Sunday, April 03, 2016

Fish Report 4/3/16

Fish Report 4/3/16
Went & Enjoyed 
Going & Hope  
Tog Tags & A Tog Secret  
Cheech & Chong's MRIP 

Going Toggin: It's STILL a COLD WATER BITE! Getting a lot more bites & throwbacks though -- tagging more. Some anglers will likely do OK - not everyone. 
Going Wednesday, April 6th - 7AM to 3PM - $110.00 - 12 Sells Out.. Reservation Line Opens At 7:30AM Monday
If unfamiliar with toggin, or with my boat's policies --- PLEASE read the trip info at the bottom of this email. (pretty much like this: if you think they're easy to catch, or it's easy to cheat, you are not going to enjoy tog fishing with me..) 

Opening May 15th Through May 31st For Sea Bass. I do not anticipate easy bag limits. Last year's opener, in fact, was some of the worst sea bass fishing I've ever seen. But last fall was consistently good! What do you do.. We'll be allowed 15 sea bass at 12.5 inches. Call to reserve. The worst thing you can do is involve me w/your reservation.. I fish for a living, they do reservations for a living! 

All Winter Trips Posted Via Email. There's just no use trying to go everyday in winter.. (that includes March, April, and early May.) 
Reservations Required - See Way Down Below & Be a half hour early! We always leave early! 

12,725 Reef Blocks Deployed at numerous sites. Active presently are Doug Ake's Reef with 2,406 - St. Ann's 1,459 - Al Giles Barge 689 - Eagle Scout Reef 756 - Sue's Drifting Easy Reef 147 - Nichols' Concrete 578 - Upside Down Tank 132 

Please Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation!
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. 
Thank You! 
As if an ancient battlefield, here a heavily-coraled compressed tire-unit from the mid-1970s seems to have snagged a trawl net long ago. It could also be the net was simply disposed of there. Happens.. 
The reef is 9 NMs E OC MD. 

Most of our natural hardbottoms were not as robust as this artificial reef. They're gone save small patches. 
Whether estuarine oysters or marine coral; I believe the effect of lost habitat is always lost fisheries production. 
I also believe the effect of restored habitat is always increased fisheries production. 
We know how to grow oysters & coral. 

While we hold a bake-sale to build reef 
..MRIP is well-funded.  

OC Reef Foundation dinner is May 15th at the Marlin Club. 
If you have something to contribute for the dinner's auctions or raffles - we'd sure appreciate it! 

Greetings All, 
Snuck out for a little tog fishing one day last week. Dagoned weather's making it hard to go, but when we can get out the bite's a little less tough each trip. 
I have no idea if anyone limited. Pretty sure most had dinner. It was, by far, the steadiest bite since the big blizzard. 
Just one trip announced up top. See if a few folks want to get out of the house for some toggin. I'd sure like to be fishing more. Maybe the wind will break for a while.

Did have a real old tag return come back in mid-January. A female tog was tagged in March of 2012 at 17 inches and caught almost 4 years later at 22.5 inches. That's slow growth in a fish, but not near as slow as science first suspected. The tog was still at the same artificial reef. 
Two other female tog were caught with almost exactly two years at liberty. One grew from 14.5 inches to 17 inches; the other from 13.5 to 17 inches. Both remained at the same reef. 
We've already tagged a couple hundred tog this year. Wrasse from around the world, lots of reef-fish really, have the ability to change sex. I would imagine this a Darwinian way to combat small, isolated reefs from becoming unproductive. A small population, so distant from other reefs that no immigration is likely, can still muster a spawning population with just a few fish. 

So, while habitat fidelity is pretty well carved in stone, as are tautog growth rates in the lower Mid-Atlantic; we are still hunting (tagging) for a sea bass-like ability to change sex. 
So far - no. 

Did have a Virginia tag though. That rascal was a wanderer. Happens. 
I usually observe no movement at all in tautog - regardless time of year. Unless there's a nearby artificial reef growing into maturity. When a reef gets 3+ years on the bottom, 4 is better, we'll see tags moving to new habitat. 
Once initial colonization has occurred, tautog spawning begins at the new habitat. One could say at that point "habitat production" has begun. Unless you're in management. The current party line is "fish are attracted to artificial reef, concentrating them for easier recreational capture." 

