Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fish Report 5/11/14

Fish Report 5/11/14  
Been Toggin (should be sea bassing) 
Going Toggin Some More (see above) 
Imbalanced To Poor Result 

Alternate Email Address: 

Tog Fishing - Inshore Trips All. Green Crabs Provided.  
Calm Seas Anticipated. 
Monday's Already Open With Lots Of Room. 
Tuesday & Wednesday, May 13th/14th, 7 to 3  $110.00 Per Person – Twelve Anglers Sells Out, Less Than Half Dozen More Likely.  
Reservations Required at 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..  
Be a half hour early! We always leave early! 
..except when someone shows up right on time. 
Clients arriving late will see the west end of an east bound boat.. 

Have Sea Bass Trips Scheduled From May 19th Through The End Of June – Reservations Being Accepted.

8,908 "Oyster Castle" reef blocks by the rail – 2,620 at Jimmy's Reef – 1,794 at Ake's – 432 at Lindsey Power's. Keep dropping 24 every trip. Will Schedule Eagle Scout Drops Soon. Take 144 blocks plus on those trips. 
Going to need another truckload soon.. 

You Can Sponsor Reef Building At - Thanks! 

Greetings All, 
The tog bite did improve in settled weather. Have had several days when half the clients were limited-out. That means two guys had a limit Saturday 5/10/14 .. 
Sailing very light. Tog fishing isn't for everyone. 
Last Tuesday's trip had no reservations. Announced with a few hours notice immediately after Coast Guard inspection, it was time to start fishing. Wanted to check an offshore mooring buoy anyway, before Tow-Boat U.S. crew deployed a barge-load of concrete at Lindsey's Reef late Tuesday morning.  
I was surprised to find four guys who wanted to go togging. 

Mooring was fine, reef deployment of concrete pipe perfect, and the bite wonderful compared to recent trips. 

The next day, Wednesday, with TV cameras rolling, proved my renewed enthusiasm baseless. I think Alex was high-hook with a limit. 

Thursday afternoon I had the Berlin Intermediate School Fishing Club. Youthful exuberance barely tempered in the presence of adults; each and every aspect of fishing aboard a boat was brand new for most of these youngsters. 
Had an easy anchor set in light NE winds & no current whatever. 
So we waited. 
Playing with crabs cooler than watching TV, at least for a while; learning to operate a reel suddenly a necessity; we waited some more. 

A nudge, a nibble, hooked-up. I let the little gal next to me reel. 
Another bite, another tog & another; hooking fish themselves. Bite turned on as the current increased.  
Some "icky" - some sickly; Catching, Tagging – Time to go. 
Great trip. 

Friday offered mixed results. Some fellows had a really nice catch. Others, not-so-much. 

Used to be we'd have a sold-out sea bass rail everyday from the first week of May all the way into June. Fishing became incredibly better under light regulation. In 2003 I wrote, "Our sea bass are at habitat capacity." 
Then NMFS 'helped us out' with staunch catch-estimate based regulation beginning with the emergency sea bass closure in 2009. 
Twenty tickets I didn't sell last Saturday alone, adherence to implausible data is wrecking more than just my business model..  
In five inshore trips and over many-many fishing spots, I did not anchor over a single piece of structure that existed when I started fishing from OC in 1980. 
Yet every single spot had tog on it; including, to the disappointment of some anglers, many shorts. 
I'm confident every spot from before I started fishing here also has tog on it – including shorts. 
I'm also confident those shorts will grow & spawn – are needed; are a vital part of our region's tautog population growth. 
I also saw four partyboats and a charter all within eyesight Saturday. They too were all on new reef. I hope their clients also caught tog.

Management's concern is aroused when overfishing klaxons sound, when catch estimates warn of disaster that can only be avoided by increased catch restriction. Saving fish populations from the evils of mid/late twentieth century overfishing by further regulatory tightening is the only path they comprehend. 

