Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fish Report 4/12/17

Fish Report 4/12/17 
Easter Weekend Tog Trips 
Half of June Sea Bass Reservations
Why Is Habitat Hard?

The reservation book for sea bass season is open. Taking reservations for opening day May 15th to June 15th. 

Offering 2 Tog Trips. (Have annual Coast Guard safety inspection coming. No offerings next week 4/17/17 - not yet.) 
Going Inshore Toggin
Friday, April 14th - 7 to 3 - $110 - 12 Sells Out..
Saturday, April 15th - 7 to 3 - $110.00 - 12 Sells Out..

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..

My Crew Have (usually 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. Reservation staff hardly know what species we're after, let alone whether there will be a certain kind of bait.   

Skunks are always possible while tog fishing. 
Really. It's a frequent occurrence. Sometimes even the very best toggers 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 Are Closed Because NOAA Has Absolutely No Real Idea (but learning) How Best To Manage The Fishery. 
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! 

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 (yes, the water's still plenty cold) waterproof boots are almost a necessity. 
Layers are best because, believe it or not, sometimes it can be very pleasant offshore--especially when the wind lays down. 

If you know anyone with pallets of unsalable block, I know a toggy place or two we can store them. Forever. Will pay for trucking. 

17,326 Reef Blocks deployed at numerous sites: TNC's Restoration Reef 278 - Doug Ake's Reef 3,223 - St. Ann's 1,585 - Al Giles/OC RUST Reef 1,215 - Eagle Scout Reef 934 - Sue's Block Drop 247 - Nichols' Concrete 852 - Capt. Bob's Block Drop 676 - Benelli Reef 341 - Capt. Bob's Reef 393 - Wolf & Daughters Reef 210 ..

Twenty Three Pallets of Block Were Recently Donated by DelMarVa Power - Thank You! (2,580 large blocks)

Blocks are a small part of what we're doing. While I prefer bargeloads of substrate, I believe any forward motion is good..
Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation! The OC Reef Foundation (OCRF) 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! 

On Facebook now too (A little. Sometimes.) Morning Star Fishing & OCRF

Ocean City Reef Foundation Reef Dinner - SEACRETS - May 7th - 4 to 8 - $20 at the door. 
Need Auction Items & Donations. The more money we raise, the more reef we can build..
Some of these as tall as a man and deployed at a reef near Love Point in Chesapeake Bay; I hope to use several bargeloads of smaller boulders on the Bass Grounds Reef Restoration Project beginning later this year. Photo Erik Zlokovitz.

Where a loss of square-miles of trees must lessen a squirrel population, so too must a loss of square-miles of reef lessen a reef-fish population.

Greetings All, 
Couple inshore spring tog trips lately. Not a hot bite. Not terrible either. Better than winter's bite. Nicking away inshore.. 
Some folks have been keeper-skunked--catching a couple throwbacks at least. Most folks have dinner. Couple guys have 3 or a limit..
Here a couple fellows were out on "Give Granddad A Fish Day." 

NOAA continues to have no care or concern for seafloor/reef habitat nearshore in the Mid-Atlantic. 
Tog are a species that allow a very simple look at why that's an incredibly myopic approach to fisheries management & restoration. 

In the early 1980s I was at the heart of a severe beat-down on tautog. In two and a half years we took the population of tog, on every piece we knew of with tog on it at that time, to zero.
None left. Or at least as close to none as we could get with the gear we were using. 
I remember asking a client to throw a small tog back. (maybe 12 inches) 'Heck No! That fish is legal!' 
Yup. Certainly was. No size limits at all then. No regulation at all. On anything. 
My point here is that for every piece of structure we fished the tog population down to nothing on then; today there are 25 or 30 more reef structures for each historical piece. 
They are all colonized by tog. All of 'em. 
Now we have regulation too. 
It's a better place. 
If we picked up all the reef we've built since 1988, (and believe me, there are those who would love to see just that,) if we picked it all up & forced the remaining tog back on that original early-1980s footprint of wreck habitat, I assure any who read; those original parts of Maryland's tog habitat would be incredibly more densely settled today than even in their virgin state. 
There's a lot more tog - spread over more habitat..

Have a huge reef project coming up - a true Reef Restoration. 
Will continue our small block-drop & OCRF barge drop projects too. 
This is just getting started.. 

