Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fish Report 4/24/12

Fish Report 4/24/12
Been & Going Toggin
Help Wanted
Stolen Season
Define Reef
New Tog Trips:
Wednesday - 4/24/12 - 7 to 3 - $100.00 - 8 Sells Out - Minimum of Zero Clients - CG's Done, We're Going.
Saturday - 4/28/12 - 6 to 5 - $125.00 - 12 Sells Out.
Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - Leave Your Best Contact Number In Case Weather Forecasts Change.
Green Crabs Provided; You're Welcome To Bring Any Hard-Bait.
This Is Tog Fishing - It's Possible Some Clients Will Be Skunked.
Fishery Regulations Followed Or Exceeded - Yes, We Check Coolers & Fish.
If You Want To Be A Commercial Fisherman And Sell Live Tog - Do It On Someone Else's Boat - No Live Fish Leave The Boat.
Hi All,
Friday "the party boat that fishes like a private charter" was a bit too much like a charter - light rail.. Pretty fishing with tog to 13 pounds; Alex tagged & released the pool winner. Lots of legal females went back -- still brought home a boat limit.
Saturday we had to work harder. Couple limits - dinner around - bad day to be a hen - its toggin.
Mike coaxed a pair of cod into biting. With those two he's kept more in 2012 than I have -- Tasty.
Tagged sea bass to 21 inches over the weekend - Threw 'Em All Back - No Pirating Allowed - Season's closed due to recreational overfishing.
Actually: That's not true. Season's really closed because of bad data.
Bad data created the illusion of recreational overfishing. I'll go into it briefly below, our "Best Available Science" of reef too.
USCG annual safety inspection Monday. Sharp LT and sharper-still old salt doing the work. Very, very thorough -- extremely thorough ..but so were we. Passed.
No coral castles these last two trips. Set out barge moorings instead. Those huge concrete pipe tog condos we built (Thanks Bobby!) and a load of heavy steel pipe that's already on the Reef Foundation's Barge have to go down accurately. Forty pound anchors, each on 200 feet of 1/2 inch nylon, are met in the middle with a pair of polyballs -- X marks the spot...
Reef Dinner: I don't know how many years Hall's Restaurant has been donating a night for this. This year its Wednesday, 5/16/12, from 5 to 7 at Hall's 62nd Street Bayside. All You Can Eat Italian -- If you have items to auction or raffle please email. No black tie; Farm boots OK. $15 bucks at the door.
Worked deck as no other; Ritch is going home to fish with his old skipper, Capt. Tom on the Atlantic Star out of Sandy Hook. A very, very good mate; I've never seen anyone catch fluke like Ritch -- Raritan Bay must be a great place to practice..
So: Year Round Deckhand Wanted.
Drug Testing Mandatory - Experience Required - Seamanship Deeper Than Tying A Rig - Sanding, Painting, Plumbing, Glassing, Cleaning...
Email if interested - Do Not Call - I already have some applicants.
Over a decade of coral advocacy has brought the Mid-Atlantic's seafloor habitat knowledge to this sentence from a 4/ 20/12 MAFMC press release.
"While Mid-Atlantic deep-sea coral species do not build reefs, some types are structurally complex and require hard substrates for attachment."
Sakes.. I believe I'll weigh-in on that.
New development--at least they did call these corals "Habitat."
But first..
I was at the joint ASMFC/MAFMC meeting when Capt. Adam Nowalsky made a motion to open black sea bass on Saturday, May 19th, 2012 -- It Passed.
However, it happens that if no action is taken on NOAA's part, it opens Tuesday, May 22cnd.
Couple days may not seem like much to you or them -- Huge big deal to us.
Where last year we were catching Gulf of Maine cod off Maryland right now, This year sea bass are already back inshore. We tagged cbass to 21 inches this weekend - Saw summer-size schools feeding 40 feet off the bottom on plankton..
NOAA should revisit the data Dr. Kurkul used to close sea bass with: "Sep 30, 2009 – NOAA announced today the temporary closure of the black sea bass recreational fishery in federal waters north of Cape Hatteras, N.C., for 180 days..."
