Thursday, October 13, 2022

Fish Report 10/13/22

Fish Report 10/13/22 

A ReSend - No Changes Other Than Including The Link For Sheepshead Article.. 

Opening the weekend.. 

Habitat restorations restored a fishery we didn't know was missing.. 


Anna might be slammed when I hit send.  If she cannot pick up, Leave her a message. She has a method to her madness.. Reservations at 443-235-5577 - She's a one person operation & has other jobs too. The line closes at 8pm and reopens at 8am. 

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

Fishing for Sea Bass (hope to see some fluke too) Fri/Sat/Sun - 10/14 to 10/16 - Trips are sold out at just 18 passengers from 6:30 (6!) to 4:30 @ $175.00.. (Yes, I'll be fishing lots of weekdays too. Just don't see the weather at the moment.) 

*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.. If you're reserved and the last person we're waiting on - you'll need to answer your phone. I will not make on time clients wait past scheduled departure because of a misfortune on your part. 

Try to always leave a half hour early (and never an hour early!) I rarely get in on time either. If you have a worrier at home, please advise them I often come home late. It's what I do. 

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. 

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

Donations help too!

As of 10/13/22 we have 38,220 Reef Blocks & 544 Reef Pyramids (170lb ea or an equivalent) deployed at numerous ACE permitted ocean reef sites - there are also 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 240 Reef Blocks & 10 Pyramids - Tyler Long's Memorial Reef 488 (+17 Reef Pyramids) Virginia Lee Hawkins 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 1,642 (+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 4,071 (+ 88 reef pyramids) - Wolf & Daughters Reef 734 - Dr. Al Berger's Reef 1,465 (+33 Reef Pyramids) - Great Eastern Block Drop 1,528 (+25 Reef Pyramids) - Two more brand New Drops Begun at Cristina's Blast 60 Reef Blocks & 2 Pyramids - 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 ..

Habitat Restoration's Unforeseen Benefits.. 

I often write about our ocean turned green—how oyster restoration efforts far from sea are key to making historic marlin fishing grounds blue again; or how reef building will benefit our marine ecology by growing more far more coral than we've known in our time. These are improvements to fish and squid habitat of the first order. 

I'm always trying to look back at 'what was' so we might use targeted habitat restoration to bring once-grand populations of fish back; or, in the case of billfish, restore populations to areas long since vacated. 

It remains true that there were more sea bass landed commercially by trawl from 1950 to 1961 than in all the years since combined. NOAA might claim sea bass are restored; dang sure they're not by any standard I would set. It's my belief management, based as it is on the most wildly incorrect recreational catch data imaginable, is actually holding back sea bass restoration now. What can 'catch restriction' alone do if no one ever once considered even attempting to understand what the Mid-Atlantic's seafloor habitat footprint once looked like. If we want squirrel populations where corn and soybean grow horizon to horizon, someone's going to have to plant some trees. But no; habitat isn't included in a sea bass restoration plan. 

White marlin may not be in further need of restoration. Maryland has seen in recent years new records set for number of whites caught in a day & in a year - but dern sure no whites at all have been caught where once fleets of sport boats targeted them. Nearshore hills like Jackspot just twenty miles out are almost always cloaked in green water where no marlin will feed ..yet once boats often caught ten or more in a day there. 

These are not fisheries targets set by any manner of dot.guv, just what I see as possibilities from grand habitat restorations. 


Giant goals seen nowhere on a NOAA computer screen, I believe we have a species that's already benefited handsomely from estuarine and nearshore marine reef building efforts - a species no one I ever spoke to recognized was even in need. 

I believe the very first Mid-Atlantic  fishery restoration owing only to habitat building, and not catch restriction, was the sheepshead. 

I don't know of anyone who even knew they were missing; of anyone that considered sheepshead a possible restoration target. 

In my youth we knew them as a southern fishery - way south of us. 

When I began fishing Ocean City's partyboats in 1980 I had the pleasure of many an afternoon and evening spent with old timers of that era telling tales of fishing's history. These men had spent summers of their youth working the white marlin fishery at Jackspot Shoal in the 1940s/50s/60s. As oysters neared total collapse a hundred or two miles away as water flows, the ocean water they'd known went from 'deep blue sea' to the pea green of my time. Fishermen followed marlin far offshore in search of clear blue waters — while old men, often over breakfast or sharing a bottle of vodka in the evening, told tales of how it used to be. 