In an area such as the Bass Grounds where natural reef hasn't existed for over 50 years - but did: If we have 10 artificial reefs and build 10 more, how in blazes does colonization of new reef "concentrate" these reef fish? 

I'm positive of this - tautog will colonize a reef when they can. 
Increasing the habitat footprint makes it more difficult to catch them all - not more simple. Reef expansion by constructing new reefs positively does not concentrate tautog for easier capture. The idea runs against the grain of logic. 

Populations of tautog increase on new artificial reef exactly as on accidental shipwrecks. 
We have precious little natural reef favored by tog off Maryland's coast. But when that type of habitat is overfished, it too is repopulated at the same pace as any man-made substrate. 
I believe we currently have the largest number of spawning tog that has ever existed - but they're spread out over lots of small artificial reefs. 
Last year, in fact, MD DNR biologists surveying with a net in the back-bays had the single highest sample of juvenile tautog that has ever occurred.
Bodes well for the future. 

Now for the secret.. There are two ways to catch big tog - really big. 1) Find a place that hasn't been fished; or 2) Fish a reef where anglers often throw big tog back. 
Three really, and this is most effective: distract so many anglers with abundant sea bass or other fish that they won't trouble themselves with tautog. 
It's real easy to get folks to throw back large tog if they already have a box full of nice cbass. (assuming tog do not count in the pool..)   
Even when there was no regulation on tog, we'd ask folks to throw back big tog & they did. 
That changed as sea bass collapsed. 

Certain of their certain data, NOAA has certainly made a mess of fisheries restoration. Sea bass had nearly repaired themselves just with our pre-regulatory size limit. That early effort at marine fisheries management grew into the best sea bass fishing anyone could remember. 
What's got everything all fouled up is NOAA's mandate that managers use recreational catch data as if it were sacred. 
In order to understand management's strengths, we must first know the truth of catch. Recreational estimates bounce arounds so wildly that even harsh new regulation can seem to have no affect.  

The new estimating program was supposed to take care of that. 
But no. We are more ignorant of catch than ever. 

I used this MRIP/MuRFSS* catch estimate comparison a while back to illustrate MRIP's failings. 
The National Academy of Sciences is looking into recreational catch estimates (again.) I've been digging through old Fish Reports looking for what I consider bad recreational catch estimates - the worst. Have sent a few comments to the NAS email address below. You can comment too --- IF you're qualified. 
(*MuRFSS was the old method of statistically estimating recreational catch - MRIP is the new. NAS is National Academy of Sciences)

Here's a direct comparison of the old MuRFSS program & NOAA's new MRIP recreational catch estimating method.  
This table shows Massachusetts Party/Charter catch estimates from both programs. It also shows MRIP's PSE spreads. (PSE = percentage standard error. Similar to "Margin of Error" in a political poll.) 
Estimate StatusYearWaveSpeciesNew MRIP  {Old MRFSS}PSE  or MRIP's Margin of Error Spread
FINAL2004JULY/AUGUSTSCUP752,942        {19,547}48.9    or      20,000 to 1,450,000
FINAL2005JULY/AUGUSTSCUP     1,382       {12,557}   67.3    or        Zero to 3,200
FINAL2006JULY/AUGUSTSCUP  76,908        {49,624}46.2   or       6,000 to 140,000
This is a steady fishery. Party/Charter catch the heck out of scup up there. Our "new & improved" program spent millions & millions to determine MA party/charter caught between 20,000 & 1,450,000 scup in 2004. Then, in 2005, between zero & 3,200. 
What rubbish. 
If this is the "best scientific information available," we'll never escape from under this rock.   

As soon as MRIP was unveiled I began to complain bitterly. Calling MRIP "new & improved" was, essentially, a hoax. From many, including the estimate above; I was also frequently using the fabulously unreal increase of 100,000 tautog for NJ's shore anglers in Mar/Apr 2010..
MRIP published a reply in their newsletter: "..With these improvements in place, we can say with confidence that we have enhanced the quality of our estimates. In fact, the cases you cite are good examples for demonstrating exactly what we mean by that." 

