Sunday, April 01, 2007

Fish Report 4/1/07

Fish Report 4/1/07
Goin' Fishin'
Hi All,
This past week found toggin' - eh, OK.
Really. A few days were just decent, one excellent, and a stinker.
Did have a fish tip the scale to 17 pounds. When your hot your hot ~ Sam's...
I'm pretty sure this is the last year we're going to legally be able to keep 5 tautog. I'm certain that'd be a good thing.
Until then ~effective immediately aboard the Morning Star~ anglers will be permitted only one female tog over 20 inches in their legal creel limit.
No April Fool's joke: More spawn's a good thing.
Causing another tog crash wouldn't be.
Going Fishing - Tuesday - 4/3 - 7am to 3pm - crabs provided - reservations required - calling for a nice day.
And, we'll book reservations for April 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 as above - be sure to leave the best phone number in the event of weather cancellation though.
Below is an 'editorial' I wrote and was published locally.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservations 410 520 2076
Rebuilding Fisheries From The Bottom Up
The "Fisheries in Decline" problem makes the news on occasion. Some fish, such as sea trout, were so abundant only 30 years ago that no one thought they could collapse: they're gone and remain so.
Still, like the herring and black-back gulls whose numbers were below 10,000 a century ago, it is possible to restore species, sometimes to new heights.
Our region of the mid-Atlantic has numerous reef-dwelling species such as lobster, sea bass, tautog, codfish and porgy. Even flounder and sand tiger shark use the habitat. Some remain economically viable fisheries, others are just a memory.
Although 'coral reef' conjures up images of lush islands and tropical seas, a closer study of corals reveals huge areas of this important seafloor habitat in temperate waters such as ours. In fact, corals flourish even at tremendous depths and frigid temperatures. They can occur anywhere that hard substrate, like rock or the hull of a sunken ship, exists.
Preserving habitat is important in any species restoration effort. Around the world corals are being mapped and protected - not just because they are coral, that's certainly important, but because they form a key habitat to so many of the stressed fisheries.
And then there's the mid-Atlantic.
Unfortunately, a geological seafloor study by Wigley and Theroux in 1981 failed to find anything other than sand and mud throughout the mid-Atlantic and therefore presumed there was no "hard-bottom" for hundreds of miles of mid-Atlantic coast. Another study, Stiemle and Zetlin 2000, found a little.
Too bad they didn't ask the fishers.
Almost since the inlet was cut in 1934, a time when marlin were frequently caught within 15 miles of Ocean City, the reef species have been a large part of the commercial and recreational fishing economy.
You can be sure that artificial reef construction hadn't even been considered at that point. A handful of shipwrecks could not have provided the footprint of habitat needed to create the fantastic catches of that era. It would be a long time before the electronics necessary to pinpoint their exact locations became available and wasn't necessary. Running by watch and compass, the fishers of that time put out their lobster and sea bass traps upon huge meadows of sea whip, sponges and star coral common to our area.
Problem was that lots of other fish and shellfish lived nearby.
There's no disputing the fact that towing a dredge or trawl net over these delicate habitats destroys them - and did.
Today only the most robust rocky bottoms are still pristine; the low-lying substrates have all been damaged at some point - maybe last week. Some areas have regrown only to be mowed back down, a process that seems to take nearly a decade. It's only where there is fear of losing the trawl net or dredge that corals get left alone.
Habitat loss equals holding capacity loss which, in and of itself, must cause a decline in the number of fishes. It's not just that fish were being overcaught ~ the surviving ones had less and less habitat on which to reproduce. Artificial reef can be used to restore some of what has been lost but it would take a tremendous effort to reestablish the original seafloor complexity.
Now there is consensus in the fisheries sciences that seafloor habitat is important - well worth preserving and allowing regrowth to occur. Advances in navigation allow astonishing precision. It is entirely possible for damaging fishing gears to stay clear of corals and rocky areas where corals could again flourish.
Our region's reefs need to get 'discovered' by fisheries scientists and managers before we can see real progress with population restoration. These areas need to be charted and zones of protection for certain gears declared around them. 
Given sound fisheries management, an expanding footprint of habitat will allow populations of reef dwelling fish to recover far more quickly. Predators too would benefit - not just the sharks and marlin, but the recreational and commercial fishers as well.

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