Fish Report 12/01/14
Three Cbass Trips
..on my mind
Three Long Sea Bass Trips Coming: Wednesday, Dec 3rd - $125.00 - 6AM to 3:30PM. Thursday Cancelled. Now Offering Saturday & Sunday, Dec 6th & 7th - $125.00 - 5:30AM to 3:30PM - Weather Looks Good!
All Winter Trips Announced Via Email Only. Times, Prices & Species Will Vary.
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..
It's Winter! Wear Boots, Not Sneakers! Fingerless Wool Or Thin Fleece-Lined Waterproof Gloves With Handwarmers Tucked Into The Palms Make For A Comfortable Day..
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..
If You Will Not Count & Measure Your Fish, The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Fish By The Rules - No Exceptions!!
The OC Reef Foundation Aims To Build Its Single Largest & Most Expensive Concrete Reef Deployment Ever. Progress Is Being Made In Getting Bids. The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become A Cornerstone Of Our Nearshore Reef Restoration Efforts. (even if it's early next year!)
10,726 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, 118 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef..
Fished Saturday in beautiful weather that stayed beautiful. Cbass bite was OK early and then went phenomenal.
Here's a rare notation from my fishing log: Excellent.
At first cbass were uncooperative on the jig, then bit hammered gold jigs like I've rarely seen.
Fellow to my left, I'll call him "Herb," had already limited out with bait and was just dropping bare hooks.. Yup, it was a bare hook bite.
I dug up a pair of huge silver circle hooks like we used a decade ago and also caught doubleheaders with no bait.
We were in a tad early with a boat limit; absolutely could not have kept one more fish..
If management were creating even 25% of our region's possible sea bass we'd be able to catch doubles like that in August. To get there all we need to do is roll MRIP's catch-estimates into a baseball bat and smash management's computers; force management to look at real fish population response instead of MRIP's hallucinations--and we'd soon have outstanding sea bass fishing year round ..again.
At least as true as any MRIP catch estimate, No One with a rod & reel over 4 years old caught many fish last Saturday. Quite sad really; the advances in tackle are too great. Even for an angler of great skill to keep up, he or she must posses new tackle. Being as some readers may want to share these sentiments & ideas with Christmas shoppers they know, I'll include a few rods & reels that might save them from such an embarrassment as we witnessed last week.
Regular clients know I'm a St. Croix rod fan. The 7' & 7'6" medium heavy and heavy Muskie rods are fail-safe. They range in price from just over a hundred bucks to $330.00 depending on how light the stick is (less weight = more money.) These also do quite well for tog fishing. Once you have one in hand, you can ask a salesman to show you other sticks of a similar nature. Lots & lots of good rods out there. I sometimes like a shorter stick for jigging sea bass & a longer stick for tog fishing in any bit of swell. As you might expect a photographer to have many cameras & lenses, so do fishermen have sticks & reels to match conditions.
For sea bass/tog reels I am presently drooling over the latest Shimano Trinidad 14. I don't own it yet, but the Trinidad 16 Narrows I have acquired over the years are awesome.
I also like the Avet MXJ. I have 4 or 5 of them that I use very frequently. Many clients prefer the slightly smaller SX series. Avets are half the price of the Shimanos and I've only known one guy who could blow them up. (he speaks fluent Russian and catches a LOT of tog..) Because microbraid fishing lines are so much thinner than monofilament of equal strength, the larger reels of just a few years ago are no longer in favor.
Reels of similar size should have at least a 5 to 1 retrieve. There are lots & lots of reels - great reels. Diawa is making some of the very best out there. Pure Fishing (Penn) is starting to catch on. A good test is to run the drag way up and see if the handle is suddenly much harder to turn. You want your reel to work the fish - not you.
For fluke/flounder the smaller reels are more popular - Trinidad 12 (10s too) & SX Avets and similar sized reels are what you want for working a bait or bucktail all day.
Because it appears as though I may not age well, I have installed large handles on all the reels I use for heavy bottom fishing. Jignpop's handles are top shelf & keep my knuckles from flaring up. http://www.jignpop.com/jigging-master-t-bar-handle-lt-051/ They require a bit of shop work to install, but it's a fairly simple matter to drill out the factory handle and screw in these ball-bearing replacements. (Warning: If you leave that exact webpage you may end up purchasing a reel your great-grand children will fish with in their retirement.)
