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Landmark Northeast Striped Bass Study Kicks Off on Hudson River Stripers

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NEW YORK— On May 21, 2019 a trophy-hunting team of anglers comprised of staff from the nonprofit GrayFishTag Research (GFR), Navionics and The Fisherman hit the Hudson River out of lower Manhattan in hopes of successfully deploying a pair of satellite tags in two post-spawn Hudson River striped bass.

Sponsored by the electronic mapping professionals at Navionics, the first Northeast Striped Bass Study will monitor the large-scale movements and behavior of these fish. Data collected during deployment is archived in onboard memory to collect water temperature, pressure, and light data. Once the tags pop off at a pre-programmed date (October 21), the tags are designed to float to the surface where they’ll relay summaries of the stored data via Argos Satellites.

At the completion of the study, folks will get a chance to visit to see exactly where these fish traveled through a Navionics app. “We’re really hoping to learn a lot, and do a lot of good through this research for the fishery,” said Paul Michele, National Sales Manager at Navionics Americas. PSATs have previously been used on a limited basis in striped bass research, typically to track a week or two of post-release behavior to assist in gathering mortality estimates.  But the five-month study using the latest, greatest technology on the market today carries a hefty price tag—roughly $5,000 for each tag.  

“This is a medium, Domeier, nylon anchor and we’re actually going to stick the fish about 5 centimeters from the dorsal midline, at an angle, into the muscle or pterygiophores, so that we don’t actually hit any vital organs,” said Leah Baumwell, the Director at Gray FishTag before carefully inserting the first MiniPAT device into a 34-inch fish. Named after noted researcher, Dr. Michael L. Domeier, the nylon anchor is attached to 10 centimeters of stainless steel cable to for holding the device in place.  “We chose this particular length because we feel that it provides a small amount of drag on the fish so it won’t actually pull out,” said Baumwell, describing how a small charge set for October 21 will ultimately dislodge the tag after five months. 

“The key to what we’re doing is open access, we want to share all the information from all these products with the public,” said Bill Dobbelaer, President of Gray Fishtag Research.  Dobbelaer said similar satellite tags have been deployed in other parts of the world on roosterfish, marlin, swordfish, marlin and even barracuda with great success, and he’s optimistic that the Northeast Striped Bass Study can help provide more data for scientists and researchers working with striped bass studies.  “We’re hopeful that all this data that we’re collecting can be used someday to make really good decisions on managing all these fish species that we love,” Dobbelaer added.  

The team utilized two local charter boats in the inaugural study, placing one PSAT in a 34-inch striper caught aboard Rocket Charters based out of New York City and a second 42-inch striped bass while onboard Fin Chaser charters based in New Jersey.  Each striped bass was also named for the study, Liberty and Freedom, and were out of the water no more than 2 minutes to be measured and tagged, and were released back into New York Harbor in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.  

The fish were caught using menhaden, a favored local bait for anglers during the spring run, with circle hooks used for rigging the baits to ensure safe and healthy release. 

See more in The Fisherman video below: