Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fish Report 6/15/08

Fish Report 6/15/08
Slowing Bass
Putting Back
Hi All,
Had some nice days of fishing early in the week - worst of the heat. Decent sea bass; numbers not too unlike last week's.
And then.. Struggle.
Working for every fish, an average of 5 or 6 per person was all we could do.
They turned back on Saturday afternoon, a nice mid-May kind of bite amidst the smoke from the VA/NC brush fires.
Stinking, eye burning fog; had to use radar because of a fire almost 200 miles away..
When the smoke cleared Sunday the bite was slow again.
Some customers are putting together decent catches - into the teens. Not everyone. Pool winners are north of 3 pounds, some pushing 4 1/2.
It's summer; there will be times like these.
Ready for those flat-bass to invade our reefs again...
A customer spotted the thrashing water - Whale! Clearly visible, it's tail was waving about like a palm tree in a hurricane. As we were in about 30 feet of water, it had to have been scratching it's nose on the bottom.
From that behavior I 'knew' it was a humpback. Then there was a breach - a second whale jumped almost completely out of the water. Slam-dunk humpback sighting.
Motoring slowly toward the activity, I was confounded when we discovered a pair of right whales. Mother/calf pair at that. It was the calf that was breaching.
The young whale, maybe a few weeks old, is one of about 350 right whales left in the world.
Think we have a hard time restoring fish?
Also saw a jaeger. I think. If you have a keen interest in seabirds - email.
Couple months ago I suggested hybridizing flounder with Greenland halibut; cross-breeding the monster cold water flattie with it's more temperate cousin, summer flounder.
I was just joking. Really. 
So I was very surprised to read in the American Fisheries Society Journal (Volume 33, #4, April '08, J. Briggs, P. 180) that the North Atlantic lacks species diversity; that introducing lots of new species is a great idea since we've pummeled our existing ones. That diversifying effort within the fisheries through new, introduced species lessens the chance that there will be continued overfishing.
Outstanding credentials; guy's dead serious.
Might find some opposition to the idea though. There's been efforts to rid Assateauge of it's ponies and sika deer - invasive species. The debate is still on over asian oysters. Our tog bait, green crab, could become illegal in a wink.
But if new fish are a good idea, lets start with California Halibut. Temperature ranges look compatible. Folks over there seem to enjoy catching them. Probably pretty tasty.
Not bothering with all the genetics of creating a hybrid, Paralichthys californicus simply becomes Paralichthys marylandicus.
Some of their 'rockfish' might play too. Long lived and so many species; there's bound to be some that would take to our right coast's waters.
Don't know why we'd limit the choices to fish from the northern Pacific though: Australia has some awesome fish.
Send our biodiversity right through the roof.
I'll agree Professor Brigg's idea of building multi fishery targets is spot-on as a way to reduce fishing pressure.
With almost 30 years in this area, I can recall a time when there used to be a seatrout run in the fall. No one would target sea bass, the clients wanted trout.  Ling (red hake) fishing for long stretches of the summer brought cbass some respite from fishing pressure. 
Before my time folks caught codfish in winter; tautog weren't even a consideration.
Just in the last few years we've begun enjoying a new fishery on our reefs -summer flounder. Has to be sparing some cbass. Croaker run too.
Shoot, white marlin and swordfish once kept the heat off tuna..
As in building more reef habitat: wherever the fishing pressure is means somewhere else is getting a break.
Though I'm certain that my clients would enjoy the heck out of catching 20 to 40 pound flounder; I'm pretty sure that the addition of multiple brand-new species is not the future of fisheries recovery efforts. 
Instead, I think we're closing in on it; that we can restore what was here - the original multi-species plan.   
When we learn to use philopatry --the study of habitat fidelity; as in salmon returning to the stream they were spawned in-- as an important tool for managers we'll be a lot closer.
The sea bass plan begun in '97 seemed to work. Then, despite ever tightening regulations, fell in a heap. Why?
In the late 80's the coast-wide seatrout restoration plan was set in motion. It has yet to bear fruit. There needs to be a Delaware Bay, Long Island Sound and a Chesapeake plan... Because each population of trout has a different spawning ground, it's likely we could even have one for our little inlet and set of estuaries. Lopsided fishing pressure and natural mortality, especially where fish congregate in winter, could be better controlled if we understood more.
Prey management: All those high priority dogfish and flounder have to eat. If we are to build flounder stocks to infinity, might as well add a halibut into the mix. Maybe they'd eat flounder like stripers eat small trout. Better to have lots of sand eels, rock crab, squid and menhaden.
Habitat management and restoration are crucial to recovering lost fisheries too. I'm thinking the folks in charge of squirrels might check to see if there's any trees about. Where's the coral? Where are the tube worm colonies. Far more importantly: Where were they.. What thrived there..
Nope, it won't be as simple as land-based hatcheries cranking out 'fish of the month' stocks for our put and take pleasure.
Putting Back - that's how an old waterman termed it.
There's a huge body of science building; a tipping point approaches. 
For now, we've more work to do.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

Blog Archive