Friday, June 25, 2021

Fish Report 6/25/21

Fish Report 6/25/21
CG Inspection Passed: Opening July 
An Inshore Absence.  

Sending this at 7:40 from the ocean because I'll soon be out of cell range.  Though Anna Will Answer When Able, My Reservation Line Is Somewhat Computerized and Cannot Open Til 8am..

I was waiting and waiting and waiting on a part for Coast Guard inspection. Dagone Covid's been a mess in every regard. At last in and installed, my guys Vic & Brian ensured the boat passed with no issues. I didn't want to open July until I knew I'd be allowed to fish! 

Fishing has been productive with at least some clients limited on cbass every day. That's REALLY unusual for June. What will July bring? We'll just have to go fishing! Daily reports with lots of pics posted daily to Facebook. 

Opening All Of July except Sundays & Mondays for (probably!) sea bass trips. If we start catching something else (fluke or mahi) I won't keep it a secret. Size limit on cbass is 12.5 inches - 15 per person. 

For Now? Sea Bass Only - Prices Same As Last Year — Saturdays 6:30 to 3:30 at $155.00 — Weekdays 7 to 3 at $135 — All cbass trips sell out at a nicely well-spaced 18 Anglers...
Reservations Required - Call Anna (and sometimes Hanna!) Reservations Open 8am to 8pm at 443-235-5577 

As ever, 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. No Refund or Reschedule for a missed trip! 

Trips Also Announced (but later - email is always first) on Facebook at Morning Star Fishing & my personal FB page along with after action (or lack thereof) reports..

Bait is provided on all trips.

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. This is 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 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 doesn't replace the backbone.. Have to keep a shoulder into reef building to make it happen. Not just our block project! OCRF sank 2 barges (one was 200 feet!) a large tug, and two smaller boats in months past. 
Now working on two tugs and a 140' Barge! 
Donations get put to work! 

Our smallest reef project.. 
As of 5/3/21 we have 33,927 Reef Blocks + 346 Concrete Pyramids (170lb ea) deployed at numerous ACE permitted reef sites. 
Currently being targeted: Virginia Lee Hawkins Memorial Reef 99 Reef Blocks (+ 49 Reef Pyramids begun 8/18/20) - Capt. Jack Kaeufer's/Lucas Alexander's Reefs 1,796 Blocks (+44 Reef Pyramids) - Doug Ake's Reef 4,114 blocks (+16 Pyramid Reef Pyramids) - St. Ann's 2,585 (+6 Reef Pyramids) - Sue's Block Drop 1,562 (+20 Reef Pyramids) - TwoTanks Reef 1,163 (+ 11 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 912 - Benelli Reef 1,471 (+ 15 Pyramids) - Rudy's Reef 465 - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 3,314 (+52 reef pyramids) - Wolf & Daughters Reef 734 - Al Berger's Reef 809 (+10 Reef Pyramids) - Great Eastern Block Drop 934 (+9 Reef Pyramids).. And a soon-to-be-named reef at Russell's Reef 30 Blocks & 49 Pyramids - We've also begun work at Capt Greg Hall's Memorial Reef with 92 Tog Monster Blocks & 2 Pyramids…

Opened the 2021 OCRF Benelli Reef Raffle Sunday Night 5/16/21. Although the grand prizes will be drawn New Year's day, we'll pull weekly winners for t-shirts and other reef items every week, then put those weekly winning tickets right back in the grand prize drawing. Seabass Bob just donated a fantastic new in the bag 7.5 St.Croix stick. I donated a sweet Shimano rod and Diawa reel I'd be glad to fish for everything I target (save maybe tog when you need 12 or 16 ounces..) We will begin posting raffle prizes to a newly revamped reef website soon. Art, Jewelry, Tackle - every week something great and two t-shirt winners — Then, come New Year's Day, some folks are going to be mighty happy with the Grand Prize(s) drawing with a gorgeous Benelli 828U o/u in 12ga, or a Benelli M-2 semiauto 12ga from their Performance Shop. Either Grand Prize winner could also choose $1,500.00 Cash instead!  

Any tackleshop that wants a (tiny) bit of facebook fame can donate a prize for the weekly drawings. Our next project is a pair of tugboats for just under $100K! We've aways to go but WILL get them on the bottom! 
Also - if you know folks at a concrete plant we have 5 pyramid molds we could lend to a a concrete manufacturer who wants to make a real difference with a small percentage of their wash-out..

Every donation builds reef!
Supporters can buy tix online at - we'll (eh, Courtney will) fill in your name and take a pic of the stubs to email you. 
Tix are one for $10 - six for $50 - fourteen for $100 - thirty two for $200.00.. 
See on the Donate page. There's a "Raffle" button at the bottom of the page now. 
Tickets also available at Raceway Citgo with more locations soon.

