Morning Star Fish Report

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Fish Report 3/7/20


Fish Report 3/7/20 
Opening A Couple Tog Trips..
We Must Not Let Bad Data Win! 

I promise any who will read - if action is not taken soon, MRIP (NOAA's recreational catch estimate program) will be the death of the Recreational Marine For-Hire Fisheries. I figure we have about 10 months to lobby our DC Reps or new regulation will doom For-Hire businesses..

Honest truth about Tog Trips!
Do you like a good old fashioned 'drop and reel' sea bass bite? Like steady action? 
Yeah, umm, toggin/blackfishing ain't that. (Except in the rarest of occasions!) This fishery, tog fishing, is the hardest from among my target species. Skunks can and do happen! Even skilled tog fishers, and I mean from among the very best, can get their head handed to em. 
Still, because the challenge is both our test & attraction - we go! 
Last winter I had several of my best blackfish trips in YEARS. This year already too.. That DOES NOT MEAN IT'S ABOUT TO HAPPEN AGAIN!! ("Ah, Capt, I thought we'd catch 20 pounders today?") Oh Mercy! I'm just glad if clients get bit!
I'm telling you here - I had many, many anglers get skunked last winter and this year also.
This fishery is tough!
Had a well-skilled client catch 5 double digit fish in one day! ..yet some of the Very Best Tog Anglers I Know Were Skunked The Same Trip! 
Then, a few weeks later, it was his turn on the tog torture rack! 
It's a brutal fishery.. As I saw on FB, "the tug is the drug.." 

I run Tog Trips light so anglers can move to the bite - or try too!
For those in need of blow-by-blow catch reports, I post after every trip to facebook.

Reservations Required at 410-520-2076
Tog (Blackfish) Trips - zero sea bass. They're closed now (because of bad catch estimates!) 

If Trying To Get A Spot - Stay On The Line!!

Wednesday 3/11/20 - Long Tog - Leave At 6:30 - Return 5ish - 14 Sells Out @ $175.00 
Long Boat Rides On Long Trips! 
Friday 3/13/20 - Long Tog - Depart 5:30 - 14 Sells Out - $200.00... 
 
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..

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: green crabs for tog. (Whites Are
available from crew for a reasonable cost..) Our Tog Pool Is By Length: A Tog That's Been Released Counts The Same As One In The Boat.

No Live Tog Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (I Believe The Live Tog Black Market Has Hurt This Fishery ..But Nowhere Near As Much As Bad Sea Bass Regulation)
Agreed With Or Not, All Regulations Observed – Maryland: 4 Tog @ 16 Inches

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 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 DO 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.

Except in high-summer, waterproof boots are almost a necessity unless fishing the bow - sneakers will ruin your day when the water is cold! While some rarely, or never, wear gloves for fishing, you'd not likely see me fishing this time of year w/o at least the half-finger wool gloves. Tuck a "hot hands" warmer in the palm and life is good..
Layers are best because, believe it or not, sometimes it can be very
pleasant offshore--especially when the wind lays down. In winter it's
warmer offshore owing to warmer waters. In summer it's cooler.. 

Wishbone doesn't replace backbone.. Have to keep a shoulder into it to make it happen. 
Donations help too! Ocreefs.org  

We're looking for another concrete company such as Atlantic Concrete in Dagsboro DE to take a half dozen pyramid molds. They're filling them with waste concrete - just wash out concrete coming back to the yard unused. They've made over 50 pyramids in just weeks. 
Shoot, we've made over 50 pyramids at my house since September with sackrete - simple! 
At 170 lbs or so the pyramids are boat deployable—two men with a 2x4 can pick one up and roll it overboard. 
Although the molds are expensive (about $500.00,) I anticipate we'll get hundreds of concrete pyramids per mold, if not more. I'm truly hopeful many concrete firms will accept our loaner molds and help make reef that will last for centuries using what would have been lost waste product. 
If storage and trucking become an issue? Well, wouldn't that be an awesome problem..  
Get them made & we'll get them overboard! 

