Friday, October 15, 2010

Fish Report 10/15/10

Fish Report 10/15/10
Going Fishing
Toggin Sunday & Monday
Flounder/Fluke & Tog Trips Too
What They Don't Get
Hi All,
Just one trip since that last email; a biological sampling trip for aging tog. No matter that we were held tight to the beach by wind or had a super-light rail; it was a very succesful day - mission accomplished.
The fishing went completely over the top when we caught 2 black drum, a few triggers, and a very fine pair of sheepshead at the last stop.
In my 30 years I'd never seen a sheepshead, never had a client catch one, never felt one. Amazing fish. What a fight!
Very scrappy.
Stomach contents: Mussels. 
Caught on artificial reef.
Ought to build some more of that.... (next week's report)
Going Fishing:
Tog Trips (& Whatever Else Will Bite Inshore) - Sunday & Monday - 10/17 & 18 - Regular Hours - Regular Fare.
Wednesday through Friday - 10/20, 21, 22 - Tog/Flounder - Regular Hours - Regular Fare - Ought to be some pretty fish off there.
Saturday - 10/23 - Flounder/Tog - Emphasis on Flounder (summer flounder are fluke) 6:30 to 4 - Regular Saturday Fare.  
Sea Bass reopen on November 1st - Should be some very fine fishing.. Book's open from 11/1 to 11/6. Will try to fish everyday in November save Thanksgiving.
'Ol Murphy: You know him, guy who lays down Murphy's law; He had to stifle a deep chortle at the thought of anyone fishing everyday in November, especially when September & October have given us a fit!  
I wrote a letter to the top of management this week and was going to introduce it with a few paragraphs.
Not so few.
Points were many; wandering. Buried in it is (I think) an excellent argument for matching commercial & recreational size limits on sea bass and..
....a consistent theme in modern fisheries literature seems to be "all is lost," That we can not hope to restore our fisheries, That the very foundations of sustainable fishing are a fraud, That the best we can do is make Marine Protected Areas to preserve some life while we evil overfishers grind the remainder of the seas into jellyfish & plankton preserves.
Oh Fiddle.
There are some truly brilliant people writing this stuff.
Poor data really does lead to poor decisions: Or, more precisely here, data in nationwide/coastwide collection hides regional response.
Yes, there are species in the deepest of trouble & places where the concept of fishery management is so foreign that a gunboat denying access is the simplest management plan..
But to scrap the very foundation of fishery management when, so far as I can tell, it's only been tried on a few species & by accident, ignores great regional successes that don't jump out of large-scale data sets.
It is such a basic tenant of biology that populations of nearly any animal will reproduce at faster rates--& younger--until the carrying capacity of habitat is reached.
Throughout the the fisheries there is more delay in spawning as population increases.. Really.
This means that -when hammered- a now greatly diminished regional population will begin spawning at an earlier age: Indeed, Maturing at an earlier age.
This is where "surplus production" comes in, what we'll expect to be allowed to catch from a fully restored population of fish.
My writings have pointed out that we had a huge spawning population of young cbass even before fed/state regulation had begun: That although they were dense--very numerous, it was because there weren't larger fish about (not a lot of them in ratio to a mature reef's population anyway) that they kept at their --Spawn Young, Spawn Often-- pace.
Then -through 2000- All 1 year old sea bass had spawned; Some even in their first year of life--age zero. Ergo some fish having spawned twice at age 1.
Now -Post 2003- All 3 year olds are spawning, some 2 year olds, and few 1 year olds.
They spawn multiple times throughout the summer.
The majority believe great-big fish spawning--a large-fish spawning class--is management's aim and paint a pretty picture why.
In my experience--What I've seen and lived through--I'll take a very large population of young spawners.
Makes for some good fishing...
If removing fish forces faster reproduction--and it does--at least until they have achieved the habitat's carrying capacity, then why doesn't our management work except for the 'glamour species,' the striped bass & summer flounder..
Public outcry at every whisper of regulation in the glamour species forces far more scrutiny and far tighter --By State & By Region-- control of catch.
Regional sub-stocks--geographically separated spawning stocks--of the high profile species are rarely allowed into a situation where a multi-state convergence of effort occurs. This is because of 'conservation equivalency' on the recreational side, where states can decide how best to put their recreational quota to use - And state by state division of commercial quotas: Indeed, even many individual quotas or IFQs which are many levels below a whole state's quota. 
All this does not factually protect regional stocks from being over-pressured but in the practice of fishing, effort tends to stay localized.  
