Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fish Report 4/21/13

Fish Report 4/21/13 
Couple Trips Coming
The Catching & Some Releasing 
Reef Dinner  
Deep Sea Coral Conference 
PLEASE COMMENT  See MAFMC Amendment Below My Signature That Deals With Bad Catch Estimates—Putting A Stamp On An Envelope Could Prevent Future "Emergency" Closures From Bad Data

The Hall family is hosting our OC Reef Foundation fund raiser again in 2013. Date just set: Wednesday, May 15th from 5 to 7 at Hall's Restaurant, 59th street bayside in OC, MD. 
All you can eat Italian; we'll also have ham & beef carving stations this year. Look for great silent, Chinese & live auction items and a good time with many reef supporters.

Couple Tog Trips: 
Wednesday & Thursday, April 24th & 25th - 7AM to 3PM - $110.00 – Eight Clients Sell These Two Trips Out. 
Friday, April 26th – 6AM to 4PM - $130.00 – Twelve Clients Sell Out. 
Saturday, April 27th – 6AM to 5PM -- $150.00 – Twelve Clients Sell Out. 
Reservations Required @ 410 - 520 - 2076.
LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - 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 The Tog Fishery)
All Regulations Observed - 4 Fish @ 16 Inches.
Green Crabs Provided. You're welcome to bring any hard bait or shrimp: 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..

I have opened my reservation book to sea bass reservations. 
NMFS, however, will probably NOT announce our sea bass season until a few days before the season Starts May 19th. Ticket Prices For Sundays & Weekdays In 2013 are $110.00 - Saturdays $125.00.
Opening Day, Sunday, May 19th & Monday the 20th, however, will be Long Sea Bass Trips 6AM to 3:30PM - $125.00.. Ditto Friday & Saturday, May 24th & 25th.

Pre-regulation announcement sales will be transferable--BUT NOT REFUNDABLE.

I have every reason to believe May 19th will be correct. Unfortunately, these are dark times in Federal Fisheries Management.
It's time to comment on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Amendment to prevent needless additional pain in the recreational fisheries due to bad catch estimate data — Please Comment. See Below Signature. 

4,182 "oyster castle" reef blocks by the rail - 1,192 at Jimmy's Reef. 

Greetings All, 
Just a few trips since my 4/9/13 report. Lot of bad weather, plus using the best weather to get caught up with last fall's painting have us eating frozen fish. 
Don't recall any clients getting skunked. Do recall a fair number of limits and 125 or so tags going by the rail. Perhaps the best release this year was Capt. Amanda's +-15 pound, 26 inch tog Sunday.. 
While I expect better action as waters warm, it remains possible that even good tog fishers can be keeper-skunked on a tog trip. 

Though our winter tog clients certainly didn't mind; After we applied our final finish coat of paint last November the wind came SE off the ocean and all that pretty gloss went flat. A high gloss finish is more protective & much easier to scrub. Whole lower house & wheelhouse dodger re-coated this week; we'll do the hull & waistcap come fall.  
I love yachting..  
Reef Foundation's been getting concrete pipe out at a steady clip. Trucked in & donated by Rinker Concrete, the guys from Tow-Boat US Ocean City load the Reef Foundation's barge and tow it into position at a mooring buoy my crew & I set.  Using a small excavator, the load of 1,800 pound pipes are shoved quickly off the barge. 
Two weeks ago we made a set at Jimmy's Reef  bullseye — right behind two tog condos and adjacent to our growing pile of 1,192 reef blocks. 
Monday last we made a concrete pipe set at Doug's Reef; another nice shot. Snuck that deployment in just before a big wind. Mike, Jake & I set the mooring at about 7 am, then waited patiently over a nearby reef catching tog while the tow boat worked its way out. 
The barge is already loaded again. This time we loaded the pipes on top with even more concrete inside. 
If future generations wonder, "What in the world did they think was so hard about catching tog?" Reef building & management combined will have succeeded wonderfully. 
I expect we've got a good start. 
The Hall family is hosting our OC Reef Foundation fund raiser again in 2013. Date just set, Wednesday, May 15th from 5 to 7 at Hall's 59th Street bayside. All you can eat Italian; we'll also have ham & beef carving stations this year. Look for great silent, Chinese & live auction items – lots of fishing gear -- and a good time with many reef supporters. We'll soon need another truckload of reef blocks and could always use more funding for barge-loads of pipe. If you're of a mind to donate yet can't attend the dinner see or just play the 50/50 Reef Raffle every trip aboard the Morning Star.   

