Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fish Report 6/3/07

Fish Report 6/3/07
Sea Bass & Subway Cars
Hi All,
A mixed week. Saturday's trip was among the best this year, other days we had to work harder. I believe that everyday saw at least one limit along the rail, but we also had some folks struggling to finally break into double digits. I even had a pair of fellows doing their utmost NOT to get into double digits. They just kept throwing back bigger keepers... Makes a customer happy -and is legal- then it works for us.
Took a long paddle one calm day - ahh, the fabled 'hot spot'. Lasted about 3 drops. Sheesh... Pick the anchors up; try another and another and then ~ Eureka! Doubles, good sized fish and a few firsts; the fishing was frantic. Had the first cod for the year -likely the last given the date- and the first sea robin and flounder. Sea robin? Capt. Orie Bunting always said "When you catch sea robins you're near the flounder." Often proves true.
Anyway, I had to rename the spot. Broke two fishing rods and a window in the sudden action - you'll know some of it's history should I tell you we're anchored over 'Combat Rock'...
If you've been fishing any number of years then you've had a period when every time you could sneak a trip in the wind howls. There's always someone who wears that albatross, usually for a period of weeks or even a few months. I have even taken reservations as "Mr. Smith" in an effort to shake the jinx!
And then there's Hurricane Murray ~ his luck with the weather has been that way for so long he could legally change his name and no one would notice!
Not quite living up to his reputation ~just a tropical depression today~ he does get out from time to time. Yesterday Hurricane brought along those dagoned plastic crabs -'New Penny' these, the Berkley product- and ended up one fish shy of a limit. Caught every fish on the "gulp" bait ~ most of 'em on the same one. When he finally lost that first plastic crab he put another on and, with his very next fish, recaptured his first bait ~ that next fish spit it up!
What's the world coming too... Dogoned plastic baits...
A charter boat is sitting in the parking lot - hauled out for repair. Months of preparation shot in a moment, all lost on their first trip when they struck a log.
There's been a lot of debris. Whole tree trunks, huge timbers, logs and just plain trash. I attribute it to the floods up in the NY region some while back. According to the news it was an area that hadn't flooded in anyone's memory. Several tug skippers have told me that the Hudson was a mess - a likely source given tributaries that haven't been 'flushed' in some while.
As the timbers drift they become more waterlogged -lower in the water- and far more dangerous. Propellers, shafts, struts, haul-out and the highly skilled labor needed to make repairs can do permanent damage to a business plan.
But, eventually, those timbers will sink - make a little reef somewhere.
And then there's the stuff we sink - hopefully to make a large and productive reef somewhere.
A huge project's brewing ~ steamrolling actually. Through the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative, MARI, the coast is on track to get over 600 of the next batch of the NY City Transit Authority's rail cars. If all goes well, these EPA certified stainless steel subway cars should begin arriving in August or September.
Similar -but not stainless- units are now on the reef sites of five coastal states and are well documented to perform very agreeably as reef. Unlike the last batch of 8 years ago when Maryland was going to get 3000 of these units -and was the only state getting them until Delaware's Governor signed off on the project- they are now a tried and true artificial reef unit in wide use.
That's a good thing.
And, I don't think 600+ units will overwhelm our reef system. Spread out over 8 sites, I anticipate that marine growth -destined to become total encrustation of hard coral- will be swift. The fish will follow suit.
To me it's not about 'attracting' fish, although that does happen in the very early stages of an artificial reef's existence ~ it's about creating habitat where they can thrive - and are.
No one would argue that the reef life associated with a sunken tree wasn't naturally occurring - it's been happening since trees grew next to rivers that flowed to the sea. Our artificial reefs simply speed up that process. The substrate is sunk on purpose ~ all the rest is up to natural settlement.
I have video of an artificial reef sunk in the 60's. It is, by far, the most exquisite hard coral habitat I have yet found. And it's only about 8 miles out...
So, from groundwork I did some 9 years ago with the commercial trawl community, we have 3 new permitted reef sites that are perfect for these units and 5 existing ones. Rather than simply plotting out areas and having our Town engineer push them through the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) permit process, I met several times with trawler skippers to find pieces of seafloor that they already couldn't tow upon ~ smoothing the flow as it were. The new sites have been permitted now for almost 3 years.
This project is it. This is a chance to double our region's artificial reef habitat footprint in the space of a few months. The positive effects to Maryland's coastal fisheries will last for many generations ~ within a few years I would anticipate a fantastic improvement in the fishing for boats that stay within 10 miles of shore. Perhaps, given time and surgical fishery management, we can return the nearshore fisheries to their former glory.
'Tis a costly thing though. Not too bad in the scheme of things, but far more than the Ocean City Reef Foundation has ever raised in it's funding history in a year ~ let alone a few months!
Each unit will cost $400.00 ~that's about $800.00 less than our little barge loaded with concrete costs to site~ and each railcar probably offers triple the footprint.
It's a fantastic opportunity. For less than the cost of the average charter boat -less than a year's interest on some of 'em- we can change a whole fishery for the better. It's very likely that increases in reef abundance will also have clear positive effects on predators.
Name one of 'em - a few if you can. There are 3 new reef sites that need a name too.
$400.00 is a lot of coin but it will pay for a unit ~ $60,000 far more coin; a corporate sponsorship perhaps that would build out an empty reef site nearly two miles long by a quarter mile wide. Conservatively, it's possible that there could be over 20,000 anglers fishing that reef in a years time - 200,000 in a decade. Cost averages are quite low -incredibly low over generations- and that's with no attempt to calculate the benefit of resting other reefs, or scuba diving enjoyment, or the very likely benefits to the commercial sea bass and lobster community.
The Ocean City Reef Foundation is a 501c3 tax deductible non-profit ~ we'll be donating as much as possible to this project if it gets approved. We'll take all the help we can get!
Lets make this happen.
It's a good thing.
See you on the rail,
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservations 410 520 2076

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