Thursday, February 15, 2018

Fish Report 2/15/18

Fish Report 2/15/18 
Exploration Success - Sort Of 
Back To Toggin 
Boat Show Weekend 
History Of Science

Folks - This is WINTER tog fishing. A trip can go south fast. Tog DO NOT always bite! (especially when the water gets too cold!)
(If they did always bite they'd have all been caught..) Yes, my clients have caught 7 tog over 20 pounds   ..but there were many other days when we paid dearly. 

A Couple Tog Trips: 
Saturday, Feb 17 & Monday, Feb 19 - Leave 6:30AM Return 4:00PM - $125.00 - 16 Sells Out Saturday, 12 Sells Out Monday.. 
(sorry, I have an important reef monitoring dive trip Sunday.. But there is the Boat Show!) 

Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 Open 24/7 - 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..

Green Crabs (not Whites!) Provided As Boat Bait And Are Included In All Fares.   

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 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 waterproof boots are almost a necessity. 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..

19,575 Reef Blocks deployed at numerous sites as of 11/12/17: TNC's Restoration Reef 278 - Doug Ake's Reef 3,355 - St. Ann's 1,952 - Al Giles/OC RUST Reef 1,529 - Eagle Scout Reef 970 - Sue's Block Drop 569 - Nichols' Concrete 1134 - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 705 - Benelli Reef 418 - Capt. Bob's BG Reef 784 - Wolf & Daughters Reef 220
Recent Blocks Provided By Potomac Valley Brick - Thank You!
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! 
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Greetings All, 
Had two intrepid souls sign up for my Exploration Trip. A long-long haul offshore on a gorgeous day; on our first drop mate Nick caught a right decent keeper flounder. Booooy... We KNEW we were going to catch em! 
Hubris rewarded as in all of history -- we caught no more flounder. 
A couple sea bass, a few dogfish - no more fluke. 
Will do it again. Run further perhaps.
For now? Back to toggin!

Folks make a lot of noise about 'flounder habitat' - they're always talking about bays. But the very same summer flounder, so important to OC's seasonal fishery, have to eat all winter. They have to find warm enough water & food until they shoot back inshore come spring. 
Worse still, & to better illustrate the myopic nature of a "flounder need healthy bays to thrive" attitude, the dang things spawn offshore on our reefs from mid-October thru November in 15 to 30 fathoms. 
You'd think marine habitat that important would get a little recognition.. 

I assure readers it has not. 
We have no true understanding of our temperate reef ecology's importance to the fisheries. 
So far as the regulatory & academic communities go, we have no idea the existing footprint of natural reef, and absolutely no idea how much reef-like seafloor habitat has been lost since the dawn of industrial fishing. 

One such 'lost reef' lies just 8 miles off Ocean City, Maryland. In my youth I heard many tales of running boats offshore with just a compass and a watch - time/speed/course "dead reckoning" navigation - and finding sea bass in profusion at what we still call "The Bass Grounds" ..then the surfclam fishery discovered clams there. That fishery drags a dredge weighing 15 tons and more with a series of high-powered water jets across the front. The water jets liquify the bottom and clams are scooped up. 
That fishery today is NOT the fishery of yore. They seem to favor ridge tops now, sand bars in grand scale. Whether that alters sand eel abundance is a matter to study, but it certainly won't disrupt remaining hardbottom reef. 
Back when the fishery was new, however, yes. One old clammer told me, "Yup. We sure rearranged a lot of bottom off there." Another told me of buoying off a popular wreck so he could tow between the pieces. Must have been a LOAD of clams there--growing next to the wreckage;  those dredges are expensive! Getting stuck on the bottom would not only cost a day's work, but the dredge would have to be recovered or replaced when hung in a wreck. 

Many natural bottoms are (were) similar to marsh peat; a hard, but easily broken in the hand--not really rock--bottom. With ocean levels having fluctuated over millennia; what we think of as a 'slough' or cut between sand hills would have once been marsh or back bay. 
These natural reef bottoms must have had similar concentrations of clams as that wreck. 
While wrecks targeted thusly remain, though diminishing in time as they must; among those peat bottoms--so productive for thousands & thousands of years--many were utterly destroyed by stern towed gears. 
And that, so I was told as a youngster, is how all the great drift fishing at the Bass Grounds was lost. 
In 1981 Capt. Ward Brex told me, "We had the best fishing on the coast and we let them destroy it." 

Well, let's put it back. 
The whole area is under permit - It's legal to build reef there. Have been nicking away at it the last 15 years. 
I'm hopeful a boulder reef restoration project in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy will commence soon. But even with more money than ever from our little non-profit poured into a single reef, there will still be unending work for decades to come.
That's what we do at the Ocean City Reef Foundation - build reef. (search
What science & regulators need to do is understand reefs' role in fisheries productions. 
From Texas to at least Delaware & southern NJ -- we're growing corals on artificial reef. It's pretty simple. 
But the idea, that connection, between increased coral habitat & increases in fish populations is nowhere in a fishery restoration plan. In fact, it's positively disbelieved at the regulatory level in the case of red snapper. 
This habitat gap between what is so obvious to fishers, yet beyond the grasp of many of those tasked with fishers' economic well-being & fisheries restorations, struck me as quite similar to the history of medicines & doctoring as related by Professor Nuland in his lecture series. 
The time it took for anesthesia to catch on - amazing. Doctors were accustomed to doing surgery in a distant building where other hospital patients could not hear the screams. That was how it was done. Granted, there was no internet, but it took a while to get word around - surgery can be painless.. 
Then too Lister's work in antiseptics.. There was once a 40% or better death rate for surgeries as simple as a finger amputation. It took decades to convince doctors of cleansing's import to surviving surgery. 

Today we have impossibly misguided 'recreational catch estimates' guiding our regulation. We have management's focus centered on "how many fish are out there" to create quotas, & "how many did they catch" to determine future regulation. 

As Harvey, physician to Sir Francis Bacon wrote, "Nature herself must be our advisor. The path she chalks must be our walk..."
And Bacon himself wrote, "No natural phenomenon can be adequately studied in itself alone, but to be understood, must be considered as it stands with all nature.

From 'adjusting the humors' & bloodletting to, 'Where is the disease & how might we heal it?' was a process that began in the mid-1500s. 

Would that today's fishery restorationists might speed things up a bit. We know how to restrict catch -- that's a fact. 
Now, "Where is the disease".. Why were there more sea bass caught from 1950 to 1961 than in all the years since? Why have white marlin moved fully 50+ miles offshore from early feeding grounds? Where are there places where fishers once targeted temperate reef fish with confidence, yet today would never trouble themselves to even look.. 

Catch restriction having done all it might, in order to truly restore fish populations to levels last seen before a diesel engine was ever installed, we must Look For What's Missing & Put It Back. 
Temperate Corals, the many other types of growth on hard bottoms -- Blue Water lost in oyster's demise: Factors with an impossibly huge influence on fisheries productions are where we must focus restoration's effort. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star 
Ocean City MD


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Morning Star Sport Fishing · 12940 Inlet Isle Lane Slip B-2 · Ocean City, Md 21842 · USA

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