Monday, April 13, 2020

Fish Report 4/13/20 The Virus Edition

Greetings All, 
Oyyyyy!!! Where we'd normally be looking forward to sea bass season while finishing up the year's tog trips.. Instead? landlocked — housebound! 
I have a plan to fish very light rails with the utmost in precaution. Will begin painting & make absolutely certain my boat is in tip-top shape for CG inspection for now. If the virus threat does not lessen I'll put well-spaced safety margin fishing spots in play. 

Have also been making and donating many masks. My gal, Courtney, is selling a few too. 
Email me if in need of masks or oil sorbs to make em. 

Sanding/painting starts as soon as this mini-hurricane gets out of here. 
At least one, maybe both, of the fantastic young men I had on my rail these last 5 months will be departing. Know anyone with some skill who'd like to fish year round? (except when the world grinds to a halt!) I'll have one opening even if we have to run super-light all summer. 
Emails only for applicants.. Facebook and reservation line calls are not email. Call it test #1... 
Also working on reef building. See Facebook post April 6th at Ocean City Reef Foundation page for that. And, as discussed at length below, also have new video from last summer's monitoring work. 
It'll soon be fish or starve. 
I pick fishing! 
Cheers All, 

Greetings Reef Sponsors! 
A bit of uncorona virus on this almost-a-hurricane day.. Just got some fresh video (owing new software) from two trips scuba divers Travis Dixon and Nick Caloyianis did with me last summer. 
They've just posted all four videos at:
we've posted the St. Ann's video at too. The rest will soon follow. 
The Bass Grounds video, shot with an ROV in awful visibility, shows natural reef remnants from what must have been about 4 sq miles (yes, Square Miles!) of natural patch reef lost to the surf clam fishery by the late 1970s. Back when there was no LORAN C, no GPS; in the decades after the inlet's 1934 creation commercial bass trappers and recreational fishers ran to this huge area of reef with only a compass to guide them. Rarely did they ever anchor ..and then, in the space of just a decade, the reef was gone. I doubt anyone knew it would be permanent. Fishers soon found out though. . . 
Sue Power's Reef at Jackspot video shows NYCTA rail cars. Degrading? Yes - but hardly "all gone" as some are eager to say. It's a big reef.. 
Monk's Reef (West side Great Eastern Reef Site) shows a short clip of a mound of ex-transatlantic communications cable. (Hoping Travis will make it a bit longer!) 
Also a good look at St. Ann's Reef at Jackspot. Here part of a cable mound was mostly buried - sanded in - gone. We've more than resurrected that reef's lost fishery production with cement blocks - 2,387 and counting. Have even extended the reef eastward. Anything you see that isn't obviously cable is concrete we dropped off the Morning Star's transom. (May also notice steel from Biazzio Giordano's welding classes!) Started this 'reef rescue' some 11 years ago or so. Many reef blocks are so grown in you can hardly tell what they are. Others are obviously brand new. 
The video was shot before we'd finalized the reef pyramid mold. You will, however, see one of very few reef balls we've made and deployed. 
Reef blocks, 29,000 so far, and spread across perhaps 15 sites—plus now almost a hundred of the 160 lb reef pyramids; these daily drops are but a tiny part of reef building off the coast of Maryland. Just recently (April 6th) we sank a 52' barge loaded with concrete at the Bass Grounds. Have other projects in the pipeline, especially another 500 ton load of concrete I hope to see deployed by late May. 
It all adds up. More substrate, more growth. More reef, more fish. The more age we get on those substrates, the more coral we'll see. 
No steak dinners, no fancy offices, no federal or state monies - we build coral reef with your donations. 

