Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fish Report 4/18/17

Fish Report 4/18/17 
Going Toggin 
Been Toggin 
A Fine Habitat Rant &
How Do You Tell?

The reservation book for sea bass season is open -- has been. Taking reservations for opening day May 15th to June 15th. When you wonder how 'those guys' got the back of the boat...

Offering 3 Tog Trips. 
Going Inshore Toggin
Thursday, Friday, & Saturday, April 20, 21, & 22 - 7 to 3 - $110 - 12 Sells Out..

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..   

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. (unless it's slick-slick calm!)
Layers are best because, believe it or not, sometimes it can be very pleasant offshore--especially when the wind lays down--or COLD out there and warm on land! 

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. 

17,356 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 1,230 - 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 408 - 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, (or even barges!) I believe any forward motion is good..
Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation! http://www.ocreefs.org 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 https://www.facebook.com/ocfishing/ & OCRF  https://www.facebook.com/Ocean-City-Reef-Foundation

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. We're going to build a LOT of reef this year!

Greetings All, 
Nothing like a good habitat rant. See below a bit. I've also included a piece I published on FaceBook a couple days ago on telling male from female in tautog.  
Had a couple OK days of toggin. Just kicking around inshore on places I know, most I helped build. It's toggin.
Matt was positively on fire despite almost no current -- usually the kiss of death to our tog bite. Instead, he'd caught his limit by 9AM and then released some large females as the day went on. Two other guys that same trip were keeper skunked. It's toggin.
Saturday the wind picked up out of the SE, even pushed up to 18 knots. But it never really built a set; wave heights didn't grow. Tog bit. Lots of throw backs. Seemed like plenty of dinner. 
This is not great fishing. But if you like toggin, it's OK. 
I'll keep nicking away at these very light rail trips -- "light rail" meaning few passengers in partyboat speak. Having few people aboard allows clients to move to the bite. Works..

NOAA doesn't seem to value these reefs I've been trying to get them to focus on for nearly 2 decades. If corals are bigger & further south, (say off the coast of Florida,) and someone or something does them any harm, there's hell to pay & NOAA will make 'em pay it too. 
If corals are isolated, and deep, with questionable habitat value but high scientific interest -- They'll Be Protected By NOAA & studied at every opportunity.
Here in the Mid-Atlantic, with a history of unimaginable habitat loss---a pummeling by stern-towed fishing gears in the decades after WWII where very little seafloor habitat has survived; neither the remaining habitat, nor it's history, nor its biological/ecological value to fisheries productions offer NOAA any cause for investigation or even, apparently, scientific curiosity.
Fishery restorations languish. Ignorance of fishery rebuilding strategies for our temperate reef fish where habitat production is concerned could not be more abjectly uninformed. 
Would we manage squirrels yet never concern ourselves with trees? 
Where reef fish in the Mid-Atlantic are concerned, we are. 
I think these rocks, a tiny patch of them, fell off a barge in heavy weather some 3 decades ago. Then again, they may have fallen from an iceberg a heck of a lot longer back. Here you can especially see a tog in his habitat. This same reef is shown briefly in one of my videos at 50 seconds & again for a lot longer at 6:02.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n77WF9XQRJM 
On first seeing our reef habitat (with a borrowed u/w camera & a $99.00 Walmart TV) I thought it so simple: if I could identify Essential Fish Habitat, the law would require NOAA to Protect, Preserve, & Enhance it. All I had to do was show them.  
That first video was sent in 2001.. Instead: "Ignore" seems to suit NOAA just fine.

More & more of us are not ignoring seafloor habitat. There's a lot going on at the Reef Foundation. Charts will be in print any moment. Usually they'd have been done a while back, but this year I did a lot of side-scan sonar work inshore -- really tightened up the bearings on a lot of reef. A much better chart, but later than anticipated because of my many changes. I'm having to apologize to pre-paid donors several times a week, daily even, for tardiness. 
Their wait will have been worth it. 
Sending out our spring fundraiser soon too, plus have our spring dinner coming up. I have high hopes! I think this will be the year history eventually recognizes "Mid-Atlantic Marine Reef Restoration" was begun..
Getting bids on bargeloads of boulder. The Nature Conservancy, CCA, & OCRF are on board to build a "Sea Whip Meadow" reef restoration at the Bass Grounds some eight miles ESE Ocean City, Maryland. 

Up until the early/mid 1970s a partyboat could run out to the Bass Grounds with what we call "lifeboat navigation" - the rudimentary course/speed/time navigation of yesteryear. Instead of our amazingly accurate GPS satellite navigation & chart plotters; instead of even loran - they found fish over exquisite habitat with a watch & compass. 
Because the Bass Grounds was exactly that--where sea bass were caught--and because it was huge; early skippers did not require pinpoint navigation to find fish.  

