Sunday, October 07, 2012

Fish Report 10/7/12

Fish Report 10/7/12
Still Flounder/Sea Bass Mix
Zooxanthellae & Green Water
An Einsteinian View Of Mid-Atlantic Oyster Restoration
Sea bass season remains open through Oct 14. I have long trips scheduled Friday & Saturday from 6 AM to 3:30 PM for $125.00 & have an 11 hour trip scheduled Sunday for $150.00.. Wednesday & Thursday look calm; regular $100.00 dollar fares.
Catches have been pretty good/very good for summer fishing but disappointing given a historical perspective of Octobers past -- we just haven't had weather to stimulate migrations. Still, there have been days where we sent folks home in the mid-teens, even up to 20 cbass--but few flounder & have also had our best flounder fishing with fluke up to 8lbs 11oz and hardly any sea bass.. It very much remains true that which species will bite can not be predetermined, that we have to fish for what's biting..
(Read between the lines: An unusual early fall, If you want to demand flounder or demand sea bass, please demand it of a higher authority than your captain!)
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 & Again In The Morning Is Cheap Insurance - Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early, Rarely In On Time..
2,902 Oyster Castle Reef Blocks By The Rail.
Hi All,
Close to 3,000 oyster castle reef blocks - couple more days. Take 24 every trip. Some spots are really starting to mark well on my color fathometer. Capt. Ted Green & company (divers who are doing u/w construction at 3 of the many sites where I'm deploying blocks, see -- in the video at 0:57 to :59 there's a block unit as we usually deploy them, cable-tied together and not single blocks which we only do for divers) ..the divers wanted concrete plank to work with to make multi-storied lobster/fish habitats. Long time reef supporter, Jeff Bauer, found 2x8 by 7 foot scrap concrete fencing pieces that are perfect. Material free, we paid for the trucking with our 50/50 Reef Raffle money.
Now the barges in that video have close to 500 blocks & 6 pieces of plank. Many more will follow..
Throwing a concrete block or plank into the vastness of the Atlantic and expecting a noticeable result may seem a bit outrageous; Some even hope it fails, but every single reef we've built that's stayed put has worked; All those have become better & better habitat.
For everyone that's cheering these efforts there are others who believe no amount of reef can alter fish populations, who believe building reef is a waste of time & money, who believe catch restriction is the only path to fishery restoration.
Supporting a habitat thesis, I read Dr. Shipp's claim that removing old oil rigs in the Gulf also removes those fish; that removing reef must lower overall fish populations.. I believe the converse is also true, that building new reef or restoring lost reef will accelerate fish population growth.
A fertilized coral egg does not swim from place to place deciding where it might settle. It drifts until it settles; must adhere to a hard surface or die. Reef growths are biologically driven to settle, grow to maturity & spawn. Reef fish are no different. Theirs is only a natural habitat response driven by succesful spawning of countless generations before them.
You may be shocked to learn I also write to the scientific community - perhaps more than they'd like. Been batting an idea around that was first put forward to me by Capt. Rick Younger; That our region's corals, especially sea whip, (orange stalks 'whipping' back & forth in above video) grow much faster on shallow water reefs than deeper; That reef in 40, 50 or 60 feet will colonize much faster than reef in 120 feet; That sea whip is absent beyond a certain depth, likely +-135 feet but perhaps deeper.
First comes an article from a local Salisbury professor that describes our region's hard coral species as with/without zooxanthellae. (zoh-an-thel-a are bacteria living within corals that convert sunlight into nutrition. Though twisted, its a bit like chlorophyll in green plants)
See - These bacteria are widely held to only exist in corals of tropical, clear water, seas.
A day later one of NOAA's top coral ecologists chimes in with, "Australian studies have shown sea whips to be loaded with zooxanthellae.."
Sunlight - Sea whip & star corals use sunlight...
Whether in response to my habitat arguments or not I don't know; About a decade ago the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council heard testimony that sea bass/lobster traps would gather a lot of growth if left out too long, that in less than a year they'd be grown over.
Best available science right there -- Henceforth All Stern Towed Gear Impacts In The Mid-Atlantic Were/Are Considered "Minimal & Temporary In Nature."
Everything just grows right back.
No coral hard-bottoms here according to Wigley & Theroux's 1981 study. That takes pesky multi-century growths out of the picture.
Then trap growth conclusively proved that if there ever happened to be any real fish habitat impacts, it would all grow back super quick.
Therefore, in the early 1980s when Capt. Kerry Harrington on the Skillagalee filmed a North Carolina trawl crew pulling up dozens & dozens of his traps in their stern-towed net; When he filmed the crew smashing his gear flat and pitching it over the side as often happened to trap fishers who risked fishing good bottom in fall, there was no concern for habitat. Council's closer to giving that crew credit for reef building then holding them responsible for habitat damage. (not that they've ever given restoration credit for reef building..)
I know where those traps were -- its reef. Actually growing in pretty nicely now too
..but if a trawler decides to tow up a few flounder on that reef this week or next, the Essential Fish Habitat provisions of the Magnuson Act allow for 'temporary & minimal impacts' -- and MAFMC's Best Available Science says its OK.
In my experience that reef would take about a decade to recover -- and never be as good.
Some of the "rock" our reef growths attach to is a very crumbly sandstone. Gear impacts can become permanent.
