Monday, September 26, 2011

Fish Report 9/26/11

Fish Report 9/26/11
Sea Bass Jumpin In The Boat
Uncle Murfs Behavin? 
Best Scientific Data Available
Sea Bass - 7 to 3 - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - $100.00...
Inshore Tog - 7 to 3 - This Sunday Only, October 2cnd - $100 - Limit 8 People - Very Few Sea Bass or Triggers Possible - Tog Limit 2 Fish - Big NW Wind Forecasted.  
October 6th & 11th - Long Sea Bass - 6 to 4 - $125.00 - 11th Last Day Of Cbass Before Season Re-Opens in November.
Please arrive 1/2 hour before scheduled departure with food, water, beverage & a medium-sized cooler w/ice for fish. We often -almost always- leave early. Show up late and you'll see the west end of an east bound boat.
Hi All,
A tennis racket would have been fine. Instead, overzealous crew were using baseball bats to knock sea bass back overboard. Self-defense really; dang things were jumping in the boat.
Maybe it wasn't all that, but we did just finish 4 fantastic days. A 5th was really good too, but with a release ratio of 12 to 1 you had to break a sweat to put dinner in the box.
Another day we had an undersized cod that we tagged, along with a present-day Maryland jumbo of 25 1/2 inches. Incredibly, the bigger fish was caught by a fellow with a freezer full of cod & haddock. He asked me to tag & release the breeder and I did. Didn't hurt that he had a 7 pound tog, a 6 pound flounder and several large cbass..
Last week's report included news of an unbelievable cod tag return -- Wasn't my keypad entry error! Not 200-some miles, the fish had instead been tagged by us and remained on-station at our largest artificial reef. It had indeed grown several inches however..
Seems like it's been a long time since I saw sea bass feed way up in the water-- way-way up. At one stop this week we were tossing out 25 or so feet; couldn't sink straight down before a fish hit. For a while no one could hit bottom. It was an incredible bite of throw-backs and some keepers.
Bluefish are showing up in all sizes. Some days throwing back many on the small side, Other days large blues destroy everything that moves--including sinkers and keeper cbass.
I think big blues actually measure cbass better than some clients -- they never seem to eat a throwback clients are winding in.
Personally, I've spent about half my fishing time with 4 & 6 oz hammered spoons and diamond jigs with a small Clark spoon tied above the jig -- targeting cbass -- real close to 2003 fishing.
Sunday's tile trip cancelled yet again; no sea bassing Sunday & Monday.
Last week might have been it, Might have been the best cbass days we're going to have.
I think even better days lie ahead though -a few at least- especially in November & early December.
We'll get our head handed to us too: It's Fishing.............
Sea bass close Oct 11th owing to overfishing as asserted by MRFSS, the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey. As I will demonstrate below, Using this soon-to-be-abandoned program to manage fisheries is a shameful waste of talent; Has lead to a scientific weakening of Council & Commission: Its use has created a rift in the public's trust that can only be repaired with time and requires excellent results from future management.
The great fishing we're having now is the fortunate result of minimal effort on management's part to actually move beyond whatever action or inaction MRFSS catch-estimates call for.
Management does not demand that winter trawl --the very largest catches in any year-- occur outside our region's wintering fish habitat: It is only fortunate happenstance that an economic pressure has kept this industrial fishing effort low on our region's stock in recent winters.
Management did not demand or regulate that trap effort be at a fantastic historical nadir in our region; This inshore commercial-effort low owes to Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs) held by trap fishers being used in the winter trawl fishery: Its just plain luck that most of the guys who are allowed an 11 inch fish are taking their IFQ from the Southern New England/Hudson stock as they make their closest approach in winter.
Because sea bass are commercially graded by size--and the biggest are most valuable--it is a wise move on an IFQ holder's part to capture the very largest fish for his family's well-being -- not to mention savings found in setting & tending traps far less often.
I am certain that the good fishing I & my clients have enjoyed this year owes not to clearly thought-out management -- Just Chance. 
Should commercial effort move further south and our region receive the brunt of upcoming winter effort, there will be a recreational sea bass disaster come spring like we had in 2004. 
