Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Fish Report 3/8/11

Fish Report 3/8/11
Bit of History
The Cbass Confusion: Make Comment
MRFSS & Busy People    
Statistics: MD Fishermen's Tog Catch Estimate.

Going Fishing: Inshore Cod/Tog Trips - Saturday & Sunday - March 12 & 13, 2011 - 6:30 to 3:30 - Clams & Crab Provided - $100.00 - 16 Sells Out - Reservations Required @ 410 520 2076 - Inshore Because Of Wind - Still Cold Water 

An otherwise calm & polite young lady; When I told her about the Mar/Apr 2010 catch-estimate for Maryland's private boaters of approximately 19,000 tautog she said: "..How in the BLEEP do they figure that? There aren't 19 boats in the water that time of year and they sure didn't catch 1,000 tog each! What a bunch of BLEEP-BLEEP.."

Fisherman's Generous Tog Estimate Total: 24,375  -- Official MRFSS Estimate 74,570--  The Difference Is An Over-Estimate of +50,195 Fish: And that's exactly how recreational "Over-Fishing" happens..

Hi All,
Comments and meetings - Any result comes slowly - Rarely the desired result.  
I need to go fishing.
Ah, but the weather man sez hold on.. Forecast for the week is "Stay In Port."
Yeah, rats.
It looks like the swell will lay down by Saturday.

Inshore-Inshore-Inshore Saturday & Sunday.
Unless I can go further. 
I'd really like to go Monday too, but Mike & I have the CG coming over for coffee ..and a full safety inspection.

Calling for a light west wind Saturday.. Looks to me like it ought to blow a gale behind this big front though.
Plan on an inshore Cod/Tog trip; Maybe we'll have a less windy day and could get a bit further off. West wind will be nice under the beach..
It could be that the water temperature inshore is suitable for tog to start biting now. It has, after all, been much warmer. It could be that cod are active there as well.
Or it could be a long day!
Wish I had firmer guidance to offer - My only guarantee is that it won't be a day cubed-up at work or mulching flowers...

Going Fishing: Inshore Cod/Tog Trips - Saturday & Sunday - March 12 & 13, 2011 - 6:30 to 3:30 - Clams & Crab Provided - $100.00 - 16 Sells Out - Reservations Required @ 410 520 2076 - Inshore Because Of Wind - Still Cold Water

Went last Friday and Saturday. Burnt way to much fuel.. Nearing $4.00 a gallon, that's not hard to do.
NOAA had sent a letter earlier in the week telling all what I could not find officially on the web: Cod size limit in federal waters is 22 inches and the recreational limit is 10 per-person.
OK. I didn't think we'd have to worry with the creel limit..
Wasn't bad fishing considering most were using 16 ounces or more of lead. Certainly wasn't great either.
My old friend Ralph might disagree having caught his personal best, a 15 pound tog that swept the pool.
There were few other tog Friday but many cod around the rail. High man had 6 keeper cod & 2 tog... .

As I cleared the inlet Saturday I knew my tog fishermen were in trouble--Swell.
Not a huge hurricane swell that makes even being out difficult, just a 4 to 5 foot deep-bodied swell..

Man. At times that was some pretty fishing.
First keeper was in the boat before I got out of the wheelhouse..
Zig & Linebacker, fishing dead-center stern, were high hook with 5 cod each. A fellow that had cursed the moon Friday had 3 keeper cod & throwbacks Saturday.
New record for me, maybe Maryland, as we tagged 27 undersize cod; Tossed others by the rail untagged when we could not keep up.
There were very few tog.. 

I'll note a bit of history here: Pretty sure those were the first advertised open-boat cod trips in Maryland for 35 years.
Well, cod/tog trips anyway. . . . . . . .
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

If you'd care to go far, far deeper, the sea bass comment and a direct comparison of MRFSS catch data are below.....

Some of the guys that fish sea bass for a living attended the briefing and public comment session Monday night. There were a few local recreational fishers there too. 
This about the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission plan that Maryland put forward at the federal level to 'regionalize' the recreational sea bass quota. This is the plan that allows southern mid-Atlantic cbass fishers a chance of having a season, of remaining solvent--just a chance.

