-water interface has a bacteria contributed organic exchange. The meio fauna and micro fauna and bacteria must utilize the major portion of the energy consumed in the bottom” pg. 143
All these observations support the rise of Sapropel on bay bottoms in the 1980s. The change in weather patterns after 1972 would change this perspective – here now a warmer less storm intense period (1972 to 2011) would moderate the cold and warm cycles of oxygen and give rise to sulfur compounds. The change in the bacterial spectrum that favored warm water bacteria then cold largely went unnoticed until the middle 1980s when the slower less efficient sulfur bacteria were overwhelmed by organic matter deposits (huge accumulations of fall leaves) accumulated growing marine compost, creating “softer bottoms.” These became known as black mayonnaise in the fishing community which we know as Sapropel.

The maps of Sapropel were first suggested by Donald Rhoads of Yale University at a Long Island Sound conference held May 10, 1985 in Washington, D.C.

*The use of the term black mayonnaise to describe oxygen poor diagenous composts has spread across the country especially in many of the State of Florida’s Indian River lagoon studies.

Appendix #2 Long Island Sound Issues – Can The Past Help Us Now?

Amazing Gifts from Our Long Island Sound
Presented by the Land Trust of West Haven, Inc. at 300 Captain Thomas Boulevard
June 8th 6:30pm to 8:30pm

Connecticut’s Fisheries History – Can The Past Help Us Now?
The Year 1912 to Present
Tim Visel, Coordinator, The Sound School Regional
Vocational Aquaculture Center
60 South Water Street, New Haven, CT
June 6, 2011 Workshop Notes

A century ago Connecticut was gripped in fear by an outbreak of Malaria in Greenwich, temperatures soared in the 90’s in July and people rushed to the shore to seek relief from extreme heat, many from the cities. But what about the fish? The year was 1912. The price of a large lobster was 32 cents, a large cod sold for a dollar, terrapins at $2 apiece. A century later all three fisheries would be much reduced or classified a failure – what happened? Fisheries Environmental History will be reviewed during the period of the great New England Heat 1890-1920.

The edge of the sea has always been a productive place here to catch and enjoy seafood. The first inhabitants developed some of the first fishing gears, as herring (alewife) each spring sought to enter our streams to spawn. Oysters and clams have made the New Haven area famous and created Connecticut’s largest aquaculture industry.

Connecticut’s Fisheries first supported nature Americans then early settlers and fishing was more than sport, it was a serious commercial enterprise. Tim Visel will discuss Connecticut’s fish history from oysters to shad during the year 1912 based upon fish records and oral histories. Comparisons will be made to the present.

Models of fishing gear and fact sheets will supplement a question and answer session on how Long Island Sound’s fisheries have changed as climate and gear technology changed and what our fisheries look like today.

The second half of the program will introduce Stewardship the care and restoration of marine resources. Since 1985, The Long Island Sound study (EPA) has educated thousands about how we can help restore Long Island Sound. Some of the problems and opportunities will be reviewed and insight into what the next century will bring – so bring some questions!

Tim Visel is the Coordinator of The Sound School Regional Vocational Aquaculture Center at City Point, New Haven, CT.

He presently serves on two Long Island Sound Study Committees, Citizens Advisory and Habitat Restoration. Author of many paper finfish and shellfish habitats brings 30 years of coastal fishing and aquaculture industry experiences most from coastal Connecticut. Formerly a fishing gear technologist for the Universities of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, he has published fishing gear construction designs for almost every type of historical fishing gear. Over 50 publications will be available to those interested in near shore fisheries – courtesy of The Sound School Adult Education and Outreach program.

For program information contact:
Tim Visel tim.visel@new-haven.k12.ct.us
For Publications and Outreach Programs contact:

For those interested in accessing The Sally Richards Memorial Archives –
By appointment only --on reserve in the Foote Library contact – Susan Norwood

The Oysterman and Fishermen

Fish Prices and Market Conditions Fulton Market, New York
March 10, 1015 during “The Great Heat”

Notice the availability of blue crabs starting on Long Island. CT reports commercial landings. “Hard crabs selling fair with few Sandy Hook hard-shell crabs coming in.

It’s spring, so New Jersey – Sandy Hook was the source of blue crabs.
Hard Shell Crabs $1.50/per a hundred - Market cleaning opening day (sold out T. Visel)
No Long Island hard crabs, it was the first week of March!

Few Long Island Bay Scallops – Southern Scallops
Most likely bays 1.50 to 2.50 per gallon
Steamer Clams 2.50 per barrel (5 bushels) - Smelt supply good

Oyster Supply Good - so good that the price was low to cause concern.

