Monday, May 01, 2006

Fish Report 5/1/06

Fish Report 5/1/06

Ocean City Reef Foundation Dinner ~ Wednesday, May 3rd ~ Hall's Restaurant 60th Street Bayside ~ Tickets $15 ~ All you'd care to eat plus Auctions and Raffles.

Hi Folks,
I was just kidding! Really Mr. Murphy, when I said I'd catch a limit of cbass before May 1st, I didn't mean to insult you! Will you ease up on the wind now??? Please!
Murphy's Law - It may have begun as a description of why luck is often sour, but it's turning into deification...
Well, we did sneak in a couple days before this "dry nor'easter" moved in. Wednesday's start had me thinking that we might just see that limit of bass - didn't happen, but a couple fellows had close to 10 cbass; some pretty ones too. We kept more bass than tog, but the tog were biting quite well - t'was easy to get distracted from bassing. Certainly a good sign of the 'transition' from tog fishing.
Forecasted to start blowing Thursday: the wind held off 'till almost midnight. 'The calm before the storm' often occurs - it's a beautiful thing. Had a sold out rail too ~ err, a piece of a rail ~ umm ~ Well, almost had the stern sold out anyway!
Let's just say it was a light crowd. "Damn the torpedoes - Full speed ahead!" (At $2.70 a gallon Admiral Farragut's famous cry might have been "Damn the Torpedoes - Give 'er half throttle"...) But anyway, we had paddled on offshore a good bit when I came across a temperature break. Down 3 degrees - Rats! Bass don't care for a sudden temperature drop, especially this time of year. Although we did catch a few good ones; it was not the action I had come for. Still, we took some limits of tog - only 2 of the fish were females - and tagged 64 more up to 24+ inches. It's going to be an early spawn for tog; they're loaded with roe. We also had the first few blues.
Perhaps the best 'bad day' of bass fishing I've ever had ~ 'Cept some of those 'bass turned flounder' trips last summer!
Hard to say what will happen after this blow. I hope the sea bass come on.
We'll be sailing daily - weather permitting!
Had a fellow email a few weeks back - a welding teacher. No stone unturned: I asked if the students might want to make some reef units. Two weeks later 5 heavy steel reef units were sitting on the Reef Foundation's barge waiting for deployment. There's talk of many more to come. Stranger still, now I hear that a whole welding class is going fishing - free! Too many for my rig; Capt. Victor offered me an afternoon charter on his Ocean Princess at cost. Y'all keep playing that raffle - we do good stuff with it!
As I write, NE winds are pushing 30 knots - seas are 10+ feet with a brutally short 6 second period ~ it's rough! For this, the reef units that the kids built are awesome - perfect for shallow water sites where the wave action is most ferocious. Along with the usual suspects -tog and cbass- the tops of shoals are where spadefish, amberjack, triggerfish and other southern species can be found - cobia too.
Seeing a school of huge amberjack swimming around structure is something you'll not soon forget, but what really has my interest with the 'hilltops' is the loss of this region's scup (porgy) fishery. Several times I've seen schools of small scup on the video camera over shallow artificial reef. Habitat fidelity remains to be learned; special tagging equipment for these small porgies is on it's way from Woods Hole...
Near as I can tell, the last good porgy fishing in this region occurred in the early 70's. From the time when the inlet was cut in 1933 there were many years, judging from tales of those who fished in that era, that porgies made up 1/2 - maybe more - of Ocean City's recreational bottom fishing landings.
Imagine, if you will, 30 to 40 boats anchored on Fenwick Shoal (4NM off the MD/DE line) where there are several pieces of wreckage. At most, 3 or 4 boats could have been actually over the debris ~ the others were tied off to each other's stern cleats; catching fish over bare sand...
There were no USCG regulations on how many customers a boat could carry. I've heard several tales about charter boat passengers fishing out of the cabin windows! And catching! Charter boats would do 20 plus porgy trips before the marlin fishing started.
Sea bass were a bonus, as were sea trout. They'd catch trout by simply drifting a piece of cut squid without a weight.
Fishing solely for sea bass would begin later in the summer. According to numerous sources, most of that fishing occurred 7 - 8 miles out on the 'Bass Grounds'. Interestingly, it wasn't until December 30, 1958 that the first wreck occurred in the area. That unfortunate accident was the grounding of the "African Queen". In heavy weather she struck the Bass Grounds shoal and broke in two. Although the actual wreck drifted some 8 miles to the south, pieces of debris from the initial grounding are still fished today. (Last week!)
That's odd. Thousand upon thousands of successful sea bass fishing trips occurred in an area with no wrecks.
Ah well, there are still a few remnants of natural reef there. It's too bad that there were so many surf clams in and around it. A prime example of habitat loss caused by fishing...
Did I mention that the 1958 marlin tournament winner caught his whites there, right on the inside break?
Yes, I think artificial reef building's a good thing. And, I don't think it's all about the bass and the tog either. There's lots more to do, so buy a few friends dinner at the Reef Foundation dinner or sponsor the OCRF with a donation -
And, no worries, if you don't often fish this region, press for reefs where you do go. Yes, I know, every coastal state from New York to Texas funds a marine reef building program -Maryland doesn't- but, how much more reef would there be if, say, half of the Jersey and NY boats did a 50/50 raffle everyday for reef building...
I can't wait to go porgy fishing.

Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservations 410 520 2076

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