Friday, February 07, 2020

Fish Report 2/7/20

Fish Report 2/7/20 
Adding Tog Trips 
A Letter To Secretary Ross 

Honest truth about Tog Trips!
Do you like a good old fashioned 'drop and reel' sea bass bite? Like steady action? 
Yeah, umm, toggin/blackfishing ain't that. (Except in the rarest of occasions!) This fishery, tog fishing, is the hardest from among my target species. Skunks can and do happen! Even skilled tog fishers, and I mean from among the very best, can get their head handed to em. Worse still - I've even been completely skunked while tog fishing! (Whoever said "A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work" dern sure didn't carry fishing parties for a living!) 
Still, because the challenge of catching tog is both our test & attraction - we go! 
Last winter I had several of my best blackfish trips in YEARS. This year already too.. That DOES NOT MEAN IT'S ABOUT TO HAPPEN AGAIN!! ("Ah, Capt, I thought we'd catch 20 pounders today?") Oh Mercy! I'm just glad if clients get bit!
I'm telling you here - I had many, many anglers get skunked last winter and this year also.
This fishery is tough!
A few weeks back a well-skilled client had 5 double digit fish - yet some of the Very Best Tog Anglers I Know Were Skunked The Same Day! 
It's a brutal fishery.. As I saw on FB recently, "the tug is the drug.." 

I run Tog Trips light so anglers can move to the bite - or try too!
For those in need of the blow-by-blow catch reports, I post after every trip to facebook..

If you want a spot call. Emailing me is no good - service handles reservations. I do ck email for questions - rarely ck FaceBook messenger, maybe 2x a week.. 
Tog (Blackfish) Trips Only - allowed zero sea bass. They're closed now because of bad MRIP catch estimates.
Tog Trips Saturday Feb 8 - and Wednesday Feb 12 - Winds falling out early AM (Supposedly!) - Both Days 8 to 5 - $150.00 - 14 sells out..  
Reservations Required at 410-520-2076

Weather Cancellations 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
overslept or had a flat..

Trips Also Announced on Facebook at Morning Star Fishing & my personal FB page along with after action (or lack thereof) reports..

Bait is provided on all trips: green crabs for tog. (Whites Are
available from crew for a reasonable cost..) Our Tog Pool Is By Length: A Tog That's Been Released Counts The Same As One In The Boat.

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 Regulation)
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.

Except in high-summer, waterproof boots are almost a necessity unless fishing the bow - sneakers will ruin your day when the water is cold! 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. Tuck a "hot hands" warmer in the palm and life is good..
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..

Sponsor the Ocean City Reef Foundation!

Greetings All, 
Tog fishing continues as weather allows. Some trips have been kind, others terrible.. Press ahead - fish when able. 
This is a busy time of year for Ocean City Reef Foundation duties. New charts 
are being released - Seaside Boat Show in Ocean City is coming up. Hard to stay atop all of it  ..especially considering the positively mammoth error about to take place in fisheries management. 
Regular readers will have seen this coming for so long - NOAA's use of MRIP catch estimates is going to turn fisheries management into a soggy soup sandwich. 
Not that it isn't already, but far worse than anything we've ever experienced yet. 
Our recreational catch data often now shows Private Boat or even Shore anglers of just one state catching far more of a given species than All Commercial & Party/Charter across many states. This "catch" has now been folded into our 'stock assessments' (fish population estimates) from which quotas are set for all players. 
That's why we had tighter regulation on summer flounder/fluke last year while commercial trawl had a 49% increase. 
What could go wrong? 
What a mess.. 
Here is my latest letter. I'll send it broadly across management and Congress as well. 
Can one letter make a difference? Yes. I've seen it happen. 
Sure is a lot more effective if a lot of folks write though. 
Bluefish & striped bass are going to get hit HARD with new regulation. 
Then everything's going to go 'tin cups over tea kettles' when the "reallocations" come in. 
Impossible to predict how it will play out. 
I'm certain it won't be good long-term though. 
A letter to Secretary Ross -- 2/7/20 

Even Fisheries Management No Longer Believes MRIP's Recreational Catch Estimates!

