Monday, June 25, 2012

Fish Report 6/25/12

Fish Report 6/25/12
Cbass & (a very few more) Flounder
You Can Comment
Fishing 7 to 3 Almost Everyday - Longer on Saturdays - Keeping Most Sundays Open In Summer For Research - Plenty Of Weekday Spots Open - Reservations Required On All Trips @ 410 520 2076 - We Obey All Regulations Whether We Agree With Them Or Not: We Always Count & Measure - Bring Food & Beverage Plus A Cooler & Ice For Your Party's Fish - Dramamine The Night Before Is Cheap Insurance - Be Early, We Like To Leave Early Everyday, Rarely In On Time..
Hi All,
Good Fishing.
Had a client catch close to 150 sea bass for 13 keepers. Same guy, Hurricane Murray we call him, catches 15 keepers for just under a hundred next day. That's what it's been like.
Looked like Earl had a limit of cbass. Less skilled clients catching a lot too. Some folks in double-digits, some not -- fish fries around.
An odd cod, very rare tog; George snuck a limit of flounder over the rail while no one else had a keeper; Couple-few triggerfish..
Guys retired a few years boxing-up fish while younger guys wonder how in the heck they're doing it; A grade schooler on his first trip, A family out for a day's fishing; A daughter out fishing with Dad--special memory that: It's Summer
and the fishing's not bad.
I'd have bet my boat that we could not/would not catch weakfish/seatrout 30 miles from the inlet over a wreck.
I'd have lost.
Even had a few keeper trout in with the cbass that day.
Last few years I've been seeing trout earlier & earlier in the mud-sloughs where tube worms once grew. Now this year its crazy early.
Allowed one fish at 13 inches--we're not going to target them. Great to see though. What a fishery it used to be...
Put a double-anchored mooring buoy on Jimmy Jackson's Reef 6.5 NM E of the inlet.
The OC Reef Foundation's barge is loaded with 2 of the four 72 inch concrete pipe 'tog condos' we built this spring - looks like the others we built will get used on 3rd & 4th Street's Bob Mason Reef.
Just waiting for another calm..
Only 6 of these 'condos' have been built. Wish I could have clustered them, made a proof of concept reef.
Tog condos, you'll recall, are pipes with concrete blocks cemented in the center to form cubicles. I saw --but could not video that day-- a barge where the walls had fallen away revealing a "bookcase" structure - the reinforced framing of the barge created large honeycombing: Where typically you'd only have one dominant tog in a wreck's crevice, here there was a big tog in every cubicle - a bookcase of large tog: That's the habitat I'm trying to reproduce in concrete pipe..
Now picture 10 of these modified pipes, each with its own honeycombing, lined-up along the bottom with 8 more stacked atop pyramid-fashion and maybe a couple more as third-story penthouses -- That's one row of 10 pipes with 2 or 3 pipes in the vertical. Now picture 3 or 4 rows of these stacked tog condos close together with a couple barge loads of granite or limestone scattered overtop & around the rows..
Tog Heaven.
Lobster too.
Might even catch a cbass there.
In half a century almost every square inch would be coraled-over.
Those in the "attraction" camp would have this new reef drawing all its life from nearby existing reefs; They adhere to the belief building new reef must lower populations on other reefs and is therefore bad.
Those on the "production" side of the argument believe within a few years' time all the life-cycles on artificial reef substrates have become as natural.
Perhaps the Attraction camp will at least grant that the mussels & corals didn't crawl away from their old artificial reef to the new one; That here we see an absolute and irrefutable increase in a species biomass even if fish life cycles are too difficult to grasp.
Build that same tog-condo reef in the Chesapeake near the target ships where there's already a few tog and we'll create (or re-create) a new Maryland fishery. Probably give a whole lot of oysters a lift too; perhaps 'attracting' oyster spat from silted-over shell pavings.
Truthfully, I suspect sheepshead bones in colonial trash middens tell a tale of a species lost that had nothing to do with "overfishing." There's been no sign of the fishery for the last century that we've heard of. Now folks are catching sheepshead on the huge piles of demolished & then reefed Woodrow Wilson Bridge..
Near as I can tell, habitat loss figures into no Mid-Atlantic fish species management. Yet if we still had the vertical profile of the original oyster reefs we might well call tautog, "oyster wrasse" and catches of sheepshead would be no mystery..
There's no calculation that I'm aware of assigning a "decline of fishery production" value to lost oyster reef (reef-size measures we know well) nor can we value production gain in oyster reef restoration; There's no scientific work claiming XXX black sea bass, tautog, spadefish & sheepshead will recruit as larvae and survive the first months of life on X amount of oyster reef that's been restored to original profile.
No indeed; "Fish Habitat" is just something nice. We don't recognize '25 cbass are produced per square yard of estuarine reef' - We have no values to assign reef production.
We can pave the bottom with natural shell that's been artificially placed and get the same oyster restoration result we've had for over a century; We can break rocks up into small, thin pieces to mimic these very same shell reefs that haven't worked since the Civil War
..or we can engineer reefs that work then tweak them for increased fishery production: just have to figure out how.
I believe Reef Restoration Doesn't Just Make Fishery Restoration Simple, Its A Prerequisite For Making Further Fish Population Increases Possible.
I was asked why; Why does an ocean angler care what happens with oysters in Bay waters -- Waters I might never fish.
In short, Water Quality.
Bio-filter's broken.
The ocean grows greener, not more blue.
