Thursday, February 06, 2014

Fish Report 2/3/14

Fish Report 2/3/14 
Mini-bergs & Tautog 
Not Funny 
Comment To Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement 

Tog Trip - Friday, February 7th – 8AM to 4PM - $110.00 - 14 Anglers Sells Out.. 
Long Tog – Saturday, February 8th – 6AM to 5PM – $150.00 – 16 Anglers Sells Out - Looks To Be A "Calm Before The Storm," Expect A Very Long Run.. 
The fishing hasn't been all that, but its the best I can offer.. 

Reservations For Tautog Trips at 410 - 520 - 2076 — They Answer 24/7. 
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.. 

We provide green crabs. You're welcome to bring any kind of crab you like – even lobster, even plastic. 


No Live Fish Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (I Believe The Live-Fish Black Market Has Hurt The Tog Fishery, But Not As Much As Bad Sea Bass Regulations)
Agreed With Or Not, All Regulations Observed – Maryland: 4 Tog @ 16 Inches – Sea Bass Are Closed. 

Bring A (not terribly big) Fish Cooler With ICE (or fresh snow) For Your Party.. A 48 QT Cooler Is Good For 2 Guys. Even Now You Should ICE Fresh Fish.. 
Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early.
Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat.. 

If You Won't Measure & Count Your Fish The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Measure & Count — ALWAYS — No Exceptions!

8,364 "Oyster Castle" reef blocks by the rail – 2,438 at Jimmy's Reef – 1,588 at Ake's – 312 at Lindsey Power's Isle of Wight Reef.. 

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, 
Mike & I have been breaking ice more than I can ever recall. Its a lot of work for just a trip now & then.  
Only pay around for us though  ..unless we wanted to sign-on with a plumber to repair frozen pipes. Plenty of that in this resort town. 

All the boats in the marina save mine are hauled, seeing mini-bergs drifting down bay with each ebb current; All we need now are cod & mackerel. 
Fat chance. 
Maybe though. Someday..

Snuck a tog trip in last Friday. Had one guy limit-out and a couple anglers get skunked. With other fellows in-between those extremes and the pool winner an OK fish; It wasn't stellar. Best I can offer though. 
With a slow tog bite, throwing back 2 to 4 pound sea bass was neither fun nor funny. 

Going again next weekend before the blizzard.. 


My clients only kept 1,667 sea bass from May 19th through Oct 31st last year.  
That's mostly because we're targeting summer flounder on the same corals where I've fished for sea bass all my working life.  
Still, clients often caught & kept 2,000 sea bass a day –I'd estimate over 1,000 times in the 1990s/early 2000s– yet we caught less than 2000 cbass this year all-together by the end of October. 

Typical reaction from the press-release-only educated is, "Ah Ha! Two Thousand Fish A Day!! That's the 'overfishing' I've heard so much about and why we struggle so hard today with restoration!" 
Unfortunately, that's also the usual reaction from Ph.Ds..
Problem is, most of those catches occurred while the DelMarVa sea bass population was climbing straight up — Doubling & Doubling..

Its also true that before I began my 9 inch boat-regs in 1992, I sometimes had catches exceeding 7,000 sea bass in one day. 
It is therefore accurate to assert that we caught one-third as many sea bass in seven months of 2013 as we would sometimes catch in seven hours before management began. 
By any method of accounting we should be leaving a vast number of sea bass on the table and the population should be skyrocketing. 
But that's not what's happening. 
Sea bass have slowed their spawning to match their perception of full habitat.. 
Fish that used to spawn at age 7 or 8 months now spawn at age 3 or more. 
Its arguable there were more sea bass along DelMarVa pre-managemnt than today. 
It's provable there were fantastically many more sea bass after five years of management than today. 
If anyone thinks that's good management, I'd offer a different opinion. 

The improvement to our fishing in 1992 from a simple 9 inch size limit was fantastic: Stabilized catches, improved client satisfaction, increasing reef-fish populations with every possible habitat being rapidly colonized, and every ocean-found sea bass in the spawning stock. . .  
Very much the opposite of today's regulatory goat-rodeo. 

