Friday, December 01, 2006

Fish Report 12/1/06

Fish Report 12/1/06
Pit Stop & Toggin's Future
Hi All,
The final weeks were more productive than I would have thought. It seemed - despite all indicators - that the cbass were hightailing it out of here. And they are now indeed but we sure had a couple good shots on 'em as they left!
Before the Thanksgiving blow - the storm's sea heights topped out at 22.7 feet! - we had some wild, truly wild, fishing. The interaction of sea bass and bluefish ~ and folks aboard that enjoyed the heck out of the show ~ what a blast! When the anglers wore out, we went home!
After the blow I was quite concerned whether we'd catch well at all. We limited the rail and came home early twice... Need to get my crystal ball looked at.
Oh, they're moving offshore alright, but we stumbled into a few more on the recent tog trips. One fellow had just 2 tog all day on Tuesday - and a limit of bass...
What do you do?
Wednesday was clean toggin' - fish up to 14/15 lbs. Nice. Today's year-end trip was a bass/tog mix as well. Tagged 40 in 4 days. Not great, but more than a dozen of 'em were over 8 pounds - 1 probably north of 14. Had two tag returns as well.
Ah well, I'd like to press on, keep fishin', but my rig needs a pit stop if we're going to fish the fair weather days this winter. We'll have at it while Maryland's tog season is closed this December . Little sanding, glassing, painting - couple new pistons, cutlass bearings... It's a list that never ends - ever!
Went to a meeting up in Lewes the other night about the ASMFC's tautog management revisions. If we (Maryland) have to use the ASMFC's MRFSS* data for management purposes then tog trips are likely going to be far fewer! (*marine recreational fisheries statistics survey)
As I recall, we'd need a 58% reduction to meet management's goals... Every state will have to revise their tog plan to suit the ASMFC's model or create a new one from scratch.
Perhaps ~ just maybe ~ all the tagging of recent years can be turned into a data set that disputes their numbers well enough to keep the fishery open. It's a big if.
On the bright side, it is also possible that a close examination of the fishery will reveal ways to better manage it. I think it's plausible that there are more tog off our coast now than ever before. They're spread thinner over more habitat - the artificial reefs that have been created since the late 80's - but more numerous in total.
The trick to all this is to keep fishing - catching - while allowing the 'stock' (total number of fish) to grow.
A few thoughts:
Create an SMZ (special management zone) from the inlet to 12th street in the bay. In this area of incredibly strong fishing pressure, stakeholders want to be able to catch and eat 'the small fish that live there'. I think it best that they, the fishers and tackle shops, find a way to comply with management in this area. Dern sure they'll not like these ideas!
For the ocean fishery, which is primarily artificial reef, I'd like to see a size limit increase to 16 inches and a slot limit of 1 fish over 22 inches. Additionally, tightening the creel limit while sea bass are about, say May 15th to Oct 15th and a loosening during the cold water months makes sense. After all, anyone that can catch tog can sure nick a few bass for dinner! Perhaps an effort to educate conservation minded anglers on how to distinguish females and encourage release is sensible too. Seems to have worked so far.
This fishery is delicate. With today's 5 fish @ 14 inches limit we could simply increase effort and drive our tog stock right back to where it was in '88. I could've counted our tog that year on my fingers. A few years before that we were slam-jamming coolers full of 'em. Been there, done that. In those days I'd wait 'till we ran out of bait and then bail jumbos on a diamond jig. Sure was fun. Derned if I remember eating them though...
Better off to throw more back!
Going heavy on seafloor habitat with the next 'fish report'.
Fair Warning!
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservations 410 520 2076  

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