Monday, January 22, 2024

Fish Report 1/22/24

Fish Report 1/22/24

A Rocky Start To Winter Toggin. At Last Able To Offer Some Trips.. 

Blind to the data.. 

Another Study Shows Artificial Reef Increases Fisheries & Shellfish Productions.. 


Boat Regs: 3 Tog @ 16 Inches - only one can be a female. (Maryland is 4 of any sex @ 16in - we're fishing the boat rule.) Release of all sizes encouraged. Keep a few for dinner? Sure. Load the neighbors up? Not so good for the fishery's future. Very rare when opportunity for limits presents.. 

Funny too, 3 tog at 16 inches was my boat rule from 1992 to 2003.. 

Anna 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 leave a message that you want to book Feb 32? ..she probably won't call you back. 

Boat Limit 3 tautog @16in - only 1 can be female. 

Wed 1/24/24 - Saturday 1/27 - Mon & Tues 1/29 & 30 - 6:30 to 5:30 - Long Tog - $225.00 - 14 sells out

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

Always try to leave a half hour early if all are aboard. 

Pretty rare to be in on time..

Bait is provided on all trips: green crabs for tog. (Whites are available from crew for a reasonable cost.) 

Our Tog Pool Is By Length: A Tog That's Been Released Counts The Same As One In The Boat.

No Live Tog Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (I Believe The Live Tog Black Market Hurt This Fishery ..But Nowhere Near As Much As Bad Sea Bass Regulation)

Agreed With Or Not, My Boat's Regulations Observed – 3 Tog @ 16 Inches or better - only one can be a female. 

Does the thought of not keeping a state legal limit gives you pain? Then you will not like tog fishing with me.. Shoot, I may have some clients skunked every trip all winter. Seriously. 

Togging is a most unkind fishery - especially for the novice. Then, I've also seen beginners bowed-up steady while incredibly skilled anglers suffer in hubris. 

But, when it is kind? 

As Tommy said, "The tug is the drug.. Bully Bob says, "They're Delmarva Grouper." 

14 Anglers Sells Out so anglers can move to the bite. Boat has 20 well marked spots. If someone's in a spot? No mugging. If it's open? Have at it. If in between two good friends? Well… But they'd better be good friends! 

Green crabs provided. You're welcome to BYO crabs for bait too. Anglers are further restricted than state regs would have  - Boat Regs are 3 fish (not 4) only one can be a female.

If fishing the stern area waterproof boots are advised in fall & especially winter!

Shoes & sneakers will ruin your day. 

It'll be chilly in the AM too! Cabin is heated. 

If you want a spot call the reservation line! Emailing me is no good - service handles reservations. I do ck email for questions - ck 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.  

Honest truth about Tog Trips!

Do you like a good old fashioned 'drop and reel' sea bass bite? Like steady action? 

Yeah, umm, toggin/blackfishing ain't that. (Except in the rarest of occasions!) This fishery, tog fishing, is the hardest from among my target species. Skunks can and do happen! Even skilled tog fishers, and I mean from among the very best, can get their head handed to em. Worse still - I've even been completely skunked while tog fishing! (Whoever said "A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work" dern sure didn't carry fishing parties for a living!) 

Still, because the challenge of catching tog is both our test & attraction - we go! 

If you're this guy: "Ah, Capt, I thought we'd catch 20 pounders today?" Oh Mercy! I'm just glad if clients get bit!

I'm telling you here - I had many, many anglers get skunked last winter and in years before also.

This fishery is tough getting tougher. Those 'dinner fish' kept 10 & more years ago would have been today's jumbos. 

I run Tog Trips light so anglers can move to the bite - or try too!

For those in need of the blow-by-blow catch reports, I post after every trip to facebook..

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

Block Update - As of 12/27/23 we have 41,008 Reef Blocks & (includes stormy 1/5/24) 2,016 Reef Pyramids (170lb ea) deployed at numerous ACE permitted ocean reef sites - there are also 1,336 pyramids deployed by MD CCA at Chesapeake Bay oyster sites working to restore blue ocean water - Counting those awaiting deployment there have been over 4,500 pyramids made since my crew and I fashioned a prototype mold in late August 2019. 

Currently being targeted oceanside: Ryan & Shari's Bay Breeze Reef 208 Pyramids - Uncle Murphy's Reef 260 Reef Blocks; Rambler Reef 360 Reef Blocks & 11 Pyramids - Pete Maugan's Memorial Reef 92 Blocks & 6 Pyramids - Tyler Long's Memorial Reef 698 (+18 Reef Pyramids & a 115 ft barge!) Virginia Lee Hawkins Memorial Reef 526 Reef Blocks (+76 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Jack Kaeufer's/Lucas Alexander's Reefs 2084 Blocks (+49 Reef Pyramids) - Doug Ake's Reef 4,194 blocks (+16 Reef Pyramids) - St. Ann's 2,969 (+14 Reef Pyramids) Lindsay's Mini Reef 140 Blocks - Sue's Block Drop 1,722 (+30 Reef Pyramids) - Farewell/Kathy's Cable 228 blocks(3 pyramids) - Rudys/Big Dad's Barges 140 Reef Blocks (+9 Pyramids) - Benelli Reef 1,552 (+118 Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 4,344 (+ 90 reef pyramids) - Al Berger's Reef 1,906 Reef Blocks (+36 Reef Pyramids) - Great Eastern South Block Drop 248 Reef Blocks (+ 8  Pyramids) - Cristina's Blast 120 Reef Blocks & 2 Pyramids - Capt Greg Hall's Memorial Reef 362 Blocks (+2 Pyramids) - Kinsley's Reef 756 Pyramids - Bear Concrete Reef 44 Blocks and 512 Pyramids plus 16 pipes -  We've also an Unnamed site at the Bass Grounds in 80 feet with 345 Castle & Terracotta Tog Blocks, 10 Pyramids, & 16 pieces pipe.