The details are dense. The plan offers a fantastically complex set of options: Where we are usually given a choice between Chicken or Fish, here we had the foods of the world..
What I mean is DNR might usually present, Say: Option A) 3 flounder at 18 inches with a great big long season. Option B) 2 flounder at 16 inches with a much shorter season. Or C) 5 flounder at 19 inches with a really super-long season.
This is how the amount of fish we are allowed to catch--our recreational quota--is laid out in different plans for fishers to choose from...

No three simple options at Monday's meeting.. I'd guess over 20. More..
The simplest choice was the combination of options that would allow us to have all --Every Bit-- of our sea bass season back from Delaware south.
But this is a political body where all states involved have an equal say, an equal vote ..so what are the chances that the northern states will vote to take all the reduction in recreational quota and let us resume life?

Political game-theory abounds in fisheries: Somehow it's not as simple as what's on the rich guy's chalkboard. Believe me, the next paragraph required a lot of work on management's part and was very difficult for fishers to grasp; You could feel the confusion.
Option #3 - 2B is what Maryland wants. Option #3 creates two regions of recreational sea bass management, NJ to Cape Hatteras & NY to MA.  Sub-Option #2B uses that same regional split and a percentage share of quota based on the last 3 years catch.

No slam dunk!! If passed, however, it would likely allow us to start fishing long before the now-required July 1st opening.
If you would like to comment go to the ASMFC's website: http://www.asmfc.org/ and click on "Public Input"  http://www.asmfc.org/publicInput.htm Then look to the first "Pending Actions" comment section. There are several methods to comment including email.

I believe #3 - 2B is our best hope. You are encouraged to read the addendum. It's not likely that you'll end up reaching for a waste-basket as I did.

A very simple comment is enough: I support Option 3 - 2-B.

Like my Fish Reports: You can write all you want in a comment, only some of it will get read.
Screaming into the wilderness, however, is at least therapeutic.. . . . . . . .

Make no mistake: All this maneuvering is to satisfy the crazy notion that the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS--say Murfs) is a sound scientific method of estimating catch.
It is not: Several years ago the National Research Council (NRC) said it was"Fatally Flawed" and that the program must be put-down like a rabid dog. 
The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP--say M-Rip--think Murfs Rest In Peace) was designed to take MRFSS' place. This is the program that establishes a license--a 'head count' of fishers and also develops a revenue stream for management in some states. There are numerous other changes in it -- still occurring -- that are designed to tighten-up our recreational catch estimates.
So: As a result of a direct-order to get rid of our present catch estimating system, a lot, lot, lot of people had to get to work on the new system while the old system continued along its same old path--but with less attention to detail because many knowledgeable staff were deep into the new MRIP project.

At the same time, newly required federal 'Rebuilding" timelines were coming into play: If a fish population was not considered rebuilt, it had better be soon or the fishing seriously curtailed--even closed. Under no circumstance would 'over-fishing' be allowed.

Many species of fish, especially reef fish whose populations are notoriously difficult to estimate, were/are sandwiched between these rebuilding timelines and an already bad recreational data system turned rancid.