Attended the Deep Sea Corals Workshop last week. Many of the East Coast's best & brightest cold-water coral scientists were present, there were a couple of squid/butterfish trawl owners & one recreational fisher too. 
Last year NOAA searched the deep looking for coral colonies. Found some. 
Dave Packer & Dr. Sandra Brooke offered cutting-edge looks at our present state of discovery including Dr. Brooke's tale of a 5 meter bubble gum coral -- Paragorgia arborea. That's 16.4 feet of coral growing straight up. This discovery is as if someone had found an oak twice as big as the Wye Oak - alive. The coral must be growing beyond depths where fishing gears are known to do damage or they'd have declared it a National Monument. 
Dr. Brooke swiftly got on my list of favorite scientists when she said, "Wherever you see a rock you'll find something growing on it." 
She didn't say it had to be a natural rock. 
(I'm positive that not only will animals such as corals attach to & grow on rock, but enough rocks pushed off barges will grow fish populations too.) 
She also told us of 'cold seeps' -- newly discovered places not unlike the hydrothermal vent communities except they're cool, not screaming hot — and they're off our coast; And of Lophelia corals in our canyons: She told us of super-abundant spawning aggregations of chain dogfish around deep-water shipwrecks with such enthusiasm I though these wrecks might be declared Essential Fish Habitat even before managers recognized any Mid-Atlantic corals: She told us of hard-bottom sediments found next to cold seeps that weren't truly rock, at least not yet, but were hard enough to support growth    
..and of trash: fishing trash like nets, traps & fishing line; but everyday garbage too, trash like plastic grocery bags..
There's a lot of discovery waiting to happen. Not all of it will be good. 
I think what struck me most was a picture of black belly rose fish in their canyon-bottom habitat. Its obvious to me they are in 'predator response' positions, hiding perfectly in rocky places hollowed by countless generations of fish; But no rose fish ever saw "light" before and so couldn't hide from the camera.  

Fishery management too has never had the "light" of habitat's importance shone upon it, at least not in the Mid-Atlantic.. 
Everything "alive" must feed, grow & reproduce. Everything alive also responds to its habitat. 
As true for algae as it is for blue marlin: where habitat provides abundance, reproduction must be enhanced. 
Doesn't matter if you're a squid trawl operator, environmentalist, surf fisherman, party boat skipper or fishery manager – our present path of increasing the abundance of algae is bad; increasing marine habitat quality instead would allow increased production of many desirable species; creates a path toward increased economic benefit through restoration. 

This workshop was unique. There'd never been a meeting before to discuss Mid-Atlantic coral habitat management. 
It was also unique in that not once did I hear "Oh, they're not reef building corals" .. I used to hear that all the time: Would begin & end the conversation in one sentence.  
It seems to have sunk-in that Darwin & Lyell's mid-1800s search for what caused the formation of continents has nothing to do with corals fish use as habitat. Because shell fossils are often found even on our highest mountains; early geologists, who knew nothing of abduction, subduction & plate tectonics, believed corals must GROW continents.. That's why "reef building corals" were thought singularly important. For our purpose today we need to understand if these stationary species growing on the seafloor, including corals, form fish/squid/lobster habitat, not 'grow' land. 

Curiously, every single picture of squid mops—eggs—I've ever seen was on some manner of reef. These sticky egg masses are not laid on sand. 
We know there used to be a much-more robust inshore squid fishery back in the day.. 
Like Dr. Brooke said, "Wherever you see a rock you'll find something growing on it." 

Another presentation at the deep sea corals workshop was a "predictive model" - a GIS model of where corals might occur. 
Although this was clearly an advancement in GIS mapping, it was irritating to me because it failed to recognize any rock inside 100 fathoms and therefore predicted no coral inside 100 fathoms. 
Almost all the work I've done has been inside 20 fathoms.. I'm trying to show how restoring nearshore corals is vital to growing fish populations. 
Only eighty fathoms to go. 

