Sea Fishing Musselsfasrangry

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Ochre seastars ( Pisaster ochraceus) feed on invertebrates, such as coral and shellfish, like the mussels pictured here. The starfish forces open the shell with suction disks on the underside of its body, and then inserts its stomach membranes through its mouth into the opening of the shell. Digestive juices break down the shellfish's body, which is then absorbed into the starfish's stomach. Today I decide to fish with mussels and had a great success with them. Landed about 7 fishes and one of them was a Walleye Surf Perch. Another angler fishing. Mussels, like clams, are sedentary filter feeders. Those who like eating clams are likely to find mussels just as delicious. Features: Along Oregon's coast there are two species of mussel. Bay mussels (Mytilus edulis) are bluish-black and grow to about 3 inches in length. Fishing for mussels is one of the last wild shellfish fisheries on Cape Cod. Local fishermen often supplement winter income by harvesting shellfish in the wild, but many ply this trade year-round, supplying markets and restaurants on the Cape and beyond. Mussels are a prime source of food for fish in seawater and freshwater - so it follows that mussels would also be an ideal bait for fishing. If you harvest them yourself, the deal gets even better, since it won't cost you any money. The trick to using mussels as bait is to secure them to the hook; they tend to get pretty slippery.

Sea Fishing Musselsfasrangry Fishing

The species profiles below are a one-stop-shop for information about the mussels the Service's Southeast region is responsible for protecting and/or recovering.

  • Appalachian elktoe in the Little River Translyvania County NC. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

    Appalachian elktoe

    The Appalachian elktoe has a thin, kidney-shaped shell, extending to about 4 inches. Juveniles generally have a yellowish-brown periostracum (outer shell surface), while the periostracum of the adults is usually dark brown to greenish-black in color. Visit the species profile...

  • Atlantic pigtoes ready for release. Photo by USFWS.

    Atlantic pigtoe

    The Atlantic pigtoe is a small freshwater clam found in Virginia, North Carolina, and historically in South Carolina and Georgia. Visit the species profile...

  • Carolina heelsplitter

    Taxon: Mussel Range: North Carolina, South Carolina Status: Listed as endangered on June 30, 1993 Related content Feb 5, 2020 5 minute read Articles A good year at the hatcheries Oct 28, 2019 2 minute read Articles Against all odds: return of the Gills Creek ecosystem Sep 28, 2018 2 minute read Articles Private landowners step up to save the Carolina Heelsplitter Mar 9, 2018 3 minute read News Fish and Wildlife Service conducts five-year status reviews of eight southeastern species Oct 13, 2017 2 minute read Articles Fish passage project benefits Carolina heelsplitter Jun 12, 2017 7 minute read Articles Musseling back from near extinction Jun 6, 2017 2 minute read Articles North Carolina biologist recognized for work to recover endangered species May 19, 2017 8 minute read News 2016 National and Regional Recovery Champions Jun 2, 2014 2 minute read Podcasts North Carolinas Conservation Aquaculture Center Aug 4, 2010 2 minute read Podcasts North Carolina’s conservation aquaculture center Wildlife Carolina heelsplitter Appearance The Carolina heelsplitter freshwater mussel was first described in 1852. Visit the species profile...

  • Cumberland bean juveniles reared at the Center for Mollusk Conservation in Frankfort, Kentucky. Photo by Monte McGregor, Center Mollusk Conservation, Kentucky DFWR.

    Cumberland bean

    The Cumberland bean is a small mussel found in Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. It is protected as an endangered species and can be found in river systems within the Cumberland River and Tennessee River drainages. Visit the species profile...

  • Cumberland combshell. Photo by Dick Biggins, USFWS.

    Cumberland combshell

    The Cumberlandian combshell has a thick solid shell with a smooth to clothlike periostracum (thin, skin-like coating), which is yellow to tawny brown in color with narrow green broken rays. Visit the species profile...

  • Photo by Monte McGregor, Center Mollusk Conservation, Kentucky DFWR.

    Fanshell

    The fanshell is a green and yellow, medium sized mussel found in various rivers in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. It is protected as an endangered species. Visit the species profile...

  • Photo by Monte McGregor, Center Mollusk Conservation, Kentucky DFWR.

    Littlewing pearlymussel

    The littlewing pearlymussel is a very small mussel found in cool-water streams in the Tennessee and Cumberland River basins in Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. It is protected as an endangered species. Visit the species profile...

You wouldn’t find it if you didn’t know where to look. But six miles off the coast of Huntington Beach, California, amid strong currents, monster waves and Great White sharks, a 100-acre underwater farm is flourishing. “On the surface, all you can see is the corner buoys and the surface floats that we have that hold our lines up,” says Matt Grant, who manages the operations for Catalina Sea Ranch. “Everything else is underwater so unless you’re diving, you don’t get to see too much.”