Grretings All, 

Have been writing letters to upper management & science. 

Have some hope for getting a camera back up at OC inlet, but little else. 

Recent video showed how we can increase a given oyster reef's footprint/biofiltration & fisheries impact using waste pipe from manufacturing; how even modest 5 pipe units increase a reef's benefit 11.3 fold.. 

I'm no lobbyist. MD Assembly is in session. Time to show them has passed. Next year - will hopefully make demo pipe units for oysters & Curtis Johns Reef at Tangier. 

Though unsuccessful so far, I'm trying to (and shall) line up a major coral restoration pipe unit for us at the Bass Grounds. 

OC Boat Show in not so distant future - Intrepid souls have also begun getting ready for a May 5th Reef Dinner. If you'd like to help, I'll connect you with them. 

Below is a letter across management 1/18/24

Below that a link I was sent - a paper that might finally eviscerate the "Attraxtion vs. Production debate in Artificial Reef. 



(To Fisheries Science & Management 1/18/24 writing about new regulatory tightening's effects..)

Can we please see the wave/state/mode MRIP data? 


I know you "Have to do what the data sez" ..but who said you had to hide it? Make it secret? 

There is No Possible Way our new 'options' were developed without wave data. Why can't we see it?

OMGosh.. There's so much wonderful work "Fisheries Science guiding Management" could be doing

..yet here's how this new regulatory tightening is going to play in MD. No matter how it ends up? Tautog will be fished harder than they otherwise would have - sea bass possibly - and ForHire will sail fewer trips 

..because of catch data no one believes. 

Regulation may seem species specific - but, no. Regulatory change cannot occur in a vacuum. Recreational Fishing Effort will shift elsewhere. 

When we at last know what has really been caught by recreational fishers using accurate effort estimates/catch formulas and intercept/license data - You'll be shocked at how badly you've been played. 

If this process is to have a fighting chance at success - what I would measure as putting fisheries & water quality at near 1950s levels after allowing for warming - If marine fisheries restorations are to be achieved? You've got to clean up rec catch data. 

While it will surely be a pain in the neck across every possible aspect of fisheries science and regulation, I so hope it will not be as bad as watching decades pass while suffering ever tightening regulation -- yet knowing our greatest tools in restoration aren't even in consideration.  

Show us the data.

Remember the video camera in OC Inlet? 

It is true that we couldn't prove private boat catch was being shown at ridiculous levels - our "anecdotal evidence" was simply scoffed at from when ForHire was repaired in 2003 onward. 

Yet here it is on video - pretty much exactly as I've always described.  

And there's no interest is stiffening effort statistics with this so-simple technique? 

I cannot imagine anyone in management or fisheries science with a sincere desire for improvement to not want finely honed recreational catch data.. 




This study was sent me by a senior fisheries science guy (whose name was not Bill Nye)

Restored shellfish reefs provide valuable habitat for fish, but it is not clear how different approaches affect performance, and either promote the development of new fish populations (i.e. "production") or simply attract individuals from the broader seascape (i.e. "attraction"). We measured the effects of a 1.5 ha shellfish reef restoration site on fish assemblages in Pumicestone Passage in eastern Australia, which contains replicates of six different restoration units: shell patch reefs, crates of shells, and biodegradable matrix, and each had replicates with and without live oysters. Fish were surveyed before restoration and then every 6 months for 30 months with baited (at restoration and control sites) and unbaited (at 106 sites across the seascape to detect potential fish attraction, and at the different restoration units) underwater cameras. Shellfish reef restoration represents an addition to the carrying capacity of Pumicestone Passage for fish for two key reasons. First, restoration significantly enhanced the diversity and abundance of fish assemblages and the density of harvestable fish at the restoration site by 3.8, 10.7, and 16.4 times, respectively. Second, fish distributions across the broader seascape did not change in response to succession at the restoration site. Fish assemblages did not differ between restoration units or the presence or absence of oysters. These findings further support the notion that restored shellfish reefs significantly enhance fish abundance and diversity and that restored reefs can enhance the overall carrying capacity of seascapes for fish, rather than simply centralizing them at restoration sites.


And the California study I've shown so many times since my Sister found it for me years ago..

Here from a 1961 study: California Fish Bulletin 146, Man-Made Reef Ecology: Summary & Conclusions -- Page 198 

Brackets { } are mine, BOLD original but emphasized. Parenthesis ( ) & quotes are original. is apparent that "non-productive" areas of nearshore ocean floor can be made "productive" by installation of relief structures {artificial reef}. Initially, these structures attract fishes from surrounding areas and present a substrate suitable for development of the complex biotic assemblages {reef growths, e.g. mussels & coral} typical of natural reefs. As these new reefs mature, biological succession occurs and fishes which may have been initially attracted only to the structures are incorporated into the reef community in response to increasingly available food and shelter. Ultimately (in about 5 years) a natural situation is attained and the plant & animal populations exhibit fluctuations typical of {natural} reef ecosystems.


Artificial reef substrates create natural reef production.


Capt Monty Hawkins

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