Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fish Report 7/16/17

Fish Report 7/16/17 
When Will They Bite? 
Cbassing Along.. 
Ship Gone & Now Returned
NJ Sidesteps MRIP-Caused Flounder Regs

Summer 'We'll Fish For What's Biting Trips' .. Might be flounder, might be sea bass, might be a mix. (Mostly Sea Bass!) If you absolutely have to have one and not the other, don't reserve!

Sailing Daily - Weather Permitting - (Been mostly sea bass. Nicking a few flounder some days too..) Saturday's 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. 

Sunday, July 23, Buy two tickets - get a spot free. This is NOT an offer for any other day - just the 23rd. Last year I was trying to think of how regulars could invite a friend or bring a child/grand-child on a day I'm not booking. Worked. It's especially important new anglers are aware of motion sickness preventatives. Being sick all day is no fun at all..

Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - 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..

Bonine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works OK For Some. "Natural Dramamine" Does NOT! It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure.  If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First! (Wockenfuss Candies sells crystalized ginger locally - We usually have some aboard - Better is Nuts.Com.. Chewable Meclizine is a good pharmaceutical, chewable Bonine's  a "less drowsy" meclizine pill; prescription Scopolamine Patches are the gold standard.)

Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Is Fine For A Few People. 
No Galley! BYO Sandwiches & Soft Drinks. A few beers in cans is fine. (bottles break at bad times)

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! 

Please Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation!
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. 

2017 Reef Raffle!! Benelli USA has donated another spectacular shotgun! A Benelli Super Black Eagle II, 25th Anniversary Limited Edition, 12ga 28" in Black Cerakote.. Tix are $10.00 - available aboard and/or email if you want me to mail you some. If you want to sell some, could REALLY use the help...

If you know anyone with pallets of unsalable block, I know a fishy place or two we can store them. Forever. Will pay for trucking. 
If you have a few blocks in the backyard taking up space and just making snake reef, bring em. We'll toss em overboard with the rest.

Crossed the 18,000 mark with reef blocks on Saturday, July 8th. Dropped those blocks at Jeff Bauer's "Saint Ann's Reef."
18,081 Reef Blocks deployed at numerous sites: TNC's Restoration Reef 278 - Doug Ake's Reef 3,268 - St. Ann's 1,670 - Al Giles/OC RUST Reef 1,350 - Eagle Scout Reef 954 - Sue's Block Drop 322 - Nichols' Concrete 978 - Capt. Bob's Block Drop 691 - Benelli Reef 398 - Capt. Bob's Reef 570 - Wolf & Daughters Reef 210

Greetings All, 
Keep thinking I'll have a tale to tell about a wonderful flounder bite. 
Still thinking. 
A summer sea bass bite has kept most clients busy with an end of the day fish fry. Not great fishing, but not bad either. At least most days.. 
I think flounder are here. Just need them to put on the feed bag. 
Be glad if that were tomorrow!

The ship, Shelia Bordelon, departed July 13. I thought it was over*. 
Now it's back again. We have been told it is routine Navy dive training. Sure is a long way from Little Creek, VA.. There are scores of wrecks between our reef sites & the Chesapeake - all available for routine diving. Lot of money too for the Navy to charter a ship. You'd think they have a few. 
(*See Fish Report 7/2/17 - 6/24/17 - & 6/19/17 if you're curious why a ship capable of bottom penetrating sonar would be an irritant to both fish & fisher..) 

Before departing the ship had set up shop atop an artificial reef Senator Mikulski helped us get back in the 1990s. It stayed there for 4 days. I do not think they were running survey equipment - especially the sub-bottom profiler. 
Today, July 16th, the ship is back in the same position -- atop the same artificial reef. You can see it plain as day from the inlet. 
After departing the Queen Reef in early July and then returning to our area again, on July 6th I saw the Shelia Bordelon on station north of the Manhattan wreck about 30 miles north of the Queen -- offshore the MD/DE line. I fished nearer & nearer to them. There was no effect on the bite. Apparently they had ceased running their sub-bottom profiler. 
On June 29th, however, that was hardly the case. That day they were blasting whatever noise they make. I had to run over 10 miles to escape the affect of their gear. Many boats have reported similar findings at the Queen Reef. MD's nearshore reef complex is in a very bad way. 
If the Navy's trying to win hearts & minds of local fishers  -  FAIL.

