Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Fish Report 1/6/16

Fish Report 1/6/16 
Weatherman Switcheroo 
Have To Have Better Catch Data? 
An Oldy..

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

Going Toggin' - Sea Bass Closed (Thanks MRIP)  
Weather Suddenly Looks Good For - Friday, Jan 8th - 7 to 3 - $110.00 - 12 Anglers Sells Out.
Sunday cancelled for sea height. Still have Saturday on the book - but it's getting angrier..

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. 

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 

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.  
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 12,550 Reef Blocks Deployed at numerous sites. Active presently are Doug Ake's Reef with 2,382 - St. Ann's 1,459 - Al Giles Barge 622 - Eagle Scout Reef 756 - 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.. 

Greetings All, 
Carried "Hooked on OC" TV show today. Was a good time with a smattering of tog to 11.5 pounds tagged & released. One fellow had a limit. Another fellow never caught a fish. He was a tough case.. At one point he reeled in for me so I could check his bait - it stunk so bad I could smell it as it cleared the water! Couldn't fix his jinx..
We had several "3rd fin rip" returns, and I personally caught a VA tagged tog. 

The first VA tagged tog I ever saw was just as it was going back over from the bridge of the OC Princess, what, 15 years ago? We did not get the info.
This was the second. 
I recorded all the tag info: noted length, sex, & location - and put her back. Pretty sure this little gal has a wanderlust unusual in her species. 
They usually stay right where you leave them. 

Our pool winner today was a fish that had been released. If a fish is tagged and let go, the length counts the same as a fish in the boat for our tog pools.  
Below is a comment I wrote in 2005. 
Still don't have December, a month we lost in 2004 owing only to a bad MRFSS estimate. It was some crazy number of fish from shore that couldn't ever have actually happened. 
No fishery reveals NOAA/NMFS, Council & Commission's ignorance of factual recreational catch like tautog. Completely implausible catch estimates are the norm - yet the fishery still holds somewhat steady. 

Everyone in fisheries & all the big rec groups, "We have to get better catch data!
I think we'd be better off putting catch estimating money into habitat & stock estimates. After all, what we really need to know is: "Are there more fish than there were?
What we really, really need to know is, "How large a population can the existing habitat support? And with improvements?"

When we put size limits on sea bass & tautog back in 1992, (years before fed/state regs began) it was plain to see populations climbing. 
There were more fish. 
That was good. 

The system we have today actually rewards management when production is off. With fewer fish, there's less likelihood of even MRIP accusing us of overfishing. 
That's their goal --- End Overfishing. With no overfishing in sight - management has succeeded. 

Whether they actually have or not. 
Anyone overfished sea trout lately? 
Ah, but any species even remotely successful sees regulation waver in each new set of catch estimates. Management KNOWS how to spot overfishing. 
It's on a computer. 
Whether real or not has made absolutely no difference. Their resolve remains. 

Anyway - a 10 year old comment below. 

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

Written by: Captain Monty Hawkins, 12/01/05
This document is a draft for the purpose of reevaluating Maryland's tautog fishery management plan. No part of it has been approved nor reviewed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service. 

Suggestions for Revising Maryland's Tautog Management Plan

Biological Overview, Recreational Fishery, Commercial Fishery, Conflicts Caused By Current Regulation, and Suggested Management Plan Options 

