Sunday, July 19, 2020

What We Saw on the Sea!

The Roseway as seen from the deck of the Belle!
We spent our week at the Fort Point Channel, a historic waterway that existed long before the Seaport area which is now built around it. Some might not know the channel by name, but they should be familiar with the Boston Tea Party that occurred there some 246 years ago. Thinking about how much has changed around the channel in the past few hundred years stayed in my mind as we stepped onto the Roseway schooner. The Roseway was built as a fishing ship in 1925, used for swordfishing, rather than the usual groundfishing. It’s hard to think that a boat as beautiful as the Roseway was once a commercial fishing vessel, but it just makes her history that much more interesting! We were able to get out onto the harbor this week on the Belle with Captain Charlie and mate Rainy. It’s always a fun time dropping a line on the Belle, even though we only caught skate and short fish, a day on the water is never a wasted day.  
I wanted to highlight two underrated species that we encountered this week. The great black-backed gull (Larsus marinus) and the cunner (Tautogolabrus adspersus). These two species don’t usually get the praise they deserve, so why not showcase them?
Some great black-backed gulls hanging out on a buoy
            Gulls often get a bad rap from beachgoers. If you’ve spent any time down Revere Beach, you know they’ve developed quite the appetite for Kelly’s. Despite their french fry eating habits, great black-backed gulls are ecologically important organisms. They are the largest species of gull in the world and have bold colors. With a jet-black back (hence the name), white head/belly, and a yellow bill, these marine birds are hard to miss on beaches, piers, and coastal perches from Northeastern Canada to the East Coast of Florida. Throughout their range, they feed on a wide variety of sea life. Crabs, clams, fish, and even other birds are all on the menu for a great black-backed gull, along with whatever detritus is available. They can often be found in less picturesque landscapes, such as dumps, picking through trash for an easy meal. As a fisherman and bird watcher, it’s always a pleasure to see gulls enjoying the surf, even though we are usually after the same quarry.
A cunner caught on the Belle
            Cunners, a species of fish, are also called choggies and bergall. They are usually pretty small and have a reputation as a bait stealer. Many people are happy to catch their larger cousin, tautog, but are not always as excited to see these temperate wrasses on the end of their lines. Larger specimens are considered good table fare, but I have yet to catch one big enough to deem it “worth it” to try. One can only hope! The IGAF world record cunner, a whopping 3 lbs 8 oz, was caught 5 minutes from where I live, at the end of Revere Beach, so a cunner might be joining me at the table soon. They have a serious set of chompers that they use to eat shelled invertebrates. My favorite part about catching a cunner is seeing how much variation there is in their coloration. They can be very dark or light, have blue, green, and red, no two cunners look the same. Guess you could consider them “ocean snowflakes''. Like many ocean fish, they have spines in their dorsal fin which, if jabbed by one, would be quite unpleasant. Hopefully some disgruntled anglers will have a new perspective on these unique little fish that inhabit our coastal ecosystems.
            We’ll be at Carson Beach this week, so hopefully we’ll get to enjoy the hot weather by hanging out by the water!

            Tight Lines
- Michael

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