If ever an honest effort is made to find the best balance of Eco-regional quota division, Size limits that maximize spawning stock potential; And, Important To So Many Species, an effort to Protect, Preserve & Enhance Habitat as is called for in Magnuson: I believe a sea bass population greater than any have envisioned is possible, That inconceivable economic & biological potential wastes away while managers defend MRFSS as their best science; That regulation battles soon to come -as they always do- distract from getting real science into reef-fish management..............
Old MRFSS... Will Uncle Murfs behave himself? He has another year at large, maybe two, before the new program, MRIP, comes fully on line. With it's salt water license registration (a head-count of participants and, I believe, a way to give greatly needed fiscal strength to the recreational fishing community) MRIP has been sorely needed for years.
But MRIP it isn't ready.
Not yet.
We have to make do with MRFSS for a while more.
Below is a chart of Maryland's "For Hire" boats' flounder catch, the party/charter flounder catch during May & June for a half-decade. Note how smooth the catch numbers are. Here professional effort surrenders a daily log of catch filled out in triplicate.
Summer flounder are watched closely. Contentious battles are frequently waged over each year's regulations: It's important that MRFSS get it right.
The table below offers a very tight data-set compared to most of MRFSS work and is probably quite accurate. The PSE column, however, is utterly useless -- Ignore It.
Percentage Standard Error (PSE) is a measure of exactly 50% of the actual statistical value of how high or low the catch may have really been--It's half the real value. But Management Must Use The Centerpoint Number Given In The "Harvest" Column -- Can ONLY use the centerpoint.
Including PSE in these charts is a sham. It cannot be used.
Anyhow, point here is that this is one of the better data sets -- Ignore PSE.
Species: SUMMER FLOUNDER -- Maryland  -- All "For Hire" Boats -- May & June (often contentious; watched carefully)
2007 294 42.4
2008 431 54.4
2009 398 66.6
2010 332 28.1
2011 490 55.3
Now compare the NJ private boat catch of sea bass: From the data it appears New Jersey's anglers sure are fickle about whether they're going to fish or not. You could almost believe "Angler Effort Is Difficult To Predict."
Said to catch nearly half a million cbass in 2007; Then, after losing most of May to regulation this year, they apparently just quit fishing. 
Instead, I'd bet the 2007 & '09 numbers are grossly over-reported. Because sea bass are managed 'Coastwide' these numbers would typically be lumped in with all other states' estimates and not pried out for closer examination -- sea bass are not 'Important' like striped bass or flounder.
Species: BLACK SEA BASS --New Jersey -- Private Boat Only -- May  & June 
2007 424,171 41.7
2008 54,391 53.1
2009 122,536 25.6
2010 53,728 55.6
2011 13,879 51.1
The next table is evidence For Hire numbers aren't always accurate. Perhaps especially-not when noisy skippers are beating up the system, but I think it more likely that sea bass, again, just aren't a high-value species to management. 
Unfortunately, May & June are hugely important to Maryland cbass fishers.
Here we are shown to catch virtually nothing in recent years despite surrendering data on a day-by-day basis. These numbers will come back to haunt Maryland fishers & tax collectors as quota is split-up and seasons decided in future years.
Believe This: I have small combinations of individual clients who caught all of what MD is said to have caught in early summer this year.
See Chart Below.  
Species: BLACK SEA BASS -- Maryland -- All "For Hire" Boats -- May & June
2007 31,179 20.3
2008 19,905 13
2009 16,661 15.5
2010 0 0
2011 713 92.4
Below are estimates for New Jersey's professional tog effort -- the Party/Charter captains. Believable given regulations: They too fill out daily logbooks and the fishery is considered important in NJ.
Species: TAUTOG -- NJ -- All For Hire Boats -- March & April
2007 11,310 6
2008 6,954 27.1
2009 5,925 26.1
2010 2,387 32.9
2011 4,191 58
Same State, Same Regs. New Jersey's Party/Charter fleet estimate is 2,387 tog in 2010 while its private boaters catch 156,913. Bunch of digested mussel shells is what that is. I'd wager none of this table's estimates are even close.
