Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fish Report 12/27/15

Fish Report 12/27/15 
One Last Sea Bass Trip 
Winter Toggin' Begins 
A Reef Report 

All Winter Trips Posted Via Email. There's just no use trying to go everyday in winter..

Last Sea Bass Trip For Months To Come: Opening Wednesday, 12/30/15, Long Sea Bass Trip, 6AM - 4PM, $125.00. Forecast As I Write Is A Light Easterly Wind w/Light Rain Beginning Late Afternoon, Then Rain After Dark. Reservations Required. (Sea Bass Close Jan 31 Federally - This closure is 100% bad-data driven lunacy)

Will Begin Tog Fishing January 1st - Little Shorter Trip - 7 to 2 - $100.00 - 14 Sells Out - Crabs Provided. MD is 4 Tog @ 16 Inches. IF YOU HOWL AT THE MOON WE DO NOT WANT YOUR HUNG-OVER DRUNKEN @$$ ABOARD!!! (really) 

Also Toggin on Sunday & Monday, January 3rd & 4th - 7 to 3:30 - $110.00 - 14 Sells Out - Crabs Provided.. 

Skunks are always possible while tog fishing. 
Really. It's a frequent occurrence, even with a good bite. Not an easy fishery; the very best toggers sometimes get their head handed to them despite folks all around having done well. 
Then too, sometimes the whole boat can do very poorly. 
If you can't take the heat, and there ain't much of that either, stay out of the kitchen. 

But If That Sounds Like Your Kind Of Fishing, Good! Cause We're Going Toggin Anyway! Tog Only, Sea Bass Closed. 
No Live Tog Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (I Believe The Live Tog Black Market Has Hurt This Fishery ..But Nowhere Near As Much As Bad Sea Bass Regulations)
Agreed With Or Not, All Regulations Observed – Maryland: 4 Tog @ 16 Inches – Sea Bass Closed On Jan 1st Because Of Rotten MRIP Catch Estimates. 

If You Won't Measure & Count Your Fish, The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Measure & Count — ALWAYS — No Exceptions! 

Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - On My Rig You Can Reserve What Spot You're In. Please See For How The Rail's Laid Out..
LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Happen - 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. With a limited number of reserved spots, I do not refund because you over-slept or had a flat..

Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! (Meclizine's Better!) 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! (Wockenfuss Candies sells crystalized ginger locally - Better is Nuts.Com.. Chewable Meclizine is a good pharmaceutical with Scopolamine Patches the gold standard.) For Anglers With Known Issues Dramamine & Meclizine Work Best If Treatment Begins The Night Before..
Honestly - If you get to go on the ocean once month, once a year, or even less; why risk chumming all day? Similarly, if you howl at the moon all night, chances are good you'll howl into a bucket all day.  

Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Do Not Bring A Very Large Cooler. We DO have a few loaners - you'll still need ice. 
No Galley! Bring Food & Beverages To Suit. A few beers in cans is fine for the ride home.   

Now 12,514 Reef Blocks Deployed at numerous sites. Active presently are Doug Ake's Reef with 2,370 - St. Ann's 1,459 - Al Giles Barge 610 - Eagle Scout Reef 744 - Sue's Drifting Easy Reef 147 - Nichols' Concrete 540 - Upside Down Tank 132 

Please Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation!
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. 
Thank You! 
Every Splash Makes Fishing Better.. 

Holiday Greetings All, 
Had a super light rail on our sea bass trip December 16th. First stop saw a mix of cbass & spiny dogfish - ugh. 
Second stop was close to perfect. For the first time in years I told clients to only take fish well above the size limit. 
We limited in about an hour and fifteen minutes anyway. 
Dern unlikely to repeat that action. 
Sure was nice though. 

Loaded the 100+ foot Iron Lady for one final trip on Sunday, 12/20/15. Too windy in the morning, they got underway at the crack of 10:30.. 
Having cancelled fishing for the same wind: Wes, Nick, Frank & myself were able to take two 100lb Danforth anchors offshore for the Iron Lady. 
I'll proudly tell any who will listen - that was a hard anchor set to get right and we nailed it. The Iron Lady, riding our double-anchor mooring, dropped precast concrete perfectly between an old barge & another concrete deployment from just a few weeks ago to form one nearly-continuous reef.. 

The importance of these reefs we build today is hard to fathom. Got my captain's license in 1983. I've had days without enough options, fishing trips with angry clients aboard & no possible way to cure the skunk. I've stumbled upon reefs & wrecks no one's ever fished before too and had a taste of that good life. I've seen our reef habitat footprint grow where men in my profession a generation or two ago watched it shrink. 
I'm certain when we build new reef, we're also building new reef-fish production. Reef fish aren't so different from other marine animals that colonize. Whether coral, sponge, crab, mussel -or fish- colonization of new habitat is simply increased spawning success owed only to the habitat. When those new colonists begin spawning - production has increased.

NOAA: "All we have to do is restrict catch! We know building artificial reef is just a feel-good measure that actually hurts fisheriesYou don't have any natural reef anyway, the bottom is all sand & mud."  

There are still folks at NOAA who remember the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries - before it became National Marine Fisheries Service. There are NOAA employees today who actually work at desks brass-tagged for that earlier agency. 
Recreational fishing was a joke in the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. 
So was the idea we could ever diminish our fisheries. 

