Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fish Report 4/27/10

Fish Report 4/27/10
More Fishing
Thoughts On Tautog
On Sea Bass Too
Ocean City Reef Foundation Dinner - Hall's 60th Street Bayside - May 5th - 5 to 8 PM - Raffles - Chinese Auction - Live Auction.. A Good Time.
Hi All,
Been some decent fish the last few trips; Found a terrific bite Sunday with a light crowd much closer to home. It is exactly the nature of fishing that we can claw our way to a catch of some good fish on 2 trips lasting almost 11 hours apiece; Then get in an hour early on a regular trip with 40 tags/57 releases plus a boat limit..
Will fish some more: The reservation book is now open for tog trips from Thursday, April 29th to Friday, May 7th. The May 1st trip will be a unique 14 hour trip from 5am to 7pm for $180.00 a person. I have to have 2 crews aboard for that one. All the other tog trips are $100.00, our regular 7am to 3 pm days. I also have the book open for sea bass trips from May 22cnd to the end of June and will open more days in early May with the next email.
If You Want To Go See Trip Particulars Below Signature.....
Tautog, our target fishery at present, use--by official definition--the non-habitat forming corals off our shores for feeding and shelter as they grow to maturity & also spawning once they've matured. They prefer the most robust reefs of which the man-made accidental shipwrecks and artificial reefs are often best. While a real numerical value could be developed, I would estimate that --in the present day-- there are approximately 2,000 tog on man-made habitats for every one on natural reef along MD's coast. This number would shift higher for natural reef as you approached DE Bay owing to their larger remnant natural reef area. Still, despite their large footprint of riverine and glacial-drop rocky substrates, Given Delaware's excellent artificial reef development there must be far more tog calling the man-made structures home.
It's a species that responds incredibly well to increased habitat as their diet is entirely sourced from reef. It's also a species for which, in almost 6,000 tags south of Delaware Bay, I have seen no evidence of even short migration.
Its a species where one must ponder, "How can there be fish restoration without habitat restoration? Has there, in fact, been any restoration at all of tog if nearly all the fish use man-made habitat? Is the population we now target due to Restoration or Manufacture?"
Where the most scenic & complex reef habitat in the world will not produce reef-fish without management, Neither will management alone produce reef-fish without reef.. no matter how long they keep trying.
The real puzzle, the mystery, is how our corals---sea whip and star coral---got classed as non-habitat forming.. We put coral aggregating devices, these artificial reefs, on the seafloor and the derned fish just start spawning there. I sure wish NOAA would step-up and investigate the phenomena: Perhaps with an investigation so deep that they attempt to discern where tog & sea bass nourished themselves to maturity & reproduced before the era of robust man-made reef.....
I have had a large percentage of my clients come from up north this winter and spring. It is flattering beyond belief to have someone drive 5 hours to come fishing for a species they have in their front yard.
I believe it is the expectation of quality that brings them here. An old salt sitting atop his cooler in the parking lot at day's end tells me, "You know Cap, I just didn't believe you could drive from Brooklyn to Maryland and catch 8 to 10 pound tog.. But you can."
It spoke volumes.
This guy had done a lot of fishing, I'm sure he knew you could drive down and get skunked too.
Last Sunday I had two clients from Manhattan, a father and son from Philly and 4 anglers from just the other side of the Bay Bridge. They all had a very good time fishing in Maryland on reef that was not there in early 2004.  The Ocean City Reef Foundation built it by tying a barge up to a precise buoy/anchor set my crew had made and shoving concrete off a barge.
It's as if you could create an oasis any-where in any-desert simply by drilling a well.
With very few exceptions, Reefing always works.
NOAA is proud to tell us in their pretty websites and smooth-glossy brochures that 1/10 of 1% of the sea bed is made of reef, yet it is where 25% of the life occurs.. 
Except for the non-habitat forming corals in the Mid-Atlantic.
There's a lot of people that see plainly what I'm getting at.. and there's a few that roadblock, that prefer fisheries restoration solely by the numbers that cross their screen - the catch and population estimates that are the source of so much rancor even amongst those rec-fishers who have a lifetime of restoration effort.
When sea bass are closed it costs me dearly--every single day is a blow to my business model..  all for a savings to the fishery likely less than a winter's dead discards. 
Soon the sea bass regs will have to be announced---we're tagging fish over 15 inches on every trip. I do not envy those who must wrestle with the system we have and the moral dilemma it must create to regulate by rote from error-squared science: I do not believe, having carefully reviewed the MRFSS recreational catch estimates, that rec fishers actually over-caught their quota up north. In fact, I believe this entire episode, starting with the sea bass closure last fall, is an exercise based upon fiction.
Moreover, I am certain that black sea bass have a nearly unwavering habitat fidelity---that each individual fish will return to the same specific reef-like environment each spring; Certain in that if rec-fishers had killed every single sea bass from Rhode Island north it would have no impact on populations of sea bass off the coast of Delaware, Maryland & Virginia.
And, I am certain that a system that might allow an entire 'coastwide' quota to be legally caught from a small regional sub-stock is extremely flawed; That these sea bass set aside for catch --the quota-- from Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod must never be over-pressured in smaller regional areas because it would fully disrupt that area's fishery. These disruptions have factually occurred several times due to over-pressuring in the industrial winter fishery but have remained unnoticed in 'coastwide' management assessments.
I am also certain that a system that fails to recognize our corals as habitat-forming--as Essential Fish Habitat--is disingenuous in the extreme.
And, most regretfully, I am certain that, should our fisheries system fail to go around policy road-blocks, these failings within the system will cause further and perhaps irreparable harm to many recreational for-hire business.
To what policy should we adhere which fails to recognize & correct internal flaws while destroying that which it was designed to protect...
Sea bass regulations should return to status quo while a functional management plan is developed that factors in: Habitat, habitat fidelity, better than "Data-Poor" stock assessments, and far better catch estimates via MRIP.
We know the fish did somewhat better with management than without -- And that's all we actually know.
So Far.
Sea bass are a fishery that can be engineered far beyond management's present expectations.
Looks to me as though that vision might take a while.
Endless paperwork crossing a desk camouflages truth; dispenses injustice.
My sea bass trips in May used to sell-out almost everyday. 
What will pay the bills instead...
Have to try.
Trip info below.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Boat sells out at 14 for tog trips - Green crabs provided - Leave as scheduled or earlier if all are aboard - PLEASE be a little early so we can leave early - Return as scheduled or a little later - Reservation a must, that phone number in signature - Email does not work for reservations - Call - Leave a good phone number--Cell--in case of cancellation.
Tog Limit is 4 fish @ 14 inches - We encourage the release of all females under 16 (and some way bigger too!!) Fish Pool is decided by length so tagged and released fish count too.
Yes, we have caught some big tog this year and in years past. No, I can not pick what size, if any, are going to bite on any given day -- We are going fishing. Inexperienced tog fishers frequently find this an exasperating sport.. So do the sharpies some days. It's more about presentation than in our other fisheries.

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