On an incredibly advanced computer system showing all the overlays available from the MARCO portal GIS overlays—the most detailed charts ever made, trawl operator Capt. Ruhle showed track lines, actual tow history, from a decade of tows near a canyon. One large area in just fifty fathoms had no tows whatever, but had instead a lot of 'hang' marks. When towing a +- $50,000.00 net these guys do not want to get hung, they do not want to get stuck. I know the area absent Capt. Ruhle's trawl tracks to be rocky bottom sea bass & lobster use: It Is Reef In Every Regard  ..however, though very large, the area didn't show up in the "predictive model" nor in any of NOAA's work. 
I expect NOAA ought to look for shallower deep water corals, ought to look for rocks inshore: These "Trawl Hangs" are key. 
At the end of the day this is the 'cold water' or 'deep-sea coral' phase; the stuff of deep-water marine ecologists' dreams. Next, soon I hope, NOAA will look inshore and begin to unravel the mystery of seafloor habitat's role in fishery production. 
Whether inshore or off, there's no anthropological work being done that I've heard of. No talking to long-retired skippers, No examples such as the grouper fishery in fifty fathoms above the Washington Canyon in the late 1970s that's gone missing. I have the bearings where that bottom longline fishery took place. Today we can catch a sea bass there once in a while, see a lobster rig on it, but the remaining habitat isn't robust enough to support grouper or even many sea bass. Why? What happened? 

Before the first Magnuson-Stevens Act was passed US boats used to be outnumbered 20 to 1 off there in the deep — BIG overseas trawlers were towing much heavier gear than is used today, and towed without benefit of precise electronic navigation. As inshore; Where hard substrate is not overly robust, we must assume if rocky bottom could be be trawled — it was trawled. 
Inshore we have areas of reef measuring in square miles that disappeared during the surf clam boon-years of the 1960s & 70s. I have video of reef that grew back in the 1990s only to be lost again in the mid-2000s.  
But NOAA doesn't have any of that. They're as an architect accepting the task of re-engineering a burnt down factory--without benefit of blueprints. They're restoring reef fish without any idea of what today's remaining reef habitat looks like, nor any notion of what's been lost.  


One thing for sure's been lost; Scientific integrity in our recreational catch estimates. 
The Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey (MRFSS) you'll recall, was "repaired & replaced" by the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP.) 
When one of MRFSS's worst recreational catch estimates -- 73,000 tautog caught from NJ's jetties in Mar/April 2010 -- turns into a 'repaired' estimate of 174,000 tautog instead under the New & Improved MRIP system & slips through without objection: Its time to reconsider how management approaches our estimates. 
When managers look constituents in the eye & say they believe MRIP has created better result, has created better catch estimates; it is because they have not looked closely, have only read their own press releases. 
Its far more likely those NJ jetty anglers caught a couple hundred fish — if that many — have never caught even 1,000 during a single March/April and haven't caught 174,000 tautog in all the March/Aprils those jetties have existed combined. 
Readers know I have many examples of ludicrous estimates; Here's a MRFSS/MRIP comparison of Massachusetts Party/Charter Scup for July/Aug with the full PSE or 'margin of error' spread: 

Estimate StatusYearWaveSpecies  New MRIP  {Old MRFSS}PSE  or MRIP's Margin of Error Spread
FINAL2004JULY/AUGUSTSCUP752,942        {19,547}48.9    or      20,000 to 1,450,000
FINAL2005JULY/AUGUSTSCUP     1,382       {12,557}   67.3    or        Zero to 3,200
FINAL2006JULY/AUGUSTSCUP  76,908        {49,624}46.2   or       6,000 to 140,000

