Monday, September 05, 2022

Fish Report 9/5/22

Fish Report 9/5/22

Am opening just a few days in consideration of coming weather and how fickle mahi can be.. 

A Letter To Upper Management: MRIP Catch Estimates are Already Off Track and pushing toward more regulation. 

An Embarrassment of Riches..  

Saturday & Sunday, Labor Day Weekend were the two best days of mahi fishing this year. (On my way out Monday as I write - Have 7 spots open Tuesday 9/6/22!) Sunday, in fact, we limited everyone on board. Now, although we've some weather coming this coming week, (Wednesday/Thursday as I write) it's a NE wind. In theory that should push offshore water even closer in. I don't think it will push our mahi out. 

Could be a case of, "There I go thinking again," but here's the plan: 

Am trying Sat/Sun/Mon Sept 10, 11, 12 with three 11 hour "*mahi only*" trips - (*and IF I'm dead wrong? If the pretty 81 degree water gets pushed out? Sea bass and Fluke!*) 6:30am to 5:30pm - $225.00 - 18 sells out..

If you only want sea bass, or only want fluke - wait. Your turn's coming. Personally I truly enjoy watch these mean, green acrobats do their thing. 


Anna will be slammed when I hit send. Leave her a message. She has a method to her madness.. Reservations at 443-235-5577

Weather Cancellations Happen - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way..

This reservation announcement closes with 9/12/2022 .. I'll see what the mahi are doing before I announce more trips. 

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. Seriously, with a limited number of reserved spots, I do not refund because you overslept or had a flat..

Trips Also Sometimes Announced on Facebook at Morning Star Fishing 

I post after action reports (or lack thereof) (and sometimes detailed thoughts on fisheries issues) for every trip on my personal FB page and Morning Star page..

Bait is provided on all trips. 

No Galley. Bring Your Own Food & Beverage. 

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 a 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 have a few loaners - you'll still need ice. Should you catch some monstrous fish, we'll be able to ice it. 

No Galley! Bring Food & Beverages To Suit. A few beers in cans is fine for the ride home.

In Reef News we sank a fifty foot tug on 8/24/22. Dropped it right on target to make a great dive reef for less experienced, but certified, divers. They'll be able to go from one piece to another to another - a fine experience. We had filmed one of the pieces nearby a few weeks before with Nick Caloyianis and friends. Several of the diver mugged the fluke pretty good. They don't even use a speargun - just a pointy steel shaft with a barb on it. Divers thump em in the belly so the fillets are preserved. 

Pics and video came out quite nice. I've posted a great deal of it on Facebook under OC Reef Foundation. (Have found several sites that weren't legit - please report them.) 

Have also just crossed to exactly 38,000 blocks deployed. 

Wishbone doesn't replace backbone.. Have to keep a shoulder into reef building to make it happen.

Donations help too!

38,000 Reef Blocks 9/5/22

As of 9/5/22 we have 38,000 Reef Blocks & 543 Reef Pyramids (170lb ea or an equivalent) deployed at numerous ACE permitted ocean reef sites - we also have 786 pyramids deployed by MD CCA at Chesapeake Bay oyster sites working to restore blue ocean water…

Currently being targeted oceanside: at the Brand New Rambler Reef 160 Reef Blocks & 10 Pyramids - Tyler Long's Memorial Reef 438 (+16 Reef Pyramids) Virginia Lee Hawkins as Memorial Reef 406 Reef Blocks (+71 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Jack Kaeufer's/Lucas Alexander's Reefs 1,928 Blocks (+46 Reef Pyramids) - Doug Ake's Reef 4,174 blocks (+16 Reef Pyramids) - St. Ann's 2,847 (+14 Reef Pyramids) - Sue's Block Drop 1,622 (+24 Reef Pyramids) - TwoTanks Reef 1,303 (+ 15 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 912 - Benelli Reef 1,552 (+ 118 Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 4,051 (+88 reef pyramids) - Wolf & Daughters Reef 734 - Al Berger's Reef 1,445 (+33 Reef Pyramids) - Great Eastern Block Drop 1,528 (+25 Reef Pyramids) - Two more brand New Drops Begun at Cristina's Blast 40 Reef Blocks & 2 Py - Unnamed Site South Side GEBD 40 Reef Blocks & 2 Pyramids - Capt Greg Hall's Memorial Reef 222 Blocks & 2 Pyramids — And 325 Castle & Terracotta Tog Blocks & 10 Pyramids 81 feet Bass Grounds Unnamed ..