The following prices have prevailing on oysters and clams in the New York Market during the week: March 1915

Oysters and Clams – 1898 Measures

Large clams 8.00 per thousand (80 cents/hundred)
Medium clams 7.50 to 8.00 per thousand
Little Neck Clams 11 to 12 dollars per barrel (3.25 bushels)
Box oysters, open 8.50 to 9.00 per barrel
Cull Shell 4.50 to 5.00 per barrel
Open counts 8.50 to 9.50 per barrel
Open Culls 5.50 to 6.50 per barrel


- The Alewife fishery 1892-1916 resumed in 1948. Two canneries reported receiving from CT a little over a million pounds of Alewife in 1948. As it turned colder in the 1930s smelt populations rebounded. Source CT Board of Fisheries of Game, a series of reports in boxes in Old Lyme DEP Marine Fisheries (storage).

- The lobster fishery failed in CT during the time of The Great Heat – 1890-1920. Rhode Island reports a lack of kelp/cobble stone habitat critical for stage four lobsters. A lobster hatchery was built in Noank, CT and operated until 1958. Annual reports in boxes in Old Lyme, DEP Marine Fisheries.

- Bay scallopers in Niantic experienced poor catches during the turn of century as did Rhode Island when storm activity increased and temperatures dropped after 1921 bay scallop catches improved. In 1955 following several cold winters (1949 on) and numerous destructive powerful storms scallop productivity soared in Connecticut, US Fish Statistics.

- The shad fisheries bottomed out following a decade of warm thermal conditions in streams 1910-1920. The investigation and state report was published for the General Assembly in 1925. During a period of cold/1950’s, 1960’s shad fisheries did much better, a following the 1850-1880 cold period. Connecticut Board of Fisheries and Game reports – DEP Marine Fisheries office in Old Lyme. See a history of the Connecticut River and its Fisheries CT Board of Fisheries and Game by Douglas D. Moss, 1965.

- The Fyke Net and Haul Seine Fisheries of Connecticut a century ago were extensive. One of US Fish Commission reports that Connecticut had the largest fyke net fisheries in 1914, 342 fyke nets were registered in CT second only to gill nets. At one time the flounder catch in fykes surpassed a half million lbs. US Fish Commission and CT Board of Fisheries and Game.

- The combined catch if smelt and alewife by haul seines easily was in access of million lbs. - source US Fish Commission reports – Hamburg Cove fyke net fishery studies – Wilcox Family history. The 1913-1914 tenth Biennial Report of the CT State Board of Fishes and Game, Fish Census/Annual reports DEP Marine Fisheries office in Old Lyme, CT. One of the largest smelt runs was in the Saugatuck River.

Examining the fishers’ catches and comparing them (over long periods of time) gives us some habitat clues to resource abundance. It was very hot in the 1890’s. Lobsters “died out” then, but the sudden rise of the blue crab perplexed Rhode Island fisheries’ officials, who were surprised to the blue crab here in northern waters where lobsters once reigned. The lobsters were in “ruin,” a term used to describe a collapsed fishery, but an increase in the blue crab was now the blue crab “question” – why?

Different Climate Cycles Produce Different Climate Species

It was John Clint Hammond of Cape Cod who first introduced me to the concept of a habitat history largely governed by temperature and energy. He termed it the New England Oscillation but most recognize it today as the Northeast Atlantic Oscillation or the NAO. Mr. Hammond was recording the number of strong storms, and changes in energy patterns combined with temperature. “Things change” I recall him saying to me many times and encouraged me to look at the 1880 to 1920 period for producing the greatest habitat and fisheries changes - The period I call the “Great Heat.” It was difficult for the audience June 2011 to identify that climate and energy impacted fishing gear and fishing grounds. It was especially difficult to introduce the 1950’s and 1960’s a period of numerous hurricanes and cooler temperatures brought forth different habitat profiles over time.

Blue crabs were my indicator of choice and just starting the Blue Crab Newsletter: The Search for Megalops in the fall of 2010. This comparison was made to commercial catches of the blue crab in 1912 (that is why 1912 was picked). It was a high point in the Blue Crab --abundance not seen for a century. But every “hot” period of few storms had been followed by colder periods that contained more energy – more storms. That was Mr. Hammond’s habitat history lesson, and I feel it was a good one. Can the past help us now?

Appendix #3 –

The Rise of Sapropel – See Mapping of CT Sapropels

NOAA Estuary of the Month Series 3
Long Island Sound: Issues, Resources, Status and Management
Proceedings of a Seminar Held May 10, 1985 Washington, D.C.

