Thursday, November 06, 2014

Fish Report 11/6/14

Fish Report 11/6/14 
Old-Time Sea Bassing 
Reef Raiding Bluefish 
Thoughts On Restoration  

Long Sea Bass Trip: Monday November 10th - $125.00 - 6AM to 4PM. Monday's Forecast Is Flat-Flat-Flat Calm..

Going Long For Sea Bass Either Side Of Thanksgiving Too - 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 1/5th 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! 

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. (even if it's early next year!)

10,634 Reef Blocks by the rail – 3,000 at Jimmy Jackson's – 2,136 at Doug Ake's – 1,146 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 547 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 82 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. 

Greetings All, 
Plenty of wind. Sea heights exceeded twenty feet November 1st. I'd like to report wind-speed too but the weather buoy 15 miles off the MD/DE line is down again. It was just repaired a few weeks ago after being broken for over a year. Not new technology. Wind reports from offshore buoys go back at least 4 decades. "Don't make'em like they used to" I suppose.. 
Plenty of sea bass when we can get out. There were many limits among passengers over the last few trips. Only two things prevent cbassing from being "All Limits, All The Time:" Failure To Prevent Motion Sickness & Bluefish. 
On Tuesday's long trip blues got so bad we couldn't reel in a legal sea bass. Bluefish would let smalls come up OK, but we'd only see eyeballs & a gill plate of larger fish. 
Hate when that happens.. 
Picked up anchor and moved. Several clients then sealed the deal, caught their limit. It's old-time fishing. 
Wednesday blues were less numerous. Had one stop shopping with everyone limited who was able to fish. Those who were unable to fish also went home with dinner+ on account of generous clients & crew. Giving fish away sure doesn't happen every day.. 

I know a chef who also teaches. Because many clients do not want blues, he has been getting lots of bluefish for kitchen instruction; to smoke & work his magic on. 
Everyone who's tried Uncle John's Mexican salsa bluefish recipe, however, keeps at least some of theirs.. 
Doesn't get much simpler. Deboned & blood line removed, line a baking dish w/fillets tightly together, or fold-up aluminum foil to secure fewer fillets. Spring for the fresh salsa; jarred a distant second choice. Mango salsa works like magic. Put a couple tablespoons atop the fillets, the whole tub if you're making a big batch. Cook for 15 - 18 minutes at 400 degrees. 
That's it. Good clean living - Promise. 

Numbskullery of summer, when the boys close Seacrets Bar & spend a day throwing-up instead of fishing, is over. Wisdom accumulated the hard way, we celebrate after fishing ..or commiserate depending on the day's action. 
There's still plain ol' seasickness though. Dramamine's cheap insurance.. If you get car-sick it's probably not going to work. Many regular clients prefer scopolamine patches, but that requires a prescription. Some regulars just do not get sick.. 
However, the very same part of the brain/ear interface that causes aging people to become less stable is also what causes, "I Don't Know What Happened. I've Never Been Seasick In My Life!" You don't have be in need of a walker to have lost enough balance to get messed up in heavy weather..
I try to always have crystalized ginger (think of a spicy-hot dried apricot) & dramamine aboard. Mythbusters tried ginger pills and Confirmed they work. 
I do not know where to get pills, but Nuts.Com has been very reliable for good quality crystalized ginger. 
If an angler waits until they're just about to lose breakfast before taking ginger or medicating  ..they're going to lose breakfast.  
Sea sickness is easy to prevent for most folks; a son of a gun to cure. 
My business relies on repeat business among folks that enjoy fishing. Seasick clients do not enjoy their day, and truthfully, no one wants to hear a seasick chorus all day anyway. . .
Another client who will not enjoy fishing on my boat will insist they have a special set of "relaxed" regulations that apply to them. My "no man stands above another" attitude on regulation is absolute. 
I fight senseless regulation every day - every single day, but I'll abide whatever regulatory nonsense gets concocted meanwhile. 
If you will not measure & count your fish, the state will provide a man with a gun to do it for you.  

Here's A Couple Thoughts On Fisheries Restoration. 
All recreational regulation & present-day restoration philosophy is inextricably tied to recreational catch estimates. Scientists set a quota; managers devise regulations to keep us from overharvesting our allotment. To determine how much of any given species we have extracted, MRIP catch estimates are used. Current policy precludes the use of common sense in determining if estimates are even in the ball park. What is shown on computer screen is what we're charged with taking whether real or not; whether even remotely possible or not. 
For instance: when Maryland private boats pulled a zero in the flounder fishery for May/June 2012, an estimate absolutely no one even vaguely familiar with the fishery could ever believe; with that zero replacing what should have been one of the year's highest values, we were so far under quota that another fish was added to our daily bag, the size limit dropped substantially & the season extended to year round. 
Flounder are still doing fine despite the regulatory response to this stunningly stupid catch estimate. 
On the darker side, when Massachusetts Private Boat was said to have taken their highest sea bass numbers ever in the summer of 2009, a catch quite nearly greater than their previous 20 summers put together; no field observation could dissuade regulators from using the estimate. In fact, it was anecdotes brought forth within the scientific community, "There's a lot of sea bass out there" that bolstered the catch-estimate despite the very science they were supposed to be using showing a decline in sea bass. Anecdotes supporting impossible catch estimates were strongly overweighted and used to close the fishery by emergency regulation. 

