Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fish Report 10/16/11

Fish Report 10/16/11   
Sea Bass Close - Reopen Nov 1st
No Sea Bass - No Oxygen
MAFMC's Visioning Project
Morning Star Trips For Early November, 2011: 
1st & 2cnd - 10 hour trips - 6 AM to 4 PM - $125.00 - Sea Bass
3rd & 4th - Regular 8 Hour Trips - $100.00 -- Sea Bass
Saturday the 5th - 10 Hour Trip - 6 to 4 -- $125.00 - Sea Bass
Tautog, Not Sea Bass, Tog - Back to 4 Fish Limit - Monday & Tuesday - Nov 7th & 8th - 10 People Sells Out - 10 Hour TAUTOG Trips - 6 to 4 - $125.00 - Tautog, Not Sea Bass..
More Sea Bass Trips Will Be Announced Via Email Including Thanksgiving Weekend.
Please arrive 1/2 hour before scheduled departure with food, water, beverage & a medium-sized cooler w/ice for fish. Bait is provided but you're welcome to bring your own. We often -almost always- leave early. Show up late and you'll see the west end of an east bound boat.
Reservation Line 410 520 2076.....  
Hi All,
With great good fortune in calm weather we finished early fall sea bass in fine style; often had limits aboard on each of the last 5 days.
I look forward to November 1st when cbass season re-opens. For now we're on the hard, taking care of work we'd usually do in December.
I don't think I've ever hauled a boat in October.
Maintenance soon done; I look forward to fishing till Christmas...........
The recent three-state mega-reef, a project our 50/50 raffle contributed $3,500.00 to; the 563 foot Radford has broken into pieces.
No Worries!
You see, coastal Maryland's single greatest tautog factory has been the bow section of the African Queen. (please see a very interesting account of this shipwreck's saga at,9171,864023,00.html )
The "Bow Section" as we call it, is about 150 feet long and comes to within 27 feet of the surface in 70 feet of water - the rest of the ship was towed away.
It is where the larger part of the ship was torn away in heavy weather; the ragged, jagged edges--not the smooth steel of the hull--which creates an incredibly complex reef environment. Reef growth, coral & fish have taken to it in fantastic numbers over the decades.
A real shipwreck, the Queen was left completely as-is and so have all others.
The Radford, however, was cleaned (& cleaned-and-cleaned..) then sunk on purpose. 
As I viewed the ship just before its sinking I marveled at the amount of work that had gone into exposing more of the interior to water flow.
I believe water flow over complex structure is the basis of reef productivity. This is why nearly flat rock can be productive when grown over with sea whip but loses all productivity should a gear impact remove that growth.
Whether a reef's complexity is due to physical substrate or biotic growth, (better to have both) Complexity is key in determining a reef's fishery contribution, it's productivity.
Broken first by Irene's swells and then again, reports from Ted Green's boat, OC Diver, now have the Radford in 3 pieces.
And of numerous small sea bass..
I bet there are blues on it as I write, summer flounder too; That before December has passed small bluefins will have fed there and cod will have taken up both migratory & permanent residence: That all the while corals, mussels--the whole panalopy--will be settling, trying to conquer as much footprint as possible, trying to proliferate.  
Yes, I anticipate these huge broken pieces will sand-in; that they'll become permanent in position as all our region's wrecks do.
I also anticipate in decades to come the next generations of tautog fishers will experience fantastic abundance owing to our reef building.
I recently had a cbass tag return that was released at 16 3/4 inches and caught a year and a half later at the same spot - it had only grown an inch.
Also had a VA tagging program fish that was initially released in the Norfolk Canyon area in February 2010 - remained at liberty for 596 days before its life was interrupted for a little more science, then re-released.
Every step toward understanding controllable mortality, growth, migration and maximizing habitat production is vital.
Thanks to the internet and a timely email, I listened-in at the end of a marine habitat meeting the other day; was able to ask questions and cheerlead reef.
I told a simple tale of loss, of the Bass Grounds Reef's disappearance during the 60s; An area I believe to have been about 3 1/2 square miles of natural sea whip and star coral bottom that was lost to the early surf clam fishery.
I noted that "Restoration" implies an understanding of what's been lost.  
A scientist then commented that we'd sunk a ship just weeks ago (referring to the Radford I believe)
Reef best measured in square yards won't replace reef measured in square miles.
Unless you build a lot of it.
We've never seen catches of sea bass even approaching what was caught commercially post WWII. The sea bass sold by weight during the 1950s is greater than commercial landings in the 5 decades since.
I believe it is impossible to recreate such vast populations of temperate reef fish--let alone catch, with our remaining reefs.
The "Iron-Clad Rule" of fish populations becoming far more numerous if fished at the appropriate level relies heavily on an assumption that no ecologist should make: To be true --for fish to become far more numerous-- the base area of habitat must be unchanged.
Sadly, using our 'best available science' managers accept that we don't have reef habitat in the Mid-Atlantic; But management accepts their responsibility to oversee our catching of fish and crustaceans that live on reef.
I do believe the iron-clad rule's premise. I have witnessed accelerated fishery production. I believe if we had the original reef footprint, the pre-WWII footprint, management could take sea bass populations far higher.
I also believe that would only serve as a baseline for what is truly possible...... 
My boat, a small party boat specializing in Maryland's coastal reef fisheries, is hauled out during traditional fishing season because my primary fishery is closed: No Sea Bass = No Oxygen.
Here's A Review Of How That Came To Be:
1) Management accepts MRFSS data's implausible swings as their 'best available science.' 
Yes, there had to be a toehold, a starting point for managers.. 
The MRFSS estimate for 1982 has every possible MD partyboat patron catching 198 sea bass for a total of 3,750,000 fish.
Private boats caught none that year.
Two years later MD private boats have their 3rd best ever at 260,000 fish while party/charter had their worst..
I was there, none of it happened. You can call it science if you want. Data exactly like that determines if boat payments are made..
2) Management accepts a single paper by Wigley & Theroux in 1981 describing the absence of hardbottom reef in the Mid-Atlantic as its 'best available science.'
(YouTube search Maryland Corals for my refutation)
3) Management holds old-school beliefs from well-refuted science about artificial reef. (see video above)
4) Management overweights assertions of Overfishing and favors catch restriction policies to the point of exclusivity: Tools using biological considerations such as age at spawning/maturity, habitat production & habitat fidelity remain unused.
5) Because of recreational discard mortality estimates in the far-warmer waters of the Gulf, Mid-Atlantic anglers have 25% deducted off the front-end of recreational sea bass quotas for release mortality.
Combining MRFSS asserted overfishing and a wholly fabricated 25% discard mortality rate creates an inescapable feedback loop: Discards, fish we throw back alive, are thought to create MORE dead fish than the catch we take home. Management believes that a greater number of sea bass die by being released alive than fry in a pan.
The tighter catch restriction gets, the more cbass we throw back. More and more quota is then used before a bait hits the water.
Yet when I carried MAFMC & MD DNR staff to look into size limit's effect on release mortality, the work was frustrated because, over 2 days, we didn't see a single dead fish in 90 to 125 feet of water.
Not 25% -- Zero%. 
Management being closed-minded results in closed fisheries and stagnant restoration efforts.
Change comes slowly; Here's a terrific opportunity to offer your thoughts.
I really like this project. Take The Survey, but be prepared to think.
Take The Survey!
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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