Monday, January 07, 2013

Fish Report 1/7/13

Fish Report 1/7/13
More Trips/Pretty Weather Coming
Fresh Fish!
Cowboys & Aliens
Regular Tog Trips Tuesday, Wed, & Fri - January 8th 9th & 11th - 7AM to 3PM - These Trips Will Sell Out At Ten People - $100.00
LONG Tog Saturday, Jan 12th - 5AM to 5PM - $150.00 - 16 People sells Out - Some Sea Bass Likely
Not As Long Sunday, January 13th - 6AM to 4PM - $125.00 - 16 People Sells Out
Reservations Required @ 410 - 520 - 2076.
LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common In Winter - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way..
No Live Fish Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (selling live catch demands a higher level of CG & Fisheries regulations -- I have a recreational boat with plenty of paperwork already - I Believe The Live Fish Black-Market Is Hurting This Fishery)
All Regulations Observed - 4 Fish @ 16 Inches.
Green Crabs Provided. You're welcome to bring any hard bait: Lobster, White Crab, Blue Crab, Hermit Crab: Even Gulp Crab .. No Squid, No Clam = No Dogfish. Cbass jigs OK away from the tog bite IF they're working and not tangling (look for the skipper there at such times.)
Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early.
Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat..
3,312 "Oyster Castle" Reef Blocks By The Rail..
Greetings All,
Fresh Tog! Best was pepper & flour fried in butter.
That's just good living. Might be bad for you, but its good living.
Bunch of sober anglers turned up for New Year's Day. Weather man had the rain coming late--so it rained early then turned into a nice day late.
Bite was iffy even with a lot of skill.. one place we'd nick a few - next spot not. A lackluster bite.
Had about half the guys limited - sent everyone home with fresh fish. Biggest just under 10.
Went out Thursday with 3 clients. Henry bagged out at 8:27 AM, spent the rest of his day tagging lots of legal fish and giving a few away. Another guy, we'll call him Lucky, caught about 35 tog.
Not one was a keeper. Amazing. Could have happened to anyone.
A great contribution to science, we tagged 30 tog.
Sent Lucky home with plenty of dinner too. Biggest was just under 10 pounds.
Saturday's wind topped out at 26.5 knots. Didn't last though. By afternoon it was pretty. Bite was fairly steady. Saw remarkable reversals of luck as some clients; generally considered more challenged, um, in the catching did fantastically well while others--who normally bag-out early & toss back big fish without a care suffered a much slower pace on this marathon day; it resulted in endless ribbing. Bill took the pool with a 9.5 pound fish.
Sunday morning saw the port corner fly hot--nice fish, double digits. Mate Mike & I worked the anchor lines, dropping back to even-out the bite. Even 15 feet later the bite was still just in the port corner..
But I wasn't concerned, the day was young.
Then the tide slacked and remained so until mid-afternoon - long time with no bites. None at all. My cigar smoking Russian friend tossed a butt overboard. (no filter) It was still there 15 minutes later.
Fish feed again as the water began to move. Sun was down when we got in. Lot of limits..
This is tog fishing: We'll have better days, Terrible days too.
People frequently ask when's the best time for big tog..
I can only tell when it was a great time to be tog fishing; when they're in the cooler or tagged and let go: Its always the perfect time to catch big tog - it just rarely happens.
When I was coming up John Wayne was a big deal, so was Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." (made Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra" opening theme recognized world-wide. starts about 25 seconds in)
Meant to see Cowboys & Aliens on the big screen. Almost never do & didn't. Saw it over Christmas on DVD. Aliens seeking gold are capturing, abducting, settlers and natives with their dragonfly-like space craft.
Daniel Craig & his lovely accomplice find and enter the evil starship to discover many of the abductees alive; only loosely bound and staring up at a blue dome -- hypnotized by the blue light.
The heroine saves our modern James Bond cowboy hero when he too begins to stare at the blue light: "Don't stare at the light" before she bursts the light with a pistol shot and frees the hostages..
Perhaps an illness of mine, I saw much of fishery management standing there; their real-life hypnotizing blue light, of course, recreational catch statistics.
Quit Staring At The Light!
