Monday, March 04, 2013

Fish Report 3/4/13

Fish Report 3/4/13
Bad Blow Coming.
Try A "Calm Before The Storm" Trip 3/5/13. Tog Only - Cbass Closed - 6AM to 6PM - $150.00 - Chilly - Yes, The Number Of Passengers For This Trip Is Limited - No, We're Not Going To Have To Worry About It - Very Good Anglers Could Be Skunked - Intrepid Anglers Only!
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..
Will Open Reservations For Summer Sea Bass When (the really nice people at) NOAA & NMFS (who I never-ever bicker or quarrel with) Have Given Approval To The Council's Sea Bass Plan.
3,744 "Oyster Castle" Reef Blocks By The Rail. (976 @ Jimmy's Reef)
Hi All,
Went Thursday.
Wish I hadn't.
Tog do not care for a swell. That was a big swell.
Seas dying out, we still had an occasional 8 footer roll under us, maybe ten.
Whether in stirred-up water where visibility is made cave-black, or just swell's effect on tog feeding behavior; the result was an enormous goose egg.
Had a trip a couple weeks ago where we didn't catch any fish either. Kicked around the ocean some with two regulars, everyone else digging out from the blizzard. Writing on the wall, I threw in the towel very early that day with no charge to clients.
Last Thursday I went to 3 of my best spots with many of my best clients--fellows I'm always glad to have aboard. Foiled at every turn by swell, current & wind: Skunked.
In on time, I barely charged enough to take some sting out of the fuel.
It worries me that cave-black water may be an artifact of our time. This post-storm ocean water with absolutely no visibility which seems to last longer & longer is probably of our own creation.
The battle over our greening seas is being fought in the estuaries & has many champions. I believe we must embrace a method of oyster restoration that works before other efforts of water-improvement have effect. I believe storm water management, septic system & water treatment plant upgrades, farming policy improvements and buffer zones; all will have a more obvious effect, a more true effect, when the natural water-filtering system is repaired.
The Ocean's Turning Green.
I think oysters in profusion will turn it blue again.
Its too bad that shell, tried since just after the Civil War, isn't working as a means to repair lost oyster reef ecosystem services.
I think this "Hollow Reef" concept, attached, is our best bet for deeper estuarine oyster restoration sites. Because it maximizes the reef-surface area in a given footprint, it would also be incredibly productive for our Mid-Atlantic corals & reef fish.
Another big-wind coming this week. Inshore seas Friday are forecast at 8 to 11 feet & 24 to 32 feet offshore.. Talk of snow too.
C'mon spring..
Land warms, flowers sprout.
Where ocean waters cool more slowly than land in fall & winter; they also warm more slowly in spring.
Days that are sometimes unexpectedly nice offshore in late fall/early winter--warmer, calmer--are now replaced with spring trips where the weather belies news-video of t-shirt clad students playing frisbee in city parks: it seems much cooler at sea than on land in spring.
Still, C'mon Spring.
I hate getting skunked. Last time I had a skunk like that was after the Council-sponsored Joint Foreign Fishing Venture for mackerel. Found one of the last pockets of macks one early-April day in 1993 - really good fishing. Chased by an enormous pod of white-sided dolphin, those mackerel were nowhere to be found the next day. Turned the ocean inside-out looking.
I'm certain that the freezer/processor factory ships fishing event severely over-pressured the southern mackerel population.
Now I wonder if Boston Macks are also moving offshore, leaving green water behind, as first the billfish did 40 years ago & then bluefish in my time.
Not an adherent of warming waters moving macks north & offshore. Caught the heck out of cod two years ago. Yes, there are observable changes to fisheries from warming surface waters -- sea bass marching north a shining example.
The Labrador current carries ice melt low/deep & south. Its not unusual for divers to complain of bitter cold in the deep off our coast in summer.
When that ice is gone, when the Labrador Current begins to run warmer, we'll see significant shifts in fisheries. Our artificial reefs may very well support fishable numbers of red snapper one day, but they'll still have sea bass; They still create a strong fishery along Florida & Georgia.
I learned a long time ago the Anti-Skunk for tog & cbass is having more reefs to fish. The less fishing pressure a reef has, the more fish. Some skippers are always looking for new bottom, looking for new reef-structure to fish. Sometimes we spend days at sea with no clients, just out looking for new spots.
More places to fish.. "More Coral, More Fish."
That's what's on the new reef foundation t-shirts. Coffee mugs & decals too.
Makes a big difference, having More Coral.
Lot more tog.
Just more life.
It'll bust loose inshore soon.
Meanwhile, I'll gladly see that you get a t-shirt or mug for a reef-building donation.
To paraphrase a nameless yet well-credentialed fisheries philosopher friend, "Perhaps the best summary of fisheries management in the twenty-teens is its extremely well equipped to deal with the overfishing problems of the 1970s."