Changing times.. I see upcoming grant opportunities clearly intended for both sea bass habitat, & for sea bass/summer flounder recreational release mortality. With pretty close to a million dollars in funding, there is hope. 

But I've known hope before. 
In 2001 I sent underwater video to Congress & NOAA showing our temperate coral habitats. "Sure put that to bed." I thought. "That's Essential Fish Habitat plain as day & the law says NOAA has to to Conserve, Protect, & Enhance Essential Fish Habitat.
After also sending a letter & sample of orange sea whip growing on a rock to NOAA's Sandy Hook Lab, I got this response from a top ecologist: "Interesting sample, but we don't see how it could be fish habitat.
I have letters too from NOAA administrators. 
It's only important fish habitat if they say so. Nevermind where the fish live. 

Here's a pic of Sea Whip. I believe we once had whip-meadows measured in square miles. What's left today could be measured in square yards.. 

In 2007 I saw a brand spanking-new 50 million dollar research vessel off our coast. Talk about hope! NOAA was looking at coordinates I had personally given them. I thought my part of this whole habitat thing was done; that those being paid to care about "Habitat Needed By Fish To Feed, Shelter, Grow To Maturity & Spawn" were now on the case  
..only there was no ROV crew aboard that beautiful ship, so shipboard remote-controlled underwater camera gear was of no use. 
There was also no side-scan sonar crew aboard, so no stern-towed side-scan was employed. 
They did have hull mounted multi-beam sonar, what we would call "CHIRP" today, but it was so new no one could read it. 
This 50 million dollar boat towed a 6 foot beam-trawl around for a week. They purposefully stayed away from my coordinates because they didn't want to hang the trawl. 

Such sweet thoughts I have about that operation. Bless their hearts..
In my opinion that's exactly what would have happened if discovering nothing was the goal. 
They Discovered Nothing. 

Never mind habitat for a moment; even accidentally sending our sea bass population to its highest point on record in 2003 is ignored in favor of keeping recreational catch estimates as an 'essential' part of restoration; especially now that NOAA spent all that money to 'repair' those recreational catch estimates. . .

This past summer a huge piece of ocean floor was vacated by sea bass & flounder - they left. 
Right in the heart of cbass spawning season - Gone. 
If foul language had physical properties, my wheelhouse windows would have turned black. 
I'm positive this exodus was because of surveys being done for wind turbines. I've experienced 'the bite' turning off completely several times in the presence of a survey boat's sub-bottom profiler. (a sonar not unlike a ground penetrating radar -- see Fish Report 8/20/15 for much deeper detail) After several years of summer surveys - Fish Left Quickly - Gone as soon as survey work recommenced.  

BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) claims this could never have happened because fish cannot hear that type of equipment. BOEM holds because sea bass & flounder cannot hear this sub-bottom penetrating sonar there could be no survey-associated reason for them to leave. 
NOAA, our "Ocean Defender," couldn't argue with BOEM: 'What habitat?WhereOh, FishOn ReefsIn the Mid-AtlanticReefs Close To Shore??!
'Nawww, sub-bottom profiler has no impact to fish. Ain't no reefs there no way.

Here's a video of sea bass in an experimental tank up in Sandy Hook during a small earthquake. Milling about in a large tank, the fish quickly knot up at one end at around 35 seconds. Did these fish "hear" the earthquake? Have readers ever 'heard' an earthquake? 
I absolutely guarantee sea bass will not feed when a sub-bottom profiler is within two miles - often at three miles. I absolutely guarantee this "harmless" survey equipment begins to have an effect on fish behavior at about 6 to 7 miles. 
I absolutely guarantee the same level of thinking applied to "harmless" sub-bottom profilers has also been applied to the far more damaging oil & gas exploration equipment that may soon be in use off our coast. Air cannon, an 'audible' means of sub-seafloor discovery, is exponentially more potent than typical electrically generated survey noise. 

BOEM, NMFS, & NOAA are not going to like my next video. 
We filmed many reef habitats in & near the survey area in late August from my boat. The difference between sea bass populations over those exact same reefs in & near the MD Wind Area between 2004 & 2015 is jaw-dropping. 
Didn't get to it as fast as I'd have liked, but truth has no statute of limitations. 

I hope grant money now on the table is honestly guided toward testable/demonstrable scientific outcomes. 
I hope our nation's "best available science" soon ceases to include recreational catch data no one believes. 
I hope biology & ecology are soon brought to bear in the restoration of our fisheries - not just catch restriction. 
I hope the science we do have can soon be collected together & used to improve many fisheries' response to management.

When focused, fisheries science will one day lead management to incredible gains. I believe fishing for sea bass, flounder & tautog can be made better than ever before. 
And will. 
Actually, we're already there with tautog. I don't think management has any idea. We're swiftly blowing past "restored" and moving into new population highs. We must be vigilant however, because there are also more people fishing for tog than ever before.. 

I think its vital fishery management moves away from "Catch Restriction" and begins with "How Do We Increase Production?
That's where biological & economic success lies. 

New year, new era. 
Wishbone never replaced backbone. 
Working on it.

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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