Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fish Report 8/22/10

Fish Report 8/22/10
Shorties & A Dinner
A Farewell to Spadefish
Hi All,
Nicking and picking; Occasionally a good shot of fish, a quick shot. Working to make a fish fry, only sometimes a few for the freezer.
Sea bass have been everything from uncooperative to 'bite the bottom off the boat.' Move around, try a new spot - find some hungry.
All told I don't suppose it's too bad for the heart of August. Lots of throwbacks--the shorties. Box a few too - makes a dinner.
Big swell earlier in the week; Cbass fishers had much better luck than  fluke/flounder diehards.
Lot more flounder into the weekend though. Many were perfectly edible ..but illegal.
Dark hood drawn low, management is poised to close our season with a swift blow of the executioner's ax should MRFSS assert we have over-fished our quota again.
I wonder if alongside that ax there's a pen, a keyboard, an upper management meeting where the size limit could be loosened if we haven't 'over-fished' - if we haven't had another insane over-estimate befall us.
Preliminary MRFSS estimates have sentenced fishers to economic purgatory with bad data sets via Emergency Closure in recent years; I wonder if the courage exists in management to loosen regulations mid-season if the data says were coming in super-low..
A friend who takes fish pictures sez, "Sure Monty, and you're going to be Pope."
If MRFSS can claim shore fishers caught in two months what charter/party fishers will catch in 15 years, then I can claim management has the guts to loosen regulations if the data supports it. . . . .
Very unusual in a wonderful way is the super-clear nearshore waters. This what EVERY old timer laments, the old marlin fishermen, the guys who fished here when Ocean City truly was the White Marlin Capitol of the World: "The blue water is gone" they'll say.
Very temporarily I'm sure, but it's back.
In 2008 we had a super-bloom of algae. Pea green from about 4 to 15 miles out, that body of water just got stuck off the coast. Here for a month and a piece, it was hard to find any life in. I'm sure we were very close to experiencing anoxia--a dead zone..
Saturday I was fishing on a wreck that I've been anchoring over for close to 30 years, a wreck I didn't bother fishing in that pea-green water -- when a wahoo swam by.
A who-who?
I've seen mahi as close as 3 miles offshore in a warm, clear eddy. In 1980 I saw a blue marlin jumping repeatedly at Little Gull Shoal. 
But I'd never seen a wahoo -Neptune's torpedo- just swimming by.
Did see one with a gaff in it Thursday though. Another first in my years. It ate a cedar plug trolled as we were moving from one spot to another.
Fortunate to have Kenny on the rod, he made short work of what could have been a long battle.
No wire or cable in that cedar plug either. Ol' razor tooth -fastest fish in the sea- could have easily nicked his way free.
Yes-yes, fun to catch sweet; Sweet as in delicious too. Think white tuna, like longfin albacore, but better. Bled and iced straight away.. Dang that was good fish. Big enough that we gave everyone aboard some too. . . .
Marine fisheries restoration is a new science. I think history will call this the era of glamour species management; where efforts are focused on just a few species & just on catch: No habitat, no prey base, just catch reduction.
Myopic shame, I'm pretty confident that we have now suffered another regional collapse: The spade fish.
I did try..
On my boats it was 2 fish at 13 inches for spadefish. Asking since 1992 or 94, the fed and state were too busy to put real regulation in place.
I encouraged and saw built artificial reef designed in part to put spadefish closer to the average boater; all while thinking surely the state & fed would act. 
Expanded habitat is worthless without catch regulation, thinking regulation..
I well remember acres of finning spadefish - acres - countless numbers.
Haven't seen one this year.
I hear there's been a few caught this year, that one couple speared 40 some.
Summer flounder from 20 fathoms in; see 'em spit up sea bass. Striped bass numerous, Restored: but ill. Starving they say.
Glamour species need a firm foundation to become truly restored.
Would carry a lot of other species along for the ride.....
Expanded habitat isn't just the reefs I often write of, it's also prey--the menhaden, sand eels, squid. It's cleaner waters too. That's why we caught ol' razor tooth--an eddy of pretty water; the blue water the old-timers say is really missing in the billfish puzzle.
A two foot pipe: The whole world watched as a two foot pipe almost wrecked the Gulf of Mexico.
We have a 17 mile pipe to our south and an 11 mile pipe to our north - the mouths of the Chesapeake & Delaware Bays.
The nutrients they pump out, not in an oil well's weeks but in their decades and centuries, become algae's all-night diner. Given time blue waters turn green, well oxygenated waters become smothering lifeless soup..
Waves still break on shore & children play; Multi-million dollar boats leave the bad water behind, find resurgent billfish populations -- Another single species management success.
If you don't look too hard.
Lots of folks working on the estuaries. Progress being made. Millions and millions in funding.
Marine regulators ignore coral's importance to sea bass and many other species in the ocean, Fail to implement measures to preserve the few remaining spadefish,  Disregard 600 years of fishers complaints about the effects of trawling on seabed habitat, Overlook basic fisheries science --harvest accelerates spawning-- and advance size limits too far..
Squid once spawned inshore too. Marlin ate them. 
Habitat turns the squid making machine back on.
Really basic fisheries science: Habitat quality is an important control on spawning success, on fisheries production, on how fast real fisheries restoration--not just propping-up the glamour species, can occur.
Hoping for another wahoo; Stretch.
Should be able to scratch up a sea bass dinner though, perhaps see the flounder come on this week.
Want to do one more fish fry before the sweet corn and tomatoes are gone.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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