Yeah, no. 
Catch estimates have not been enhanced. The US government has been ripped off. 
Fisheries science & management are grossly thrown out of balance, especially where recreational fisheries are concerned. It's so bad that sometimes MRIP data's cancerous effects can grow deeply into commercial regulation as well. 
Perhaps someday an accurate economic study can be fashioned. That is not possible with today's recreational data.. 

With concerns expressed by many, MRIP has been called before the National Academy of Sciences as they were in 2006. Back then the NAS's final report was written in such strong language that Congress passed legislation the following year calling for NOAA to repair the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey (MuRFSS).. 
To have been completed by 2009; the Marine Recreational Informational Program, or MRIP, was unveiled in late January, 2012 -- a couple years late. 
I began complaining MRIP was worse than MuRFSS that same week... 

Many will recall the federal mandate of either a fishing license, or fishing "registration," for each coastal state. 
MRIP was why. Accurate catch data was the reason for licenses. I supported the heck out of salt-water licenses. 
MuRFSS had no head count. No matter if you calculate perfectly what the average catch per-person is, it does no good at all without knowing how many anglers there are. 
The average fluke catch is 2.2 fish with an 18 inch size limit - Great! 
But we never knew exactly; OK, even remotely, how many people were doing the catching. 
Fixed that! 

Yeah, no. 
MRIP still doesn't have any idea. 
But they're really sure a large percentage of private boaters have not registered at all - in any form.. I think that's why they won't use license/registration info yet.. 

It gets worse.. 
I'm pretty close to the last guy with a flip-phone. As technology has advanced, MRIP's spending big money to improve catch reporting with  
..pony express? 

Yup. Maybe by 2018 we'll have a mail-in survey card to fill out. 
That's how they intend to use "salt-water registration" info. Snail mail.

Ain't done yet. 
Remember those VTR catch reports party/charter skippers have to fill out every day or lose their permits? 
MRIP will not use that tainted data. 
I do not know why. 
More in question, managers are not allowed to use our daily catch reports. For management's purpose, recreational catch is determined by MRIP data alone. 

Fouled Up Beyond All Repair? (That's FUBAR for those unfamiliar with military slang) 
Is MRIP such a "soup sandwich" that there's no way of ever back-calculating catch?
No, this is all repairable. 
We have to get recreational catch right though. It's truly steered science & management down some blind alleys. We're living that now in sea bass..

If you have any insight to offer the NAS on MRIP's greatness or failings, you must first pass this Specialized Fishery Management Test. 
First: Draw a breath. 
Did air go into your lungs? 
OK good. 
You passed. 

Now write an email and send it to NAS MRIP Comment: .. 
Simple "I LUV MRIP" (or despise) aren't going to carry much weight. But if you have something to offer in way of too high/too low estimates - or an example of how bad estimates created economic disruption - any comment - those would be good.... 

Scientists at the National Academies are people. Pretty dagoned smart, but they're people. You do not need a Ph.D. to write them. 
Below is an ad I'll be running in Coastal Fisherman. 

Fishing info's just below that..



Going Toggin? 
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. 

Water's Getting Warmer In Pockets. Storms Have Flipped Temps Upside Down & Backward. An Odd Winter For Sure..

Crew Have White Crabs For Sale AT THE DOCK for the low, low price of just $5.00 per generous dozen. There Is No Guarantee We'll Have Whites For Any Trip. Sometimes they all die. That shrinkage is why I prefer greens. We may be bringing some whites with us in the ocean. Green Crabs (not Whites!) Remain Provided As Boat Bait And Are Included In All Fares.   

Going Toggin Anyway! Tog Only, Sea Bass Are Closed Because NOAA Has Accepted Poor Statistical Catch Estimates As If They Represented 'Certain Knowledge' For Decades. NOAA Has No Idea How Best To Manage The Sea Bass Fishery. (yet) 
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.   

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