Fish Report 2/19/12
Real Effects Of Real Fishing
New Trips After This Blow:
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, 2/22, 23 & 24 - Tog - 6 to 4 - $125.00 - 12 Sells Out.
Saturday, 2/25 - Tog - 5 to 5 - $150.00 - 14 Sells Out.
Monday, 2/27 - Tog - 4AM to 6PM - $200.00 - 14 Sells Out.
Green Crabs Provided -- BYO White Leggers.
No Live Fish Leave The Boat - Period.
Reservations Required at 410 520 2076
Leave The Best Contact Info Possible -- There Are Bound To Be Cancelations.
All Electronic Devices, Including & Especially Phones, Will Be Surrendered While Underway & Returned Before Wharfing To Prevent Them From Getting Wet.
Let this storm get out of here. Big swell. Let it pipe down. We'll start back up soon enough.
Sure was an interesting week.
Pool winners were anywhere from 14 to 20.25 pounds with numerous personal bests. For many of these guys that's really saying something.
However, we've also had many individuals get skunked.. Our impromptu blackfish trip Saturday, 2/18 was positively epic -- for a third of the passengers.
Easily on anyone's list of top toggers, Bob K came in 15th out of 14 on a long trip this week only to smash through his slump and join the 20 pound club Saturday. He also tagged & released a short of eighteen pounds--same as Tom's, while Chris tagged & released another of the exact same weight as Bob's dandy -- 20.25 pounds & 30 inches.
We tagged 3 tog over 18 pounds Saturday; caught 2 over 20 -- Yet had many skunked clients.
A tough fishery; Unimaginably tough when you're on the dark side of the luck: For every big tog, hours are spent either without a bite or weeding shorts.
Then there was Craig's luck one weekday.
Claiming to have not been tog fishing in almost 20 years; Using green crabs he swiftly set a personal best of 8 pounds.
The best part: There were fourteen people aboard, all fishing a big piece of structure. Many were gathered around Craig, dropping under his feet in an underhand mugging. For half-an-hour he was the only person catching.
Its a perplexing fishery..
Six tog over twenty pounds in 32 years -- four in the last two months.
I've had years where no client broke sixteen.. For 23 years my boat-best was 17 pounds.
For most of us a 10 or 12 pound fish is incredible. I spent 25 years with a 13lb 13oz as my personal best..
This week I caught a 14 pounder that reminded me WHY: Its these fish that tog fanatics want to catch--the challenge & the fight is incomparable among our temperate reef dwelling fish.
Its also these fish they want to see grow even larger.
I put my 14 pound fish back, tagged it ..but it was too exhausted. We dropped back anchor line and netted it again. Those fish Saturday, however, were kicking in the air -- swam away vigorously sporting their new ALS tags.
Bob & Chris now have their twenty-pound patch.. dedicated toggers all share that goal.
World record a 25 pound fish out of NJ, I expect these guys really want one 30 pounds!
and that fish may well be out there
..or maybe a 25 1/2 pounder.
Perhaps it straightened a hook last week.
Some of the very best tog fishermen I know are in 19 pound purgatory: Scott, Frank, Stelly, Max, Larry ..and now Alex.
A new personal best at 19 1/4 pounds, he seemed pretty happy about it.
I hope to get him into the 20 pound club through honest labor..
We've self-regulated our local fishery far beyond legal requirements, We've built habitat, We've contributed to science with thousands of tags, We've helped to lift the fishery and not leaned solely on the labors of others for temporary profit with no thought of the future: I would have honest success from honest labor before any other.
Having just caught his personal best, then asking me to take his picture; The fellow, no doubt amused by his own cleverness, inquired about my website; "I read where you don't allow GPS units, that you 'Float-Test' them."
Caught red-handed, half an hour later I threw his phone overboard.
Now researched more thoroughly; I put a GPS position on his phone when I snapped his photo.
Effective immediately we'll collect phones underway and return them before we get in.
I thought it odd that a few dedicated toggers, men I used to respect, would leave the rail in a hot bite to take a picture, "Take Video While I Have Him On!" ..and up would come a small.
