Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fish Report 9/18/11

Fish Report 9/18/11
Mike Rowe's Inspiration
Fishing As Often As We Can -- Everyday Weather Allows.
Saturdays Are Now 6 AM to 3:30 PM -- $125.00.
Long Sea Bass -- Thursday, Sept. 22 -- 6:30 AM to 4 PM -- $125.00
Hi All,
Only a few trips since my last. All were at least pretty good.
Sea bass catches above average, flounder far below. 
High-hook near or into the twenties, most clients are keeping lower-mid teens while throwing back over 100 cbass.  
Tagged a 27 1/2 pound red drum this week. A first; Dae caught it with light tackle 20 miles out on an artificial reef get mixed up after a blow.  
Still seeing the odd cod. Tag a short, now and again catch a keeper. Just had a tag return from a fish released near Block Island in late March. It swam 233 NM south to be recaptured at our largest artificial reef complex.
Amazing too, it had grown over 6 inches in those few months..
A hammerhead popped-up beside the boat mid-week, made a lady's vacation much more memorable. She caught a 5+ foot hammerhead, won the cbass pool and was high-hook. Not sure how the conversation will go if fishing comes up at Thanksgiving - he was wishing the Dramamine would kick-in a little faster..
I use all the de-hooking devices that a good conservationist is supposed to have handy. Time after time circle hooks, always with the barb crushed flat, are extremely difficult to extract from a fish in the water. For her shark the hook was plainly visible in the corner of the mouth as circles are supposed to be. My 8 foot long pig-tail ARC dehooker didn't work well. It often doesn't with deeply circled hooks in large sharks; fish we have no intention of boating. (Its worth noting that ARC dehookers are absolutely THE tool for deeply hooked fish. I keep eight of them in different sizes aboard.)

There is now a tournament legal circle-hook hybrid, a cross between my go-to hook, a kahle or 'wide-gap' hook & a full circle: I believe it'll work much better for fish released in the water.
This calls for the best kind of experimentation. Have to put the fishing-kite up, the chum bucket out and report our findings as they occur.
Bluefish, small snapper blues, are now abundant on many reefs & wrecks.
These aren't the troublesome larger fish that we'll see later--the ones that bite off jumbo cbass right behind the gills: No, these are tasty little guys, evidence of fishery production elsewhere and right now reliant on our reefs/wrecks for food & shelter.  
As with cod, our reef habitat again becomes part of a northern fishery's production.
I suspect untangling habitat's web of influence is best left to computer models. You certainly don't have to look far beyond a July snapshot to see increasing complexity.
Many anglers have deep concern for bay & estuary summer fish populations but have no notion of what happens after summer. Flounder released in just 3 feet of water during August may well be in 70 fathoms near the Baltimore Canyon come February. Those fish will have to eat & avoid being eaten in order to reappear -- keepers now -- in that same estuary next year.
Sea bass grow quickly in the first year of life; Many spend their first weeks and months upon what positively must be a small fraction of the Chesapeake & Delaware Bay's original oyster hardbottom.  
Weakfish depart summer nurseries, spend fall & winter in the ocean. Very often mixed with lightly or completely unregulated species, they'll have to avoid becoming a snack for larger stripers & blues--tuna even, while also not being in the wrong place at the wrong time with unregulated croaker harvest: Bycatch Instantly Reduces Fishery Production.
Many managers remain convinced catch restriction is all we need to achieve fisheries restoration.
Duped into believing MRFSS catch-estimates, I think the catch regulation only view is so near-sighted that we're fortunate to even get fishery maintenance with it. Anyone who compares DE/MD recreational sea bass catch between 2003 & 2004 would have to agree, or would if they had experienced the fishery being cut cleanly in two. Unfortunately, the single biggest drop in fish population I've ever seen just blends into the error-ridden MRFSS catch data.  
Deeper, broader -- more thought: When a fellow flipped a 6 inch sea bass out to waiting gulls Saturday I asked him if he wanted to catch fatter gulls next time..
That one fish stands here for catch-restriction and, Yes, we need sensible regulation. However, we leave millions & millions of fish unproduced by not focusing on fishery production.
Magnuson's Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) provisions have it pretty succinctly "...those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity."
Closer perhaps, but it remains that we have no habitat science on our Mid-Atlantic reefs: Not even discovery---Not in 60 feet of water, Not in 60 fathoms, Not in 600 feet..
EFH has been sidelined to where it can stop virtually any estuarine construction project because a sturgeon may swim past in a two month period -- but feel free to tow any net or dredge across those corals..
Perhaps a video I watched recently will inspire habitat ecologists and managers as it might Mike Rowe: The waste-water treatment pipe--covered in concrete mat & extending 1 mile seaward from OC's beach at 61st street--is becoming covered in hard coral.
Here the miracle of civil engineering that allows us to live so much better than when "Look Out Below" was cause for medieval townsfolk to liven their step: The sewer pipe, labeled such on charts, is becoming a coral reef.
The waste-water pipe carries finished/processed waste-water to sea and not raw sewage. Still, I could see Dirty Jobs doing an episode on it.
Personally, I'd like to see everyone in marine management inspired by it: There's more coral growing on the sewer pipe than has been officially protected, preserved or enhanced in all the Mid-Atlantic.
Must be some irony here that I just can't put into words..
Tog, sea bass, croaker, weakfish, striped bass, drum, bluefish, sheepshead -- all feed and/or shelter at times on this reef wrought of modern necessity; Oysters grow wild on volunteer oyster gardener's bulkheads; Coral grows on every marine reef we build, even accidental reef.
When Magnuson was first written the authors didn't understand the oyster's role in water quality, of biofilter's importance. 
They did note the need to protect & enhance: "..substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding or growth to maturity."  
Re-reefing the Mid-Atlantic will make fisheries restoration a far simpler task.
There's talk about infrastructure, about rebuilding bridges. Each jobsite can become a shade greener by reefing the scrap - in a century you'd only see oysters or coral.
But we shouldn't just use scrap to build reef that will last centuries. Quarried limestone & granite will provide substrate forever; So long as people eat seafood and enjoy cleaner water they'll be glad we built it.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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