I am trying to get NOAA & others interested in the sub-bottom profiler's affects on fish. 
I am also going to try and make certain this "routine dive training" goes somewhere else next year. We've suffered their business quite enough. 
This part of the ocean needs to get real quiet for a while. 
I'm not kidding in the least. Black sea bass & flounder have been pushed off habitat -- sea bass even in spawning season -- quite enough. 
We could not begin to guess what other affects the past 5 years of survey sounding have had. 

My thinking is that the 2013/14/15 Wind Energy surveys; surveys that lasted months & caused sea bass and flounder to evacuate 500 square miles in & around the MD Wind Energy Area; (WEA) those big impactful surveys sensitized our reef residents. When the Bordelon came in August 2016 and started blasting a sub-bottom profiler just 10 miles SW of the MD WEA, fish got the heck out of there. 
This year fewer fish returned to the Queen & Bass Grounds reefs. 
Then, when the Shelia Bordelon returned yet again (and told me they were running a sub-bottom profiler) sea bass just seemed to evaporate  ..and flounder remain scarce. 
To my knowledge, and my direct experience with radar during 100% certain sub-bottom profiler influenced fishing, the sounder's affect on sea bass/summer flounder feeding positively carries at least seven miles. As the source gets closer, the effect intensifies. At two miles or so you cannot get a bite with a sub-bottom profiler running. 

I used to be able to fish the Queen Reef several times a month with plenty of people aboard. 
Now a skilled outboard skipper can't catch dinner there. (I'm hopeful inshore reefs will recolonize soon if the Navy orders the equipment off - and stays off.)  
NOAA, NMFS, Navy, & MD DNR ought to have a little chat about that.. 

Probably won't though. Just one more failure in a system of fisheries management willing to embrace the absolute falsehoods of MRIP recreational catch estimates, while discounting any ecology or biology that might be brought to the fight.
Go ahead and spend a couple hours googling our natural coral reefs from 10 fathoms to just inside the 100. Ain't any..
Except there really are. 
And they're crucial to our fisheries.  
Nick Caloyianis took this pic & many others after Hurricane Sandy. Where reef in 60 to 80 feet off DE was sand-blasted to bare rock during the hurricane, these reefs in 100 feet of water survived -- if beaten. (See spots with no growth on stalks of orange sea whip. That's not normal. Hurricane beaten........)

A victory in habitat - a solid win. 
I spent a lot of years beating up on "oyster shell" as a reef material. Big-big money spent on shell. No one could point to a reef, any reef, and say, "We restored that reef with shell." 
Spat on shell/put & take oystering like a freshwater pond with stocked trout? Yes. Shell works for commercial oystering purposes. But big shell piles creating a live reef that grows annually? No. 

But in these first large-scale rock reefs -- major success. There is no more mystery of how oysters can be restored. In just a few years after rock was dropped on the bottom - incontestable evidence that we can restore oyster reefs.

Rather than a few lonely voices winning this argument that shell was ill-suited to actual Reef Restoration, our region just ran out of oyster shell and started using rock. 

(There's some real work on it too.. 2016oysterreefmonitoringreport.pdf This is a Big File. A full scientific report. The magazine article is fine for most..)

Where decade after decade of failed oyster restoration has allowed even the ocean to turn green; today we can see Big Rock Oyster Reefs will one day equal Blue Mid-Atlantic Seas. 
I see it plain as day. Have for a long time. 

But, of course, like our coral reefs, there's no real science to back my assertion of lost marine water quality. 
Fishers say there are reefs. BOEM & NOAA, say, yawn, we can't find them. 
Fishers' tales of billfishing from the time the inlet was cut in 1934, catching white marlin just 4 & 5 miles out, to today's 60+ mile runs fairly screams of water quality loss. Bluewater fisheries, especially marlin, cannot thrive in this algea-laden mess we commonly have out to thirty, even fifty fathoms nowadays. Sometimes green water goes to beyond canyon's edge. No .guv agency has bothered to look at the connection so far as I know. 

Bet your last dollar -- if a day ever comes when outriggers are lowered and billfish baits run astern just 8 to 10 miles out again, it will be because oyster restoration was successful in the extreme. 

