Friday, February 04, 2011

Fish Report 2/4/11

Fish Report 2/4/11
Frozen Fish  
No New Trips - Yet
Cbass Conference Call
A Chart
Hi All,  
Had frozen bluefish fillets for dinner last night. That should tell thinking readers all about our last tog trip.
Dern blues were good though. I'd bled them immediately and frozen them the same day last fall. Cut-up small and fried with House Autry & Badia Fajita Seasoning - Tasty.
But not delectably tasty; Not the sweet, lobstery, baked with just butter & pepper deliciousness of our chisel-toothed, crab-crunching quarry; Not the tastebud POW of tog broiled with soy, sesame seeds & a little honey..
Nope. Just frozen bluefish.
Four really good anglers did not have a fish Tuesday. Winter's cold waters have already settled too deep.. 
All-together we had a couple dogfish and a "bite" while anchored perfectly on super-prime tog bottom.
Recipe for cooking a "bite" involves going to the freezer..
Or a restaurant.
I do have another trip I want to do - much further. Will announce that when the weather is just so.
Meanwhile, working on the boat
..and the politics of fisheries management, which, unfortunately, are often completely separate from my fisheries restoration work.  
You know, I think a lot of people wrote letters.
Sea bass are waaaay down the list but got some needed attention despite the recent striped bass gill-net busts and regulatory discard issues flying-hot.
On a recent conference call the black sea bass management board approved consideration of a one year addendum to regionalize the sea bass quota.
The meeting simply "got the bill out of committee."  
That was step two and, for me, a cliff hanger.
A battle won does not decide the war: Still, the southern sea bass fishery could have gone toes-up as an outcome of the conference call.
It did not.
The motion made by Maryland's representatives ended in unanimous approval by all states involved..
This might be what it feels like to be charged and tried for crimes you did not commit; To endure trial and great uncertainty of the future while having committed no wrong: I left the courthouse still in doubt, but not yet in bankruptcy.
Fishery management would be so much more effective if we could address the truth of habitat & bycatch; Had real catch data on the recreational side.
As in virtually everything: Fisheries science & management are absolutely dependant on truthful input to develop equitable resolutions. In our present recreational catch estimate system--using MRFSS--that truthful input is unavailable.
When our sea bass catch was cleaved in two -early '04- the flounder-trawl bycatch responsible was one of the greatest fishery wastes in recent history; An amazing amount of cbass must have been shoveled by the rail.
It was, and remains, perfectly legal to target flounder where sea bass are thick, even if there is no intention of selling the cbass: It's what gets landed--brought in--that decides regulatory violations.
And, if those sea bass were reefed-up on easily damaged habitat our 'best available science' decrees - So What.
Defending our fisheries from MRFSS's heroin-dreams isn't where our advocacy efforts should be focused, but defend we must..  
Strikes me that real science is bound & gagged, locked in a closet because policy has picked MRFSS as the 'best available science.'   
We have not yet begun to truly manage our region's reef fisheries. Each management meeting is full of unseen gorillas.. Bycatch is just inconceivable and needs a far different approach than our current 'shovel fish back dead with no worries' policy. As the ongoing gill-net busts in the Chesapeake demonstrate, bandits do steal resource from us all. Sea floor habitat and estuarine reef restoration are also major players, yet very few grasp their importance to fisheries..
Readers know I hold habitat as the source of reef-fish production--of future reef-fish populations. It's a fact that stern-towed gears often destroy reef-like bottoms. Our region's trap fishers have traditionally fished more robust 'trawl-proof' habitat so as to avoid gear loss via trawl conflict. I know one local trapper who has video of a NC trawl crew smashing his traps flat before throwing them back overboard. His gear, set around corals for sea bass & lobster, was in their way.   
I've never heard of that happening with our local boats, with fellows that could easily end up sitting in the same pew at church....
Recreational fisher's contribution to real fisheries restoration via catch restriction has come further than needed. Too far. Always increasing size limits actually retards fishery production because it delays 'age at spawning.'  
I'll leave you with a chart taken from landings sold by weight in the commercial fisheries. It speaks volumes to the "Habitat equals fishery production; therefore trawling the wrong place equals habitat & fishery production loss" thesis..
(YouTube search: 'Maryland Corals' for some impacts I've filmed.)
In 2002/2003 I marveled as our habitat neared its holding capacity of fish. I can scarcely imagine the whip-meadows, the rocky corals, the tube-worms that would have been needed to support the fish shown on the left side of this chart.
I'm positive that habitat no longer exists, Positive that we can not support a 1950's population of sea bass with 2010's habitat.
See trap vs trawl chart below.
Hurray for stamping out recreational overfishing using shadowy apparitions of rarely correct catch estimate data.  

To now begin reef-fish restoration we must first discover their habitat..
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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