If collective thinking were correct, if ever-tightening regulation were a path to abundant fish; then having our season cut by half and regulating such an incredible decline in catch/landings that a skipper could honestly represent seven hours of historical catch as much greater than seven months of present day catch should have fostered an enormous increase in the local sea bass population.. 
But It's Not. 

Up north there is a sea bass population peaking after exponential population growth occurred on newly warmed/newly available habitat. 
Ours is a past-prime population that saw exponential growth a decade and more ago but is now tricked into the slowed-down production of a species at habitat capacity.. 

Managers are failing to account regional variation in habitat-isolated spawning stocks. They're using MRIP catch estimates to base management decisions from. 
They're missing opportunity after opportunity to create resilience & prosperity in the coastal fisheries; missing opportunity after opportunity to truly restore a fishery.  

By developing a method to hone recreational catch estimates we can gather a truer picture of recreational extraction. The closer to the truth we get, the simpler management & science's task will be. 

MRIP's biggest failing was inherited from MRFSS & amplified in the new system. Starting right around 2003/2004, private boat estimates began to far outpace Fish & Wildlife Service angling effort estimates and fishing effort estimates from states with a license.. 
I doubt mandatory license data, the "Salt-Water Registry," has been incorporated into the new estimates yet. 
I do dearly wish NOAA would develop low/high stops based off mandatory 'vessel trip reports' or VTRs from for-hire skippers.. 
In every fishery there is a percentage of catch, a ratio between private boat & for-hire boats, that is rarely exceeded. For instance, in MD an assertion that private boats caught more than 15% of our state's sea bass would require extraordinarily firm data. In MA it may be 50%.. These percentages vary by season, by state, and by species.. (e.g. from January to April sea bass catch would be 99.999% for-hire.)

Accordingly, where MRIP holds NY private boats to have caught more sea bass in two summer months than the entire East Coast's Party/Charter fleet caught all year; if the new MRIP catch estimating system were configured with a VTR-based alarm it would pop smoke & flares when estimates like this occur so far outside their anticipated value. 
Instead, there are no anticipated values – any catch is possible, any amount of fish at all. These wild range values are then sent to forward artillery manned by management with no consideration of plausibility nor need of plausibility; With aim taken owing only to MRIP's assertions of overfishing, regulation rains down as friendly fire. 

I've not heard from NOAA about the sea bass catch estimates. If anyone received a letter back from Dr. Sullivan or anyone else at NOAA please let me know. 
Perhaps Dr. Sullivan sent our letters down the ladder and a response will take a little more time.. 

Fisherman being agitated about catch data is the oldest joke in fisheries management. Fishers that can demonstrate data's failing, however, aren't so funny. 

Destroying a perfectly simple fishery to repair with bad catch estimates ain't funny either. 
Getting less funny by the day. 
Regulation . . 

Here's my Comment to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement - 

Greetings from Downstream,  
Our once-blue Mid Atlantic ocean waters have grown greener & greener since the oyster collapse. 
Where shell is fine for a put & take fishery; shell & shell mimics have not been useful as substrates for oyster-reef ecosystem restoration. More vertical surface appears crucial.. 
With green water sometimes extending 60 miles offshore these days, white marlin are now often pushed beyond canyon's edge in search of clear water in which they can feed. Even bluefish are 4X further out than 35 years ago.. 
Chesapeake outflows are trapped in an enormous eddy. Because ocean waters are nearly a meter higher on the north side the world's most powerful current, its evident that the Gulf Stream dams the very weak terminus of the Labrador current as it wanders south and inshore to a finish: Along the shelf waters of the southern Mid Atlantic Bight flushing is minimized. 
Water quality collapse cumulative, your problems are greater than the Chesapeake's. 
Seek to imitate successes in oyster reef restoration - not methods with a multi-decadal history of failure. 
You must not lose the fight for water quality. Our marine fisheries & ecosystem are stressed enough. 
Monty Hawkins 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

Blog Archive