Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fish Report 8/11/13

Fish Report 8/11/13 
Flounder & Sea Bass 
Letter In Coastal Fisherman 
Attraction vs Production 
Consensual Delusion 

Book's Open. Now Taking Reservations Through October 15th.. 

Sailing Daily

Reservations For Sea Bass/Flounder Trips at 410 - 520 - 2076. 

See much more info at   

Bring A (not so big) Fish Cooler With ICE For Your Party.. We want to avoid keeping the chips & hoagies cold while fresh fish cook in a hot bucket.. 

Wrote a piece for last week's Coastal Fisherman about how oyster restoration relates to bluewater fisheries such as marlin.. 


Eight Hour trips $110.00 - 7AM to 3PM – Saturdays 6AM to 3:30PM - $125.00 

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.. 

Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early.

Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat..  


6,672 'Oyster Castle' Reef Blocks By The Rail. Now 2,060 at Jimmy's — 1,106 at Ake's. 

Soon Need To Fund Another Truckload. This is going to work, is working, just need to reach a tipping point where others grasp the ability of small boats to build large reefs.. See if you'd care to help fund the next truckload. 

Greetings All, 
Typical for late summer; fishing's not always easy. We're sending almost everyone home with a good fish fry, some days much better. The mix of flounder/cbass has been more even – occasionally catching flounder on clam and sea bass on strip baits.. 
There are days, however, when one species dominates. This Saturday was all flounder.  Last Saturday was all sea bass.. 
If you really have your heart set on one species and not the other — stay away. We will fish for what's biting – not what you were hoping for.. 

Backward. Sea bass seemed like the thing Friday so I got on the PA system & advised everyone to stay with cbass baits. Next drop we had 4 keeper flounder, some on clam. Mr. Charles was high-hook on flatties & took everyone's money. 
Tuesday we had a nice shot of fluke – several fellows limited-out – but precious few cbass. 
I should mention VW Bob would have won the pool if we'd had one on our reef building trip last Sunday. He did limit win the pool on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with flounder. Thursday a sea bass finally beat him.. 
He fishes an enormous bucktail with a smaller one tied above; a rig I can never get to work! 

Good days & clunkers; We really have to work for a catch. Clients have to work at it too. You will need a fish cooler, just not a large one. 

I wrote a piece in this week's Coastal Fisherman about how oyster restoration relates to bluewater fisheries such as marlin.. 
Oyster dredge operators & others demand we use 'natural' shell (even if dredged from active fish habitat) to 'restore' oyster reefs. Yet when I have repeatedly asked MD DNR and others to show me an oyster reef restored with shell, there are none to cite. 

Been trying shell for over a century. Lays flat on the bottom to perfectly mimic dead oysters around a dead reef..
Here's a pic of 14 concrete oyster castle blocks atop an expensive pile of dead-reef mimicking shell — In the picture you'll plainly see real oysters actually growing, actually beginning to form a reef; You'll see plainly that the oysters far prefer an upright 'live reef' mimic. Here the vertical surfaces of oyster castle blocks are where they've attached — could have been rocks too.. See this pic at  
Ocean's turning green clear out to the canyons. Time to quit playing with post-Civil War re-reefing strategies: Time To Build Big Rock Reefs. 

Saw a freighter slow & stop over a famous local shipwreck a month or more ago. Skipper must have had family or a long time crew member aboard the downed vessel. Wish he'd had the time to himself but I couldn't leave for his moment of remembrance. 
This I do know; a lot of sea bass have used that wreck to feed, grow, avoid predation, & spawn since she went down. 

A new shipwreck exactly as new artificial reef but without the cleaning; Historically, in upper-management's mind there's been a palpable resentment of reef building, a dis-ease, a distrust borne of 'attracting' reef fish to new habitat and away from natural reef. 

In management's currently held theory, sea bass using that shipwreck were 'drawn' or 'attracted' from some other reef; a nearby natural reef. 
But wait! NOAA just started to get interested in our natural reefs a couple weeks ago. 
They surely couldn't be concerned about a shipwreck or some new artificial reef diminishing fish populations on natural reefs if they didn't exist, would they? 
What if fish drawn to a new shipwreck were only from other shipwrecks? Or a new artificial reef colonized solely by fish from older artificial reefs? Would that be bad? 
How could we have any remaining fish at all if artificial reef (including accidental wrecks) only drew from natural reef populations? 
Is it bad at all when fish have new habitat to colonize? Ever? 

Hurricane Sandy covered some reef bottoms with sand up north, I'm told. I've seen some evidence of that here too, but have also found 'expanded' rock bottoms that must have been exposed by Sandy. 
A storm-driven event, naturally uncovered new rock bottoms must be said to be naturally colonized by every manner of reef life, including fish — all the colonizing species would have been naturally "Attracted" to habitat wide open for settlement.  

