Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fish Report 8/14/11

Fish Report 8/14/11
Sea Bass & Flounder
Radford Reefed
The Effect Of Lost Fish Habitat Is Always Lost Fishery Production. 
It Is Far Too Late To Re-Create "Natural" Fish & Oyster Populations From Natural Habitat.
Deep Drop - Tuesday, September 6th, 3 AM to 7 PM, Deeper, Hunting Golden Tiles --NOT CBass & Bluelines-- $250, Seven People Sells Out Leaving Room For Capt. & Crew To Fish Some Too! No Electric Reels, Ever. 
Labor Day Special Trips: Saturday & Sunday, September 3rd & 4th, 2011 -- 10 1/2 Hour Sea Bass -- 5:30 AM to 4 PM -- $150.00 
Monday, September 5th -- Traffic Beater -- 5:30 AM to 1:30 PM - 8 Hour Sea Bass/Flounder - $100.00
Fishing Nearly Everyday -- Sea Bass & Some Flounder -- Reservations Required.
Please arrive 1/2 hour before scheduled departure with food, water, beverage & a medium-sized cooler w/ice for fish. We often -almost always- leave early. Show up late and you'll see the west end of an east bound boat.
Many have pre-paid for boat t-shirts -- They're in and available to all.
Hi All,
Fishing remains very OK for sea bass.
Had a fellow fish flounder everyday last week. Bob must have been kidnapped and abused by a school of fluke in Raritan Bay as a youth. In revenge he wants to see them ALL iced in a cooler. He started the week with two limits of flounder, then fell in a heap.
Those targeting sea bass, however, generally did quite well for August.
While we have seen decent flounder fishing, its not consistent; Clients sometimes have to suffer with just cbass in the skillet.   
Also seeing a handful of inshore mahi/dolphin/dorado -- Fun & Tasty.
Went up to see the 563 foot Destroyer, Arthur W. Radford, being laid to reef Wednesday. With two WWII tragedies nearby--sunk by German U-boat, and at least 5 huge Bethlehem Steel wooden drydocks sunk in the late 70s -- as well as recent additions of subway cars & smaller ships from Delaware's reef program; There was plenty of structure to fish over while we waited for the Radford to sink.
Fishing was tough -- just caught dinner.
But seeing the Radford was awesome!
Modifications to the ex-Navy Destroyer under the guidance and vision of Delaware's Jeff Tinsman --with Hugh Carberry, NJ's Reef Coordinator & Erik Zlokovitz of MD-- are incredible. They have created a masterwork.
From what I could see, every possible effort was made to maximize flow throughout the ship.
Without new water the interior of a shipwreck or artificial reef deoxygenates--is dead space--doesn't contribute to production.  
We'll see sea bass, cod, red hake, fluke & the beginnings of a tog population come from this new, extra-large reef unit; This the nearly guaranteed success common to virtually every reef unit sited in our region. However, with good fishery management--and owing especially to increased water flow engineering; in 30 years the tog population on this reef should be astonishing.
I pledged another $1,000.00 from the 50/50 reef raffle we hold everyday to the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI) to help with MD's share of the 3 state Radford project...... . . .
Everytime we put something on the bottom it grows coral. We could paint a whole reef unit in the most toxic boat bottom paint yet devised; Coral will win in time. You can't stop it. 
Unless you scrape it away.
The other thing that always grows on reef is fish.
Here's where catch restriction comes into play: We can fish reefs too hard, Management can over-regulate populations into reduced spawning capacity, We can remain unconcerned with release mortality and foolishly allow future catches to instead feed blues, sharks & gulls: But Please Understand that there must first be 'reef' so there can be 'reef fish' to make these mistakes with -- Where there is no reef, catch restriction management offers no benefit.
An old skipper used to longline grouper in 50+ fathoms very near the Washington Canyon. I have the exact coordinates to the reef where those fish lived, to where there was a large enough grouper population to attract commercial effort in the central mid-Atlantic.
I can not find that reef. 
I think it's gone.
How might our present fisheries management system of size, season & creel limits rebuild that lost population of grouper to where there's no reef left?
Anywhere the biotic assemblage of growths have been scraped away by fishing gears, fishery production is either brought to a crawl or full stop.
Growth, especially upon flat rock, is easily scraped away with gear that is used in deep water fisheries.
The deeper growth occurs, the longer it takes to regrow.
Mid-Atlantic coral growths alone can not stop stern towed fishing gear -- There has to be substantial rock or, from modern times, wreckage to prevent habitat damage.
Conversely, The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council assigns a very large percentage of red snapper quota to Alabama.
A reef fish; There has never been natural red snapper reef habitat in the area: All Of Alabama's Snappers Are Caught On Artificial Reef.
They realized it in the 1950s and went to work creating productive fish habitat..............
Every article I read after the Radford sinking claimed, "The reef will attract fish.." 
It is much more correct that, in time, "The reef will contribute to fisheries production."
Alabama's artificial reefs do no attract red snapper from Florida's more southern natural reef ecologies: They produce their own. This is reef production for all to see; Human manufacture actually..
Unfortunately, because it is in our nature to follow the path of least resistance; when Bohnsack, Pew and the many others pronounce from the highest peaks of science that "Adding more habitat is not the issue" That allows management to say, 'See? Best available science right here. All we need to do is control overfishing.' (Bohnsack, of south Florida where presumably they have tropical & not temperate reef, quoted in reference to building reef in the mid-Atlantic where science has yet to even discover our inshore corals. Sadly therefore, his scientific opinion --however ill informed-- is indeed our best available science.. -
Here from a 1961 study: California Fish Bulletin 146, Man-Made Reef Ecology: Summary & Conclusions -- Page 198
Brackets { } are mine, BOLD original but emphasized. Parenthesis ( ) & quotes are original. is apparent that "non-productive" areas of nearshore ocean floor can be made "productive" by installation of relief structures {artificial reef}. Initially, these structures attract fishes from surrounding areas and present a substrate suitable for development of the complex biotic assemblages {reef growths, e.g. mussels & coral} typical of natural reefs. As these new reefs mature, biological succession occurs and fishes which may have been initially attracted only to the structures are incorporated into the reef community in response to increasingly available food and shelter. Ultimately (in about 5 years) a natural situation is attained and the plant & animal populations exhibit fluctuations typical of {natural} reef ecosystems.
Readers may be interested in my Dec. '10 habitat video. YouTube Search "Maryland Corals" -- Sections will give you an idea of what the Radford will look like after a few decades..............
Two days before the Radford was reefed, NOAA issued a press release stating that the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey -MRFSS, we say Murfs- will still be managers' guide to recreational catch; That the new catch-estimating program -MRIP (Murfs Rest In Peace)- based in part on license sales, isn't quite ready.