A skipper I spoke with had sailed from OC the year after the inlet was cut, was fishing in 1934 as the jetties were being built. He'd put his marlin baits out 4 miles off the beach then troll from Great Gull Shoal toward Fenwick Shoal - Catching Billfish Within Sight Of Shore.
Another skipper won a marlin tournament with fish caught 8 miles off the beach in 1958. Yes, he often fished the Jackspot too - that's about 20 miles out.
In 1961 a friend put 2 marlin on the dock: One was still alive. They were caught 5 miles out.
Another skipper, then a mate, remembers marlin, "Stacked up like a school of menhaden" about 25 miles out..
Personally, I've seen--not caught--two marlin inside 30 miles since 1980.
Many skippers today rarely put baits in the water until they're 60 miles out at canyon's edge.
I've asked many old-timers, 'Why are marlin further & further out?'
Each and every single one replied, "There's No Blue Water, The Water's Gone."
A retired airplane pilot -flew a run to Orlando for 30 years- said he watched blue water turn green during his career.
Restoring marlin to the Jackspot will require millions & millions & millions of oysters filtering our major estuaries. Many other fish--perhaps every other fish--will come along for the ride.
Still putting out Allied Concrete's Oyster Castles every trip. We have more than 30 multi-block units in some places (3 to 10 blocks in a unit) as well as 200 individual blocks on two sites where divers are going to tinkertoy the units underwater..
I've tried many different ideas for "Boat Deployable" reef material. These oyster castles are the first that I'm truly confident in.
Finished our 10th pallet - 720 blocks by the rail & now more - All have been sited on existing reef with either marginal performance or reef that had scoured in--was lost--yet now serves as a foundation for reef we build today.
Every deployment has been sited where hard & soft corals are known to grow
..corals known by fishermen at least.
Below I'll show you a small step forward in marine ecology/fisheries science.
You'll have to watch for it - its a very small step.
BOEM is the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
From their website: BOEM conducts and oversees world-class research and environmental reviews to support decision-making regarding offshore conventional and renewable energy...
Here from
"..Compared to the South Atlantic Bight, Mid-Atlantic Bight hard bottom habitats are sparsely distributed over the shelf and are composed of bare rock, gravel, shell hash, and artificial structures rather than limestone outcrops covered by algae, sponges, and soft corals..."
That summarizes the cutting edge of seafloor Marine Science in our region, "world class research" I believe they call it.
Unfortunately, this truly is a step forward. Used to be the work they'd cite (Wigley & Theroux 1981) had no rock at all -- It's all sand and mud in the Mid-Atlantic. Now science has at least discovered a little bit of 'bare rock' - Maybe they'll watch it to see if anything grows.. (imagine not using anti-fouling paint on a boat's bottom - submerged bare rock is a fantastic assertion unless they've only found rock recently impacted by stern-towed fishing gear.)
People think I'm kidding - Those videos I shot with a cheap underwater drop camera and a $99.00 Wal-Mart TV are about it for evidence that, A) We have any rock at all in the Mid-Atlantic, and B) Its only 'bare rock' if you scrape the coral off with some fashion of stern-towed fishing gear..
See & for my work but see especially for Nick Caloyianis' professional video footage. First minute is stills of impacted reef, rest is HD video of a favorite reef of mine. Can't tell if it is natural or artificial reef; Don't know if the rocks there were calved from an iceberg 1000s of years ago or lost from a barge in heavy weather during the 1980s. Positive the fish, lobsters & corals don't care.
Nose around some too - AMAZING underwater footage..
Anyway, BOEM wants public comment on their report.
I expect I'll send one.
If you're of a similar mind, Send it to Mr. Gary D. Goeke, Chief, Regional Assessment
Section, Office of Environment
Comment period closes very soon.
It would take a spectacularly short-sighted scientist to venture into the Chesapeake and expect to find oyster reefs as described in the 1600s -- he'd be openly laughed at by any credentialed ecologist. But these same & many scientists seem to have no trouble with a no-rock/bare-rock nearshore mid-Atlantic seabed; They somehow accept the twisted logic, "No habitat could possibly have been lost because none has been found.."
Restoring reef fish without a habitat restoration component is a world-class shame.
Restoring billfish to nearshore waters will not & can not occur with green water.
Re-Reefing the Mid-Atlantic would lift much of the burden from those tasked with fishery restoration.
Maybe BOEM will live-up to their "World Class Research" claim and check to see if our rocks really have natural anti-fouling properties, or perhaps find something's missing in the science.
See Comment Below.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Dear Mr. Goeke,
Regarding your agency's assumption that hard-bottom reef doesn't exist in the Mid-Atlantic Bight, please see the following for professional video footage. First minute is stills of impacted reef, rest is HD video of a very typical biotic assemblage of MAB hard-bottom reef.
From your agency's report: "..Compared to the South Atlantic Bight, Mid-Atlantic Bight hard bottom habitats are sparsely distributed over the shelf and are composed of bare rock, gravel, shell hash, and artificial structures rather than limestone outcrops covered by algae, sponges, and soft corals.."
Presumably, your BOEM's seabed charting will reveal hard bottoms -- it's not bare: In fact, its Essential Fish Habitat.
Please know I support both renewable energy development & oil exploration. However, the scientific bog of poor research pertaining to hard-bottom reef fish habitat must be replaced with far better ecological study.
Monty Hawkins
Berlin, MD
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"

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