Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fish Report 11/2/08

Fish Report 11/2/08
Cbass Oblige, Tog Too
Flounder Closure & Saw-Dust
November Schedule Waaaay Below
Hi All,
Calling for NW 20 to 30 midweek. A doable wind for tog if hidden in the lee of shore. Called the trip off though; gut feeling. Gusts to 60..
Next day took a handful of vacationing folks in a more honest W 25-30. Biting. Bagged out in fairly short order. Not too difficult with a two fish limit and keeping just legal.
The goal this day accomplished --go fishing, period-- we arrived dockside very early and simply prorated the day.
Celebrated the last of October with a shot of croaker and a few keeper trout before slipping off a bit further for some sea bass. Nickin and pickin: then, as if in crescendo, an old-time bite for an hour or so. Enjoyable.
First day of the new month.. Fished to exhaustion. Not the young-bucks, majority were ready to go though after a sustained pull of sea bass and blues. Fortunately, just a few of the blues were real bruisers; most were custom made for the smoker..
Nice day.
Tagged a few flounder lately too. Just a few. One about 4 1/2 - 5 pounds.
Tagging big fish is a good thing.
Watching all-weather, out-of-state trawlers working off the coast of Maryland. More big boats than I've seen since the 80's I think. Don't even know what they're targeting. Wholly unregulated croaker mixed with highly regulated sea trout? Fluke?
Tried to fish a natural reef Friday that has seems to have flat disappeared.
Have to insist passengers throw back flounder. This while what are the nuclear super-powers of our fisheries --the trawl, the dredge-- aren't held accountable for  extensive ongoing and historical habitat damage.
"Gotta throw that one back, Ike. Flounder's closed." 
A fish goes back. Tagged it though.
A reef disappears. Lost before it was discovered.
Going to keep nosing around. I think there might be some disparity here.
Ignorant of the consequence of loss; there is a measurable value to each reef community: a measure of its contribution to future fishing success while it thrives; a detraction in its absence.
The annual battles and skirmishes of fishery management, such as our ongoing flounder struggle, are too tightly focused on quota. Our concept of management --how many can we kill-- ignores water quality and habitat management/restoration work needed to revitalize our marine resources.
My livelihood dependant on succesful fisheries science: the following is as dry as a saw-dust sandwich - hold the butter... (maybe that disclaimer should have been higher up the page!)
If you'll recall, Maryland's recreational flounder fishing was closed recently after it was found that we'd caught 66,632 fluke by August's end.
Maryland DNR must -by law- use the figures generated by MRFSS.
Flounder will remain closed.
With half the boats reporting I had estimated the party & charter skippers in OC put 1318 flounder on the dock. I now have everyone's numbers and assert we actually put 1018 flounder on the dock through the end of August.
Been researching the numbers published by the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS, say murfs) that were used to close the fishery. Some of these figures look remarkably accurate.
The total Maryland charter/partyboat  MRFSS estimate is for 1,786 fluke. Deduct 30% for Chesapeake Bay catch as is done by management and Ocean City's professional catch is 1250 flounder. 
Since there's also an assigned 10% release mortality rate; the estimate of 1250 is in no way out of bounds from the 1018 that we actually did put in a cooler.
Except officially only 11 of those fish were caught in the EEZ --outside of 3 miles. That number --11 fish-- is very wrong, but it doesn't affect the accuracy of the whole.
Still, 66,632 is a long way from 1,250. Deducting the Chesapeake's assigned catch value leaves 46,643. Minus coastal professional effort leaves us with  45,393 fluke unaccounted for this year.
Now, last year's shore-based catch (think piers, bridges, surf) in Ocean City is officially counted at 39,859 summer flounder. This year, officially, none--zero--were caught from shore. (Both numbers would be funny if they weren't so sad.)
MRFSS asserts those 45,393 fish were caught by private and rental boats in the back bays. (And somehow did it without the charter/partyboat skippers getting in on the action!)
Using a realistic Catch Per Unit of Effort, or CPUE as they might say in the trade: based on charter/party catches there were 907,860 people fishing from these boats to get to that number.
If they caught 3 times better than charter boat clients there were 302,620 people in these small boats.
That would be 934 boats fishing every fishable day or 672 boats fishing every single day no matter the weather. 
There'd be four times that many boats --3,736-- if these anglers, in fact, didn't catch as well as professionally guided anglers.
It's not a big body of water to begin with. Gets a lot smaller when only places where fluke can be caught are used.
Given the fluctuations of weekend boat traffic, they must have figured out a way to fender and stack small boats atop one another so they could all fish the hot-spots..
The truth might be found in fly-over boat count data from a study by UMES a few years back. There are other sources of aerial photos too.
Anecdotally, a captain that navigates the channel from Bahia Marina to the inlet and back several times a day thinks 130 boats would be an incredibly high number.
The whole thing is bogus - fraudulent.
"Gotta put that one back Ike. Flounder's closed."
Like a veterinarian with a syringe full of Phenobarbital, the management community needs to put this Bad Science to sleep.
Its time to adopt sensible --common sense!-- coast-wide management measures. A size limit and number of fish allowed in each of several management zones, perhaps likely a smaller size limit in the estuaries than at sea.
Freeing up all the time spent in meetings discussing options, fighting the regulations forced by bad data, even litigation, would allow managers to look more closely at greater issues..
Lot of heavy steel off there. Is bycatch an issue in any of our region's fisheries? We won't find out while focused on flounder numbers drawn from thin air.
Can we minimize fishing's impacts to production so as to maximize future landings?
Or actually look for a path to bio-economic stability in the commercial and recreational trade?
Never know, might even find some coral - and the fish and lobsters that live there.
Probably shouldn't put what's left of the natural reefs at risk.
Lot of work to do.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
November 2008 Fishing Trips.
Tog Trips: November 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30.
Easier perhaps: Sea Bass Trips: November 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 11, 15, 22.
I have no doubt that there will be some great days of sea bass fishing this fall. However, given the state of the fishery, I don't think the best of these will be easily replicated. Therefore, I'm turning much of the focus to tog. It's likely that at least a few cbass will be caught while toggin' unless very tight to the beach.
Morning Star tog trips sell-out at 15 people - crabs provided - $110.00 per ticket - limit goes back to 4 fish @ 14 inches on November 1st - boat heartily encourages a 16 inch minimum - culling dead fish overboard to box one larger --high-grading-- is an offense punishable by keel-hauling, walking the plank or marooning.
I often go togging with a very light rail. There is no set minimum on the number of people needed to go.
There will be weather days though. If you make a reservation leave a good phone number - a cell number - that we can reach you with if a trip is cancelled. There is ZERO possibility that we'll call you for any other reason, or give your number away to tele-marketers.
Looking forward to fishing tog - tag a few too...  

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