Fish Report 7/1/12
Catching & "The Life"
Sea Bass Fishing 7 to 3 Everyday - Longer on Saturdays - Keeping Most Sundays Open In Summer For Research - Plenty Of Weekday Spots Open - Reservations Required On All Trips @ 410 520 2076 - We Obey All Regulations Whether We Agree With Them Or Not: We Always Count & Measure - 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..
Fishing 17 Hours on Sunday, July 8th - Blueline Tiles & Cbass - 8 People Sells Out - $275.00 - 3 AM to 8 PM.
Fishing 12 Hours on Thursday, July 12 - Long Run & Deep - Sea Bass, No Tiles - $175.00 - 5 AM to 5 PM.
Long Boat Rides - Any Fish Caught Trolling Split Amongst All.
No Electric Reels On Any Trip - Ever. Hydraulic Winch For Anchors Only.
Acorns before oaks, high throwback ratios continue. Fifty fish per-person would be a slow day. Most days high-hook will have caught well-north of 100 -- then you have to measure.. Still, the proportion of clients to fish-fries is, I believe, 100%.
Have seen numerous cbass pool winners above 3 pounds. Catching a few keeper flounder everyday - recently had 5 keepers & tagged 16 fluke amidst a decent sea bass catch.
Was fishing in 120 feet of water, a place I'll only go when there's a little bit of wind. Watching the survival rate, watching how long it takes for throwback cbass to re-equalize their air-bladder and swim back down when, unexpectedly, the kite falls..
Yes, a fishing kite. Carries a couple baits away from the boat for bigger fish. Lot of fun sometimes..
Point here is that the wind dropped out: That's why the kite fell.
Now sea bass that had been going back down just fine--a nearly perfect release survival ratio--were starting to have trouble.
Distended stomach and bulging eyes indicating eversion, a fish's stomach inflated and protruding from the mouth is the most commonly noticed effect of pulling fish up from the deep. While pushing a hook into the stomach will release excess gas; long term survival of even a few weeks is doubtful with a large wound in the digestive system.
As Rudy Lukacovik pointed out--and I believe he nailed it--the waves & wavelets overwashing cbass floating belly-up keep the fish cool as their circulatory system works to decrease the sudden expansion of gas in the air bladder. Any wind makes wavelets; On our typical fishing grounds to about 150 feet we'll only have measurable release mortality on hot, windless, flat-calm days. That is, on most days cbass do just fine with nothing more than being simply being thrown back.
I believe smaller fish have an easier time of natural reacclimation than fish greater than 11 1/2 inches but have not been able to prove it.. (not that any proofs I offer are ever accepted!)
Still, always guarding against high mortality, in hot/calm weather my clients would typically be dropping in 90 feet of water or less where the issue of eversion disappears. . .
Another day we had a short calm as the wind switched SW but, even though we were in 120 feet of water, release mortality remained at zero. The fish that day, you see, were not holding tight to the bottom--a sea bass behavior for ambush feeding or avoiding predators in the area. No, the sea bass then were feeding as high as 50 feet off the bottom on krill/plankton and had their air bladders acclimated to effortlessly suspend them at their feeding depth. When we threw these fish back it was as though we were fishing in 70 or 80 feet of water..
Those hot, flat-calm days when cbass have a long float-time--that few seconds to 8 minutes belly-up to the sky where they re-equalize their air bladder.. Well, I doubt if any animal can withstand a 50 degree internal body temperature rise. It's probably between 48 & 56 degrees on the bottom; A fish suddenly floating belly-up for close to a minute in a calm sea & glaring sun with a near 100 degree air temp will die of hyperthermia. (hypothermia being too cold)
Now, it used to be we were all taught that every single fish you reeled in was going to die so never-EVER throw ANYTHING back.
Believe me; We didn't.
Come a long way since then.
The kite fell, remember?