Sponsor the Ocean City Reef Foundation!
http://www.ocreefs.org
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. 
28,911 Reef Blocks + 79 Reef Units (170lb Concrete Pyramids) have been deployed at numerous sites as of 3/7/20..  
Here are sites currently being targeted: Capt. Jack Kaeufer's Reef 1,107 Blocks (+17 Reef Units) - Doug Ake's Reef 3,956 blocks (+11 Reef Units) - St. Ann's 2,387 (+5 Reef Units) - Sue's Block Drop 1,379 (+12 Reef Units) - TwoTanks Reef 1,043 (+ 8 Reef Units) - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 900 - Benelli Reef 1,145 (+ 6 Pyramid Units) - Rudy's Reef 209 - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 2,393 (+27 reef units)  - Wolf & Daughters Reef 713 - Al Berger's Reef 373 (+1 Reef Unit) - Great Eastern Block Drop 513 (+6 Reef Units).. 

Greetings All, 
Long windy spell here. Right pain in the neck. Had some good days, thankfully, before the winds of March began. 
A "Heads Up" - Will likely be announcing sea bass reservations in my next report. Credit cards don't like being that far out so they'll be non-refundable. If the weather goes bad or a Detroit Diesel throws a rod through the block I'll reschedule you - not refund - on these time-distant sea bass trips. 
Reservation book is NOT open yet - See My Next Report! Reservation staff cannot take your info or credit card payment for a sea bass trip ..yet. 

Been writing my DC reps at a steady clip. Will go visit with them before too long. 
Here's a bit of it. 
We are fortunate beyond belief to have dodged MRIP's bullet this year. (Really a machine gun spray of bad recreational catch estimates!) 
What I had so feared is now pushed off another 10 months or so. 
Anyway.. Here are some samples of what I've written of late. 
Regards, 
Monty 
********
NOAA should IMMEDIATELY return to MRFSS - then wrap MRIP in a seal costume and tow it along Cape Cod's easterly reaches. . 
*******
I promise any who will read - if action is not taken soon, MRIP (NOAA's recreational catch estimate program) will be the death of the Recreational Marine For-Hire Fisheries. I figure we have about 10 months to lobby our DC representatives.  
*******
((Was softening DC beachheads in Friday's rain. Sent several emails to senators and my congressman explaining, as briefly as possible—(but it's complex!)—why we need to have MRIP walk the plank and immediately   reinstate NOAA's old catch estimating program, MRFSS)) 
*******
..Just having coffee this morning looking at one wave (Nov/Dec 2019,) one species (sea bass,) I saw quite nearly a million pounds of over-estimated Private Boat catch & likely at least 100,000 pounds underestimated in For-Hire Party/Charter. 
*** 
((Here a more full letter to my Senators' staff. I'm joining it after polite niceties.))
*******
..While our situation with seafloor habitat, (where before industrial fishing began our seafloor was vastly richer & encompassed fabulously many more square miles of temperate coral reef than remained after 1980) ..our natural reef habitat footprint very likely declined 85% in the period from after WWII to the mid-1970s. Habitat that could be destroyed by the catching of fish and shellfish was, in fact, destroyed.
Lost seafloor habitat's fishery production values remain very much unrecognized. And while the notion marine seafloor restoration, so easily accomplished, might be astoundingly beneficial to all Mid/North Atlantic Fisheries remains undiscovered  — our troubles with MRIP's recreational catch estimates continues to worsen with every two month month 'wave.' 
Just this morning (3/6/20) I examined Nov/Dec (wave 6) 2019 MRIP recreational catch estimates for Black Sea Bass. 
Gosh.. I found I could easily show nearly a million pounds of over-estimated recreational private boat catch in sea bass; and, of equal import, a hundred-thousand pounds of For-Hire underestimation... 
I did those calculations using the observations of men such as myself who fish all the time—every possible day really—in what I call "percentage of the catch theory." 
Take Maryland's sea bass estimate for instance. We have 4,400 lbs of For-Hire sea bass catch shown in 2019's early winter wave 6 period. It's a time of year weather rarely cooperates yet fishing is fabulous. We carry a right-many satisfied clients - (and I'd love to take staffers out then too!) ..but in this early winter period we hardly EVER see a private boat. 
MRIP, sadly, shows MD private Boats landing 23,400 lbs to our 4,400.. 
What nonsense. Judging by our "Wave 6 Percentage of the Catch values for sea bass" - a value of approximately 10% Private Boat & 90% For Hire - we'd fully expect MD Private Boat to have landed under 1,000 lbs.. 
And they did  ..just not according to the MRIP data.