A gift long overdue; very soon the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI) will be building a reef off Love Point in the Chesapeake Bay with what I consider a vertical substrate..
Oysters are known to create vertical substrate when growing naturally. They don't grow flat, they grow up. That's what they're looking for to settle on as spat.
While scientists have somehow corrupted "Three Dimensional Habitat" to mean an undulating flat plain --that is, they use shell mounded to various heights and call that 'vertical three dimensional habitat' -- here's what I have in mind.
Our gravest regional concern in fisheries restoration is water quality degradation. Large estuaries are so over-nutrified & unfiltered they've turned the ocean green.
We need to get busy with oyster repair.
It is absolutely true that progress is being made. An important measure is, "are oysters growing on oysters?" That's how an oyster bar grows.
The Nature Conservancy has made fantastic progress in their Virginia Coastal Preserve. They have lots & lots & lots of oysters growing on oysters. A huge cooperative project in Harris Creek is also seeing success. There are others..
An experiment I'd like to see in & near Chesapeake oyster reserves would entail anchoring Christmas trees suspended by a polyball. But before these trees are suspended at various depths, shoot them with cement and let dry. These Christmas tree "oyster spat traps" would then create excellent midwater reef that also captures oyster spat for commercial harvest.
They'd all have to be moved to leased sites after oysters in the sanctuary were spawned out.
For a brood-stock preserve to offer best effect, we must capture spat for market oysters.
Oyster restoration is vital to marine fisheries restoration. In the grandest of all "Benthic Pelagic Habitat Couplings" we must harness the oyster's ability to turn the Mid-Atlantic blue again.
If an economic driver can be fashioned that propels vast bio-filter reefs swift construction, we'll witness blue waters again sooner. . .
The Marine Recreational Information Program (and not MuRFSS Rest In Peace) - MRIP is pleased to announce they are going to begin using the "Recreational Fishing Registry." (Which most readers would call a fishing license..) http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/recreational-fisheries/program-overview/mrip-effort-survey Owing to the fact no one has any idea just how many recreational users there are, Congress mandated a "registry" in 2007 so estimators would finally have that vital component to guessing how many fish were caught: They need a count of how many people went fishing.
The registry also adds contact info - How often did these anglers go?
Pretty important stuff..
Recreational catch estimates were due to be repaired by 2009. MRIP has told the world their repairs, finally issued in 2012, are top-notch. While I consider this among the greatest fibs ever told; now MRIP has announced that in just a couple more years they'll actually begin to use the registry data - the fishing license information that was supposed to be the backbone of catch-estimate repair by 2009.
Beginning under NMFS Chief, Bill Hogarth, in 2004, estimators have added more & more recreational private boat catch to estimate totals. Despite the Great Recession occurring in a time of tighter & tighter regulation; all those rich guys who fish seven days a week for sea bass, red snapper & cod are catching more & more fish. Amazingly, the more catch declines for Party/Charter patrons who are factually fewer & fewer in number while also allowed to keep less fish during less fishing season; the more Private Boat catch increases.
Those Private Boat guys must have a lot of friends that can go all the time. The tighter regulations become, an unending supply of extremely skilled friends join Private Boat owners who can just take off any time to go fishing..
In reality, of course, most private boat owners aren't rich. They do love to go fishing though & sacrifice a lot to own their boat. Most must work to put fuel in their passion and can rarely fish more than some weekends.
Bravo to the successful entrepreneur who can go fishing whenever he wants - they're just nowhere near as numerous as MRIP thinks..
Speaking of fuel, didn't that go up too in the Great Recession? Perhaps act as an economic spike in the checkbooks of those stretched too thin on their mortgage?
MRIP, still today shooting in the dark w/o a body-count of registered anglers, shows absolutely fantastic increases in private boat catch going back a decade. This while Party/Charter catch has fallen on regulation's sword - our catch has bled-out to historically low levels.
In a brilliant grasping of Congress's intent, MRIP is going to (in just a few years) begin a mail-in survey.