Now, here's what I want to get at in this report. When the For Hire catch estimates were repaired in 2003, the following year was the first time Private Boats ever out-caught For-Hire in the black sea bass or American red snapper fisheries. 
I believe MuRFSS & MRIP are both over-sensitive to Private Boat catch. When catches are low, estimates come in VERY LOW. When catches are decent, estimates come in SKY HIGH.  
Before 2004 recreational red snapper & sea bass landings were either split 50/50 between Private Boat & For-Hire, or For-Hire professional effort had significantly more. 
After 2004 red snapper & sea bass began to become property of private boats. Today there are frequently grossly mismatched assertions of catch favoring Private Boats.  
It is an unfounded assertion found only in MRIP/MRFSS. 
New regulation, tighter regulation, shorter seasons, lower possession, & longer size limits; Together they slam For-Hire catch dead in its tracks, while Private Boat catches reach ever more spectacular heights. 

It's not at all what we see on the water.. 
Estimates are not science, they lie & must be examined carefully before use. 

In the last few years we've come to a pretend-place where just as the Bogey-Man is scared of Chuck Norris being under his bed or in his closet; Management is frightened of Private Boats that can suddenly outfish all Trawlers, Trappers, and For-Hire skippers such as myself who anchor over reefs for a living  ..outboards outfish all of us put together. 
One state's Private Boats can now outfish the entire Mid-Atlantic's Commercial & Professional For-Hire effort. It happens all the time in the estimates 
..but never-ever would happen at sea. 
It's not science, it's a lie. 

This screw-up is getting MUCH WORSE in our new and much-vaunted catch estimate repair - MRIP. 
We need to fix it. Not only to prevent further economic pain w/o biological gain in the sea bass & snapper fisheries, but also that a true path toward restoration & then a population expansion beyond anything now imagined might be fashioned. 

In management's view spawning production is always random, nothing they can influence. Because catch-estimates pogo-stick about with unfathomable irregularity, production is thought by regulators so random they cannot even begin to grasp ..

What a simple tool. Roll rocks off a barge, boulders, concrete pipe - sink a ship - you cannot stop growth & fish from colonizing. Even if we first coated every square inch of any new reef substrate with the most wicked boat-bottom paint known to man, colonization by fish and growth would eventually win out. You Can't Stop It. 
What management's missing is this: If we build reef in industrial scale, stay at it; if we keep building reef, it follows that fantastic amounts of new fisheries production can be fashioned. 
Ponder this: were anyone tasked with squirrel restoration might they, as an early step, calculate trees available for suitable habitat? 

We haven't gotten there with reef fish yet. 
I mean, it's underwater, you know? 
Who would have equipment to see down there? 
Um, Walmart? Really? 
The videos I have online were all recorded on a $99.00 Walmart TV. 

NOAA's got ships that cost $50 million..
I'm really not at all sure why NOAA & NMFS are so resistant to the idea reef habitat might be important to reef fish. When I first sent a video to Congressman Gilchrest in 2001, I thought sure this obvious fish habitat would swiftly be mapped & studied. 
A NOAA boat did find coral in 2013. Before that it was just "sand waves." 
I haven't heard another peep despite fantastic coin being spent for benthic surveys where windmills may go. 

I'll use tautog to provide a simple test of habitat creation's importance. 
Consider: If all man-made reef & shore-armor (boulder) habitat were removed from the sea & bayfloor in the Mid-Atlantic, where would the region's remaining tautog go? 
If California Fish & Game's 1961 findings on Artificial Reef are true, if new reef does indeed begin to create "natural fisheries production in just 5 years;" Why isn't habitat creation an active component of tautog restoration? 
Is the tautog population not therefore limited only by our own industry? Could we not determine how many tautog we would like to catch at any given sustainable rate and simply build that much habitat? Even more? 

Actually, that is what we're trying to do. That is EXACTLY why I & many other fishers pour so much effort into reef building. That's why clients play the 50/50 Reef Raffle everyday. We know intuitively what management has, thus far, failed to grasp. 

(Looks like Louisiana voters sure get it though.. ) 

Because a desk with a computer on it is a dangerous place from which to view the sea, management apparently believes no variation in tautog production or population can be fashioned from habitat. 
Despite entire volumes of fishery science dedicated to production loss in many fisheries owing to habitat loss reef just isn't part of anyone's plan.

I have extensive knowledge of the seabed in our region's depth range suitable for tautog. I do not use catch estimates except when they can be fashioned into a sharp stick with which to poke NOAA. 
I'm positive there is no possible way tautog from all our shipwrecks, jetties & artificial reefs could survive only on today's natural habitat remnants - No Possible Way. 
Therefore, if we took away the man-made habitat, tautog would collapse.
I firmly believe we have a far greater population of tautog than could exist without our additions of habitat. Those in charge of tautog restoration haven't so much as said "Thank You." 
Instead, they've seized our reefs' tog production and claimed it for their restoration. 

I also believe we could fashion any higher population we'd like by adding more habitat and maintaining simple catch regulation. . .

The 'full restoration' I envision for both tautog & sea bass is far grander than theirs. Because management's restoration goal has been formed w/o deeper time considerations, w/o consideration of pre-industrial fishing's sea floor habitat; without any thought given to the abundance of habitat well-evidenced in sea bass commercial landings from the 1950s; and because management was not there in the 1980s to see how bad it really got, to feel what real overfishing actually felt like; because management didn't see entirely new tautog & sea bass populations flourish on habitat we sank, didn't see them flourish on natural hardbottoms where sea whip grew back: Because their computer screens lack our experience, the explosive population growth we could manage for; what we could try to achieve, isn't even a twinkle in management's eye.. 

They sure know how to raise size limit, reduce bag & close season though. 
Plenty more of that coming this winter, you can bet. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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