Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Fish Report 10/13/20

Fish Report 10/13/20 
Opening Sea Bass Trips Into November.. 
Why Build Reef? 

New Reservation Line Is Up! My reservation line of 18 years is no more.. Have a new system. You may recognize Anna & Cynthia's sweet buttery voices as they coax you out of your fishing dollars. Eight AM to Eight PM 100% Live Answer (except when life necessitates letting the message system have the helm awhile..)

Catching Sea Bass Mostly Plus A Handful Of Fluke/Flounder & A Few Triggerfish.. 

Now opening from Monday, October 19th to Thursday, November 12th with the same "No Refund/Reschedule Only" policy as May, June, July, August, & September. With this year's Covid restrictions in place my minimized cash flow cannot handle a string of refund days. And if the guvmint shuts us completely? Well, eventually we'll reopen. If canceled for whatever reason - Please know I'm good for your trip another day. 
If you have a reschedule on the book you're welcome to reserve any spot that's open on any day with a similarly priced trip.  

Weather Cancellations Happen - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way..
COVID Regs Trips Are NonRefundable! Reschedule in event of bad weather? Of Course! But no refunds.. If you can't abide a reschedule - don't book! 
Opening to Thursday, November 12th for NonRefundable sea bass/reef fishing trips. Size limit on sea bass 12.5 inches & 15 sea bass per person. 16.5 inches and 4 per-person on any few flounder we might see.

Monday to Friday 7 to 3 - $135.00 ..
Saturdays 6:30 to 3:30 - $155.00 .
Sundays are not for sale at this time. Boat Now Sells Out At 18 (used to be 25 before Covid.) See new spots chart at morningstarfishing.com - we'll leave the old numbers on the rail for some while also. Everyone liked a smaller crowd as COVID regs hit - including me. It's going to stay that way even after Covid's long gone. Figured I may as well make that switch same time as new number...

NEW Reservation Line 443-235-5577 from 8am to 8pm — No More 24 hour answers.. (emailing me about reservation availability does no good. Cynthia & Anna will have real time info. Worse is FB messenger. I only check it once a week or so. Want Reservation info? Want to know if your favorite spot is available? Call em!) 

Am posting somewhat detailed day by day reports on Facebook...but I Do Not have FB messenger on my phone. If you want to book a spot - call. Need info from me? Email mhawkins@morningstarfishing.com- I make a sincere effort to reply to every email inquiry. 

If in the passenger salon - Mask Required. If you refuse a mask, BYO life jacket! (but seriously, not only do I not want anyone taking ill -- if one Partyboat anywhere sparks an outbreak we'll ALL get shut down again. With many states at new highs, it's anyone's guess.. Regardless DelMarVa's decline in corona, we must remain vigilant.) 

Be a half hour early! We always leave early!
..except when someone shows up right on time.
Clients (but not the Captain) 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. No Refund or Reschedule for a missed trip! 

Trips Also Announced on Facebook at Morning Star Fishing
https://www.facebook.com/ocfishing/ & my personal FB page along with after action (or lack thereof) reports..

Bait is provided on all trips. Rod rentals are $7.00 & include all rigs. 

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
Two People. Do Not Bring A Very Large Coffin 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.

Wishbone never replaces backbone.. Have to keep a shoulder into reef building to make it happen. 
Donations help too! Ocreefs.org 
Have CRAZY opportunities this fall - Great Time To Donate!! 
Please Donate!! (I lost an opportunity for a tug last week - not enough coin in the bank!) 

Block & Pyramid Tallies..
As of 9/22/20 we have 31,622 Reef Blocks + 214 Concrete Pyramids (170lb ea) deployed at numerous ACE permitted reef sites. 
Currently being targeted: Virginia Lee Hawkins Memorial Reef 99 Reef Blocks (+ 47 Reef Pyramids begun 8/18/20) - Capt. Jack Kaeufer's Reef 1,516 Blocks (+44 Reef Units) - Doug Ake's Reef 4,084 blocks (+16 Pyramid Reef Units) - St. Ann's 2,493 (+6 Reef Units) - Sue's Block Drop 1,538 (+20 Reef Units) - TwoTanks Reef 1,187 (+ 11 Reef Units) - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 900 - Benelli Reef 1,447 (+ 15 Pyramid Units) - Rudy's Reef 263 - Capt. Bob's Bass
Grounds Reef 
3,106 (+52 reef units)  - Wolf & Daughters Reef 734 - Al Berger's Reef 574 (+4 Reef Unit) - Great Eastern Block Drop 854 (+9 Reef Units).. 
Donate at ocreefs.org - please! 
The price of scrap steel being so low is creating more opportunity than I've had in my entire life!

New Reservation Line 443-235-5577 

Greetings All, 
Sea bass fishing remains very good. Had a little trouble catching limits right after a big wind - have had numerous boat limits too though. (a boat limit means we cannot legally keep one more sea bass! Have been many days like that!) We're also catching just a few, a precious few(!) flounder & triggers. 
I hope sea bass fishing holds right to the very end of December. Will continue to announce dates via fish report - and on shorter & shorter notice too as winter comes & weather worsens. 
I will not fish for tog (blackfish) until Jan 1st when sea bass have closed. They've had entirely too much pressure. I'll not add to it until I have to. 
Tautog might be the #1 beneficiary of our nearshore reef works. Getting ready to build more reef. Though I set my personal biggest with the Tug Hoss at 85' just a few weeks ago, perhaps there's another 'largest reef' for me in coming weeks. Maybe! Stay Tuned! 
Sure working on it. 

Pulled a piece of star coral off the reef we began fishing over first thing last Saturday - a reef the state had sunk prior to abandoning their reef program in 1997 (that disbandment provided impetus for the Nichols Family to create & register the OC Reef Foundation..) Though not large, I found this soft-ball sized coral impressive owing its reef substrate was only twenty-some years old; and I know something of how much life the small spaces allow..  
Here I'll use this visual star coral sample to illustrate a problem - the issue of getting Mid-Atlantic shelf-water seafloor habitat recognized as vital fish habitat. 
We have estuarine SAV (sub-aquatic vegetation) and oyster hard bottoms recognized by nearly everyone(!) and their restoration funded by many; even if, in my opinion, that restoration occurs at a lackluster pace. That's SAV & Oysters in our bays. Then, way on off 55-60 some miles to canyons' edges and beyond is where marine habitat science's cutting edge lies - from ultra cool deep sea corals growing along steep canyon walls, all the way to marine science's newest frontier, the chemolithichyperthermophile communities growing among ocean vents (animals that thrive w/o sun, oxygen, & withstand extreme heat and pressure at volcanic seeps - they are wholly alone in earth's biology and, obviously, of great interest to scientists..) In between our estuaries and that fabulous deep world we're just getting to know? Yawn.. 
Just asking for trouble. 
Lot of push-back from well-funded commercial groups eager to not lose any bottom — even looking for & recognizing long-lost reef ecologies destroyed half a century ago and more has been too much to ask. 
Not much habitat science at all in this broad expanse of ocean floor between beaches & canyons where an amazing amount of fish habitat did exist & some remains; habitat important to so many commercial and recreational species, our hardbottoms just haven't gotten NOAA's attention  
..not yet. 
Where so many species of fish feed, shelter, grow to maturity, & spawn on coral bottoms; bottoms I've fished 40 years now—and on artificial reef bottoms we've created in those 40 years also. 
So far NOAA seems to say: Nope, not worth a look. Just leave us alone. 
Where scientists use scuba and submersibles to study corals in, say, the Caribbean, they see 'large' corals very much in human proportion. (Many warm water corals are dying now too making that research a priority, but that's a different issue.) Because our sea whip & star corals are neither large in a researcher's eyes, nor present in number as they were immediately after WWII - they're unimportant. 
That is changing, if slooowly..
Sea bass, flounder, tautog, lobster; all and many more were here & thriving long before the first ship ever sank.. They lived on our natural hardbottom reefs where these small corals grow - the very bottoms which were most susceptible to damage, even loss, as stern-towed fishing gears came to dominate after WWII.. 
Consider this: after sending a box of sample corals pulled up from the Old Grounds to a major NOAA research lab, I received a letter from a then-famous marine ecologist and an associate circa 2000 telling me—and quite seriously: "We don't see how sea whip could form 'habitat.' 
With that sort of thinking from the pinnacle of the Mid-Atlantic's marine habitat knowledge... Well, it's been an interesting journey.
A year or so, perhaps just weeks later, I would drop an underwater camera down and see a beautiful whip meadow — unquestionably fabulous fish habitat. 
We had no idea..
