Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Fish Report 3/29/23

Fish Report 3/29/23 

Opening May Sea Bass Reservations - May Trips Are NonRefundable! Reschedule in event of bad weather? Of Course! But no refunds..

A look at the real trouble with regulations.. 

No Tog Trips Announced Here.. 

Opening May 15 to June 4 for sea bass trips. Size limit 13 inches - 15 per person. These reservations are non refundable. Different date? Weather? Sure, we'll get you fishing. But, these trips only, no refunds. 

Opening Monday & Tues - May 15 & 16 - and Memorial Weekend May 27 & 28 - Sailing 6am to 3:30pm - $155.00 - 18 Clients Sells Out!

Otherwise - Sailing Daily - Saturdays 6:30 to 3:30 at $155.00 — Weekdays & Sundays 7 to 3 at $135 - All Trips Sell Out at 18 Anglers.

Anna is a one person operation. She might be slammed when I hit send.  (or maybe not!) 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. She won't take reservations for trips that are not announced. 

If you want a spot call the reservation line at 443-235-5577.. Emailing me is no good - service handles reservations. I do check email for questions; check FaceBook messenger too.. 

*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. 

In addition to OC Reef Foundation deployments of barges, tugs, & bargeloads of material (such as Tiki XIV's winter deployments of 750 reef pyramids,) I take reef blocks every time the boat goes in the ocean. 

Block Update - As of 3/27/23 we have 38,968 Reef Blocks & 1,248 Reef Pyramids (170lb ea) 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… (and, boy did those pyramid numbers rise over the winter!) 

Currently being targeted oceanside: at the Brand New Rambler Reef 260 Reef Blocks & 10 Pyramids - Tyler Long's Memorial Reef 618 (+18 Reef Pyramids) Virginia Lee Hawkins Memorial Reef 406 Reef Blocks (+72 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Jack Kaeufer's/Lucas Alexander's Reefs 1,988 Blocks (+46 Reef Pyramids) - Doug Ake's Reef 4,174 blocks (+16 Reef Pyramids) - St. Ann's 2,867 (+14 Reef Pyramids) - Sue's Block Drop 1,642 (+24 Reef Pyramids) - TwoTanks Reef 1,323 (+ 15 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 912 - Benelli Reef 1,552 (+ 118 Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 4,151 (+ 90 reef pyramids) - Wolf & Daughters Reef 734 - Al Berger's Reef 1,545 (+33 Reef Pyramids) - Great Eastern Block Drop 1,528 (+25 Reef Pyramids) - Two more brand New Drops Begun at Cristina's Blast 120 Reef Blocks & 2 Pyramids & an Unnamed Site South Side GEBD 180 Reef Blocks & 2 Pyramids - Capt Greg Hall's Memorial Reef 222 Blocks & 2 Pyramids — And 325 Castle & Terracotta Tog Blocks, 10 Pyramids, & 16 pieces pipe 81 feet Bass Grounds Unnamed. 

Greetings All! 

Am shut for fishing a while as Brian & Vic overhaul the boat. She hasn't had paint in a few years - needs it bad. I also had a fuel tank that, while not leaking a drop, was failed by Coast Guard for corrosion. Built in 1986, I suppose I hadn't complain. New one is in and deck beams are being bolted and epoxied before redecking and fiberglassing. 

Ahhhh yachting.. 

"Boat" with two Ts is Break Out Another Ten Thousand.. 

Paperwork this winter is especially cumbersome too. I have my 5 year CG super safety inspection and it's log book requirements, my boat's FCC station license is about to pop, life raft annual inspection, EPIRB registrations plus, of course, hydrostatic release & flare dates.. I also have to renew my CG 100 Ton Masters License. Thankfully I fish enough that I can attest to sea time rather than retesting. 

Then there's the usual fisheries permits for the Greater Atlantic: sea bass, fluke, bluefish etc - all are straight forward & pretty simple. Wahoo/mahi and king/spanish mackerel from South East NOAA, however, are as awful as ever. Daily reports require we tell em how many clients rode free or paid, what did they pay, fuel use and cost per gallon, bait in lbs; and, get this, the premier charting agency in the world not only asks where we fished, but how deep it was.. Sheesh. 

Long abandoned by regulators above Hatteras, these SERO (South East Regional Office) permits, for species we encounter only a few months, also require "did not fish" reports year round. 

Dear NOAA below Hatteras: No, we did not catch any mahi in Dec/Jan/Feb but we did nick a few tog. New permits for 23 won't be issued unless I've told them what weeks I didn't fish in March (& not one wahoo either! Darn!) 

Here's the really funny thing - according to NOAA's MRIP recreational catch data, Party & Charter boats catch a low percentage of any species.. We are not even a whisker of today's "recreational overfishing" problems. 

Long ago Party/Charter had spikes such as have now become constant in the Private Boat estimates. We complained and in 2003 an effective repair was employed. Certainly not perfect, and I see no indication NOAA uses any of the daily data we surrender, but the 2003 fix remains in place. For-Hire (Party/Charter) estimates are usually pretty close. 

From 2004 on, however, Private Boat catch began rise. 


