Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fish Report 3/19/11

Fish Report 3/19/11
More Fishing
A Fussy Bite
Helmets & Mouthpieces
Letter To VP Biden
Going Again Monday & Tuesday - Tog Trips - March 21 & 22 - Water's Warming - Try Inshore Again - Leave 7 - Return 3 - Regular Fare $100.00 - 10 Head Sells Out - Reservation Required - Call 410 520 2076 - Weather Looks OK For Inshore Trips - High Hopes!
Hi All,
This week's two long trips worked moderately well.
Fished almost offshore of VA Beach Thursday--sure seemed like anyway. Day started with a beautifully colored & well shaped tog. Really, this fish was straight out of GQ ..then saw only a few more.
The gentleman from NY, NY -and I use the word in precise definition- showed everyone how to do it; was able to spare a fillet to those less fortunate, probably made D's ride home a lot nicer too.
I'll promise one thing; There's some seriously good food from up that way..
Friday we had a fussy, light bite.  
Four very skilled toggers bagged out. The rest -including me- nicked away at a few keeper & tagger tog; caught cod too.
Biggest tog was 14 and a piece Thursday, about 12 on Friday.

Caught cod both days. Even had a a young man catch a double of keepers - Tasty.
Going Again Monday & Tuesday - Tog Trips - Cod Unlikely - March 21 & 22 - Water's Warming - Try Inshore Again - Leave 7 - Return 3 - Regular Fare $100.00 - 10 Head Sells Out - Reservation Required - Call 410 520 2076 - Weather Looks OK For Inshore Trips - High Hopes!
Video of a ship in astonishing weather: This weather is not OK - Take Dramamine To Watch.
Used to be my deckhands on the OC Princess--the sleek, fast, beautifully maintained 88 foot Lydia--would put on a little show during a bad weather 'speech.' While I was on the PA system telling clients that they could expect high winds and seas; Informing them that if they wanted to reconsider their day, now was the time..
The boys --lead by Tucker you can bet-- would line-dance down through the saloon wearing life-jackets, helmets & mouthpieces.
Great Scott! The things you find out later..
Wished I'd had one of those helmets the other day. Fellow was swinging in an 7 pound cod--it fell off. Rod tension suddenly released: I was on the other end of the sinker's arc. Had to answer to Knot Head the rest of the day..
Glad the tide wasn't running. That 8 ounce bank stung like the devil -- but a 20 would've been lights out! 
Below is a letter I sent to VP Biden. I believe that EVERYONE in fisheries is doing all they can within the system to save recreational fishers from old-style catch estimate data--The MRFSS data.
But I don't think any of them can change the policy: They will continue to use the MRFSS data until they get told to do otherwise.
There are fantastic changes just months away. MRFSS Data -- our official catch estimate data -- will be truthed using the new MRIP model--Is Being Truthed Now.
We'll very likely see some huge catch-estimate changes.
My point in the letter is not "Oh, look at these discrepancies in the tautog data." No, my point is that the tautog fishery is a small fishery, easy to get your arms around. Here the magnitude of errors shine more brightly; It is these same errors that riddle all recreational catch data.
And they know it. MRIP is the new program they had to design because the MRFSS estimating system got the boot. The whole concept of "Angler Effort Is Difficult To Predict" is deeply held by many in management--How else could they sleep at night? But it is founded solely on the shifting sands, the wild swings shown by MRFSS data. There's absolutely no predicting MRFSS.
Implicit in the replacement of MRFSS, and again now in this "test run" of the MRIP program going back to 2003, is an agreement by the Government that: "Yes, we know this is a bad system with bad data. Our really smart people at the National Research Foundation said we must replace it--and we are."
Now we really need someone to turn the heat off--quit using the bad data!--while the government does its repairs.
There's lots of work to do but catch restriction isn't where the work lies. Right now we need the big boss to sit down with Commerce, with NOAA & with NMFS; Give us our fish back--The fish MRFSS stole.
Our Vice President reads his mail, at least his staff does. Cut & paste this if you have a mind.
See the "Contact Us" bar at the top right of this webpage. Telling you, I know for a fact that he reads his mail...
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Mr. Vice President Biden & Staff,
I need you to have faith in a fisherman. Always accused of greedily over-fishing; your trust is greatly weakened. But I am not wrong. Bad data threatens--is destroying--many fishing businesses. We will always own what we actually caught and never deny it. But in our official catch-estimates, in the MRFSS estimates, there is great injustice..
It is the Policy, not law; The acting with absolute faith in the MRFSS catch-estimates --these statistics without testability, without reliability-- in a time when rebuilding timelines have run out that many traditional recreational fisheries enter their darkest hour.
I hope you are hearing recreational fishermen's cries of foul, of bad data, from many places. Less than a 125 miles from DC there is a fishery that offers a simple way to grasp the much larger problem: The tight-knit tautog fishery.
It's a small fishery with a very dedicated core group of anglers. It's a fishery that suffered in the loss of coral reef off the coast (see Maryland Corals on YouTube) and surely at the loss of oyster reef in the Delaware Bay. It's also a fishery that has benefited mightily from the Army Corps' use of granite boulder and, too, the wonderful artificial reef building efforts of Delaware with a lesser boost from Maryland.