I sent Congress & NOAA that video. 
That first look was at a place I call 'Mike's Rocks', a natural bottom I had seen grow from a tiny sea bass fishing spot where I had to double-anchor (to gain extreme precision) and fish 40 or so clients (never 80)(was running an 88 foot supercruiser then, the OC Princess) ..40 anglers atop a tight cluster of rock; then, over a decade's time during which summer flounder trawlers were fishing close to shore & only allowed 100lbs a day—a time when there were virtually no impacts from any stern-towed gears in the 15 to 20 fathom (90 to 120 feet) region, Mike's Rocks had grown to a place I could drift 3/4 of a mile with a sold-out boat and not anchor at all.. 
Habitat was expanding in many places where rock remained. 
Questions I asked then: Why are these areas growing larger? What the heck is growing? Why are our sea bass numbers growing so fast? 
Until the mid-late 1990s my only experience had been of habitat contraction. A wreck, after all, (& no matter how robust,) will eventually succumb to the sea; it will rust away. 
Although I now believe "the coral beds" off Chincoteague are an example of star coral growing to such density that a wreck's coral habitat will persist long after even a wooden wreck has been taken by time; in those days my only experience was of a wreck contracting. 
Just recently I saw a barge getting smaller, eventually going away entirely, over the last couple years 20 miles ENE of OC. (Hurricane Sandy almost destroyed it. Now it's completely vanished..) 
In the 1990s I was accustomed to seeing bottom shrink, yet now habitats were growing vastly larger? 
WTHeck.. It would be a while before I understood it.
Every reef we build holds fish. 
A scientist recently found habitats where sea whip grew were necessary to have large populations of sea bass. (WTHeck! Oyyyyy... I've seen innumerable examples where that wasn't so—where there was no sea whip at all but mad sea bass numbers! But, it's a start. A scientist found sea whip.) 
Star coral will not grow to enormous height. Sea whips are quite thin. They both can grow quite broadly, however—create a large footprint. 
Of what importance is this "height" or "largeness" our marine scientific community finds so impressive? 
Near about none: of no importance, I think. 
Where we have epibenthic growth, a reef ecology will develop - including fish & fisher!
Attached to this post is a pic of a cement block - a standard chimney block. It has a large hole in the middle that's very likely used by most sea bass and our chisel-tooth buddies, tautog. (We strap 3 or 4 together and call the unit a 'Tog condo.') That hole is surrounded by smaller heat insulating pockets. In the pic you can see several rock crabs (what tog fishermen call 'white leggers' or 'white crab'.) Each block had around 18 young crabs. 
Now compare to the example of star coral: Looks to me as though the small spaces in the coral, a typical growth, would be important to the life cycle of a crab; a crab that makes a huge contribution to our marine food web. 
Indeed, many animals start small and need shelter from predation if they are to feed, grow to maturity & spawn. 
Coincidently, that's the same language the Magnuson-Stevens Act uses to describe "Essential Fish Habitat" (EFH.)
I hope to see the day when we've realized the Mid-Atlantic's shelf water seafloor habitat's importance to many of our fisheries. 
No slam dunk, but perhaps we'll sort it out. 
Magnuson, after all, states plainly: EFH must be protected, restored, & enhanced.. (Unless you don't know about it?)  
Scientists may not find our temperate reef ecology either 'large enough' or convenient to study; dern sure our temperate reef fish find it large enough - we fishers find it convenient to catch our clients lots of reef fish living in those bottoms.    
Reef builders from Texas to New York are doing their best; with NOAA, EPA, and often watermen—especially who use stern towed gear—those groups fight artificial reef progress at every chance. 
What a strange time in fisheries restorations.. 
In Maryland there is no longer a state marine reef building program. We're doing our best with a tiny non-profit, the Ocean City Reef Foundation, to restore reef habitat lost 60 and more years ago. 
In fact, with the price of scrap steel so low, it's going to be an amazing year for reef building off the MD coast. 
Will soon apply for new Army Corps Reef Permits to see if we can work with VA & DE to fill in reef habitat gaps..  

Capt Monty Hawkins 

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