Monday, August 03, 2009

Fish Report 8/3/09

Fish Report 8/3/09
Just Flounder - Almost   
Hi All,
Heart of summer; it's occasionally very good - occasionally not-so-much!
If you're looking to put some fluke in the box, maybe a sea bass now and then, we can help.
Most days the pool winner is a flounder of at least 5 pounds - often 6. An 11 year-old boated one 8 1/2 pounds recently in a near gale.
We're going to catch bigger.
Half day boats are catching small/med croakers I hear. Taste of that as bigger ones come in - just a stop on the way out..
Sharks on the kite sometimes - small hammerheads even. Been a while. I think '93 was the last time I saw them in any number. Used to see plenty of bruisers on top during the June moon.
Harpoon, hundred feet of 3/8s rope and a poly-ball. See 35 sharks + one hand-thrown harpoon = 34 releases?
Ambivalent now - was great sport then..
Sea bass are on the reefs but high in the water, evidently feeding on krill.  Once in a while will they bite our offerings.
Had we only sea bass it would be super tough fishing, the lull reminiscent of '83. Turned to flounder then too, but just for a few days. It was the only week in my years that we caught flounder until 2005. 
Nowadays we catch them on every variety of reef. Back then we fished up under Assateauge in the stumps - the old forest remains. Don't know if they're still there.
So for now, enjoy a day - most likely catch dinner - throw a bunch back - tag 10 or 20 (our daily paperwork reduction allotment instead of tagging every release) & maybe catch a dandy.
Boxing match going on over easing or sticking tight to fishery rebuilding plans.
Bills in congress.. Press releases..
Lot of knowledge, money and political muscle in play.
Everyone wants to see fish come back. Rebuilt - that's the anticipated outcome of  fishery management.
I too. Boat payments won't be made doing tours of the Dead Sea.
The 'rebuild at any cost' folks think there's great reward - bioeconomic stability - in rebuilt fisheries.
And I agree. However, the only tool I see being used to attain rebuilt fisheries remains catch restriction.
Dead Sea and No-Keepers Sea offer the same economic and gustatory result.
I saw sea bass skyrocket in population before there was any direct management in play. Cbass did better still when size and, later, creel limits were imposed.
More recently, under much greater restriction, sea bass collapsed in this region and are just rebuilding again.
If forced to reach "rebuilt status," management may have to increase the recreational size limit and reduce our creel limit even more.
That won't change the pattern of stock fluctuation, but because of federal regulation or environmental litigation they'll have to do it anyway.
Sea bass can never be rebuilt to the population of the 1950s with the habitat footprint of today. And they'll never stay rebuilt without winter quotas specific to region. Habitat fidelity is sitting on managers' desks like Geico money, but without the catchy music.
From at least the 1950s through the 80s party and charter boats fished for spike trout starting in mid-August. These small sea trout --weakfish-- were the first fish I can recall getting regulated.
Sometime in the mid/late '80s, that nine inch limit was the end of the world. As the limit inched up --literally-- we lost the fishery. Not one in a hundred is legal now.
Near as I can tell that size limit and eventual regulatory closure hasn't done a blessed thing for sea trout. Still see them late summer into autumn -- there is reproduction, just hasn't been much recruitment - not many fish growing to legal size.
Tasty as they are, scientists think stripers and blues are dining well on them in winter. 
Dern sure we aren't.
Consider if further catch restriction here would help meet a rebuilding timeline. 
I think not. Trout need to be taken off the stripers' winter menu and substituted with menhaden, shad, herring and squid.
It may be that someone looks into the mud bottoms that trout favor for feeding too. Been some changes in that habitat over the last 50 years. 
Fishing the same spots; I catch more fluke in a week, sometimes a day, than the men who did this before me caught in their careers.
Yet because of wildly inaccurate catch estimates we're throwing back many a tasty dinner and will suffer another closure in order to 'rebuild' them further still.
This shift so sudden, I suspect some Darwinian effect - we've selected fluke for spawning that favor structure - yet estimate their numbers by trawling in the sand..
Spiny dogfish in fantastic numbers too and during more of the year..
Southern stocks of red hake, Atlantic mackerel & scup so diminished that extirpation seems the most likely outcome.
Northern-most populations of amberjack & spadefish in a similar state.
Every eyesight-dependant predator pushing farther off the coast..
Blinded by paperwork, the heavy lifters in this fight need to reassess, reappraise - do like a Garmin when "Recalculating."
Lot to do out in that ocean. 
Coastwide stock assessments are misleading - dangerously so in that they disguise regional collapse.
Even today the science of restoring marine fisheries is young. I think that, scattered as they are across decades, these 'rebuilding targets' could not have been given the holistic thought of a marine ecosystem in balance when created. Now, like a guided missile locked-on to a decoy, the focus on single species rebuilding targets steers us away from real progress. 
In most species catch restriction has done what it can. Tightening the noose won't be better for stocks - fishers are choking though.
Need to delve deeper, use new knowledge to manage better.
Always in conjunction with management as we know it; habitat fidelity, water quality, prey availability & seafloor habitat are the tools with which management could begin real restoration.
The titans in this clash are expending time, money and political capitol - locking horns to defend from, or strengthen, a system that clearly needs reevaluation.
Lost energy that, were it unified, would save fishers and fish.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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