Friday, February 14, 2014

Fish Report 2/14/14

Fish Report 2/14/14 
Toughest Kind Of Toggin 
"..We Let Them Destroy It." 
Boat Show – Turner Sculpture Raffle 

No New Fishing Trips To Offer At This Time. 

8,460 "Oyster Castle" reef blocks by the rail – 2,476 at Jimmy's Reef – 1,588 at Ake's – 336 at Lindsey Power's Isle of Wight Reef.. 

A Wonderful Donation, Thanks Richard!! 

Check Out This Reef Raffle! Tickets Available At The Boat Show Or By Contacting Marta Beman at 
See the Reef Foundation's Website if you'd care to help fund our reef building. Or snailmail a check – any check!

Ocean City Reef Foundation
P.O. Box 1072
Ocean City, MD 21843 

My @mediacombb email address is a memory. Please use for correspondence. Yes, its a very old address and fills w/spam occasionally.. 

Greetings All, 
Always a bad omen if still delicious; early Saturday my togging friend Alex caught a lobster. With the bite turned off, NE winds higher than forecasted & cold air cutting to the bone, the day culminated with our pool winner being a just-legal tog that had been snagged exactly forward of the anal fin.   

Sunday offered nicer conditions. Sent some clients home with dinner. Bucktail Bob, mugging the missing-man's spot, landed a 19lb 2oz bull. We tried to tag the beast, but the fish's energy was exhausted and it went home in a cooler instead. Bob's 13 pound female, however, swam away strongly sporting an ALS tag. 
Seventeen pounder last Friday, then a nineteen-plus on Sunday.. Despite these highlights, it's very, very tough fishing. 
With much of the coast buried in snow, I'll let the weather settle before announcing any new trips. 

Ocean City Boat Show Is This Weekend, Feb 14 - 16. 
Reef Foundation always has a booth. Should have new charts ready, will positively have t–shirts & sweats. New coffee mugs are coming too for sponsors who want one, but not in time for the show.. 

Reef Foundation's kicking off a big raffle for a Turner Sculpture dining room table. (see pic below & many of their works at ) Selling for north of twelve thousand dollars, these tables look remarkably like a reef: the glass top mimics water, its bronze sculptures imitate life. Stunning - I can remember when I first saw one.. 
A Turner Sculpture Reef Table is set up at the Boat Show – upstairs in the fishing hall. 
If it's too big, the winner could also select from several smaller pieces.  
Second & third prizes are very sweet too. 
Selling just 250 tickets at $100.00 each, the Ocean City Reef Foundation will use this raffle's proceeds to fund Patrick Miller's Eagle Scout Project. 
Young man aims to build a reef by summer, is on a precise course to do just that. 
His step-father, Capt. Tony Battista, is making sure of it. 
Tony was a driving force in the early years of the Foundation; Instrumental both in the build-out of Russell's Reef & purchasing our small barge which has made nearly 100 deployments. 

Reef building is looking great for 2014. We received an awesome donation from the Gudelsky Family Foundation. Then the MD Artificial Reef Committee voted to give the Coast 25% of a $200,000.00 Maryland Bond Bill dedicated for artificial reef. Personal donations & sponsorships have also been coming in steadily. 

It's time we built a big reef at the Bass Grounds, maybe a mile NE of Jimmy Jackson's Reef & about 8 miles east of the inlet. I'm pricing delivery of a large barge-load of pre-cast concrete units or boulder – 1,400 tons worth. That, in addition to our regular barge runs & daily block-drops, plus Patrick's Eagle Scout project, ought to make a fine year's work. 
Where many in upper management only see reef building as aggregating fish for easier recreational removal – and that is what they were taught in school; I see instead Reef Restoration By Artificial Substrate. Indeed, Capt. Ward Brex, passed many years now, told me this about the Bass Grounds, "We had the best sea bass fishing on the coast and We Let Them Destroy It." 

He was talking about the upsurge of industrial hydraulic surf-clamming in the late 1960s and through the 1970s. 
With sometimes, "Dozens of boats working within sight of each other," it didn't take long to pulverize the easily crumbled substrate (like a hardening peat) where many square miles of soft corals once grew. 

While some stern-towed gear impacts remove growth (or "biogenic reef complexity" if you prefer) from cobble beds or sandstone slabs, hope remains that a reef could re-grow if rock substrate remains. 
Its very common, however, that a substrate where our reef-forming hard & soft corals grow is easily tunneled through by reef inhabitants & effortlessly crumbled in the hand – It is this type of substrate that was lost to decades-past gear impacts. 

There's just a tiny bit of this once-enourmous natural reef left at the Bass Grounds; A place where at least two generations of fishers caught sea bass without benefit of precise electronic navigation, Where 'iron men in wooden boats' ran 7, 8 or 9 miles offshore using a compass & watch, not GPS or LORAN; Where they drifted and only rarely anchored; Where, after the spring porgy run, the recreational fleet often fished an entire summer for sea bass.. 

"We had the best sea bass fishing on the coast and we let them destroy it."
It took 5 years but I was able to get the whole area permitted for reef building by the mid-2000s. Wknow how to re-grow lost reef. The Reef Foundation is slowly returning hard substrate to that slough; corals & fish take care of colonization.. 

Despite efforts of some of today's fishery managers, we remain stuck with a management system where 'restoring' sea bass populations means using one method: Catch Restriction. 
Doing a bloody poor job of it too. 

Because data in coastwide collection masks regional fish-population response; ten to fifteen years ago management missed the greatest number of sea bass our region has had in modern times. Population increase stemming from early regulation combined with a happy accident of natural habitat increase; the number of sea bass available to fishers grew phenomenally with a smaller size limit, no closed season & no bag limit. 
Recreational & commercial landings were far higher during the early stages of management's 'rebuilding' strategy, yet the cbass population doubled & doubled. 
Today, half the year is Closed to recreational sea bass fishing, size limits are larger & our possession limit is shrinking – yet our local sea bass population continues to skid downhill despite much tighter regulation. 

Because it is precisely true that our region's sea bass population is in decline even though an entire summer season's landings today would not equal one day's catch just 4 to 6 years into early management: Managers Must Grasp This Simple Truth: Catch Restriction Alone Cannot Solve This Fishery Restoration Puzzle.  

Our reef-fish restoration policies contain no expression, not the least inkling, of 'age at maturity' - the spawning participation changes owing to size limit increase that I've often written about. In the early days of regulation every sea bass over 8 months of age was a "spawner" - In today's population only a few age-two cbass & most age-three sea bass are spawning.. 
It also remains that no strategy has evolved based on historical seafloor habitat loss, nor has any conservation of remaining habitats been planned for, nor any real effort of habitat discovery. 

Buried in an endless quota argument created in large part by catch estimates no one believes, and lacking foundational knowledge of how regulation & habitat influence spawning success; Managers cannot begin to grasp these strengths: They're chipping flint points while howitzers sit unused in their armory. 

Meanwhile, we'll continue to restore seafloor habitat by donation & raffle. 
For now, its the best we can do. 

See pic. There must be raffle tickets left – I'm not allowed to buy any! 

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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