Friday, October 17, 2014

Fish Report 10/17/14

Fish Report 10/16/14
Unlocking NOAA's Pillory 
An Iconic Photo 
Not Possible 

Have Reservation Book Open Saturday, October 18th & Sunday, October 19th to long sea bass trips - 6 to 3:30 - $125.00 & the rest of October until November 2nd on our regular schedule.  

Am Now Opening November 3rd to the 11th For Sea Bass On Our Regular Schedule As Well..

Saturday's 6:00 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00..
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. 

Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure.  
If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First! 

Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. 
Bring Lunch & Your Refreshment – No Galley. Bring A Fish Towel Too.. 

The OC Reef Foundation Aims To Build Its Single Largest & Most Expensive Concrete Reef Deployment Ever This Fall. (early this winter??) The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become A Cornerstone Of Our Nearshore Reef Restoration Efforts. 

Reef blocks previously weighed 30 pounds apiece. We took 24 each trip. New blocks weigh very nearly 100 pounds each; we load 10 daily. Taking out more tons in fewer blocks..
10,553 Reef Blocks by the rail – 3,000 at Jimmy Jackson's – 2,136 at Doug Ake's – 1,115 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 537 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 42 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. 

Greetings All, 
Opening more days in November. Ought to be some decent fishing. Fall always was my favorite sea bassing.  We'll find out starting Saturday when sea bass reopen. 

In colonial times every town had a pillory, a post with a hinged board that had three holes - one for the neck and two for the wrists. 
Townsfolk would throw rocks. Sometimes they'd even nail the accused's ear to the board. Who could guess what nastiness was done to the defenseless, no matter how deserving. 
With only economic bruising, NOAA's going to release us from their pillory this Saturday; let us go fishing a while. 

Environmental community, managers, even some recreational fishers at the heart of regulation know we got what we deserved for taking more than our quota 
..overfishing scoundrels deserve to be closed, deserve the pillory! 

While we're fishing in October & November .guv will likely do some maintenance. Varnish the wood & oil the hinge; keep their pillory operational. 
New catch estimates are due out anyday for July/August. NOAA's gonna need lock us up again; probably stock a load of rocks nearby..

Did offer a triggerfish trip on Friday, October 10th. 
Pretty day - No clients.. 
Decided to do a reef building trip anyway because the weather was just right for getting our barge out. 
It has to be perfect. 
My crew & I first deployed a mooring at Lindsey Power's at the Isle of Wight Reef and then dropped 33 hundred pound reef blocks. A half hour later Tow Boat U.S. Ocean City made the Reef Foundation's barge fast to our mooring and rolled 22 tons of cement pipe off. 
Bullseye. Exactly, Precisely Where I Wanted It. 
There are four subway cars, three piles of pipe & 537 blocks at Lindsey's so far.. 

Wasn't very long ago Lindsey's was just sand, then an idea people are fishing the reef because fish live there. 

Here's an article from ARS Technica - It shows California's oil rigs as their most productive fish habitat. Science is slowly beginning to grasp what fishers have known intuitively all along.. 

Even today "Fisheries Restoration" in the marine environment is almost singularly devoted to a philosophy of "Catch Restriction." 
To restore fish populations in the ocean we must only restrict catch.. 

Science sometimes takes a while to catch up with common knowledge. It was in 1847 that Semmelweis deduced deadly infections received in childbirthing & other procedures were sourced from doctors, students & staff coming directly from autopsy - without washing their hands or even cleansing their instruments. 
Yes, women died because students & doctors would come directly from autopsy to assist with birthing. 
Women knew they DID NOT want to give birth at Vienna's General Hospital because so many never came home ..but no one knew why. 

Even though science has long recognized habitat as an essential component of estuarine repair, NOAA has no marine re-reefing strategy. They truly have made no effort to even discover if an entire ecological component, clearly vital to all reef-dwelling species, vanished in the age of industrial fishing.   

In 2008 a fifty-million dollar research boat hovered above an area I told NOAA contained rock & growth; what we might call reef. 
NOAA: Nope, just sand waves.
So I took scientists out and dropped an underwater video camera: Rocks & Growth. 

Is NOAA willfully ignorant? ..or just too busy with important fish.  

Here from a 1961 study: California Fish Bulletin 146, Man-Made Reef Ecology: Summary & Conclusions -- Page 198
Brackets { } are mine, BOLD original but emphasized. Parenthesis ( ) & quotes are original. is apparent that "non-productive" areas of nearshore ocean floor can be made "productive" by installation of relief structures {artificial reef}. Initially, these structures attract fishes from surrounding areas and present a substrate suitable for development of the complex biotic assemblages {reef growths, e.g. mussels & coral} typical of natural reefs. As these new reefs mature, biological succession occurs and fishes which may have been initially attracted only to the structures are incorporated into the reef community in response to increasingly available food and shelter. Ultimately (in about 5 years) a natural situation is attained and the plant & animal populations exhibit fluctuations typical of {natural} reef ecosystems. 