The US Equestrian Society strongly supports this idea, probably in the hope MRIP will hire Pony Express riders to deliver their new surveys. Regional farmers eagerly anticipate a rise in horse feed prices while carpenters at Union Hall will have to trade in their screw guns & air nailers in favor of traditional 16 penny nails & framing hammers to build MRIP's pony express riders' their new stables.
Maybe too MRIP will have Federal Fisheries enforcement trade in their Sigs & M4s for black powder revolvers & double-barrel stagecoach guns.
Maybe MRIP will contract with clay producers also to make long-lasting tablets so their information won't be lost to history. Worked for Mycenaean accountants..
I don't think MRIP has accomplished one single goal of Congress's 2007 Magnuson re-write - except spending guvmint money. Good at that. Very successful.
A "New" mail-in survey in this day & age will just be one more fantastic flop.
I may be the last guy to abandon his flip-phone, but these folks must still be using a land-line.
What a goat rodeo.
Recreational catch estimates are destroying fishery management's potential.
I've seen a handful of private boats fishing for sea bass since mid-summer & just one private boat all fall/early winter.
There have, however, been a fair number of party boat trips with catches reported directly to NOAA & NMFS..
MRIP tells management their true concern had better be Private Boats. MRIP assures management Private Boats are who's catching all the fish and vaporizing recreational quotas.
MRIP also tells all who will look that Maryland Party boats caught not one sea bass between May & the end of August.
This despite threat of permit seizure if Party/Charter operators fail to submit Catch Reports: We told them what we caught and our catch included many sea bass..
MRIP tells my representatives in Congress that sea bass are not an important fishery in Maryland - Look, here's what they caught.
Though difficult; Fishery Science must be based on reality, not statistical illusion. We must get MRIP off our back, off managers' backs & off science's back too.
Once management has seen through this expensive charade of catch-estimates as "best available scientific information" they can begin to look for means of increasing fishery production based on habitat & maximizing spawning potential.
I believe it is precisely because of habitat fidelity that the smallest sea bass have to swim the furthest inshore to establish spawning sites. Bigger sea bass have always owned offshore reefs, and because now size limit regulation has advanced spawning age from age zero/age 1 up to age 3/age 4, our once hyper-productive nearshore reefs have grown nearly inactive.
Where a decade & more ago even reefs in 5 fathoms were lousy with actively spawning cbass, now sea bass spawning production is almost 100% dependent on reefs in 20 fathoms or more for continued recruitment.
There are a handful of large sea bass on every piece of reef structure keeping the age at maturity high - somehow preventing small fish from maturing. But because fishing pressure is much higher nearshore, those same large cbass are caught before they actually begin spawning..
Like sea bass, oysters too begin life as a female and only some switch sex to become male. It's a trait seen extensively in reef species where isolation may prevent a spawning population from occurring.
"BOFF" or Big Old Fecund Females is everyone in fishery management's darling ..it's just that BOFF doesn't always work.
Habitat Fidelity is what allowed "age at maturity" spawning size to work in the early years of management. If I could convince managers to attempt exponential population growth again, we wouldn't want to drive the entire population of sea bass down to 11 inches, just the inshore fish were production would, and once did, get it's biggest lift.
It was age at maturity that gave us that huge rise in population by forcing every single cbass into the spawning stock. When there was no closed season, no bag limit and tiny size limits, reefs offshore swiftly neared habitat capacity; those reefs became populated by older & older fish while nearshore reefs-always pounded down to size limit-forced the youngest fish to spawn.
The Mid-Atlantic's sea bass population, at a 50 year high just 6 years after management began, has now declined to pre-managemnt levels.
Management is chasing their tail because MRIP has them convinced Private Boats outfish all professional effort.
We witness marine fishery management's dawn. It's a lot prettier in reports to Congress.
Habitat restoration & creation; fact-based regulation & forced spawning populations can take our reef species higher than anyone currently dares hope.
First we'll have to have managers drop their laughing; "Oh, we can't lower the sea bass size limit. That would allow overfishing."
A population that doubled & doubled early on has now been in decline for over a decade, and they think they have their arms around it with catch estimates.
Heck with an iPhone, I'm going to buy me a horse.
Maybe I'll ask Santa for that Trinidad 14 instead..
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD