Monday, March 06, 2017

Fish Report 3/6/17

Fish Report 3/6/17
Caught Some Macks Monday 
Going Mackerel Fishing  
A 2010 Data Dive

If you really want to fill trash cans, I strongly suggest a time machine. Pretty sure I can make a "we caught mackerel" day. 

Offering Mackerel Trips -- Not Tautog/Blackfish - No Tog! (For Now!) 
All These Trips Are $75.00 - Reservations Required
Wednesday, March 8th - 9 to 3 (to let some rain pass) Sells Out at 21 
Thursday, March 9th - 7 to 2 - Sells Out at 21 
Friday, March 10th - 7 to 2 - Sells Out at 21 
Saturday, March 11th - 9 to 4 - Sells Out at 16 - CHILLY! 

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..

It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. Bonine seems best because it's non-drowsy. Truly cheap & effective insurance. 
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.   

In winter waterproof boots are almost a necessity. (and great socks! like over the calf smart wool .) While some rarely, or never, wear gloves for fishing, you'd not likely see me fishing this time of year w/o at least the half-finger wool gloves. 
Layers are best because, believe it or not, sometimes it can be very pleasant offshore--especially when the wind lays down. In winter it's warmer offshore owing to warmer waters. In summer it's cooler..

We have a HUGE bunch of giant blocks coming from DelMarVa Power. Thank You!!!

16,581 Reef Blocks deployed at numerous sites: Doug Ake's Reef 3,145 - St. Ann's 1,585 - Al Giles/OC RUST Reef 1,185 - Eagle Scout Reef 904 - Sue's Block Drop 229 - Nichols' Concrete 837 - Capt. Bob's Block Drop 663 - Benelli Reef 341 - Capt. Bob's Reef 393 - Wolf & Daughters Reef 210 ..
Blocks Provided By Potomac Valley Brick - Thank You!
Blocks are a small part of what we're doing. Prefer bargeloads of substrate but believe any forward motion is good..
Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation! (lots of reef pics here..) The OC Reef Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit with no payroll & no rented office space -- We Build Reef. Also registered w/Amazon Smile. We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. Thank You! 

Greetings All, 
I cancelled Sunday's trip. Wind crept around too far northeast & the forecast had wind speeds bumped-up into the day longer.. 
My crew & I had some reef business to tend to Monday. Gorgeous calm; we did a bunch of reef work, went fishing just long enough to establish mackerel's existence; and, on the way in, I had to wake the boys up to take whale pics. Got close enough to a humpback so scientists could get an ID off it's tail. 

This reef material was placed at Wolf & Daughters Reef at Kelly's Reef 3/6/17 (Photo Nick Denny) 
Mate Danny with the day's biggest mackerel. (Photo Nick Denny)

Caught a handful of herring too.
We did not fill trash cans. We did not fill coolers. 
I stayed long enough to get a feel whether I could make a trip or not. I think so. Very much so. 
Then we took care of other business..
If you really want to fill trash cans, I strongly suggest a time machine. Pretty sure I can make a "we caught mackerel" day. 

This Humpback wasn't too far off the coast.. Their needs are part of fisheries management too. (Photo Nick denny)

Last time I tried macks was in 2003 or 2004. 
Yeah, no. That didn't work.  
Last time I caught them well was probably in 1993 or 94. Those trips occurring soon after that 1990 foreign factory fish processor debacle I described in my 3/4/17 report. What we were learning was instead of "The Run" lasting for weeks, it was over in days.. 
I anticipate that sort of situation here too. 100% depends on what water temps do. 
This is not going to be an old-time run.

I expect we need to let management know that just because commercial harvest has owned the fishery since 1990, we still expect restoration in numbers large enough to support a recreational fishery -- and far broader support as an ecosystem fish as well. 
Below is a great big fish report where I touched on mackerel back in 2010. This was before the "repair" of MRFSS recreational catch estimates.. 

Going to go try the macks a few days.