Here's another point I'd like to make clear: while I'm certain restoration of lost coral hardbottoms—our ocean hardbottoms—is vital to fisheries restorations; that while I'm positive rebuilding the places where our reef fish feed, shelter from predators, grow to maturity and spawn is indeed necessary to achieve restoration of yesteryear's fish populations; (and, sadly, that huge marine seafloor task hasn't even become a distant blip on NOAA's radar,) what I really want OCRF reef sponsors to understand is there's another ecosystem task our region's hardbottoms once performed - biofiltration. We do not have any oyster reef permits - just marine permits where corals might grow. Our large Mid-Atlantic estuaries' oyster losses are exquisitely well-studied. Their absence's effect on estuarine water quality has been on everyone's radar for decades, (but w/o recognition of dramatic declines in ocean water quality.)
A single oyster is said to filter nearly 50 gallons of bay water daily; and, once upon a time, the entirety of Chesapeake Bay several times a week. All the phytoplankton (mostly algae) that's no longer being consumed by oysters is turning into green marine waters..
Since the utter collapse of oysters by the late 1970s, the mid-Atlantic's "deep blue sea" ocean waters have turned green & are getting greener.  
I offer proof of our ocean's greening with Ocean City MD's white marlin fishing history. 
Billfish need clean water - the clearest of which is blue water - to feed. I've followed the history of our white marlin fishery from 2 to 3 miles out in the 1920s (when marlin were a terror to surf launched commercial fishers looking for bluefish,) to the 1950s when, despite knowledge of Jackspot's riches just 21 miles out, boats back then would often try Great Gull Shoal or the Bass Grounds just 5 to 9 miles out - and catch too.
Lots and lots of DelMarVa's marlin fishing history points to water quality loss as boats must run further and further offshore to find fish. Each decade, in fact, amounts to about 10 miles further off. Were this fishery shift to have occurred in the span of a few years the outcry would be deafening. Instead, time has softened the blow; lessening expectations of successive generations are lower & lower.
We absolutely once had rock-solid bluewater fishing within easy sight of land along DelMarVa. Jackspot shoal, just 21 miles out, made Ocean City the "White Marlin Capitol of the World" in the 1950s. & 60s. 
It's not simply fewer numbers of marlin not populating nearshore grounds. In recent years the fleet has set new records for most whites caught in a day. But dern-sure no one's fishing for marlin at Jackspot anymore, not since the early 1980s.. Whites are rarely caught even 30 more miles offshore in fifty fathoms any more. A 60 mile run to the canyons seems a minimum. From what I hear running to 500 hundred fathoms for a hot bite is much more likely. 
Now, no doubt marlin took a heavy hit when sport boats threw nothing back and foreign longliners got fresh info from the Dept of State where the sword bite was. (Yes, really! Fishing info of all types once played a role in foreign policy. The US had to give countries something for the land our military bases were on..) 
Today however, as noted above, reports of incredible action are not uncommon far offshore. Yet inshore action where the marlin bite supported a fleet of 10 to 14 knot boats long years past? 
Our piece of coast is unique. Here the southbound Labrador Current comes to its end, while the most powerful current on earth, the Gulfstream, rockets away off Cape Hatteras. This confluence leaves us in a huge marine eddy — our estuarine outflows only slowly move away. Fishers in lower Florida can, after all, still catch billfish where their great-grandfathers did. Along DelMarVa our fleets run continually further offshore to find bluewater...

This history of 'moving offshore' synchs up nicely—perfectly—with the decline of our most valuable estuarine hardbottom - Oyster Reef.  
No amount of "fisheries restoration" can put white marlin back on Jackspot with water quality as it is. Nearshore marlin restoration will require oyster reef restoration in huge reefs - biofilter reefs of enormous size. 
Once built and populated in their trillions, those oysters are going to spawn. Recreating a booming oyster fishery with far greater spawn than anyone alive has ever seen oughtn't be too difficult. 
We'll eventually win this fight. Shoot, whether corals in the ocean or oysters in Chesapeake &  DE Bays, restoration is as easy as rolling rocks off a barge..
A bit of concrete and steel won't hurt either. 

Capt Monty Hawkins 
Pres. OCRF

Capt Monty Hawkins

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