Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fish Report 4/10/12

Fish Report 4/10/12
Toggin Along
Coral Castles
Sound Scientific Foundation
Going Toggin'
Friday, 4/13/12 - 7 to 3 - Inshore Trip - $100.00 - 8 Sells Out.
Saturday, 4/14/12 - 6 to 4 - $125.00 - 14 Sells Out.
Monday, 4/16/12 - 6 to 4 - Donald's Trip - Not Long Range, Not Swinging For The Fence - $125.00 - 12 Sells Out
Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - Leave Your Best Contact Number In Case Weather Forecasts Change.
Green Crabs Provided; You're Welcome To Bring Any Hard-Bait.
This Is Tog Fishing - It's Possible Some Clients Will Be Skunked.
Fishery Regulations Followed Or Exceeded - Yes, We Check Coolers & Fish.
Passage does not include exact location of fishing spots - Ever - GPS units float tested.
No Live Fish Leave The Boat.
Bring A Cooler w/Ice For Your Party's Fish.
So There! (Brooks, Mel: Blazing Saddles 1974)
Hi All,
Just toggin along; No incredible trips to report nor catastrophes either. 12 hour trip Wednesday was pretty fair considering the weather. There are a LOT more smalls biting now, some tiny. I don't know why--I don't understand how a fertilized egg becomes a 9 inch tautog 30 miles offshore or even 2 miles out: We're better for it.. would be far better for it if we knew how to positively influence succesful spawning settlement/survival. (bet it has something to do with estuarine/marine habitat though..)
Fish stories first, then I'm going to show just how unsound our recreational catch estimates are, how the veneer of "Best Available Science" is easily pulled away, how the carefully crafted scientific verisimilitude (Encarta definition '..the appearance of being true or real') can be broken down to reveal our recreational catch-estimate's abject scientific poverty.
Easter Sunday started with deployment of 10 more Oyster Castles; concrete blocks designed by Allied Concrete to interlock w/o mortar and serve as intertidal --high energy zone-- oyster reef substrate.
The Nature Conservancy was told by scientists, "You can't grow oysters here" along their VA Coastal Preserve. (pretty much runs from just below Chincoteague all the way to the Bay Bridge Tunnel) TNC told the oyster experts, "Thanks for the info but we'll try anyway.."
Now there are more oysters in Virginia's coastal bays than in all of the Chesapeake. I have a picture of what must be hundreds of thousands of dollars of shell mounded up - not a live oyster anywhere. On top of the dead shell-pile are a few of these concrete-block Oyster Castle units completely covered in naturally-spat oysters: Healthy, Live, Growing temperate reef; Oysters as fish habitat & estuarine water-filter writ in their primordial co-evolutionary fashion; Oysters found not on dead shell but on raised substrate..
So, We threw our (what I hope will now become) Coral Castles into a moderately productive artificial reef barge and pressed on
& on..
Greeted by slack current and a slooooow bite, the first-stop's highlight was a "Biggest Lost Fish T-Shirt Award" given to an anonymous but highly skilled fisher..
Ended the day with a few fish close to 10 pounds, maybe 1 over; dinners around I think, and 60 tags by the rail.
Monday's nearshore trip looked to be a splendid day on the water. Forecast was dropped to west at 15 to 20 - pretty day. Started by anchoring tight over a small boat the Ocean City Reef Foundation had sunk years ago. Caught a few keeper tog. Now a 16 inch size limit; throwing more back too.
Just before picking-up anchors to move from that first spot we dropped 10 coral castles into the small reef's cockpit.
I'm keeping careful record, want to be able to video growth..
Handful of people Monday, caught a few fish everywhere.
Wind started picking up about 10.
By 10:30 my hi-tech AirMar wind gauge was reading 32 to 35 with gusts to 40. What had been a few whitecaps became a smothered-white sea. Flags snapping; you could watch the tops being blown off waves.
Anchors retrieved and slowly tightening-up to the beach in a growing head-sea, we caught a few more tog in the lee of OC's condos.
