Thursday, November 23, 2017

Fish Report 11/23/17

Fish Report 11/23/17 
Happy Thanksgiving.. 
A Break In The Weather
WRITE!! Help Pass The Modern Fish Act!! (yes, You!)
Special Sea Bass Trip - Monday - November 27th - 7:00 to 3:30 - (more likely to leave at 6 or so..) $110.00 - Free Rental If Needed.. 
Couple Days Next Week Looking Good..
Opening December 1st, 2nd, & 3rd to Sea Bass Trips. Book's Wide Open. 

Only a few DAYS before the Benelli Shotgun Raffle for the Reef Foundation goes off - see below..
Sailing Daily For Sea Bass - Weather Permitting - Saturday's 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. ARRIVE 1/2 HOUR EARLY! We'll want an early start. Pretty rare for me to get home on time..
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 at the White Marlin Mall location (also the post office most OCRF mail goes through) - We usually have some aboard. 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. Draw the Winner Sunday, Nov 26th, 2017..
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
19,336 Reef Blocks deployed at numerous sites as of 11/12/17: TNC's Restoration Reef 278 - Doug Ake's Reef 3,316 - St. Ann's 1,928 - Al Giles/OC RUST Reef 1,466 - Eagle Scout Reef 970 - Sue's Block Drop 545 - Nichols' Concrete 1122 - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 705 - Benelli Reef 418 - Capt. Bob's BG Reef 736 - Wolf & Daughters Reef 220
Support the Modern Fish Act..
See addresses below for Commerce & NOAA/NMFS..

Greetings All, 
Been Windy! Last trip out, a full week ago, Coast Guard was warning for a Gale come evening by special broadcast. 
Pretty saucy anyway, and with just a light rail of clients, we loaded our heavy landscaping blocks and left early. When I got to the block drop I noticed the screens looked lively. Thought I'd try it. 
Danny stuck the anchor in fine style & pulled it up two hours later with a boat limit of sea bass. We also had 1 (one) flounder, several triggers, & a bunch of small blues. 
When the gale came we were long gone.. 

See some more fishing like that? Derned if I know. 
Thing is, we caught those fish on a pile of cement blocks.. 
If we pile em up enough that they don't scour in, they grow coral in time and a heck of a lot of fish before that. 
There are a few species of grouper (esp goliath) that will migrate to the largest reefs to spawn. Because of that the thinking in the upper reaches of management (and deeply held in MD) is that "building artificial reef only concentrates fish for easier catching." 
Soooooo.... That pile of blocks we fished Thursday last; did they vacuum all the fish off all other reefs in the area? 
If an artificial reef "concentrates" fish - they must be absent other reefs, no? 
But that is not the case.
At all. 
There was a study on artificial reefs in California when Ronald Reagan was governor. I'll include a passage from it below. 

The Harris Creek oyster restoration project has been wildly successful. They used rock, for once; and not wasted everyone's time & money with just using shell. 
Now, if we drop rocks off a barge (and we will soon, a lot of boulder-sized rocks) we are building artificial reef. 
But when they drop rocks on the Chesapeake Bay floor, you can really irritate a lot of people by saying they're building Artificial Reef. 
Oh no. That's 'oyster restoration.' Not artificial reef. 
In Maryland building artificial reef is bad. 
Need to change that. 
We cannot possibly -- Can Not Possibly -- repair our region's habitat damage w/o one heck of a lot of reef building. 
Whether oysters or corals, bargeloads of rock & concrete will need to be involved. 

The attitude managers and any one else tasked with fishery restorations will need adopt: 
Here from a 1961 study: California Fish Bulletin 146, Man-Made Reef Ecology: Summary & Conclusions -- Page 198 
Brackets { } are mine, BOLD original but emphasized. Parenthesis ( ) & quotes are original. is apparent that "non-productive" areas of nearshore ocean floor can be made "productive" by installation of relief structures {artificial reef}. Initially, these structures attract fishes from surrounding areas and present a substrate suitable for development of the complex biotic assemblages {reef growths, e.g. mussels & coral} typical of natural reefs. As these new reefs mature, biological succession occurs and fishes which may have been initially attracted only to the structures are incorporated into the reef community in response to increasingly available food and shelter. Ultimately (in about 5 years) a natural situation is attained and the plant & animal populations exhibit fluctuations typical of {natural} reef ecosystems.

Just a quick note here.. Opening Monday the 27th to a sea bass trip, other days this week coming already open; & December 1st, 2nd, & 3rd new. Book's wide open. Couple pretty days coming. 

Below is a letter I sent broadly to Congress, Commerce, and upper fisheries.. (posted to FB already..)


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

Thanksgiving Morning Writing.. 
Sent to US Commerce, Congress, Fisheries at State/Federal levels.. Pics show how we can turn snake habitat into reef habitat..

Great Mercy.. 
Friends All - In DC, Annapolis, Gloucester, Dover..
Again & Again with recreational catch estimates. Now John Bullard & Kevin Chu will retire & we, seemingly, have to start all over again at NOAA's regional level with disproving recreational statistical catch.
Not that there was ever solid progress, but start again we must. 
In fact - our task is made worse in that MRIP (marine recreational information program) is telling all who will read that they may have to RAISE recreational catch estimates by several hundred percent.. 
What a mess. 

I have 38 years of For-Hire sea bass fishing from Maryland's single coastal port. My clients are broadly from across all of Maryland, and across all the Mid-Atlantic, occasionally from around the world.. 
We, in all parts -- all citizens who participate in marine recreational fisheries -- are being robbed by bad data. 

