Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fish Report 5/17/12

Fish Report 5/17/12
Sea Bass Open 5/19
Mother Nature
Two Kinds Of People
The Morning Star will be fishing for sea bass and whatever else lives on our reefs (except tog) nearly every day until October 11th..
Advance Reservations Recommended. See for more info. Pay no attention to the picture of the young fellow in the upper left corner.. We'll also try to pick up a few tile trips this summer which will be announced right here.
Hi All,
Hauled the boat Tuesday. Been 8 months; Went ahead and put a fresh coat of bottom paint on, cleaned her sea-water strainers -- Ready.
Just got an email from NMFS in Gloucester (at the request of MAFMC) informing us sea bass will open May 19th.
Getting a weather report that says, 'Yeah, maybe.'
Might get a day out of it Saturday--Mother Nature always has veto power. Later in the week looks great.
Believe me, there were times tog fishing these last few weeks when I had FISH under my boat--cbass are stacked up on some reefs.
There are skippers who worked hard to get sea bass open, managers too. I know some folks in Annapolis put in a serious effort so we could have a few more days of fishing; People at NOAA & MAFMC were fighting for us.
When Capt. Adam Nowalsky made the motion to move the start date from May 22cnd to May 19, some knew then it was going to be tight: Here the very regulatory pathway designed to give us a fighting chance at killing bad regulation almost prevented a good one coming our favor..
My Thanks To All The Lifters.
Hall's Restaurant donated another fine evening to the Ocean City Reef Foundation. All Tackle, Ake Marine & Oyster Bay tackle shops donated piles of stuff for the Chinese auction. Dick Arnold donated incredible framed photos.. Its usually our biggest fundraiser.
Again, My Thanks To All The Lifters.
There's so very much we could do with reef building. Need to shift management's focus off catch restriction; Broaden it. Need to fund re-reefing the Mid-Atlantic.
Going to spend 2012 re-reefing one block at a time, One "oyster castle" at a time.. (well, 18 or so at a time.)
In fact, we dropped two 8 block units our last trip out.
All these cbass closures have really put the heat on our tog. Time to give them a rest. They've been hit much harder since the 2009 sea bass emergency closure. Based on terrible data, our sea bass catch-estimates grew far worse in 2010.
Opportunity now to put some nice sea bass in a skillet means more tog will fatten up on mussels.
Shifting effort back to sea bass & throwing back 10 pound tog is how we make 20 pound tog..
Be cotton-candy if we had blues, mackerel & seatrout like we used to.
I've spent over a decade trying to convince management that A) We have reefs off our coast, B) Fish benefit from them, & C) It is precisely the knowledge of habitat and fidelity that is most crucial in quota management.
I'm also trying to convince them their recreational catch statistics more closely resemble codswallop than science; That they can devise a fairly simple method to test catch-estimates for accuracy.
Now I want to convince them "Recreational Overfishing" of sea bass is nearly imponderable with size & creel regulation; That "Over-Managing" -- not over-fishing -- is hampering the sea bass fishery..
Kendall's 1977 review of sea bass knowledge states emphatically: "Larger fish are all males. Nearly all fish >25 cm (9.8 inches) are males. Thus catches of large fish will consist of males."
To get all this you have to understand every sea bass begins life as a female--only some fish will change to male as spawning requires.. Seemingly happens in many reef fish.
Anyway, bet your last dollar it was true in 1977---That, Yes, many 7, 8 & 9 inch fish had already switched. In fact, in the late 80s & early 90s scientists told us ALL sea bass had spawned by 9 inches--Some Twice.
Now, however, with the 12.5 inch size limit in place, very few sea bass have switched even by 12 inches and almost none by 9..
Under today's management Kendall's observation that "nearly all sea bass 9.8 inches are male" is completely flipped: If there is only legal recreational pressure on a given reef then there will be No Male Sea Bass Under 10 Inches -- None.
They'll all be female.
And, importantly, I bet none will have entered the spawning population.
Our black sea bass population currently behaves as though their reef populations were at peak; They're naturally slowing down spawning activity as every animal in the world does in an overcrowded situation. But their cue is not in "crowding" or reef population density as I once thought it must be. No, instead it is the size of other fish around them that triggers or delays spawning.
Our sea bass spawning population is now a pyramid where the fish who have survived nature--who have managed to feed & not be eaten for years, who have evaded the commercial 11 inch size limit, who have survived recreational release even 4 or 5 times; Those fish that lived 3 years are just beginning to spawn ..and that's exactly when we catch them.
I think there'd be many, many more cbass in the ocean with just an 11 inch limit across the board - many more cbass spawning.
There are people working hard to help recreational fishers get more season from today's management process. There are intricacies in fisheries politics I can't begin to fathom, yet these folks have them mastered..
Still, a few simple biological responses rest in the void between sea & screen, they represent some of management's greatest tools unused.
"..two kinds of people in the world it seems, those who lift & those who lean."
Strikes me the challenge is in getting all the lifters headed in the same direction.
Gonna be some good fishing for a while.
You ought to come see us.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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