You see, my concept of "less fishing pressure on a reef" is not considered in today's management: Not At All.
They haven't even discovered there are natural reefs off our coast. But the "less pressure on a reef" result is forced in greater & greater measure by regulation: Less days of season in conjunction with more restrictive creel limits/size limits making trips less attractive to clients are, in fact, reducing fishing pressure on our reefs.
Fish do not fall from the sky. Managing habitat production is at the heart of modern regulation even if they don't acknowledge habitat exists.
What I have in mind, however, goes the other way. By increasing the amount of reef we can also decrease each reef's fishing pressure: By Increasing Habitat We Can Create Incredible Fisheries..
Roll concrete & boulders off a barge; add a touch of management -- POW.
Imagine a square mile of bottom with thirty of these pipe/boulder clusters after ten years. Lot of fish ..and, no, the habitat that was there before will not have become ghost-reef. The single most illogical hold-up in fisheries restoration today is the tightly-held concept building new reef draws all the fish away from existing reef, That Reef Building Only Attracts Fish & Does Not Produce Fish.
Nope, building new reef reduces pressure on existing reef. Its more effective than catch-restriction at fisheries restoration and must become part of management's plan.
Unfortunately, top-top managers would rather clean the heads on a half-day boat after a rough day than embrace reef building. Even having "The Great Attraction/Production Debate" seems too hard...
Scarcely recognized in today's tautog management, party/charter effort is thought to be as innocent as a grade-school whisper by manager's using only MRFSS/MRIP catch estimates.
It is certainly true in MD's Coastal Bay fishery: Yes, private boats account more tog in the back-bays than party/charter. Its probably true for all the states' inshore tog fisheries.
However, I did not see a private boat reef-fishing offshore in Nov/Jan/Feb. I did hear of a couple private boats targeting tautog in late October.
Our old estimating system, the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MuRFSS) & the newly "improved" Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) hold private boats catch the largest share of annual tautog landings.
In 2011, for instance, private boats from VA to NY are thought by MRIP to have caught 258,000 tog. The estimate is 208,000 fewer for party/charter.
In 2010, even after the "Miracle on Jersey's Jetties" where shore fishers "caught" 174,000 tautog in Mar/Apr, Private boaters in the Mid-Atlantic still crushed the whole field combined. With an estimate of 85,000 tog for party/charter and 458,000 for private boats, they outfished party/charter & shore by a wide margin.
As so often before & here too; I think failure to account license sales--a head count--in catch estimates has so dismembered rational thought that any possibility of a true catch estimate is lost. Because estimates are so far off-base, tautog managers have no true picture of the fishery.
Those tasked with tautog management see such enormous peaks and valleys in catch that contributions of real catch from real reef habitat are lost in a snowstorm of bad statistics.
Allow Me One Small Data Set: Delaware's October Private Boat Tautog Estimate. (closed most of Sept.)
Please note that regs in 2011 were 10 fish at 14 inches. In 2012 it tightened to 15 inches & 5 fish.
It's fairly common to see real increases in regulation/restriction result in counter-intuitive, not-so-real, increased estimates of catch.
Look at the PSE/Margin of Error Spreads too..
Estimate Status Year Wave Common Name Total PSE {PSE Estimate Spread}
FINAL 2008 SEPT/OCT TAUTOG 10,149 47.2 {Between 500 & 19,000}
FINAL 2009 SEPT/OCT TAUTOG 57,931 39.4 {Between 14,000 & 102,000}
FINAL 2010 SEPT/OCT TAUTOG 15,656 63.5 {Between Zero & 34,000}
FINAL 2011 SEPT/OCT TAUTOG 3,918 70.0 {Between Zero & 9,000}
PRELIMINARY 2012 SEPT/OCT TAUTOG 31,651 39.8 {Between 6,000 & 58,000}
Readers should look at the PSE spreads here. A statistician will tell you they are 95% confident the true number of fish caught is somewhere within that spread--not just the centerpoint, the real catch is anywhere in the spread. This is why its so important management be granted access to PSE; Be allowed to adjust an estimate within its PSE so fishers are not unnecessarily over-regulated, nor is over-fishing allowed in under-estimates.
Toward that much-needed repair, watch for the Omnibus Amendment on Recreational Accountability Measures coming soon..
We'll need to write.
We need to push past this stage of management where Uncle MuRFSS sips heavily from his rum while slowly swinging a gold pocket-watch in front of management; "When I snap my fingers you will believe NJ jetty fishers caught more tog in March & April, 2010 than commercial fishers caught all year."
Because habitat in greater scale will necessarily have greater production, it stands to reason that more fishing pressure can be applied where habitat is expanding.
I've seen expanding habitat..
Saw it while sea bass were at their youngest spawning age, just 5 years into management when all of them were spawning; when our sea whip meadows were growing back and fishing was the best I've ever seen..
With better statistics & more coral, fisheries restoration will exceed almost everyone's expectations.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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