Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fish Report 9/29/13

Fish Report 9/29/13 
Sea Bass (I Think) & A Few Fluke 
Opening November Reservations To Cbass Trips 
Jimmy Jackson Prints — 1 of 1, 2013..
New U/W Video
Your Comment Counts 

MRIP Sea Bass Catch-Estimates Appear Behaved – We're Not Currently Accused Of Over-Fishing. 

Opening All Of November To Sea Bass Trips. Will Open December Trips Via Email.. 
Reservations Required at 410-520-2076 
Sea Bass Closed By Regulation October 15th to October 31st. (we'll paint) 

Sailing Daily – Including Sundays (When Weather Allows!) 

I Expect After This Blow Flounder Will Slow & Cbass Resume..
Reservations For Sea Bass & (maybe some) Flounder Trips at 410 - 520 - 2076. 
New-To-The-Boat Clients can see much more info at    
And, From Coastal Fisherman, See Our "Show You Around The Boat" Video (many regulars have pics in it).  

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.. 

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..  

7,464 'Oyster Castle' Reef Blocks By The Rail. Now 2,245 at Jimmy's - 1,324 at Ake's. Currently deploying the 7th truckload of reef blocks; Thank You To All Who Helped Buy This Truckload! 

See if you'd care to help fund the next truckload. Snailmail a check – any check! 

Trying to keep a large selection of OCRF long-sleeve & ss t-shirts aboard..  

Greetings All, 
Been getting the better of weather for months, now its kicking my butt and throwing a wrench in clients' travel plans. 
Did sneak a couple days in between blows. Flounder appeared to have gone AWOL as fishing resumed Tuesday so I snuck a little further off and found sea bass cooperative. This particular day they were eating a 4 oz chromed jig as well as clam. I do enjoy jigging cbass.. 
Next day clients dropped into what my fathometer said was sea bass, and I'm sure it was; caught flounder — caught 'em good. 
Lots of throwbacks, plenty for dinner though.. 
Wind came around east Thursday; the bite tapered. I'd thought an intensified bite likely on such a nice day in front of weather, but no. 
Though slower, I'd sure hope everyone had dinner. One couple had 6 keeper fluke and cbass to 3.5 pounds.. 

Friday's forecast increased from 15 knots NE - to 20; we cleared the inlet to discover already mature wind-waves, some pushing 7 feet. 

Can't slow the calendar; Can't stop the weather — Fall has arrived. 
Be a good thing for sea bass fishing. 
We'll know for sure Tuesday...

Lost far too young in a diving accident, Tom Jackson has reproduced three of son Jimmy's original paintings to benefit our reef building efforts. They're in the frame shop & will be numbered thusly: 1 of 1, 2013.. 
I'll hang them in 3 different places and run a silent auction thru Thanksgiving, or perhaps one on the web.. 
Just 7 miles from the inlet's jetties; we have a 50 foot steel boat, a bargeload of 12 inch Rinker concrete pipe with two enormous 7 foot pipes fashioned into tog condos; 16 railcars & 2,245 oyster castle blocks at Jimmy's Reef. 
My friend Jimmy caught marlin & tuna with the best of them, but he loved tog fishing too. Trust This: So far as construction of Jimmy Jackson's Reef goes, we're just getting started.. 

Soon to post video of Jimmy's Reef, here's underwater video by Capt. Ted Green of the OC Diver where he's assembled Oyster Castle blocks on the ex-USN Sub Blenny located 12 NM SSE OC MD:    
The darker clusters of growth are mussels; white patches star coral. Sea whip is the orange grass-like growth. 
Capt. Ted & other divers report several of our reefs were 'scrubbed clean' of mussels by Hurricane Sandy to even 125 feet, but whip fields remain intact in depths as shallow as 75 feet. 
Closer to the hurricane's eye, fellow party boat skipper, Capt. Rick of Parson's Fleet fame tells me even sea whip was scoured-away by Sandy in shallower areas of the Old Grounds off Delaware.  
Off Maryland's coast I don't believe we lost sea whip or star coral, at least not noticeably. 
Mussels not as tenacious, they also colonize newly exposed hard-bottom far more swiftly — and have been..

