Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fish Report 7/19/11

Fish Report 7/19/11
Sea Bass & Flounder
Tiles & Tuna
Pew Saves the Fisheries?
Fishing Regular Reef Trips Everyday Weather Allows.
Blueline Tile/Sea Bass Trip July 24th sold-out.
Hi All,
Summer continues as it might. We nick away at sea bass, almost always catching a good dinner's worth. Seeing shots of flounder on some wrecks & reefs too. There's a lot more catching than keeping - throwbacks  
..but it's fun.
Took scientists out searching for deepwater/coldwater corals (not sunlight dependant as in the tropics) on Sunday.
Interrupted by a yellowfin tuna, a 40+ pound golden tile, blueline tiles & a dorado - I failed to find new (to me) natural rock bottoms where corals might grow.
We did see many of the smaller toothed whales, the dolphins and pilot whales; 'blackfish' they used to call them..
Smaller animals required too much effort to hunt in whaling's heyday so they are still fairly abundant.
The texts all say sperm whales were once abundant off our coast. I've never seen one. "Catch Restriction" management --begun for whales even before the Revolutionary War-- seems to be having trouble with their restoration..  
A mystery: We did catch bluelines in 360 feet of water where only sea pens were evident on the u/w video gear. Sea pens are so named because they are reminiscent of writing by quill -- they look like a feather stuck in the bottom. Very sparse; I wouldn't think that enough to create 'habitat.'
Capt. Rick's video gear worked flawlessly..
Something to learn another trip.
Still catching a few cod nearly everyday too -- throwbacks mostly. Tagged about 400 this year. Sending off for more tags now. 
I began asking MD for cod regulations almost 20 years ago. Now caught unaware by this fishery resurgence, no one seems to have a state landing regulation. Federal regulation below Cape Cod --and positively including our region-- is 22 inches, ten fish per person. Since Delaware & MD haven't a state reg yet it's --wink-wink-- "We caught them in state waters."
Not on my boat -- Cod will be 22 inches even if you are incredibly lucky and actually do hook one in state waters.
There was a run of scup (aka porgy) into the DE Bay a few years back--mid 90s: A fantastic resurgence, crazy good fishing.
Size limit was 7 inches.
Fish were wiped right back out.
You'd think shooting ourselves in the foot an easy habit to break.
Using the "Best Science Available" catch restriction model of restoration, 7 inches was decreed as a basic level of management for states without a scup fishery.
Hmm.. for people in the restoration business they sure don't seem to have much faith in it: Maryland & Delaware -- southern NJ, we all had very strong scup fisheries until about 1970..
That's right about when cod were lost in our region too.
You see, management based upon the "Catch Restriction Only" model is only as good as the data it is fed; It ignores many other means of restoration.
Our present system is nearly 100% focused on size limits & pounds caught from official catch estimates. It has no concern whatever of the habitat in which successive generations of fish will spawn, nor where that spawn will grow; Importantly, it also leaves off the table the wonderful tool of habitat fidelity: Our management of today is totally committed to catch control --size, creel & season limits-- as its only means of fishery restoration.
Deductive reasoning's accuracy is founded solely upon the truth of its premises: For a 'catch restriction only' management model to work well, good catch estimate data is a requirement.
Because nearly any experienced recreational fisher can easily find errors in our MRFSS official recreational catch estimates, Today's fishery management model begins in failure; Its foundational premise is so flawed that restorations occur only with good fortune -- Luck: No action, right or wrong, ever occurs without catch data screaming for it.
That's why some states don't have a cod size limit, nor will we pay any attention to scup here -- there's no need to regulate where there is no catch.
If a spear fisher takes the last spadefish north of Chesapeake Bay this summer -- a possibility -- it won't show up on any manager's to-do list: No official catch estimates to bother with, no regulations to write.
However, when MRFSS estimates claimed Ocean City's shore fishermen had caught more flounder in 2 months than all of MD's professional skippers will catch for their clients in 15 years---Despite that no flounder at all were reported from shore in September/October 2004 & 2006---When suddenly 36,017 were officially estimated to have been boxed-up and carried away from shore in the same period in 2007: EMERGENCY CLOSURE.
According to Official MRFSS Catch Estimates in 2009; Private boats, for the first time in history, began to out-catch party & charter boats in the sea bass fishery -- Big Time. 