MRFSS, the official catch estimate that controls all recreational harvest, has lost any ties to reality.
MRIP, the new program, will not be ready soon enough to save sport-fishers.
Readers already know I would like to see Uncle Murfs swinging from the yardarm and a fully integrated reef-fish plan developed with neat features like Reef Habitat considerations for reef fish; Quota management that recognizes habitat fidelity; And a plan that maximizes production on every reef by forcing ALL the fish into the spawning stock..
Seriously now, the catch-estimates we know are so poor that we had the system replaced, hold all management's cards --And-- there is no habitat consideration whatever for any seafloor or reef between NY & Cape Hatteras save a few square miles of deep-water canyon.
Consider this: If a reef were built that no one fished for 15 years it would likely have reached stasis, a point where fish were dying-off and being replaced at about the same rate. The only possible way for management to further strengthen this population of fish then is to build another reef..
Or allow some fishing there?
Both would be better!
Managers have completely forgotten what Dr. Murawski reminded the world of in his "Overfishing Ended" press release: "..species become far more abundant when they're being fished at the appropriate level.."
That hypothetical reef example above would therefore produce a lot more fish with some fishing. He called it an "Ironclad Rule". 
I call it forcing younger fish into the spawning stock..
Habitat, habitat fidelity & managing for production are fantastically powerful tools in fisheries restoration, But we're focused entirely on MRFSS' catch estimates.....
There's a work, and my apologies to its original author, wherein a youngster is isolated from color --lives entirely in black, white & gray-- but is taught all there is to know of the color blue: Everything.
When the isolation is done this poor person is asked to point out things blue; but, having never experienced 'blue' --despite knowing all about it-- there was no ability to identify it, to really understand it.  
"Blue" has to be experienced to know.
I'm telling management: Habitat counts. Habitat Fidelity Counts. Dr. Murawski's "Ironclad Rule" counts too. This is really basic stuff that's taught in every fishery management course.
Apparently it needs to be experienced!
So; That's the science we're NOT using.
I think the catch-estimates management calls our "Best Available Science" aren't science at all: They can not be tested, can not be proven.
Again: These closures and maneuverings are to satisfy the crazy notion that the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey -MRFSS- is a sound scientific method of estimating catch.
It isn't. . . .
An otherwise calm & polite young lady; When I told her about the Mar/Apr 2010 catch-estimate for Maryland's private boaters of approximately 19,000 tautog she said: "..How in the BLEEP do they figure that? There aren't 19 boats in the water that time of year and they sure didn't catch 1,000 tog each! What a bunch of BLEEP-BLEEP.."
There's no deep thinking required to see this young lady is spot-on. 
Managers dispose of all credibility to assert the data is suitable for use: Or accurate enough to call science..  
If science's core definition is provability--testability: Then where completely unprovable catch-estimates are being used to identify over-fishing in the recreational fisheries we can establish that no science is being used to ascertain over-fishing in the recreational fisheries.
Here's my experience, my blue: Success in the recreational sector's burden of fishery restoration is as random as the data.
The MRFSS is a cancer which has spread throughout our fisheries. Its highs & lows camouflage all manner of ills. Management needs sound estimates with which to make sound management decisions: Absent that they should use logic.
There was no logic whatever in the 2007 Sept/Oct estimate of 36,017 flounder for MD's shore fishermen. That's about what MD's charter/party boats will catch in 15 years.
Really. I did the math.
There's no logic either in assuming the work is done because "No Over-Fishing Is Occurring." Here MRFSS hits a bulls-eye when it asserts we've caught no atlantic mackerel in many a year..
Our "Best Science" shouts "Hurray! No Overfishing!"
Um, that's because there's no fish to fish for. . . . . . 
Party/Charter reef fishers need sea bass back. MRFSS stole them.
Could steal the rest of our tautog season too. Because it is a small fishery -in a small area- with many players well-known: Maryland's tautog fishery offered a simple way to demonstrate just how screwed up a state's MRFSS estimate can be.  
..Hmm, just used the word 'simple.'
A lot of fellows worked hard on this stakeholder estimate, I had catch numbers and estimates of people & boats come from many places. 
These reality-based estimates below are exceedingly generous as to catch -- no one got skunked. If they were reported to be fishing--they caught.. These estimates, then, are surely too high.
A "Wave" is two months - Wave 1 is January/February -- Wave 2 is March/April -- Wave 3 is May/June...
The fishing "Modes" are: Shore, Private Boat, and For-Hire--that would be Charter/Party Boat.
Here I broke-out the private boat Bay & Ocean effort too.
Stakeholder = fisherman.
Wave Data is crucial because that's how season closures are decided.
The individual catch data, the field interviews where a person weighs and measures your fish will be very important in straightening out this mess: The many perfect data sets through interview need, and are getting, a better statistical method..
Maryland Stakeholder 2010 Tautog Estimate.
Capt. Monty Hawkins 3/6/11   
See *Best MD Tog Bloopers* At Bottom.
Stakeholder Estimate MD Tog Total: 24,375  -- MRFSS Estimate 74,570--   The Difference Is An Over-Estimate of +50,195 Fish: That's exactly how recreational "Over-Fishing" happens..   
Private Boat -- Inland Coastal Bay & Inlet Jetties Stakeholder Est.  
Wave I:  Zero {MRFSS 0} [Difference 0]
Wave II: 1,918 {MRFSS 3,776} [Difference +1,858]
Wave III: 2,133 {MRFSS 5,385} [Difference +3,252]
Wave IV: 1,349 {MRFSS 0} [Difference -1,349]
Wave V: 1,614 {MRFSS 7,668} [Difference +6,054]
Wave VI: 1,425 {MRFSS 13,307} [Difference +11,882] 
2010 Stakeholder Est. Total: 8,439  {MRFSS 30,136} [Difference +21,697]

