Morning Star Fish Report

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Fish Report 7/21/19

Fish Report 7/21/19 
Summer Cbassing 
Help Wanted 
An MRIP Comment 

Reservations Open Through September 14, 2019.. Sundays through from Aug 11 to Sept 15 are closed/held in reserve for special trips. 
Am looking for a fill-in deckhand also. Email if interested!

Sailing Daily For Sea Bass Weather Permitting (Sakes!) Flounder/Fluke should be OK by now - they are not, Not Yet! Saturday's 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 –Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. 
Fishing's mostly been a matter of catching a nice fish fry's worth..


Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - 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 over-slept or had a flat..

Bonine Is Cheap Insurance! "Natural Dramamine" Does NOT Work! 
It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure.  If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First..

Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Is Fine For A Few People. 
No Galley! BYO Sandwiches & Soft Drinks. A few beers in cans is fine. (bottles break at bad times)

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! 

We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. 

If you have a few blocks in the backyard taking up space and just making snake reef, bring em. We'll toss em overboard with the rest.

25,996 Reef Blocks have been deployed at numerous sites as of 7/10/19..  
Here are sites currently being targeted: Capt. Jack Kaeufer's Reef 787 - Doug Ake's Reef 3,805 - St. Ann's 2,284 - Sue's Block Drop 787 - TwoTanks Reef 782 - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 900 - Benelli Reef 940 - Rudy's Reef 185 - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 1,604 - Wolf & Daughters Reef 688 - 327 at Al Berger's Reef.. 


Greetings All, 
Am having some very fine days, even had a shot of peanut mahi today. 
Am also having some dead slow days! 
Derned if I can figure it. 
Flounder haven't come on yet--not for the average angler anyway! Hope that happens soon. Even then there will days they chew & days they don't. I've never been able to predict what will bite & when - we go fishing.. The mahi we had 7/21 were a gift and will not be a regular part of our catch. 
Presently giving folks the very best day I can given sea bass's willingness to chew.. 

Below is a singularly important comment about our recreational catch estimates. They've become so badly inflated that fishery scientists & managers haven't any real idea of our catch; and, more importantly perhaps, these MRIP estimates are now inflating fish population estimates as well. 
This year, for instance, commercial fishers received a 49% increase in summer flounder (fluke) quota. That's HUGE & those fish are going to get caught - promise. 
Recreational anglers saw no increase because "we're already catching ours." 
How bad is it? It's entirely possible that the supposed 60% commercial/40% recreational quota division is more factually 15% rec/85% commercial. That's how high, how grossly overinflated, MRIP's catch estimates are.. 
I've been hammering at this issue over 20 years. Right now seems the most likely to see real action taken to repair our estimates  ..but I've thought that before. 
Comment period ends 7/22/19, but the fight will go on & on & on.... 
Regards,
Monty 

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star 
OC MD 
mhawkins@morningstarfishing.com 
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You can send a comment too.. 

Greetings Admiral Gallaudet & everyone else too!

MRIP should be discarded immediately after a hearty public flogging for crimes against fisheries science, fisheries management, & theft of full potential for all US East Coast & Gulf Coast marine recreational fisheries.

Comment by Capt. Monty Hawkins, Partyboat Morning Star, OC MD, on NOAA's Marine Recreational Information Program--MRIP--which replaced NOAA's previous program, the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey--MRFFS--in 2012. At question is whether MRIP can be considered scientifically suitable as demanded of the "Quality of Information Act."   

NO! MRIP cannot meet any standard of quality, let alone a scientific standard. 

Greetings All, 
Having fought for repair of recreational catch estimates since 1998, I cannot imagine a worse result from Congress's 2007 demand that MRFSS be repaired or replaced. 
Where MRFSS was wildly inaccurate, MRIP has blown recreational catch further skyward with such absurdity that even non-fishers can plainly see the impossibly of MRIP's 'new & improved' recreational catch estimates. 
MRIP should be discarded immediately after a hearty public flogging for crimes against fisheries science, fisheries management, & theft of full potential for all US East Coast & Gulf Coast marine recreational fisheries. 

