Friday, July 22, 2011

Fish Report 7/22/11

Fish Report 7/22/11
Sea Bass & Flounder
Ocean Breeze
Bohnsack's Folly
Special Flounder/Cbass trips 7/29 & 30th - 5:30 AM to 3:30 PM - $125.00 -- BYOGulp & Spro Bucktails -- Will Supply Bait As Ever -- Reservations @ 410 520 2076
Otherwise Fishing Daily 8+ Hour Trips..
Hi All,
A few MD limits of flounder lately. Young Cross --12 years old?-- spanked even me today; bagged-out.
Seeing some decent summer sea bass fishing too..  
It's painful to come back in from fishing.
Some heatwaves carry out to sea and we roast; Most stop at ocean's edge; this one thankfully.
Nice days of fishing. Cool ocean breeze & some great catching. Dense fog near shore: Broil when we come in.
Tropical depression far offshore & gone -- we skated out from under it
..this time.
Soon the 563 foot Radford will have cleared her final government hurdle and be sunk as an artificial reef substrate.
Big son of a gun.
Grow a lot of fish on it. Coral too.
Twice now I've had super-senior fisheries people tell me that artificial reef building is just a "feel-good project."
Judging by all the fish that we've caught on them, I have to admit they're right: It does feel good to have a great day's fishing.
Of course, what they meant was reefing was of no consequence in the grand scheme..
With oysters at <1% of their original footprint, I'd think re-reefing the Chesapeake of great and wonderful consequence.
With so many large areas of natural hardbottom habitat lost to the early industrial fisheries of the last 75 years, I'd think re-reefing the shelf-waters of the Mid-Atlantic Bight pretty important too.
I'm very nearly alone in that right now, but things can change in time..
There was a famous scientist in Darwin's time, Thomas Huxley. Despite many good works, his thoughts on the impossibility of catastrophic overfishing haunt.. "Any tendency to over-fishing will meet with its natural check in the diminution of the supply ... this check will always come into operation long before anything like permanent exhaustion has occurred."
-- Thomas Huxley, 1883 address to the International Fisheries Exhibition in London (where there is a very nice collection of quotes)
It's called Huxley's Folly.
Centuries before that famous quote, fishermen were complaining of habitat loss caused by newfangled fishing gear..
The forward edge of fisheries science has ongoing habitat loss concurrent with fish population depletion causing Huxley's undoing......
Now we have Bohnsack's Folly.
I'm dead-certain that catch restriction is vital to fisheries restoration. Been doing it a long time.
I'm also positive that it's not a stand-alone program......
See Letter Below.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
"Adding more habitat is not the issue," said James A. Bohnsack, a research fishery biologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries. "You need to protect the fish populations."
I strongly disagree with Bohnsack's statement and wonder if his poor grasp/gross ignorance of seafloor habitat abundances & declines in the Mid-Atlantic is truly representative of NOAA's position.
Having spent over a decade trying to get this region's corals & hardbottoms into management's view without success; This assertion "habitat is not the issue" does indeed seem NOAA & NMFS - Commission & Council's true logic.
I used to catch sea bass --a lot of sea bass-- at these places: Sleepy Ledge, Jenk's Hang, Coach George's Rock, Mike's, The Lobster Hole, Nareg's, George Strawn's, Ike's Raining Rock, Matt's Spot, Sabrina's -- These fishing spots have been lost in my time: What was Reef is no more.
The fish that grew, sheltered, fed & spawned at these places were either caught at the time of habitat loss, suffered predation, or moved to a new reef where they must have necessarily been more concentrated upon robust reef that had not been lost to stern-towed fishing gear damage.
These had been fairly small spots well-grown with sea whip, star coral or tube worm colonies; Some measured in square yards, others in acres.
Men who fished the Mid-Atlantic before my time tell me of habitat loss in square miles - in huge dimension.
Their experiences & my own smaller-scale habitat impact events belie Bohnsack's assertion and reveal his ignorance: Seafloor habitat is, especially today, very much a key issue.
Creating habitat --building reef-- can not concentrate mid-Atlantic reef fish, It can only thin them out as new habitat is created. It is then a perfectly natural response on the fishes' part that they attempt to populate any new reef.
The same is true of natural substrates that are allowed, only by luck so far in our region, to regrow, to recolonize with the many sessile creatures that form our reef ecologies: Where reef is allowed to regrow, even by accident, fish will propagate.
Reefs built in the late 1960s off the coast of Maryland are now grown-over with half a foot and more of star coral - Reef fish absolutely prefer these live corals over hardbottoms that once flourished with growth but are now collections of broken shell and sand waves.
A growing habitat footprint is key to real fisheries restoration.
Bohnsack's "You need to protect the fish populations" is only part of the solution: The done part.  
His portrayal of habitat in this region highlights science & management's ignorance.
Where hardbottom is completely lost, no restoration of that area's reef fishery is possible without first restoring substrate then allowing recolonization of reef life..  
NOAA needs 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 sure 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..
The picture enclosed is from 6/20/11 at 2:30 AM -- Is this reef artificial or natural? Might the lobster in the foreground, the sea bass in the background, or the hard and soft corals growing there care?   
Personally, I'd put Bohnsack's opinions in concrete and build reef with them; That, at least, would be a real contribution to fisheries restoration.

Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD.  

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