Yet I'm positive if all our recent reef constructions were removed, if our artificial reefs were taken out of the ocean, and all those new tautog colonies forced to inhabit older reefs present before 1980 -- the cloud of tog over those remaining reefs/wrecks would be immense, a great concentration of many reef populations amid few remaining reefs, more tautog in total than since 1970 certainly ..and far more susceptible to overfishing while concentrated amid a handful of spots – the real kind of overfishing, not the statistical hallucinations of late.  

Further; if we also removed artificial reef habitats sited in the late 1970s, that enormous collection of now-homeless tautog would have to migrate because there would be no suitable tautog habitat in the area whatever ..unless we look further back, to the 1940s & 50s - some of the 1960s, when a huge swath of natural hardbottom fishers called 'the Bass Grounds' was intact – before that bottom was lost to stern–towed fishing & clamming gear damage.   

Action by management to date indicates they have no time & see no need to develop an understanding of habitat in marine fisheries restoration. 
The battle rages inshore; in our rivers, marshes & bays; there management can see the need for dam removal & aquatic vegetation restoration, for oyster hardbottoms' repair 
..but our nearshore ocean seabed habitats have yet to make the restoration list. Indeed, our natural reefs truly await discovery. 

Across the upper spheres of management are many who remain deeply opposed to building artificial reef; who only suffer our constructions because they have not determined how to stop them, who know we grow only bad corals on artificial reef where "fish are first attracted & concentrated, then more easily extracted by recreational anglers." 
That truly is the logic associated with opposition to reef building from management's perspective: Building Reef Concentrates Fish For Easier Catching. Nevermind feeding, sheltering, growth to maturity & spawning; Nevermind increased spawning success in greater & greater amounts of habitable bottom. Because we catch fish on our home-made constructions, they must be bad: they must be attracting fish from the 'good reefs' to the bad reefs.. 

I've researched this as intensely as I might. There are numerous college texts that hold precisely this point; 'reefs are built to attract fish for easier catching.'
The tautog example above, however, illustrates the true, yet very different effect of reef construction: The more reef we build, the more diffuse recreational effort becomes. 
Instead of building reef, we would have to remove reef in industrial scale to concentrate fish & make recreational extraction easier. 

That's exactly what must have happened early in the industrial fishing era. While square miles of sea whip bottom were being removed by trawl & dredge from the 1940s thru the 1970s, surviving fish must have collected on remaining reef. Whether large rock or shipwreck, that's where fish flourished until LORAN C allowed simple repeatable relocation of these "too-robust for destruction" habitats. 
Once discovered, very high catches gave the illusion all was well in the reef fisheries. 

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will stick-to & defend any preposterous estimate to its death. They will not back down. I even had a senior scientist say, in a recorded public meeting, "No one with a brain in their head would believe that estimate." He was responding to my question about the 2010 NJ jetty estimate where shore fishers caught more tautog in March & April than all commercial effort caught all year. Absolutely no one believes that 173,000 tog estimate, but the estimate still remains in the data. NMFS will not change an estimate.  
We've recently had a sea bass estimate where private boats in New York caught more sea bass in two months than ALL MID-ATLANTIC COMMERCIAL FISHERS LANDED ALL YEAR
That cannot be correct. Yet NMFS tells my Congressman & Senators, 'Estimates aren't perfect but they average out just fine. Besides, its the best scientific information available.' 
That's what they'll tell your Representatives too. 
You should write them and ask that they demand better estimates. 

MRIP & MuRFSS depend on Yeti/Bigfoot logic. Because there are reports of towering man-like creatures living where man does not, we must live in fear. 
The law says fishery managers must use their BEST available science. It seems they've taken that to mean "any available science" - correct science or not makes no difference. 
There's only one tiny part of the science that says sea bass are hyper-abundant and being caught in an insane gold–rush – MRIP Private Boat estimates.. 
The commercial & recreational for-hire data points in another direction. 

