Monday, October 25, 2010

Fish Report 10/25/10

Fish Report 10/25/10
Some Toggin - A Few Flounder
New Dates Open 
Artificial Reef
Access Restored
Hi All,
Mixed up week. Had hundreds of small, throw-back sea trout Wednesday along with a few undersized flounder, followed by some fine toggin and even a few sheepshead. The biggest tog that day was 14 1/2 pounds on an artificial reef I watched go down-- A reef many of you likely contributed to in the reef-raffle or via Ocean City Reef Foundation sponsorship. 
That dandy--It really was a jumbo, was not representative of what we're catching. Caught right next to one of the most dedicated toggers I know, it may simply have been 'ol Murphy up to no good.
Sunday I patched together an unannounced inshore tog trip. One super togger, another fellow who worked deck in the Delaware Bay trout hey-day, mate Ritch & I stood to give the rest a hard lesson in toggin.
Hubris rewarded as it might be -- The other passengers caught all the keepers with the old-timer's grandson high-hook.
Skill - Goose Egg.
Enthusiasm the trophy.
Now entering the 3rd and final week of our sea bass closure; This the third week in the second year of the sea bass fiasco.
Many readers are not party boat fishers; I'll try to describe our frustration.
Saturday I had about half my spots sold for a flounder and tog trip. Decided to burn some fuel; To try and get these good folks on some pretty fluke/flounder; Catch our tog too.
Somehow dead, the bite just wasn't happening--- "That's why they call it fishing, not catching." So I ran offshore further still.
And found as good a bite; fishing as wonderful as might possibly be imagined in our era. Just drop & reel. No finesse required.
Except the fish that were biting were keeping us from the fish we wanted.
Even double-anchored tight over a spot where I know tautog live--big tog, you could scarcely get a green crab through the bluefish: If you did actually hit bottom the sea bass destroyed it.
At this spot we had one 7 pound tog, one 5 pound flounder and hundreds upon hundreds of sea bass and small to medium blues.
All who wanted blues had all they wanted. Bled and iced, we sent them home in great shape.
All aboard having tasted fresh sea bass, however, knew sorrow.
Finished the day coming home late; Later still because the tog bite turned on inshore. Even caught another 10 pound sheepshead.
Homeward bound with dinner, I could easily have sent passengers off needing a stop for freezer bags.
..and a day with half the tickets sold would have been Monday.
Sea bass reopen on November 1st, a Monday. I am confident that despite high throwback ratios we'll be looking good.
First I will try the flounder/tog again; apply lessons learned -- fish flounder/tog October 29th and 30th, Friday & Saturday, 18 people sells out. 
We'll fish inshore tog on October 31st, Sunday - 10 people sells the trip out.
Then on to sea bassing.
I have everyday of the first week of November open to sea bass trip reservations; Now opening the 12th, 13th & 14th too.
I'm leaving some days closed to revisit the deep-deep should there be a weather window.. Or go long sea bass.
There is magnificent reef off our coast--in the deep, beyond my normal range.
Have a friend who's machining a deep-water drop camera housing; Has 600 feet of cable.
We see the smallest of sea bass in our bays and even nearshore reefs, tiny flounder too. Studied and mapped, we know of estuarine sea grasses and oysters lost: Their well funded restoration begun. 
However, where those juveniles journey too as they move deeper and deeper, as fall becomes winter, is virtually unknown - yet crucial.
It is in the deep, upon the reefs near canyon's edge, that the habitat loop is closed. It is from the deep where spring migrations will occur.
That happens here, in our mid-Atlantic region. A place where in current scientific print & judging by past management actions, there is no reef: Where from our actions it is apparent that we hold only summer habitat vital.
That needs to change.
Everything sunk to the bottom for the purpose of artificial reef--or as sometimes in horrific accident, becomes reef. It's as if there were a ready made response among so many animals great & small to a habitat type that "doesn't exist here."
Trying to change that, Trying to fully involve management in habitat issues; Issues from which they can no longer remain ignorant if true fisheries restoration is a goal.
Back when I had a retirement account, before the roulette wheel of MRFSS recreational catch estimate wiped out my chips in emergency sea bass closure, I sometimes read Warren Buffet and Jim Cramer's writings and followed their transactions in the stock market.
As I recall, both purchased their first stocks as young teenagers - just a few shares.
That's where we're at with artificial reef.
A small non-profit, the Ocean City Reef Foundation puts down what reef it can afford. In the previous year, having the State's blessing & encouragement, we reefed 176 stainless steel subway cars, perhaps our biggest project ever.
Last Monday Capt. Danny from the Fin Chaser, myself & mate Mike, and the crew from Tow Boat US, Ocean City went to work on a 77 foot steel trawler that's destined for Susan Power's Reef at the Jackspot. We filled 4 "bagsters." (very clever idea, just a big nylon bag with heavy duty lifting straps instead of a steel dumpster) We'll have to fill several more, double check all her tanks & bilges, remove all the rest of her wiring, get the winches off and assorted rigging, torch holes to better water flow, then take off the outriggers to increase stability for towing.
My kingdom that an Ace Warthog pilot would sink her, a CG Cutter's bow-mounted 50 cal stitches her waterline, a SEAL Team might use her as an exercise: That our Armed Forces discover the best live-fire exercises build reef..
We also have a 50 foot steel boat coming. Already cleaned; I hope to lay a pallet of any odd block in her hull and overshoot it with a  yard or so of concrete. Jeff Bauer of Eastern Shore Brick has been a major supporter of past reef projects, perhaps he'll have some odd block around..
A smooth piece of rock or steel creates very little reef. It is the ruggedness--rugosity if you prefer--where reef starts to become productive. Those holes, nooks & crannies, the places where there is shelter from current, even the most exposed edges: All become far more productive when growth covers, When the mussels, whips and corals that form our reef ecology are well-grown in.
This reef unit, the 50 footer, will become the first piece of many for the Jimmy Jackson Reef.
Though he passed away young, Jimmy will be forgotten by no one who knew him.
Fifteen years ago he asked me to show him how to make a duck decoy. A couple days later he brought a bird by many times better than my 800th..
His assistance with major maintenance on the Morning Star was vital.
Billfish and tuna in many seas, Jimmy also greatly enjoyed toggin for the challenge.
I'm telling you, Jimmy's Tog Town is going to be world class.
Bet on it.  
Concrete pipe was judged by NC -- judged by full study -- to be the most cost effective artificial reef. We have been fortunate to know several manufacturers of pipe & especially Bob Perrone, who will save us their seconds.
Thought recently occurred to me: Why not add rugosity to concrete pipe?
Soon know more about that.
No party boat skipper is ever going to end up in league with Warren Buffet or Mr. Mad Money. But applying their 'buy what you can, look for dividends' to artificial reef -- where each reef unit is a share of stock and the fish that grow there dividends -- has already served fishers well & may provide future generations of fishers great bounty indeed.
That our region's fisheries management still does not recognize reef in any management plan, Nor take any action to Preserve, Protect and Enhance as is called for by the Magnusson Act, needs to change.
Will change.
Our fish don't fall from the sky, they are a product of habitat.
Sort that out and we'll begin fantastic progress in fisheries restoration; Discern the footprint of reef habitat pre-industrial fishing gear and we'll know what to restore.
Passengers will enjoy some of our early work when sea bass reopens next Monday--November 1st; When we're again allowed access to the dividends of reef constructed.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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