This table represents our Congressionally mandated statistical catch estimate improvement in a supremely stable fishery. Everyone, especially the National Academy of Sciences & Congress, knew MRFSS estimates were unreliable and demanded an improved system. That's why Accountability Measures were scheduled to phase in after repairs to the estimating system, because it couldn't possibly be fair to hold recreational fishers accountable for what were known to be Bad Estimates. 
Unfortunately, on our way to improved accuracy we took a wrong turn and ended up in a garbage dump. 
MRIP's full and complete statistical answer to, "How many scup did Massachusetts Party/Charter anglers catch in July/Aug, 2004" is between 20,000 & 1,450,000 — MRIP is 95% positive the actual number of scup caught is somewhere—anywhere--in that spread. That's the "confidence interval." 
The 'centerpoint' management uses has no more validity than any other point in the spread.   
As it stands today, Managers MUST, however obvious it may be that errors exist, use the centerpoint -- here 752,942 -- to represent the real & actual catch: They have to use new estimates as they come out, no matter how wacky, as if a creation of simple arithmetic.  

Among its features, the Omnibus Amendment for Recreational Accountability Measures will allow managers to use the full statistical spread, the margin of error — PSE — in their calculations of recreational catch: They would no longer be required to Close Fisheries with centerpoint data no one believes.. 

By sending in Comment we have opportunity here to allow common sense back into fishery management, to allow managers to use the full spread of PSE (margin of error) in a recreational catch estimate. 
We have opportunity here to prevent needless closures — perhaps even for years -- because of bad data.  
Fishery closures based on bad estimates have grown more brutal in recent years & will  positively get worse if nothing is done.
That's what the Omnibus Amendment for Recreational Accountability Measures addresses. 
A new Magnuson re-write will be years away. 
We need to write comment & put a stamp on it. 
Need to attend the amendment's local meetings. 
We need Accountability Measures based on bad catch estimates off our back. 

Better Use Of Catch Estimates Will Create Better Management With Better Economic & Biological Result. 
More Oysters Growing On Robust Vertical Substrates Will Begin To Turn Green Ocean Waters Blue. 
More Coral, More Fish. 
Re-Reef The Mid-Atlantic. 
Cement-Over & Use MRIP For Reef Substrate.  

See Comment Below. 

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Party Boat Morning Star 

Comments Due by May 15th. 
See May 2nd Ocean City Meeting Notice & Link To Federal Register at -- Other state's meetings at   

Put a stamp on it. 
Snail Mail Comment To: 
Rec AM Amendment - Jim Armstrong
800 N. State Street - Suite 201 
Dover, DE 19901; 

Dear Chairman Robins, Dr. Moore & Mr. Armstrong, 
I'd like to urge Council to consider creating the strongest possible defense against poor recreational catch estimates. Because catch estimates have grown worse, not better, while management's need for accuracy has grown greater, the management community MUST be allowed to use the full statistical answer to, "how many fish did they catch?" and not just an estimate's centerpoint.  
Below are my selections from the Recreational Accountability Measures comment sheet. 

1D) Alternative 1D. ACL/ACT Post Hoc Evaluation. The ACL/ACT that was set for a given fishing year is re-evaluated based on an updated assessment.

 2C) Alternative 2C. Eliminate In-Season Closure Authority. Regulatory language regarding monitoring / closure of the recreational fisheries will be removed. This alternative, if chosen, would reflect a preference for addressing recreational overages in subsequent fishing years rather than imposing an early closure.

 3C) Alternative 3C. Confidence Interval. When a stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring for that stock, the recreational sector ACL will be evaluated based on an annual comparison of an appropriate confidence interval of the total catch estimates (landings and dead discards), where the entire confidence interval (i.e., including the lower confidence limit) is above the recreational ACL to trigger an AM. Both landings and dead discard estimates will be evaluated in determining if the recreational sector ACL has been exceeded.

 4C) Alternative 4C. Payback when Stock is Overfished or when OFL is Exceeded. ... the overage (in pounds) will be deducted, as soon as possible, from a subsequent single fishing year recreational sector ACT only if the stock is overfished and/or OFL has been exceeded AND B/Bmsy is <1. When these conditions are not met, AMs will consist of adjustment to bag/size/season and in-season monitoring for early closure when the recreational overage caused OFL to be exceeded, but B/Bmsy >1, or caused ABC to be exceeded. In-season monitoring only will occur when only the Rec ACL has been exceeded.

Thank You For Your Consideration, 

Monty Hawkins  

Berlin, MD. 

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