It's pretty dagoned easy to see if you'll look. 
Last year during this period (Thanksgiving/Christmas) NY's Private Boat anglers, (having almost entirely put up their boats for winter) are credited with landing 720,000 lbs of sea bass. That number is 2X what ALL Party/Charter boats (the real fishing pressure on sea bass) are said to have caught from North Carolina to Maine ---- ALL YEAR!!! 
Two Times! 
And the number stands. It counts. 

The same sort of estimate is seen again in 2017 for sea bass in NJ during May/June..

Last year Maryland saw an estimate of over 50,000 pounds of sea bass landed FROM SHORE! None -- NOT ONE! No legal sea bass were landed from shore! Instead, some poor family fishing in the Chesapeake--where there is no sea bass fishery--had small juvenile sea bass in their catch, and likely no idea of limits on them. They were interviewed and their few undersized fish blossomed into a number with real economic impact on my fishery.. (that's not supposition - that is what happened.)
Maryland is projected to have significant sea bass landings this year - that projection MUST be based, in large part, on last year's shore estimate. 
This while, so help me, the partyboat I was running in 1991 would sometimes take more sea bass in one day (1) than we take across three months of summer now. (on that same boat in 1992 I began strict enforcement of self regulation on several species including sea bass. It would be 5 years or more before Council/State began similar regs..)
Today's recreational catch is INCREDIBLY restricted -- yet MRIP keeps finding/inventing grand recreational overfishing in the fashion of European factory trawlers..

On & On & On I've gone about this. I could easily fill a thick volume with bad catch estimates from Texas to Maine: from Cod & Haddock, to Sea Bass & Flounder, to Red Snapper & Triggerfish -- there are absolutely, positively hundreds of highly impactful estimates that MAKE NO SENSE WHATEVER!!! 
Where any other statistical program would toss flyers like these, NOAA & NMFS embrace them as family-- and use them to crush recreational quota 
..which leads to further & further catch restriction
..and less & less economic opportunity. 

Congressman Gilchrest helped guide NMFS/NOAA toward use of our VTR reports, (required landing reports from Party/Charter operators,) at the same time he steered the old program (MRFSS) toward more accurate Party/Charter landings. 
Strangely - from that time on (2003) Private Boat (and sometimes Shore) catch estimates have climbed far-far-far beyond any reasonable notion of plausible catch-----while For-Hire generally dips as regulation tightens. 

Nothing is more important to fishing success for reef fish than knowing fishing pressure on any given piece of reef habitat -- all reef production is finite. (Has NOAA discovered temperate reef's importance to the fisheries? Heck No..) We professional fishers HAVE TO KNOW who's been fishing where so that our clients can catch. There's a real & true division - a percentage split - between For-Hire & Private Boat recreational fishers. MRIP is easily seen by anyone familiar with that split, living & working with that split, to be crazily far off base. 
The data put out by MRIP is just insane. 
Yet NOAA demands managers use it. 

Our economic stability teeters on the estimates.. One bad estimate, regardless no one anywhere in Fisheries believes it, could undo a season. 

It's really bad out here.. We went from Foreign Trawl (real factory ships creating massive overfishing in the 1970s/80s,) to US Trawl & Longliners being 'the bad guys' - and these are all real industrial fishing: to today's statistical assertion that people fishing from New Jersey's jetties have taken more tautog in 4 weeks than all US Commercial took ALL YEAR. (2010 NJ Shore in April {March Closed} = 469,367 lbs) vs (All Commercial Landings In The Species Entire Range All Year = 285,818 lbs)
That's the sort of data we're paying for. 
That's the sort of data causing the death of For-Hire fisheries from over-regulation. 

Again & again & again. 
How in the Billy Blue Blazes do we make it stop? 

Thanks For Reading. Hope you are having/had a wonderful Thanksgiving..

So.. How do we fix it? How can we get MRIP off our backs so Ecology & Biology might come to the fore of fisheries restorations? 
Write Secretary Ross at the US Dept. of Commerce: 
(Remember!! First Rule of Politics: Everyone's Your Friend When You're Trying To Get Something Done!)
We do not need MRIP's repair right away. That will come. We need managers at Council/Commission level to be able to disregard obviously bad MRIP estimates. 
NOAA will NOT allow any change from the 'centerpoint' of an estimate. Secretary Ross can change that policy. . 
Secretary of Commerce W. Ross
Would be better to address a staffer directly, but I haven't any idea who they are. Someone WILL open your letter & read it. 
Send another to: 
Mr. Benjamin Friedman 
NOAA Acting Deputy Under Secretary
And, a new guy in DC -- but not at all new to fisheries! 
Mr. Chris Oliver - CINC NMFS
NOAA Fisheries
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
You Should CC your congressional reps as well -- by mail, but to a field office.
If you write directly to DC, and this may be true with letters to Commerce as well, their mail is delayed going through DHS screening.. 
Printing them and applying a wet signature, perhaps with a note for the poor staffer who actually has to read it is fine..
Do not ignore your state's Governor either; Especially if you live in NJ. 
These folks all Google easily. Look for the "Contact Us" button. 
Elected reps are able to help you get heard in Commerce & in DC as well. 
NOAA's policy of using MRIP 'as-is' needs to change. The Secretary of Commerce can alter our worsening history in the stroke of a pen -- swiftly.

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