Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Fish Report 12/8/15

Fish Report 12/8/15 
Went Cbassing & Going 
Lost Potential 
An Unfortunate Observation

Weather Unusually Calm & Mild For December - Going Sea Bass Fishing - 6AM to 4PM - Thursday, December 10th - $150.00 - Anticipate a light rail & going way out.. Saturday, December 12th - 5AM to 5PM - Long Run - Very Long - Not For Those Who Like To See Land - $150.00.. (Working on reef building duties Wednesday & Friday..) 

Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - On My Rig You Can Reserve What Spot You're In. Please See http://morningstarfishing.com 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..  

We have the Iron Lady wharfed in West OC for another 6 weeks. We'll run out of money after two more days of deployments (5 or six runs of about 4 truckloads of pre-cast concrete structures each). 
When this boat goes back to the Chesapeake it may be years before we see it again - or never. 
If you can pitch-in, please do! http://www.ocreefs.org   
Even $50 or $100 helps. We burn $7,000.00-plus to load & go two trips in a day.. 
No t-shirts, no charts, no mugs - just seize the opportunity to build reef that will last many generations.

Back aboard the Morning Star:
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.   

Limits are a fact of life.
If you won't count & measure your fish, Maryland will cheerfully send a man with a gun to do it for you. 
I fight bad regulation nearly every single day - but abide the law as it stands until we can see it changed. 
Anglers wishing to keep undersized fish or go over the limit will not enjoy fishing with me. At all. 
We count & measure - ALWAYS. There is no "close enough," only keepers & throwbacks. We'll show you how to measure the same way DNR Police do. 
When 5 fish cops suddenly appear behind the transom as we're pulling in the slip, no one aboard my boat should be worried in the least..

Now 12,490 Reef Blocks Deployed at numerous sites. Active presently are Doug Ake's Reef with 2,370 - St. Ann's 1,447 - Al Giles Barge 598 - Eagle Scout Reef 744 - Sue's Drifting Easy Reef 147 - Nichols' Concrete 540 - Upside Down Tank 132 

Trucks are rolling in - money's flowing out.. 
With the Iron Lady here & ready to deploy we can almost instantly convert donations into concrete reef. 
Please Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation!
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. 
Thank You! 

Every Splash Makes Fishing Better.. 

Greetings All, 
Had two real pretty days on the water. For reasons I couldn't guess, larger sea bass bit earlier on Sunday. With an amazing bite all day, and an amazing amount of throwbacks (over 2K,) we only had 2 clients limit-out. 
Monday we had a boat limit. 

Back before management began, back in the 1980s--even before self-regulation, we would have a few good weeks of sea bass fishing in the spring & then a few more in late fall/early winter. We'd pick away come summer with almost no sea bass catch at all in August. 
Sea bass production shot upward with our self-enforced 1992 nine-inch limit. Biologists were right: every sea bass of 9 inches had spawned once, some twice. By the year 2000 we had a truly robust year round sea bass fishery. Given the utter collapse of sea trout & Boston mackerel, that was a good thing. 

in the 1980s we used to fish for seatrout/weakfish from mid-August to the end of the year. What was effectively a 'closed season' on sea bass did not drive the population upward. 

After the regulatory collapse of our sea trout fishery, (the size limit precluded any possibility of catch) we began fishing for sea bass all though the fall instead. 
With vastly increased effort, no 12+ inch size limits & no bag limit at all until 2002, our region's sea bass population shot upward all through the 1990s. 
We often caught & kept more sea bass in a week or less than my clients have kept this entire year. This is true of other boats as well. Despite these far-greater landings, the population of sea bass would increase, even doubling some years, owing to spawning production hitting stride by the mid 1990s. 

I'm not inflating - not stretching the truth. My boat often caught in a couple days or a week what we now catch in a year. Yet sea bass became even more abundant. 
Now, with long closed seasons, a 15 fish bag limit, & larger size limits, you'd think greater catch restriction would drive sea bass numbers to the moon. 
That, however, is not the case. There are far fewer sea bass today than when we were catching so many more just over a decade ago. 

Managers today believe they have only size limit, bag limit, & season to work with as they strive for fisheries restoration.
Yet tighter & tighter restriction has had quite the opposite effect on sea bass.
After more than a decade of 12+ inch size limits we have now returned to a "pre-management" fishery. Just like in the 1980s, we have a couple good weeks in the spring & a couple good weeks in the fall. Only today we don't keep near as many 
..and the fishable population is far less robust than even in management's earliest days.