Take a dive 15 feet below the surface, and the ranch Grant works for begins to reveal itself. Hundreds of fuzzy ropes hang suspended beneath the ocean waves, clustered with millions and millions of dark blue, smooth-shelled mussels. This is Catalina Sea Ranch, the first commercial aquafarm operating in US federal waters on the West Coast. The aquafarm is preparing to harvest its first crop of mussels in July.

The United States imports more than 90 percent of our seafood, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and most of the shellfish in our moules frites, cioppino and paella come all the way from Canada. “I found out that the United States imports every year about 35 million pounds of live mussels all the way from Prince Edward Island, 3,500 air-polluting miles away,” said Catalina Sea Ranch founder and CEO Phil Cruver. “I said, ‘We could do it ourselves, we can grow our own, offshore-California.’”

But open-ocean aquaculture is a controversial business. Oil platforms offshore near Catalina Island have long been home to native mollusks. No one has gotten permits to grow them in the Pacific Ocean, which begins three miles off the coast, until now. Since 2011, Cruver has been addressing tough questions about the project’s environmental impacts, monitoring requirements and the economic implications of the ranch on the fishing industry. It took longer than expected to raise the millions of dollars needed to fund the aquafarm. Cruver said getting aquaculture permits any closer to the coast would have been nearly impossible. He chose the San Pedro Shelf for the ranch because it is the largest underwater plateau on the West Coast and only a 30-minute boat ride from the Port of Los Angeles.

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Now, with money in hand, Catalina Sea Ranch has a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers to grow mussels in 100 acres of ocean to a depth of 150 feet. At sea, they feed on naturally occurring phytoplankton, taking them about six months to reach the market size of 2½-inches-long. They’re protected from predators like seagulls because they’re out of sight. Starfish can’t eat them because the ranch ropes don’t reach the seafloor. “It’s so exciting because we’re not only starting a new company, we’re starting a new industry. I’ve had six startups; I’m an entrepreneur … but nothing as exciting as this. And it’s not just the dimension of mussels, which was the primary purpose, but now there are other marine species we’re looking at, there are mollusks, there are macroalgae. It’s just got a tremendous future,” says Cruver.

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Sea Fishing Musselsfasrangry Boats

In a converted cargo container at the port, the ranch is also working with University of Southern California researchers to lengthen the time that mussels spawn and even to freeze mussel larvae so the shellfish can be grown year-round. (Mussels spawn only twice a year.) Through selective breeding, they also want to grow mussels that yield more meat, resist diseases and withstand ocean acidification.Right now, we’re growing the Mediterranean mussel or the Mytilus galloprovincialis,” says the director of marketing and sales, Kelly Stromberg. “It’s kind of your most common mussel, especially on the West Coast. But this is also the same mussel that would grow in Spain, for instance, even all the way down to South Africa.”

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These efforts are funded in part by NOAA and the US Department of Agriculture. The idea, Stromberg says, is to turn mussels into an even more sustainable food. “They’re low on the trophic level so they’re eaten by other predators. They’re the smallest organism that bigger organisms eat,” she says. “They are high in protein. Per gram of protein in a mussel exceeds what you’d get in a cow. We’re running out of land space and they [cows] also are high in carbon emissions just by being animals. So these [mussels] are actually absorbing carbon, helping the environment.”

Curious customers can soon try these mussels at Pier 76 Fish Grill and King’s Fish House, among other local restaurants and supermarkets. Cruver says they’ll cost more than the Prince Edward Island variety because his mussels are larger and harvested fresh from the Pacific Ocean. The ranch goal is to harvest one million pounds in the year ahead. But unpredictable conditions at sea make this a daunting proposition. On our visit to the northeast corner of the ranch, one of the 600-foot lines that the mussels hang from has been cut. This is one of the problems we have,” says ranch manager Matt Grant. “The lines are meant to be 15 feet deep so any vessel under 80 feet will pass right over it without hitting it. Any really large vessels like container ships will hit stuff. But they have radar. They are supposed to stay out of here.”

Then there are the Great White sharks. “They do come through here. It’s a more popular area for mako sharks and thresher sharks, but there have been juvenile White sharks that come within a couple of miles of here. I’m hoping I’ll get to see one while diving,” says Grant. “We were out here a few months ago and we saw an 8-foot hammerhead.”

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All photos by Stan Lee, Fried Chicken Sandwich Studios and 2016 James Beard Foundation visual storytelling award winner
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