Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Fish Report 3/3/10

Fish Report 3/3/10
Of Seals & Snowstorms
Fresh Data
Hi All,
We'll take a few days, weeks, to get her ready for the Coast Guard's inspection.. See how the weather goes. I do have May 22cnd to the end of June open for sea bass - Will resume toggin' when I think it's fit.
Fished Sunday & Tuesday; bite considerably slower. Some wave-swell Sunday; very strong current from the north on both days likely contributed to the bite falling off too.
I suspect, above all, that we've finally had one snowstorm too many; that the cold water has seeped all the way to the bottom.
In way of agreement, a seal showed us the way out of the marina Tuesday morning. Saw another in the inlet.. Yes, seals. That makes 4 in my life in Maryland.
Did have 6 tog in the boat Sunday, tagged 7 releases. The biggest was Matt's 16 pound 2 ounce dandy.. Wish I'd have kept count of the fish over 15 this winter.
Tuesday it looked like Dennis's 16 something was going to take the pool when Tom stepped up with a 24 -- Talking inches here though!
Boxed 7 tog, tagged 1.
Too slow..
The water turns over every year; here we see the nadir, the bottom of the cycle--Where beginning in late fall the water is warmer on the bottom than the surface; cold gradually seeping down, now it is equally cold throughout..
Come high-summer it will be far colder on the bottom than the surface.
A lot of that surface warmth will come from where the water is spread thin, in the estuaries fed by the rivers; they'll warm first, their discharge an important part of the ocean's heating.
That's later: Now that runoff's cold.
Cod? Tagged a 19 3/4 incher and put a 30 incher in the boat Tuesday. This time mine-mine-mine!
Dang that's good fish.
So is tog, but I can have that anytime.
Looking for something nearly identical but different; Somehow a perception of better. Grass is greener.. Lot of human troubles source from there.
But not for want of a different fish to bake--In a hurry, microwaved with butter, salt and pepper: Awesome.
Lunch & dinner until gone. Promise.
So here's this cod..
They've been written about extensively--Kurlansky's "Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World." is excellent..
We've nicked a few of late; Mike opens up its belly after filleting and out spill 2 seahorses, an atlantic mackerel--keeper too, just like we used to catch and I hope to one day catch again--plus a non-riverine herring and a sea mouse. (picture a cross between a sand dollar, sea cucumber & a small porcupine--search google images 'seamouse'.)
What a story just having this fish, a far grander tale in its belly. The mackerel are virtually lost here. Could come back; should do. I'll be looking hard this year - Its been since the very early 1990s that I could offer good old-fashioned mackerel fishing---though Capt. Rick of Lewes with his greater determination has kept the flame lit with some nice mackerel catches in the last decade.
Blessed, spurred-ahead even, by fishery council permits, it was 91 or 92 that giant overseas fish factory-ship processors were allowed in. US trawlers caught the mackerel and sold them to these factory ships. This created a long, sustained price spike; supply was found to suit demand: I believe it was more pressure than the southern stock of mackerel could stand. So steep was our recreational decline in catch that by 1995 we had no more clients willing to go.
Also from the cod's stomach: Reef dwellers. Though the seahorses and sea mice of this fish's stomach are not what I usually write about, they are a part of the reef's ecology--as is the fact that's where the cod got caught. 
This one fish's stomach contents, indeed the fish itself, has a habitat footprint that is hard to get your head around..  It touches upon everything from filter-feeding reef-building communities to the effects of copepod production/predation by giant fin and humpback whales and every predator in between.. And cod, cod with the splendid genetic inclination to migrate further south than most: Once abundant, they're missed.
Point is: What a big project!
Restoring our fisheries is huge in scope.
Too much predation here, a missing habitat type there, a misplaced decimal makes-for a huge over-estimate of catch, a gross rebuilding overestimate based on loose historical data..
Information is pouring in though: Building. Better.
Might want Flexibility - Be able to act on new information.
We're at a transition now where some species are beyond fully rebuilt, where we need flexibility to adjust management plans/regulations to fit a different circumstance; Where the fish are doing fine and it would be best to be more mindful of the fisher.
We're also finding that we do not know all there is to know; That we are not so gifted that we are able to discern all there is about the ocean by rocketing to the moon; That stock estimates and catch estimates can be grossly incorrect: A manager with flexibility could act for fish or fisher as needed.
Inflexibility is where we are.
Managers will not adjust the recreational catch estimates for sea bass despite such adjustment would be well within the statistically correct spread of MRFSS's estimates: No, they'll hold fast to their data centerpoints..
The troubles of red snapper fishers whose rebuilding targets are out of this world - impossible to meet in 10 years, yet the fish are in great abundance.
The MD summer flounder meeting where many chose to have a 19 inch size limit in order to extend the season as close to Thanksgiving as possible: We're told this is rebuilding. Much-needed rebuilding.. We're rebuilding a fish, summer flounder, that no one can recall in greater profusion than now nor repeat stories from those who came before us of these fish in greater numbers.. Such fantastic populations.. 
Unfortunately, I suspect flounder will have to block the Potomac before regulators throw in the towel; admit maybe the fish are doing OK.
We need flexibility.
We need management and the super-powers in environmentalism to realize that fisheries science is not infallible.. No, instead it's youthful and prone to mistakes.
We need to move our sharply focused restoration efforts away from the glamour species; Away from the stripers, cod, scup, black sea bass, and above all, summer flounder: Refocused, these efforts now look to where these super-populations of fish live and upon what they need for feed, for prey, in order to support even greater populations.
And too, restoration effort needs to be shifted to where none has gone; The northern stocks of spadefish, triggerfish, amberjack; The southernmost stocks red hake, scup and, indeed, codfish.
Why did they once commonly catch white marlin inshore..
What we need most, right now, is for those guiding these efforts from the corner offices--the apex predators of pay-scale--to look at the use of MRFSS data, the use of its centerpoint.
That's not regulation; Management doesn't have to by law..
No, using the centerpoint of gigantic MRFSS spreads is internal policy.
You threw us under the bus for that?
Where's the humanity..
Data from a dying & discredited program held in such high regard by those who form policy. Amazing.
History is being made.
There's just a little time left before this part gets written.
The 2010 sea bass regulations remain in question or at least unpublished. There must be controversy. I hope--I sincerely hope--that what's being argued is the validity of the catch data - not whose plan, based on bad data, will hold sway.. That Emperors aren't drawing arms to prove they have the best new clothes...
Like the codfish's food web, it's a lot to get your head around. Believe this: Recreational fishers did not go over their sea bass quota in 2009. There was no need for that economic knee-capping last fall: And there is no need to hand our head to us in 2010 either. The data's bad and some know it.
New data's in on summer flounder.
I see that MD shore fishers caught 50-some thousand less flounder last year than in '07. Oh they still hold a trophy though; the MRFSS estimates have them, the jetty, bank & surf fishers, outfishing partyboats by a wide margin again in '09. They really got thrashed, however, by the private boat guys--just creamed. Private boats--all this according to catch estimate data used to set seasons--caught more in '09 than '08--almost 79,000 flounder in MD. Party boat captains were all hungover or something though, we supposedly caught half as much as the previous year, just 1,361 flounder--They say we only caught 1,355 sea bass too.
I'm ashamed.
I really am. Errors cumulative; I'm ashamed that our regulators use this Bad Science to destroy our coastal businesses.
That needs to change.
Think I'll drop my Representatives another line.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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