Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report

Trip # 1 – Winter Flounder -  Drop Chain Project


Cornell Cooperative scientists first research trip for the Proof of Concept project regarding the improvement of drop chain performance by adding slack to the top of the trawl occurred on August 4, 2010.  The trip took place aboard the F/V Caitlin Mairead, a 65 ft. steel, stern trawler based out of Montauk, NY. The trip left from the port of Shinnecock in Hampton Bays, NY rather than Montauk because information gathered from other commercial vessels and fishermen suggested that there was some squid located east of Shinnecock.  All trips relative to this research would consist of three one hour control tows and three one hour experimental tows.  Each control tow consisted of the net being fished even and was followed by an experimental tow where the head rope was lengthened by six inches.  The total project consisted of 24 tows, 12 were control tows and 12 were experimental tows.  The experimental tows were broken down into two of each of the following head rope lengthening increments; 6 inch, 12 inch, 18 inch, 24 inch, 30 inch, and 36 inch.  This trip began with the first tow (a control tow) having gear problems that resulted in a foul set and the tow having to be repeated.  Also, prior to the final tow (experimental 18” tow), a backstrap from the otter door became entangled in one of the props.  As a result the final tow was not completed and will be made up during the next trip at the appropriate time of day.  At the conclusion of the day there were no obvious results relative to the raw data.  Winter flounder and Loligo totals were similar for both control and experimental tows.  The control tows resulted in approximately 610 lbs. of squid and just over 1 lb. of winter flounder while the experimental tows had 499 lbs. of squid and just over 2 lbs. of winter flounder. Further analysis of these results is needed to monitor the differences and effectiveness of each of the variables so that a final comparison can be made. 


Trip # 2 – Winter Flounder -  Drop Chain Project


     The Cornell research team conducted trip # 2 on August 5, 2010. The trip began early in the morning in Hampton Bays as the Caitlin Mairead steamed through the Shinnecock Inlet towards the Atlantic Ocean in hopes of locating the squid that were still reported to be in the area. All the tows were conducted along the Atlantic coast in an area between Shinnecock Inlet and Moriches Inlet roughly 1 mile to 1 ¾ miles off the beach.  The trip turned out to be one plagued with problems and as a result became an extremely long day.  The problems began with a sudden change in weather that included a significant increase in wind speed.  The result was the loss of three completed data sheets overboard from two control tows and one experimental tow.  We were able to repeat the experimental and one control tow before we lost daylight and procedure was also amended to require that completed data sheets be stored inside the boat off the open deck.  Additionally, the Vemco data logger that was attached to the headrope of the net was lost and the trip concluded with what was thought to be a blown transmission as the Caitlin Mairead attempted to dock.  After further investigation that included a scuba dive by the captain it was determined that the transmission was intact but the prop had been entangled by a tire attached to a large diameter rope.  The raw data continued to show no obvious differences between gear.  The control tows continued to catch more squid and winter flounder when compared to the corresponding experimental tow.  The differences were not extreme and further analysis is needed.  Bycatch of generally all species appears to be reduced during the experimental tows but again more detailed analysis is necessary before any definitive observations can be made. 


Trip # 3 – Winter Flounder -  Drop Chain Project


   The Cornell team’s third research trip occurred on August 17, 2010.  The weather was good with fair skies and warm temperatures and it appeared as if the issues and problems that had plagued the first two trips were over  as the six required tows were completed without a hitch during this trip.  The vessel once again left from the port of Shinnecock and fishing occurred in the same locale as that of the first two trips.  Squid were reported to still be in the area but not in the quantities that we had found them two weeks ago.  Despite the reports of diminished numbers, we decided to stay in this area because it was the only location that was reporting any squid at all.  This trip had the control tows totaling approximately 201 lbs. of squid and 2.7 lbs. of winter flounder and the experimental totals were 128 lbs. of squid and 0 lbs. of winter flounder.  Bycatch numbers initially appear to be similar between control and experimental tows, particularly with the two dominant species (fluke and smooth dogfish), during this trip.  As with previous trips, closer examination of the data is required to draw any conclusions.    


Trip # 4 – Winter Flounder -  Drop Chain Project


     The fourth and final research trip for Cornell’s drop chain projected was conducted on August 18, 2010.  The location fished remained the same as that of the three previous trips, the Atlantic coast of Long Island between Shinnecock and Moriches inlets.  Squid remained in the area but by no means were they present in significant quantities, but this location still provided the only viable means for catching any squid at all. The six research tows were completed without encountering any problems.   Initial review of the data had the control tows totaling approximately 170 lbs. of squid and slighty more than 1 lb. of winter flounder.  The experimental tows resulted in 190 lbs. of squid and just over 2 lbs. of winter flounder.  Additional in depth analysis of all the raw data that has been collected during these four trips is needed to draw any conclusions relative to the effectiveness of altering the head rope length in addition to the use of 12 inch drop chains.  Simply offering totals of squid and winter flounder retention during control tows and experimental tows will not effectively show the performance of each experimental increment relative to the control tow.