Sunday, June 03, 2012

Fish Report 6/3/12

Fish Report 6/3/12
Cbass Fishing Plenty OK
Production Marginalized
Fishing 7 to 3 Almost Everyday (longer on Saturdays) - Reservations Required @ 410 520 2076 - Bring Food & Beverage Plus A Cooler & Ice For Your Party's Fish - Dramamine The Night Before Is Cheap Insurance - Be Early. We Like To Leave Early, Rarely In On Time..
Hi All,
Been some good fishing. Throwback ratio is high ..acorns before oaks. I'd say our keeper average is in the lower/mid teens with some anglers always better/worse and an occasional limit too.
Been a lot of catching.
Don't know when its going to taper off. Bet your last dollar it will.
Seeing a very few fluke/flounder already. That would make a nice summer.
Watching the cbass, very often catch a couple thousand in a day. (if 20 people catch 100 fish each..)
Trying to get management's attention, trying to put science back into fishery management. When we had a 9 & 10 inch size limit in the late 1990s with no creel limit & no closed season the cbass population was skyrocketing. I'd estimate we saw 30 to 40% of cbass under 9 inches had already transitioned to male. (All sea bass and many other reef fish begin life as female. They transition to male in response to spawning needs.)
Back then there might be 350 males under 9 inches in a thousand with some as small as 7 1/4 inches.
These past weeks, in May/June 2012, its running about one under-nine inch male per 3 or 4 thousand -- not 350 per 1000. We've had two 7 1/4 inch male cbass so far this season.
Hey Management! There's something going on with sea bass that's not readily apparent in the MRFSS/MRIP recreational catch-estimate data.
Our decade-old 12.5 inch size limit is shrinking the spawning stock. Instead of exponentially increased cbass spawning production from an ever larger & larger pool of spawning sea bass; Spawning production is instead down, the total number of cbass spawning diminished. Even though we are catching almost 2 million fewer fish per year, I believe production is much lower than in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
Management should create & then compare a modern analysis to these works below -- the very works management was based on before the unsupportable premise of "MRFSS as science" eroded scientific logic in fisheries, before statistics seized control of recreational regulations.
Here from the 1996 Chesapeake Bay & Atlantic Coast Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan: Fifty percent of black sea bass are sexually mature at 7.7 inches Available at NSCEP by searching title.
From NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NE-143, BSB EFH Source Document: 50% are mature at about 19 cm SL (7.5 inches) and 2-3 years of age (O'Brien et al. 1993).
Also from the EFH Source Document: In the South Atlantic Bight, Cupka et al. (1973) reported that both sexes mature at smaller sizes (14-18 cm SL) (5.5 to 7.1 inches).
Kendall 1977, who found "Larger fish are all males. Nearly all fish >25 cm (9.8 inches) are males. Thus catches of large fish will consist of males." .
Now a legal size of 12.5 inches; We see at least 60% of our legal catch as female sea bass; We could possibly catch 1,000 cbass with no under 9 inch males.
Now Slowed Down, Sea Bass Are Maturing Later -- Fewer Fish Are Spawning.
Sea bass fishing is much better than it was in the 80s - but not better than it was in the early 2000s. During the first 5 years of management we experienced great benefit. Indeed, I had a boat-enforced size limit 5 years prior to any regulation and experienced almost instant benefit. Now management is choking fish & fisher.
We're catching pretty dern good right now, there's been some incredible bites, but that's because the season's been shortened so badly.
Management really ought to look into spawning & habitat production instead of Bad Statistics.
I also caution against dismissing previous science as inaccurate. (True quote of the week: "They Measured Wrong.") Even Eddington's careful investigation into Einstein's general relativity, the bending of light in gravitational fields, was partially shaped by dismissing undesirable data.
Lots & Lots of spawning fish with Lots & Lots of places to live and using moderate catch controls is how to make Lots & Lots of big sea bass.
Did I mention bad statistics?
This is really simple.
Below is all For-Hire (Party/Charter) sea bass catch in the mid-Atlantic. (NY to Cape Hatteras, NC)
No need to read the whole number, Just watch the left-hand digit. Management began in 1997. See how the catch trend is down steeply and uniformly. Here I believe for-hire catch is represented fairly accurately; It ought to be, we tell them what we caught everyday.
We're catching 1.7 million fewer sea bass than a decade ago. Fixing to catch less again this year.
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - All Mid-Atlantic Party/Charter - All Year
2001 1,776,213 8.1
2002 1,975,258 7.2
2003 1,959,135 6
2004 973,629 8.8
2005 462,926 9.9
2006 589,705 8.7
2007 688,377 6.9
2008 334,764 6.3
2009 343,698 9.3
2010 355,898 7.6
2011 189,817 19.3
Below are the Massachusetts private boat landings.
A phenomenal escalation of catch, Massachusetts' Grady-Whites & Boston Whalers below Cape Cod--not many cbass above the Cape--caught more cbass than all the party/charter boats in all of the Mid-Atlantic in 2010.
That's one of 3 main sources for NMFS' assertion of recreational overfishing and subsequent emergency closures which continue even this year and cause many months of closed cbass season.
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - MA Private Boat - Annual Landings
2001 52,312 29.3
2002 154,073 33
2003 65,689 24.8
2004 67,861 28.9
2005 122,141 25.4
2006 53,566 28.4
2007 125,589 30.1
2008 128,899 24.2
2009 244,022 22
2010 409,766 21.1
2011 114,878 21.8
While MA's boats were catching 409,766 cbass in 2010 - New York's private boats also caught 459,243 cbass & New Jersey's guys caught 396,316.
Management maintains all three states' private boats each & individually caught more cbass than all the Mid-Atlantic's party/charter together.
Bad Statistics make for Bad Science and even worse management..
I saw more private boats fishing for sea bass today than I have this season---Five.
Unfortunately, it did not appear as though those fishers would be in need of new freezers for endless sea bass fillets.
I don't believe any one state's private boats have ever outfished ALL the Mid-Atlantic's for-hire boats.
But the data says it's happened fairly often since the mid-2000s.
In ancient Rome augurs were said to foretell the future by interpreting live chicken behavior. Augurs would study their peccary -- their flock. Really, whether chickens pecked the ground or not could decide if an army would attack.
I believe recreational catch estimates are a modern-day peccary. Using recreational catch data as-is & unfiltered by any method of truthing is slowly ungluing our last traditional fishery.
Absurd assertions of overfishing hide serious flaws in marine fisheries management: Who could imagine reef fish management with no habitat component, Who would have guessed the single most vital aspect of salmon management--natal fidelity--would be known but unused in reef fisheries, Who would have anticipated that ANY assertion of catch, no matter how ludicrous, could be used to create emergency closures; That shifting age at maturity's influence on spawning production would escape notice..
7 for-hire boats out one day last week. I figured close to two hundred people fishing on artificial reef. The fishery is dependant on real reef habitat delivering real fishery production, yet people will retire from fisheries having only used catch statistics to manage restoration.
That's messed up.
Will open our 7th pallet of oyster castles tomorrow -- 432 by the rail.
21 blocks assembled into 3 block units; we build a little reef everyday.
Wide, flat steel decks come to life with the addition of a bit more substrate.
Real fish come from real habitat.
Management ought to know all about it.
Our very real contraction of the sea bass spawning stock came from bad data. NMFS should begin stepping down the size limit at once--12 inches, Next year 11.5 inches - Experiment to see where the sweet-spot is, Discover where we maximize spawning potential..
Maybe every spring its 12 inches and 11 in fall.
With a federal system that responds only to spikes in vacuous data, we may never know.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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