Greetings All, 

I've always done all I could to make fishery management excel in its task - manage what fish we have while restoring historic populations. Believe me it's plenty tricky enough, but when you mix bad data in? Oyyyyy.. 

I recently looked at NOAA's recreational catch estimates for May/June 2022.. Unreal. Despite promises unending I see more garbage about to be fed into the system — there's already an underlayment for tighter regulations next year. 

The first thing I noticed was Maryland Party/Charter caught zero sea bass in May/June - a goose egg. 

Promise this, if even a few days went by without my reporting daily catches, someone from NOAA would be on the phone with malice in their heart. And if a boat isn't 100% caught up on data submissions? No permits issued until you have their blessing. 

Apparently all that doesn't apply to them - I've seen dozens and dozens of instances where it was obvious no one had used our daily catch reports in recreational for-hire estimates. 

NY has a blow out catch. It was open one week in the end of June - 3 sea bass at 16 inches. It would have required  almost 6,000 Private Boats per day to land NOAA's (actually their MRIP program's) estimate of nearly 250,000 fish at 2.5 lbs. The catch that will be applied against our coastwide quota will be about 650,000 lbs.. 

Virginia's Private Boats too landed a crazy high number of sea bass.

Ahhh Well.. 

Let the battle be rejoined. 

As I was told years ago about fighting the federal govmint - Just because you're right doesn't mean you'll win. 

Here's a letter I've just sent to the top of NOAA and their Fishery Science & Data chiefs. 



Dear Undersecretary Coit, Esq; Dr Hare, & Dr Howell, 

At the Recreational Fishing Summit last March in front of 200-some people NOAA had me convinced repairs to MRIP were at hand. I had such high hopes that AT LAST a team was in place at NOAA who had enough concern for accuracy in MRIP's Recreational Catch Estimates that they'd mandate its repair.  

Time after time though I've seen and heard same "they don't make sense" yet always with the same result too: the estimates get much worse. 

Much, much worse. 

Going to be a tangled mess; the worst guesses imaginable are forever being woven deeper and deeper into regulation. Catch data long supported only by statisticians who have absolutely no idea what manner of catch is possible in Private Boats is imbedded from the program's roots with MRFSS. After the repair to Party/Charter in 2003, Private Boat landings began an incredible climb that has never abated. Fixing this is going to be hard work but you seemed willing to attack it. 

Then NOAA went silent 

..and didn't change a blessed thing. 

I see from MRIP's wave 3 (May/June) recreational catch estimates that the Marine Recreational Information Program is wholly unchanged. The MRIP system, itself a repair to MRFSS mandated by Congress in 2007, has published catch numbers professional recreational fishermen know cannot be remotely true. In our trade when fishing for black sea bass, for instance, we MUST understand levels of effort in each area of reef so we can target abundances - it's how we catch fish. 

It's also true today, at last, that quite nearly everyone in the management and fishery science communities—those good folks from outside the agency NOAA orders "Use The Data Or Else," this multitude of PhDs have finally seen not only the data's gross inaccuracies, but it's far reaching affects elsewhere in management. 

MRIP was horrible right out of the gate in 2012. After two later "recalibrations" recreational Private Boat catch was sent into an undreamt level of ridiculousness; while Patty/Charter catch is often under estimated—even regularly below what we told NOAA we caught in daily Vessel Trip Reports. After NOAA's Private Boat recalibrations, data that was already laugh out loud dumb became several stratospheres too high; it's growth remains seemingly unstoppable.

Quite often in modern MRIP catch estimates it's shown where just one state's Private Boats are suddenly more powerful than a coastwide collection of Commercial and For-Hire effort. 

Do you understand that? In a single two-month wave MRIP has had NY Private Boats catch more sea bass than All Trawlers, Trap Fishers, Partyboats with their tens of thousands of patrons and Charter boats — MRIP has a few Private Boats not just outfishing NY's professional effort, but all Commercial and For-Hire professional fishers from Cape Hatteras north. 

Yeah.. But Wait! It gets worse! 

It might be true NY's Private Boats caught almost as many sea bass as just NY professionals caught. It could never ever be true the (mostly weekend skippers who work extra hard to enjoy their boat!) NY Private Boats outfished the coast's Commercial & Party/Charter. 

Oh, as memory serves me there was one year when NY Private Boats caught and killed 2X as many sea bass as the rest of the coast's Professionals.. 


People were well-paid to concoct and publish that data. Then it was fed into 'turn of the crank' regulation that punishes recreational fishers - - all recreational fishers - - for 'overfishing' ..regardless it only occurred on a computer. 

