Morning Star Fish Report

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Fish Report 6/9/22 Corrected

Fish Report 6/9/22 

Opening June 23 to July 17.. 

Sea bass mostly OK..

An essay on White Marlin restoration.. 


A cut and paste sentence saying we were catching limits from a previous report slipped past my edit.. 

As discussed below and remains unchanged: Close - but very few limits of late. 


IF YOU BOOK LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER & LISTEN TO YOUR MESSAGES -

Weather Cancellations Happen - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way..


Opening June 23 through July 17 for sea bass trips (and MAYBE a few fluke/flounder - maybe) (with some days booked out for personal reasons) Size limit 13 inches - 15 per person.

 - Sailing Daily - Saturdays 6:30 to 3:30 at $155.00 — Weekdays & Sundays 7 to 3 at $135 - All Trips Sell Out at 18 Anglers. 

Sunday July 3rd will have Saturday hours & pricing. 4th of July regular fare. 

Have a few days booked out for fun fishing & reef research. 


Be a half hour early! We always leave early

..except when someone shows up right on time.

Clients arriving late will see the west end of an east-bound boat.

With a limited number of reserved spots, I do not refund because you overslept or had a flat..

Trips Also Announced on Facebook at Morning Star Fishing

https://www.facebook.com/ocfishing/ & my personal FB page along with after action (or lack thereof) reports..


Bait is provided on all trips. 

No Galley. Bring Your Own Food & Beverage. 


If You Won't Measure & Count Your Fish, The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Measure & Count — ALWAYS — No Exceptions! 

It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. Bonine seems best because it's non-drowsy. Truly cheap & effective insurance.

Honestly - If you get to go on the ocean once a month, once a year or even less; why risk chumming all day? Similarly, if you howl at the moon all night, chances are good you'll howl into a bucket all day.


Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Do Not Bring A Very Large Cooler. We have a few loaners - you'll still need ice.

No Galley! Bring Food & Beverages To Suit. A few beers in cans is fine for the ride home.


Wishbone doesn't replace backbone.. Have to keep a shoulder into reef building to make it happen.


Maryland is the only state from TX to MA without a marine reef program. 

Your Donations Are The ONLY Thing Getting Reef Built.. Ocreefs.org


As of 5/21/22 we have 36,444 Reef Blocks & 462 Reef Pyramids (170lb ea) deployed at numerous ACE permitted ocean reef sites - we also have 792 pyramids deployed by MD CCA at Chesapeake Bay oyster sites working to restore blue ocean water…

Currently being targeted oceanside: Virginia Lee Hawkins Memorial Reef 239 Reef Blocks (+67 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Jack Kaeufer's/Lucas Alexander's Reefs 1,888 Blocks (+44 Reef Pyramids) - Doug Ake's Reef 4,174 blocks (+16 Reef Pyramids) - St. Ann's 2,837 (+8 Reef Pyramids) - Sue's Block Drop 1,602 (+22 Reef Pyramids) - TwoTanks Reef 1,243 (+ 11 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 912 - Benelli Reef 1,531 (+ 17 Pyramids) - Rudy's Reef 465 - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 3,909 (+76 reef pyramids) - Wolf & Daughters Reef 734 - Al Berger's Reef 1,179 (+14 Reef Pyramids) - Great Eastern Block Drop 1,422 (+23 Reef Pyramids).. And a soon-to-be-named reef at Russell's Reef 30 Blocks & 49 Pyramids - We've also begun block drops at Capt Greg Hall's Memorial Reef with 222 Blocks & 2 Pyramids + 325 Castle & Terracotta Tog Blocks & 10 Pyramids 81 feet Bass Grounds Unnamed ..


Greetings All, 

Sea bass fishing has tapered from the opener. We're now seeing some clients in double digits and much less often a limit. I do not know why, but we also had a couple days where the bite was way off--I'd see lots of fish with electronics: very few chewing. 

Am also seeing a tiny handful of summer flounder. Be nice if they came on, especially given sea basses' fussiness.  


Sank a 110' barge recently - the Tyler Long Memorial Reef. 

After our evening trip Sunday the 29th to deploy my heaviest reef mooring ever, & on one of the prettiest evenings ever; a  tug, the Discovery Coast, arrived 9 miles off Ocean City, Maryland the following dawn towing a barge I've been working on for seven months or more. The 110x37ft ex-Navy hopper barge had a terrible leak--thankfully in her smallest compartment. But the rest? Bone dry. We finally had Coast Guard approval a few weeks ago..

