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Stripers and Coastal Gamefish Stripers, Blues, Inshore tuna!

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Old 08-08-2001, 12:19 PM
Aaron
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of seals and stripers

After a summer of hell (translated as very little fishing), I said 'screw it!' and played hookey for a day and a half (translated as went fishing on the Cape). Many fish two hours on either side of low tide on Monday and Tuesday, so it was worth the drive and lack of sleep.
As usual, there was a contingent of seals watching me from a distance as I worked my way along the beach. Twice on Tuesday, as I fought a striper (25" or so) a large male seal charged in from outside the surf zone. In both cases, the seal followed the fish, even rolled around with the fish - in short, seemed to be playing with the fish. Of course, the fish freaked - in one instance just about beached itself, but also in both cases, by the time the fish realized what was going on the seal had already had ample opportunity to bite, eat, etc that fish if that was the intent. In both cases, this all took place within 30 feet of where I stood.

Based on numerous experiences in California, where the sea lions definitely follow fishermen and boats and do take hooked fish as a meal, I don't think these seals were interested in the stripers as a meal. There is no doubt, and no playing around, when a California sea lion wants your fish as a meal. In the case of the gray seals on Chatham, I think it was play time more than anything else. Not surprising since it is my understanding that these seals prefer sandeels, flatfish, etc rather than stripers.
Anyway, just an observation.

On a related note - I think my sandeel pattern is pretty close to the real deal. An adolescent seal mistook my fly for a large sandeel and played tug of war before letting go.

Aaron
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  #2  
Old 08-08-2001, 12:45 PM
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juro juro is offline
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Aaron -

The horseheads that are prominent in the area are a little less playful and reminded me of the stellars sea lions in the north pacific (1000 pound relatives of the smaller California cousins).

In fact I had one tear a schoolie on my line to shreds at the last Rip Trip. I had the ensemble 'on' for quite a long time before the striper's lip gave way as we stood in witness of the massacre in shock. I was angered at myself that my actions had caused the death of the juvenile (20 something inch fish). Although it did go to a good cause in the global sense, I'd rather not have a direct affect on the natural balance of prey and predator.

I have caught a large number of stripers with seal injuries this season. I am very familiar with the wounds from 12 years of seeing pinniped scars on pacific salmon bodies. The most common seal / striper attacks I have witnessed are in ocean surf once a schoolie is released. The dazed fish is quickly pounced on by the waiting horsehead seal. This is something I've seen frequently over a period of several years. This is a consideration when fishing near seals.

I have also had a number of rather intrusive approaches by seals over the last few seasons. When wading way out on a shallow flat, it's unnerving to say the least when a huge seal makes a mock charge and veers at the last second. The compression wave of water coming at you with the big black shadow underneath is enough to get me to nervously leave the flat.

Although harbor seals might be more focused on sand eels and other small forage species (eg. bait), my observations would support my belief that horsehead seals actively pursue and eat stripers as well as any other meal.

Perhaps you missed that post but I had a similar experience with the deep eel and a seal - with two witnesses, I had a large seal pursue and take my sand eel fly on Monomoy in skinny water, bright sun. After a "thrilling" run my tippet popped. The seal popped up, looking sideways at me looking just like my dog when it did something dumb. It looked none the worse for wear and appeared to have spit the barbless lip ornament.

It's cool that we share these places with pinnipeds... but I'll bet they wish we weren't in their spot as much as I wish they weren't!
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Old 08-10-2001, 08:56 AM
Aaron
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Hey Juro,

Interesting seal experiences! Yes, it seems it is the big males that are most aggressive toward the schoolie stripers... and toward wading anglers! I've had the seals follow me rather closely on the flats, but never had a charge. That would make me nervous as well - especially if it was early in the season when the large males can be especially aggressive.
I'll keep my eyes open for the telltale signs of seal attacks on stripers, but to date I've seen only the rare fish with such marks. I wouldn't worry too much about losing that one fish to the seal. Like you said, it was used pretty much directly. Regarding overall numbers - given a 5 - 10% post-release mortality of stripers, I imagine more total fish are lost to catch and release mortality than to seals (although the seal related mortality is far more dramatic!).

Aaron
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Old 08-10-2001, 11:28 AM
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juro juro is offline
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Does that mortality figure include umbrella rigs, deep bait hookings and multi-treble barbed releases from high jetties too? I find it very hard to believe that I have such high mortality rates as an individual contributor to the problem... but you know what they say about opinions ;-)
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