Monday, August 24, 2009

Fish Report 8/23/09

Fish Report 8/23/09
Bill's Passing
Regulations & Habitat
Hi All,
Fishing hasn't changed much over the last few weeks. A few rock-solid great days.. A clunker. Repeat.
Nearly everyday we catch someone's 'biggest flounder ever'.
Haven't broken the 10 pound mark, still hunting that one.
The 14 pounder too.
Fat legal flatties make a nice fish fry.
Croakers? Not yet. Just tiny fellows that I've seen. Ought to get some better size fish before long. Split the day up a little.
Our flounder season closes on September 13th - will remain tightly focused on them unless a limit of decent croakers can be had in short order - then go fluking.
Spectra line, a fast taper rod that can handle at least 3 or 4 ozs (but not 12!) - patience, and a willingness to keep working the bait puts fish in the boat.
Will turn to sea bass/croaker after the fluke closure. Likely tag some seriously large flounder starting the 14th.
Received my dolphin/wahoo permit in late June. Saw a good mahi the next day. A month and a half later a pair of dandies pop-up behind the boat. At 30+ pounds they were truly inshore trophies.
0 for 3!
Odd that in the clearest summer water we've had in a long time, there's no real mahi action inshore. Offshore charter boats sure putting good ones on the dock though..
Drove over to the inlet to check sea conditions Saturday morning. Hurricane Bill far offshore -and now passed- the inshore marine weather forecast was calling for 5 to 8 foot swells with a great big, luxurious 17 second wave period.
Advertising revenue at stake, TV forecasters were talking about 15 to 35 foot waves.
Who to believe..
What I saw at 6:15 AM from the inlet parking lot was a very calm sea with a fair-sized swell breaking on the south shoal. Underway and clearing the inlet at 6:45ish, I see a jumbo rouge-wave.
Holding a course to cross north of Little Gull Shoal some 3 miles out, a bruiser of a sea almost crests in 32 feet of water - that first rouge had a cousin.
Spent the morning fishing in 70 feet of water. You had to really look to see the swell, so spread apart you could barely feel it. Very nice fishing conditions.
Definitely getting bigger though.
Wave period - the distance between peaks - is where most of our perception of 'rough seas' comes from. Three to four foot waves with just a few seconds between is plenty saucy for what we do. Eight foot with a 12 second or longer period can make a fine day. Eight foot and a 5 second period - likely be donning life jackets
Larger long period swells cause new concerns with shoal water & currents.
Both of which are most most magnified in marine inlets.
Tightening up to home so as not to miss the inlet's last of flood current, I see long white streaks on the horizon.
Seven by fifty Nikons up, I viewed seas breaking along the length of Great Gull and Little Gull Shoals.
Ain't playing in the kiddie pool no more..
Binoculars not required; threading between these two shoals you could plainly see the crest, curl and break of Bill's progeny - lots of wind energy stored in wave form.  
Turning at the inlet's buoy-marked entrance certain suicide; the shoal waters east & south are far too treacherous for passage.
Holding far north of the buoy as generations of watermen before, I tighten up to the beach and ease south.
Sea height too great; even the deeper hole between the inlet entrance red buoy & rockpile has seas breaking.
These are the worst inlet conditions I've seen since 1991.
But the mouth of the inlet is calm - tide's still flooding a touch.
Go slow; let the waves pass you by was Capt. Orie Bunting's teaching. Drink booze and gamble another's. Captain Bob Gowar told of a day at Palm Beach Inlet where the sailfish fleet had to back in - present their bow to the breaking seas and run the inlet in reverse. 'Ol Santa -Capt. Jack- said that to transit a seriously rough inlet wait for a small wave and, stern down - bow up, ride the back of that wave in.
And we did. Just as I lost that small one, a jumbo curled on my port quarter; hit full throttle and surfed the last few feet to safety.
How is that anecdotes from times-past can save lives, yet are as rubbish in the management of our fisheries. That "anecdotal evidence" is sneered at by scientists but the stories of those who survived rough waters are invaluable as a teaching aid.
Went to a fishing license meeting; the new NOAA federal registration requirements steamrolling down.
Free next year, any revenues thereafter go to the U.S. treasury unless a state's licensing is in compliance, then individual license fees stay in the state where they were sold.
Technicalities abound in creating a license structure - my best to those tasked with the job.
Fascinating was a presentation by a consulting firm that had looked at fishing licenses around the nation. Charts and data flying across the screen, correlations between price increases and decreased sales - lot to chew on.
I may be off-mark, but I thought a 'quality of fishing' analysis the most needed, yet absent. A 7 day non-resident Alaskan license and king salmon stamp sets some of my clients back almost $100.00 - four times more than a seasonal Chesapeake Bay license..
Based on my wholly anecdotal, non-scientific observations: I'd bet when fishing is really good you'll sell more licenses. When fishing is poor, when fish are thought to be dangerous to eat and handle, when regulations are dense and difficult to interpret, you'll sell less licenses.
Just a thought...
I suggested an Artificial Reef stamp at the meeting. Have for years. Nothing mandatory, just an indicator of interest and small funding mechanism.
Took an underwater drop camera/scuba diver film trip recently. There is now a bit of Hi-Def footage of our region's corals.
Saw several types of reef that day: from small cobble with light growth to boulder with magnificent corals; from never impacted, lightly fished to heavily fished and recently trawled too.
On our dive/drop camera trips its pretty plain to see that where seafloor growth thrives so do fish.
Fishing a near-shore artificial reef we had sea bass from just legal to as small as 4 1/2 inches, scup from just over 3 inches to 8, fluke from 10 to 22 inches, a 4 1/2 foot dusky and some fine examples of southern species - acorns must grow to become oaks.
I overheard a scientist describe a small estuary's oyster recovery as substrate starved. There was plenty of natural oyster larvae, just not many places for them to successfully attach to a hard surface.
A fish in hand released alive is clearly understood by all to be a step in the right direction for fisheries restoration. Yet we grasp not the eggs that don't survive to maturity; the millions, likely billions, of fish lost because we have failed to follow Magnuson's guidelines of "Protect, Preserve & Enhance" marine habitat.
Don't use the u/w camera very often since VHS tapes went out. DVD's are a pain in the neck. You can't just throw the camera over and put a tape in while its sinking - have to configure the disk first.
When I made the edits for the clip on You Tube "Common Seafloor Habitats in the Mid-Atlantic" in 2004, I had to comb through every tape to find a few shots with flounder.
On my first drop with the new set-up, but before we'd figured out how to record, there were flounder swimming around and others stacked atop one another on a wreck.
On another drop I saw "Ninja Fluke" - head and upper body horizontal with its tail pointed down, almost an incomplete C. Fins fluttering, that fish was about 3 feet off the bottom.
A prey striking stance? Showing off for the girls? Who could guess..
Still another was several feet off the bottom swimming white-side up. Though I'd never imagined it, a sensible behavior as both eyes are on the brown side..
It wanted to see bottom.
So do I.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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