How in Billy Blue Blazes can we expect rational fishery management of, say, tautog when management doesn't even flinch as our catch-estimating system proclaims NJ's shore anglers caught more tog in two winter months than the whole coast's commercial & party/charter fleets; When a MD estimate has fewer than 10 private boats catching thousands of tog each; When MD shore anglers in early fall 2007 are said to catch well-over a decade's worth of party/charter flounder while, at the same time, MD's private boats must be fishing beneath those shore casters catching their highest-ever tautog numbers..
Its a hypnotizing light alright..
In 1992, based in large part on Pete Himchak's early work on tautog reproduction, I put a 3 fish @ 16 inches limit on tog. It irritated some clients, most were glad to pitch back big females and box up just a few males. Having destroyed the tog population by 1985, we didn't target them much anyway.
In 1998 ASMFC & MD got around to regulating tautog -- 5 fish @ 14 inches was MD's first reg..
I watched the population fall. Perhaps the most conservation-minded partyboat skipper when it comes to tautog, I knew we were creating a decline -- even at a strictly enforced 5 fish bag and with clients tossing back huge fish.
There's virtually no legal commercial effort, no trawling over the rocks with roller rigs. MD's commercial limit is the same as recreational - 4 fish per-person.
Our tog population lives almost entirely on man-made reef, thrives there. Picture smooth sand replacing our inshore tog habitat; the jetties, rip-rap and bridge pilings where they're caught in the back-bay: see any tog on that smooth sand?
Staring at the light, managers see amazing catches from these man-made reefs. In 2007 the marine recreational fishing statistics survey (MuRFSS) created the illusion of 77,562 tautog being caught & cooked from Ocean City, MD's inshore man-made habitats..
An impossible assertion, Yet No One Blinked.
Blue haze reflecting from deep within their irises; management does not see these estimates as ludicrous, they do not see the connection to habitat, do not see: Just as taking habitat away can reduce or eliminate an area's tautog population, so too can adding habitat increase that population.
Increasing habitat even works--thankfully--when management's bathed in blue.
Hey Management, Quit Starring At The Light!
Sea bass, big male sea bass, have a splendid blue iridescence on & around their forehead. I never knew it was part of an alien plot before but that at least makes some sense; makes our recreational catch estimates more understandable; creates make-believe acceptability of make-believe data with crushing real-world result.
There are several spikes in our 2012 sea bass catch data. (blue light specials?) Most harmful is the MRFSS estimate for Massachusetts May/June 2012 Private Boat of 665,662 pounds--the biggest single reason sea bass were closed by emergency regulation this fall. Although MuRFSS data is not publicly available after 2011 without special request, old-style estimates from MuRFSS -and not the new data from MRIP- are what sea bass are being managed with.
An interesting estimate; 665,662 represents more pounds of sea bass caught in 2 months by 18 to 25 foot boats below Cape Cod (and not at all in Rhode Island) than was landed by all party/charter in the species entire range in 2011.. That's more pounds of sea bass than All U.S. Party & Charter boats from Texas to New Hampshire caught All Together/All Last Year -- but those private boats caught theirs in weeks: Those boats carrying a couple guys each did it this year in a month and a half's worth of Saturdays and made that astounding catch with the tightest sea bass regulations anywhere -- a 10 fish limit at 14 inches.
Secret Kept: Rhode Island's private boats only landed 7,600 pounds this spring, Connecticut anglers goose-egged--caught zero.
More interesting still, come summer the Massachusetts private boat fleet apparently grew tired of sea bass. When their possession limit doubled to 20 fish per-person their catch declined by 634,230 pounds.
At 31,000 lbs in July/August, that's still more than they caught altogether in am entire decade of summers from 1990 to 2000 combined, but a lot less than they were estimated to have caught this spring.
Trying to break the blue light, all I have is this keyboard.