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

Fish Report 3/29/10 
Data Broadly
Hi All,
Here I want to give some simple examples of what our recreational catch estimating system was designed to do and some glaring examples of what it could never do. Entertaining with statistics is challenging at best so stick with me; I'll try to mix a few fish stories in. Our official catch-estimates are a lot of what's wrong with the fishing we have, not the fish.. The conflicts constantly resulting from poor data and its ill-advised use distract us from the fish we really have lost, fish that could use our fully focused attention; where we really do need to get to work.
Some readers will remember our Boston mackerel fishery. Triple headers, quads; Heck with a cooler, many guys would bring a trash can for the wear-you-out crazy-good fishing. It was always a big deal when local TV personality, Scorchy Tawes, would arrive at the docks come spring and interview the old timers, "When will the mackerel arrive?"
In an age before internet we had 2 or 3 days from when we first caught a load of mackerel to selling out 7 days a week.. The run usually peaked around Easter. Once we started chasing the fish north passenger numbers would fall off.
And then it would be over.
Sanding and painting 'till sea bass got thick. 
Almost 20 years now, they could come back of their own accord. May yet.
The mackerel fishing that everyone had known since boats were launched from the surf, since before there was an inlet, died when a Joint Foreign Fishing Venture circa '91 & '92 was allowed. (Actually 1990 LMH 2017) Huge factory processors bought American caught mackerel--All They Could Get. 
Although it was happening all around us and to many species, we had no notion that there could ever be an end to what always was. At that time striped bass & weakfish were the only recreational species I can remember under management. Flounder may have had a 12 inch limit; The surf-clam industry was under intense regulation. 
It was then, when these last "underutilized species" were being sought, that the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) arranged for these foreign processor ships to buy American commercially caught macks..
I think we still do not understand that just because biologists have created a coastwide stock assessment that the fish will behave to suit. We had not learned, and still have not learned, that we should never manage fish as if there were no regional separation in spawning stocks..
With disappointingly inadequate scientific deliberation the US allowed the southern stock of atlantic (or Boston) mackerel to be overpressured with an incredible surge of fishing effort. 
It has yet to come back..
Recreational clients have long-since ceased coming. 
MD's Pete Jensen would forever make the argument that recreational fishing is never about catch, just camaraderie. 
Yeah UhHu. 
Nowadays the more northern stocks, which survived just fine apparently, are taking more pressure than ever.
Ah, Wandering.. I want to use Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS, say Murfs) catch estimate data on mackerel to illustrate what MRFSS was designed for: Catch Estimates That Show A Trend.
See if you can spot it. 
Species: ATLANTIC MACKEREL Maryland Rec. Landings
Note - 1993 is missing as are 2004 thru '09 -- I presume those are zero catches. 
Point here is you can easily see a shift in catch starting in '92.
Did we really catch exactly 109,822 in 1996? Heck No.
Did we really catch exactly 537,301 in 1990? Heck No. 
Did we really catch exactly zero in in 2009? Well, probably. 
Trends in catch, however, are evident. That is all MRFSS was ever designed to do. Never a two month or wave by wave real time analysis: "Warning! Warning! Recreational Fishers In Sector Nine Are Approaching Fifth Week Quota!"
Um, No.
More like..
"Seems like the recreational catch on mackerel dropped off pretty fast after the factory processors were let in; Do you think we screwed up?" 
That was its design. 
But we are using MRFSS for real time analysis. 
No manager I know has ever pondered the lost mackerel fishing.. 
For this report I tried to access our historical landings of red hake too; called them ling or lingcod. Used to be up on the recreational statistics site. Fishery's gone & now the data's gone as well; I think both are restorable, the data far more simply...
Very importantly, the PSE or percentage standard error that you see to the right of each catch-estimate in the chart above represents the real statistical answer. Political polls would be scrapped if they exceed 4% PSE. To them 4% represents a very high margin of error. 
Yet throughout MRFSS there are numerous examples where the PSE is above 50%.. Even 100% PSEs occur. 
Still & importantly, a statistician will say that is the answer, that the centerpoint is only a number that represents a large field where a true number might be found. 
