Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fish Report 2/26/13

Fish Report 2/26/13
Surviving Bad Estimates To Fish Another Year
We Can Thank NMFS, ASMFC, MAFMC, MD DNR & Other State Agencies for their efforts to avert a sea bass implosion.
As Capt. Adam Nowalsky, a NJ ASMFC Commissioner noted; "To lose spring and fall (sea bass) would put just about every For-Hire boat left out of business."
I believe that's an accurate comment..
Long Tog Trip - Thursday - 2/28/13 - 5:30 to 4:30 - 14 Sells Out - Skunks Possible & A Long Boat Ride - $130.00 - Cbass Very Unlikely
Xtra Long Tog - Sunday - 3/3/13 - 5:30 AM to 5:30 PM - 14 Sells Out - Skunks Possible & A Long Boat Ride - $150.00 - Cbass Closed
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.
(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.
Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early.
Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat..
3,696 "Oyster Castle" Reef Blocks By The Rail. (928 @ Jimmy's Reef)
Greetings All,
I suppose some thought it a tough day because of current and tangles. Maybe those 5 guys to port would have stiffed my mate regardless. Others were very pleased, had a great day.
So it goes.
Pretty sure the guy with a 30 inch tog and everyone's pool money thought it was an OK day.
Had a new deckhand ride along w/Mike on Friday's trip. After working the net most of the morning I encouraged him to make a few drops with a gold spoon.. "Eager to learn & loves to fish" are two qualifications I look for in a junior hand. Not sure if Jake is truly eager to learn, think so. Positive he really enjoys catching 4 pound cbass.
Wrenches & paintbrushes, knots & splices, seamanship & safety drills; the rest will come in time.
Listened to the summer flounder/scup/sea bass portion of the ASMFC meeting. Frustrating because of a bad connection at the hotel; in-between blank audio I heard a couple Commissioners comment on all the mail they were getting about cbass.
That had to be some of you. Thank You.
Pretty sure we'll have the same cbass season in DE, MD, VA & NC as last year but with a 20 fish bag-limit.
Ball's in NMFS court. Once they approve we'll begin taking summer sea bass reservations.
Gamesmanship & political maneuverings are not my forte. Guys in management who can calculate a few steps out, who know the regulatory system better than I know our artificial reef sites are more suited to Council/Commission work than I could ever be.
During debate I heard Capt. Adam Nowalsky, one of NJ's ASMFC Commissioners note; "To lose spring and fall (sea bass) would put just-about every For-Hire boat left out of business."
I believe that's an accurate comment.
I also heard Chairman David Simpson of CT say, "The reason we are working so hard today is to more evenly share our conservation burden."
True enough. But the real reason is sky-high estimates; Estimates cooked-up with no firm idea of how many people went fishing; Estimates that always use an effort-factor, a head-count, much higher than any state's license sales or Federal FWS data.
When MuRFSS/MRIP catch-estimates sound the over-quota alarm, Commissioners and Commission Staff have to jump. Those good folks are doing their level-best to make a bunch of rotten catch-estimates fit into their mind's-eye view of sensibility, to create regulatory order from random numbers.
As a group, fishers are euphoric when estimates come in low because regulations liberalize; dysphoric when they run high because regulations tighten.
There is great concern too at the Council & Commission for January & February's catch data, data they can surely capture with VTRs but haven't yet.
Not a good winter for getting trips in.. Mostly tog fishing, my boat's at under 1,000 sea bass. At no time did I see a private boat. Therefore Maryland is under a thousand sea bass.
In the mid-90s we used to catch +-3 million sea bass per-year in the Mid-Atlantic Party/Charter fleet. Now we catch zero-point two five million, that's 0.25 million.
Overfishing anyone?
What a crock.
I believe true information is best, that fair & reasonable recreational policy can only source from accurate catch-estimates: I believe managers must find a way to use PSE (margin of error) in these estimates.
Now we have Southern New England's addition to sea bass spawning grounds resulting in closures & regulatory tightening. Habitat Expansion should equal Quota Expansion, should create greater bioeconomic stability for Mid-Atlantic & SNE party/charter & commercial fishers. Expanding habitat should create more opportunity for recreational anglers. Habitat Expansion should be creating the kind of luck fishermen everywhere welcome - More Catching.
