Blog by Mattie Rodrigue, Graduate Researcher:
For the last three years, collecting data for the Sentinel Survey has yielded a slew of “flashbulb” moments. From wrangling enormous halibut, to reaching double-digit catch levels of cod at a single station, to pulling up hook after hook of absolutely nothing; the highs and lows, catches, and zero-catches of the survey document important lessons about real-time monitoring in eastern Maine. There are many days when something so exciting happens that I know I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. This week I had one of those days.
I was aboard the F/V FairWind, captained by Mathew (Mattie) Thomson. We had steamed for three hours from Isle Au Haut to get to a sampling station but knew we’d be fishing on the mud. No structure, deep water: the perfect white hake habitat. Spirits were a bit low, as the day before we’d hauled 400 hooks of… nothing. We knew the zeros were important. They tell as much of a story about where the fish are as a big haul. Still, when we steam that long we’d like to be able to pull up something. Mattie started hauling our 200-hook set and we immediately knew we were on white hake. As he began gaffing and throwing the fish my way, I noticed something I hadn’t seen from this species before:
“These hake are spawning all over my measuring board,” I yelled, reasonably grossed-out at first. Then, excitement building, “Oh my gosh, they’re spawning!”
Historic white hake spawning areas had been documented by Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries’ co-founder and board member, Ted Ames, based on extensive interviews with commercial fishermen. As far as we knew, though, this was the first time we had captured spawning white hake in the area for many years. Spawning fish could mean a hopeful future for the species. As we continue the survey through the years, our hope is to be able to continue to capture events like this, that can piece together a story of groundfish in eastern Maine.
About Mattie Rodrigue:
Mattie is currently a graduate student at the University of Maine seeking a dual Master of Science degree in Marine Biology and Marine Policy. Mattie collaborates with Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries on the Sentinel Survey, managing the annual longline and jig groundfish survey in the eastern Gulf of Maine involving multiple vessels and over 60 sampling stations. She is responsible for all sampling trip coverage as the primary onboard observer and collects all biological and environmental data points.
Click here for more information on Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries’ Sentinel Survey.