Statistically perfect or nearly so: I'm sure the internal policy of using the statistical centerpoint as if it were hard-data is where recreational fishing's troubles source; That when the centerpoint wanders far above the correct number, beyond and inexplicably higher than any other catch-estimate, the system fails.
Now, just for something out of left field, how could we fairly allocate these Atlantic mackerel with recreational Catch Shares? 
Popular right now; lot of folks think Catch Shares are the new answer to fisheries restoration. I might too without a sense of how fouled-up the data is, how lacking some management plans are in basic understanding of the managed species' behavior; In a world without waves the paper & flat-screen calculations all look so good. 
If we use MRFSS to permanently divvy-up recreational catch, some are going to hit the jackpot, others will get robbed. The chances that mackerel will be divided up using a 5 year average from the 80s is miniscule.. I wouldn't possibly have enough landings to qualify for a catch-share of mackerel in the last decade, despite that I fully participated before the collapse; And didn't create it.
Ok-Ok. Catch shares another day.  Fast forward a piece. You have seen in many of my past reports examples of summer flounder and black sea bass data that are accepted and used by management; Yet those data sets are thought laughable---in most anguished fashion---by fishermen.
This catch estimating program, MRFSS, that was supposed to show by general trend how recreational fishing was doing now needs be as a predator drone with real time transmitted aerial surveillance to satisfy the needs of modern managers.. It's not about where the enemy was an hour ago, it's where they are now: Not rec-fishers catch-trend of the last 72 months, managers now want the last 72 hours.
MRFSS, however, is still equipped with black & white film that has to be delivered, developed & analyzed.. Apparently the enemy has infiltrated the system too, is frequently creating diversionary decoy data sets that send staff off to create trouble within our ranks--Closures. 
We know MRFSS is over-tasked, that's why the new federal registry system was developed to take over -- MRIP. 
Folks I know on the inside do not think MRIP will necessarily deliver speedier data; Its enhancement of our present system will come as a much better estimate, almost a hard number, of participants.
Because field interviewers give a broad spectrum of pure catch data--what really got caught by an individual angler in a face to face interview. MRFSS must then take fantastic guesses of how many people participated: Here is where the system occasionally flies apart. MRIP, with its Angler Registry, will have a much better idea of how many people went fishing; can call them...
Simply smoothing the data, removing the flyers, should be enough for all but the most high-pressure fisheries. Adding truth to catch estimates will preclude the most contentious management: Where bad data leads to poor governance, better data must lead to improved governance.....
Now I'll present some for-hire tautog numbers that I think would certainly interest anyone who has read this far. Party and charter boat catch only here - I know quite a bit about it because MD has only one seaside inlet. Managers must think there are crazy pulses of fishing effort - that our clients demand one species or another but almost never two years in a row.. Scroll down through this real data.
Species: TAUTOG Maryland Charter/Partyboat
Eleven fish in MD for 2009 in the entire for-hire industry? 
That certainly requires adjustment.. maybe move the PSE up a couple digits? What if that got thrown into a recreational catch-share average? 
We all did at least some toggin last fall. Cbass closed, had to target tog. There is no excuse for an estimate this low. 
The catch shown in this table in 1988 & 1994 never happened. 
At all. 
Nor the decline from '94 to '96.
The catch in 2002 is fantasy; We were solid into some of the the best sea bassing I'd ever seen. Maybe 10 guys on the planet can fish a crab while doubles of nice sea bass are coming over the rail. There were no party boat trips targeting tog at all in 2002.
Eleven fish.. It was a proportionally similar --but opposite-- data failure that was used to close sea bass by emergency regulation last fall.
..despite that we turn in a 6 layer deep carbon-copy catch data form taken on a day-by-day basis: Mail it to 'em.. 
There really is no excuse for saying MD Charter/Party caught 11 tog last year. 
It is a gigantic Screw You - Fishers have never fought the data and won - MRFSS says we caught 11 fish or 8 million - They always win.
Still, here's an easy one, 11 tog, a slam dunk--multiple eyewitness--error. Almost 30 years of data though.. You see a spike in 1984. Happened too. It kept right through the next year in real-life, but that got missed in the data. They didn't pick up on the fact that the surge in tog effort continued for 2 1/2 years. 
