Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fish Report 3/28/12

Fish Report 3/28/12
More Trips
Exclamatory Expletive
Excess Production
Cbass Reservations Open May 19 thru August.
Couple more days of wind, then toggin again: Boat's Temporarily At Sunset Marina While Dredging Is Underway.
Friday 3/30/12 - Unusual Time - 9 to 4 - $100.00 - 8 Sells Out.
Saturday 3/31/12 - 5:30 to 3:30 - 10 Hours - $125 - 12 Sells Out.
Sunday 4/1/12 - 5:30 to 5:30 - Long Tog - Not Hunting A Lot Of Fish.. $150.00 - 14 Sells Out.
Monday 4/2/12 - Unusual Time - 8:30 to 4 - $100.00 - 8 Sells Out.
Tuesday & Wednesday, 3rd & 4th - 7 to 3 - $100.00 - 12 Sells Out.
Thursday will have to wait..
Green Crabs Provided; You're Welcome To Bring Any Hard-Bait.
Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - Leave Your Best Contact Number In Case Weather Forecasts Change.
This Is Tog Fishing - It's Possible Some Clients Will Be Skunked.
Fishery Regulations Followed Or Exceeded.
Passage does not include exact location of fishing spots - Ever - GPS units float tested.
No Live Fish Leave The Boat.
Bring A Cooler w/Ice For Your Party's Fish.
So There! (Brooks, Mel: Blazing Saddles 1974)
Hi All,
Just a couple days last week.
Light rail Friday; prettiest day this year. Slick calm & hot, even had guys taking t-shirts off.
While the fish were all sub-standard by this winter's pace (no eighteen pounders!) we had a good day.
One nameless fellow who fishes his drag on FULL and only backs off after he has a fish clear of structure; Alex apparently had a crossbred amberjack/tautog that stripped line before breaking off.
Nice fish. Wish I could have seen it.
Judging by the mournful exclamatory expletive, I think he would have too..
Saturday's 5 to 10 knot west winds were interrupted by 15 to 20 easterlies and fog.. What a difference a day makes!
While the bite started hot, size was not. A few limits, many throwbacks..
Lots of tagging - lots of legal fish being tagged. The 16 inch regulation (up from 14) goes into effect April 2cnd. Won't be as many legal throwbacks then!
My self-enforced boat regulations were 16 inches & 3 fish back in 1992. Based on Himchek's early fecundity work (number of viable eggs per female) I have lobbied for a 16 inch size limit ever since. Toggin's going to get a lot better now that we actually have an increased size limit along the coast. Bigger fish spawning make for more eggs..
With a very scientific tone, one paper, "The BOFFF Hypothesis..." Field et al. (Thanks John) carries the obvious argument to its peak with Big Old Fat Fecund Females - BOFFF.
We need to find out just how far that goes. I think it works with tog to about 24 inches but perhaps even the oldest fish (25 to 30+ inches) truly do contribute more & more eggs..
With black sea bass, however, BOFFF backfires miserably: Here we need to focus on spawning population as a whole rather than performance of individual fish.
The May 1977 work by Art Kendall - Centropristis striata - the old Blue Book on black sea bass contains a view of what-was before management began. (Sandy Hook, Technical Series #7)
Much of this work remains accurate. All sea bass do begin life as females--Only some will become males. However, the claim that nearly all cbass over 10 inches are male and therefore catches of large fish will be all males is revealing: He clearly considered 10 inches large. Just this well-documented change begs management for examination of my thesis that we have shifted cbass's age at maturity from 7-8 months thru 2001 (when all sea bass were spawning by age one) to maturing at age 3 by 2003. (over the last decade very few cbass are transitioned to male even by 11.5 inches with 12.5 or 13 more common)
In 1977 Kendall's largest female was 13.3 inches and "all female sea bass were mature by 6.7 inches* at 2 years of
age." Males matured "at 7.1 inches* & 3 years of age although smaller males have been recorded." (*converted from centimeters)
This is a description of sea bass before management began, before there were ever any size or creel limits for anyone. Back when we averaged 4 to 6 million fish caught & kept per year even in the darkest days of overfishing: Now our annual catch is below 1 million. If all were going as management would have it, those 3 to 5 million fish we're not catching annually would be growing exponentially -- like a virus. Instead, along the DelMarVa coast management's actions are contracting the population.
Dependant upon earlier aging techniques, Kendall's age estimates are wrong. Using Shepherd's Age Probability Chart, sea bass are solidly age one between 6 & 8 inches--not age two or three: Where size/length at maturity remains useful from earlier works--Age Comparisons Fail. What seems to have occurred is management's focus shifting from length in early management decisions using earlier science (9 inch size limit) to present-day size limits of 12.5 to 14 inches; where they now quote age from earlier works and ignore length. With all age estimates off by 1 to 3 years but lengths unchanged, Using the same science can yield fantastically different results.
During early management and especially self-regulation before management, we did see an explosion of sea bass; By allowing all fish to spawn (9 inch size limit) & some even twice, the population grew incredibly.
There has been no gain of spawning population from following sea bass size limit increases. Instead, over the last decade Spawning Populations Have Declined. The BOFFF Hypothesis is wholly irrelevant. When the size limit was 9 to 11 inches we had far greater spawning production and caught many more fish each year. And, crucial to restoration's success, during that time we also left many more uncaught--with a peak in 2002/2003 as the then-new 25 fish limit forced a bulge in population.
First 12 inches in 2003, then 12.5 in 2009; Production continues to taper. Where sea bass once commonly spawned even at age zero (8 to 12 months) and ALL sea bass were spawning at age one; Today's management has foregone accelerated spawning production in favor of highly improbable MuRFSS recreational catch-estimates & catch restriction based management. Where once the majority of sea bass were in the spawning population, now only those 3 year olds who have escaped predation, avoided commercial effort (still an 11 inch limit) and avoided all manner of discard mortality -- only those surviving 3 year old sea bass are in the spawning stock: Its a huge contraction from the spawning population of the early 2000s.
Management's assertion that sea bass are "not overfished" is perfectly true. They are, however, over-managed.
Among several changes to management's philosophy, I believe learning & understanding how to force younger fish to spawn is absolutely critical to moving beyond catch restriction; Its positively central to basic fishery management which is founded on the Theory Of Excess Production..
We've answered the question, "How do we reduce catch?"
Now what fisher's need from management & the scientific community is, "How Do We Increase Production?"
We'll find the answer in Habitat, Habitat Fidelity & Age at Maturity.
For now, we must begin to reduce the recreational sea bass size limit in order to reinvigorate the recreational fishery.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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