My point is that the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey (MRFSS) has, in its final years and months of existence, managed to topple --through false accusations of over-fishing-- recreational fisheries that survived even the era of unregulated fishing, a time when factory trawlers from many countries plied our waters. MRFSS has --through false accusations of over-fishing-- taken away species we self-regulated long years before the government stepped in to help, Species that have benefited tremendously from recreational fishers' building of reef habitat..
If you dig into it as hard as you can you will never find evidence that the incredibly skilled anglers of Delaware's tautog fishery --from mid-Bay to Indian River-- all of them, only caught 54 tautog in March/April 2010: No, you'll find they caught many more. You'll find that Delaware lead the nation in tautog management, that they saw the need to act long before today's regulatory environment.   
A well restored fishery, Delaware's expert tautog fishermen caught many more than 54 fish. But that is the official estimate..
The far fewer anglers with a private-boat in Ocean City, MD caught 18,587 tautog during the same March & April period. According to MRFSS, that is.. There is, in fact, no circumstance where that catch could possibly be true. 
Yet this is the exact data from which were are forever accused of over-fishing, and from which management is basing their restoration strategies--Those Are Real MRFSS Data Sets That Fishery Managers MUST USE.
My point is not "Oh, look at these discrepancies in the tautog data." No, my point is that the tautog fishery is a small fishery; easy to get your arms around. Here the magnitude of errors shine more brightly: It is these same errors that riddle all recreational catch data.
Can You Help?
Mr. Schwaab, current head of NMFS, wrote to me at your request and said that the data is being back-checked to 2003 and that MRFSS is being replaced with MRIP.
Meanwhile, many will fold.
I honestly think EVERYONE in-system --in fisheries-- is doing their level-best to get we fishers out from under this hard-place.
They know the data is, literally, killing whole fisheries up and down the coast--fisheries steeped in tradition, generations of anglers, fishermen who are being turned away from species they have helped to recover. MRFSS threatens many businesses, Has already sent some into bankruptcy..
Mr. Biden, when my partyboat's clients are throwing back NICE flounder because we "Over Fished" and so the size limit went up, When my clients are being told they can not target sea bass in May as they have for many decades--and these the very people who lead the coast by throwing back small sea bass before any regulation existed, who helped tag over 5,000 before management ever had a concern; When my clients find the MRFSS catch-estimates incredulous--laughable--and stunning in their use; They go somewhere else to fish--or quit altogether: They lose faith in governance.
What my clients are doing, everyone else's are too.
Goverment is trying hard to fix in-system, in fisheries, what needs addressing from above--way above: White House above.. 
No one in fisheries has the juice, the strength, to overturn management's use of the MRFSS data even though it will be gone in a year, replaced.
Implicit in the replacement of MRFSS and again now in the 'test run' of the MRIP program going back to 2003 is an agreement by the Government that: "Yes, we know this is a bad system. Our really smart people at the National Research Foundation said we must replace it--and we are."
Your action, Mr. Vice President, could save many businesses, could allow reason to function where continued use of this "Data" borders on lunacy.
We have a great deal of solid data that indicates fantastic increases in fish populations occurred with  lesser restrictions.
Use common-sense regulation for a while, use it until MRIP is up & running..
I'll leave you with this honest-to-Pete data set from 2007..
The Maryland shore-fishers in Sept/Oct are said to have caught 36,017 flounder. They only catch flounder from shore in Ocean City--not in the Chesapeake Bay: 36,000 - That's REALLY a lot of fish. MD's charter/party clients guided by skilled captains factually catch that many in about 15 years. The MRFSS data often has these same shore fishers catching zero-fish in this two month period--But no manager could question the data, Not even MD's Natural Resources Secretary, John Griffin, who's action was so critical in the striped bass recovery. No Sir, Overfishing now established: Emergency Flounder Closure.  
During the same two months of 2007 as this supposed shore-side slaughter of flounder, Ocean City's private boats are said to have caught 31,023 tautog. I am certain we have never caught that many, all MD fishers together, in a year.
But in this particular instance, this same two month period where we have the most flounder ever caught from shore; MRFSS also asserts that more tautog were caught by private boat than ever before--31,023.
Since tautog live on the man-made reefs, the jetties and bridge-pilings, the bulkheads where the flounder shore fishers have access: These shore fishers must have--positively had to have--been casting over the boats to catch those 36,017 flounder while the private boats targeted 31,032 tautog at the shore fisher's feet.
Both data sets were the highest ever and help further the recreational Over Fishing myth.
Neither assertion --and hundreds upon hundreds of others-- ever happened.
Yet this is the data managers MUST USE.
Kidnapped by bad-data & in dire economic times; We need our fisheries back to stay solvent.
Please Help.
My Regards,
Monty Hawkins
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"

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