A couple throw-backs appeared to have trouble in the sudden calm; My crew & I armed ourselves with venting tools - a hollow stainless steel needle in a pocket-safe case. (we use Team Marine's larger needle)
Gasses expands as fish are quickly reeled through less & less atmospheric pressure, a hollow needle slid under a scale in the right spot can very quickly & audibly release expanded gas and allow the fish to swim straight back down - no float-time, no belly-up to the sun..
This technique, required by law in the Gulf of Mexico, is the fastest means of ensuring release survival & and is also the easiest to mess-up. Put that needle too deep & in the wrong spot ..well, hopefully the learning curve won't be too steep. You get the hang of it pretty quick because you can hear the air escape and see the fish deflate.
Another method involves caging or weighting the fish and recompressing it: Send it all the way back down from whence it came with no holes in it other than a hook scar. I'll pick up on those techniques in another report.
When the kite fell we began venting fish steady, maybe close to 100 before the wind picked up again. I personally vented two fish that had been held by us before: Two of those fish already had a venting scar..
If a Mid-Atlantic boat is caught in that rare situation of fishing too deep for weather conditions: Venting Works.
About 10 AM a client says to me, "This must be the life, Fishing Everyday!"
By 11:30 that night my crew & I had uncoupled the port shaft, jacked up the engine and separated the gear. I would be in Norfolk picking up a new Vulkan coupling by noon the following day. At 11:30 pm we were putting away tools so we could enjoy "the life" at 5 am the next morning..
Either the ocean or fishing must cause a serotonin/dopamine release in we fishers; Something besides the need to pay bills must fuel this addiction........
On June 27th the new Scup, Sea Bass & Summer Flounder Advisory Panel met. My hat's off to those attending. Invited too; I couldn't possibly have afforded a day off.
This is supposed to be a new direction, a new method of getting fisherman's input into the management process brought about by the efforts of MAFMC XO Dr. Chris Moore & Chairman Rick Robins; I really do want to participate.
Science, you see, lags the fisheries in so many ways.
Here are just a few for sea bass:
*Fishermen understand intuitively that pressure on a single individual piece of reef dictates future catch at that precise spot. Science & management have yet to broaden that perspective into regional quotas: Because it is possible & legal for all of the commercial quota to come from just one area in winter, it is therefore possible and legal for intense overfishing to occur on a single region's population of cbass. (yes, recreational pressure is a huge factor in sea bass management but unlikely to ever become concentrated on a single region's fish as winter trawl can & does)
*Readers are aware that, scientifically, we still have no natural reef ecologies in the Mid-Atlantic. It was just two weeks ago that BOEM allowed we might have natural "bare rock" --rock w/o growths such as corals-- but certainly no hard-bottom reef here as might be found in the South Atlantic. (I would encourage industry to immediately go find these collections of "bare rock." Discovering their natural anti-fouling properties would be quite valuable to manufacturers of bottom paint.. Either that or "bare rock" isn't actually the "natural state" of this region's rocky bottoms and perhaps a more sensible scientific investigation is warranted.)
To claim "Management" or assert "Restoration" of a reef species with no concept, no grasp whatever of its Essential Fish Habitat is an expression of scientific poverty unlike any other in modern conservation biology. It really is true that during the decade of the 1950s more sea bass were landed commercially than in all decades since combined. To me that could only be because of direct habitat loss associated with their catching; overlapping habitat loss from other fisheries such as early surf-clamming and scalloping; Plus, importantly, loss of juvenile production from estuarine hardbottom loss, e.g the nearly complete loss of our region's oyster reefs.
Instead of investigating succesful spawning, early juvenile development & recruitment to the fishery; Science has convinced management there's a sea change occurring in effort, that then-MRFSS & now MRIP recreational catch estimates showing how Jim & Nancy going out with the kids in their Grady White started catching incredibly, fantastically more sea bass while Capt. Paul on the Porgy, Capt. Rick on the Thelma Dale, Capt. Howard on the Jamaica, Capt. Skip down in VA Beach & Capt. Monty were feeling the sting of greater & greater regulation while carrying fewer & fewer people..