Dear Secretary Ross & Staff, 
For decades we marine recreational fishers have battled for accurate catch estimates. NOAA has only led us down a garden path. Our Estimates Are Now So Much Worse Than EVER BEFORE!! 
When MRIP, NOAA's purported repair of MRFSS, was released in 2012 (fully three years after the 2009 Magnuson deadline), many fishers realized instantly we'd been had. 
Today, some 15 years on, even the management & scientific communities no longer trust NOAA's recreational catch data from MRIP.
That fact is evidenced by Council/Commission's recent actions. MRIP clearly shows massive overfishing by recreational Private Boat & Shore anglers in the Black Sea Bass, Summer Flounder, & Scup fisheries (this while Party/Charter is shown well-controlled by the same regulations). 
Overfishing shown clearly via MRIP - at the December joint meeting of ASMFC & MAFMC each of these fisheries should have suffered enormous tightening of regulation, even complete closures. At any other point in Council/Commission's history that's exactly what would have happened. 
Instead? The joint meeting adopted 'status quo' for all three. Same quotas as last year despite MRIP's clear demonstration of our "overfishing."
Although no one in management is going to come right out and say it; there's never been so clear a demonstration that regulators have completely lost faith in NOAA's MRIP data. 
If science & management believed for one moment we had factually gone over our recreational harvest limit as MRIP portrays, there'd be mammoth closures in all three species. 
Instead? Management kicked MRIP's estimates to the gutter. 
Management did not throw out these estimates for bluefish & striped bass - they're just as bad though!

Recreational For-Hire (Party/Charter) catch estimates are mostly OK. At our urging they were repaired in 2003 - a repair still in use today by MRIP. However, it's now 2020 and not at all unusual to see jaw-droppingly high Private Boat and Shore estimates that aren't even in the same universe as reality. 
We'd lobbied for better accuracy in all recreational estimates through the late 1990s/early 2000s - ended up with garbage. 

Today, after decades of complaints by recreational fishers who can see plainly how inane our catch estimates are, the science & management of all marine recreational fisheries - and especially any fisheries shared between commercial & recreational - is about to become fully unglued. 
You see, MRIP's massive overestimates have now wormed their way deeply into NOAA's stock assessments—their "how many fish are in this population" estimates. 
MRIP's painting an incorrect picture - tainting every stock assessment it's included in. 

Now species are being "reallocated" to 'fairly represent' recreational fishing's sudden rise to a global superpower in fisheries extractions.. 
After days of calculation I concluded the following changes using just the last several years of catch. (Council/Commission's reallocations can be expected to differ - I offer an approximation from my own math.) 
Black Sea Bass - currently 49% Commercial/51% Recreational -- could rise in rec's favor to 18% Commercial/82% Recreational. 
Summer Flounder - currently 60% Commercial/40% Recreational. This could easily flip, or better, favoring Recreational anglers. 
Scup - Currently 78% Commercial/22% Recreational. If MRIP holds sway the Recreational share should shoot up to approximately 60% & Commercial decline inversely. 

If NOAA holds course and management proceeds with reallocations, there's going to be one heck of a battle. And all that effort will be a complete waste of everyone's time; will have no basis in reality.. 

Such absurdity. We fought MRFSS years ago because it was guessing way too high. MRIP came out and was incredibly higher. Then MRIP underwent 2 "recalibrations".. It's so bad today its errors can even be seen by non-fishing participants in the science & management communities as wildly too high. 
A "panel of experts" was convened at NAS to examine MRIP just three years ago. The Deputy Assistant Administrator for GARFO (NOAA's regional unit including Mid & N Atlantic) informed me there were no fishermen present. How in the Billy Blue Blazes is a statistician, no matter how expert, going to have the least idea of what is possible in recreational catch? As evidenced by a continuous stream of wholly impossible wave/mode estimates, it's fair to say - they cannot. 

NOAA: "We have no other measure of catch. We 'have to' use MRIP." 
Computer programs are in place that could easily be used to bring MRIP's predecessor back -- the MRFSS program. 
Yes, the NAS called MRFSS "fatally flawed" - and Yes, I personally fought that demon with all I could muster for years   ..but now MRIP's taken a deep dive into pure nonsense. 

I have written numerous times about using 'percentage of the catch' to "Red Flag" bad estimates before they can get in system. Because For-Hire operators are out fishing so often, we and other fishers (including nearshore commercial) have a fairly good grasp of who is putting real pressure on our local stocks. I've written extensively about it - devising tables of "Percentage of Catch" would make a simple, yet far more accurate, test for future recreational catch estimating programs. 
MRIP's now been 'recalibrated' twice. It's not at all uncommon for even the Shore anglers from one state to "catch" more fish than All Party/Charter from a species entire range - sometimes All Commercial effort too! 
No one involved with fisheries management or science has faith in MRIP's estimates anymore. Their trust is gone. MRIP's estimates make no sense even to someone wholly unfamiliar with recreational catch. 
Secretary Ross, we should go back to the MRFSS system at once - Now - before MRIP upends all of management's progress in fisheries restorations. 
Only then should a final, accurate program be built. 
Been watching these estimates since 1998. Our situation has never, ever, been worse. 
Thank You for your consideration Sir! 

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star 
Ocean City, MD. 

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