Forecast of 15 to 20 went 30 to 40.. Everything with a grain of salt.
At least the fishing wasn't bad.
In 2010 there was an unusually high number of outrageous recreational catch estimates, some of which I've written about many times. The NJ shore-caught March/April tog estimate--where that state's jetty fishermen caught more tog in April than the entire east-coast's party & charter fleet did all year..
Where the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey -MuRFSS- estimated just 2,500 cod in late-winter/early spring 2004 for Massachusetts private boats; With an estimate of 2 million, 5 hundred-thousand cod in April 2010, these same anglers were purported to have caught in a few weeks what Massachusetts's commercial trawlers would catch all year .....
By early 2011 it was obvious big trouble was coming for tautog, over-estimate trouble. According to MuRFSS we had sorely 'overharvested' tautog in 2010.
Here in Maryland we had a spring private-boat estimate of almost 20,000 tog caught & landed.
In the same period so far this year I've seen 2 private boats targeting tog.
Last year I saw none.
Now being replaced by MRIP, (MuRFSS Rest In Peace or Marine Recreational Informational Program depending on how you read the acronym) many believe our recreational catch-estimate data has been "Fixed" as required by the Magnuson re-write of 2006..
Oh No.
I don't think so.
Not yet.
But that is what the press releases say.
I spent a lot of time in early 2011 contacting every coastal party/charter captain who might have gone togging in 2010--there's not many of us; Then assembled the 2 month by 2 month (wave by wave) estimates just as MuRFSS & MRIP might
..Except I actually asked participants how many they caught.
After putting all the numbers together, I sent my findings far & wide as a comment on MuRFSS/MRIP transition.
The estimate I put together for MD's coastal for-hire catch is very, very accurate and based largely on catch report data submitted weekly or monthly to NOAA/NMFS in mandatory Vessel Trip Reports--VTRs.
Recently I went back to check the finalized 2010 MuRFSS data--the estimates that were actually used to decide this year's tautog regulations. I couldn't believe it, MuRFSS had raised our for-hire catch by over 10,000 fish
..we've never caught 10,000 - let alone 10,000 more.
The first set of numbers below in blue is my MD For-Hire VTR Stakeholder Estimates 2010---The Collaborative Estimate Between For-Hire Fishers---What We Actually Caught abbreviated as WWAC.
Next you'll see the Original MuRFSS Estimate followed by the Final MuRFSS Estimate and, last, the "New & Improved" MRIP estimate..
Maryland For-Hire Tog Landings:
Wave I - Jan/Feb, WWAC 346 {Orig. MuRFSS Zero & Final/MRIP remained Zero - They Don't Estimate Wave 1}
Wave II - Mar/Apr, WWAC 1204 {Orig. MuRFSS Zero, Final MuRFSS 1,450 - MRIP 1,719}
Wave III - May/June, WWAC 1072 {Orig. MuRFSS 3,434; Final MuRFSS 11,836 & MRIP 11,836}
Wave IV - July/Aug, WWAC 18 {Orig. MuRFSS 10, Final 62 & MRIP 33}
Wave V - Sept/Oct, WWAC 405 {Orig. MuRFSS 310, Final 305 & MRIP 419}
Wave VI - Nov/Dec, WWAC 583 {Orig. MuRFSS Zero, Final 435 & MRIP 390}
2010 Stakeholder Est. Total: 3628 {Orig. MuRFSS 3,754; Final 14,087 & MRIP 14,397}
What was a lucky guess of only a hundred fish off for the year was corrected to 10,000+ wrong..
In that "Stakeholder Estimate" piece I had given the highest possible catches -- the perfect storm of fish always biting and anglers always going -- catches that were unlikely at minimum -- My Stakeholder Estimate for All Modes/All Waves 2010 Annual Catch Totaled 24,375 {MRFSS Orig. 74,570; Final 84,836 & MRIP 57,338} [Difference +50,195 / +60,461 & +32,963]
I was fishing hard in Mar/Apr 2010; A couple other party/charter boats were just starting to go. I don't recall any private boats being out until late in April.