Private Boats Ocean-Only Fishing & Spearfishing
Wave I, 25  {MRFSS 0} [Difference -25]
Wave II, 940  {MRFSS 14,812} [Difference +13,872] 
Wave III, 1,768  {MRFSS 1,035} [Difference -733]
Wave IV, 1440  {MRFSS 0} [Difference -1,440]
Wave V, 1296 {MRFSS 5,239} [Difference +3943]
Wave VI, 972
{MRFSS 0} [Difference -972]  
2010 Stakeholder Est. Total: 6,441  {MRFSS 21,086} [Difference 14,645]
Combine ocean & inland wave 2  private boat for a total of 18,588 tog in March & April 2010: She said,"..What a bunch of BLEEP-BLEEP.."
Stakeholder Est. Private Boat Both Ocean & Inland Total: 14,880  {MRFSS 51,222} [Difference +36,342]
MD Shore
Wave I -- Zip {MRFSS Zero} [Difference 0]
Wave II -- 1,935  {MRFSS Zero} [Difference -1,935]
Wave III* -- 829  {MRFSS Zero} [Difference -829]
Wave IV -- 962  {MRFSS Zero} [Difference -962]
Wave V -- 901 {MRFSS 11,521} [Difference +10,620]
Wave VI -- 1,240 {MRFSS 8,074} [Difference +6834]
Shore Est. Total: 5,867  {MRFSS 19,595} [Difference +13,728]
MD For-Hire VTR Stakeholder Estimates--This is almost exactly what we caught based from daily reports.
Wave I, 346  {MRFSS Zero} [Difference -346]
Wave II, 1204  {MRFSS Zero}
[Difference -1204]
Wave III, 1072 {MRFSS 3,434} [Difference +2362 ]
Wave IV, 18 {MRFSS 10}   [Difference -8]
Wave V, 405  {MRFSS 310} [Difference -95]
Wave VI, 583   {MRFSS Zero} [Difference -583]
2010 Stakeholder Est. Total: 3628 {MRFSS 3,754} [Difference +126] See Wave 3--MRFSS Got lucky!
Stakeholder Estimate All Modes/All Waves Total: 24,375  {MRFSS 74,570} [Difference +50,195]
Maryland Stakeholder 2010 Tautog Estimate.
Capt. Monty Hawkins 3/6/11   
*Best MRFSS Bloopers*
..or "Our Best Available Science."  
MD Shore Tog: Wave 3,  2007 -- 19,374.  Wave 4, Zero Shore Mode Tog Ever--None Ever! Wave 5 ~ 13,097 in 2007 & 11,521 in 2010. Wave 6 ~ 17,348 in 2000 & 15,654 in 2009. All these numbers approach or exceed what we actually catch in a year..
Private Boat: Wave 2 ~ 18,587 in 2010 & 12,482 in 2007. Wave 3 ~ 13,620 in 2009. Wave 4 ~ Usually zero but 20,082 in 2007. Wave 5 ~ 2007 wins again with 31,023. In Wave 6 the grand winner is 2010 with 13,307..
For-Hire: 2004 Wave 2 ~ 6,058 (actual exact number was 672) Wave 3 ~ 15,390 in 2002...........
Having read to here, you really ought to write NMFS, NOAA & Your State's Fisheries Dept. -- Much better estimates can be created, Urge them to do so.. 
"So There!" Brooks, Mel; Blazing Saddles 1974.

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