Sunday, June 05, 2011

Fish Report 6/5/11

Fish Report 6/5/11
Fishing Everyday - Offering Long Sea Bass Trips This Tuesday & Thursday, June 6th & 9th From 6AM to 4PM(ish) - $125.00 - Weather looks especially nice - As I write many stern spots are open.. Reservations Required. 
I want to go nosing around in the deep too -- An exploratory trip with no assurance whatever that I'll even find what I'm looking for -- Oh, but if I do... June 14th -- $225.00 -- 3AM to 8PM -- 10 very patient people sells out the rail -- Reservations Required. 
Management: Focus on maximizing spawning stock size. Find & Protect Habitat. Re-Reef our Bays and Ocean. Ensure Prey Availability. Use Habitat Fidelity.
Hi All,
Caught more sea bass Wednesday on a regular trip than we did on Tuesday's long trip.. Thursday's long trip, however, may have been the trip this year. What a wonderful crowd & grade of fish we had..
Friday we saw NUMBERS -- many good catches despite numerous throwbacks. Also had a serious northerly wind saucing things up; Confounding that was a screaming current from the south--usually exactly when fish won't cooperate. Instead, I believe they might have eaten bare hooks at times.
Saturday we had to work hard just to get some folks into double digits.
Sunday we enjoyed a nice catch with numerous cod. Among them was my third tag return this week: Our cod aren't moving yet. They're growing 2 inches in three months..
Federal size limit is 22 inches for cod -- about 1 in 5 is a keeper: We're tagging a bunch.
I have to get dialed in to cod's life cycle a bit better, age at length sort of stuff.
I know the New England Fishery Management Council has been serious about cod: Lots of habitat work, Fine scale protections of discreet spawning populations too..
Might just be something to this moving beyond size limit/season/quota management.
Had a fellow in my ear at the dock: Tog-tog-tog. We were taking a picture of one.
There it is, big fish.
One thousand two hundred sea bass total for the day; about 25% were keepers.
4 tautog-- half were keepers.
..and flatties soon. 
I aim to get the size limit lowered on sea bass. 
Management's nearsighted fixation & use of MRFSS recreational catch estimates, recreational catches that could never-ever have happened, is taking our region's cbass into decline.  
Catch restriction only management won't find or restore habitat.
Accusing us of overfishing because of inexplicable spikes in private boat catch is a sad excuse for science. 
This single-focus recreational management is shrinking the cbass spawning stock: As management forces both fish & fisher backward, fishers shoulder greater regulatory burden.
Sea bass rely on visual cues to transition from female to male.
In many species of reef fish sex-switching doesn't require surgery as with Dr. Phil's guests. The largest female switching to male is simply a biological expedient to preserve balance in a reef's spawning population.  
Hmmm... sea bass respond to visual cues to enter the spawning population..
Back in 1992 I instituted the first 9 inch size limit. All the literature pointed at sea bass having spawned--some twice--by 9 inches.
Now, by continually raising & raising the size limit, we have taken nearly 2 years of spawning potential out of the existent stock.
Very Few Fish Have Spawned By 9 Inches.
It's those visual cues.. 12 to 13 inch sea bass are Big Fish if you're a 7 incher..
I promise we had way more production when ALL the year-old fish (under 9 inches) were in the spawning population; When all our region's sea bass spawned as soon as biologically possible.. 
The phenomenon of younger fish spawning due to fishing pressure is what makes the whole concept of fishery management tick; Is what makes increasing populations, despite removals, possible.
Sadly, modern managers have chosen or been forced to ignore that science for their MRFSS catch-estimate science: They call MRFSS The Best Available Science.
Bad choice.
I'd bet my boat --yes, really-- that moving the size limit up-up-up has retarded sea bass production; That restoring that production by dropping the size limit a 1/2 inch a year until we're at 11 inches would do far more good than quota management by MRFSS catch-estimate ever will.
In fact, depending on old-growth fish for spawning while simultaneously restricting removals (catch) to old-growth (only catches of bigger fish) must decelerate production in a fishery: In my opinion many larger fish mimics exactly a fully populated reef and therefore triggers a reproductive slow down: It is precisely the opposite of sustainable fishery management.
We'd be far better off with cbass in hyper-production; spawning younger & catching them just after their fastest growth..
In any study of sustainability, taking fast growth offers less burden on an ecosystem; And, a sad product of our modern era, eating swiftly growing fish means less bio-accumulation of toxins too....................
Now, I also believe that small sea bass survive release better than larger sea bass. I've tagged thousands & thousands, have watched 10s of thousands drift off. As was the case today, they appeared dead in their drifting but were kept cool by wind-wavelet overwash. As the cbass' circulatory system degasses its air bladder, fish are then able to swim down and fully recover.
It is rare that I experience any but the most minimal sea bass "Recreational Release Mortality."
Since 1992 I have had one instance with nearly 100% release mortality. I can count the days where mortality was over 20%.. Day in/day out we see less than 1% mortality: And my boat absolutely fishes deeper than the average sea bass angler because so many fishers are on 4 hour boats.
Management currently uses 25% as its release mortality figure: At 25% we fed 1,576,689 sea bass to the gulls last year from NY to Hatteras. Management firmly believes more fish drift off dead than we put in hot oil.  
I think small cbass survive release better..
I think forcing smalls into the spawning stock is better too.  
We boxed 1,223,488 summer flounder (aka, fluke) and took them home.. We theoretically killed 2X more by release: 2,161,411 are thought lost to release mortality in the mid-Atlantic states in 2010. There's no barotrauma in flounder--no air bladder: It's all hook mortality.
Oh, we killed a lot of tog too. At 10% management would calculate that 264,000 tog died of release mortality in the Mid-Atlantic but were never carried home to any kitchen..
If the system really thinks Maryland boxed 39,243 fluke -- but killed 160,000 more in release discard -- then there's something seriously wrong in their apathy, in their lack of educating the angling public on reducing mortality.
In a system that unhesitatingly chokes the fiscal life blood of recreational for-hire fishers to suit accusations of being over quota, There is scarcely even mention of any possible method for reducing release mortality.
I think managers have no real faith in these estimates. That's why there's no huge push to educate anglers about hook mortality and how to release more fish alive--Why there's no outrage.
Something as simple as hook selection can make a huge difference in release mortality.