I truly wonder why NOAA is so obstinate concerning reef ecologies in our nearshore waters. They delight in finding a lone coral in 1,000 feet of water yet refuse to consider habitat remnants scattered amid square miles of once-dense reef in 60 to 120 feet of water. There are even amazing reef ecologies in 300 feet. 

NOAA: 'Ain't got time for that.' 

It makes me think of the Washington Post's iconic photo of Big Tobacco execs swearing before Congress that their products are neither harmful nor addictive.. 
Is this how NOAA will one day be perceived in failing to account our nearshore reef habitat in any fisheries restoration strategy? 

Here's a video - unnarrated - of a wreck off the MD/DE line. 
It was made by a scuba diver - not a scientist. 
It cost a few dollars, not millions or trillions. 

We, the fishers & divers - even those solely concerned with ocean health, are as Semmelweis's patients crying out for mercy, begging those in charge to examine the obvious. 
The possibility of grand restoration in our time withers while NOAA assures Congress all is well. 

They have MRIP's catch-estimates to prove it.  

Not so different from many philosophers throughout history, I explore for meaning and cause while I await my primary fishery's summons to the gallows. 
Because Massachusetts has already had a supremely-normal yet impossibly sky-high sea bass catch estimate in May/June, when MRIP announces July/August I anticipate big trouble for the recreational sea bass fishery. 

We're almost certain to be 'over-quota' again for 2014.. 

Readers have often seen my catch comparisons such as the very recent over-estimate from the Massachusetts Private Boat fleet. There our brand-spanking new recreational catch estimating program (MRIP) has that State's Grady White/Boston Whaler private boat fleet outfishing all US Party/Charter and Commercial Trawl/Trap. Yes, just Massachusetts private boats are said to have outfished all professional effort from Texas to Maine. 

All you have to do is look through the estimates. Happens all the time - annually in fact. 

Readers may also recall how in the months after Sandy's devastating blow to New Jersey's & New York's recreational fishing infrastructure; the catastrophic loss of boats & marinas in one of the most powerful storms ever recorded: In the following spring & summer NY & NJ private boats are estimated to have had their highest sea bass catches ever. Landing, again, far more sea bass than all US Professional Effort. 

Gee wiz, sure are lucky anglers to have caught so many sea bass while their respective For-Hire boats (who did NOT lose wharfs & boats in Sandy's aftermath) caught at their lowest levels since estimates began. 
Highest & Lowest. What an odd coincidence.  

Well, that's what happens when MRIP has to guess at some aspect of recreational catch. 
MRIP was supposed to begin using the new saltwater registration (aka fishing license) so the guessing would be easier ..but haven't gotten around to it yet. 
They still just dial random phone numbers and plug those responses into their 'new' catch estimating formulas. 

Below I'd like to show readers what happens to estimates when another sector, the For-Hire sector, surrenders data for every single trip. 
We have to tell NOAA almost exactly what we caught. 
Every Trip. 

Yes, there are a few bad apples in our fishery. Men who are very clearly willing to circumvent regulation so that they might sail with clients. 
Most of us are not they. 
Most of us surrender near-perfect VTR data.
But we all do our time in the pillory. 

In fact, I have just finished the paperwork associated with my VTRs for this week. (Vessel Trip Report = VTR) Sea bass are closed so not a lot to report. 
Despite my best effort, however, I have not been perfect in my reporting. 
I have before me a letter from NOAA advising I failed to send in two (2) "Did Not Fish" reports from back in late spring. 
I quote from the letter: "Information on the status of your vessel is being provided to the Office of Law Enforcement." 
NOAA's VTR office further informs me: "Until all required VTRs have been received and accepted for processing by the VTR office, the Permit Office will not process* an application for: Renewal, Vessel Replacement  ..on & on... (*bold is from the original) 

In other words: 'Tell NOAA what you caught or never fish again.'  

MRIP's predecessor, MuFRSS, is as dead as the Wicked Witch of the East in the Wizard of Oz.. You'll recall her sister's cry:  "I can cause Accidents too you knowI'll get you my pretty, AND YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO! 

Under harsh regulatory duress, For-Hire recreational sea bass fishers have supplied NOAA's VTR Office with a steady stream of fairly accurate catch data for almost two decades. 

Here's a look at Maryland's For Hire sea bass catch estimates over time. Readers --managers too-- might think these estimates would be based, or at least compared against, VTR data surrendered directly to management under threat of loss of license. 

I recently complained to management about Maryland's "Zero" in MRIP's wave 3 (May/June) sea bass For-Hire estimate. That's the official 'estimate' for Maryland's party/charter fleet - Zero Sea Bass Caught.. 
But we were fishing! We told NOAA what we caught! 
I then heard from several sources deep inside the regulatory community, "A zero is OK for now because VTRs are added in at the end of the year." 
That's what they were told anyway. 

I Disagree. 

In 2010 we also pulled a zero in May/June, our single most important two months for sea bass fishing. That estimate remains a Zero even though there have been 4 years in which VTR data might have been included. 

