Friday, March 27, 2009

Fish Report 3/27/08

Fish Report 3/27/08
New and Improved
Hi All,
Glass rash. If ever you've used a grinder on fiberglass you know.
Last of the itching, hull's finally coming into new glass. A beast when done; putting back more fiberglass that we've taken off.
Had the ol' girl in some very heavy weather over the years; she's always brought us home. Now rejuvenated; not with the intention of staying in worse weather - only in the hope there's another 25 years of fishing in me.
In a world where "New and Improved" often means less product in a bigger box; its my hope that a renewed boat & dropping 3 spots from the rail is seen as a sincere effort at offering 'new and improved' to my clients.
Speaking of N&I (guvmint speak for new and improved) I went to a fisheries meeting the other night. MRIP. I swear they meant MRFSS Rest In Peace, but the speakers insisted that's not so - Marine Recreational Information Program.
Before I go any further: The data acquired by MRFSS interviewers is pristine. I heartily encourage cooperation with them should you get approached by a clipboard wielding field staffer. It's what happens to the data in the upper stories of some office building that causes heartburn. I also hold that this 'intercept' data -what got counted in a cooler- will prove invaluable when there is broad, reliable catch data to work with. They'll be able to back-track with it; figure out what really got caught back in '08 or '98 - maybe even '88. 
Then deeper.
The Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey --MRFSS & why we'll not have fluke for dinner this fall-- is dying. MRIP is taking its place and creates the need for a federal fishing license.
The National Research Council (NRC of course) found numerous flaws in MRFSS several years ago. The report was so devastating that our present fisheries data scheme had to be scrapped and a new way of counting sport caught fish invented - MRIP.
Seems the biggest reason they can't figure our fish is they don't know exactly who to ask about their catch. And, gee, if there was a license requirement they'd know precisely who to ask..
Curious to see how this plays out. We've all heard enough fish tales to know folk's recollection of how many were caught can fly wildly from the actual figure. Some tempering of the data perhaps.
Will MRIP be New and Improved - or bigger box, less product.. A new set of troubles for sure. Promise.
Though I've always thought licensing would be a good thing in that the moneys raised could be used for restoration, there's a deep distrust of 'Guvmint' around salt water..
Not called a 'license' right now - it's a registry. A national fishing registry.
Some states are way ahead - not Maryland. Maryland has a Bay License with no requirement on the coast. (I buy the MD Chesapeake Party Boat License because it helps pay for management and I'll not have anyone carry my mail.) The Chesapeake ticket isn't fully compliant with federal requirements; modifications are needed. Being able to grade the 'quality' of the data and ensuring contact info are part of the problem. However, getting Maryland's coast anglers 'registered' is primary among the changes needed.
Great Gracious.
Effective January 1, 2010 the Federal Registry will be mandatory -but free- unless a state has a certified license program. Maryland will not have a program in place, they say, until mid-2010.
Going to get gooey. Yup.
The federal registry will not be free in 2011.
Because we submit detailed logs, individuals will not need this federal license on  party boats.
Where else you will not need a license is undetermined.
Maybe the fellow that takes his kids to surf fish can get a free pass.
I've always held that there's so little damage to a fish stock occurring from shore that a general exemption would be obvious.
However, having delved into MRFSS numbers with greater scrutiny, I can see I was wrong. For instance, these statistics show that shore fishers are often responsible for over 80% of the flounder catch.
Sneaky rascals; I could've avoided glass-rash by being a shore guide.
Ahhh, maybe not.
Then there's the excitement in the fisheries management community about improving the data. Not just getting closer to the real count of dead fish, but faster, speedier--closer to Tom Clancyesque 'Real Time' data.
Well, Maryland does need to get on with some of this. Apparently our license system requires sellers to have a phone line. Not broadband or any other sort of internet connection, a phone line. Hmm...
With perceptibly increased enthusiasm, the meeting's talk turned to future data acquisition through cell phone downloads.
Really. They meant it.
I can see it now... A chip is installed in your phone when you buy a license.. The dreaded phone call when you're tracked at sea or tidal river bank but fail to make a report - license suspended.
I bet they don't realize some anglers can estimate species & weight of a fish when they hook it, whether it's one big one or two mediums, even exactly where a fish is foul hooked sometimes..
A cell phone/computer interface then: just enter make/model number of the rod, weight of sinker, bait type, drag setting, and hook size. Plug your phone into the rod and the second you bow-up, before the fish is caught, sensors translate the rod's flexure into data. Super real-time data.
Modified rod tips would be a great management tool too, especially when the quota's close to being filled. A 7 pound fluke crosses the rail just as you hook a dandy. Computer calculates yours will be one too many. Slice.
An instantaneous text message -- Sorry Pal, Fluke Season Over.
Easy now! We've gone from 'over the rail, into a pail' -with no fish ever thrown back- to sometimes throwing back 19 out of 20 fish. Trending towards complexity is fine at fisheries management HQ -- keep it simple for participants! 
There have been magnificent changes in fisheries caused by simple regulation. The summer flounder stock did in fact grow with a 13 inch size limit. Likewise with the 9 inch/no creel on sea bass.
It's likely that after a few years MRIP data will show jaw-dropping discrepancies in MRFSS data.
The wild gyrations in fish catching that managers so 'clearly' see now will fade as the data improves - insane catch figures of today smoothed - predictable.
Its my hope that the perfecting of catch data will allow managers and, very importantly, sport fish advocates, to seek other means of improving fish populations rather than the single-focus size & creel limit controls of today. 
Early man, probably still drawing figures on cave walls, may have figured out that removing trees made squirrels mighty scarce. Squirrel/trees, fish/reef - it'll come together. 
Even thinking about starting an ocean advocacy group. Maybe "People Outraged at the Loss of Ocean Habitat".. eh, a couple persons at least.. But what the heck does POLOH have to do with anything?
Ah well, back to boat restoration..
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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