In the event a NOAA reader, or any other, should want to understand how I came to such strong conclusions, I've included a small part of this story below. 

Every recreational regulatory tightening for all marine species is based primarily on NOAA's catch estimates. With the regulatory community playing whack-a-mole/close-a-fishery whenever MRFSS showed a sudden increase in recreational landings, fisheries science & marine ecology based fisheries productions never had a chance. So far as I'm concerned, the most important aspects of fisheries restorations remain wholly unfound. 

We suffered a 2 week sea bass closure in 1998 when MRFSS showed a million more sea bass caught by NJ Partyboats in 1997.. (Oh? Only a million more? It was routine then for MRFSS to show astronomical estimates in the For-Hire fleet & not at all for Private Boats..)
After several regulatory tightenings, NOAA RA Pat Kurkel closed sea bass by 'emergency' based on MRFSS' estimates in 2009. (This closure very nearly bankrupted me..) 
Much of the Mid & North Atlantic's sea bass season remains seasonally closed owing spikes in recreational catch data.
There was an emergency all right - NOAA using bad data to destroy our fiscal potential & blind science to several means of achieving true fisheries restorations. 

Closures brutal; further regulatory tightening would ensue after the 2009 closure had expired. Some states now have such restrictive sea bass regulation in place that their fishery may as well be closed. 
Make no mistake, MRIP's failings are not just about sea bass. That one reef fishery happens to be my primary fishery. I can examine any marine recreational fishery and swiftly find implausible landings estimates. 
As has been the case since 2003, recreational Party/Charter landings are far more stable - & they're required to be reported for each trip. Because professionals are on the water whenever it's fit, we naturally have a better grasp of true fishing pressure; not only from competition, but from private boats as well. Very few fisheries have Private Boat effort greater than Party/Charter's fisheries extractions. 

To demonstrate how wildly flawed MRIP's recreational catch data might be, here's an example of comparing the somewhat better known Party/Charter landings from the tautog fishery:
In mid-2010 I was raising a stink about the Wave 2 (March/April) NJ Shore 2010 tautog landings estimate. MRFSS had NJ's shivering early spring anglers catching more tautog (when they Are Not biting from shore!) than All Party/Charter throughout the species full range. At about 64,000 fish, it would have been funny had it not been "science." 
Already foremost in mind, this was the very first estimate I checked when MRIP was released in 2012. The new and loudly cheered MRIP had taken a purely ridiculous shore tautog estimate and made it unfathomably impossible — they'd added 100,000 more tautog to NJ's March/April Shore estimate.. 
But that MRIP nonsense was just the beginning. Now, after MRIP's two "recalibration" events, that same estimate - where a couple fellows are trying to catch NJ's very first shore-caught tog in mid/late April - is now shown as over 800,000 lbs. 
That's more tautog in a few weeks from the jetties of one state than All Party/Charter & All Commercial fishers catch in a year throughout the species entire range. 
The estimate still stands. You can look it up. 
It's really dumb  ..yet shows in grand fashion how an estimate test can be devised; a method of creating Bayesian statistical stops that would hold MRIP's statistical spikes in check. 
I've suggested "Percentage of the Catch" comparative testing for nearly 2 decades & especially at meetings prior to MRIP's formation. Ask professional & frequent recreational participants, "What percentage split is seen in the (whatever) fishery between Party/Charter & Private Boat. Using Party/Charter estimates & reported VTR (Federal Vessel Trip Reports) landings to create a fairly hard landings value, it's then simple math to calculate Private Boat landings from participant's suggested percentage values..
(Say a number of Connecticut fishers believe For-Hire catches 70 to 80% of that state's sea bass—from the known value of Party/Charter reported landings & NOAA's estimate, it's a simple calculation to create a catch estimate which also includes the Private Boats' 30%.. The Private Boat catch would never be shown as many-times higher than Party/Charter again..) 
 
Instead of developing an honest look at recreational extraction, however, MRIP's developers instead chose to cower in fear of mighty recreational Shore & Private Boat fishers who, in MRIP's view, are easily capable of outfishing any amount of professional effort -- even, as above, ALL Commercial & Party/Charter combined, and outfish their annual landings in short time-spans — even just weeks..
Management is now more afraid of recreational catch than foreign factory trawlers of yore.