You'd never believe the hours that can go into such an artificial reef project. Were it not for Ryan's constant effort too, it would surely have failed. 


Now on the bottom, the Tyler Long Memorial Reef is  going to be among the greats. It's almost touching another barge. I intend on putting more large pieces with those two. Will absolutely drop several boat loads of pyramids and blocks in the 20/25ft gap between the two barges, plus drop additional habitat complexity on and in the barges themselves. 

Anglers in the 2080s won't have the least clue how it all came to be. Smothered in corals by then, I anticipate they'll have fun fishing it though. 


With short notice on a major holiday, we had a small sink team. Weather lined up perfectly with a break in the tug's busy schedule; holiday or no we took advantage of the calm. 

With my old mate Brian aboard to get us away from the wharf, I put my crew aboard Capt. Rob's Titan America. They had several pick up loads of pumps and gear with em, including saws for the barge's thick steel. Vic & Brian cut a bunch of fish/water passages while Rob burned exterior holes with a torch. With bulkheads & decks cut to allow water flow, the gusher that had been contained was now allowed to flood the whole barge. 

Took longer than I thought, but by 10:40 she was on the bottom. 

Won't be long.. Tautog are going to love this hotel!


Carried the Ocean City Marlin Club on a charter recently. Got me thinking...... 

While doing reef monitoring work this spring--a month before sea bass would come inshore--we saw large squid on our screens just 9 miles out at the Bass Grounds. 

Good numbers of them, too. 

Every time I've ever seen squid off our coast its been on some sort of reef-like bottom, most often a remnant of our natural hardbottom reefs that survived the early industrial fishing period. 

The outside edge of the Bass Grounds (a deep slough) is defined by the 'First Lump'. Much like our more famous Jackspot shoal 21 miles out, (Jackspot made OC famous as the 'White Marlin Capitol of the World,') .. the First Lump rises out of 80+ feet of water to less than 30. It too was targeted by marlin fishermen in the 1940s, 50s & 60s. My good friend Capt Jim Whaley won the Marlin Club tournament in 1958 with two whites he caught at the First Lump. He was fishing 50+ miles inshore of where guys put their lines in these days.

A bit further out is the Third Lump where blue marlin were often the target. There is a video of the Miss Budweiser (a sport fishing boat back then, today its a 200mph speed boat..) with a blue marlin hooked up & jumping wildly as they often will. OC MD's highrises are plain to see, if distant. That fish was trolled up at the Third Lump on purpose. 

Why were those spots suitable to marlin then and not now? 


Oysters. 


Waiminit skipper.. Oysters in the ocean? 

Not so much!

Yes, there are no oysters in the ocean, at least not in the Mid-Atlantic. But, as a marine ecologist might say; there is a strong benthic/pelagic coupling between marlin and oysters. Chesapeake & Delaware Bay oysters, you see, once filtered our region's estuarine outflows in their entirety - even several times over. Oysters are what kept 'the deep blue sea' blue. 


Now its green. 


Oysters feed on everything algae thrive on. Then they eat the algae too. Once oysters collapsed in the late 1970s, so too did the greening of the Mid-Atlantic ocean accelerate. 

By the mid 1970s Jackspot was no longer a marlin hotspot. Catch a few? Yes, but the water was often too green. In the 2000s the water was always too green. 

Always. 


Perhaps some readers will be unfamiliar with 'bluewater.' If you can see down a few inches or even barely a few feet - that's green water. It's dirty. 

If it seems as though you can see down thirty feet, fifty, or 'forever,' that water will be blue - nearly free of algae. 

It's literally Blue. 

And it's beautiful. 

I've even had reports of bluewater in the lower Chesapeake from the early 1960s. 

Imagine..

With the great and grand natural biofilter shut in our estuaries, algae owned all of the Chesapeake. To this day algae is creating dead/anoxic areas as algae decompose and use all available oxygen. Decade by decade nutrient & algae rich waters flowed  into the Mid-Atlantic; from nearshore to further and further offshore, our historical grounds have become 'marlin free' because of water quality. Today even distant waters to canyon's edges and beyond suffer in green at times. 

Its not that marlin populations have collapsed. No, there have been new records set for most caught in a day or a year of late. 

Our ocean turned green in just over half a century. That's why there are no marlin where once they were numerous. 