The notion of 'attraction' being a bad form of colonization is preposterous. Adherents must believe sea bass cannot spawn over steel or concrete, must believe fertilized coral larvae would be better off dead than settling and growing upon artificial reef. 
In order to believe new reef constructions will never contribute to fishery production because artificial reefs only 'attract fish' demands an ocean full of empty, fish-less, natural reefs. If it is true at all that artificial reefs only attract fish, then it must be always true. Adherents of "Artificial Reefs Only Attract Fish From Nearby Reefs For Easier Catching" must logically conclude shipwrecks alone would have siphoned-off all natural reef production for over half a century.. 

Instead, it must be that fish and corals alike simply settle where they're able. These animals cannot know of artificial and natural reef substrates; its simply a place they've found to feed & shelter from predation. If they survive to maturity, they'll spawn . . . 

That Spawn Is Production. 
Habitat Production. 

If we are to succeed in Fisheries Restoration we must not delude ourselves with self-congratulatory fish population estimates; We must cleanse fisheries science of bad recreational catch estimates too: We must focus on production — We Must Learn How To Make Fish. 

Went to a NOAA Port Meeting Wednesday evening to hear about baurotrauma — about how to release fish brought up from the deep. 
This wasn't a couple pie-eyed newbies with a road show, it was two top-shelf hands, Dr. Earl Meredith & Paul Perra. 
Because I had a size limit on sea bass long years before any regulation existed, because I had to study, learn & experiment with depths, release techniques, hook styles, tagging, venting, deep-drop weighted release methods  ..what use throwing back fish if their fate is sealed? 
Sadly, I honestly believe NOAA's "best available science" concerning recreational release of regulated species in the lower Mid-Atlantic is right where I was in about 2003, in some ways 1993.. 

NOAA's dearth of knowledge in this presentation was staggering. Both men I highly respect, they had only a video from California & no works whatever concerning our fish. 

For instance, perhaps readers are aware recreational fishers are thought to kill more summer flounder by release than are taken home to fry. NOAA seems to have no idea Kahle hooks ('wide gap hooks') have nearly identical release survival rates to circle hooks.. 
We had to Google a picture of a Kahle hook.. 
Actually, I'm positive some folks in NOAA are very knowledgable about reducing recreational release mortality. 
Rudy Lukacovic, recently retired from MD DNR, was a huge help when I was working through this stuff, was always on the cutting edge of release techniques  .. If we could get the knowledge mainstream the ensuing reduction in release mortality would increase recreational quotas nicely. 
I think Earl & Paul are tasked with just that, with getting the knowledge mainstream. 
First they'll have to gather the knowledge for themselves. 

We're enjoying our 16 inch flounder size limit. Still tagging 10 or 20 throwbacks almost everyday, but we haven't had legal 16 inch fish in a long time. 
The reason Maryland was able to liberalize flounder regulation this season was because our official catch estimate for May/June 2012 was zero — no fish landed. 
Season was open. Size limit not ridiculous. Weather normal. Guys were POUNDING on our fluke. 
Official estimate from the New & Improved catch estimating system? Zero Flounder Caught By MD's Private Boats. 
Because we didn't wear on our quota at all, because we were so far under-quota, MD Fisheries was able to liberalize.. 
No One Anywhere Believes There Were No Flounder Caught ..yet the catch data gets thrown into the system & out come regulations. 

One of the dumbest catch estimates I've ever found was the old MuRFSS catch-estimating system's 74,000 tog from New Jersey's jetties in Mar/Apr 2010. 
That 74,000 tautog estimate was probably 73,900 fish too high. Indeed, the usual estimate for Jersey's shore in Mar/April is zero. Numerous well-informed sources, including Capt. Al Ristori, have told me zero is a good estimate for that late winter/early spring tog fishery. 
Promised ready by the late 2000s, our Congressionally mandated repair of those sorts of estimates, MRIP, the brand-new & improved catch estimating system, came forward and said, "No! It Was Really 174,000 Tog Caught From Jersey's Shore Locations!" 
A Hundred-Thousand More.. 
That's more tog from shore in two months by rod & reel than all US commercial effort landed all year. Its 170,000 more than Jersey Party/Charter caught during that same period. Its 167,490 more tog from Jersey's jetties than all US Party/Charter effort landed during March/April, 2010 ..and 77,961 more tog than all US Party/Charter caught in the entire year

A guy in the news recently got me thinking about that tog estimate again. 
Here's MRIP's response to my question about adding a hundred-thousand fish to an already rotten catch-estimate from their published November 19, 2012 MRIP Update: "With these improvements in place, we can say with confidence that we have enhanced the quality of our estimates. In fact, the cases you cite are good examples for demonstrating exactly what we mean by that." 

Paraphrasing Ariel Castro, kidnapper & rapist: 'Most of what went on in that house, probably all of it, was consensual.' 

No One Thinks It Was Consensual. 
No One In Fisheries Should Think The Catch Data's Been "Enhanced" Yet Either. 

Wiki: "A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary."

NOAA Needs To Approve MAFMC's Use Of The Omnibus Amendment for Recreational Accountability Measures. 
Fishers need regulatory insulation from data that has no place in science. 

If we are to succeed in Fisheries Restoration we must not delude ourselves with self-congratulatory fish population estimates; We must cleanse fisheries science of bad recreational catch estimates too: We must focus on production — We Must Learn How To Make Fish. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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