Saturday, May 11, 2013

Fish Report 5/11/13

Fish Report 5/11/13 
Reef Dinner The 15th 
Been Diving, Not Fishing  
DC Conference – MONF3 

Have Room On Sunday's Tog Trip – Call 410 520 2076 For Info. 

Last Tog Trip Until Fall on Monday, May 13th -- A reef building/fishing trip. Need 5 or 6 anglers (OK w/8 too) willing to tote reef blocks & help deploy them at a nearshore reef. We'll begin loading at 7:00 and, hopefully, be tog fishing by 10:00. (blocks weigh 27 pounds apiece) Charging $50.00 each I won't cover expenses - but it'll take-up some of the sting. Looks to be a nice day – build reef, catch tog – Perfect. 
Reservations For Monday's Trip at 
410 - 520 - 2076.
LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way..

Please email me directly at my  address (because my siteone address is having major trouble) for questions about this reef building/fishing trip.

All Regulations Observed - 4 Fish @ 16 Inches. Tog limit drops to 2 fish on May 16th.
Green Crabs Provided. 

The Hall family is hosting and, as always, donating in its entirety our OC Reef Foundation fund raiser on Wednesday, May 15th from 5 to 7 at Hall's Restaurant, 59th street bayside in OC, MD. 
All you can eat Italian; This year we'll also have ham & beef carving stations served up by Anthony's Carryout. Look for great silent, Chinese & live auction items and a good time with many reef supporters. 

I have opened my reservation book to sea bass reservations. 
NMFS, however, will probably NOT announce our sea bass season until a few days before the season Starts May 19th—here it is May 11th. Perhaps I missed the press release... 
Ticket Prices For Sundays & Weekdays In 2013 are $110.00 - Saturdays $125.00.
Opening Day, Sunday, May 19th & Monday the 20th, however, will be Long Sea Bass Trips 6AM to 3:30PM - $125.00.. Ditto Friday & Saturday, May 24th & 25th.

Pre-regulation announcement sales will be transferable--BUT NOT REFUNDABLE.

I have every reason to believe May 19th will be correct. Unfortunately, these are dark times in Federal Fisheries Management. 

Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early.
Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat.. 

4,440 "oyster castle" reef blocks by the rail - 1,372 at Jimmy's Reef. 
Need To Fund A New Truck Load Of Reef Blocks!

Greetings All, 
Still no trips.. 
Well one, but we only spent 15 minutes fishing; a dive trip anyway. My highly experienced crew & I lowered crabs onto the fairly new wreck/reef, Radford, and caught sea bass (tagged & released) while rod & reel rookie (but deadly w/a speargun) dive-guy Capt. Jeremiah instantly puts an 8 pounder in the boat. 
Murphy's law relentless, we anglers perpetually endure fishing's reality. Still, as calm and pretty a day as you could ask, the enduring was easy this day. 
Diving at the Radford were famed underwater videographer Nick Caloyianis, and another world-class diver/local reef supporter, Ted Green. Documented since cleaning/prep & towing to position, perhaps the metamorphosis from Navy ship to reef will be a piece for TV one day.. 
A trade of sorts, I hope to get Nick and his 10s of thousands of dollars worth of u/w camera gear down on some of our natural corals soon—the ones we don't have in the science. . . 
You can spend half a day on Nick's website 
Went to the biggest fisheries conference I've ever heard of last week in DC. 
At the luxury Mayflower Hotel in DC; those folks sure like some fancy digs. 
Had 3 days of intense discussion with, literally, our nation's top fishery & marine ecosystem managers. Did not go for fun, went because I see/sense managers throwing in the towel on some species, regions, & aspects of habitat/fisheries restoration where we have failed to incorporate fishing's history, and crying "Uncle" because of climate change. 
Can't & Never are two words I really dislike from upper management. 
To illustrate climate change's reality, Alaskan superstar manager, Cora Campbell, described an enormous region of ocean now available to fishing that had always been ice before. Melting where Magellan & so many others failed to find a route around & above North America, the NW passage is now routinely transited by ships in summer. 
A reflection of our modern age; this new seabed, once protected year-round by ice, is closed to bottom trawl unless a permit applicant can demonstrate no harm will come to this unexplored benthos. Mighty big hurdle that; one which we surely did not benefit from on the East Coast over a century ago. 
I think it safe to assert any bottom habitats which could be lost to stern towed gears – were; have been for decades. While I have described small impacts (with very real result) to recently regrown bottoms, the major damage was virtually all done by 1975. 