Lots & lots of life around those reefs. More important than fish & crabs; every oyster is thought to filter 50 gallons of baywater daily. They are our natural water filter.  
Would that we might see it all flourish. 
Real fisheries restorations in clean waters with abundant bayfloor & seafloor habitat. 
Not MRIP driven madness. 

Below is a comment I posted about NJ's stunning win over ASMFC flounder regs. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD


The management community is stunned to have seen Commerce go against NOAA. Here's what I wrote to friends in management. (I don't know.. Maybe it's like having your fishery closed with data no one believes?) 

Using MRIP to create very real regulation is bound to create civil & regulatory disobedience. Here from Fish Report 5/22/17.. 

MRIP shows an amazing increase in recreational catch despite the fact NOAA strongly believes fluke/summer flounder populations are down & in need of an across the board quota cut of 30%.. 

With a population in decline -- and that decline seen plainly in For-Hire catch estimates -- recreational Private Boat fishers are thought to have doubled last year's catch in some places. In other places, catch is reported way down. 

Summer flounder (called fluke north of DE Bay because down south we haven't had winter flounder in half a century) ..fluke were shown to have been caught 2X better by NJ Private Boats during 2016 
..while NJ For-Hire declined precipitously  
..while NOAA holds the overall summer flounder population is down. 
MRIP shows a MILLION more pounds of just NJ Private Boat catch -- increasing to 2,159,000 pounds, catch while NJ's Party/Charter skippers didn't even get to one hundred thousand pounds.. 

Unfortunately, I initially saw the NJ increase in recreational summer flounder catch as singularly important. In fact, MRIP has several states with huge increases in fluke catch despite a worrisome population decline & an obvious overall coastwide decline in the For-Hire Party/Charter industry. 

NJ Private Boats' amazing luck in the face of a declining fluke stock is matched elsewhere. Connecticut's Private Boats are said by MRIP to have landed twice as much fluke to nearing 3/4 of a million pounds; while that state's For-Hire fleet landed just 8,000 pounds..  
New York's Private Boats were up 800,000 pounds. They increased over 3/4s of a million pounds to 2 million pounds ..while NY's For-Hire boats were down 100,000 pounds to just a 1/4 million pounds total. 
Delaware's Private Boat summer flounder catch doubled to 210,000 pounds while their Party/Charter For-Hire declined like other states..

Only Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, & Virginia's Private Boats showed a decline from 2015's landings; and ONLY Massachusetts' Party/Charter showed an increase in summer flounder/fluke landings. It's a number I sincerely doubt..

One Wonders: How did Party/Charter landings decline coastwide an average of 31.7% while Private Boats from just 4 states had a 2,284,514 pound increase? How did Private Boats from 4 states experience a 96.9% increase in catch despite a declining population of fish...

It is unbelievably frustrating to see catch restriction choking commerce while the real work of fisheries restorations fails to even enter the room. 
It is unbelievably frustrating to tie my boat up in beautiful weather when I am certain we are reversing early gains in restoration.. Not owing to overfishing, I saw that -- lived it. Today we have an abject failure to use population biology & ecology in marine fisheries management. 

What winter quotas have been designed to protect regional stocks from overharvest as fish gather from across the shelf to very small areas at slope's edge? 
What seafloor habitat has even been recognized to exist, let alone calculated in spawning production. From 10 fathoms to 99 -- nothing. The cool habitat beyond the 100? Sure, NOAA gave it everything they have for a few years. 
Inside the hundred where habitat actually makes a difference to regulated species? Not so much. 
Not anything, actually. 
We've had government sancioned impacts from survey equipment for 5 years straight off OC. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
A huge area of seafloor completely evacuated - NOTHING. 
But some dagoned statistical spike that no one ought believe? 
On & on I could go... 
Management, though I sense growing weary of bad recreational catch data, still embraces MRIP's delusions of catch and strips away more and more of our fisheries as each and every year new statistical spikes make "Overfishing" look like it's still something.. 

Fish do not fall from the sky, nor from an MRIP induced regulatory tightening. They are a product of habitat & we can manipulate production
..but not when catch estimates force the manning of trenches - bayonets fixed for every Wave estimate. 

Do I agree with DOC? No. 
But no one should be surprised. 
Cheers All,

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