Then, with no more evil intent than early American settlers clearing forest to make pasture land or tillable field; hydraulic surf clammers, their fleet growing in number, discovered huge expanses of surf-clam beds in the late 1950s around those soft corals--that sea whip.. 
Tow after tow, impact after impact, month after month, year after year; in a couple decades the Bass Grounds became a memory.
Square miles of reef were ground to fine sand with only a few tiny patches of substrate remaining. 

NOAA might eventually fasten their teeth into nearshore temperate reef. Be a great day for fisheries restorations. 
Until then, our mighty government ocean agency, so tightly focused on catch-restriction as a singularly important tool in fisheries management; NOAA will forever be no more effective than the quality of their recreational catch data. 
Early Greeks predicted outcomes by how cockbirds pecked their food; tea leaves prognosticate & even today some believe; casting the bones, water gazing, ouija board, even where first scrawling on bones and watching where they break, humans have long wanted to believe in 'a sign.' 
NOAA's use of (and forcing all of management to use) MRIP catch estimates is no different. Their modern day catch estimates are so bad it's even less effective than when smoke filled teepees & peyote induced visions guided Native American's future. At least those tribal elders were allowed to use what common sense they possessed even in a drugged state..
In our time, where NOAA has scientific statistics (their claim) showing NY private boats, most quite trailerable and from just one state; where managers MUST behave as though NY's small boats (alone) outfished all US Commercial & Party/Charter from Hatteras to Canada, & even caught more sea bass in Nov/Dec 2016 than in all the years combined clear to the very beginning of recreational catch estimates.. 
No, I don't think fellows stumbling out of tent flaps would have tried to foist the likes of that rubbish on their people. 
NOAA: Use the data we provide -- Or Else.

Habitat means nothing when you know overfishing is being driven by small plastic boats no one can even see on the water. Biology & Ecology need play no role in fisheries management of important marine species----We Have Catch Restriction. 
It's a system badly in need of overhaul. 
It can't happen soon enough. 

Below is a post I made on FaceBook about sexing tog & other aspects of the tog fishery.

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

FaceBook 4/16/17 - Easter Sunday:

I'm often asked how to tell Male from Female in tautog/blackfish. Dedicated tog fishers suppose it's better to take males & leave females. Given what I know about tog, I believe that's true -- at least to a point. Probably best to release some big males too.. 
Because we sometimes find an inordinate amount of male tog over a structure/reef/wreck with very few females; and, as Big Sam Beauchamp, (the most dedicated tog fisherman I ever knew,) noted to me years ago; where there are very large male tog, there are never these inordinate numbers of smaller males with very few females: it appears, therefore, that male tog are territorial with a "bull & harem" spawning behavior. 
Do the biggest bull tog run off the little rats? Seems so..
Some great science wiating to happen there. 

Then too, because our region's tautog are shown to be virtually stationary/non-migratory - and have even stayed on new/different structure when I've tagged & moved them from another reef for the purpose of studying habitat fidelity: because of this extreme habitat fidelity tautog would make an excellent choice for put & take hatchery work with a university or state program. Anglers & ecosystems would benefit where the work was done & not hundreds or a few miles away. 
If I'm correct about the fidelity I've observed from tag returns; a municipality, city, county, or state could 'stock' a jetty or other nearshore area and boost angler success with absolutely no harm to the natural population. 

Back to sexing tautog.. Males have a greyish cast above and a fairly clean lateral line with white below. They'll often have a white 'dot' midway in the flank. Sometimes there are two or even three dots. And sometimes no such mark is evident. (see pic) 
Male tog also have a squared-off chin. It can jut out further than the mouth in the largest bulls. 
Females have a brownish mottled/camouflaged cast all over with no well-defined lateral line. Their chin is a slightly curved slope from the pelvic fins up to the lower lip.. 

Unlike most fisheries, what we take today will influence the fishery 15 & 20 years from now. By building lots of habitat & allowing as much spawning as possible, it's certainly conceivable our best tog fishing lies in the future
..but that's a mighty high hurdle.

Male tog with well-defined lateral line, square chin, & white dot amidship - See also male w/no dot.
Female tog brownish camo w/an undefined chin.
Pic of a male tog in boulder habitat 20 miles offshore. (note hard & soft coral, plus shrubby bryzoa. Substrate alone does not make a reef. Growth, be it coral, mussels, or any number of other stationary animals, is vital to a reef's fishery production & contribution to the marine food web.)

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