Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fish Report 10/31/10

Fish Report 10/31/10   
Sea Bass Reopen
Tautog Too
Letter to NOAA
Hi All,
Sea bass reopen Monday, November 1st.
Better than last year's total closure: Enjoy, but do not think all is well.
November is when our cbass are moving offshore, fattening-up for winter. In the bad old "good old days" high man would have 200 fish in a day's fishing come November.
Today's legal creel limit of 25 will have to do. So long as the release ratio stays below 7 to 1 you can get a creel limit--Catch 175 fish for 25 keepers.
Fortunately, with cooler temps and the right fish-hooks, release mortality is practically zero.
..unless the bluefish are thick.
I have everyday open to sea bass trip reservations the first week of season and the following weekend -- the 1st through the 6th & the 12th, 13th & 14th.
I need to go back into the deep for some video work, need to find a calm patch of weather when I don't have a regular trip booked: I'll open more sea bass trips, lots more; Just not yet.
Though tautog in Maryland go from 2 fish to a 4 fish limit on November 1st too, I intend to resume toggin' come January.
That two fish creel-limit can be traced directly to the official catch estimate of September/October 2007 when 44,120 tautog are estimated to have been boxed-up in Ocean City's coolers. Interestingly, if you add up the estimates from 2000 to 2009 --but exclude 2007-- you get 57,743 tautog caught and cooked. The other 8 years total effort combined is only 13,623 fish more than the one bad 2007 estimate.
In the MD total of all those fish for the 9 year period the party/charter catch is thought to be just under a thousand..
Sure smells funny -- but will, regardless, impact regulations for years to come: Especially if another bad estimate comes directly on its heels.
This is exactly how sea bass came to be closed--but in larger scale, involving several states' estimates.
It's being fixed.
That whole, huge program--MRIP, which stands for MRFSS Rest In Peace or Marine Recreational Information Program depending on your vantage point: The "Angler Registry" is all about fixing recreational catch estimates. Millions & millions have been spent to resolve a well-known problem, the problem of horrid data sets impacting fisheries decisions.
Everyone in fisheries knows the estimates are a huge problem, knows meaningless data forces all involved to fight with all their determination, swinging sword & mace through nothingness, to attack or defend management decisions based on data a ten year old would question.
Lines manned, battle joined: Thrust, "Your Data's Bad!" - Parry, "It's The Best Data Available!" 
While businesses fold, the real work languishes. 
There are a handful of people at the top who can call "Time!"
Our era of error needs to end.
Yes, there has to be sensible regulation based on catch, but if a catch estimate doesn't make sense then just make sensible regulation..
The people at the top need to put a hold on our old estimate system's final data sets, need to hit pause while the new system, MRIP, comes on line.
I know what overfishing looked like, this isn't it.
Restoring natural reef will benefit all fishers & fish far more than the disaster of closure based on false data.
Finding and stopping the worst bycatch would benefit fisher & fish similarly.
Using the behavior of habitat fidelity in management would accelerate progress.
Regulations based on solid substrate--on truth--have real effect.
A man can go to the bank in Japan and borrow money to build artificial reef.
Here men go to the bank to borrow in cash-flow crisis because we do not understand reef production. 
See letter below.
Ten years just trying to convince management to have a look....
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Good People of NOAA,
I strongly encourage you to review your reef-fish restoration policy.
We cannot possibly hope to have well managed reef fisheries without knowledge of the present day reef footprint and its importance to fishery production; Nor can reasonable reef-fish restoration targets be created without having made any attempt to discover whether today's habitat is sharply declined from the historical.
That restoration is not going as well as possible is not the fault of fishers: It is the fault of using poor data without logical review, It is the fault of managing fish with fine scale habitat fidelity over areas far too broad--of not having fine scale regional management: In fact, it may be that restoration is far ahead of plan were percentage of habitat remaining considered. 
You must halt the madness that we fishers now suffer & turn instead to means of fishery restoration beyond catch restriction.
Its not funny that I have been 10 years trying to get our low-lying reefs into management's view without success. It is among any restoration's greatest failings.
You are attempting to put squirrels back where there are mostly stumps. Forcing recreational fishers to shoulder habitat production problems they did not create & denying restorations via artificial reef that they have created is alienating your greatest ally.
..Nor can reasonable reef-fish restoration targets  be created without having made any attempt to discover whether today's habitat is sharply declined from the historical.
Go back to basics; Look into holding capacity and surplus production. I promise you that because of quota battles and MRFSS uproar, no one has taken a look back to see if fisheries' most basic theories are being used.
At all.
From Magnuson: " insure conservation, to facilitate long-term protection of essential fish habitats, and to realize the full potential of the Nation's fishery resources."
The mark you must leave on our path to recreating thriving fisheries is not in grand closure, not in blind obedience to data that fails logical test: It's in habitat ignored now restored and maximizing spawning potential.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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