Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Fish Report 5/1/13

Fish Report 5/1/13 
Going Toggin &
Low Budget Reef Building 
Used To Be.. 
Please Comment -- OC Meeting May 2nd

Going Toggin – Saturday, May 4th, 6:30 to 3:30 -- $125.00 — Sell Out At 12. 
Sunday, Calmer/Less Swell, May 5th, 6:30 to 3:30 -- $125.00 — Sell Out At 12. 

After the success of Sunday past's reef building/fishing trip—I'll try it again Monday, May 6th. Need 4 or 5 anglers willing to tote reef blocks & help deploy them at Jimmy's Reef. We'll begin loading at 7:30 and, hopefully, be tog fishing by 10:30. (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. 
No Reservations For Monday's Trip: Please email me directly.

No Live Tog Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (I Believe The Live-Fish Black Market Is Hurting The Tog Fishery)
All Regulations Observed - 4 Fish @ 16 Inches.
Green Crabs Provided. You're welcome to bring any hard bait or shrimp: Lobster, White Crab, Blue Crab, Hermit Crab: Even Gulp Crab .. No Squid, No Clam = No Dogfish.
Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early.
Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat.. 

Reservations Required @ 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..

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. 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.

4,392 "oyster castle" reef blocks by the rail - 1,372 at Jimmy's Reef. 

Greetings All, 
Enjoyed some decent tog fishing over the weekend. Frank L even tagged a double digit fish. Despite several anglers having fat-fish limits Saturday, one fellow — not a rookie — caught every species possible except tog.. 
Its a tough fishery. There is no explaining it. 

Had 5 guys show up Sundayincluding Stu & Mike, to help load the boat with reef-blocks; only Frank, George & Bob could go out for the deployment & fishing.. 
Tide and wind perfect, those 156 blocks hit their mark. By noon, however, anchoring was as tough as it could possibly be. We had to work for every fish ..then it turned back on. Nice Fishing.  

Used to be May 1st was the kick-off of sea bass season. Not an "official" gun-shot start like NMFS will announce when finally able, but partyboats going out with a light rail to see if cbass had moved inshore yet; a gradual ramping-up of pressure. 
I suppose fishery managers think it nothing more than a strange coincidence that we had our highest sea bass abundance of the last 35 years a decade before this silliness started with emergency closures and much shorter seasons.. I suppose they shrug it off; fish abundance simply being as quirky as a tog bite. 

What a terrible waste of economic & fish population potential. 
That peak abundance of 2003 was no quirk, was no accident — it was fishery management working. 

When I was enforcing boat-only regulations in the early 1990s we saw incredible gains—increases in sea bass catch & population were rapid and blatant. Federal & state regulation finally got going on sea bass in the late 1990s. The cbass population seemingly grew bigger every year despite the extent of recreational measures being size-limit only regulation. 
From 1997 to 2002 I would average about 35/40 people per day from May 1st to May 19th; would catch fish regulated only by size restriction up until 2002 when the first bag limit of 25 fish per-person was enacted. 

During that period our sea bass population exploded along DelMarVa. 

Now, using recreational catch estimates no one believes, we have shorter & shorter seasons with less & less cbass production. 

I'm not getting any traction with my "age at maturity" thesis, but I guarantee when the size limit was 9 & 10 inches — Every Sea Bass Big Enough To Leave An Estuary Was In The Spawning Stock. Even some sea bass that had not reached their first birthday were spawning. 

Now they start spawning at age 3 or so —12 inches— just practicing at that. 
This is right when they are 'recruiting' to the fishery too, right when we start boxing them up. 
Today's spawning stock biomass is a fraction of what it was before 2002. 
I have lots of detailed work on this; Have studies from the early 1990s to way-back showing how scientists then believed sea bass would begin to spawn at "age 2 or 3" --- but those same scientists thought a 7 inch sea bass was age 2 – a 9 inch cbass age 3.. 
Today we know that 7 inch fish had just turned 1, was 12 or 13 months old .. 

I was told in 1992 that every sea bass had spawned by 9 inches, some twice. Solidly spawning in age 1, it was a true statement then. 
Now virtually no sea bass have spawned by 9 inches — 12 inches seems to be about right, some later still. All those new spawners will become legal during their first summer in the spawning stock. What could go wrong? 