Instead we've built a regulatory Hollywood-character from suspicious or downright absurd catch-estimates coupled with the brute-strength of Accountability Measures. Picture a Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry --blind drunk-- leaning against a lightpole & trying to stare down his .44 magnum: "feel'n lucky Punk?" (Youngsters who may not remember a 1971 movie can pick up this iconic vibe @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4jZ7rtWnvs - Caution! Opens with strong language. Eastwood, of course, does not wash the bad guy's mouth out with soap.)
Working hard to fix this estimate-created regulatory mess are many in management who see, are maybe just beginning to see, how allowing bad estimates into the regulatory process for almost 2 decades has been accretive, is building back-pressure as fisheries respond to management. Both red snapper & sea bass managers are experiencing large fish extraction which creates weight-compounded estimate errors. Nonsensical catch-estimates multiplied by even worse fish-weight estimates force fishers who have done no wrong into a bad place.
In a real-world fishery model, large fish--the biggest fish--would carry less 'penalty' because natural mortality will soon get them anyway.
Consider: Would we prefer swordfishers target 3 to 5 hundred pound fish or 30 to 50 pound pups..
Here is a sample of sea bass science:
(Kendall 1977, P. 13 "Males first appear as 3 year olds.." then on P. 15 of the same document, "Larger fish are all males. Nearly all fish >25 cm (9.8 inches) are males. Thus catches of large fish will consist of males."
Those fish weren't three years old. Most were one. A few were two.
Now we know that. Kendall had different aging data. Guarantee he could measure though.
No one would call 10+ inch sea bass large today. Nor would anyone expect to see all males in a cooler full of 12.5+ inch sea bass.
We've shifted age at maturity by size limit regulation. Fish that used to become male at 7 inches now transform between 12 & 14 inches. Kendall, using updated knowledge, would find the complete opposite today; "Nearly all 12 inch and smaller sea bass are female. Very few sea bass will have attained 12 inches by age 3. Catches of large fish, 18 to 26 inches, will have many females."
Using the same aging data Kendall had back then: Here from the 1995 review of the Joint ASMFC/MAFMC Sea Bass Plan: "In spite of a potential maximum age of 15 years, the age structure is highly truncated with only 4.5% of the stock in 1993 greater than age 3."
Nope. Betcha they actually found only 4.5% of all sea bass were over age one.
With production switched to FULL-POWER, sea bass rebuilt just fine with 9, 10 & 11 inch size limits. Their hormones were screaming SPAWN-SPAWN-SPAWN as soon as they left the estuaries. During the mid-90's, just before real regulation began, Mid-Atlantic party/charter was estimated to land 2 to 4 million fish a year. Now we catch a quarter million fish and get labeled with overfishing. We watch our seasons shrink as regulation forces production to dwindle.
Plain as I can make it: We're leaving +-2 million cbass on the table every year in the MAB; Fish we once would have kept and now do not. If reproduction had remained apace (as it did in the early 2000s) we would have, not just the additional fish saved by regulation, but their addition from added spawning capacity as well.
We need to drop the size limit down to rekindle younger spawning in sea bass.
I'm certain management's seeking fairness. I'm positive.
I'm also sure they want abundant fish.
It would be much simpler for them if they had honest scientific truths to work with.
We've already seen how regulation can make a heck of a lot of sea bass, saw it a decade ago.
Now we're seeing regulation destroy the recreational fishery. Narrowly avoided by sincere efforts of regulators stuck between bad-estimates and out-dated science, the next pull of MRIP's lever could be party/charter's last; Eastwood's next shot might take the hostage in the chest.
The Omnibus Amendment for Recreational Accountability Measures coming through MAFMC is now vital because it recognizes PSE (margin of error) as part of the complete "best available science." The Amendment would allow refinement, movement up or down, from an estimate's centerpoint to reflect the true fishery.
The amendment would allow managers to doubt an estimate.
That's a really new idea. I'll keep you posted..
Below I have two data sets for your consideration.
These are MRIP estimates - the "New & Improved" model.. Look at the Massachusetts private boat scup table below between 2006 & 07.
Our modernized and very expensive overhaul of recreational catch estimates espouses a 16,600% increase in private boat catch between 2006 & 07. With such a well-established fishery this is just shameful.
