Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fish Report 6/20/10

Fish Report 6/20/10
Flying Fish & Cod
Fishing All Week
Hi All,
I wrote last Sunday that fishing was quite good: Went out Monday and gave 'em a super-spanking with a  light crowd, caught at least 20 keepers on the chartreuse gulp swimming mullet myself. 
Tuesday we laid in on account of forecasted high winds that never came; I know they never came because Capt. Greg -TowBoat Ocean City & OCRF President- volunteered a boat to NOAA to run a repair package out to the weather buoy: They took him up on it, 44009 is back - google & save for nearly real-time wind 15 miles out..
Back at it, we struggled to scratch dinner up Wednesday. Thursday most picked along on keeper bass & some tog. Beautiful water, tagging short flounders, watch flying fish scatter, tag some cod, see a pair of gaffer mahi under an ancient loggerhead sea turtle..
Can't say as I've seen flying fish, mahi & cod in the same piece of water before..
The folks who caught tog were saddened that it's sea bass only in the pool. They couldn't have known I had two of my top toggers aboard, guys that tried to go everyday we went in January & February.. Their six pound tog wouldn't have cut the mustard. It's sea bass only until I see a few more flatties - a fair pool.
Driving to work Friday morning I see a traffic light change far ahead. Get to it; the first gear exhaust-cloud from the truck I passed is hanging: Still.. A true calm. Breezed up later; nice fishing. High man had 18.
Saturday there was a couple guys aboard that have fished with me close to 30 years. Sea bass didn't care. Fussy. Scratch up dinner and a bit.
A fin whale did cap the day though - a first for many. I may have enjoyed it more.. Something is just good about a 70+ foot animal in our part of the ocean. Looked like it was feeding on sand eels.
Fish have been holding super-tight most days, hiding in the reef.
Then, just today, I found fish feeding well up in the water.
Holding tight either means they're laying in ambush for sand eels or butterfish; Or seeking habitat's cover when predators are about.
When they're 20 or more feet off the bottom and holding we'll often find various plankton in them, feeding on what drifts by.
The holding tight -waiting in ambush- behavior has, in fact, lead to higher release mortality on the 100+ foot reefs this year. We've been picking up and measuring many of those regulatory dead discards. What I tried to show scientists last year is, I think, evident in these measurements; That cbass over 11 inches have a harder time with barotrauma, the air bladder expansion.
Cbass and those that target them are as BP's 'little people' in fisheries. Going to get heard though.
We saw much better fishing with an 11 inch size limit and no creel. We had fantastic production when bottoms were growing back; when even tube worms, an emergent filter feeder that forms tubes -habitat- of sand and mud, were colonized by huge schools of sea bass.
Been looking, can't find a single worm colony now. 
Do know where there's some dense sea-whip -a soft coral- on natural substrate; Know of rocks bare too where until recently growth and fish flourished.
A two foot pipe -broken- will alter ecological history in the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps far beyond. We watch the catastrophe unfold on the news. 
Decade upon decade of gear dragged across our region's bottom did damage too. Spread over time, it's harder to see.  
Environmental .orgs cheer closure and catch restriction; Ignore environment.
A 17 mile bay mouth to our south, 11 mile mouth to our north: Centuries. A broken two foot pipe: Months. Where billfish were once caught even 5 miles out before my time, we now have boats going 25/30 miles to just catch a few bluefish because they can not catch them on traditional grounds.
This isn't all as the whalers a century and more ago thought; That as they exterminated local populations of whales they were perceived to have 'moved' until virtually the only ones left were too fast or too far hidden in ice fields. Those fellows, generations of them, did a lot of herding, of 'moving' as they thought. It was mostly the flensing.
So have we - of fish.
Yes we need catch restrictions - some quite complex to maximize stable bioeconomic results.
That fin whale we saw Saturday was likely feeding on what many marlin fishermen have told me they frequently saw - sand eels.
Not marlin fishermen of today though. The guys that fished in wooden 12 knot boats saw and cleaned-up sand eels in the cockpit--admittedly regurgitated from fish they had no intention of ever releasing. Still, the prey is more abundant inshore than where the fish are targeted now..
I think because Marlin and bluefish are sight feeders they can't reliably feed inshore anymore; They really are moving off as water quality diminishes; That no amount of fishery restoration will restore them to the inshore grounds without water quality.   
Catch restriction alone is a farce; Habitat in its many important forms must be grappled as well.
C'mon oysters.
C'mon coral.
Most likely.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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