Another example: Black Sea Bass 2017 (here from Fish Report 3/27/19 where I had weeks of work in gathering "Percentage of Catch" info from For-Hire  participants in every state between VA & MA and then devised coastal landings estimates state by state; first from MRIP's Party/Charter values and Private Boat Percentage of the Catch, then actual For-Hire VTR reported landings & Private Boat percentages..)
11,447,940 lbs of recreational sea bass was MRIP's actual 2017 value for all recreational sea bass catch north of Cape Hatteras. (Eleven and a half million would be over 3 years of all commercial catch..)
4,160,000 was the catch assigned by Science/Management - Ignoring MRIP (A First! Demonstrates managers' level of trust.. Sea Bass would have been closed for at least 2 years to all recreational effort had the 11.5 million number not been reduced..)
1,961,129 is my total pounds calculation using MRIP's Party/Charter landings & a For-Hire/Private Boat Percentage of the Catch estimate.. 
1,226,473 if calculated via actual VTR reported values & For-Hire Percentage of the Catch estimate.. 

MRIP, by my method, is dern-near TEN MILLION POUNDS TOO HIGH in their total estimate.  
10.5 Million Pounds is MRIP's 2017 estimate for all Private Boat sea bass effort north of Hatteras. That's Far More than All Commercial Trawl/Trap & All Party/Charter Landed in 2017.. 
Have you EVER heard anyone complain about private boats wiping out a reef's sea bass population? I guess the folks at MRIP sure have.. 
Conversely, some of MRIP's biggest cheerleaders routinely bash Party/Charter for taking too many fish. Yet, plain as day in MRIP's data, Party/Charter extraction is inconsequential in today's recreational fisheries. 
Just one problem: in reality For-Hire effort truly is a powerful extractive force. Far higher than Private Boat in many fisheries, especially sea bass & scup. We even take a dern good chunk of recreational summer flounder & striped bass. 
Boy, you'd never know if MRIP tables were your only picture of recreational fishing pressure.... 

Here's a hint at the evil & wholly uncontrollable overfishing goblins hiding in NOAA's closet & under it's bed - here's what they're afraid of: One of MRIP's lead statisticians told me, (as if I were a bit dull in the head, and maybe he has a point..) "There are a lot more Private Boats than For-Hire boats. They Have To Catch More Fish." 
Oyyyyy... despite the For-Hire recreational fisheries' innumerable NOAA/State Fisheries Permits, (really, there are a LOT of fishing permits needed to take people fishing as a business!) and despite For-Hire's obvious potential for large harvest/catch/landings; and especially despite what we see fishing, where many-many days For-Hire anglers are the only folks soaking a line—especially in shoulder & winter seasons: immediately after the 2003 repair to For-Hire estimates; in 2004 NOAA's official recreational catch estimates began increasing Private Boat to where today MRIP invariably shows Party/Charter For-Hire landings as unworthy of consideration. 
In fact, of the last two years (2017 & 2018) For-Hire have, according to MRIP, landed less than 10% of the Mid & North Atlantic's sea bass. (9.7% in 2017 & 7.9% in 2018) 
For summer flounder (fluke) it's often less than 5%.. (3.8% in 2017 & 5.4% in 2018) 
Why must For-Hire skippers do all this paperwork if there's no real impact on the fisheries? ..at least 'no impact' according to NOAA's MRIP Recreational Catch Data.. 
My response to, "There are a lot more Private Boats than For-Hire boats. They Have To Catch More Fish." is, there are a LOT more people who DO NOT have a boat than do. Not everyone who likes to fish has a boat! Then too, we carry boat owners when their boat's put up for winter, or when they travel.. 
Yeah, MRIP's got this really messed up. 
Using the more precise (but nowhere near perfect) MRIP/VTR For-Hire landings values in conjunction with somewhat loose percentage splits would cast a far better picture of true recreational catch. 