Oh man, Crazy Uncle Murfs has found a bit more money and gone back to the liquor store while on medication. Soon to live his final days; It's a bad time for MRFSS to be back out in public.
Called by management the "best scientific information available" and therefore its use required; MRFSS is thought by recreational fishers as a scandal, not science.
I don't know how it can be, but accusations of overfishing by MRFSS have never been defeated in court.
Its odd that from 1990 until 2008 charter/party, the For-Hire boats, nearly always outfished private boats in the mid-Atlantic's reef fisheries--often by huge margins as measured by MRFSS estimate and fisher's opinion: But, starting in 2009, skippers such as myself were suddenly being outfished 4 to 1 or better by these private boats.
What an abrupt shift. 
Suddenly, all these outboards & inboards were now fishing fantastically harder and with better luck despite tightening regulations and in the Great Recession.
This shift is made stranger still when every marina's books will testify fuel, bait & slip leases were down............
MRFSS based management sometimes slides along in fortunate happenstance, doing no harm; But when catch estimate errors too large or small occur, either fish or fisher suffer.
Current Best Science: Of Course There's Enough Habitat. Water is unmistakably evident; It must be overfishing that's holding fishery restoration back. Science has discovered no reef habitat in the Mid-Atlantic and that's that.  
Current Best Science: Of Course Maryland's Private Boats Caught More Tautog In The Spring Of 2010 Than Every Party Boat On The Whole Coast Combined. (I'd bet our local private boats didn't take more tog than even my clients, let alone the whole coast; But the simple existence of the accusation will suffice to tighten regulations up & down the coast) 
New 'best sciences' would do fishery restoration a world of good...............
Herbert Simon wrote: "A plowed field is as natural as a highway."
He also wrote, "Anything that gives us new knowledge gives us an opportunity to be more rational." 
It is far too late to re-create "natural" fish & oyster populations from natural habitat. Modern management must learn to maximize marine resources both by catch restriction & maximized habitat production from restored and enhanced habitats.
When an oyster settles on hard substrate and grows--as opposed to settling into an ever-growing depth of silt and perishing; Or a fish, hidden among corals, survives to spawn: That is Fishery Production.
Successful spawning & growth means it won't be long before a human will have something to eat, sell, have fun catching -- or set aside that it might contribute to even greater production..
Although it's titled Pew 'Environment' Group, Pew's latest press release "In Cod We Trust" features nothing of a gigantic effort up north, the biggest document I've ever seen; The New England Fishery Management Council's Habitat Omnibus Amendment.
Pew's press release offers a slick-glossy timeline that shows how catch restriction has grown tighter & tighter beginning in 1976; They are especially proud of recent "sector divisions" ..but Pew "Environment" offers nothing about the most comprehensive fisheries habitat plan in the world.
As best I can determine, the New England Fishery Management Council passed their first Essential Fish Habitat Management Plan in 2007.............
I've spent a solid 20 hours this week correlating tag data to send to the various programs I work with. Bluefin Tuna with the Billfish Foundation & NOAA's "Tag A Tiny" program: Summer flounder, sea bass, tautog, even some cod, with American Littoral Society--ALS; And cod with the Mass. School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST) program.
For 15 years we've tagged the odd cod -- 5, 10, 20 a year. We've tagged more & more over the last few years with a short-lived peak of over 100 in 2007.
This year we've tagged many hundreds of cod and kept hundreds more for dinner; We tagged cod this week --in mid August-- and caught keepers too; We've tagged more in a day than we could catch in a year; We've tagged more cod in a week than we would catch in a decade: This year I advertised and sold winter cod trips leaving from Ocean City, Maryland for the first time since about 1974.
Thirty five years of catch restriction is shown in Pew's pretty timeline, yet the sudden rise of cod numbers here in the first 3 years of NEFMC's habitat management is nothing short of astonishing.  
Note to management: You need catch restriction but it can't stand alone.  
When JFK said "We chose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard." He wasn't saying we should always do things the hard way -- Management Must Also Focus Attention On Habitat.
Millions of trawl & dredge hours over nearly a century, some of it by the biggest foreign fishing ships ever put to sea with a net; This incredible amount of effort was and remains unrestricted regarding habitat impact. As snow must melt in coming sun; A fantastic amount of reef-like habitat must have gone missing since the dawn of industrial fishing.
Up & down, sideways-spinning recreational catch estimates causing needless emergency regulations to control hallucinations of catch must not remain our best science.
The effect of lost fish habitat is always lost fishery production. 

Habitat Restoration Makes Fishery Restoration Simple.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076 

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