In a non-glamour species such as sea bass there is a 'coastwide' quota that is sub-divided on the commercial side but remains as one control over a very broad area on the recreational side.
The danger is in multi-state effort occurring on a single segment of the coastwide stock, a discreet spawning stock. Where a generation ago dock-talk may have slowly worked its way up & down the coast; Catch information is now instant. Fishermen know where to go--and, with GPS, know precisely where they are.
As geographically discreet stocks fare well and increase, they are discovered.
Where wintering populations occur, the far greater dollar value of large/jumbo sea bass attracts.
Though hidden in coastwide data --and in no way prevented by management-- a region can be pummeled to below pre-management population.
Fishers suffer as a result.
The "All is lost" contingent need strongly consider this too: If management's end-goal is to achieve a fish population that is at habitat's carrying capacity--as large a population of fish as might possibly be had, It might be good to go see if there is any habitat, To go see if any habitat is missing, To put it back--restore it, To find out why the habitat is missing and put that under management's purview as well.
The more habitat there is, the greater a fish population can be held.
In fact, in attempting restoration of a historical reef-fish population, uncorrected habitat loss would leave the task impossible.
..all would be lost.
Managers need believe this: It will work. Their task is not insurmountable. long as they have not thrown in the towel before having begun.
Use age at spawning, use habitat fidelity & use habitat increase: Fantastic results will occur.
Hmm.. All that to explain why I wrote the letter below.
Hope it helps to bring a problem into focus.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Anything that diminishes fishery production should be taken into very careful consideration by management, especially if it results from management.
Greeting All,
Here is a link to a lecture by Drs. Chris Lowe & Kelly Young discussing reef fish survival with rec/com (recreational/commercial) size limit required releases. Though, curiously, I can't recall any discussion of barotrauma, there was very interesting work presented.  
More importantly, a look at --a much closer look at-- a hermaphroditic species; a species that changes sex in response to population dynamics.. Dr. Kelly's segment on transition to male begins at about 25 minutes. I couldn't tell if California has actually used her findings in management.
I see it's need.
I think it's very important to get this into management. Because there is release & discard mortality --from 100% in a trawl down to < 1% in a nearshore recreational fishery using suitable Kahle or Circle hooks-- And because there is intense fishing pressure on almost all of our remnant and recently created reefs: I think the recent history of increasing size limits, especially where com/rec size limits become widely divergent, is lessening the spawning potential of managed reef species - Particularly that of Black Sea Bass (BSB).
{In a reef species such as tautog with far greater release survival I think a larger size limit could be employed, especially a marine/estuarine division.}  
In 1992 I put a 9 inch size limit on BSB. This was years before management action that took place between '96 & '98.
I did not choose 9 inches arbitrarily: That's what the literature recommended based on spawning potential. It then claimed that every 9 inch sea bass had spawned, some twice, by 9 inches.
We certainly know it isn't that simple now. With convulsive size limits in place, I doubt there could be any assertion that all 9 inch fish have spawned. In fact, I think that under current regulation no 9 inch fish have spawned twice and only some have spawned once. 
In sea bass, size limit controls SSB; at least until management gets far more advanced.
To get the most economic bang for management's effort there must be equal size limits in the rec/com fisheries; There must be careful weighing, not of arbitrary statistic in discredited rec/catch data set, but of how to create the largest spawning stock with minimal disruption to stakeholders. 
Given regulation's impact--that there is release mortality coupled with a very high rate of removal--I think we are diminishing spawning potential with current size limit regulation regulation.
A sudden drop to 11 inches -here matching the commercial size limit- would certainly create a spike in recreational landings - not likely a good thing. But phasing in a 1/2 inch reduction --especially post-spawn, say in October or November-- would be absorbed by the stock and begin to force more young fish into the spawning stock -- And become, if only short lived, an economic driver as rec catch would therefore increase in the fall.
Make no mistake, I think size limits' effect is just part of what needs done. That we have no inclusion of habitat in reef fishes' management is pitiful. That we have a single coastwide stock management plan where there are clearly geographically isolated spawning stocks is also to our economic detriment.
I was blueline/gray tilefishing in +-50 fathoms Sunday, 10/10/10, upon reef that I suspect has been altered by fishing. That is --and I hope to soon know-- that the physical complexity remains even though the biogenic complexity is absent. Everything I see in artificial reef construction leads me to think that it's the biogenic complexity, the emergent growths, that are key to a reef's holding capacity..
Anything that diminishes fishery production should be taken into very careful consideration by management, especially if it results from management.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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