I think a lot of estimates are.
Check out too the MA For-Hire estimates on scup too. Compare between for-hire & private boat in 06 & 07...
A large part of the reason we're in trouble with cbass at all is because Massachusetts private boat spring "catch" increased 1,300% from 2009 to 2010, then decreased to only double their usual estimate in 2011, but increased again by 615% in 2012.
Regulations tightened from Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod, Then loosened, Then tightened again..
Used to catch insane numbers of sea bass with only a nine or ten inch size-limit, could go every single day of the year.
The population grew.
Massachusetts anglers were fishing a 10 fish limit, tightest regulation ever/anywhere, in May/June 2012. Despite the lowest bag limit they managed to "catch" more pounds of sea bass in a few weekends than every party boat from Rhode Island to Texas did all year..
Better estimates? Does anyone really believe MD private boats caught zero flounder in May/June 2012? How in Blazes did MD partyboats pull a zero-catch for summer sea bass when we filled out forms everyday, told NMFS exactly how many cbass we caught everyday. But ZERO is the estimate from MRIP, that's what the press releases tout as New & Improved Recreational Catch Estimates.
Bad estimates in conjunction with Accountability Measures threaten recreational fisheries.
We'll need this new Omnibus Amendment to stay alive.
Without the very real efforts of some in management we might have had one heck of a haircut this season & lost all of 2014's sea bass fishery.
Closed All Year.
Closed Due To Abundance.
Didn't happen this time.
Not Yet.
Catch-estimates are random, a matter of luck; are a slot machine capable of three matches we don't want:
For several fisheries, sea bass especially, that real-result is only one bad estimate away, one roll of the spinning wheels; a loaded chamber in Eastwood's revolver, a twitch of his front site..
We'll soon need to comment on the Omnibus Amendment for Recreational Accountability Measures. Its the only method I see for managers to preserve our fisheries while catch estimates get a much more serious overhaul.
See "New & Improved" MRIP estimate tables below.
Thanks to managers struggling within their own system, sea bass fishers have survived 2012's catch estimates to fish another year.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
MA Scup Private Boat (Amazing)
Estimate Status Year Wave Common Name Total Harvest (A+B1) PSE Harvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
PSE Landings (no.) without
Size Information
FINAL 2006 MAY/JUNE SCUP 7,515 98.8 7,593 98.8 0
FINAL 2007 MAY/JUNE SCUP 1,255,806 72.4 941,170 72.5 0
FINAL 2008 MAY/JUNE SCUP 155,779 52.7 243,213 49.1 0
FINAL 2009 MAY/JUNE SCUP 51,379 47.8 54,058 46.5 0
FINAL 2010 MAY/JUNE SCUP 239,044 78.5 294,510 74.6 0
FINAL 2011 MAY/JUNE SCUP 108,011 52.0 114,737 50.9 0
PRELIMINARY 2012 MAY/JUNE SCUP 492,892 60.9 678,426 66.7 0
MA For-Hire Scup - Party/Charter usually a better estimate
Estimate Status Year Wave Common Name Total Harvest (A+B1) PSE
FINAL 2004 JULY/AUGUST SCUP 752,942 48.9
FINAL 2005 JULY/AUGUST SCUP 1,382 67.3
FINAL 2006 JULY/AUGUST SCUP 76,908 46.2
FINAL 2007 JULY/AUGUST SCUP 9,744 36.7
MA Private Boat (Any consequential BSB & Scup in Massachusetts HAS to occur below Cape Cod)
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 MAY/JUNE BLACK SEA BASS 30,335 79.2 31,145 75.9 0
FINAL 2008 MAY/JUNE BLACK SEA BASS 54,678 65.6 87,584 62.4 0
FINAL 2009 MAY/JUNE BLACK SEA BASS 34,493 51.3 72,682 52.1 0
FINAL 2010 MAY/JUNE BLACK SEA BASS 448,181 68.6 610,380 69.2 0
FINAL 2011 MAY/JUNE BLACK SEA BASS 77,397 42.9 124,309 45.4 0
PRELIMINARY 2012 MAY/JUNE BLACK SEA BASS 275,657 34.5 585,445 33.2 0

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