They saw scup on Fenwick Shoal with 40 and more boats rafted off stem to stern; sea trout (weakfish) where the whole fleet had the World Series playing on the radio; wreck fishing before Loran C made it simple—when a man forward would look for a wreck on the bottom, could see it—or spot the swirl of water around its peak; whole summers spent sea bassing at the Bass Grounds while rarely lowering an anchor; they'd bait tub gear (short long lines) for cod and fish mostly weekends all winter. I myself saw how in the late 1970s sometimes private boats catching sea trout and croaker would jam the inlet—larger boats would lay on the horn and force their way through. Lots of those guys were using the Chesapeake's favorite weakfish bait - peeler crab. 

Early in my time I saw sea trout collapse. Anglers who wouldn't give up back bay fishing baited their peeler crabs and dropped straight down into a nearly virgin fishery - tautog. The same jetties, wharves and pilings that once held nearby trout offered numerous double digit tautog in the early days of the back bay fishery. 

Shallow wrecks with innumerable spadefish and amberjack - times when I could drop a blue crab and watch jumbo tog take it. In deeper water we'd have tog lit up after a couple bushels of sooks. I'd jig with the same 6 & 8 ounce Bridgeport diamond jigs we used for Boston mackerel fishing and catch tog one after the other ..while keeping the tautog fishery alive is a work in progress, those Boston (Atlantic) mackerel are long gone. 

In all that time there were jetty experts who fished with an incredible accumulation of skill & knowledge - generations worth. Drum, tog, striped bass, sea trout: they knew how and when to go. Some of the most respected anglers in the region had only to fish the south jetty to bring home dinner. One of the rarest fish caught in the 1980s was a sheepshead. 

I never once recall hearing about sheepshead from any of the old timers I knew. Dale Timmons, who founded "The Coastal Fisherman" paper in the late 1970s and certainly qualifies as a top expert on coastal Maryland's fishing history, recalls a few sheepshead - even state records - "but not like the fishery of today," he said.

Though by then I'd heard of them being caught; in my years I never saw or personally caught a sheepshead until Oct of 2009 at the beginning of the 'emergency sea bass closure.' (Yea NOAA, there was an emergency all right - bad recreational catch estimate data! They still haven't fixed it, but I'm told they there are weekly top level meetings. Might data's repair be coming at last?!?) Those sheepshead.. I was fishing a nearshore reef I'd helped build. Tasty, scrappy, sizable - what's not to like?

I've chaired Maryland's Artificial Reef Committee for many years. Early in the mid 2000s when we were arranging for the much-hated Woodrow Wilson Bridge to be reefed at various locations, among recreational fishing & environmental experts we had an old oysterman on the panel too. He'd fished the lower part of Maryland's Chesapeake all his days and never saw a sheepshead until after we'd built some enormous reefs that attempt to mimic oyster reef in an unfished state — no one on the reef committee ever had. Not one of us.

Virginia, of course, was also building robust oyster and artificial reefs - some quite large. They were first to see sheepshead move up the Bay. It's likely there were always a few on their lower Bay wrecks and rocks.. 

In St. Mary's County there was an archeological dig to explore colonial  trash middens from 1644 to 1655. Amazingly, the number one fish seen in that dig was sheepshead. Predominant by far and unmistakable in its bones and jaw..

This same article points out Maryland had just 800 lbs of sheepshead landings in 1920 — yet it was the number one fish eaten nearly 400 years ago - fully 4 to 6% of the colonial diet. A fish unknown to people who fished all their lives in the Chesapeake & coastal MD in the mid 1900s - nor even heard of sheepshead being caught in the generation before..

I would argue modern reef constructions, mimics of robust oyster reef not seen for centuries, have restored habitat vital to sheepshead. Just as truly large artificial reefs were being built in Chesapeake Bay (with VA first) we began to see sheepshead coming back

..and didn't even know they were gone! 

Now we have large cement reefs in Maryland's lower Chesapeake that are growing in wonderfully with oysters. 

Soon these reefs won't just mimic historical habitat - they'll become as if natural oyster reef in every aspect, except for their underlying substrate. 

That's the goal of all reef building. 



Capt Monty Hawkins

Capt Monty Hawkins

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