Management points to recent sea bass increases in a newly-warmer, very rocky & island-studded 90 mile stretch from Montauk, NY to Cape Cod and cries, "Overfishing!!!" 

It's interesting that when federal management began in 1997 or 1998, Massachusetts began with a 12 inch commercial & 13 inch recreational limit. Everyone else from Hatteras north started at 9 inches, then 10 & 11. Those with the smaller size limits would witness their sea bass numbers climb nearly straight up through 2003. 
But the miraculous population growth we saw down here early in management was not experienced in southern New England until just recently when they adopted a 14 inch size limit in 2009. 

What a waste of a fishery. From the South Shore of Long Island to Cape Hatteras - production has flatlined. 

Every tag study of sea bass has unfailingly pointed to habitat fidelity.  Southern New England's fishery resource should in no way be called upon to buoy the Mid-Atlantic's numbers. Nor should ANY spring/summer/fall catch up there be factored against the Mid-Atlantic's restoration efforts. 
As has been the case for so long, the scientific facts of spawning behaviors are ignored while NOAA's most conveniently accessed data, MRIP recreational catch estimates, are forced upon a disbelieving management community as if they offered some foundation in science. 
They do not. 

I hold there's been an upward shift in spawning age for sea bass. From my first days in the sea bass fishery in 1980 until 2001 or so, it was plain to see many small sea bass had transitioned from female to male at a very young age. (Common in reef fish is the ability to change sex. Perhaps isolated by even hundreds of miles in the Pacific, an imbalanced spawning population might result in collapse..) 
Where once any biologist could factually assert, "All 9 inch sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic have spawned once, some twice" nowadays virtually no 9 inch sea bass have spawned - none.. 

It's not population density: it's the size of surrounding fish on a reef that trigger--or delay--spawning maturity. The concept of "habitat capacity" is no theoretical. It creates deeply ingrained instinctual response in many higher-order animals. Any trigger creating "fear of overpopulation" leading to excess competition for available habitat, or where possible food-resource failure is perceived; that instinctual fear will slow procreation. 

No endless screens of senseless recreational catch data; vastly increased spawning production is key to fisheries restoration & bioeconomic stability/improvement in the fisheries.
I absolutely promise: Here is fishery management's brass ring. Here is where fantastic production and increased catch will come from. How to manage for maximum spawning production is what we must understand. Sea bass can help unlock this manageable response in many species. 

Excluding young sea bass from the spawning biomass for as much as three years (from spawning at age zero/age one, to now spawning at age three/age four) is what has created our region's regression. 
Although there are more -and larger- female sea bass as a percentage of the population than ever before, EVER, spawning production has dropped like a rock. 
Yet 100 out of 100 fisheries professionals & academics will testify large females are the solution. They call it BOFF. Big Old Fecund Females.. 
With sea bass - Fail. 

I believe quotas calculated with spawning site fidelity as relates to habitat, & habitat increase/restoration/abundance; plus 'age at maturity' will one day become management's three most important tools. 
We did size limits from a kitchen table..
For now we must suffer our little dark age, a time when management of marine fisheries was first begun & wild guesses of recreational catch were called science. 

Lots & Lots going on with reef building. Could easily do that full-time. Will be shifting 100 pound Danforth anchors as we spend the last of our existing funding. 
Many people have sent me the link to possible sea bass habitat funding grants. I will explore that funding in depth! 

A fascinating observation; which, for the sake of innocent lives, I sincerely wish I'd never been able to make. At about 11:30 on December 2nd I sent a fish report with a reef funding plea while Jeremiah (of OC Dive Boat) sent out an OCRF Facebook post just a bit later describing our situation with the Iron Lady. We are at "use it or lose it." We have to build now or wait until a new transportation opportunity arrises. 
I had never seen such an instant response. People were steadily contributing handsome dollar amounts   ..but when news of the California shootings broke the fundraising dried up completely for about 36 hours. 

Our human instinct for safety remains. 
But it's not uniquely human. It's the same reason reef-fish love a pile of concrete. 

I see an ocean of potential. 
Seafloor habitat is a key component. 
Working on it. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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