Very nearly bankrupted, they turned the screws even tighter in 2010 using some of the most fantastic recreational catch data in existence.
Where All of party/charter had 597,588 sea bass in ALL of 2010 for the whole year along our entire Atlantic & Gulf coasts: Our "New & Improved" recreational catch estimating system -MRIP- has just the Massachusetts private boats catching almost as many cbass in May & June -- 448,181 -- as the entire US professional fleet caught all year.
That estimate is simply absurd. It and just a few others are why NOAA believes we have 'overfished' sea bass. MRIP's 2009 May/June estimate for MA private boats is only 34,493 cbass (and I bet that's too high) Then, just a year later, those Boston Whalers caught 400,000 more..
Perspective: When my boat limits on cbass with my maximum number of clients, that's 625 fish. A frequent occurrence in 2003, we had just 2 or 3 boat limits last year. What MRIP asserts is that MA's private boats caught 717 Morning Star limits in a few weeks--while at the same time asserting all MA charter/party caught just 128 Morning Star limits for the year..
I was at a meeting with several MA for-hire skippers and suggested their private boats caught more sea bass than the for-hire fleet: They, literally, laughed out loud.
Skippers I've spoken to from MA, NJ & CT believe for-hire boats account more cbass by far than private boats in every month as would certainly be the case in MD. Yet, in about 2005, MRFSS and now MRIP began trending astronomically higher for private boat. This while steep declines in for-hire catch-estimates seem to more accurately represent regulatory changes & economic conditions..
Recreational Overfishing Of Sea Bass Did Not Occur.
Bad Statistics Create Bad Science & Bad Regulations.
Fighting for a couple days -May 19th instead of the 22cnd- when all of January, February, March, April and most of May --once Ocean City's best month-- have been stolen.
Management's greatest tool is habitat fidelity--would be, especially if it also created a focus on habitat. Then too there is the fishes spawning delay from visual cues...
At the very least, management should consider how a species was made "fully rebuilt" under far more lax regulation. The contributions of reef building and conservation in the recreational fishery are now squandered by these data spikes.
NOAA should revisit the data. Overfishing Did Not Occur. Council & Commission have done what they can. Only NOAA can make this right.
Holy Smokes, a federal body admits to coral in the Mid-Atlantic ..but tells readers straight away, 'Hey, no worries, this is that Non Reef Building coral.'
"While Mid-Atlantic deep-sea coral species do not build reefs, some types are structurally complex and require hard substrates for attachment."
All the agencies hold our corals as "non reef building" but no one claims sea bass & tautog aren't reef fish.
Gray's Reef off Georgia is a hardbottom community of sponges and corals. Its a reef so special they made a sanctuary out of it. Like our hardbottom communities, there are no "reef building corals" there either.
But everyone calls it reef habitat -- especially NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary folks..
In my experience its when submerged marine rocks are scrapped bare, when various corals & other growths are removed from a substrate by trawl or dredge; Now Missing, those corals become "non reef forming."
..though they had been reef just before.
Perhaps not all readers will be aware there is officially neither rock nor reef in the Mid-Atlantic Bight; That we haven't any seafloor habitat save a few wrecks & artificial reef structures; That this recent press release is truly a milestone by admitting there might be a rock out there somewhere with a "Non Reef Forming Coral" growing on it.
I know of artificial reef built in 1969 where star corals have grown over 6 inches deep.
Here our Caribbean reef scientists puff-up, "Ha, we know of corals six FEET deep!"
Freud would be so proud: By whose measure shall we determine if a coral's rugosity creates reef; Human ..or the creatures that live there.
But this ain't that, This discussion of "non reef building corals" isn't about our nearshore hard & soft coral communities that I've been trying to bring to management's attention for over a decade. No, here they're referencing our "deep-water corals" - our "cold water corals" - Its those "non reef forming" corals that they started to look at back in '06..
Again & again: You have to know what's missing in order to 'Restore' it.. Where commercial fishermen once set grouper longlines just above the Washington Canyon in 50 fathoms, now there are a few lobster traps on bare rock: Where scientists in the 1970s found soft corals as tall as a man in 200 fathoms, now scientists rarely find but the youngest & smallest of the species..
