Monday, January 31, 2011

Fish Report 1/31/11

Fish Report  1/31/11
Going Fishing
Hi All,
A winter too chilly for our February tog fishing? We'll go find out in the morning..  
Tog Trip - Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 - Green Crabs Provided - 6:30 to 3:30 - $125 - 14 People Sells Out..
Weather for road travel? 
Calm before the storm.. I want to go fishing.
Soon, February 3rd, our cbass season will come under discussion by the cbass Management Board. There is a very real possibility that although the sea bass reef/wreck fishery survived foreign factory trawl fleets into the mid-70s & survived the surf-clam boom of that same era; That although it flourished in the early days of nonchalant management and has been bettered tremendously more by recreational fishers artificial reef construction: That although it survived and even flourished in our darkest days of real overfishing when no controls existed and nothing was ever thrown back--ever; The Southern Recreational Sea Bass Fishery now stands to be lost to management; Lost to a set of recreational catch estimates in the weeks and months before that estimating program dies; Lost to a fishery restoration plan that still has not recognized reef's vital importance to sea bass nor even these reef's existence in the mid-Atlantic.
The overfishing that is alleged to have occurred up north and entirely in state waters follows a very similar pattern in the soon-to-be defunct recreational catch estimating program called MRFSS: A slight real increase in catch shows up as a tsunami of fishers taking all they can get.
When we tried to fight the shore-bound flounder over-estimate of Sept/Oct 2007--an estimate that has shore fishers in OC catching in two months what all MD's party & charter boats will catch in 15 years: We failed.
Our assertion, however, that last year's MD sea bass estimate was laughably low was treated differently. Estimated at 1,300 fish for the year; I have had scientists aboard when we caught more fish than that in a day. It's perfectly ridiculous to estimate 1,300 cbass as MD's total catch for all of 2010.
That estimate was changed because we could prove we had caught --thru data already submitted to the government-- far more fish than the estimate claimed.
We can pull with this rope but never push  
..a MRFSS overestimate can not be disproven because statisticians simply add fishers until the estimate "works."  We can not prove that shore fishers weren't 4 deep and bailing them on bare hooks - but we can prove under-estimates: We can never prove our innocence, only guilt.
It just so happens that, according to the Best Science Available--MRFSS, during that 2007 flounder blitz from shore the private boats totally ignored that "Fantastic Abundance" of flounder and laid-into our tautog. Since shore fishing for flounder occurs exactly where the tautog live on OC's bulkheads, rip-rap & bridge pilings, the shore fishers must have cast over the tog-fishing boats to catch the flounder..
Great Scott: "Angler Effort Is Difficult To Predict." 
What rubbish.
"Best science available" in it's loosest definition possible...
I have argued long and often for the many reasons why we need regional reef-fish management, not just for the recreational sector but especially for winter commercial effort: It is because of habitat fidelity that reef fish can not be managed well in broad coast-wide quota....
There's a lot of buzz about a trawler's discard of striped bass off coastal NC - Pictures, Video; Boat apparently took his 50 fish and pitched the rest back.. a couple thousand floaters. It's pretty ugly.
The event that I often write about from early 2004 had trawlers calling anyone who had a permit to come offshore and pick up their sea bass discards - cbass caught while fluke fishing that, by law, they had to discard dead. These trawlers from many states concentrated off our coast and upon our region's sea bass begging other commercial fishers to come get fish...
In May 2004 party boats and nearshore commercial trap boats caught just under half what we'd had the year before: There must have been -not thousands- but hundreds & hundreds of thousands - millions - of dead sea bass discards a few months earlier....
These regulatory discards still occur.
And the "Best Science Available" is a dead-man-walking recreational catch estimate program..
And our corals are non-reef forming.
Hurray for no overfishing where there's no habitat.
Its time I wrote a book.
Mix the funny stories in with this sadness.
Try to scratch up a tog dinner first.
Cheers All,
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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