What non-fishing regulators don't see is professionals have a lifetime of gauging effort. Whether a skipper recognizes it as a measure or not; we must gauge how many boats are fishing (commercial/private/party/& charter!) —and where they're fishing— so we don't get our clients' skunked.. 

It's that knowledge - an ongoing approximation of effort - that tells us instinctually MRIP's full of baloney. 

Oddly: when MRIP data is broken down and examined, the CPUE (catch per unit of effort) is usually acceptable—logical even— it's therefore the number of Private Boats required to even approach a final estimate that are are staggering — not what each angler caught, but how many Private Boat anglers in total that blows up the catch estimates. 

Private Boat effort in fantastic number that's never been witnessed anywhere-ever becomes a mathematical necessity in order to achieve the landings MRIP claims. 

Believe This: Where there is Private Boat catch claimed, there must also have been Private Boats witnessed on the grounds in sufficient number, or even videoed, to actually have caught those fish. (We have a video effort being made at the Ocean City inlet. It hasn't been working when Private Boat effort on film—an insufficient number of Private Boats actually—would have proved conclusively that MRIP's estimate was just a bad guess. 

I so hope these camera malfunctions are a real thing and not, "Oh, that must have fallen off my desk" sort of business. While I truly trust the fellow tasked with the experiment, I sure wish we'd already put the whole stinking mess to bed by now..) 

When catch data is commonly estimated an order of magnitude too high - even two, it translates into fantastic populations of fish that do not exist. 


Because NOAA insists everyone use and/or suffer the MRIP data, those catches are then turned into incredibly high fish populations. Not only must there be Private Boats in sufficient number, but the fish they are said to have extracted are too. 

It's not real. 

None of MRIP's data is any good. 

At some point these sky high & yet fully "peer reviewed" (but with no fisherman's involvement at any level!) recreational catch estimates have to be folded into numerous fishery management plans. It was reasoned these sky-high recreational numbers "must" have come from fish populations management had been previously unaware of. Managers were forced to up commercial quotas by fantastic amounts in 2018. Recreational quotas also went up - but we were "already catching more than our share" in this wildly inaccurate data and saw no loosening of regulation, only tightening. 

Commercial fishermen haven't caught their quota of summer flounder (fluke) or sea bass since their quotas were increased. In reality? A quota that cannot possibly be caught May as well not exist. Therefore they're fishing without a quota… 

MRIP's already painting the same picture of unbridled recreational greed in several states in May/June 2022. And you, the agency of NOAA, will be compelled to once again arrest our 'overfishing' by tightening regulation in whatever form is conceived. 

My kingdom NOAA might see fisheries productions and recreational catch as they truly are. 

Instead, NOAA relies on decades of falsehoods—recreational catch estimates from MRIP and MRFSS before it—to see our fisheries. Poor data leading to worse regulation has made the sea bass fishery a pale empty shell of what fisheries management is truly capable of. 

Indeed, the summer flounder, sea bass & scup fisheries ought to be nothing short of a astounding - used as a poster child around the world to show what sound management is capable of. But no, science and regulators remain blind to past regulations' affects. 

Catch ping-pongs about so madly that there's been no work to understand the incredible loss of the seafloor's epi-benthic habitat - the square miles patches of seawhip and star coral all along the Mid-Atlantic where so many millions and millions of sea bass once lived. 

With just one state's Private Boats outfishing all professional effort; habitat is of no concern - you're still trying to arrest effort as we should have in the 1970s or 80s - and the endeavor is tightly focused on catch that never occurred. 

Go ahead: Add commercial sea bass landings from 1950 to 1961 together. Then add all the years since. You'll see we've yet to equal that early post-WWII 11 year period commercial landings when sea bass were mostly trawled.. 

Ignorance is bliss, I suppose. 

Your true task is not only to maintain an orderly extraction of fish; but to maximize both spawning production & habitat production. 

Grasp those keys and the world will wonder how you created such immense fisheries.. 

Continue to act as though MRIP's data were valid (though virtually no one in management or fisheries science does) and you'll kill a recreational fishery that survived - thrived even - under the intense fishing from after WWII through 1997 when sea bass were finally regulated. 

I don't know who is telling you MRIP's catch data is good, nor how they might possibly convince a thinking person such preposterous wild guesses were somehow valid. Promise you this - they're not. 

MRIP stinks worse than a sun baked, maggot infested bucket of codswallop forgotten at dock's end a week ago. 

You all need to dump it overboard and scrub the bucket - a decidedly unpleasant task - or allow fishery management to wallow in in the cleaning table's stench for decades to come. 



Capt Monty Hawkins

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