NOAA has a "Blueprint" for river, estuarine & marine habitat restoration. 
Mid-Atlantic seafloor habitat, however, hasn't made it into the science yet and so certainly hasn't made it into anyone's restoration Blueprint. While conservation & preservation of what remains is admirable, those efforts cannot restore lost habitat and its associated fisheries production where no discovery has revealed their loss. 
I think I failed to convince anyone that fishing's oral histories would be vital to achieving real & lasting fisheries restoration. After all, the Mid-Atlantic is recognized globally as a leader in restoration because we have so many rebuilt species. 
Yet with no part of New England in sea bass production, commercial fishermen caught more sea bass in the 1950s than in the 60 years since combined. Now with that vast granite coast extending even above Cape Cod newly warmed enough to allow sea bass settlement & spawning, our sea bass are said to be rebuilt.. 
But we're closed — No Sea Bass Fishing Allowed Until...  
I'd say we've barely begun to restore that tremendous population of sea bass easily seen in fishing's history. 
And, if renewed efforts can get sea bass to where they were in the 1950s — then there's no reason to stop.. 
Regrettably, what I have heard repeatedly from top managers, people I truly respect, is NEVER. "We'll never see it as good as it was.." (see Kelly's Heroes 'Oddball')  
Because the best sea bass fishing I've ever seen was not in my first or second decade of fishing, but in the beginning of my third; and because that peak population is now well past: I'm positive managers have yet to fully grasp powerful nuances of their craft found in increased habitat production & forcing sea bass to spawn at a younger age.   

They are coming to it for sea bass & tautog though. Slow and steady is far better than "never."  
In the last month I've also heard, "coral will not grow on concrete" & "sea bass are abandoning the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight and moving north." 
Well, coral does grow on concrete. There's abundant evidence for that. 
Assertions of sea bass moving north failed to account the Florida/Georgia fishery. Yes, sea bass are able to thrive in rocky areas of New England where they haven't before. Regardless of this northern expansion, in the southern Mid-Atlantic we're very far from any contraction of the species' range that may occur. We'd have to have ocean waters warmer than Miami before sea bass found our ocean completely inhospitable. 

At the Managing Our Nation's Fisheries 3 conference (MONF3) I heard desperation in discussions of gulf oil rigs, the "Idle Iron" dilemma. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, BOEM, has sided with the Coast Guard in that old & abandoned oil rigs have to be dismantled to allow 85 feet of clearance. 
It's also true that red snapper are a singularly contentious recreational fishery issue with lots of closed season and strict limits. 
When they blow an oil rig for reclamation, red snapper die in numbers. (please watch this news report: )
When a ship strikes a coral reef they'd better have deep pockets & good insurance — The reef will be restored or NOAA & NGO lawyers will grind the company into dust. 
Yet these old oil rigs, loaded with corals and fish, have to go away.   
You'd think it a fairly easy matter to find mutually agreeable locations to reef these old rigs; to get them out of harms way yet allow their continued contribution to the Gulf's reef fisheries. 

There is a tension in management's sole use of catch and fish population estimates to restore fisheries, in their turning a blind eye to marine reef production when its so plain to see with u/w video gear. 
We really need to have the debate, "Artificial Reef: Attraction or Production." 
I don't know, maybe fish living on steel reefs don't spawn.. 

Though I about fell over when I got the hotel bill, I thought I found traction with some of my arguments at MONF3. 

600 people - I'm really glad I went. 

I chose my discussion-panel events not because they were my keenest interest, but because I felt those discussions would offer me a chance to spotlight either a weakening in management's resolve, or a sidelining of rational science by incomplete or ill-informed data..

For instance, "forage fish" on the east coast tend to be thought of as menhaden and, increasingly, shad & herring. These estuarine species are being driven into management with singular resolve by a large NGO. Many recreational fishing groups also plainly see a need for firmer management; yet sand eel and squid—incredibly important marine species—remain absent any "forage" consideration. 

It was Dr. Jon Hare's presentation at a different venue that caused me to consider our situation in the Mid-Atlantic as unique. Because the Gulf Stream is guided offshore & away by Cape Hatteras, while the cold-water Labrador Current plies its way south and inshore, we actually have a measurably higher sea level in the MAB than on the other side of the Gulf current: It must be that the Gulf Stream actually dams the Chesapeake & Delaware Bay's outflows along with the Labrador current's end.

It stands to reason that because nutrient outflows of CBay & DBay are bottled-up: the southern Mid-Atlantic Bight really is turning green faster than anywhere else 

..not that anyone's measuring. 

Science will see it plain as day in fishing's history though. 

The greening of our sea has had effects we don't comprehend. Where men fishing 40 & more years ago remember many white marlin regurgitating masses of sand eels; (they had to clean up the mess) fishers today have never seen sand eels in marlin. 

I would suggest this must mean that today's habitat capacity, often expressed as "K" in the literature, is lower; That our carrying capacity must be diminished if where these billfish once fed no longer has blue water—if the inshore sand eel populations are no longer accessible due to diminished water quality. 

Raising K, increasing habitat capacity for marlin, would mean restoring water quality to traditional billfish areas like Jackspot Shoal.  

No small task, but doable.  

Oyster reefs that maximize biofiltration are absolutely the best hope for restoring blue water. 

Spawning as they do over hard-bottom reef, I believe yesteryear's nearshore squid fishery is also simply replaced with artificial reef; believe the habitat and squid are repairable. 

Although the habitat repair won't be trawlable, I'm sure they'll find a way to catch those squid should they flourish again inshore. 

I reckon there'd be some sea bass there too.


We don't know how far gone marine water quality is & we don't know how diminished the seabed's habitat ..but we could find out by collecting fishing's history. 

I'm sure the repairs are going to be far beyond the scope of fisheries management. 

See some of you at the reef dinner. 



Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD


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