Sure wish science would take another look. Maybe this time they'll find a zooxanthellae based coral reef ecology whose understanding is vital to fishery restoration.
Got some catch estimate "Best Science" needing review too.
Was out in the Baltimore Canyon two weeks ago on a pelagic bird trip. Westerlies: I'd seen a flock of 27 great blue herons more than 20 miles out just the day before. On this trip we saw woodpeckers and a small hawk 40 miles out. The birds these folks wanted to see may nest on the Windward Islands or even the southern-most reaches of South America -- the ocean wanderers. Like fishing, weather can play havoc on birder's success too.
I was heartened when they asked to make a drift in the Baltimore Canyon for shearwaters & petrels. Always ready to please; while they chummed for birds Mike & I made a quick drop in 900 feet and caught a golden tile..
There is a point to all this; Here was the first time I'd ever seen green water in an offshore canyon. Its supposed to be crystal clear: Blue -- the 'deep blue sea' -- great mercy is it ever beautiful.
This water was not.
A generation ago men saw green water for the first time at the Jackspot, scarcely 20 miles out. They used to catch marlin there. Now we do not.
Two generations ago men saw green water 10 miles out for the first time. Back then they caught marlin & mahi in sight of land.
Now I've seen green water 60 miles out.
We're losing this fight, a fight most fishermen don't even know involves them.
Working on building a boulder reef in MD's lower Chesapeake. For over a century we've built reefs that imitate perfectly a knocked down oyster reef; Reefs made of loose shell that replicate precisely what an oyster dredger would want to encounter all his life--snag free bottom loaded with oysters: Oysters From Oyster Hatcheries.
Time now to start not on the bottom, but in the middle. Time to build high, elevated, silt-free oyster substrates. Time to artificially raise our oyster reef restorations up into better water, good water; up where there's always oxygen; up where they'd naturally be growing had we not knocked our oyster reefs down.
In the study, "Historical ecology with real numbers: past and present extent and biomass of an imperiled estuarine habitat" amidst others, the authors find Tangier Sound as having "The most dramatic losses of eastern oyster habitat..." The Sound's pretty close to where I hope the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI) builds that boulder reef.
I see in Keiner's "The Oyster Question" (2009) where "To satisfy the surging demand for raw oysters, trains of thirty to forty (railroad) cars left Baltimore each day of the 1880 season."
Here's what oysters do - - Restoring oyster biofiltration will make the many other efforts of estuarine water quality enhancement pop; Storm water management, Rules & regulations piling up on farmers, Impervious surface pavings, Sewage treatment plants -- there's been a tremendous effort to solve the riddle of ecosystem collapse.
Like throwing concrete reef blocks into our marine ecological maelstrom; This summer Maryland's artificial reef construction (that I'm aware of) has consisted of 2 boat-loads of concrete reef balls deployed in the Choptank.
Taking reef out for centuries.
Putting it back real slow.
At least it wasn't shell.
What a waste of money.
Now oyster restorationists want to grind perfectly suitable limestone boulders into small oyster shell mimics, turn boulder into small oyster-sized rocks: The better to collect silt and look just like our dead oyster reefs I suppose..
We're out of shell. There isn't anymore. They used it all to "restore reef."
Didn't work. Now to grind up rock..
Einstein had something to say about doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.
Over a century without restoration success -- We need to start in the middle, not on the bottom.
Maryland Needs To Lead The Nation, Needs To Build Big Rock Reefs.
Restoring oysters to the middle is possible, will allow us to work our way down. The bottom's already been lost.
If it were me I'd build hollow reef -- pile boulders atop concrete pipe so water could flow through the heart of the reef. Make for some fine fishing; Could make mega-populations of sheepshead & tautog .. wonder why they call striped bass "rockfish" over in the Bay..
So our marine & estuarine ecologies change for the worse as they load up with more & more algae: More jellyfish, less finfish; More green water, less blue water; More oxygen deprived depths, less sunlight penetration: Bit by bit and in slow generational shift, I believe our marine ecology is in real danger.
I wonder how far out tomorrow's skippers will have to go to find marlin.
Just as oyster restorationists now pursue the very last shell expecting a different result, so to do fishery managers anticipate catch restriction--season & size limits--will fully restore any & all species they focus on.
They point to summer flounder and striped bass as evidence of catch restriction's effectiveness. Pew anticipates we'll add millions & millions of dollars to our waterfront economies if we can just restrict catch enough.
If catch restriction were all that's needed we'd have marlins & tunas, albacore & bonita, sea trout & scup, red hake & bluefish, winter flounder & cod; all in great number because we just don't catch them anymore. We'd have to install sea bass guards on our rudders and propellers had the exponential population growth of the late 90s/early 2000s kept apace.
But no, while glamour species do thrive, our marine ecology's holding capacity is greatly reduced: There are only so many calories to go around. Sea trout inhabit striped bass-like waters and remain collapsed, Reef habitats I've fished for many decades are overrun with flounder.
To support real fisheries restoration we must pursue habitat; Oysters are crucial.
Our focus misplaced, to cheer flounder & striped bass recovery is to celebrate success as General Howe might have at his 1777 defeat of Washington in the Battle of Brandywine Creek. Management now distracted by bad recreational catch data, by bad essential fish habitat science, and by mimicking long-dead reef; We're allowing algae to win the war.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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