A couple more doozies.. 
Briefly consider NY's Nov/Dec 2016/2017 Private Boat sea bass estimates -- where MRIP claims For-Hire only caught 0.8% of NY's sea bass in early winter 2017 and professional effort was outfished by Private Boats 120 to 1 when NY Private Boats landed 3 million pounds.. Though professional skippers doubt seriously Private Boats catch even 10% of NY Nov/Dec sea bass landings, MRIP has those few NY Private Boats who actually fish in early winter landing nearly the entirety of the annual Mid/North-Atlantic recreational quota. 
If the good folks at MRIP had a chart in front of them saying the NY Wave 6 (Nov/Dec) Percentage Split was 90% For-Hire and only 10% Private Boat, that egregious estimate would have never made it to a computer screen.
Even upping it to 20% for Private Boat's share, NY's sea bass tally would have been 31,759 lbs - not 3 million lbs.. Upping it to 50% would not make it much higher.
To achieve that three million pound Private Boat estimate, caught in early winter when I could only get out 21 days in my partyboat, would require 2,496 Private Boats, with everyone catching a limit, going every fishable day. 
That would be 357 Private Boats running Every Fishable Day from EACH of NY's inlets w/winter sea bass access. 
That sure isn't what those big NY Partyboat operators saw offshore... 

While that estimate's ineptitude is glaringly obvious, creating "percentage of the fishery" comparisons offer much finer detail as well. 
There's not been any concern for MRIP's 2018 Wave 5 (Sept/Oct) Black Sea Bass recreational catch estimate in Maryland (an estimate I'm deeply familiar with) - MRIP now has 200,036 lbs total for MD Wave 5 sea bass. 
Holy Moly!! That's a LOT of sea bass! 
But, by MRIP's calculation, only 4.4% of the total catch was by MD For-Hire boats. For every 95.6 pounds of MD Private Boat catch, there'd only be 4.4 pounds of For-Hire Party/Charter sea bass.. 
I beg to differ. 
It should be quite the opposite, if perhaps a tad higher (maybe) for Private Boats. That is, For-Hire should show about 80% of landings for sea bass in Sept/Oct - not a mere 4.4%! 
Percentages are funny. Merely jumping For-Hire catch to 9% would more than double For-Hire landings. Since doubling the For-Hire estimate would be HUGE --it's already pretty tight(ish) - we tell NOAA what we caught!-- it seems far more likely an out-of-step estimate would require a lowering (or, on rare occasion, raising) of Private Boat catch. 
Here, based on "Percentage of the Catch," MD's actual combined sea bass landings in Sept/Oct 2018 would far more likely be about 11,137 lbs -- not 200,000.. 

How high has MRIP jacked-up recreational private boat catch?
Here are some MRFSS sea bass tables from 2011, the year before MRIP was released. They were included in my comment titled "Course Correction" from 2011. These tables contain MRFSS "numbers of fish" estimates which Party/Charter fishers actually involved with the sea bass fishery thought wrong in the extreme. 
Now shown as incredibly higher, I've added MRIP's latest nonsense in {brackets} beside old version MRFSS estimates. 
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - 
Massachusetts - 
Wave 3 - May/June - Private Boat 
Note "0" for both programs in 2006.. 
YearHARVEST (TYPE A + B1) PSE
200316,282 {35,000}36.6
200417,177 {30,000}46.7
200553,349 {91,000}32.3
200728,281 {37,000}85.3
200865,376 {86,000}29.1
200926,827 {69,000}38.9
2010221,028 {1,014,000}31.3
201170,305 {232,000!}31.6
 
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Rhode Island - Wave 3 - May/June - Private Boat 
YearHARVEST (TYPE 
A + B1)
PSE
20031,745 {4,000}46.9
20045,686 {7,000}29.4
20056,160 {7,000}57.2
20061,975 {1,000}70.4
20073,601 {2,000}43
20080 {0}0
2009989 {2,000}90.4
201036,182 {100,000}50.7
20110 {0}0
 
