Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fish/Trip Report 1/17/10

Fish/Trip Report 1/17/10
Some Fine Toggin
A Corner Office
MD. Senate Bill 37
Hi All,
Going again - Tuesday looks best but Wednesday and Thursday might play - Tog trips - 1/19, 20 & 21st - the - boat sells out at 12 - crabs provided - cabin heated - leave at 7:00 for these trips - return no later than 3 - 3:30 (usually) - $100.00 buys a spot - reservation a must, that phone number in signature - email does not work for reservations - call - leave a good phone number--cell--in case of cancellation.
Three pretty days in a row.. Even Wednesday wasn't too bad. We caught the best tog I've seen in a couple years this week. Some anglers limited on dandies though we did not have boat limits. They chewed in the morning each day followed by a fussier bite; quickly less robust.. a toggy "I don't want to eat this bait but maybe I'll just have a tiny taste" - a kind of nudge.. a teasing - "I'm here but you're not going to prove it."
For the serious tog fisher, this is good; there is hope.
Really. With tags to 24 inches already by-the-rail; a bait being pushed around means you're in the game.
Saturday began especially well despite being among the toughest of days to anchor. Mirror calm & precious little tide, our first set was am almost 180 degree two-anchor straddle. Couple feet wrong would have required resetting the whole mess.. she slowly came tight to her danforths - just up-current of the coral.. first three fish were around 10 pounds.
A 6 year old, Minnow they call him, was aboard. He and I fished next to each other most of the day.. Young Minnow caught three tog over 5 pounds in his first hour of toggin; several more too.
Another youngster, maybe 14, catches two fish close to 12 pounds. While not at all his first trip with me, it was Jeremy's first tog trip.
The tog fishers out there know what kind of bite this was.. Plenty of guys fish 25 years and don't see a 12 pounder.
As for the Minnow.. a six year-old on a MD partyboat slam in the heart of January is probably not a good idea, especially on an all-day boat: Unless its a kid like Minnow. Little guy is already ruined; I guarantee he'll be skipping lectures in college to go fishing..
Perhaps in his time that experience will have created such a different perspective from his peers as to be valuable.
Four days of fishing gave my business a shot at life, a defibrillator's electric shock: yet its in no way ready to leave the ICU.
On a desk in New England -- Gloucester, MA; the Regional Administrator's desk---a corner office I hope is high enough to offer a view of the harbor and ocean---sits a recommendation from every scientist involved with the mid-Atlantic's sea bass fishery to double the 2010 quota.
It awaits action.
If a few day's fishing is as an emergency room's paddles, then on that desk sits a heart; a robust, youthful heart: a ready to transplant heart..
NOAA's NE Regional Administrator, Pat Kurkel; a bright and kind lady I've met in more pleasant circumstance, has the seemingly simple but unenviable decision of believing her cadre of scientists and saving the fishers - or believing Uncle Murfs, the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey. Its MRFSS' assertion that we evil recreational fishers have yet again trashed our resource in the gluttonous fashion that started this trouble; that we've willfully and wantonly overfished our sea bass--but only in one region..
From these two sources of information--her vast staff of Doctors and Nurses who recommend heart transplant -- or the discredited and now replaced MRFSS trying to take fishers with it into the great beyond.. Between them she must chose.
I wish her wisdom.
In a meeting with our newly elected Congressman nearly two weeks ago we ran headlong into the numbness of fisheries conflict..
Its always the data - its always the science.. Always, always, always. Lot of water; easy to hide a fish: Pain in the neck place to do science.
I had asked Maryland DNR to send fisheries staff along with us as we met with our legislator..
As it happens, I am sure the meeting would have fallen flat, the opportunity been completely lost without DNR's presence. I am thankful that leadership allowed having staff present who--while not throwing science entirely off the boat--strongly indicated that the "Data Poor Fisheries" data is loose enough to hide the 2 million pound quota difference: Their presence certainly preserved the integrity of our argument..
Congressman Kratovil spent many years in courtrooms as a prosecutor. He knows when a witness has been discredited.. I hope his picture of MRFSS, Crazy Uncle Murfs, is as a desperate crack addict hauled in to testify before a jury..
This week coming the annual skirmish over our state's flounder regs for the year will begin. Uncle MRFSS has set the tone, again, with severely bad catch estimates like in '07 when fewer shore fishers out-caught partyboat patrons by huge margins: 1,711 summer flounder for Party Boats -- 36,017 for shore fishers in a two month period.. 
Pure horse-hockey in a less than 100,000 fish quota. We fought it to a review but there wasn't enough data to support our claim that this was insanity.
I can only hope the new program, MRIP, with its much better estimate of the number of people going fishing, will one day allow previous estimate revisions: and perhaps most importantly for quality catch data in Maryland: divide the Chesapeake and coastal effort.
Watch this new angler registry--MRIP--data develop.. Uncle MRFSS being locked in his cell with a good dinner and a piece of rope will have been merciful: Better than death by eating crow.......
...Back over on the other side of Maryland, away from her tiny slice of Atlantic coast; this the big part made famous around the world for its steadfast refusal to respond to efforts of revival: In Annapolis there is now a bill before the legislative body - SB 37 - that would deny DNR control over the method of harvesting oysters and would presumably allow power-dredging and patent tonging wherever/anywhere there are oysters -- Even though there are areas where these 'harvest' methods are already allowed..
How difficult it is to avoid the broad-brush of discrimination.. Pictures of 'oyster sanctuaries' worked in the still of night, the catch unknowingly sold to the public that funded them for pennies on their own millions & millions of oyster restoration tax dollars: An entire eco-region whose health likely hinges on efforts to restore that biofiltering-bivalve in fantastically huge numbers..
Though their image is tarnished by some few among them, many watermen know restoring water quality is key to their legacy, their work far removed from the life most call normal; neither simple nor easy, yet a life many would trade all for.. If only it were working.. Now, in failing all restoration attempts, they may have been the last of a breed that knew the slow pulse of tides..
We will forever want oysters to grace our table; yet it is water quality -- far more so than sea and bay floor habitat -- that has the greatest of effect on juvenile survival in the earliest days of life for every recreational & commercial fishery: It is poor water quality that is hampering so many facets of fisheries restoration; effects which now obviously stretch many tens of miles to sea.. 
Forests, storm water management, marshes, sea grasses: the oyster is not all of water qualities' restorative remedy: Important though, perhaps 20 to 30 percent..
A difficult & elusive solution.. To restore a vital part of an ecosystem while trying to keep an industry alive.. 
Perhaps a large part of the solution was first put forth in 1921 by Dr. Reginald Truitt, founder of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, when he tried to get watermen to build artificial reef oyster spawning sanctuaries. I think he was exactly right; his idea's 100th anniversary is in 11 years; we're just starting to try it.
Perhaps Clara Tutt, in her 1935 elementary school text, "Fisheries," nailed it when she wrote for her young charges, "Oysters left to grow by themselves did not furnish enough for the people who wanted them. Men have learned how to grow them. The places where they are raised are called oyster farms."
She finishes this section of the 1935 text with, "The oyster business is worth more than most fishing industries. Millions of bushels of oysters are shipped every year to all parts of the world."
Still true, just not in the Chesapeake since 1982 or so.
I bet guvmint would give watermen a big helping hand were they to attempt farming... 
The simple truth of habitat can be found in black sea bass & oysters. Scientists just need to look for it; though in truth, many see it clear as day.
Putting MRFSS data far on a back shelf and forging ahead with an industrial vision of Dr. Truitt's cement oyster spawning reefs will keep us moving ahead..
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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