Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fish Report 11/15/08

Fish Report 11/15/08
Sea Bass Trip: November 22.
Tog Trips: November 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30.
Fish Report 11/15/08
Sea Bass, Tog & Blues
Upcoming Management

Hi All,
Two trips -one cbass, one tog- both of which were at least OK.
Monday we stuttered offshore in stop-and-go fashion, scooting further out as the winds died down. Everyone ended up OK. High-hook 22.
Tuesday was a grey, calm day -light rail- perfect for toggin'.
'Cept the tog didn't think eatin' was such a good idea. Slow fussy bite. Enjoyable in a challenging way. Really was.
Could have limited the rail; not what this fishery is about. Deeply bowed rod - fun. Released females up to 26 3/4 inches, some good males too. Tags.
Later in the day there appeared to be rain on the radar nearby; a splotchy wavering return on the screen that wasn't unlike a tight summer thunderstorm. No rain.
Fair-many. What a sight.
Sure glad bluefish aren't protected outside of three miles.
Took a few for the smoker, put some back too.
Finished the day on another tog wreck.
The wind's blown ever since. Monday sure looks good..
It may be that we develop a weather pattern --the westerlies-- that draw stripers inside the 3 mile line. That takes a while. Happens though.
Be nice to get a few.
Maybe one day there will be "Freedom to Fish" and we -not just the pirates- can take a few from the Marine Protected Area 3 miles from our coast........
Couple kids digging in a sandbox. East a bit is a company's worth of heavy yellow-iron hydraulic excavators.
Federal regulators come take the kid's shovels: give the machinery operators a tax credit.
Thought about that at a fisheries meeting the other evening where it was announced that management is considering a 1 fish recreational limit on sand sharks (smooth dogfish). And, I swear, this same document proposes to lift --remove-- the 1,000 pound commercial trip limit on smooth dogs.
I don't have a whole lot of customers that take the smoothies - some. Usually it's youngsters that want to show their friends. Mom then has to figure out how to cook 'em.
We'll be limited to one sand shark.
They'll be limited by righting forces - the boat's stability; don't want the weight of the catch to overturn the boat.
Perhaps overstated: maybe their problem will be how many tractor trailers are available to take the sharks to auction.
My client could be written for a $100.00 fine with 2 in the cooler.
If a guy with a permit can legally sink his boat with 'em; dern well better be enough for the owners of the water -the public- to take a couple should they choose.
I honestly do not have issue with commercial fishing in a sustainable way. We have to have bait, we enjoy all manner of seafood dinners..
This isn't a commercial/recreational conflict. It's a federal regulation goof. Or could be. It's not regulation. Yet. It's in a scoping document. They'll be looking for comment...
Managers have a 'rope' in way of recreational size and creel limits - great for pulling, not worth a dern for pushing. Recreational catch controls will only do so much.
Mark my words: soon the klaxons will sound; sirens calling recreational fishing advocates to the trenches for the annual quota battle over flounder and other species: an epic conflict this year.
Bayonets fixed; whistles blow...
Unfortunately; more a bullfight. We're not the team with cape and sword.
The black sea bass advisory panel's pre-meeting report states: 'Many large male sea bass are key to good reproduction.'
I disagree. Numerous large, knotheaded male sea bass show fishing effort has been low in a given area for a few years. Period. The size of spawning males has no bearing on the reproductive success of the stock.
In fact, I think a mature stock will slow down reproduction. That a severely over-crowded reef is not at all in a species best interest.
If we go out next Saturday and find an unknown/uncharted wreck it will make for a fantastic trip - jumbo knotheads around the rail. Unlikely we'd find such a spot, but true. At this spot --this one particular spot-- there will be very few sub-legal male fish.
At nearby wrecks/reefs the actuality that this region's stock is heavily fished will be evidenced by a great many sub-legal males.
Fish have varying spawning ages depending on population. Sea trout (aka weakfish) for instance, were found to spawn at age 4 in the 1970's. Now diminished, they frequently spawn at age one.
When the sea bass stock was at peak, about 2003, there were precious few sub-legal males. Now there are a great many.
Yet reproductive success, as evidenced by small sea bass, has been increasingly better over the last several years.
Less jumbo males, yet more fertilized eggs.
Energetic little guys.
Or is it that as the males mature younger, so to do the undersized females..
Lot more eggs.
Boethius had wet leather straps wrapped about his head. We have fisheries management that knows but one tool - restrict catch.
The result will be the same.
..."conserve, enhance and protect Essential Fish Habitat" has been in Magnusson since inception - no eggs getting cracked there: regulatory discard (fish that die but can't be brought in) and unintended bycatch are unquantified & overlooked: unproven biological assumptions are used to guide managers....
Unwilling to look for ways to maximize a fishery's production and best utilize it's yield; it's far easier to regulate catch.
It will get simpler still as fewer participants remain.
Recently I was privileged to see an as-yet unpublished paper concerning the results of the federal black sea bass tagging study. Grander scale, but similar results to my local tagging efforts: sea bass have summer spawning-site habitat fidelity. They leave in winter, return in spring. My results showed they often return to the exact same reef. Their results showed this 'stay together' behavior doesn't alter too much in winter.
Regional, regional, regional...
Whether it's flounder, sea trout, sea bass or other fish, a stock remains together. Fishing effort controls lose their effectiveness without regional stock consideration.
For instance, if fuel and running time were of no import, perhaps partyboats from VA, MD, DE, & NJ could converge on a hotspot, say the Great Eastern Artificial Reef in May. Were this unlikely event to occur there would be a severely shortened 'run' that season - the total number of fish on that reef would diminish very rapidly.
In the winter trawl fishery it's possible for one boat to catch in a day what a bass trap fisher catches in a year. It's possible that this boat is targeting fluke and shoveling back the cbass - dead: no sea bass permit. It's possible that fishing is so good on an over-wintering ground that boats from NC, VA, MD & NJ converge and apply incredible pressure on a regional stock.
Pretty sure it's not only possible; it happened.
We're going to see tightening recreational regulations. In 2009 more fluke will die as recreational discard than in a cooler: not possibly - will. Conservation is supposed to be wise use..
Our size and creel limits very effective to a point; now is the time to put sensible regional recreational regulations in effect and turn to other problems in rebuilding success.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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