Sunday, June 08, 2008

Fish Report 6/8/08

Fish Report 6/8/08
More Cbass
Little Guys
Hi All,
Sea bass are as 'here' as they are going to get. Some days are mighty fine, even a few limits this week. Other days - eh, scratch up a mess for a dinner or two.
Overall, averaging 12 to 15 keepers per person.
It's fishing..
It really is. There's no magic; just bait, equipment and a few folks that want to go...
Bunch of firsts this week. On Saturday I saw the first 70 degree water of the year. I'd swear it was still 59 last week.
Moving in front of that warm water was a push of sooty shearwaters; their tip of South America to Canada migration well underway. Didn't stick around either, haven't seen them in a few days.
Another first for the year was the appearance of Loggerhead sea turtles. Just 3 thus far - live ones that is. Couple dead ones too. Bycatch? Didn't see any sign of propeller strike.
And a first I couldn't resist: The brand new Susan Power Reef at the Jackspot... Only 18 days old.. George caught the first sea bass on it out of not quite a dozen around the rail. One was a keeper.
But several of the throwbacks were male.
I do hope that the fisheries folks that read this report will look into management's (via fishing pressure) effect on what size sea bass are when they become male. Hermaphrodites - though they are all born female, some become male.
We are seeing a LOT of sub-legal male bass. Last time I saw that we rode a wave of better and better fishing for years. That was also during a low in trawl effort due to summer flounder regulations with a corresponding increase in seafloor habitat; but looking out 2 to 3 years, there's hope that the cbass will do it again.
Question is - how to use it in management? Can it be a tool or is it just an indicator.
I think the answer is indicator. The 'tool' should be zonal management; that fishing mortality should be controlled by sub-stock.
Sub-stock? For instance, when I was tagging bass ('bout 5,000 of 'em before the feds did their 16,000 {any time you want to publish that data fellas}) the returns showed a strong habitat fidelity. Tagged sea bass would overwinter 50 to 80 miles SE and return the next summer to the exact wreck where they'd been tagged in the first place.
It surprised me, though in hindsight it shouldn't have.  
Is it 'natal' fidelity? Is this where they were spawned, and --like the salmon-- are returning to spawn themselves?
Maybe some clever work with chemical analysis of the otolith ('ear' bone) can reveal that information. This type of work, which would make the CSI gang blush, was done first with sea trout in North Carolina. The chemical signatures of the earliest days of life showed they have natal fidelity not unlike salmon - that they return where they were born to spawn.
As the salmons are managed by their river of origin, or several rivers together --sub-stocks-- so too could sea bass be managed by their summer spawning grounds. Certainly not down to a very fine resolution, but within some large marine area. 
Point is, heavy overwinter fishing pressure can cause huge swings in our region's cbass population as was the case in the winter of '03-'04. The spike in January & February trawl landings of sea bass in our stock's overwinter ground left the seasonal recreational and traditional trap fishers with a huge decrease in landings.
Management that controlled effort within zones would have closed those overwinter grounds before it became a problem.
All those small males? When the stock was at it's peak in the summer of '03 the smallest males were +- 15 inches. We had one this week that was 7 1/2 inches.
The size of the males is a definitive sign of too much fishing pressure.
I hold hope that in the next few years we'll see greater numbers of small bass and a return to 'spoil 'em rotten' fishing - the double headers on bare hooks sort.
I know for a fact that there are some small males colonizing that brand new artificial reef.
It's just natural to them.
See you on the rail.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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