Sunday, February 07, 2010

Fish Report 2/7/10

Fish Report 2/7/10
Nice Toggin'
Calm Before The Blizzard
Murfs & Chlorine Gas
Hi All,
Friday, 2/5/10, was an amazingly calm day despite the reddest of "Red in the morning, sailor take warning" sunrises.. a day with virtually no sea, certainly no wind and just enough current to hold straddle-set danforths tight.
A slow bite all around the rail at the first stop. Decent toggin' for the patient angler; not-so-patient anglers need not apply.. Dipped one a tad better than 15 pounds, tagged some shorts, some legal females too.. worked it out, waiting for the tide and bite to pick-up their respective paces.
Wasn't to be.
Weather forecast full of doom and dire warning, we picked up anchors and moved.
How nice. A very light WNW breeze where there should have been an increasing NE; most of our 30 tags for the day came from this second spot: none were sub-legal. The biggest was a 28 inch female that Dennis put back, his personal best...
The week had begun with mate Mike getting to the boat Monday to make her ready for Tuesday's trip. Not a lot of work, just a general going-over and warm the engines; get last weekend's snow off the decks.. 
He sent me a picture.
Snow off the boat one thing; all that snow had frozen up the marina cut. Daughter & friend with school snow-day pressed into duty; ended up doing a day's work just to get the ice broken, clearing a way out so we could fish the next morning.
Next day--Tuesday & slick-calm too--Frank caught his 19 lb 10 oz tog; Friday we caught Dennis's personal best, 16 lb 2 oz, and released it.
Truly wonderful days at sea in-between some of the worst winter weather I can recall in the mid-Atlantic, even pulling icebreaker duty.
Sadly, I think it will be a while before we can go again. This crazy blizzard followed by yet another snow expected mid-week.. Need to send the EPIRB off for fresh batteries and a hydrostatic release anyway.. Change the batteries in the life jackets, the float lights; a thousand things that go into another set of government regulations that underlie the fisheries: The Coast Guard Regs. Any who complain of those has likely never seen heavy weather, nor failed hose, nor had a drunk jump off a perfectly good boat..
This week the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, MAFMC, meets in Cambridge, MD. Its very likely here that the sea bass season will be decided--but not cast in stone until NOAA's regional administrator removes the 180 day emergency closure, if she indeed does.
The Coast Guard asks 'what went wrong' in their investigations; why did these men die, why did these boats sink, why did this boat survive when others did not. With pinpoint accuracy they learn, then go from there to make the public safer.
Neither NOAA, Council, nor Commission has, thus far, delved that deep; they've never sought to isolate successes for cause, nor failures for pressure point: Its only about catch, catches on paper at that, and catch-restriction. It is these broad "Coastwide" fisheries analyses that camouflage the key to understanding a better way forward; where regional populations -not coastwide- have skyrocketed and collapsed without catching management's eye.
Two men deep within the fisheries have written me recently that the striped bass rebuilding is the only model where they see success. They are perhaps surprised when I tell them there's no success evident on the coast for stripers, that we are still closed; that the over-pressure on the prey supply from super-rebuilt stripers comes at the cost of no progress, no success whatsoever in sea trout restoration; that a more holistic approach in our fisheries is needed. 

My kingdom that they would investigate why the sea bass juvenile index is through the roof in this region just now, that they could understand the value of a sub-legal spawning stock; that they would cease the shoulder-shrug, "Some luck, eh?" That they would see reef every bit as important to preserving/restoring fisheries as life jackets, rafts & emergency radios are to the mariner in dire circumstance... 
It's also very important, as Capt. Adam Nowalsky points out, that we double check their math..
He's not kidding. I don't know what Adam gets paid for his efforts. I fear its the same as my advocacy salary. He's certainly one of the good guys.
Some help, not everyone.
The Petersons and Powers of the region put their mega-donations into our restoration efforts. Without these heavy-hitters we would not have come so far with Maryland's reefing. 
Mike & Brian, who have resurrected the Maryland Fisherman's Annual, made a fat donation to the MD artificial reef initiative, MARI, based on sales of their new magazine.
Capt. Danny on the Fin Chaser has piled-on the reef donations and written many letters to his representatives.
Fellows working for Maryland, Marty Gary & Erik Zlokovitz, go way beyond their salaried efforts; often work well into night to put new reef on state permits.
Fellows from the Atlantic Coast Chapter of the MSSA and OPAC have been burning through some ink writing letters to representatives.
So too have many of you: Determination...
Spoke with another captain that fishes a fair-many bottom trips the other day. He said he 'hopes' the sea bass season is extended. I asked if he'd written comment..
Hope without action leaves little likelihood of success.
A woman hollers from inside a brand new Mercedes convertible, "I bought it with my sea bass money!"
She's kidding of course. No one made 'money' fishing sea bass recently; never-ever that kind of money.. Still, tip of humor's edge caught & thrust completely through; sword's hilt struck hard upon breast-plate..
Ought to consider an artificial reef stamp, even as an option, when the state license comes in 2011. "User pays" works, look at our highways.. some manner of dedicating license revenue toward this important part of fisheries restoration is needed.
Fishing is not on our nation's radar; falling off, it's an antiquated sport being pushed aside by frozen groceries and electronic gaming. For most residents--even along the coast--quaint, old-fashioned 'extractive' fishing is of no concern, of no consequence: Until, that is, room taxes and home values fall like a rock, the result of some pathogen and associated fish kill: The only binding-tie is water quality.
The truly profitable fisheries, surf-clam & menhaden reduction---now fully consolidated and an extreme representation of what to watch out for as 'catch shares' advance---are protected in ways most can not fathom; the deepest of well-positioned and paid lobbying efforts shield these businesses.
We are not there.
But there can be success in grass-roots efforts.
Carry a sign February 24th on the Capitol steps, just be there at the Rally.
Putting the "Flexibility in American Fisheries Restoration Act" into law is key to preserving what is left of our marine fishing businesses while science & regulation catch pace.
We do not yet grasp what can be done to restore fisheries. We can not possibly value catch-shares until we have a fuller and more complete understanding of what is missing from the production model; the 'where do little fish come from' angle of fisheries.
The success of that "Take a Kid Fishing" trip is crucial.. bending rods and smiling faces are the only preservative fishing needs.
We do not know how many will want to 'go extracting' when the research has been well-bound with regulation, when fisheries have been pushed far beyond restored..
A day when clients can chose to throw back jumbo tog on every trip, when clients can select cbass based on the size they want to cook..
That day is coming, I've seen shadows of it.
White marlin every summer on the twenty fathom line and we'll have arrived.
Instead, this week coming there will be a clash as recreational for-hire sea bass fishers vie for the somewhat less-skimpy leavings regulators offer; the quota of a fishery they clearly do not understand, divided based on catch estimates created by MRFSS--apparently after many months Uncle Murfs spent scrubbing heads with bleach and ammonia.
The reason this year's sea bass season is being cut 3 1/2 months is because MRFSS has small private boats out-fishing, out-catching, partyboats by huge margins; even the numerous Jersey partyboats in March.
I won't even take my boat to the sea bass in March, to the canyons.
I do dislike having my life run-through by deceitful, misleading data.
The lack of "Flexibility" means regulators have to use this MRFSS data because it is "The Best Scientific Information Available." That offers a clear depiction of why fishers need to write representatives & go to DC to advocate for the Flexibility Act.
Better direct full and complete attention to it for a while.
Wife sez there's some game on TV, its commercials worth more than US reef restoration.
Will return to toggin as soon as the EPIRB is back!
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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