The deeper you go, the longer things take to grow.
What is now deepwater bare rock -and certainly not reef- likely once was..
In our amateur reef/coral work inshore, there appears to be a speed-of-growth difference between 60 and 120 feet; sea whip grows faster in shallower water. Going from 120 feet to 120 fathoms is like going to a different planet..
No press release expresses concern of our nearshore corals & whips, just the deepwater growth they thought about briefly back in 2006..
Its the lamest excuse any ecologist ever put to paper: These aren't real corals, they don't build reef..
From my research I believe I know why fisheries personnel are hung on the "Non Reef Forming" description: Sounds as though they're not much use -- Who needs a coral species if it ain't pulling its weight? How can a coral be Essential Fish Habitat when it doesn't even form reef? Managers want something with meat, a good catch estimate perhaps..
Seriously: Corals were/are considered very important in geology--especially in the science's early days.
Reef Building & Non Reef Building are from another science--Geology. They're terms used to describe whether a coral species can build an atoll - a tropical island.
This "non reef building" description is the concern of long-dead geologists. We didn't always understand plate tectonics..
In fact, reef's importance to increased land mass predates Lyell & Darwin. With Lyell's 1st book in the series, "Principles of Geology" aboard, Darwin's "Structure & Distribution of Coral Reefs" sprang from his voyages--the Beagle especially.
I own the book, looked through it and re-read parts, I've double checked the index, all the drawings are of islands: In "Coral Reefs" Darwin neither holds forth on fishes, nor ponders their biological/evolutionary journey. Here is trying to make a contribution to earth science--not marine ecology. First published in 1849, he was hardly concerned with fish as even 30 years later Thomas Huxley would offer.. "Any tendency to over-fishing will meet with its natural check in the diminution of the supply ... this check will always come into operation long before anything like permanent exhaustion has occurred."
-- Thomas Huxley, 1883 address to the International Fisheries Exhibition in London ( http://faculty.washington.edu/cemills/Oceanquotes.html where there is a very nice collection of quotes)
It's called Huxley's Folly.
According to Mark Kurlansky, fishers had already been complaining of habitat impacts for several centuries before Huxley's famous quote was made.
A modern folly, why in Billy Blue Blazes would Fishery Ecologists be more interested in reef's geological function than its ecological importance? Does NOAA have Fishery Geologists?
Should fishery ecologists & restorationists primary concern be if a species of coral raises the seabed? Is our definition of "reef" only the physical obstruction of a boat's passage? Is "Reef Building" to forever mean increased land mass; Shall we always allow our "Best Available Science" to hold us to definitions established in 1849
..or is our concern found in fish's response to reef habitat.
I would assert that any collection of corals where reef-fish gather to feed, shelter, spawn & grow to maturity is, in fact, Reef.
I also assert it is foolish to attempt fishery restoration without a strong emphasis on habitat restoration
..that these decades of restoration efforts where vital reef habitat played no part are now as lost as the many square miles of virgin whip meadows destroyed in early industrial fishing.
Recreational fishing along the DelMarVa seacoast no longer includes spring Boston mackerel or fall weakfish/seatrout; croakers come & go, there's just a fraction of the bluefish from 30 years ago: We Reef Fish. We go to remnants of once abundant natural habitat, We anchor over tragic storm-lost shipwreck & horrific Nazi torpedo sinkings, We target our own reef constructs more & more as that footprint grows larger each year: It is by luck, not design; It is of our own efforts, not the Best Available Science that we have any "non reef building corals."
Fishery management ought to be worried about this region's very real "Fishery Building Reefs" and have no concern if they'll raise the seabed. There's a reason commercial fishermen landed more sea bass in the 1950s than in all decades since combined.
Continued use of the most incredible assertions of recreational catch and dead-end 'scientific' definitions of habitat leave little hope Fisheries Science can be brought forward to become succesful Fishery Management.
When it finally is, fishing will be made better than it ever was.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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