There have been estimates in the last decade where Private Boats from one state outfished all Party/Charter & Commercial Trawl/Trap from Cape Hatteras north - by 2X! (See NY Private Boat 6+Million lbs 2016 & 5+ Million lbs 2017) 

Neat trick that. 

Now, when the 2007 rewrite of Magnuson Stevens was passed by Congress it mandated a repair to the then MRFSS catch estimates by 2009. It also held that where Recreational or Commercial had gone over their quota, that overage must be paid back - a penalty reduction of quota called an Accountability Measure (AM.) 

MRIP, what replaced MRFSS, wasn't ready until 2012. We had AMs before our new "super accurate" catch estimates were released! Supposedly "new & improved" I knew we'd been played the moment MRIP came out. (Marine Recreational Information Program - I always thought it was cutesy "MRFSS Rest in Peace..)  

More complaining, as I was warned in person, only resulted in "recalibrations" which drove numbers ever higher. 

Take the 2016 NY example above. When first published it was 4.2 million lbs. Now it's 6.2 million lbs. Neither Commercial or Party/Charter estimates changed a bit - from Hatteras north all professional Commercial & Recreational effort landed 2.8 million lbs. of sea bass in 2016. NY Private Boats, that state's Boston Whalers and Grady Whites, landed more than 2X as much at 6.2M lbs.. Recalibrations therefore took recreational catch estimates from embarrassingly ludicrous to simply insane. 


ALL our estimates went higher. 

Way higher. 

In 2021 Private Boat outfished All Party/Charter by over 4X for sea bass.. In 2022 it was only 3X.. 

Going from memory, everyone I've ever talked to in my trade thought their state's Private Guys landed a tad more (MA) or about the same (CT, RI, NY, DE) or less (NJ, MD).. 

Well, if that's correct then the estimates where Private Boats catch multiples of For-Hire landings (& even more than all commercial!) are just incredibly too high. If Private Boat averages "about the same" the recreational fishers would have actually landed under 2 million lbs in 2021 - not over 11 million pounds!

Whenever I boil estimates down to "Catch Per Person" (or CPUE 'catch per unit of effort' in the trade) it seems pretty reasonable - usually! It did before MRIP too. What one person would have caught seems OK. 

CPUE times Number of Angler Trips (Effort) = Catch -- How do they gauge Effort? Wasn't the "Saltwater Registry" (also from 2007 Magnuson rewrite) supposed to correct MRFSS 'Effort' analysis and make MRIP really accurate? 

Yes. Yes it was. License sales were supposed to show NOAA how many guys were fishing. 

Ahhh.. But MRIP statisticians KNEW people were CHEATING & LYING. They didn't buy licenses or even simply register for free; nor did they speak the truth when interviewed about catch.. You'd think fishermen would fluff up their catch, but the sharpies at MRIP discovered every angler had a working knowledge of fisheries statistics and under reported his catch for higher quotas in the future! 


Already way too high in the program's release, they raised effort numbers up twice more to todays estimate numbers MRIP data has become so ridiculous  absolutely no one in Fisheries Science or Management has any faith in them. 

But they'll still use em - the law is the law. Everyone has to use "the best available scientific information" ..even if it's absolute codswallop. 

Many readers will have seen my writings on these catch estimates before. I was very much part of the 2003 repair to For-Hire estimates and a proponent of the repair to the whole system a few years later. Where presenting a logical argument was once enough to persuade for change, now it is not. For over a decade NOAA has said "prove it" where my assertions of over-estimation are concerned. 

These are the folks who don't even believe their own license data. "Proof" is a tall order. 

We may be just a week away from exactly that though.. 


The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) put up a video camera in Ocean City, Maryland's inlet a few years ago. My idea was, because MD only has one inlet, to count boats and times by 3.5 or 4 anglers to give a much sharper Ocean-Only Effort estimate. MAFMC staff has been counting all winter. At a meeting a (very sharp!) staffer told us in July/Aug 2021 there'd have to be 742 Private Boats a DAY leaving OC Inlet to meet the effort estimate.. 

Oh No, No, No.. 

I doubt the average will be 42 - let alone 742. 

While that particular period is obviously sky high, every two-month period I checked was also. 

Every one. 

Not a single MD 'ocean only' Private Boat effort estimate appeared anywhere near accurate. 

Can other states be any better? Worse would be my guess - with NY, MA, CT, and NJ leading the way. 

Even Virginia has recently seen their ocean effort shoot sky high of late.. 

When MD's video counts for effort comparison come out we'll need to make noise. 

A lot of noise. 

Anglers from other states need to ask for cameras too. Even if only half the inlets are covered that can still result in a much tighter effort estimate. 

I guarantee Effort is where the trouble is. 

We'll need to write! 

Knowing how many Private Boats went fishing is key. That's WHY we have huge overestimates of catch leading to tighter and tighter regs every year. That's why so many have a 16 inch limit on sea bass while commercial fishers are harvesting from fish 4 years younger. Recreational Catch Data has ALWAYS been the issue. 

Man does it need fixin. 

Get ready to write!



Capt Monty Hawkins

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