Tautog are a species low on the list of priorities in any state's management scheme. Still, there are those for whom the species represents a significant economic and cultural importance. Even though there is bound to be dissatisfaction among user groups for any fishery management plan, a close look at the tautog plan will reveal ways to increase the stock as well as increase satisfaction by those the present plan effects. 
Biological Overview
A brief life history of the tautog can be found at this ASMFC website.
A more detailed tautog profile written by Peter J. Himchak of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries can be found at
A look at recent tag returns will likely indicate that tautog behavior is different at the southern end of its range than the commonly accepted migratory patterns revealed to our north. While some local migration is possible, tag returns from the regional stock by private individuals using ALS tags and returns collected by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science through a collaborative program show far less - if any - migration. (Pers. com Jon Lucy VIMS and personal tag returns) Comparing studies in Rhode Island (Cooper 1967) and the work done in Virginia (Hostetter and Monroe 1993) the growth rate for tautog in southern Virginia was far greater during the first three years than for tautog in the cooler waters of Rhode Island. (NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NE-118 - Stiemle and Shaheen) Presumably, the coastal Maryland growth rate would more closely resemble Virginia's. According to Himchak's synopsis the optimum size for female egg production has been estimated at 16 inches. If there is, in fact, faster growth along Maryland's seacoast then tautog should reach 16 inches at age 5 or 6.
Fishery Overview
Currently, the commercial and recreational regulations, with the exception of the recreational closure, are the same ~ 5 fish with a 14 inch minimum size. The recreational fishery is closed in December. 
Recreational Fishery
Tautog have always been an important target species of the party boats along coastal Maryland. In the early 1980's a scarcity of sea bass developed that led to an overexploitation of the marine tautog stock by several party and charter boats. Very high catch rates lasted for 3 years. Fish of 12 to 14 lbs. were common in federal waters through the mid-80's. Pressure on tautog did not decline until catch rates dropped to nearly zero. 
Beginning in 1992 anglers began to take the management of the marine stock of tautog upon themselves. The party boat "O.C. Princess" began with a 3 fish @ 16 inches policy which was vigorously enforced.
When the state adopted regulations for the species later in the decade it was decided to simply abide those regulations while encouraging the release of females and legal fish close to the size limit.
Tautog became especially important in the coastal bays recreational
 fishery after the collapse of sea trout in the early 80's. At that time, anglers disappointed by their lack of success while casting bucktails or drifting baits for seatrout found that they had a robust fishery right at their feet - literally. As the bulkheading and use of rip-rap had became more commonplace in Ocean City's development, so to did the primary habitat for tautog increase. Anglers had only to change their technique to again become successful. Therefore, during the period prior to the early 80's the fishery could be represented as a nearly virgin stock. It was common for fish exceeding 8 lbs. to be caught along the coastal bay's jetties, piers, bridges and bulkheads. Presently, the inshore stock has become truncated (primarily sublegal in size) where public access allows very localized schools to be heavily fished. There are only a few areas of private property bulkheading holding schools more in proportion to a natural population. The marine stock has fared much better owing to lower fishing pressure, increases of habitat and conservation efforts exceeding regulation. 
It is not uncommon now to see conservation minded anglers in the coastal bays and aboard party boats releasing many legal females with some anglers limiting their catch far below the legal creel limit as well.
Unfortunately, it is also true that other recreational anglers routinely disregard any regulation...
Commercial Fishery
Tautog have never been a significant source of income for Maryland's marine trap, gill net or trawl fisheries. Historically, the few fish caught were filleted and sold directly to the public which represented a far better profit than the 'across the dock' prices fish houses typically paid. At times the fish were thrown back as worthless bycatch. Since the species is so robust, this frequently resulted in live release rather than dead discard as is common with bycatch.
It may be true, based on an increasing number of second hand accounts, that there now exists an illegal commercial fishery for live tautog in the coastal bays. While not seemingly advantageous to commercial fish via shoreside angling it is possible that prices in excess of $15.00 a lb. for live fish could represent a lucrative fishery to some. Apparently, this is a restaurant trade fishery. Smaller fish are highly desirable. That a market for live tautog exists is indisputable. User group conflicts and violations as a result of participating illegally in the live market trade are well documented in New Jersey and New York.
Conflicts Caused By Current Regulation
Maryland's tautog regulations are among the most simple of fishery management plans. The size and creel limit apply equally to all participants with the exception of a one month closure for recreational fishers that does not apply to commercial users.
Economic hardship is incurred because of the closure. While some business are closed seasonally and are unaffected; several party boats, charter boats and tackle shops would very much like to see a reopening of the closed period.
Additionally, many recreational fishers think that a more carefully crafted plan would be of greater benefit to the stock. That is, it would be better to allow more of the stock to spawn multiple times before being taken.
And, finally, illegal commercial fishing in the coastal bays is, at present, uncheckable. Violators, if caught, pay the fine and go back to fishing. A simple business expense.
Suggested Management Plan Options 
  • 1. Status Quo. The regulations would remain 5 fish at 14 inches per person per day with whatever closures are necessary to remain in compliance with ASMFC.
  • 2. Divide the fishery into regions. State waters would remain status quo with a conservation equivalency in federal waters. Fishers outside of 3NM would see an increase to a 16 inch size limit with a reduction in the creel limit to 3 fish in the months of June, July, August, September and October and no closed season. 
  • 3. Apply the same conservation equivalency equally to all participants. 5 fish at 16 inches except a 3 fish limit in June, July, August, September and October with no closed season.
  • 4. Phase in the conservation equivalency over a 4 year period in state waters by raising the size limit one half inch each year. The size increase would take effect immediately in federal waters and the creel restriction would be in effect for all participants. There would be no closed period. (As the stock is now a 16 inch limit in the coastal bays would essentially close the fishery except for catch and release)
  • Additional options can be created after review of landings data as relates to ASMFC requirements.
  • All of the options should include provisions which protect legal commercial fishing interests while further protecting the coastal bays tautog population. Since there is currently no legal commercial fishing pressure on the coastal bay's stock a no sale provision of the coastal bay's tautog combined with a no live holding of the coastal bay's fish would work.
Written by: Captain Monty Hawkins, 12/01/05
This document is a draft for the purpose of reevaluating Maryland's tautog fishery management plan. No part of it has been approved nor reviewed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service. So there! (Brooks, Mel - Blazing Saddles 1974)

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