A different state, here's the New Jersey party/charter estimate for Sept/Oct over the last several years - the blue light wavers:
Estimate Status Year Wave Common Name Total Harvest (A+B1) PSE Harvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
PSE Landings (no.) without
Size Information
FINAL 2007 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER BLACK SEA BASS 95,746 39.2 174,551 44.5 0
FINAL 2008 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER BLACK SEA BASS 75,818 20.0 91,625 22.1 0
FINAL 2009 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER BLACK SEA BASS 53,273 28.7 71,755 31.9 0
FINAL 2010 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER BLACK SEA BASS 21,158 36.3 27,141 37.6 0
In 2011 they only had 11 days of season and landed 100 sea bass per-day. This year they had 23 days of season and landed about 4,400 per-day. In 2007 & 2008 they had the full two months of season and landed 1,200 per-day..
That's pretty smelly.
Now the NJ private boat estimate; perhaps here managers will hear Strauss's famous anthem used in A Space Odyssey, that musical interpretation of the dawn of understanding -- a bursting of the blue light..
Estimate Status Year Wave Common Name Total Harvest (A+B1) PSE Harvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
PSE Landings (no.) without
Size Information
FINAL 2007 SEPT/OCT SEA BASS 7,239 [60+ days/120 daily] 83.9 9,211 81.6 0
FINAL 2008 SEPT/OCT SEA BASS 288,409 [60+ days/4800 daily] 56.9 344,798 56.4 0
FINAL 2009 SEPT/OCT SEA BASS 37,269 [35 days/1070 daily] 37.4 46,271 37.7 0
FINAL 2010 SEPT/OCT SEA BASS 392,432 [30 days/13,100 daily] 47.6 423,116 48.4 0
FINAL 2011 SEPT/OCT SEA BASS 1,119 [11 days/102 daily] 104.8 247 104.8 0
PRELIMINARY 2012 SEPT/OCT SEA BASS 238,010 [23 days/10,350 daily] 41.5 282,992 42.2 0
How could anyone reasonably conclude regulations actually have an effect?
In 2010 they had 30 days, in 2011 eleven days, in 2012 23 days...
Massachusetts's catch falls off a cliff when the creel limit doubles..
These are just random numbers: meaningless. But a blue glow hypnotizes management into thinking the data reveals all..
Today's management of black sea bass is allowing both fish & fishery to fail.
Management must take action to correct itself. Management MUST examine the data - Where everyone I've spoken to in Massachusetts claims there are FEWER private boats since the 2007 fuel spikes - MuRFSS & MRIP say there are many thousands more
..and boy are they good at catching sea bass.
Where data says all those Massachusetts fish are jumbos, where estimate error is brutally compounded by weight multiplication error: Age @ Weight, and Length @ Age tables are readily available to truth the statistics.
Its also plain to see in the data where NJ private boat fishermen clearly will not trouble themselves with sea bass during odd numbered years.
All an illusion: What they truly caught is different.
It is here, in the estimates, where National Marine Fisheries has deceived itself ..and nearly destroyed the recreational for-hire sea bass fishery.
Mid-Atlantic party/charter landed 2 million pounds annually and the sea bass population grew splendidly --- now we scarcely catch a 1/4 million pounds and we're accused as criminals -- CLOSED SEASON - You greedy scoundrels took too many.
Sea bass populations are unique to each reef habitat. There is no possibility catching a lot in one region will affect another's population.
Catch estimates have so mislead management that they have ignored LOUD & CLEAR biological signals -- haven't even looked for them. In their blue light world of catch-estimates everything is under control -- so long as they keep tightening regulations.
On Saturday I overheard two sea bass trap boats on the radio: "This has been my worst year ever. I've been hit by trawlers more than ever before."
I guarantee this: When trap fishers are losing sea bass/lobster gear, we're all losing productive reef bottom.
I witnessed a gear impact in October. Apparently other areas of natural reef were mowed down for their flounder too.
Management looks through their blue haze at catch estimates and sees truth. Its plain to them that habitat increase and decline hasn't anything to do with what fishers catch.
If you look at a fathometer however, a fish-finder, and drop two anchors to position just-so over habitat, its plain that habitat has everything to do with what we catch.
That and if spawning success is high...
Management's use of bad data is destroying the for-hire sea bass fishery.
Its possible 2013 will be the last for many businesses as 2012's round of over-estimates grinds through the system.
Illusions seen in blue light create real red ink.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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