Monday, April 21, 2008

Fish Report 4/21/08

Reef Foundation Dinner - Hall's Restaurant - Wednesday, May 7th, 5-8 PM. Items for raffles and auctions cheerfully accepted!
Fish Report 4/21/08
Swell Toggin'
Blue Water
Hi All,
Arrived back at the dock early in the beginning of the week. Decent fishing.
Wednesday's action met the highest of expectations. Growing weary of huge stacks of tags to fill out; at first we only tagged tog of 16 inches or better. Then decided 18 was the magic number - then 20. Threw a lot back without a tag; still stuck 47 fish..
But toward the end of the day the bite was tapering. Fish got fussy. Remained that way for 2 more days.
A 40 to 50 knot blow far offshore kicked up a great ground swell that peaked Friday morning. On the sounder I measured some individual waves to 12 feet.
Must have made surfers ecstatic. Spaced far apart; didn't seem as rough as a 3 foot chop, though the inlet during ebb tide was treacherous.
Nicked a day out of it fish-wise. With tog up to 14lb 6oz, some made out very well.
Sunday --weatherman's bad-- was a great day to be out; the fishing close to normal again.. if there is a norm.
It's toggin'.
And gonna do it some more. Reservation book's open April 24th to the 30th for tog. First week of May is tog OR sea bass, probably both. Trips are limited to 15 for tog and if the cbass come on in early May I'll open the rail to the standard 25. Leave a good phone number in case of weather cancellation. Bait is always provided....
We see 'Oyster Restoration' in the press from time to time. Their ability to filter phytoplankton crucial to stopping our low dissolved oxygen (dead zone) problems.
I found this sentence in Victor Kennedy's 1996 paper 'Ecological Role of the Oyster'  "..And if they do not accept in time the unfortunate experience of the oyster culturists of Europe, they will surely find their oyster beds impovererished..."
Kennedy didn't write that line though, he quoted it from Karl Mobius' 1877 work.
It's been written over and over again in the 131 years since.
An elementary school text written by Clara Tutt in 1933 describes how a newly spawned oyster drifts with the tide until settling to the bottom. There it either finds a rock, an oyster shell, or dies in the mud.
Lots of present day NOAA works describe oysters at less than 1% of historical abundance. Must mean there's a lot more barren bottom than once was.
Almost makes you want to throw a rock or chunk of concrete overboard..
But we don't, at least not consistently. Until recently, nearly all the oyster restoration programs have been about 'spat on shell'. In the great style of aquaculture, shell is put in a tank with lots of oyster larvae then removed and put on 'restoration sites'.
Men who lobbied the hardest for this style of restoration --funded in most part by taxpayers-- then go check on the oyster's progress with their dredges. And sell what they catch. Vicious circle. Or more precisely, a vicious downward spiral. We're into the really tight part of that spiral now.
Ms. Tutt's 1933 elementary school text also describes how "oysters, left to themselves, can not reproduce enough for people to eat. That's why there are oyster farms."
Never know, might catch on.
We're still looking at replacing native oysters with the 'Asian oyster' which may or may not acclimate to our habitat as it is.
Why start aquaculture farming when the guvmint's paying for the 'restoration' of your fishery. Who buys a cow when the milk is free...
In the recreational fisheries numerous businesses have gone bankrupt when their target species became tough to catch. Think of all the partyboats that once lined every little port in the Delaware Bay during the heyday of seatrout fishing.
When that fishery collapsed there were no government boat buyouts. Those businesses quietly sold the assets and moved on. Recreational fishers are not really playing from the same political deck.
A new era now, we may see fuel prices and fishery regulations causing the same business effects as the collapse of a fish population.
My point here, however, is if the commercial oyster fishery is worthy of 'put and take' tax moneys, why not us?
In Maryland we're allowed to keep 3 flounder this year. In the last 3 years I've seen more flounder caught in the ocean than every single partyboat skipper that came before me combined. Not a restoration; it's a brand new fishery.
I suspect that those 3 fish would be a lot more attractive to recreational customers if they were 20 to 30 pounds each. Funneling some money, couple million -small change in the history of oyster restoration- into hybridizing flounder and halibut would prevent the collapse of the recreational fleet.
Eventually the Asian Oyster will hybridize with our native species; lets give the fish a jump-start. Put fish hatcheries on the cutting edge of recreational 'restoration'.
Global warming will change our fisheries too; already has some say. Proactive managers would be looking to hybridize our temperate sea bass with, say, red snapper.
Ah, what a fishery that would be. State and federal hatcheries putting them out - recreational fishers pulling them in.
Our region's surfcasters might enjoy bigger and faster red drum too. A black/red drum-bluefish cross ought to do it.
And the marlins.. Those Australian blacks - 1,000 pounders fairly common.. Dang, never mind the whites, just transplant them and watch the tournaments grow!
Or we could fix what we had.
Chump change in 'oyster restoration' would build a heck of a lot of reef. Less mud for the spat to die on.
Connections abound between regions. Our fisheries interwoven in ways we don't yet understand.
The herring that feed the tuna spawn far up in the great estuaries' tributaries.  The nutrient loaded, low in oxygen water that flows to the sea needs to be cleaner before we can know blue waters along the coast again. The natural coral reefs that once drew overwintering codfish from the Bay of Fundy while providing summer spawning grounds for squid need protection to regrow.
Restoration is far different than subsidizing a fishery...
Need to get it right.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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