When Party/Charter actually, honestly landed 1,204 tog; While we were fishing and quite often carrying the very same private boat owners whose boats are not yet ready for season; When we see very few or no small boats anchored-up over structure, MuRFSS has MD's private recreational boats catching 18,572 tog - MRIP estimates they caught 6,158.
In a perfect world MD's private boat's might, possibly, get to 900 fish. I honestly doubt our private boats have caught 18,572 tog in all the Mar/April periods ever--all added together since the invention of the outboard motor.
But that's the estimate managers had to react to; Their "Best Science Available."
Strangely missing in this fantastic Maryland tautog run & while NJ's shore anglers must have been smashing every conceivable record of fish caught per day/per hour/per minute: In Mar/Apr 2010 Maryland's shore anglers caught a goose-egg.
Best science around..
In a system that sometimes has errors of 500,000 fish or even several million, these data sets aren't remarkable. What makes these stand out are the catch values I worked out, very accurate values. Here then is a means to establish verisimilitude, A means with which to examine for truth.
You see, when fishery scientists present their data to management at, say, a Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting (MAFMC) they will quote not only a catch-estimate, but also offer a Percentage Standard Error or PSE that accompanies each data set.
Quite similar to accompanying plus/minus error in any political poll --the Margin of Error-- PSE is stated very matter-of-factly in regulatory meetings; It's quoted as if the ghosts of Einstein, Hubble, Copernicus, Galileo & Newton were present, solemnly sanctifying our 'best available science.'
MD For-Hire actually caught 18 tog in July/Aug 2010. MRIP has 33 with a PSE of 105.4 (an expression of one-half the total margin of error, here the actual catch could be 210% higher or zero..) MuRFSS has the estimate at 62 tog with a PSE of 109..
In theory these PSEs should ring an alarm - would be too high. However, in practice they'd be used anyway because, as always: "It's The Best Scientific Information Available" and these are tiny catches..
Also in the above examples I hold MD charter/party actually caught 1,072 tautog in May/June, 2010 -- that's probably not off by more than a couple dozen fish one way or the other.
MuRFSS holds we caught 11,836 tog in the same period and confesses a PSE of 27.4 -- MRIP says; No, it was 11,836 tog with a PSE of 8.6 -- A Claim Of Great Accuracy Is Made When The Estimate Is Factually Off By An Order Of Magnitude..
Trumpets blare in splendid tattoo: Here Is The New MRIP Catch Data, We've Fixed MuRFSS!
Instead, MRIP perpetuates a great scientific fallacy.
MRIP - MD - For Hire - 2010 - By Wave
Estimate Status Year Wave Common Name Total Harvest (A+B1) PSE
FINAL 2010 MAY/JUNE TAUTOG 11,836 8.6
Our "Best Science Available Science" has created a label, this PSE label, to assure managers of some level of accuracy, even high levels.
But there is no accuracy in either the estimates or their accompanying PSE's.
The distraction of bad data creates dissonance, leaves fishers wondering if truth will ever find a way into our system; Sends management off in full armor, charging-on with full regulatory might to lance over-fishing whether real or not.
Two anchors down, rods bow-up.
Drop a camera, corals & fish.
"Best Available Science" says there ain't no reef in the Mid-Atlantic. "Best Available Science" says even lots & lots of our corals would never become reef; Says only big, warm-water corals do that.
Best Available Science--MuRFSS & MRIP-- have Maryland party/charter at zero sea bass in May/June 2010 - That's just dumb.
I think fisheries science at the management level needs a serious re-write: Yes, catch-restriction is vital to restoration ..but so too is habitat restoration.
Reef Restoration Creates Resilience; Allows our fisheries to better handle temporary fishing overpressures & will be vital as changes in climate occur--Is key to restoring & then-preserving water quality.
Perhaps more important to a system single-focused on numbers of fish: Reef Restoration Increases Fishery Production.
There's some science we could use.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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