Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fish Report 9/25/08

Fish Report 9/25/08
State Reef Program?
Hi All,
Yup, there's been some fishing alright. I just have to go to my logbook to remember when.
Week and a half ago I turned the ocean inside-out looking for bites. Twenty-plus miles offshore - ended up 9 miles out on small croakers. A few small croakers. Not a stellar day..
More wind.
Last Sunday we found croakers but not a lot of action, then went cbassing and they were snapping.
Best bite I've had in a very long time: Good. Fifteen/one keeper ratio: Not so good.
This past Monday the ocean was finally settling. Big blow in the forecast - its a nice set-up; usually a good day of fishing. Was. Croaks schooled up and feeding, nice grade of sea bass and more tog than I've had in months. Though it began calm, by day's end it was getting plenty saucy.
As I write, wind speeds are a constant 29 knots with gusts to 35. Wave heights are 14.5 feet.  
So far we've fished 10 out of 25 days in September. Looks as though we'll fish Saturday on - the last 4 days of September..
All this wind; not unlike being a Wall Street 'mortgage-backed securities' trader. Have product - just can't sell it.
It'll turn. We have our best time of year coming.
Sure can't do much about the weather......
There are, however, some 'concrete' actions fishers can take to make the future brighter.
In Maryland, the not-inconsiderable efforts of the Ocean City Reef Foundation aside, there's the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI). 
A collection of over 60 funding partners; MARI's built far more Chesapeake Bay reef in its 2 years than in the previous twenty.
Due to the multi-century overfishing of oysters, Maryland's Great Bay has suffered the removal of almost all it's natural hardbottom habitat.
Artificial reef can put it back. Engineered reef can put it back better. See -
Elevating substrate does wonders.
Yes, it will still be a while before you can predict every reef to have quick shellfish settlement. Still, we must now begin to lay a foundation so that day may occur.
According to NOAA, there remains less than 1% of the Bay's original oyster population. Because oysters & mussels naturally filter and sequester nutrients and carbon; this 'biofiltration' is currently absent --altogether missing-- from the great estuary.
Even in it's pristine pre-European settlement form, the Bay's natural 'buffer zones' and 'storm water management ponds' weren't the only means to keep her waters clear. Oysters filtered the whole Bay almost twice a week.

Habitat or biofiltration - either one presents a strong case for building artificial reef in Maryland. Together I don't know how it can be argued against. Unless, of course, you only want oysters that are dredgable.

On the Atlantic coast we've lost a great deal of seafloor coral and tubeworm habitat. Scientifically unprovable right now; I have every confidence that when NOAA finally decides to 'find' the mid-Atlantic's coral reef system - they shall. Researching historical fisheries will show a sharp decrease in our marine habitat footprint during the 60's and 70's due to heavy stern-towed clamming/fishing gear.

Habitat loss is ongoing: I very likely saw natural coral bottom being lost on Monday, September 22, 2008, as a large, out-of-state trawler worked up and down a slough west of the Great Eastern Reef. I'll go video the area when opportunity arises.

Weighed in terms of necessity, the State of Maryland is dead last in the world for building reef.

Yet clearly has the best documented need for reef restoration.

Maryland can no longer be the only state from Texas to Massachusetts without a state reef program.

Soon there will be an opportunity to tell legislators that DNR should be on the cutting edge of reef construction. Not just a sign on someone's desk; an advanced habitat enhancement/restoration project that is representative of the habitat lost over time. 

Maryland's water quality and fisheries production issues can't wait much longer.




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


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