Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fish Report 7/31/08

Fish Report 7/31/08
More on Sea Bass
Hi All,
Nicked a few flounder last Saturday. Better than that perhaps. We've been catching some -a few- for a month; now we're focusing on them.
Oddly enough, with the size limit 2 inches bigger this year we've not had a boat limit yet.
More tagging opportunities though.
Pool winners have been over 6 pounds, one 8.
If you like a fancy flounder rig fastened to 20 lb. micro-braid on a light but stout 7+ foot rod...
I certainly wouldn't describe it as red hot -it's not- just the best I have to offer.
There are a few -very few- sea bass mixed in as well..................
At any fisheries meeting there are descriptions of UFO sightings. I watched one fellow tell how Russians were coming in at night and trawling all the flounder up. We all have a theory, and since the federal black sea bass panel meets soon...  
Stay with me on this.
My last report went deep  --too deep some said!-- into the vexing decline of sea bass after 10 years of federal management. I noted that as the size of spawning sea bass decreased -and our region's habitat footprint increased- the population grew. I think it was a thousand fold increase. Really. That expansion was underway prior to the first federal and state regulations on sea bass.
It's a fact that all sea bass are born female and some will transition to male. When/if that change occurs is dependant on the size and number of other male breeders. As the population grew the young didn't transition and enter the spawning class right away as they had. Males in the mid-90's were frequently 7 1/2 inches. By 2003 the average male was probably 15 inches.
Are there similar selection processes for the females? Do all of the females, no matter how small, spawn simply because we see roe while cleaning them? I doubt it.
No, I think as the sea bass spawning size moves up the production curve falls off - they naturally won't overpopulate.
At that point fishing pressure on large fish becomes a more important management issue.
I was reading in Jeffrey Kluger's book "Simplexity" about the 1854 London cholera epidemic. Physician John Snow focused on finding the source and succeeded. Taking the handle off a water pump brought the outbreak to a close.
Fishery management has a 10 + year history with sea bass. What looked like a stunning recovery has gone flat - below flat actually. It's not as good as when they started.
Managers will respond by tightening landings - the increased size limit and decreased creel limit that we're all familiar with.
What we need is for our managers to follow Dr. John Snow's example and find what handle needs to come off.
The fix won't show up in a "coast-wide sea bass landings chart" just as a chart of the number of deaths per week in that London epidemic would never have resolved it.
They'll have to dig deeper.
Habitat fidelity is key.
Fishing Vessel Trip Reports too. Throw the MRFSS numbers out; it's mostly a 'for-hire' and commercial fishery anyway - use the FVTRs.
A spawning stock biomass assessment that isn't fixed in it's 'age at maturity' might help too.
And unless management is satisfied that German U-Boats and storms created all our sea bass habitat; there might be something in the "Protect and Enhance Essential Fish Habitat" section of the Magnuson Act that could be used as an important tool in rebuilding many fisheries..
Did I mention coral?
Need to get it right. Soon.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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