Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fish Report: Easter '08

Fish Report: Easter '08
Fishing's Interest of the Interest
Hi All,
Only fished 2 out of the 5 days. Friday's 20 to 30 knots of WNW wind had some put off, but we snuck a day out of it. A really good day. One stop shopping again. I'm pretty sure I can count the tog trips on one hand that I didn't have to move - nice when it happens. 67 tags and a rail limit..
Saturday's trip started out -weatherman's bad- as a slick calm morning with a fair current from the SSW. Pair of anchors in: tog coming up. A fine start. 
Then the wind rolled around NE -slam into the tide- and squashed that. Within an hour and a half; a wholly different ocean.
Sent 'em home close to or limited out though - 27 tags. Fellows kept asking me to "Go back to the calm spot!"
We'll fish some more ~ Thursday through Monday, the 27th to the end of March. Fare is unchanged for toggin' despite $3.85 a gallon diesel. (checking my email, I see I've won several lotteries and can start a special banking relationship with a nice lady from Africa so the fuel price/fare price is OK ~ for now) Trips leave 7am, return 3(ish). Green crabs are provided. 15 people sells out the rail. This is not a fishery for everyone. Derned if I don't enjoy it though...
Lots of news about interest lately. Fed ratcheting down rates; a huge financial corporation imploding because of foreclosures on unscrupulously written variable-rate mortgages.
Even someone as allergic to higher math as myself can understand that if you're earning interest; the higher the better - so long as it's paid.
Read an article in the height of the DotCom bubble where a fellow had invested -wagered- most of his wealth on a stock and won. He'd then reinvested that in bonds and was meeting living expenses on the interest of the interest.
Nice gig.
All fishers need to pay attention to the interest percentage we're getting on our stocks. Fish stocks that is - populations; the interest being the annually accrued percentage of juveniles that survive from spawning.
Anything raising that percentage increases the number of fish we might be able to catch in the future.
In Lindholm, Auster & Kaufman's 'Habitat-mediated Survivorship of Juvenile Cod', the authors found that mortality rates due to predation fluctuated widely. It's a fish eat fish world.
In this controlled aquarium experiment designed to mimic trawl impacts to natural seafloor, habitats were varied from just sand to bare cobble-rock to dense sponge colonies. Young of the year (YOY) cod lived in the tanks and 2 year old cod were introduced as predators.
Without factoring in natural mortality, bycatch, or any of a host of factors, the scientists found just 6.6% of the YOY survived over sand, 33.2% over cobble, 53.4% over minimum sponge growth habitat and 68% over dense sponge. A place to hide makes a big difference.
Would the rule of 72 works here, the population of fish would double in a year and a bit at 68% or 11 years at 6.6%. Rule of 115 ~ it triples in 1.7 years at 68% or 17.5 years at 6.6%.
While no fish stock is ever going to be this predictable; dern sure be better fishing if we could bump up the percentage of YOY survivors in any similar fashion.
It's the ones that survive that we get to catch; that get to spawn themselves.
This study came out in May 1999, numerous studies since have come to similar conclusions about the importance of habitat.
We just need to apply what we've learned ~ maximize our interest. Many species; sea bass, red hake, squid, flounder, just to name a few, would benefit.
A far higher year's 'interest' -percentage of survivors- would offer significant improvement to fishing as they grow into legal size ~ a measure of recruitment. It's when you compound that interest over time ~several years classes of increased recruitment entering the spawning class~ that things start looking far better.
Fishery management without habitat management is like wealth management without regard to protection of the principle, let alone annual interest.
Still undiscovered and certainly unmanaged, constant attrition of our region's natural reefs leave we users exposed to asset disaster.
By building new artificial reefs and protecting the natural ones we'll add to our region's 'principal'. Done well, we could be fishing the interest of the interest.
Be a nice gig.
Fish Report 3/16/08
Mad Toggin'
One Piece of Bottom
Hi All,
Fishing's pretty good, at least if you enjoy toggin'. Wednesday and Friday we had good numbers of fish and plenty of tagging - 60 tags on Friday in fact. Moving around, finding a few that would bite. It was enjoyable.
Saturday? Well, the weatherman had us a bit off balance, but being forecasted out of the NW I wasn't too concerned with the wind. The ground swell, however, didn't sound too sporty. Eh, go sneak a look at it ~ see what we see...
The weather doable ~ fishing spectacular. Really. Anchored just once on a spot that we helped sink some years ago. Tagged 70 fish, only 6 of which were under 14 inches, and came in 2 1/2 hours early. Easily one of the top 5 tog trips I've ever had.
I hope the fishing was a sign of things to come.
Tautog are homebodies. With close to 5,000 tags out I've yet to see any sign of migration; just a few wanderers. Putting back as many females as possible and letting them all get to 16 inches (at least on my rig) seems to be maintaining the stock. By increasing the amount of habitat we can increase the number of fish. And are.
It's a slam dunk that they're not always going to bite: the 'one stop shopping' we had Saturday a rare event. Still, management and increasing the habitat footprint should ensure that we can leave this fishery better than we found it.
Could probably do that with a lot of our still-diminished fisheries if we could get the focus off flounder.
Had a flounder tag come back this week, in fact. Stuck it with a yellow ribbon over a piece of natural coral when it was 14 inches this past August. The fish was recaptured at 15 inches near the Norfolk Canyon some 80 miles away ~ overwintering grounds.
The inshore/offshore movement of many fisheries, notably sea bass, scup and flounder, are pretty well documented. I wonder if they use the same type of bottom offshore in winter that they do inshore...
I looked at a piece of bottom in '04 that was so fantastically grown over with sea whip, a type of soft coral, it appeared to be a huge meadow of orange. Incredible.
I looked at the same spot again last March and it was barren rock with a few stalks of whip growing out of crevices.
While I didn't see it happen, it certainly had the appearance of a flounder trawl impact ~ the chain on the bottom of the net scrapping away the corals as I have documented on other rocky bottoms.
A very large area; I wonder what they caught? 10,000 pounds? A ton? 200 pounds?
Were the flounder caught worth the loss of so much seafloor habitat; worth the loss to the trap fisherman's gear; worth the loss of marine production ~ the sea bass, flounder and tog that would have settled there as juveniles and grown larger; worth the loss...
There has to be a better way.
Surely trawls can make their quotas without towing over the coral bottoms, perhaps augmenting their catch with flounder traps set near the rocky areas. Possible.
The Magnusson Act plainly calls for managers to minimize impacts to habitat caused by fishing. We need to heed that law in the Mid-Atlantic.
It's years away. My example above is just one piece of bottom; noticed purely by chance. There's 10's of thousands of square miles of seafloor that we know virtually nothing about ~ at least from a management perspective. Probably ought to get busy with it...
Meanwhile, I'm going toggin'. It's not a fishery for everyone ~ do not think 'one stop shopping' is your certain fate! Oh no... Mr. Murphy has a plan for folks that "KNOW" they're going to wear themselves out catching tog. Made that mistake myself last Tuesday..
I hate that kind of day.
With that in mind, I'm opening up Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday - March 19th through the 23rd - 2008. Weather? Don't know ~ for Easter weekend we'll just have to take our chances. Boat sells out at 15 people for tog ~  green crabs provided ~ leave at 7AM, return 3(ish) ~ State limit 4 tog at 14 inches ~ boat strongly encourages 16 inches and release of most females.
I've got 210 tags to run through...
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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