When New Jersey's private boats, for instance, suddenly caught more sea bass in March & April, 2009 than they'd previously caught in all of their catch estimate history combined -- That was OK, This lunacy was easily accepted by management in their world's ocean of paperwork & computer screens because "Recreational Fishing Effort Is Hard To Predict" -- To management Any Catch Estimate Is Possible, it has only to appear on paper or screen.. 
So, with sea bass residing at their furthest offshore winter reefs, the New Jersey small boat skippers outfished that state's party boats by a wide margin -- this according to catch estimates that MUST BE USED in deciding fisher's fates.
In fact, according to those Official Estimates, NJ's private boats outfished the whole coast's party/charter boats: One state's private boats battled the challenges of weather & distance to catch more than double what all my colleagues in industry caught during the late winter period--How very Chuck Norris. 
Instead, it is terribly likely that one of the Bogan boats, the Big Jamaica, outfished NJ's private boats for the two month period on just one trip. The skipper would have filled out a VTR, vessel trip report, and sent it to NMFS. The for-hire sector's data is comparatively sound -- However, with no data coming from private boats any wild hallucination of catch can presently be made to stick.. 
According to MRFSS, private boat catch continued to accelerate in '09.
On paper, MA, NY & NJ's private boats suddenly and imponderably each outfished the whole coast's partyboat fleet..
And don't forget the March/April 2010 tautog estimate. Here Ocean City, MD's private boats -- less than 20 guys that are actually dialed-in and fishing during the period -- are Officially Estimated to have caught more tog than the whole coast's charter/party for-hire fleet.
What rubbish.
Complete --and expensive-- fantasy.
I could go on & on. Tremendous amounts of highly improbable and fantastically inaccurate catch estimate data are doing harm to fishers & fish.
That's why the Fed is spending BANK to change over to the MRIP system; it's also why licenses are mandatory now -- so we can get a head count.
A super-power, Pew Environment Group has just issued a call to write letters to fight HB 2304, the "Fisheries Science Improvement Act." This Bill would allow/force management to disregard Bad Statistics.
Pew has the power to ensure the next whacky estimate forces me into bankruptcy. They also have the power to re-reef the Chesapeake, Delaware & mid-Atlantic shelf waters.
Where hardbottoms are completely lost, no restoration of that area's ecology is possible without first restoring hardbottom.
Where localized extinctions of species --sperm whales centuries ago; "dead-man's fingers" sponge, oyster, scup & red hake decades ago-- have taken place: Restricting Catch Will Never Accomplish Restoration Without Addressing Habitat & Habitat Fidelity -- There are instances where species must first be reintroduced, There are instances where habitat must first be reintroduced..
I'm begging scientists to look into my assertions that easily damaged seafloor habitat has indeed been damaged; That vast regions of complex seafloor habitat have been lost forever during the last 75 years.
I'm looking for rocky areas robust enough that we might gain a glimpse of our deep-water pre-industrial sea floor, Places that might show us what the deeper reefs looked like before diesel engines towed dredges and nets across these rocky substrates and their then-pristine fish habitats..
I have several videos of our remnant corals in 25 fathoms or less - YouTube search Maryland Corals.. Now hunting at greater depths with Capt. Rick Younger's hand-made equipment.
I'm trying to prove that some species of fish & coral can be made incredibly more plentiful with common sense regulation and rolling rocks off a barge: That, indeed, any notion of 'fishery restoration' must have habitat as a vital component..
And the biggest "Environmental Group" is pushing for management's right to strangle fishers with whatever crazy catch data pops up in-system..
Hey Management: We need our cbass back. They were stolen by bad data.
Lower the size limit by a 1/2 inch this year.
Do it now.
Do it again next year.
Give us our full season back!
Hey Pew, there's some real environmental work needs doing -- I've spent about all I can on it this year.
Having deep pockets loaded with cash accomplishes nothing if the effort is misplaced. 
I've not heard back from my inquiries to politicians about the Fisheries Science Improvement Act.
Current management creates animosity in the recreational community because of Emergency Closures due to ludicrous assertions of catch.
Far better would be a reality-based management scheme where restoring habitat creates taxable income through far healthier fisheries.
We really need our sea bass back..
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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