For decades many biologists believed oyster restoration was a pipe dream - unobtainable. As Chesapeake artificial reefs had proven since at least the mid-1990s, we now know vertical substrate is the key. Once restorationists began spending their dollars on rock and fossilized oyster shell (limestone) - that allowed oysters to grow on steeply inclined surfaces and not be smothered by silt; re-reefing the Chesapeake then became a matter of money & time. 

We know how. We've seen fantastic successes in both MD & VA's recent tributary efforts. 

It's unquestionable. Turning the Mid-Atlantic ocean blue again is 100% doable. 

For bluewater sight feeders such as marlins, some tunas and wahoo, a return to historical nearshore feeding grounds will only require one more element after water quality is restored -- a return to biological production of squid & sand eels. 

It's interesting that of all the old timers I ever interviewed; guys who fished in the 1950s, 60s, & 70s all had tales to tell of the mess billfish would make spitting up sand eels. Of the many deckhands of mine and their friends who went on to master billfishing, none have ever seen a billfish spit up sand eels. 

Sand eels just don't thrive in the deep. They're more of a nearshore/shoal-top critter. And, while we certainly have issues with their habitat, its primarily the water having become too green for sight-feeders to use that has kept the last two generations of mates from having to clean that mess up.


Squid, however, offer a different tale I believe. Here seafloor habitat restoration has an important role.

A younger skipper; in the mid 1990s I had discovered an area of muddy bottom where tubeworms were thriving. Although they look like a flower, they are stationary filter feeding animal which feed in similar fashion to large barnacles. They withdraw into tubes of a few inches to nearly a foot for shelter. These are made of sand, mud, and held together of their own secretions. Twenty years ago I knew of an area of tubeworm north of Jackspot where I could fish several times a month with 80 anglers each trip. When summer flounder/fluke regs loosened and local trawler skippers again began venturing a bit further off, this particular slough was among the first places trawled. 

Those men complained bitterly of 'spaghetti mud' (tubeworm) jamming their nets. I never caught another sea bass there. 

(One of my greatest regrets is not filming any tubeworm. Lots and lots of hardbottom reef - never filmed any soft bottom reef. I do not know of a single patch anywhere now.) 

Similarly I observed tubeworm colonies inshore. On these we would find only tiny sea bass - months old. It was in this miles-long mud slough where tubes were colonizing that I found the greatest concentration of squid I've ever seen in the mid 1990s.

Squid mark on our fathometers (fish finder/sounder) like nice-sized sea bass. Not knowing what I was seeing I had clients drop.  While a single hook isn't ideal for squidding, if they're thick you can catch a few. It was amazing.. 

Squid. 

Lots of em. 

I got on the radio and told everyone what I was seeing. 

Next day there were a bunch of Jersey trawlers towing the area. 

Never saw tubeworm or squid in there again. Never ran my mouth on the radio again either. 

So, of the times I've seen squid it's been on natural bottom (mostly sea whip meadows) and then, this spring, on artificial reef. 

Where we're building that reef there was once 4+ square miles of sea whip and sponge growing at the Bass Grounds - just inside the First Lump. 

Of those square miles a few square yard remained by the late 1970s - flattened by hydraulic clamming gear. 

There are other missing bottoms & impacted bottoms that cannot begin to support the life they once did. 

Unlike oyster bottoms which are known in fantastic historical detail; no restoration effort I know of, save my personal efforts, has ever tried to catalogue the historical footprint of any of our seafloor reef: from snowy grouper habitat in 50 fathoms just north of the Washington canyon that's now barren slab rock, to vast whip meadows at the Bass Grounds - ignorance. 

How can NOAA claim to have restored sea bass with no idea their original habitat? 

Ignorance is bliss.. 


I believe we can restore our temperate reef fish. In doing so we'll also help to restore billfish to their historical nearshore feeding grounds. 

We must restore both water quality and reef ecologies long absent. 

Had our marine waters turned green in half a decade instead of half a century there'd be a lot of angry people. 

Marlin moving offshore happened slowly--in over half a century. It's called 'baseline shift' or 'generational shift.' Time healed the pain. No one's even saying can't. There's only ignorance. 


We may just get lucky. 

Artificial reef constructions may replace a percentage of lost hardbottoms - just enough. 

Oyster restorations may finally begin to arrest water quality - I think it fair to say this has already begun. 

If we start catching white marlin at Jackspot again, it'll be efforts to re-reef the Mid-Atlantic that accomplished it. 

Cheers  

Monty


Capt Monty Hawkins 
Mhawkins@morningstarfishing.com 
Info@ocreefs.org

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