Management's claim these estimates are fine for their intended purpose is a complete misrepresentation of their factual long-time use. Some MRIP estimates lean more toward hoax than science. 

It is not true that NY's private boats caught more sea bass in two months than all Mid-Atlantic party/charter & commercial fishers caught all year. That's a preposterous assertion found only in MRIP. 
It is not true that NJ for-hire caught just 3% of that state's huge sea bass catch last summer. That's a preposterous assertion found only in MRIP. 
NMFS contention cannot be true that such huge assertions of catch are "OK" in the grand scheme of data-flow. Such huge spikes (outliers in statistic-speak) must be destroying any accuracy that might be found in the rest of the estimates. 
MRIP's errors are too huge. Where parts-per-million of cockroach may be allowable in vanilla ice cream, we're getting whole mouthfuls of crunchiness. 
That's why regulations are growing tighter..

We should be sea bass fishing. 
We are not allowed, however, because MuRFSS & MRIP claim we've gone over-quota too many times of late. 
With so much fishing effort switched from sea bass to tautog, the only reason we've not completely destroyed the tautog population is because of the 16 inch size limit and a more diffuse population living on many new habitats. 

Early in management's history tautog flourished because EVERYONE on reefs of any sort was catching sea bass. Tog are a pain in the neck to fish for compared to sea bass. (and sea bass are a pain in the neck compared to flounder..) 
While everyone was catching sea bass, the sea bass population doubled twice. Management is supposed to be able to do that – grow a fish population while continuing to extract fish. 

Now sea bass are in decline because their age at spawning is being held back by regulation. Management's supposed to watch-out for that.

We get no credit whatever for building new areas of Reef Habitat where fish actually feed, shelter from predators, grow to maturity & spawn – exactly what's called for in the Essential Fish Habitat provisions of Magnuson. These hard substrates deployed at sea where mussels & corals colonize are also colonized by fish in the same instinctual fashion: Mussels and corals attach to whatever substrate they find: so too do reef fish 'attach' to reef habitat via habitat fidelity and use it throughout their life. 
Management knows we're just 'attracting fish' - building recreational fish traps.. 
Management accepts no blame for regulation's biological affect on spawning behaviors, while exuding an air of invincibility concerning the soundness of wholly-implausible recreational catch estimates: they remain clueless of habitat's vital role in restoration, and reduced spawning's calamitous effect on populations.  

I witnessed the final decline in unregulated fisheries, the last of a time when there was no regulation at all. 
I truly hope here & now is the second & final bottom of our reef fisheries. 
Where real and wholly unregulated overfishing yielded brutal result, & then early management had wonderful success; Now management's unthinking response to impossible assertions of catch has imbalanced fishing effort so badly that earlier gains are being squandered.  

I have seen fishery management work: It's a wonderful thing. 
We now witness it fail. 

Tell your DC Representatives:
We need Accountability Measures repealed. (AMs allow, require actually, managers to close a fishery if recreational catch data shows we've gone over quota) Because MRIP estimates are actually worse than our old system, AMs are brutal. We need a true repair of MRIP based in part on "For-Hire Percentage Of The Fishery" & also Percentage of Keeper/Throwbacks Comparison From For-Hire VTRs. We need managers to have a safety valve when the data's no good. 
We need population biology & habitat ecology brought to the fore in fisheries management. We'll never be without catch restriction, its absolutely needed; but catch restiction's done all it can with recreational species. 
We need NMFS to not only recognize artificial reef as a necessary component of fisheries restoration; we need them to help build it. Instead of seizing our reef production to demonstrate their restoration prowess, we need careful examination of our reef fisheries to best maximize production. 

Recognize you are not likely to access your Representatives – but you can access staff. They're universally bright & sometimes well-versed in fisheries. They get paid to talk to constituents. They do get word to the boss.. 
Reauthorization of Magnuson is coming. So are funding requests. Its a great time to establish communication. 

And a great time to catch sea bass.  


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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