2011 MRFSS 
Species: BLACK SEA BASS 
- Massachusetts - Wave 4 - July/Aug - Private Boat
YearHARVEST (TYPE 
A + B1)
PSE
200339,289 {66,982}36.7
200433,003 {45,386}35.5
200543,478 {61,925}42.6
200627,518 {39,079}44.1
200713,062 {10,542}71.3
200813,548 {22,972}69.4
2009164,483 {443,502}25.6
2010138,748 {251,805}35.1
201131,565 {126,675}29.3
 
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - 
New York - Wave 5 - 
Sept/Oct - Private Boat 
YearHARVEST (TYPE A 
+ B1)
PSE
2003101,350 {209,000}31.7
200429,863 {51,000}49.2
20057,749 {7,000}50.3
200658,398 {105,000}32.7
200742,352 {133,000}25.7
200854,352 {161,000}34.7
2009105,256 {401,000}45.1
2010325,074 {561,000}24.4
 
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - New Jersey - 
Wave 5 - Sept/Oct - Private Boat  
YearHARVEST (TYPE A + B1)  PSE
2003238,830 {503,000}22.1
2004350,981 {781,000}28.3
200573,860{159,000}43.6
200697,767 {164,000}44
200718,116 {15,000}69.4
2008160,799 {1,022,000}35.8
200932,815 {161,000}34.6
2010234,150 {1,518,000}44
In 2011 I wrote of these MRFSS estimates: "Just these 5 data sets, wildly divergent from the mean & incredibly divergent from the historical trend of for-hire fishers catching more sea bass than the private boat fleet; These few sets alone account 812,000 fish above the mean, a substantial part of the modern recreational quota. Just this difference is more than twice as many sea bass as the entire Mid-Atlantic party/charter fleet is said to have caught in all of 2010.
Now, with MRIP having undergone two "recalibrations," these five single-state/single-mode (Private Boat) two-month 'wave' periods in 2010 are now 2.49 million fish higher than with MRFSS; and, in total, 3.44 million fish are now shown by this pathetic 'repair' of MRFSS. 

The true harvest of black sea bass is primarily by Party/Charter. 
Even in states like MA where Private Boat harvest is significant, no For-Hire skipper I've spoken with thought Private Boats catch more sea bass except on summer Saturdays when Private Boat effort spikes ..yet MRIP has just these five single wave sets as 2.97 million more sea bass than all Party/Charter's 0.474 million from Cape Hatteras north.. 
It's quite likely the For-Hire estimate is also too high. Even though we tell NOAA what we caught, they add handsomely to Recreational VTR reported landings - It's the other ghost in NOAA's closet: unreported For-Hire effort.  

Did Maryland Shore fishers land 178,000 lbs of sea bass in Sept/Oct 2016 that averaged 1.4 lbs apiece? (No! They caught, near as I can tell, ONE legal sea bass from shore. It was 12.5 inches or a bit over half a pound.)
Did New York Private Boats land six million lbs of sea bass in 2016 & 2017? (No! One state's highly regulated private boats could not land more sea bass than all commercial trawl & trap..) 
What's the chance 1.6 M lbs of cod crossed recreational docks from NY Private Boats in hearty winter weather, and their Partyboat fleet didn't get in on it.. (Zero. There's no chance that happened.) 
In 2017 MRIP has MA & CT at nearly a million pounds of shore caught striped bass while Rhode Island's shore landings were only 3/4 of a million - but get this - here's the "Average Size" of those shore-caught stripers.. CT 19.6 lbs - MA 33.4 lbs - RI 33.8 lbs.. 
And the grand prize for "Average" Shore caught stripers is RI in 2018 at 45.1 lbs! (Nice! Would that it were true..)
In Delaware's estimates last year, 2018, sea bass caught from Shore 'averaged' 1.9 lbs! (Yeah, No. That didn't happen either..) 

There is No Recreational Marine Species that's not affected by MRIP's estimates. This statistical baloney is positively blinding fisheries science. 
It has to stop. 
It has to get repaired. 
MRIP is the worst possible result from Congress's 2007 intent to repair or replace MRFSS. 
MRIP cannot possibly meet the Quality of Information Act's standards. 

Regards,
Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star 
Ocean City, Maryland 
mhawkins@morningstarfishing.com 

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