Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fish Report 11/20/11

Fish Report 11/20/11
Cbass Very OK
The Science on Mackerel
Monday, Nov 21st - Inshore Tautog -- 4 Fish Limit -- Sell Out at 12 -- 7 to 3 -- $100.00
Long Sea Bass the 23rd, 25th & 26th -- 6 to 4 -- $125.00   
Regular Tog -- Nov 27 & 28th -- 14 Sells Out -- 7 to 3 -- $100.00
Just A Two Day Window: If The Weather's Fit On The 29th & 30th I'll Consider (Really) Long Tog/Cbass Trips Before MD Tog Close In December..
Will Absolutely Be Going Long For Cbass In December -- Trips Announced Via Email 
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.
Hi All,
Weather's looking iffy for Wednesday's long cbass trip. South-West is the hardest wind to call though -- could easily break our favor.
Long range weather forecast after TG offers high hopes. We'll see!
Tucked in under the beach Friday-past. Weatherman said high NW winds would lay down by mid-morn. 
We caught tog--some limits; all left with dinner.
But it was a sea bass trip. Wind still honking, I threw in the towel and gave a great-big credit for another trip.
Saturday we nearly limited the boat on cbass. Nice.
Late fall is about catching LOTS of sea bass, not jumbos. Still, fellow snuck a 5 1/4 pounder over the rail - swept the pool.
Handful of big bluefish Saturday as well.
Caught some cbass limits Sunday even though spiny dogs had us on the run. We'd get half an hour--less--and they'd have our scent. Dogs so thick they were chasing sea bass up in packs. Eating bait & hammered jigs: A nuisance.
After 4 moves--each time leaving good fish--they left us alone to finish our day.
Once, just once, did I wish for a pack of dogs. It was the day after a decent sign of mackerel and herring in April 1993 if I recall right. I had a good load of people anxious to re-live mackerel past. We'd been staying in front of saddleback (common) dolphin who were pushing a wall of fish..
I suppose they pushed 'em all night. It was the only day I was ever completely skunked; Would have loved some spiny dogfish that day..  
Then we thought mackerel were 'moving' east, that we were missing the run.
Whalers always thought their quarry was moving north or south; Thought so until the only whales were amid ice flows ..animals moving? Or getting wiped out region by region.. 
The next time I saw mackerel was within the biggest gathering of fin whales I've ever seen feeding. The whales had the macks balled up in an incredible mass -- 150 feet of water, fish were 120 feet thick. Dropping into them was like hitting sand bottom in the back-bay..
That was also the last time I saw mackerel, atlantic mackerel--used to call em Boston mackerel..
So I was very interested when I scanned through a paper titled, "Impacts of Interannual Environmental Forcing and Climate Change on the Distribution of Atlantic Mackerel..."  
Make no mistake, I understand climate change is real: I believe regular successful completion of the NW Passage beginning in 2009 speaks volumes.
In the 1500s countries offered fantastic wealth to any who could find the NW passage, the waterway above North America. Men with fleets of boats risked everything to try: Many died, All failed.
The ice that blocked them is no more: Our planet warms.
However, I also believe warming's effects on Mid-Atlantic fisheries is serving as a scapegoat for poor, unfunded & unrecognized-in-need fishery management.
We have cod off the coast of MD in steadily increasing numbers. I advertised them for the first time since the mid/late 70s last winter.
We do not have increasing numbers of spadefish, amberjack or king mackerel.
Based on those fishery observations one could logically conclude our waters are cooling. I believe that is the case with bottom temps owing to ice melt flowing along the Labrador current.
But because surface temps are very slightly up, I think we should have more mid-water southern species.
We had far more southern species during the 80s than we do today. 
Are southern species moving south because of ice-melt? Or did all the spadefish & amberjack that used to cover the shoal-water wrecks get caught?
I think those shallow wrecks & reefs catch the uppermost thermocline -- warmer.....
Ling, red hake in the book, has a life cycle tied to scallop populations. According to "The First Year in the Life of Estuarine Fishes in the Middle Atlantic Bight" ling live inside a live scallop from when they are an inch long to 4 1/2 inches; leave the scallop only at night to feed.
Fact: We're catching cod every month of the year; But our region's red hake are said to be in decline because of warming waters, its said that their decline has nothing to do with scallop effort shifting south upon large area closures in early management, management almost 2 decades ago..
Seems there's never a single bullet-wound in fishery collapse, no straight line pointing to CAUSE.
Still, its curious that now, while regional scallop effort is in decline and management more fine-tuned, we are seeing more red hake.... 
Another paper came out recently saying weather cycles rule the fisheries -- the "Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation." However scholarly; by the time it gets down here, down to the fleet and around the docks, "Nothing we can do. Its the sun & moon." 
Lets manage fish with astrology too. 
The mackerel paper claims recreational catches were in decline through the 70s, that the fishery's decline was slow & steady.
I fished macks from MD party boats all through the 80s. We often had weeks of full coolers & trash cans; had clients exhausted from catching; had numerous days when the pace of catch could not possibly have been increased with the gear we had & numerous days when we couldn't have carried more people with the boats we had either: I absolutely refute there was a noticeable decline in either recreational effort or catch during the 80s as stated in the "Impacts.." paper. In fact, I'd call the authors' assertion of a slow decline so misleading as to be disingenuous.
While gill nets played a minor role in the fishery, traditionally & into the 80s the first trawler to catch macks got good money; successive catches were paid less & less until, after just a few days, they were not worth catching -- so they didn't.
Twenty years ago MAFMC allowed huge foreign processors, floating factories, in for one year. US trawlers caught and sold macks to them. Mackerel were an underutilized species, represented a poor use of our natural resources.
It was that exact time, 1991, when we lost the recreational mackerel fishery.
Much slower in 1992; within a few years we could not dependably catch mackerel anymore. Clients quickly tired of whippings..
On the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's web site (MAFMC) there used to be a 'Hooray for us, We did it!' sort of claim that they addressed overfishing of mackerel.
Might still be there. 
What it didn't say was they started management after collapsing the southern stock..
Habitat fidelity runs throughout the fisheries, there's no reason to believe mackerel are any different. As in the salmons, just because there's no separate speciation doesn't mean exerting finer management control over fish populations with distinct regional fidelity isn't crucial to success.
Because the heat has been turned completely off in this part of their range I sincerely hope that we'll one day see a resurgent stock.
As of now it would only be a lucky break: Management has no regional focus.
The "Impacts of Interannual Environmental Forcing and Climate Change on the Distribution of Atlantic Mackerel..." has a wealth of supporting data. 
Curiously, my assertion that a strong pulse of fishing effort in a single year lead to a regional collapse is borne out in the data -- at least the data I can access.
I don't know enough about commercial data to know its flaws -- below is what there is for the Mid-Atlantic States.
I am a certified MRFSS hater, but below MRFSS does what it was designed to do: Exact numbers meaningless, the data shows we were catching a lot & now we are catching none.
That's a pretty sharp decline in the early 90s -- not indicative of slow habitat change -- and made of MRFSS data present-day management would sanctimoniously throw my family into the street with -- Its the Best Available Science you know..
Unless they can blame the weather.
Southern stocks of scup, red hake, mackerel & cod; Northern populations of spadefish, the jacks: Then too regionally defined weakfish, sea bass -- even our tautog which may spend their whole life on but a few acres of bottom: Management without regional quota, without recognition of regional sub-stocks, is management prone to uncontrolled regional spikes in fishing effort and wild fish population swings.
See data charts below.
We can't fix what management won't accept as a problem of its own creation: Before ANY fishery is said to be affected by climate change, a serious look into human cause needs to be had.
Commercial Catch 1988 To 1995
All Mid-Atlantic States Combined
Data is from sales -- fish weighed & sold.

