Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Maryland Weir Fisherman

Megan Moore, Delaware Expedition

Wow! I have a new respect for fishermen.

Fishermen in boat

We had the pleasure of working with Chris, who gave us a small sample of his typical day. They rise early, about 3 am, to beat the heat and make sure they have enough time to get everything done. The early morning usually consists of checking all the weir nets for their catch of fish (usually menhaden) and then the late-morning/early afternoon is spent using the fish as bait to catch the beautiful and delicious blue crab.

Blue crabs

Occasionally Chris catches cownose rays in his weir nets and that's why we had the pleasure of waking up at 3:30 to join him.

Lucky us! Megan and Guenaelle on the boat

Chris had 5 weir nets that he set up this season. Weir nets consist of a strange formation of nets that give every fish that encounters the net a choice: Either turn one way and enter into the funnel of the nets or turn the other way and swim free. Here's a picture of what the setup looked like, though it might be a little tough to see since the sun wasn't up yet!

Weir net formation

Here's a closer look at the net. You can see diamondback terrapins poking their heads above the water. All of these turtles were returned to sea.

The best part about these nets is that all the fish that are caught in the net stay in water until they are pulled up. So if there were any fish or animals caught that weren't part of the targeted catch, they can usually be released unharmed. That means weir fishing can be a pretty environmentally responsible way to fish. (Learn more about other methods of sustainable fishing through the Conservation Department at the Aquarium.)

Here's a video of Chris and Joe pulling up the catch in the early morning light.

Pulling up the weir net

Menhaden catch in buckets

Check back later to find out what else turned up in their nets!

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