Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Fish Report 9/4/12

Fish Report 9/4/12
Mostly Flounder
Except When It Ain't
Gathering Storm
Summer Fishing of Flounder & Black Sea Bass continues. I don't think it will change until we have a significant storm. Mostly targeting flounder over precisely the same reefs & wrecks where I've spent a lifetime targeting sea bass, except when sea bass bite better at those reefs: Will target what's biting.
Below is an idea of what the fishing's really like..
Sea Bass & Flounder Fishing 7 to 3 Everyday - Longer on Saturdays - Now Fishing Sundays - Plenty Of Spots Open - Always Try To Leave Early & Stay Late - Reservations Required @ 410 520 2076 - Leave Your BEST Contact Phone Number In Case Of Weather Cancelation - We Obey Regulations Whether We Agree With Them Or Not - Bring Food & Beverage Plus A Cooler & Ice For Your Party's Fish - Cheap Styrofoam Coolers Rarely Survive A Day - A 48 QT Cooler Works Great - Dramamine The Night Before Is Cheap Insurance - Be A Half Hour Early, We Like To Leave Early, Rarely In On Time..
2,352 Oyster Castle Reef Blocks By The Rail.
Hi All,
Catching flounder after we drop blocks; at least most days. Sometimes its more about cbass.
Just a couple blocks shy of 500 at Jimmy's Reef. Interesting footprint. Be 1,000s before we're done. (Google Image search "Oyster Castles" if unfamiliar with these reef blocks)
They're very toggy. Coral & sea bass will certainly take to 'em too.
Usually we stitch 3 or 4 blocks together with heavy wire-ties and slide them over the rail.
Divers, however, are building with single-block drops on two different barges. (video here of an u/w dive project, deeper - http://vimeo.com/47653646http://vimeo.com/47653646 )
Buy some blocks, Build some reef.
( http://www.ocreeffoundation.com/ click "Join" for the donate button or send a check - Could Really Use Some Help)
Here's what the flounder fishing's really like:
Flounder George, creator of the "ten minute limit" and quite accustomed to heading up the catching, stepped aboard a few weeks ago & was out-fished first by a pair of rental rods, then the rest of the boat; The Great One nearly goose-egged on a wonderful day of catching. Last week he bounced back and again took everyone's pool money..
Ken hooks eleven keepers; his boys helped wind them in. This is no accident, Ken's good at it. Two days later he nearly snags a donut hole while lady angler Tina, fishing next to him, closes the cooler lid on a fat limit plus a couple for her son & the pool.
Another day Team USA Women's Flounder Squad (3 gals) are up on twenty-some men for the first 45 minutes before the catch started to equal out. Couple guys were getting pouty in a testosterone crash..
Big Dave creams everyone aboard--no contest for the pool. Two days later Big Dave gets creamed.
I catch my 3 in three drops. Next day an 11 year old hands me my head; I have to stop at the grocery store for chicken..
Now I'm-a Guarantee, This Flounder Fishing's Hard To Figure.
Any fishing really.
Sending folks home with a good fish fry - mostly.
Looking forward to fall fishing, to when when cbass start to knot-up & move off, when they fatten up and move mid-shelf or deeper. With the coming of big weather the water will start to mix, start to trigger fall migrations.
Before the 25 fish creel limit was enacted in 2002, high-hook in Nov/Dec would be pushing 175, sometimes 200 -- that even with the 9 & 10 inch size limits in place. (our sea bass population grew like crazy from 1992 to 2003)
When the 25 fish limit first came we often had time on fall fishing trips for a Boat Limit of sea bass PLUS a Boat Limit of croakers.. (25 in MD)
Regulations much tighter now via shortened seasons and an extra 1/2 inch size limit; Had spawning production from early management kept pace, officials would now have to close beaches for all the cbass amidst bathers' feet.
Instead, fertilized egg production has tapered dramatically. Boat Limits of sea bass this fall are not at all likely, though I surely hope individual clients will have grabbed the brass ring, will have "limited out."
We'll soon be accused of overfishing again. Unfortunately, there may be no fall season.
An "Emergency Closure" is now only one MRIP/MuRFSS over-estimate away..
While I still haven't heard back from MRIP Outreach Coordinator, Forbes Darby, about the Mar/Apr NJ shore tog estimate particulars; A far more pressing issue arises in the MRIP data. Churchill might have called it a "Gathering Storm."