While Maryland's MRIP estimate is demonstrably wrong, it's super-small potatoes. 
NY's 2019 Nov/Dec data offers a better example of how MRIP is gouging recreational quota — how ghost catch on computer is robbing us blind! There the big party boats on Long Island's south side are said to have landed about 50,000 lbs of sea bass. 
Like me, these fellows don't see a whole lot of Private Boat traffic in early winter. Cold, rough; sea bass are moving far offshore to their winter haunts - it's much more of a big boat fishery up there. 
A convincing display of MRIP's ineptitude is therefore shown in NY's Private Boat estimate of dern-near a million lbs of Private Boat catch. 
That's some fishfeathers right there! 
The estimate, given observations of long-time winter Partyboat skippers, should be no more than 10% of the For-Hire value. Therefore MRIP is off 960,000 lbs just in one wave/one state/one species/one mode.. And that 'blends in' statistically as NOAA is forever telling Congress?
Gosh. 
Similarly, but with a coastal perspective, no one thinks Private Boat catches even 30% the North Atlantic's scup/(porgy).. In this fishery huge For-Hire Partyboats catch like crazy from NY and points north. Yet here comes MRIP informing science & management that of 14 million lbs of recreational scup landed, only 2 million lbs were from electronically reporting party/charter boats.. 
What codswallop!! 
It should be about 2,600,000 lbs of boat catch, not 14,000,000!!  
Then there's the issue of underreporting ForHire landings. We TELL em what we caught! DE & CT sea bass party boat catch in wave 6, 2019 is incredibly poorly represented. DE partyboats, popular & catching like crazy, show a zero in Nov/Dec 2019. CT shows about one boat's catch from one day. 
Oh Dear...

Please.. I think we have about 10 months before MRIP jams a wooden stake in recreational For-Hire fishing's heart. We'll not be able to dodge MRIP's assertions of wildly over harvesting our quotas much longer. 
Our 2020 reprieve - our one year pardon - comes from ASMFC & MAFMC tossing all the catch data for scup, sea bass, & summer flounder to the gutter. 
These fisheries professionals will, I'm sure, back-pedal on that statement of mine. The fact remains: If fishery managers and scientists believed MRIP's absolutely massive assertions of 2019 overfishing - we'd either be Dern Near Closed, or Closed Completely, on all three of those fisheries. 
That didn't happen (& boy was I scared it might!) 

MRIP is such a farce. We complained bitterly about MRFSS' over estimates, and I more than any to House Fisheries Chair Wayne Gilchrest, MD 1st, who fought for a repair back in the mid/early 2000s.  
MRFSS catch estimates in the late 1990s/early 2000s often showed Party/Charter as wildly too high, so very much like MRIP does today with Shore & Private Boat.  
An example: in wave 6 (November/December) 2019 MRIP has Rhode Island Shore Mode catching 100,000 lbs of sea bass. (From Shore!) 
MRIP makes this assertion based on 6/10ths of one fish! A pair of fillets! 
And from Shore? No!! 
Help!! 
MRIP is far worse than MRFSS ever was. 
NOAA should IMMEDIATELY return to MRFSS - then wrap MRIP in a seal costume and tow it along Cape Cod's easterly reaches. .  
MRIP's catch is so out of whack it's causing stock assessment scientists to raise fish population numbers greatly. 
With more fish caught on computer, more fish become available to quotas. While recreational quota dissipates in a cloud of electrons owing false wild guesses from MRIP  ..commercial quota will be landed in real fish. 
In fact, I believe we've crossed into inflated stock assessment values so high that JUST commercial quota would be more than management would allow if they knew the truth of recreational catch. Indeed, witness the 49% increase to commercial summer flounder quota in the spring of 2019! (and that incredible increase met with further recreational regulatory tightening in the same period.) 
NOAA's been telling everyone for decades that their catch estimates are just peachy. 
More like a bucket of fish guts forgotten for a week in August if you ask me.. 
Run the intercept field data through MRFSS' old programs. Yes, we fought hard to change MRFSS, but it wasn't near as bad as today's baloney. Wouldn't be hard to switch. Should stop the regulatory hemorrhaging until a cellphone reporting system can devised. 
Oh, and MRIP? They're working on a mail survey. 
Gee. Maybe pony express is best? 
What a terrible mess. 
We should be basking in the glow of fabulous fisheries restorations' success. 
Instead? We continue to fight for sanity in our catch estimates. 
Being overquota is what drives regulatory tightening. As that noose tightens more and more boats get out of the business. 
I predict 2021 will be the worst year ever if nothing is done about MRIP. 
Please Help! 
Thank You! 
Monty 

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Mhawkins@morningstarfishing.com 
Partyboat Morning Star OC MD 

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