Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fish Report 11/20/14

Fish Report 11/20/14 
Old-Time Sea Bassing Continues 
Reef Raiding Bluefish Diminish 
Please Comment On "Draft" Recreational Policy  

Long Sea Bass Trip: Saturday November 22nd - $125.00 - 6AM to 4PM. Saturday's Forecast Is Flat-Flat-Flat Calm. Cold Too, But W/O Wind Cold Isn't So Bad..

Going Long For Sea Bass Either Side Of Thanksgiving - 11/26 & 11/28 - 6 to 3:30 - $125.00 - No Fishing TG Day. 
Now Have Reservation Book Open Thru November 30th For Sea Bass On Our Regular Schedule. (current weather pattern should allow us to get at least 3 of these trips in!)

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! (Translation: Go Throw Up On Someone Else's Boat!) 

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. (this winter??) The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become A Cornerstone Of Our Nearshore Reef Restoration Efforts. (even if it's early next year!)

10,704 Reef Blocks by the rail – 3,000 at Jimmy Jackson's – 2,136 at Doug Ake's – 1,182 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 557 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 106 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. 

Greetings All, 
Been a lot of sea bass limits. Even days when some anglers are sharing fish early on. That guy that looks a lot like Big Dave, for instance, ah.. umm.. Kevin! Yeah, Kevin was bagged-out and sharing just an hour & twenty minutes into the first drop. 
The boat's been done & in early several trips. I barely avoided getting my head handed to me another day in higher than anticipated NW winds. And, on our last trip out, we even had some clients jig a limit. 
One fellow, I'll call him "Jeremy" to protect the innocent; Jeremy, in fact, never touched a piece of bait all day, caught 'em all on a 4 or 5 ounce jig. 
That takes a really nice bite.. 
Sea bass are moving offshore, compacting, getting denser. That's why the bite is sometimes outrageous in fall. 

Through the mid/late 1990s up until 2001; during fall high man would have 100, 150, or even 200 fish. 
In the 1970s & 80s sea bass trips weren't as common in fall. We were trout fishing. When we did go cbassing we'd sometimes even fish 12 hooks on a rod. We'd bait every other hook with dish towel.. 

AH HA! Some are thinking, it was the overfishing in the 1990s that drove sea bass down. That's why we have such trouble now. Right?
Well, no. 
In August during the 80s we'd often see trips with less than 10 sea bass. None were ever thrown back - ever. (MRIP/MRFSS show millions & millions of sea bass being thrown back before regulation began. How nice. Three inch fish on a jetty maybe, no 7 inch fish in the ocean though. Ever. We were taught all fish died if you threw them back. Believed it too..)  
From 10 fish on the whole boat in early August during real overfishing's darkest hour; by the late 1990s, still early in regulation, we'd see trips with 7 or 8 thousand sea bass in August. 
We actually did throw a lot of those back. 
And, as was predicted by managers of that era, all those releases were spawners protected by 9 & 10 inch size limit. 

These days in August, fishing the same reef structure, we might catch 30 or 40 sea bass and a mess of flounder (fluke). The bag limit started in 2002 with 25 sea bass at 12 inches, dropped to 20 cbass at 12.5 inches in 2010, & then 15 last year.. 
Of those 30 or 40 summer releases these days, almost none are spawners. 

Well, how can that be? 
If ALL the throwbacks were spawners from 1992 to 2000 or so with a size limits 11 inches and under, it's preposterous to assert there are virtually no spawning throwbacks with today's 12.5 inch size limit.. Right? 

Well, no. 
Population biology is positively loaded with shifting ages of maturity. When a species somehow perceives it's well being will be threatened, that it's habitat will be over-taxed if over-populated: spawning is delayed. 

What's preposterous is having witnessed the sea bass population double, then double again, while under far more fishing pressure than today and not even TRY to grapple the question: Why? 
It's scientifically shameful for a species to decline while under vastly more restrictive regulation - and blame it on little plastic boats. 'We're sorry Mr. Congressman. These private boats just catch too many fish! See? It's right here in the catch estimates! And you just paid A LOT OF MONEY to get those fixed Mr. Congressman. They're ALL BETTER Now.' 

Uh Hu.. 
In red snapper, in black sea bass, & in haddock too - in all these species For-Hire catch has dwindled to insignificance as regulation becomes ever-more restrictive: as seasons diminish & bag limits tighten, the For-Hire sector's catch declines as management theory would predict. 
In the period since 2004, however, private boat catch has climbed ever-more skyward regardless of ANY regulation. 

MRIP tells us NY's private boats caught 97% of that state's recreational sea bass in 2013, for instance. MRIP tells us those same anglers developed so much skill that they outfished the entire Atlantic coast's For Hire boats. 
They outfished the For-Hire fleet AND the commercial trap fishery even. 
It's a damn lie. That precise lie is why we won't be able to keep a sea bass this January while we're tog fishing. 
Decades of those lies, acted upon as though scientifically sound, are why we have a declining population of sea bass from the South Shore of Long Island to Cape Hatteras. 

Management's so sure of their path, so sure recreational regulation's development need only source from catch estimates, that they've not troubled themselves with examination of why more sea bass were caught commercially between 1950 & 1960 than in all years since combined. 
More sea bass in 11 years than in the 53 years since put-together.. 
Odd that nearly all of that decline was on the trawl side. Trap catch, working more robust bottom, has remained more stable. 

We are enveloped in a system amazingly misguided by catch estimates. We suffer enormous regulatory wrath owing to estimates no one should believe. Management is not working well, not even for 'important fish' like striped bass. 

After almost 15 years of trying to get the Mid-Atlantic's nearshore coral communities recognized as Essential Fish Habitat, perhaps here is an opportunity to bring marine & fishery science's failings to the attention of those in charge; to pry their eyes away from their precious catch estimates by shouting, "HEY! Will You Look At What You're Doing!?

Here's a link to the new "Draft Recreational Policy."
Really? A Draft? In 2014? 
Such darkness. Plenty of these folks remember when NMFS was the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries though.. 

Here's the "Comment" link. 

In the draft document is this section: 
2)  Support ecosystem conservation and enhancement which provide natural and, where appropriate, enhanced habitats to support diverse, healthy fisheries and fish populations including abundant and resilient forage fish stocks; and, encourage development and application of sustainable, safe aquaculture to support recreational fisheries consistent with existing agency policy. 
We MUST Comment. 
PLEASE comment! 
We need to change #2 to: Discover the historical extent of ecosystems & support their conservation, restoration & enhancement.. 
(enhancement; that's what tire reefs in the 1970s were supposed to do. Lots & lots of managers don't LIKE enhancement, its a code word for artificial reef. Ask anyone involved with oyster restoration if they are building artificial reef. They'll do back-flips to avoid the label. Huge barges loaded with rock are 'preparing the substrate for natural restoration' and never-ever artificial reef.. Never.) 

The tire 'enhancement' disaster & catch estimates cloud restoration's path. 
At the start of regulation catch restrictions were an absolute must. They remain so. Catch restriction put out the fire of overfishing. 
If we truly want to restore fish populations of yesteryear, however; we'd better insist NOAA find out how much fish habitat there was, and make a plan for re-creating it. 
For sea bass, tautog & red snapper; I think we'll sail past any historical population estimate once we've discovered habitat fidelity's role in management; combined with our ability to increase populations via habitat increase & spur reproduction by manipulating instinctual spawning response. 

In its simplest form: Were the biggest farm field imaginable planted in trees; from that point forward an increase in the squirrel population would only be a matter of time. 
I don't know why, but for our reef species that's been an amazingly difficult concept to deliver.. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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