In the MRIP/MRFSS estimate table below for all of MD's For-Hire effort (not a lot of us, but we do fish for sea bass) there are 4 instances where JUST my boat alone caught more sea bass in ONE DAY than is shown for all For-Hire effort in two months. 
Pretty snazzy estimates's just that they're not possible. 
One wonders how much of NOAA's best available fishery "science" is simply not possible. 

There are two other instances below where just my boat alone caught more sea bass in a week than is reported for All For-Hire in two months. 

Then too, in another table, MRFSS has Maryland landing 237,307 sea bass in Sept/Oct 2000. 
With a fast 90 foot party boat carrying at about 2/3rds capacity, I landed exactly 29,626 bsb in Sept/Oct, 2000. 
I was running one of only 3 boats going from MD that fall & certainly the only boat going daily. Sea bass fishing was very, very good.
MRFSS has Maryland For-Hire Sept/Oct landings at 237,307.. 
I'm positive this estimate is absolutely at least 180,000 sea bass too high. 

We told NOAA what we caught..

Some think it's high-time managers divided the sea bass quota between Private & For-Hire sectors to give stability to the party/charter industry. 
I'd be all for sound bio-economic fisheries policy, but will MRIP's recreational catch estimates form the basis for sector-seperation? Who could possibly decide on an equitable division of quota between Private boats & the For-Hire sector with discrepancies rampant throughout MRIP & MRFSS estimates.. 

One thing you can clearly see, if you allow a little on the spot averaging, is that Maryland's sea bass fishing was far better when we began self-management in 1992 and into early management than it is today despite incredibly tighter regulation. 
It's not that regulation keeps us from the fish so completely; It's not as though sea bass are stacking up in incredible density while we we contemplate fiscal solvency in lost ticket sales - there's just a lot fewer sea bass to catch today than when we self-regulated & into early management. (search "age at maturity" among my work for an explanation of how a region's sea bass population can decline swiftly despite sharp declines in extraction)
In the MRIP table below, 1999, 2000 (completely missing), 2001 & 2002 really skew my assertion that fishing was fantastic during early management. Consider this: It was in 2002 when we tagged 1,115 sea bass in one day with 20+ biologists/managers aboard and then allowed our volunteer anglers (and some biologists) to take a then brand-new 25 fish limit if they still had the energy. Sea bass fishing was excellent.  
In the late 1990s & up until the mid-2000s this time of year I would sometimes catch my clients 25 sea bass, then go catch a limit of croakers. 
In 2003 I limited clients out on sea bass more often than not. 

Now I'm not fishing at all. 
Reopen soon though. 

Management takes recreational data way too seriously. 
"Overfishing is serious! Over Quota Again!! WE HAVE TO CLOSE THE FISHERY!!" 

The only thing serious is that the estimates are seriously bad and are seriously screwing up all fisheries science even remotely connected to them. 

Make sea bass spawn young & give them lots of habitat, that'll make the magic of management happen once again. 

NOAA: "What habitat?" "Who's Spawning?" "Oh No, Mr. Congressman, the recreational data's MUCH Improved!!" 


(See table below. Easiest to just look at the year & "harvest" columns..)

My Regards,

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

Your Query Parameters:
Year:1990 - 2014
Wave:3 MAY/JUN
Geographic Area:MARYLAND
Type of Catch:HARVEST (TYPE A + B1)

**Review the glossary for a description of how the for-hire survey methods have changed over time.

Return to Query Page

Estimate StatusYearWaveCommon NameHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (kg)
PSELandings (no.) without
Size Information
FINAL1990MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS63,49536.028,80136.00
FINAL1991MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS287100.0130100.00
FINAL1992MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS63,42636.328,77036.30
FINAL1993MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS100,21534.845,45734.80
FINAL1994MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS108,82731.749,36331.70
FINAL1995MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS263,61230.5119,57430.50
FINAL1996MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS104,13534.947,23534.90
FINAL1997MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS182,76230.482,90030.40
FINAL1998MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS234,85734.2106,53034.20
FINAL1999MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS2,43371.71,10471.70
FINAL2001MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS21,87631.19,92331.10
FINAL2002MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS84,53247.338,34347.30
FINAL2003MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS131,66526.559,72326.50
FINAL2004MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS8,87177.24,02477.20
FINAL2005MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS35,52238.816,11338.80
FINAL2006MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS78,64123.435,67123.40
FINAL2007MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS32,03133.814,52933.80
FINAL2008MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS19,98426.59,06526.50
FINAL2009MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS26,67141.412,09841.40
FINAL2011MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS18,56346.28,42046.20
FINAL2012MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS14,04426.86,37026.80
FINAL2013MAY/JUNEBLACK SEA BASS7,50229.03,40329.00

 I think you SHOULD go back with VTRs to examine the estimate's veracity. 
I think you SHOULD go back and create a comparison of 'percentage of the fishery' between private boats and for-hire with those in the sea bass fishery. 

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