Dr. Donald Rhoads, The Benthic Ecosystem, pg. 47 THE BENTHIC ECOSYSTEM D. Rhoads
Department of Geology and Geophysics- Yale University
(Mapping Connecticut Sapropels Transcript from Meeting, T. Visel)

“I have a difficult task, as all the speakers do, because we're trying to summarize years of data and experience. In my case, some 20 years, and I hope to do it in 20 minutes or less.
The second problem has to do with eutrophication. This phenomenon has received much less attention than disposal and is just as critical. The eutrophication problem in western Long Island Sound will be a recurring theme today.
The organic-rich-mud is largely concentrated in the central and western basins of Long Island Sound. This fine-grained sediment generally accumulates within harbors and in the open Sound at depths greater than 40 to 60 feet.
Many pollutants such as trace metals or organic contaminants also “ride" on these particles and become concentrated in the muddy areas. Fine-grained sediments also accumulate in low kinetic areas of harbors. This is why harbors must be periodically dredged. The accumulation of reactive organic matter in sediments leads to high sediment oxygen demands which may deplete the overlying water of its oxygen. This, in turn, may adversely affect living marine resources associated with the bottom.
On the other hand, areas of the bottom that experience "super¬ critical" organic loading have very different organism-sediment relationships. Figure 3 shows a similar sediment profile taken in a harbor region near a sewage effluent. Here the benthos consists of small polychaete worms belonging to families known to populate enriched areas (e.g., Capitellidae or Spionidae). They live near the sediment surface and bioturbate only the near¬ surface sediment. Note how dark the subsurface sediment is in relation to the high concentration of labile organic matter and associated sulfides. The surficial mat of organisms is not able to burn off the input of labile organic matter as fast as it is introduced. This is an inefficient biological processing system and, in fact, the organisms themselves may serve to focus the sedimentation of POM into such areas. with the build-up of reactive organic matter in the sediment and a lack of pore water oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and methane gas may be generated and enter the overlying water column. These reduced compounds, along with the reactive organic matter, may deplete water in contact with the bottom of its oxygen.
What are the responses of benthic organisms to near-bottom gradients in dissolved oxygen? Figure 6 is an attempt to address this question. The data does not come from estuaries but from permanently stratified low-oxygen basins like the Black Sea and continental borderland basins off southern California (Rhoads and Morse, 1971). For most benthic organisms, values of dissolved oxygen above 3 ml/liter are not limiting.
This value forms the lower limit of the aerobic zone. Below 3 ml/liter, high metabolic rate species and life stages may be adversely affected particularly fish and crustaceans. The zone between 3 ml/liter and 0.3 ml/liter is termed the dysaerobic (partially aerobic) zone in which only a few species of in fauna do well. This is probably the habitat of the Sulfide Biome of Fenchel and Riedl (1970). Below concentrations of 0.1 ml/liter, metazoa do not do well and only anaerobic bacteria, along with some nematodes, are found in abundance. Underlying the dysaerobic and anaerobic water one typically finds organic-rich black (i.e., sulfidic) muds that are termed sapropels. These are rich in iron mono¬ sulfides. The physical properties of these muds are distinctive and the best description that I have heard of them is that they are like a "black mayonnaise." It is unknown if the above generalizations about oxygen facies in permanently stratified basins are an appropriate description of estuarine conditions where low oxygen- conditions are typically seasonal. Nevertheless, it is a model that may prove useful to test these ideas.
In summary, I would argue that the way in which we measure dissolved oxygen in estuaries is in adequate to identify problem areas in their early stages. Lowering oxygen probes to within 1 meter of the bottom is not appropriate because the early stage of increased organic loading and sediment oxygen demand can only be detected by making measurements within a few millimeters of the sediment surface. Thus, instantaneous measurements of dissolved oxygen should be supplemented with studies of bottom sediments. What are the distributions of sapropels?
It is imperative that these areas be mapped so that the problem can be recognized and dealt with. Let's not allow Long Island Sound to become another Chesapeake Bay before after-the-fact remedial action is applied to the problem.”
Meeting Summary Questions – T. Visel
DR. SCHUBEL: Don, do you want to add anything to that?
DR. RHOADS: Yes. One reason I mentioned the importance of the sapropels--these black iron monosulfite muds on the bottom--was the direct point that Peter raised. The system is so dynamic that to measure the change from year to year in dissolved oxygen as measured in the water column would take more money than we have. It's not practical at all.
Given that kind of variability, what you need is a low-pass filter and an integrator, and that's the sediment. I suggest that a very sensitive index of the waxing and waning of this condition would be the map of where the sapropels terminate, whatever isobath that might be.
Follow the edge of those sapropels. If they're encroaching upwards into shallow water, it's getting worse. If they're receding, it's getting better.
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