In Maryland, private boats always account far less than 20% of black sea bass (bsb) landings -- always. Yet now MRIP is asserting our more adventurous Grady Whites and custom 3 engine screamers have managed to catch several thousand more sea bass than MD party/charter in 2012.
There's no possible way.
This is absolute statistical fantasy
..but also statistically insignificant in the sea bass management plan because the numbers, though wrong, are small.
Massachusetts private boat catch estimates, however, are very high. So high they have almost singlehandedly caused the past few bsb closures - including one that very nearly destroyed my life's work a few years ago.
Skippers who go everyday in Massachusetts are telling our shared clients there's "no way" private boats even catch as many sea bass as the For-Hire fleet, let alone several times more..
When I showed a group of Massachusetts party/charter skippers the MuRFSS private boat catch estimates at a meeting in Baltimore - they actually, physically & audibly Laughed Out Loud.
Not a typical result from sound data.
MA had a 10 fish creel limit this year with excellent enforcement I hear.
Yet for 2012 MRIP has Massachusetts' private boats outfishing all New England, Mid-Atlantic & South Atlantic For-Hire Party/Charter Fleets Combined..
But Massachusetts' own party/charter fishers doubt their private boaters even catch as many sea bass as they do.
These Grady Whites & Boston Whalers below Cape Cod (but not in RI, poor fellows there had a statistically terrible spring) MA's private boats caught more bsb than every skilled for-hire skipper from Palm Beach, FL to Portland, ME combined.
Entire Atlantic Coast Party/Charter Fleet: 246,973 sea bass through May/June 2012.
Entire Fleet of Private Boats Below Cape Cod (but not in RI) 275,657 -- all in May/June 2012.
That's NOT a Statistically Valid Claim.
The only reason NOAA's overfishing klaxon is not sounding yet is because NY & NJ private boat estimates are more tempered this year. The estimates for July/August will set it off though. Some state's outboards will have managed to outfish the entire coast's For-Hire fleet - again.
We're Very Close To An Emergency Closure, Close To Losing November & December Plus Who Knows How Much More Spring Season.
Forcing management to act as though they believe each MRIP/MRFSS estimate were perfect -despite no method of statistical stop- fails to benefit fishers or fishery restoration.
MRIP's accusations of Overfishing are no more sound than a Salem Witch Pricker's pronouncement to have found the devil's mark. Results, however, can be quite similar with these unfound accusations.
As before, new regulations will be enacted to further restrict recreational sea bass catch to prevent further overfishing. Now we also have Annual Catch Limit (ACL) language from the 2006 re-write of the Magnusson Stevens Act (MSA) plus Accountability Measures which will hold us responsible for PAYING BACK our overquota overfishing.
At the time of the re-write's passing, RFA's Jim Donafrio & President Bush's own NMFS head, Bill Hogarth, were jumping up and down, shouting: Hogarth even predicted --quite correctly-- that ACLs & Accountability Measures would be a "train wreck."
Makes no difference if the overfishing is real or not; Makes no difference that repairs to MRFSS, due in 2009, have only grown worse in MRIP; Makes no difference at a Council meeting that ACLs & AMs were envisioned in regulatory timeline as coming after the 2009 deadline for better recreational data; That ACLs & AMs were vital to the 2006 re-write's strength, a strength borne in accurate catch estimates.
I believe Magnuson's authors intended recreational catch would FIRST be measured more accurately--that catch estimates would be brought under control first; THEN recreational participants would be held accountable for overfishing.
This summer many fluke (summer flounder) have been caught on the very same bottoms, the very same corals, where my clients catch sea bass.
We sometimes catch live squid over these same bottoms and often see squid in the flounder we're cleaning.
I hold that, for several months a year, summer flounder are an inshore reef fish. (use reef in winter too but one step at a time)
Trawling has been the preferred method of commercial flounder fishing for many decades--almost a century now.
Just as oystermen worked most of their bottoms -literally- to death, so too have large areas of less-robust ocean reef been completely lost -- especially in overlapping zones where surf clams were abundant.
I believe reef restorations are vital to fishery restorations.
However, because management MUST accept any recreational catch estimate, our reef fish regulations are a 'whack-a-mole' hodgepodge of reaction to delusional data. Its no wonder habitat production remains a dim & distant hypothetical, just something to work on later; Something to "get to" as soon as these overfishing scoundrels have been reigned in..