Unfortunately, when I think of recreational catch estimates I often recall a bucket of menhaden I'd left on the dock for three hot July days in my youth. Maggot ridden, we had to use it for lobster bait — it was all we had and it worked. 
For a long time managers had this same circumstance: Because ANY catch restriction created benefit to our fisheries in management's early days, even maggot-infested catch estimates were usable. 
Now we see sea bass production is at a fraction of its peak; We see tautog effort skyrocket because sea bass are closed: All the turmoil in recreational regulation is owed only to the random nature of our catch estimates. 

When MD lost the December tog fishery it was because of a Shore Estimate. Even though everyone involved knew there was no catch from shore in December; because the data showed some crazy high jetty catch in November, managers split the November/December wave to get the required "Reduction" in catch. What looked true on a computer screen was well known to be just that — only true on a computer screen. 

We lost December tog through use of a catch estimate that everyone knew was not true, that everyone involved understood was only a "trick." 

We lost our May sea bass season to catch estimates described by a senior NOAA scientist as data, "No one with a brain in their head would believe." 

Our Essential Fish Habitat source document officially has sea bass habitat defined thusly: "Structured habitats (natural & man-made) sand and shell substrates preferred.  

That's the best available science alright..

Not that we have any corals off our coast yet, but at least no one's requiring corals be "Reef Building" before they are considered 'fish habitat forming.'  

Management knows they've built themselves into a box with bad estimates; they know its about to get much worse for us with Recreational Accountability Measures. 
These people are not liars, they are not "Out To Get Us." They are abiding the law by "using the best available science" no matter what's available more resembles sun-baked larvae infested stench then good, fact-based, science..  
Now there's an amendment before the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) that will allow managers to more fully consider an estimate's truthfulness—Its Veracity—before drastic action to close fisheries is taken as a result of bad estimates. 

We need the Omnibus Amendment for Recreational Accountability Measures to be approved by the MAFMC without being watered down. 
You should contact your state's reps to the Mid-Atlantic Council & also comment with the info below. 

Believe me, not everyone will agree how our estimates are used needs to change… 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Ocean City, MD 


Comments Due by May 15th. 
See May 2nd Ocean City Meeting Notice & Link To Federal Register at -- Other state's meetings at   

Now ByEmail: Send Comment To: Be sure to put Rec AMs in subject line..

Or put a stamp on it – Always More Impact. 
Snail Mail Comment To: 
Rec AM Amendment - Jim Armstrong
800 N. State Street - Suite 201 
Dover, DE 19901  

Dear Chairman Robins, Dr. Moore & Mr. Armstrong, 
I'd like to urge Council to consider creating the strongest possible defense against poor recreational catch estimates. Because catch estimates have grown worse, not better, while management's need for accuracy has grown greater, the management community MUST be allowed to use the full statistical answer to, "how many fish did they catch?" and not just an estimate's centerpoint.  
Below are my selections from the Recreational Accountability Measures comment sheet. 

1D) Alternative 1D. ACL/ACT Post Hoc Evaluation. The ACL/ACT that was set for a given fishing year is re-evaluated based on an updated assessment.

 2C) Alternative 2C. Eliminate In-Season Closure Authority. Regulatory language regarding monitoring / closure of the recreational fisheries will be removed. This alternative, if chosen, would reflect a preference for addressing recreational overages in subsequent fishing years rather than imposing an early closure.

 3C) Alternative 3C. Confidence Interval. When a stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring for that stock, the recreational sector ACL will be evaluated based on an annual comparison of an appropriate confidence interval of the total catch estimates (landings and dead discards), where the entire confidence interval (i.e., including the lower confidence limit) is above the recreational ACL to trigger an AM. Both landings and dead discard estimates will be evaluated in determining if the recreational sector ACL has been exceeded.

 4C) Alternative 4C. Payback when Stock is Overfished or when OFL is Exceeded. ... the overage (in pounds) will be deducted, as soon as possible, from a subsequent single fishing year recreational sector ACT only if the stock is overfished and/or OFL has been exceeded AND B/Bmsy is <1. When these conditions are not met, AMs will consist of adjustment to bag/size/season and in-season monitoring for early closure when the recreational overage caused OFL to be exceeded, but B/Bmsy >1, or caused ABC to be exceeded. In-season monitoring only will occur when only the Rec ACL has been exceeded.

Thank You For Your Consideration, 


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