Greetings All, 
Not at all sure what July will bring us this summer. I'll hold Sundays & Mondays in reserve. Any special trips I might announce will be right here. Maybe I'll just take some days off. What's a fisherman do with a day off…
Tuesday, June 22 we had a front moving through that I really didn't want to experience from sea. I offered clients a chance to go another day the night before, or I'd do a short day out front for less than half my regular fare. 
Had a handful of folks when we departed. Tonya McCoy from Nanjemoy MD gave our blocks a push and I anchored nearby. First drop young Jesse McCoy must've hit a big trigger right on the head - caught him too. Seabass Bob from Carlisle PA caught a decent fluke; otherwise we had fewer than 6 keeper seabass and 10 throwbacks. 
Fishing both new reefs and fabulously well coraled-over reefs where tens upon tens of thousands of sea bass have spawned; with my anchoring skill as a skipper at peak  ..and I'm unable to stink a pan for my clients? In June in an area an old skipper described to me in 1981 as "..the best sea bassing on the coast"??
What Capt Ward Brex actually said in 1981 was, "We had the best sea bassing on the coast and let them destroy it." Old guy was crying too. 
He was talking about the surfclam fishery; which, in those days, was an enormous fleet in any inlet. The fishery still exists but targets shoal tops and not hardbottoms. Thing is, our hardbottoms, especially the Bass Grounds really were destroyed. That bottom was pulverized. It cannot grow back. 
What was over 4 square miles of natural reef habitat is now what little we've been able to deploy as artificial reef & a few square yards of remnant natural reef bottom. 
Anyway, this is nothing any fisherman wants to advertise, but we'd best get on it — push NOAA to find out WHY sea bass are no longer flourishing nearshore.. I thought it would correct itself. 
Now I don't. 
It's happening from at least the mouth of DE Bay to below Winter Quarter on the MD/VA line. 
See letter below. 

Email Titled "Really Bad" sent 6/22/21.. 

Greetings All! 
With a nasty front in the forecast I fished 'under the beach' (close to home) and on a short schedule. In fact, I picked up for home at 10:10.. The older I get, the less I like an ocean whoopin. 

Anyway, I've had numerous guys tell me there's not many sea bass on our nearshore reefs.. Dang, I had no idea. Holy Smokes! It's REALLY BAD. 
I've also heard that DE's nearshore reefs took a turn for the better this year - that they have numerous under 9 inch spawners. That would be an excellent result - bodes well for the future - but is also contradicted by people with loooong years reef fishing up that way. 
Although hardly an exhaustive reef survey — Here's the scary part - it looks to be depth related. Reefs on the edges and atop hills? Sea bass, small ones, are at least present. I'm told by mid-August they'll be thick.
But down in the slough? No—Just a tiny handful of barely legal fish that are almost certain to be taken before they spawn. We even had two old reefs, fully grown in with corals, where we found no sea bass today. That's Scary. 
I'll be thinking on it and write more fully. If depth is a factor then water quality is the driver. I cannot imagine any variation in oxygen with so much current and so little distance — so sunlight? The ocean grows greener. Less light finds it's way down - the closer to shore you are, the greener it is. 

I doubt anything will sway my "half-day range" thesis. (But! something is Amplifying the effect in a terrible way! Water Quality?) 
Inshore sea bass used to be OK when the size limit was non-existent. We always had spawning production pre-management. 
But early in the management era when it was 9 to 11 inches? In that time period those reefs where half day boats fished had sea bass populations that flourished. Those packed partyboats - often sold out - had throwbacks that were ALL spawning. I mean it was FABULOUS! From 3 miles on out too! There were guys limiting half-day trips 8 to 12 miles out in the early 2000s when a bag limit first began. Please understand: that means previously there'd been NO BAG LIMIT. Guys could, and very much did, take all they wanted so long as they met those early length regulations — year after year after year..
Now? Tighter restrictions have had the curious result of producing Far Fewer Fish. Ever since the 12 inch size limit in 2002, cbass began to delay maturity and were being caught off (hooked and landed) EXACTLY when they are going into their first spawn. 
Although the size limit is 11 inches commercially, we've nowhere (locally) where commercial pressure is as absolute as it often is on commonly fished recreational grounds. 
It's been a terrible result of management. Where I once spent a good portion of my year even fishing "full day" - today ALL our professional boats together couldn't catch one angler a limit nearshore if we were held at gunpoint. 
At around 17 miles a good percentage of sea bass survive fishing effort during that first spawn - it's where pressure is lighter offshore a bit & outside halfday boat range. At that distance offshore production is still fair - and was excellent, of course, the last few years in the MD wind area as I had predicted it would be upon recolonization of the MD WEA. 
What are halfday boats to do? They didn't make the size limit. Now they are scheduling longer trips as long as possible into summer so they too can fish at 18/19 miles. 
Gee. I wonder what will happen…. 

Very curiously, what I'm seeing suggests habitat fidelity is natal.. Holy Moly.. How can that be!?!?
We're seeing the Most sea bass where they were temporarily extirpated in 2014/15 in & around the MD Wind Energy Area. We're seeing good numbers elsewhere outside halfday range.. (And great numbers also at 30++ mile reefs out and further still to our truly grand natural rock formations in 30 & 50 fathoms)
But why? Why so many one & two year old sea bass where I & others fish outside halfday range & with fairly heavy, but not absolute, pressure. Why isn't this production distributed evenly across reefs inshore too???? Why a 17 mile dead zone??
Is there some pheromonal calling that takes them past good, virtually wide open reef habitat to be with greater numbers of other sea bass? Is it fear? Are these sparsely populated nearshore reefs so tightly controlled by larger fish (harem mentality) that to take up residence could prove fatal? (Gary Shepherd described to me how bull sea bass would spine smaller males in the eyes in an aquarium setting.) 
Men - Take heed or our legacy will be dead inshore grounds. 
Let's bring em to life!

Capt Monty Hawkins ii

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