I remember instances, some quite recently. My crew remembers people who took phone-pics of unremarkable fish at odd times.
Men who have caught their personal best blackfish on my boat were really there to steal coordinates.
I will not forget, they will not fish with me again.
With their new bearings and perhaps a friend with a nearby boat, maybe they were never coming back anyway.
To steal coordinates at sea electronically is no different than breaking into my home to take a hand-written copy
..except there my options more easily involve handcuffs.
Striking: I was at a local flounder meeting last week where it was perfectly understood by the 30-some people present that real effects of real fishing were of no consequence to the regulations we were discussing; That a game of chance, our MuRFSS recreational catch data, was what we were trying to cipher..
When Jersey shore fishermen "catch" more tog in a few weeks of late winter than all party & charter boats on the whole coast for the whole year combined--this while those jetty fish weren't truthfully biting at all; And the NE Regional Director of Fisheries Science says, "No One With A Brain In Their Head Would Believe That Estimate" but managers, as they must, have indisputably acted as if they believe:
When the Massachusetts private boat catch estimate shows almost as many cbass in 5 weeks as the entire US for-hire fleet for the year:
When a recreational catch estimate has made it all the way through the system to strongly influence the cod stock assessment, then that estimate is reduced by 1,300,000 fewer cod for 4 weeks without management even blinking:
These data sets create real problems for fish & fisher that have nothing to do with real effects of real fishing.
At that flounder meeting everyone understood: We weren't trying to affect conservation of a species, we were trying to fly under MuRFSS' radar knowing full-well that a burp in the system would cause another needless recreational closure regardless of our actual catch.
I truly believe these are fishery science's darkest days; A time when recreational management is guided only by data filtered through the prism of MuRFSS & soon MRIP, data revealing truth only in odd & unpredictable instance. I believe what we now call our "Best Available Science" rivals 18th century bloodletting in effectiveness--That's where fishery science stands in medical scale.
In a time when fish and fisher must both win, all the rules change at data's whim.
As management concentrates intently on disreputable recreational data,
It would be perfectly legal for all trawl effort between North Carolina & Massachusetts to congregate on the Long Island stock of fluke--or any other eco-region's fish population, as it winters offshore. Each state's fleet could legally trawl-up their entire quota in one small geographic area. The scup, sea bass, squid; whatever bycatch occurred that they had no permit for, could legally be shoveled back dead with no penalty on either species future quotas.
Habitat fidelity must be factored into quota management. Fantastic spikes of industrial effort on regional populations of fish must be controlled.
Recreational regulations are created in large part from catch estimate data. Management has yet to fathom that before need of reef-fish regulation can arise, there must be reef; That without reef's presence there is no need of reef-fishery regulation: That because we do, in fact, have many regulations on reef species, and because stern-towed fishing gears are recognized around the world to cause temporary or permanent loss of reef-like habitats: These various emergent reef ecologies must play an important role in fishery restoration.
I believe failure to discover our various reef ecologies may lead to the closing of NOAA's Sandy Hook Lab: Who needs a Mid-Atlantic Marine Ecology Facility when the seafloor is is all sand & mud?
We didn't used to have a year round tog fishery in Maryland. Sure, a couple guys would fill trash cans from a few pieces, with clients aboard we pounded them into the stone-age with no limits, you could call it pulse fishing with pulses of effort..
Self-management beginning in 1984, then real regulation in 1998 combined with extensive habitat construction beginning in 1989: These efforts have created the fishery we enjoy today..
My point to readers is the real, positive and substantial gains to be had in fisheries stemming from habitat; Where an acre of new reef can produce thousands of sea bass and perhaps a hundred tog per year; Where restoring production of our lost natural reefs would swiftly outdo our artificial reefs for fish caught per year; Where the great power of habitat to influence succesful larval recruitment, Where the most powerful tool in fisheries is to create Real Fish From Real Habitat..
Management believes we have sand & mud ..and relies almost solely on MuRFSS for recreational regulation.
That needs to change.