I remember - was working deck - netting peoples fish - would catch big tog on diamond jigs when the day's crabs were gone. 
With no limits on a species with a narrowly defined and shrinking habitat -- We crushed 'em.
And then our tog catch stayed very, very low and flat for about 2 decades. Wasn't the commercial bad guys - We did it.
In 2003, after over a decade of a self-imposed 3 fish at 16 inches limit, a hard lesson learned about habitat and fishing pressure, and having failed in an effort to get MD to go with a larger size limit in the ocean to increase egg production; We resumed tog fishing with the State's 5 fish at 14 inches limit. 
I could pry this farther apart by researching my own logs but you can see again that trends are evident in the party/charter data though not perfectly so: OK, it's very poor here, but evident if you have background knowledge---perfectly evident that some estimates are just wrong at least. 
Another Then: The slipperiest data sets are almost always the private boats--except when shore estimates go badly wrong. Here's the set for private boat ocean fishing for tautog -- does not include the back-bay or jetties. Watch for consistency. (but don't hold your breath)
Species: TAUTOG Maryland     Private Boat - All Ocean Combined
Hmmm.. I'd call HS on the whole data chart. That means Highly Speculative and has nothing to do with what gets cleaned from a horse's stall.
I'd wager 1991, 2003 & 2008 are the best sets here. Remember, this estimate does not include the jetties and such, just the ocean. 
The 1987 & '88 sets are hallucination; There were maybe 40 private boats that might target tog, less than a dozen were serious about it..  
Zero caught in '99 - Zero again in 2002 - 2004, '05 & '06 are zero by omission: And 20,082 were caught in 2007? 
This is precisely the type of data that is being used to destroy the recreational fishing industry...
Below is Everybody in Maryland's Tog Effort --Boats, Shore, For-Hire-- Everybody. See what you spot..
Species: TAUTOG Maryland        All Areas/All Effort
You may well remember in 2007/08 when we had to pick an "Option" with which to take our mandatory reduction; That because we had "Over Fished Our Quota" in 2007 we would be allowed less the following year.. 
I spent maybe an hour trying to refute the data. 
No Mercy. 
Irregardless how obvious the implausibility of the data, managers won't even fight it. Policy is to use the centerpoint: Subordinates need a paycheck and will use the data as ordered. 
Their defense: The data Could be right. Just add more fishers - lucky ones at that. 
Lots of people want to add greater and greater layers of complexity to our data collection; Make it real-time like the hi-tech surveillance on an Afghanistan hillside's battlefield. 
I think greater complexity leads to higher expense and often to failure.
Were we to take the hic-ups out of the MRFSS flounder, sea bass & tautog data we'd have management flowing along fairly well. 
Remove data sets that are only supported by managers under duress of job loss and fishers wouldn't be in such trouble. 
Instead though, managers are running around from emergency to emergency, fishers are trying to cope with closures in the great recession; A great embattlement over the sourest of data sets ensues.
Below are the MRFSS sea bass tables that I think were pivotal in closing our season last year. They're self explanatory. Yet these are some of the data sets that have taken our sea bass season from 11 months to 3 months. We really need fairhanded governance here.
Words on paper can change how numbers on paper are used. 
Then we can get back to fixing where the fish live, a place where paper has, thus far, been nearly useless. 
We did not overfish. 
Sea bass habitat remains undiscovered.
Habitat fidelity remains unused in a coastwide management approach.
The very worst that can happen is we go back to a size/creel/season that we know rebuilt sea bass and other species for well over a decade. 
Sacrificing an entire industry in worship of MRFSS data is shameful. 
There's a new team in place that can fix it.
Ought to. 
Fishery Closed: Shifting fishing effort to whatever remains open then retards progress in other restorations. 
The fishing public's faith in governance goes lower.
Lifetimes of work are destroyed by complex calculation without the simple posit: Could this catch estimate possibly be correct?
See cbass data below. I'd wager any would see what I'm talking about.
Needs Fixin. 
We need our sea bass season back.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - MA - Private Boats - Wave 4 - July/August 
1,122.28% Increase
Species: BLACK SEA BASS -MA - Partyboat - All Areas - Wave 3 - June/July
14,564.64% Increase
Wave 2 NJ Party Boats - March/April
15,230.5% Increase
Wave 2 March/April - From 1998 to 2009 - New Jersey, Private Boats
942.2% Increase
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Private Boats - New York
455.2% Increase 

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