Monday, May 03, 2010

Fish Report 5/3/10

Fish Report 5/3/10
Keep On Toggin - Going Long Again
Oily Distraction   
MRFSS Numbers Changed
Ocean City Reef Foundation Dinner - Hall's 60th Street Bayside - May 5th - 5 to 8 PM - Raffles - Chinese Auction - Live Auction.. A Good Time.
Hi All,
Still toggin.
Would sure have at least a start on the sea bass were they open. Even seeing some early would-be keepers just 3 miles off the beach; tagging them over 13 inches or so.
Friday we had a few limits of tog and dropped a super-dandy. Could have easily limited all aboard but were releasing the girls best we could.
Saturday's super-long trip was enjoyed by almost all. Three of 7 stops were extra-sweet. Dropped a dandy then too: When you see a rod catch 6-8 & 10 pound tog frequently and then see that same rod with no control on a fish steadily pulling drag -- and it gets off -- I think it's safe to say a big one got away..
Will fish some more: The reservation book is now open for tog trips from Wednesday, May 5th to Friday, May 14th. The Saturday, May 8th trip and Friday, May 14th trips will be from 5:45 to 5:30 for $150.00 -- All the other tog trips are our regular 7am to 3 pm days for $100.00 -- Tog regs change to summer season on May 15th.
I also have the book open for sea bass trips from May 22cnd to the end of June.
If You Want To Go See Trip Particulars Below Signature.....
Production: It certainly appears that Friday evening, likely just before dark & on the very edge of this full moon, many of our region's tog spawned. There was a 40 to 1 female tog ratio on Friday; each one obviously swollen with roe. On Saturday the boys bit; What few females we caught Saturday were roe-depleted.
These fish spawned early, as early as I've seen, and will spawn several more times before mid-summer.
Fishing much closer to OC Sunday on fish that hadn't really come out of the winter doldrums until late this year, we saw no evidence that they had just spawned.. Certainly on the next moon -- late May; if in fact moon phase acts as a trigger.  
While I believe that black sea bass are seafloor nesters, I have witnessed tog spawning very near the surface of the water: Female in front, males behind - all swimming rapidly. It's called broadcast spawning, you may have seen it in other reef species on the TV nature shows; it leaves the eggs that become fertilized very much a part of the plankton, unguarded--drifting in early development.
A scientist I trust, Richard Wong with the MAFMC, found the next stage of a tog's life in the macro-algaes of our bays--the 'sea lettuce' and various 'sea weeds' that some curse when it fouls their fishing line. These young fish feed & hide from predators in the growth - perfect chameleons; brown in brown algae, green in green algae.
Now, some hold that this production ---And it is right here, this egg fertilization and juvenile survival: This is fishery production. It is crucial to what we catch in the following years and decades: Some, many even, believe that all our tautog and sea bass production occurs in the estuaries. 
I very much believe that this is not the case. I believe we remain ignorant of much of our region's production. I believe that the long-held view that the mid-Atlantic has a "continental slope comprised of sand and mud with a few ship-wrecks" theory has so distorted scientific thought that no one has looked for this type of early production in what has been called the "non-habitat forming corals.."
If Essential Fish Habitat policy writers are to stand upon the shoulders of giants, it would be helpful to know if these earlier works were actually correct.......
Our new administrators of NOAA & NMFS now find themselves staring at what may become--if no solution is soon found--the world's largest marine oil spill. I suspect it will distract them, at least for a while, from the greatest ever regulatory disaster in the fisheries; these many closures associated with the MRFSS recreational catch estimates & the assumption that we have sound enough data with which to create the firmest of regulation.
No figment of data's imagination; There is now a 10 day emergency closure--not just of one species but for all fisheries, declared in parts of the Gulf.
I hope those fishers don't get it like the Prince William Sound guys did: 2 decades of lawsuits and high expectations came to nothing - or nearly so.
Hope they get that oil spill buttoned up with the least ecological & economic impact possible.
And I hope the federal response is a pleasant footnote in the careers of those now in charge..
BP and the government are likely exploring every possible method of controlling and absorbing the oil -- perhaps even with millions of the 2 foot square oilsorbs we all use in our engine rooms. I am sure many, even all, of the fishers & their families -- side by side with the environmental community -- would jump at the chance to make booms, to deploy booms; to protect their livelihood and most sensitive habitats..
Crisis can and does create opportunity for change. I hope they resolve the oil spill soon............
I have often quoted the MRFSS statistic for Maryland's party/charter 2009 annual tautog catch of eleven fish. It was so far wrong that no one could have disputed the assertion that it was incorrect.
Now MRFSS has changed it.
When you go to the data's web site there is a disclaimer button which you must click to access the data: A "You understand that we can change statistics before they become final" button.
I wish it said "... we can keep changing all these statistics until they're sorta close."
Still, there was change: Now our official party/charter estimate is no longer 11 tog, it's 2,216 tog caught in 2009.
A much better estimate.
On discovering this change I experienced a surge of hope; Went and checked the Massachusetts private boat landings estimates for sea bass last July & August..
..Rats. Still at 163,000 some thousand---When the best year previously was around 13,000.
Just like that 11 fish tog estimate, it's an error.. one that has cost fishers real money already and started costing a lot more just a few days ago.
I have often sold-out many a weekday in May for sea bass...
Hope whoever changed Maryland's tog estimate casts a similar eye at that MA sea bass data -- Bet just that one error would make the whole cbass closure issue evaporate..
Then we could go back to worrying about the weather & the bite.
And try to rebuild the economic destruction wrought of this ongoing emergency closure.
Meanwhile, we'll keep toggin.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Boat sells out at 14 for tog trips - Green crabs provided - Leave as scheduled or earlier if all are aboard - PLEASE be a little early so we can leave early - Return as scheduled or a little later - 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.
Tog Limit is 4 fish @ 14 inches - We encourage the release of all females under 16 (and some way bigger too!!) Fish Pool is decided by length so tagged and released fish count too.
Yes, we have caught some big tog this year and in years past. No, I can not pick what size, if any, are going to bite on any given day -- We are going fishing. Inexperienced tog fishers frequently find this an exasperating sport.. So do the sharpies some days. It's more about presentation than in our other fisheries.

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