Year Species Metric Tons Pounds $
1988 MACKEREL, ATLANTIC 3,929.7 8,663,500 899,587
1989 MACKEREL, ATLANTIC 3,212.7 7,082,800 870,817
1990 MACKEREL, ATLANTIC 2,742.2 6,045,509 703,295
1991 MACKEREL, ATLANTIC 8,573.8 18,901,803 2,001,866
1992 MACKEREL, ATLANTIC 4,288.8 9,455,144 708,021
1993 MACKEREL, ATLANTIC 1,437.8 3,169,867 336,885
1994 MACKEREL, ATLANTIC 2,918.5 6,434,109 626,148
1995 MACKEREL, ATLANTIC 2,453.0 5,407,951 732,355
GRAND TOTALS: - 29,556.7 65,160,683 6,878,974
Species: ATLANTIC MACKEREL -- All Mid-Atlantic Recreational Effort -- Numbers of Fish -- PSE Column Meaningless, Ignore
1987 4,153,049 22.1
1988 861,897 41.1
1989 1,095,497 24.1
1990 1,279,454 27.2
1991 2,066,428 20
1992 201,813 41
1993 141,672 35.3
1994 150,775 48.6
1995 1,009,792 43
1996 489,951 30.1
1997 1,239,963 19.5
1998 168,480 61.7
1999 438,783 26.8
2000 126,842 31.8
2001 276,120 28
2002 120,494 83.7
2003 56,572 37.2
2004 11,157 26.6
2005 30,551 24.2
2007 0 0
2008 18,550 58.5
2009 17,595 71.4
2010 42 100.3
2011 1,522 80.3

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