Friday, December 04, 2009

Fish Report 12/4/09

Fish Report 12/4/09
Windy Toggin
Fixing It Before MRIP
Red snapper have now been closed to recreational fishing for 6 months too. The storm grows. There is a Bill in DC called the "Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009" - Hand Write - Call - Support it.
Some say 'environmentalists' must oppose this Bill.. What am I if not a staunch marine environmentalist; who would you point to and say they are more so, at least if based on real habitat 'environmentalism'..
These 'end stage' rebuilding plans are to fisheries what stun-bolting & exsanguination are to the cattle industry; carried out with the same precision too.
We can do better than wiping out recreational fishers for a temporary population increase in fish.
We will be able to do a lot better when MRIP comes online.
And a whole lot better indeed should habitat become a consideration..
Write to your DC Representatives.
Hi All,
A terrible accident, an 18 car pile-up, occurs in Providence, RI.
Ambulances, firetrucks, volunteers directing traffic, live video coverage by helicopter - horrible news for some families.
If the 'Federal Bureau of Traffic' handled this accident in Rhode Island the same way we now manage sea bass, highway workers would have to shut down major highways around New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Hampton Roads, Baltimore...
Just as that Providence accident isn't going to have any effect on distant highways, neither shall fishers in the northern range of sea bass catching the whole coast's quota factually effect the more southerly regions' stocks.
That they reportedly did catch the whole coast's quota is indicative of just how out-of-touch management is with the fishery: The cbass's habitat fidelity is unquestioned; A) The coast's quota--if accurately assessed--should never be able to be caught in one region. B) Without regional assessment, regional quota division and regional catch/bycatch controls, success in sea bass management will only be temporary at best......
Monday, November 30th: We finished the sea bass season having not killed one in almost 2 months.
Did throw some back though..
Hmm. That 25% discard mortality will count against us..
I bet that dead-discard rate was created early on, just an off-the-cuff estimate when sea bass management was a thorn, a pain; not at all a fishery worthy of concern. That's why it never had any regulation until '96 or later.
On my party boat our release mortality is less that 1 in 200. Its not 50 dead-discards out of 200 - maybe just one.
I have scientists that fish with me that are on the black sea bass monitoring committee; they can not argue that assertion - I carried them just this year to deep water, 125 feet, to examine this very issue - we could not kill a fish on release.
Yet, according to management, we "killed" more fish this year throwing them back than we dropped in hot oil.  
That's insulting.
And ripping the recreational industry apart.....
The Maryland offshore tog season starts January 1st so we pounded 'em pretty good this last month..
Didn't want to, but payment obligations must come before the mores of self-imposed conservation.
Dern sure it was fun, even in westerly gusts that had to be pushing 50. Really, Friday the 27th, tucked up under the beach; you could sure feel the wind but it didn't have enough fetch to build a set. Pretty cool to see the whitecaps vaporize when hit by the strongest gusts. 
We limited-out on virtually every tog trip this fall; certainly could have save for legal fish going back tagged. Lots and lots of tags.
Returns show a very solid 3 inches of growth in 1 1/2 years and even some movement--unusual--where tog swam 1/2 or 1/4 mile to colonize new reef. Would that we could know whether that was a choice to wander a touch, or they were being forced out through some bull/harem mechanism..
Main thing is: New reef gets colonized while older artificial reef sets continue to flourish.
That's working.
To make it work better still I sited a load of concrete today with my boat on a small barge that we reefed over a decade ago. A featureless flat-steel top - it hasn't made for very good reef.
We had a similar situation with two huge barges a half mile away.. no production. After siting concrete units atop and around - the barges exploded with life.
That concrete my crew and I put down today with pinpoint accuracy will, I'd wager, create a hundred-fold rise in production on that small featureless barge - literally a hundred more fish to every one that's there now, maybe more. They'll spawn too.
There's an awful lot of naked, flat, featureless natural hardbottom off this coast..
It was once productive.
The technology exists to find it - map it - restore it.
GIS mapping is an incredible tool -- And, since it would take a lot of chalk to show the tax revenue difference between fishing and energy development, guvmint's suddenly paying attention.. Look up MARCO (Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean) - Some didn't pay 'em any mind because they have no influence on fish quotas; I was making comment early on because you can't have energy development without serious habitat considerations.
Right now folks deep on the inside of fisheries management are advocating a ten-plus ton surf-clam dredge with a hydraulic water pressure cutting head dragged across the bottom "may adversely impact EFH but that the impacts are temporary and minimal..." That's a quote from a recent MAFMC Press Release.
As a bonus, we don't officially have any Essential Fish Habitat anyway.
How nice for them.
However, no one claims that corals won't be impacted by oil wells or windmills. MARCO offers a chance to sneak a little truth into the discussion.....
I estimate tautog in MD's ocean fishery live: 85% artificial reef - 14.5% accidental shipwreck - 0.5% natural reef.
In the coastal bays, unless there's one living in a shell-pile somewhere, the population lives on 100% man made reef..
You reckon that's been factored into tautog management's "rebuilding" plan? That we are making more tog through increased reef habitat; through increasing the area's holding capacity where they spawn and grow to maturity? That all this extra habitat reduces fishing pressure on existing habitat.. That diluting effort is far better than concentrating it? That we recreational fishers might get credit for that?
You reckon?
Yeah, me neither..
I am positive that there are far more tog available to recreational fishers off Maryland's coast than since the worst of the reef loss took place - gut sez the '60s.
Long time back.. Population's growing - better. 
Done well, there'll be fantastically more tog in ten years.
Oh yeah, sea bass spawn and grow to maturity on those reefs too.
Too danged much fun not to leave it better than we found it...
Resume toggin January 1st. Trips will be announced via email on very short notice because of weather concerns.
Meanwhile, write that letter.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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