Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fish Report 5/17/10

Fish Report 5/17/10
Near Done Toggin
Ready For Cbass
Jimmy's Reef
Half Managed
Hi All,
I reported last week that we had stuck 40 tags and gotten in early on our Sunday trip. I wish I could have foretold for you Monday & Tuesday's action.. 61 tagged on Monday with just three passengers--in early. Then, on Tuesday & with a slightly more crowded rail, we could have easily been home by 11 after limiting and tagging 42.
Instead we took the opportunity to tag 30 more tog and move them to a brand new artificial reef 4 miles further away, one of the reefs we had put NYCTA units on last year. 'Seeding' as it were.. I suspect those railcars are grown in enough to support a few tog; Give 'em a head start.
And, fair enough, the reef they were taken from we had seeded years ago from another artificial reef..
Will go toggin' again Thursday & Friday -- May 20 & 21st -- if we get any interest....
Then & Finally, on May 22cnd, having served our undue, undeserved, unmerited and wholly unreasonable time in the penalty box for our region's not having participated in the sea bass overfishing that never actually occurred last year but we had to pay penance for nonetheless: 
Guvmint's gonna be lettin' us go'a C bassin agin.
Just have a few spots remaining for that first week of season. Lot more openings the second week. Still waiting for some sort of announcement of final regulations on the remainder of the season. Appears as though it's going to be a lot longer than two months as they had first announced. I hope to open the reservation book beyond June in my next email.
I also hope you'll strongly consider a contribution to Jimmy's Reef. My friend died too young. Through his knowledge of boats he was instrumental in saving my business; It's very important to me that we get this one right. An Ocean City Reef Foundation project - Please See http://www.coastalfisherman.net/issues.cfm?issue=869D8348-5056-9F21-090676CDCD5DFD41&story=873D7929-5056-9F21-09B4809FB1C78C94  or the May 12th issue of Coastal Fisherman, Letters to the Editor. 
$10 - $20 - More - Thank You!
Incidents such as the death of a young man help set your compass. Still further a recent evening trip with a father and his 5 daughters, youngest 10, laid trivial so many things. We went to scatter his wife's, their mother's, ashes. I did my best to give those girls, especially the little one, a positive memory of a place where dolphin swim off unspoiled beaches.....
But I'm still mad-at & working toward better fisheries management.
This cbass reopening will be watched precisely as the State of Maryland sternly warned us of for our longer flounder season in 2010 - "Don't you dare overfish: We will be watching You."
So too will the fed be watching sea bass.
More focus on numbers that don't fix anything, that don't represent anything real: Tens of thousands of paid hours that focus on cooked-up data sets where, for instance, MD's straw-hats fishing from shore out-fish the party/charter fleet by a super-huge margin; Where Massachusetts private boats caught 150,000 more sea bass last year than normal; Where MD's private boats catch zero tog -completely skunked- in '06 then 63,588 in '07... 
I can't absolutely prove those things didn't happen: But they didn't happen.
I am not a fisheries scientist, I am simply a constituent of fisheries science: Boy is it irritating when they're full of stuff. . .
Everyone thinks we'll see slam-dunk great fishing when we start cbassing next Saturday; I hope they're right. In truth, our upcoming year mostly depends on the number of trawl-caught sea bass where our region's fish spend the winter. And, now that some commercial fishers are locked into a set number of pounds that can be caught as assigned by permit, their Catch-Share, I understand that there has been a very real increase in the number of jumbo sea bass landed. You see, cbass are worth much more as they get bigger. There could be a $40,000.00 difference between 10,000 fixed pounds of mediums and jumbos; The fish that were once landed in mixed-grade and then sorted with no fixed poundage have suddenly started to swim in age-specific schools..
Just jumbos.. 
In reality high grading must be acknowledged and dealt with.
Yes, we could very easily have a poor year of sea bassing if many different ports' commercial effort occurred on our region's stock---if we had the bad luck to be this winter's commercial hot-spot.
The smalls, mediums, even a few larges having drifted off as dead-discard --while jumbos were sold to market-- make a situation where too much pressure regional fishing pressure could and sometimes has occurred become even more risky because of fish size selection.
Some would call the result a down-cycle.
You know, cycle, natural cycles, that's what fish do.
We need regional quotas for sea bass--especially in winter: Habitat fidelity logically demands it. . . .
Speaking of logical demands: The only way this fishery's management can possibly not want/need habitat restoration is if they assume there either never was any sea-floor reef habitat, or hold that none has been disturbed & lost.
I did not invent the concept that seafloor habitat is important. There are works --really thick books-- from around the world that have demonstrated sea floor habitat's importance. Those same books also show in clear, unambiguous language that stern towed commercial fishing gears destroy sea bed habitat.
We've had some of that here.
We will not successfully restore a reef fishery such as sea bass without undertaking reef restoration.
There would be many other species that benefit as well.

Derned if I get it.. Scientists and managers that see nothing artificial in dredging fossilized oyster shell then piling it two feet thick to get an inch of usable habitat object strenuously to rock or concrete 'artificial reef'.. Dang.. 
Decades turn into centuries. We keep trying the same approach.
Elevated substrate, by whatever means, when succesful in colonizing the desired oysters or coral will be indistinguishable from natural reef in a century or two -- while instantly contributing more than barren seafloor to the region's marine ecology.
Scattering that nearly-sacred, hard-won oyster shell atop artificial substrate will tremendously boost it's value.
Fishers need restored reefs' contributions for fishery restoration. Others might simply enjoy clearer waters and renewed ecosystem services.
Catch restriction is less than half of management.
We have to put the reefs back.
Await natural reef recovery and we will have lost.
Further delay of reef's discovery & management off our coast will result in same.
German torpedoes and sinkings by storm-winds are all that preserved our marine reef fisheries through their darkest days. Now the efforts of some create small, but important, artificial reefs..
Restore the natural footprint and we'll wonder where all the fish, lobster & squid came from.
With renewed habitat's concurrent economic benefit one has to wonder what we're waiting for. 

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

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