The same data that has all & every partyboat north of Cape Hatteras landing 298,214 sea bass has the Massachusetts private boaters catching -all by themselves- 409,766 -- That's a 110,000 more sea bass than partyboat clients along the whole coast caught -- This same MRFSS data also has NY & NJ's private boats outfishing all and every partyboat on sea bass.
Recreational catch-estimate data has so obfuscated the truth that management's path to restored fisheries is indiscernible............
Because MRFSS has Maryland's single coastal port private boaters catching TWICE as many tog as all US partyboats, I am very concerned that we're going to lose yet another fishery: Tautog.
At a meeting Monday, June 6th, we'll discuss how to absorb a 52% cut in quota due to overfishing accusations of MRFSS..
Management must plainly see that the data is indisputably wrong for MD's recreational catch: That --NO-- our private boats have never outcaught 2X the whole coast's party boat catch of tog. That --NO-- no single state's private boats ever outcaught the whole coasts' party boats in the sea bass fishery either.
If the meeting were called to discuss methods available to take our tog population higher I'd be mighty keen on it.. But no, MRFSS has us over-catching our quota -- We Must Reduce Our Tog Catch By 52%.............
Fish must eat & avoid being eaten at every moment. Habitat either provides food & shelter beginning in the first hours of life or a fish is lost before it ever grew: This is habitat production--what bolsters recruitment of new fish to replace what we've caught; Or, in habitat's loss, fails to replenish fish populations: I know what that's like too.  
When eggs survive, we catch fish: Anglers Enjoy Production.  
More eggs being spawned increases our odds.
More & better habitat increases the eggs' odds.
Management has grown comfortable believing/using MRFSS data. They're undisturbed in losing more fish to release than iced in a cooler; Care-free that sea bass populations are declining irrespective of less & less catch: Concerned only that those accused of overfishing are punished in quota reduction, in loss of season--Whether deserved or not; It's In The Data. 
NOAA should freeze MRFSS catch data in long term averages until there's a system that actually works -- MRIP: Quit Killing Fisheries With Irrational MRFSS Data.
Due to MRFSS we're about to lose 52% of our tog quota..
Tog are far more numerous than in 1985 -- Guaranteed.
Every single reef we build increases tog habitat & therefore tog production.
Using only the catch estimates of a dying program means bad data is stealing our fish.
That's irritating..
Management throws their arms up claiming the data's all they have, that catch restriction is all they can ever hope to control; That they can't influence fishery production--how many eggs survive to bite a baited hook.. 
Yes They Can Too.
Focus on maximizing spawning stock size.
Find & Protect Habitat.
Re-Reef our Bays and Ocean.
Ensure Prey Availability.
Use Habitat Fidelity.
Combined it would certainly manage for increased production.
A wondrous proliferation of fish awaits.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076  

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