Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fish Report 12/29/10

Fish Report 12/29/10
Togging Begins 
Writing Letters
Hi All,
Been a few years since I snuck in a New Year's Day trip. Weather looks OK. We'll try it. January 1st, 2011 - 6:30 to 3:30 - Tautog Only - $110.00 - 14 people sells out the rail - Crabs Provided.
You will not need the new MD fishing license on my boat. I have the MD partyboat ticket that covers all aboard.
If you want to celebrate New Year's Eve by howling at the moon, you'd be well advised to suffer the hangover anywhere other than at sea. Anywhere..
I mean it!
There were long years --long-- where I was alone in catch-restriction management; Where mine was the only boat in the mid-Atlantic with size & creel limit restrictions not required by law. I was the only guy to testify that a 9 inch cbass size limit would be a good thing at a council meeting; Have old letters encouraging management's action.
Great Mercy it was an obvious thing. Throw the little fish back so they can make more fish..  
The sea bass population was doing great just with our own limit; I could see it climb when the fed put their 9 in. limit on. 
In the second year of management, 1998, they closed half of August because the whole coast had 'overharvested'.
I should have known then..
Gosh Sakes there's some bad data in this business. At some point it became the single greatest control, The only control..

The sea bass population was skyrocketing along the DelMarVa coast in 2001 when I wrote, "On the Recent Improvements of Live Bottom Habitats..."

That paper, part of a now-decade long attempt to bridge anecdote and science, got laughed at: "Sea whip doesn't create habitat" scientists said. 


We'd had a nine inch sea bass size limit followed by ten. Recreational fishers could keep all the sea bass they could catch every day of the year - Except during that one August closure.

The stock grew magnificently.

Great Mercy it was a beautiful thing to see.


But it took a hit in early '04 and has remained wobbly since. I have a few ideas on that...


Management does too: "Sea Bass Are Restored!"



Fishermen know instinctively that the amount of fishing pressure a population of sea bass, tautog, or other reef-fish can take in a given area is absolutely relative to the amount of reef-habitat in that area: Our fish-catching realities are made to suffer the frying-pan test, an authenticity which can not be faked. 


Theirs is not.
Theirs is "Angler Effort Is Difficult To Predict."
Says that for every MRFSS recreational catch-estimate data set.
"The data & PSEs are quite acceptable."
Despite that those "plus or minus" PSE percentages soar even above 100%, "It's the Best Available Science."
Since statistics are the science of uncertainty, MRFSS must be at the very top. 
Now nevermind "reef-fish probably live on and need reef" habitat science:  When MRFSS --say Murfs, the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey-- When Murfs data reveals Maryland's private boats caught 274,617 cbass in '95 -- Then in '97 caught 5,439 -- Then in '99 caught none/zero -- then in '03 caught 79,898 keeper cbass --- Then RATS! only 725 fish the very next year in '04..
"Just the ups & downs of fishing," said with a shrug.
"It's Difficult To Predict."
Then, Dogone-it, our poor small-boat guys caught 376,778 cbass in '08 ..but only 2,251 of them were keepers.
That's bloody well what happened too. It's the best science around!  
You see, both angler effort & angler luck are difficult to predict..
"Angler Effort Is Difficult To Predict."
False proclamations with very real result: You have to bore into the little numbers to see where the big numbers come from.
Lots & lots & lots of data sets just like it.
Apparently that's all management needs to know because that's all they're being fed.
Disgraceful to call the MRFSS catch estimates science.
Dern sure remaining focused on them isn't restoring any reef fishery.
I saw on the news that this snow-storm may have had a substantial impact on retail sales, that they may have lost several days of business that can't be made up..
MRFSS may force regulators to cut 3 more months--Another 90 Days--from our season. And have a 13 inch size limit.
And I experienced a fantastic resurgence of fish with a 9 & 10 inch limit --Open All Year.
Something's smelly..

From the video: "Me? I'd rather have rocks. I know just how fish will respond to them."
Only thing I see in all this that's VERY difficult to predict is MRFSS.
We have not overfished.
No: Our fisheries have been surrendered to poor data.
One trawler working one day could catch what my boat put on the dock this year.
Management: "The commercial quota gets caught quickly which leaves a lot of fish for recreational fishers."
I think MRFSS recreational catch-estimates have so befouled management's perception that year after year of unused recreational quota is converted to MRFSS 'over-fishing' with all its resultant cuts in future recreational quota; The Bad-Science of poor catch-estimate then allows the commercial guys more fish: It is absolutely not going to the recreational side.
There is simply far too much faith in the poorly held MRFSS catch estimate data; It's almost universally distrusted in the scientific world.
Yet management's use of MRFSS has thrown the recreational fisheries into turmoil We're on course to an economic beheading.
Back Off!
Management should recognize failure and create a plan -- A real plan of reef-fish restoration.  
A plan that focuses on habitat will work regardless of catch-estimate's poverty.
Management of reef-fish with no thought of reef deserves no credibility; Will have none from me, I'll promise.
Being correct doesn't mean a thing; Won't stop this beating.
Having the boss stroll down the hall might.
It's plenty irritating.
If you're of a mind, put a stamp on a letter to these folks: They're the bosses.
CC your DC representatives too...
Secretary Locke
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20230
Secretary Lubchenco
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW - Room 5128
Washington, DC 20230
CINC NMFS Eric Schwaab
NOAA Fisheries Service
1315 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
I think fishing's actually pretty steady.
But predicting MRFSS is like forecasting earthquakes.
Three MRFSSquakes in a row for cbass.
Businesses still standing are on weakened foundations.
Letters can give us a fighting chance.
Thank You.
Reef Video: From Google search YouTube 'Maryland Corals.'
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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