Species: TAUTOG -- NJ -- Private Boat -- March & April --
2007 0 0
2008 51,561 40.1
2009 32,405 35.3
2010 156,913 66.3
2011 15,522 73.2
But these estimates are Science, our nation's "Best Scientific Information Available" in fact.
This is called Science while building Artificial Reef so more tautog can feed, shelter, grow to maturity & spawn isn't scientific or part of fishery restoration. Reefing is thought to offer no benefit whatever in achieving management's goals when, in fact, reefing offers the only path to meeting managements population rebuilding targets for reef fish. At the upper-most levels of management building reef is "Ocean Waste Disposal" or simply "A Feel-Good Measure" -- It is deeply distrusted as a management tool.  
Meanwhile, to fisher & fishes benefit, we have more coral growing on OC's waste-water sewer pipe than all of the ASMFC's tautog plans & meetings have ever protected, preserved or enhanced as is called for in the very law that formed the Councils & Commissions.
Magnuson's Essential Fish Habitat provisions are ignored.
So, NJ's private boat landings are all over the place--an unreliable data set. For comparison, next is the entire mid-Atlantic's professional Party/Charter tog landings for the same period. You'll see where NJ's private boats are asserted to have caught 152,533 more tautog than the the whole region's party & charter boats in 2010.
Species: TAUTOG -- NY, NJ, DE, MD, VA & upper NC -- All "For Hire" Boats --
2007 14,416 5.7
2008 15,133 14.6
2009 11,212 15.7
2010 4,380 19.5
2011 7,562 35
New Jersey's private boat catch-estimate for March & April is higher-still than the entire year's estimate for Party/Charter along ALL of the Mid-Atlantic -- 70,096 tog in 2010.   
Best for last - Here is NJ's shore fishing tog 'harvest' from 2007 to 2011....
Species: TAUTOG - 2007 to 2011 -- NJ -- Shore -- '07 = zero -- '08 = zero -- '11 = zero  
2009 6,835
2010 71,756 70.2
This is inarguable evidence that the very & truly brilliant people who believe they are required by law, who believe they must use the centerpoints of these estimates, have developed a coping mechanism to deal with the absurdity: They believe "Angler Effort Is Difficult To Predict"
..fantastically difficult to predict it would seem.  
Apparently it's so difficult to predict that when NJ's jetty & pier fishers are claimed to have caught more tautog in two late-winter months than the entire region's professional fishers did all year --more than all the party & charter boats from NC, VA, MD, DE, NJ & NY in a full year-- that's bloody well what happened..

We For-Hire fishers will pay for that.
Regulation based on data this loose creates a tremendous waste of economic potential. It scarcely does the fish any good either because alarms are ONLY raised when OVERFISHING has occurred: That's ALL management has been trained to care about.
In a better management system there would be many other considerations & attempts at truth: In a better management system the klaxon would have sounded when NJ's private boats caught 0 tog in '07; Would have blared like an Air-Raid Horn when Maryland partyboats caught "zero" sea bass in early summer 2010.
Really? No Fish?? NOT ONE???
Did anyone ask, "WHAT HAPPENED?!"
Nope. Nobody Cared. No Overfishing There.
Management needs to get real information about catch -- Soon.
They need real information about habitat too.
Maybe I'll post video of the coral growing in 30 feet of water on OC's municipal sewage pipe. Maybe they'll ponder why early scuba reports of the China Wreck in 45 feet of water include tales of entire stacks of plates welded together with corals.
Maybe they'll wonder why professional and well-paid staff ecologists claim no stern-towed commercial fishing gear can cause habitat damage here, even in 180 feet of water, because "Fishing Occurs In The High Energy Zone" -- meaning wave energy prevents any permanent growths from ever settling in the first place; That only fast growing, short-lived animals ever temporarily dwell where our trawl/dredge gear operates.
There are no reefs in the mid-Atlantic anyway -- Says so in the science. 
(YouTube search "Maryland Corals" for video of nearshore reefs in the MAB)
Bad Data & Bad Information equal Bad Science.
Holding fast to the notion --even dead-wrong-- that any data at all must be "The Best Scientific Data Available" simply because someone got paid to put numbers in a field must result in Bad Management.
Weeding out the BS (bad science) will send management in a better direction.
Soon would be good.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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