Friday, September 09, 2011

Fish Report 9/9/11

Fish Report 9/9/11
Post Irene: Good Fishing  
Drop & Reel
The Response
Trying to fish cbass everyday. A short calm coming, watch for Maria next week....
Hi All,
How the coast has scarcely had a scratch while all around are life-changing floods is beyond me.
For Irene my boat was prepared for ninety mile an hour winds: Got fifty. I'll take that kind of luck.
Four clients first day of fishing after the blow -- We went.
Despite a slow-slow-slow bite of cbass to start, high man had 21 in the box at day's end. That's a big number for us this year.
It would turn into a regular number.
Stumbled into some croakers that day too. Looked thick on the screen. I tried them. In a half-hour those who wanted croakers had all they needed; we pressed on to reef fishing.
On September 2nd those croakers offered the single best bite I've seen in a decade; you had only to hit bottom. It was so good that I experimented with a 4 hook rig: One Drop, Four Fish. I put them all back because two hooks is the max in MD, but it was a very clear demonstration.
Again we quickly got clients who wanted croakers all they could take and pressed offshore for cbass..
On September 3rd, a long Saturday trip, I was confident that we would again have the best of open bottom drifting and reef fishing -- except those croakers were long gone.
No broken hearts; High man had 23 sea bass..
So, a taste of croaks as they were in the mid-90s, a fussy bite of good cbass that crescendoed each day, and a very few flounder.
Labor Day Monday, however, was just drop & reel sea bass fishing straight out of the gate - then the bite tapered - good day.
Haven't been out since.
Moderate winds, threats of rain & Katia's swells have kept us to the dock. Have no idea what we'll find Saturday.
Do have a few ideas on where to look..
Weather looks calm at least through Tuesday -- Believe we'll go fishing.
Also: I had to cancel the deepwater golden tile trip that was scheduled this week. Have rescheduled it to Sunday, Sept. 18th. Because some anglers were unable to reschedule there are a few slots open -- 3 AM to 7 PM -- $250.00 -- Not a blueline/cbass trip -- targeting golden tiles -- only seven clients so crew can fish too -- or -- a crew trip where we're bringing a few clients............................   
Now: You all know I think closing a recreational fishery based solely on MRFSS catch-estimates is to be convicted of a crime where the Government's only witness was visibly stoned & the prosecutor handed him $100.00 bills as he testified..
Only mildly inflated; the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey (MRFSS) is being replaced with MRIP because of gross inaccuracies.
There are, however, many in fisheries who base their entire perspective on the data; Who judge success not in bent rods & smiling faces but in charts & graphs, data often based wholly or in part on MRFSS' assertions..
I received a letter the other day from a guy who works hard every day at fisheries restoration. He indicated to me that while habitat was probably going to be a factor, catch restriction was already doing a superb job: 'Just look at scup, bluefish and flounder.'
So I did.
My reply below.
Cheers All,
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076 
Hi ************,
You're cheering for scup because there is success up north. Scup are 0% --Zero Percent-- rebuilt in their southern range: Where my predecessors in fishing caught the heck out of them here--There are none. Warming waters? Why then do I catch cod almost everyday; have tagged close to 500 this year.
Cod EXPLODED back into our region when NEFMC dealt more firmly with habitat and spawning site fidelity..
Summer Flounder -- I frequently catch them on our most robust artificial reefs. It was at their lowest point in allowable (trawl) landings that I witnessed incredible habitat expansion of our natural reefs: In fact, that's what made me drop a camera to the seafloor -- I had to find out WHY the reefs I knew so well were GROWING ..and, this in the mid/late 90s, why the population of sea bass was skyrocketing with only a 9 inch size limit, no closed season & no creel! (now there are multiple closures, a 12 1/2 inch size limit, and a creel -- but our local stock wobbles.)
As s. flounder landings have been allowed to continually increase -- and trawl time on sensitive bottom also increases, the emergent epifaunal habitat footprint has shrunk too has the sea bass population.
Flounder themselves seem fairly stable, even if recreational regulations based on MRFSS catch-estimate data seem bipolar in every regard..
Cheering for blues? Bluefish used to be a rock-solid staple of our charter fishermen -- I bet there aren't 20 trips a year altogether --in the whole fleet-- where every single charterboat used to do at least 20 trips just for blues..
I believe water quality is diminishing blues foraging ability--forcing them offshore as marlin have--but perhaps its something else.
I'm telling you: You're Cheering For Numbers That Lie -- Look Deeper!
Numbers in broad coastal swaths ignore habitat fidelity's importance -- We Must Not Ignore Regional Substock Abundances In Quota Management -- And We Must Not Ignore Even The Most Basic Habitats ..who would imagine that a party boat skipper could beat NOAA, NMFS, Council, Commission & The Environmental Community over the head with tales, video even, of corals in our nearshore waters for more than a decade -- and still nothing has been done.
Policies of stringent catch restriction draw no argument when needed. But where fishers plainly see incredible absurdity in the data; continued tightening of regulations has caused great rifts between all camps. Everyone, including commercial fishing, should be focused on restoring production--Fish making more fish..
I believe catch restriction has nearly played its entire hand; That until we begin to grapple the deeper aspects of fisheries restoration only the numbers will change: a dishonest see-saw that..
Habitat is certain to include forage species, water quality & coral/oyster/hardbottoms..
I'm telling you -- I know what abundance looks like -- we're not going to get there with catch restriction alone.

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