Catch estimates are a farce. Catch estimate data has become completely fouled in a feedback loop. Yes, there has been an increase in private boat cbass catch. No, it has not increased to where these boats catch many times over what the for-hire fleet catches. Like reef-fish management w/o knowledge of reef, accepting catch estimates at face value without any filter creates an inescapable scientific failing: No, Massachusetts' private boats did not catch as many sea bass in two months as the entire US for-hire fleet did in a year; No, Massachusetts' private boats did not catch more sea bass in the summer of 2010 than All The Mid-Atlantic's Commercial Trawlers & Trappers Caught All Year ..but that's what the data says.
Says both NY & NJ private boats caught more than the commercial & recreational for-hire fleet that year too.
Come to think of it, It must mean that in 2010 private boats caught more sea bass than all the commercial & for hire boats put together --- That's The Emergency, That's why we've lost January through late May & late October.. That's why we have a 12.5 inch size limit that will never come down without a critical look at this data's implausibility.
Using the "Best Scientific Information Available" ought to imply our 'scientific information' is at least better than fantastic speculation..
You can search for scientific result on sea bass release mortality in the Mid-Atlantic -- ain't none.
You can search for scientific examination of seabed habitat - ain't none.. Unless you're a supporter of no rock/bare rock.
Catch Estimates as our only "Best Available Science" numbs management to ecological consideration, is stealing our fisheries: Restricting Catch Can Do It All, the proof's in the recreational catch estimates. Habitat is just a nice word people sometimes use at meetings if they have to.
Blatant benefits of habitat increase & low release mortality having escaped attention; Managing for maximum spawning population & maximum success of that spawn is many years away. I believe our modern-day 12.5 inch size limit has had the unanticipated effect of reducing our cbass spawning stock to nearly pre-management levels, that we enjoyed far more production in the late 1990s and early 2000s with a much smaller size limit and no creel limit: Somewhere between today's regulation & early regulation is the best regulation.
Where catch data factually has party/charter for-hire catch dwindling away--ours a more sound data set because professional skippers surrender catch data every day & for each trip. That data shows regulation's intent to reduce catch is working--Really Working: The professional For-Hire fleet is truly taking a lot less fish. Our science & management communities, however, see not their own failure to increase fishery production, but see only a computer screen of catch-estimate science-fiction where Jim & Nancy and the kids going out in tens & tens of thousands of Grady Whites catch many-times what skilled US for-hire skippers catch, even more than the commercial fleet; Indeed, even more than both combined..
Yup, I'd like to have gone to the Advisory Panel meeting. Given the challenges of staying solvent, however, I'll just have to find another way to turn science's attention toward fact & away from fiction..
Capt. Greg Hall has been President of the Ocean City Reef Foundation since its inception in 1997. Believe me, he's been part of a huge improvement in our coast's coral & fish populations.
He took a pair of "tog condos" out to the Bass Grounds, out to Jimmy Jackson's Reef last week. They landed perfectly, right next to a modified steel boat we sank on Jimmy's almost 2 years ago.
Next morning my crew pulled in the mooring buoy we'd set for that purpose and dropped 10 four-block units atop & near the pipes.. Since April when The Nature Conservancy gave us a pallet of these reef blocks we've dropped 800 of these 27 pound concrete blocks--Oyster Castles.
Several hundred have been singles with the idea of having volunteer scuba divers build larger reef units underwater; Most have been bound together in up-to 10 block units. We have 131 singles on one barge; 42 triple & quadruple block units on an older, sanded-in artificial reef (catching the heck out of cbass there again) and are working on numerous other reefs..
I can see Jimmy's reef growing much more swiftly now that we have boat-deployable reef units, other spots too.
I've applied to the Maryland Coastal Bays Program for help on our next 16 pallet truckload of Allied Concrete's Oyster Castle reef blocks - have a shot at funding..
A new method of reef building begun, I believe these blocks will stand the test of time..
I believe oysters & corals must now pick-up where catch restriction has done all it can. Every part of the ecosystem will benefit with more corals & oysters