For several months of the year ships are now able to navigate the NW passage around North America. Didn't used to be that way. First Magellan, almost a century later Hudson too would have become fabulously wealthy & more famous had there been a route through the ice at the top of our continent in their time.
No matter how you fall on climate change; That Summer Ice Is Gone -- Its Warmer.
Massachusetts has commercial sea bass landings in fluctuation from the 1950s. They bottomed in 1966 at under a ton, rose to about 200 tons in the 1980s, dropped like a stone in the early 90s and have risen since to a seeming average of 200 tons..
In the period when sea bass management was first being created, Massachusetts commercial fishers had landings of under 20 tons. Recreational estimates show a similar 1990s lull in that state's catch.
Now Massachusetts' commercial fishers catch their sea bass quota quickly - its a big share. Their recreational fishery, though I believe grossly over-reported, has also strengthened significantly since sea bass management's earliest days.
Ice melt sinks, it settles low and is captured by the Labrador current running south along our east coast.
I believe cod we now catch off Maryland's coast, even some in August, demonstrate ice melt's cooling effect in deeper water.
I also believe sea bass have expanded into now-warmer & very rocky shallow waters of Massachusetts; that sea bass populations there have benefited both from management & from warmer surface waters.
But I don't believe for a second that Massachusetts' private boat fleet caught 200,000 more sea bass than scup in 2010.. However, that's what MRIP data tells us.
MRIP even tells us these doers of evil, these overfishing rapscallions in their plastic boats below Cape Cod caught almost 100,000 more sea bass than the entire US Party/Charter fleet in 2010.
Uh Hu.
That's the REAL face of overfishing - Bad Statistics.
Just as I assert building new reef off our coast allows for population expansion of reef fish, so too does warming water expand their range northward. Pushing well into the granite coast, warming shallow waters have created a significant increase in suitable habitat for sea bass -- all those scup have to share. Its important to note that in sea bass there is no simultaneous contraction of their southern range; even Florida has large landings of this smallest member of the grouper family.
I assert habitat fidelity--where nearly all species either return to their natal habitat or place of first spawning to spawn again--habitat fidelity is irrefutable in black sea bass owing to tag return data. From the very first tags at Woods Hole, results from Virginia Game Fish Tagging, my own personal +-6,000 ALS tags, and the federal 16,000 tag study in the early 2000s: Assertions Of Spawning Site Fidelity Remain Uncorrupted.
Massachusetts' cbass will never be found off Maryland's coast in summer. Indeed, Delaware's Site 11 cbass will never be found at our Great Eastern Reef.
Where time & again I have asserted "Reef Restoration Makes Fishery Restoration Simple" -- It's also true that remaining ignorant of habitat expansion's role can make restoration more difficult.
Massachusetts wasn't really a player when black sea bass quotas and management were being devised in the mid-90s -- now failure to recognize the stock's expansion cripples valuable fisheries to their south.
These fish live & spawn in eco-regionally separate populations. Management must take that into account.
We fishers will suffer under "New & Improved" MRIP recreational catch estimate data. We will endure Accountability Measures enacted because NJ's shore-bound tautog anglers are said to have gone from a truly impossible 72,000 tautog in Mar/Apr 2010 under MuRFSS --this representing more fish caught than the entire US For-Hire sector in Mar/April-- to now MRIP's insane guess of 173,000 tog for the same two cold months.
That's more tog from NJ's winter jetties than the entire annual US commercial catch and US For-Hire fleet in Mar/Apr.
No Fisherman I've Met Believes This Estimate -- Not One.
I doubt any scientist does either..
But that's where management stems from.
These good & often brilliant people: Why isn't the Science & Statistical Committee demanding accountability for the data it uses, Why aren't Monitoring Committees standing on their chairs demanding better data to use, Why are State Representatives seemingly unconcerned with data's accountability when errors are so simple to see; Why Is The Federal System Destroying Fisheries With Unsound Data?
None should believe the private boat sea bass estimates.
All should re-study basic ecology -- habitat matters.
They should really look into Fishery Management's most basic ideal, that some fishing promotes surplus production -- excess production is found in increased spawning: Because age at maturity in sea bass has increased by 2 years we now have a smaller spawning stock than before management began.
Our reef habitat in the Mid-Atlantic remains unvalued, undiscovered, unmanaged & unprotected while vacuous accusations of impossible catch create an aura of "Overfishing" that management must address.
No wonder fishery restoration is such a challenge.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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