Pesce Galore

January 30. Seas forecast at 1 foot - which was accurate on the way out and close enough on the way back. Mellow ride at 30 mph.

Fished around 90 feet, water temperature 58 to 60. Thanks to the person on this site that recommended about 90 feet in winter in response to one of my posts a few years ago.

Started catching immediately but not a hot bite. Found a few porgies and a big school of undersized Vermillion. Moved around a lot trying to find the right spot.

Then the day maker mark,

We were led to the fish by these,

The birds weren’t really on bait, not diving or submerging just kind of fluttering around on the surface. There were no fish visible on or near the surface beside the birds. At first thought not worth checking but after watching for a while curiosity got the better of us. The birds are (I think, hard to identify in non-breeding plumage) red necked phalaropes and Bonaparte’s gulls. No idea what the birds were feeding on. Too small to see. Help please on bird identification and what they were doing.

Around the birds were tons of these and other fish,

The picture of the sounder was when the grunts were under the boat but we caught 10 species of fish around this bottom area. White grunt, whitebone porgy, ARS, vermillion, gag grouper, strawberry grouper (I think), almaco jack, amberjack, ringtail and BSB. Caught zero triggers and saw zero sharks. The ARS were around but not so heavy moving was required.

Put 16 of the approved fish in the box, around personal fish cleaning limit, and headed home. All cleaned up by 5 after leaving the dock at 10.

Heard on the radio the Coast Guard assisted someone submerged in the Wappo Cut, hope all ok.

One note on the required “descending devices.” After some trial and error seem to have this working ok. Use a great big trolling weight that can quickly go on and off. Device is attached to an old, inexpensive medium duty spinning rig that is in a rod holder. Had to use quite a few times on injured fish yesterday and, as far as could tell at the time, it worked efficiently. The fish released were back in deeper water quickly with minimal handling.

Don’t have an opinion about whether the injured fish survive longer term or with more severe barotrauma. That is above my pay grade. Interestingly different kinds of fish with swim bladders appear more or less likely to get barotrauma. The grouper are the worst from what I have seen and would like to see the grouper grow up and be somebody tasty after May 1.


Looks like a great trip.

Thanks for the pics and detailed report!!

Very nice, thinking about headed out Friday…either to 60 or 90 feet. Did you ever get on keeper vermillions? Any seabass?

Yes, keeper Vermillion are pretty common, but I have found them usually 75 feet or deeper. Best in 100 foot plus for football size.

We do best on keeper sea bass in winter - 60 to 100 feet, usually. Most of the bass on the better hard/live bottom at these depths are keepers or close in winter.

Never have had good success for either on readily available public numbers - like the artificial reefs - fished hard. I don’t even try bottom fishing these anymore.

Hope you can get out Friday.

Good report and thanks for the pics.

Check your PM’s

this shows great self awareness. also congrats on remember anything from 2 years ago.

excellent cathing

Complete, analytical, scientific fishing posts are my favorite. When they come along with a mixed bag of bottom fish, they also make me very excited and hungry. Thank you for the virtual tour, I love some grunts and porgies!

Regarding your ruminations on post-descent delayed release mortality, I found this paper from the GOM on ARS. Most post release (“discard”) mortality studies have previously relied on “cage” style monitoring of the fish, which greatly diminishes confidence in mirroring true “wild” conditions after release, and those efforts have subsequently been torn apart by critics pretty well. This study used acoustic telemetry monitoring, which has also been used in SC to assess adult red drum post release mortality.

A lot of good stuff in their paper, here are a couple of the distilled points I picked out as I skimmed it:

“Delayed mortality was higher in the summer and spring at 50 m than in the winter and did not occur in the spring at the 30-m depth. Overall, there was 72% survival, 15% surface mortality, and 13% delayed mortality for all fish in this study”

" Stepwise logistic regression using Akaike information criteria values identified release method, season, depth, and total length as significant covariates to be used in the Cox proportional hazards model, and these covariates had a significant effect on survival (Log-rank test: χ2 = 20.98, df = 7, P < 0.01, n = 86). Based on the calculated hazards ratio, descended fish were 2.3 times, vented fish 3.7 times, and nonvented fish 6.9 times as likely to perish as control fish; nonvented fish were 3.0 times and 1.9 times more likely to perish than descended and vented fish, respectively; fish released in winter were 1.6 times and in summer 5.0 times as likely to perish as fish released in the spring; and fish released after capture from a 50-m depth were 2.5 times as likely to perish as fish caught at a 30-m depth (Table 2). Decreases in total length resulted in a slightly less risk of mortality; smaller fish had higher chances of survival than larger fish."

I think a relevant point that gets missed many times is that the fish need to get back to compression depth, but not necessarily to the bottom. the SeaQualizer descender has multiple depth settings, but I believe that in most cases getting them 60’ down will recompress them effectively enough for release. Of course sharks, fish condition, and many other factors still make everything a personal judgment call. I think this paper is informative on the seasons and depths of fishing and how they might influence those decisions at 30m vs 50m.

I have also passed along your bird question to an Audubon acquaintance with a great amount of knowledge on the topic. Stand by please sir!

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Verdict is in- well done on the identifications, CY!

From an expert:

"The 3 gulls flying are definitely Bonapart’s Gulls. They are distinguishable from other gull species by their overall small body, pink legs, short and thin black bill. As well as the black ear spot and dark wing tips.

The rest of the flock in the photo are indeed Red-necked Phalaropes. Definitely a tricky species when not in breeding plumage or on land for that matter! But what is leading me to this conclusion here is birds seemingly have a long thin bill with no obvious discoloration at the base, body head is small, with over all slender body tapering towards the rear. Black markings focused near the eye and running from the back of the head down the nape and neck continuously. Underwing of the ones in flight appears darker in places which also rules out Red Phalaropes.

Both of these species are found along our coast during the winter and during seasonal migration periods.

The behavior your friend observed is typical feeding behavior of both species (when at sea). Both species will feed on insects, small fish, and what maybe the case here, euphausiids. When observed on tidal pools, phalaropes will actually “spin around” in a circle to when feeding."

Euphausiids are krill, i had to look it up

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Thanks for the response. We have the SeaQualizer and try to set far enough above bottom that it is certain it will release.

Never the best at statistics but the study was really helpful for understanding what conditions allow for best survival of released fish.

The massive difference between summer and winter/spring survival was interesting. The water temperatures in the study which was done in the Gulf are higher than typical here for winter and spring. Maybe the higher surface water temperature is as debilitating as the barotrauma or warmer temperatures make barotrauma worse? More sharks in summer?

Overall, encouraging that there was a high rate of survival at those depths no matter what release method was used except in summer. Seems worth the trouble to use the descending device, especially in summer.

Thank you for the confirmation. Often, I am left with calling them little gray birds.

Yes, the phalaropes do, literally, spin around.

Krill sounds right for what they were feeding on. Big enough to be interesting, too small to see from 50 feet.

I think elevated water temps in general should explain the increased summer mortality since there is a direct and inverse relationship between temp and dissolved oxygen… but the “spring” being the highest survival does seem a little odd, not sure what to make of that.

Accelerometers can tell when a fish has been picked up by a bigger, faster swimming fish, but I didn’t read deeply enough to see if they mentioned predation vs exhaustion as COD


Resident biologist doing work in here. Thanks baba