Habitat is a slow thing. You build a small reef. OK good. 
You build 20 more and start seeing a result. 
Imagine the Bass Grounds Reef just 7 miles off our coast -- in 1950 -- in 1960 -- in the early 1970s.. Cod in winter, sea bass in summer. Flounder on occasion. Party boats cbassing, a few charters; fellows trolling for white marlin & mahi just over there on the First Lump 8 miles out.. 
Skippers then had no electronics save a compass and a watch. Hold your course. Run your speed & time. Find that 75 or 80 feet of water; Stop and fish -- catch. Twice a day some of them.. 
Lots of fish. Lots of reef. I think the Bass Ground's natural reef footprint was about 4 square miles or so. 
No GPS. No LORAN. No plotters. No color depth sounders. 
Compass & a watch. 

Then hydraulic clamming.. Big boats with steel dredges weighing 10 to 20 tons dragging virgin bottom at the Bass Grounds. The biggest diesel engine aboard ran the pump that jetted water through a manifold - the cutting head. Those heavy dredges liquified the bottom to catch giant surf clams.  (see  at 43 seconds where a clam dredge being hauled back and you can see where the water jets are as the hose drains. The jets dig the clams out of the bottom.) 
Today's clam fishery, while suffering no habitat restriction that I'm aware of, hasn't seemed to damage any of our remaining natural reefs in a long while. 
Back then clam boats were in every Mid-Atlantic port, all fishing different bottoms. Over 50 boats were wharfed just in Ocean City I'm told 
.. and Howard Johnson's clam fritter sandwiches were served across the nation. 
There was no evil intent. Men were making a living. It was good. 

Like every early industrial fishery though, those clammers cleaned an area up & moved on. 
But Ocean City's sea bass skippers had to look a lot harder to catch fish at the Bass Grounds. 
By 1978 or so no amount of looking could find those sea bass they'd once found so easily. 
With the habitat gone, so were its resident fish. 

Have a reef project with The Nature Conservancy focused on that lost reef. Going to start putting it back with boulder -- as much boulder as we can afford. There are a few small patches of that natural reef left. We're NOT going to build atop those remnants. Only where no reef can grow because the substrate's gone. 

NOAA remains focused on fisheries "management." Though not really recognized as such, "management" of a fish population must be limited to whatever fish can be produced from existing habitat. Size limits, seasons, & bag limits can only do so much for lifting populations upward if the habitat remains constant. "Rebuilding" fish populations is especially hampered in habitat loss's ignorance. 
Fisheries "restoration" will require a far broader plan than simple catch restrictions & hoping for a good year of spawning. 
Fisheries restorations require habitat restorations. Oyster reefs, sea grass beds - Vital. Dam removals & fish passages - Vital. Water quality - Vital. 
But NOAA is so far behind on habitat comprehension for species tied to marine seafloor, so help me, they'll first have to recognize nearshore reef habitats even exist in the Mid-Atlantic. Then they'll have to consider whether reef habitat is as important to reef-fish as trees are for squirrels. 

At that point, & only then, can an argument be made that lost reef habitat would retard reef-fish production. 
Soon after habitat loss, reef-fish populations must decline. Regardless fishing pressure - if habitat is lost, so too is it's production potential. 
Where a loss of square-miles of trees must lessen a squirrel population, so too must a loss of square-miles of reef lessen a reef-fish population.  

So why is habitat hard? 
Because the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, (what preceded the National Marine Fisheries Service,) came into being as government support for trawls & dredges. 
They were there to help. 
Still are. 
What I see as "Lost Habitat" the trawl/dredge fisher sees as "a cleaned up tow." 
Seriously, a bottom free of all snags is perfect to them  
..and my argument for fisheries habitat production is just crazy talk. 

Then there's NOAA: Plenty of fish. Just need to control those incorrigible overfishers, those small plastic boats from one state that can take more fish in a couple weeks than all Party/Charter & Commercial can catch all year. 

It's all tied together. 
Around & around. Bad recreational catch data blinds management to far better methods of restoring all our fisheries' productions. 
In fact, it's a Method Of Data Collection from those early years, from the Bureau of Commercial Fishing, where EVERYTHING is measured in pounds/tons.. Every calculation in management is in pounds.
Pounds go up-up-up with just one good year class - keep climbing.
Measuring pounds, management fails to see production stumbling. 
If they looked instead at numbers of fish being produced, they'd quickly see when spawning production falters. 
It's another piece of this puzzle..

I absolutely believe we know all we need to know to turn the ocean blue and restart hardbottom marine & estuarine fisheries productions. 
Only thing is, how do we pry management's attention away from "Catch Restriction Only" policies long enough to see it..

NOAA's plenty hard headed. 
For now, help someone build reef. Whether it's letter writing, donating to CCA's habitat program in the Chesapeake, or aiding the Ocean City Reef Foundation where I donate so much time & effort: recognized or not, hardbottom reef restoration is vital to fisheries restorations. 
We keep busy, one day NOAA will catch on. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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