Another interesting diver observation comes from renowned u/w photographer  Michael Eversmier. He captured an image of a squid egg mass at an old wreck in 75 feet of water & reports several others on the wreck. 
Dr. John Manderson theorizes these 'egg mops' must be foul-tasting, otherwise fish would devour them. 
Always thought of as 'sticking' or 'stuck' to seafloor habitat, that's how squid eggs form 'mops' - where multiple egg cases are glued together. 
Michael reports one of these egg-mops as 'tumbleweeding', free-rolling in swell's surge. 
Understanding reef's relation to squid's spawning success is just one more piece of the restoration puzzle we don't yet have. 
There are many. 

We don't know how sea bass spawn either. I once thought they were broadcast spawners, rising far up in the water column to mix roe & milt. My video work revealed that behavior as simply feeding: They hover high above reef habitat to feed on passing krill & plankton. 
I now believe personal videos & diver anecdotes imply a 'nesting' behavior; that cbass sweep a bowl-shaped pocket in the sand—but adjacent to or near reef—and nest as so many fresh-water fish do. 

I was therefore surprised when one of NOAA's most respected fishery biologists supported the 'broadcast spawning' theory.. 
There's so much we ought to know, need to know that we might refine management's strategies.. 

Here are the first two leading principles from the Magnuson Stevens Act concerning Conservation & Management of our fisheries. (from NOAA's website - ) (Bold Underline M. Hawkins not NOAA)
(1) Conservation and management measures shall prevent overfishing while achieving, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield from each fishery for the United States fishing industry.

(2) Conservation and management measures shall be based upon the best scientific information available.

Perfectly in line with requirements in (1) above; My argument for sea bass management, a plea to managers for restoration of younger maturity to re-enliven & enlarge our region's cbass spawning population, runs afoul of (2) — the "Best Scientific Information Available." 

I believe strict adherence to hard-line policy; 'the centerpoint of a recreational catch estimate shall be considered Best Science' has so busied management with constant regulatory change that the obvious has escaped notice: Yes, it is important to maintain an elevated spawning population with as many year classes as possible &, Yes, it is important for that population to have stable or increasing habitat for best restoration effect. 
Instead, habitat remains a hypothetical & only the oldest sea bass spawn nowadays..

Not only have "Emergency Closures" based on recreational catch estimates created an unnecessary economic burden in recent years, but these "Landing Estimate" data sets have created, over time, regulatory tightening that, owing to its own effects, never goes away. That is, tightening regulations based on tremendously 'creative' MuRFSS/MRIP estimates showing recreational overfishing have so-clouded sea basses' true biological response to increasing size limits that an honest picture of biological production has become imperceptible. While habitat expands to our north in warming water and does not contract to our south; owing to ever-reducing ability to re-populate fishing's extraction, our region's population of sea bass is approaching a level where management will have had no benefit whatever since inception despite the most restrictive regulations in the fishery's history. 

You can't begin to have the Optimum Yield described in (1), if policy created from the Best Scientific Information Available is actually forged of BAD Scientific Info & BAD Statistical Estimates. Using bad science has retarded our region's sea bass spawning potential & allows managers to disregard another important section of Magnuson—the Essential Fish Habitat provisions. Because there is NO scientific information on our region's reefs, managers are, apparently, given a pass on Magnuson's provisions demanding they Conserve, Protect & Enhance Fish Habitat. 

I believe catch estimate failings are coming to light now; being seen & recognized. (trying to help with that..) 
If nothing were done, the 2006 Congressional re-write of the MSA calls for Accountability Measures — Quota Paybacks — if 'overfishing' has occurred as shown by our Best Available Science. Managers use of catch-estimate centerpoints creates a mandatory regulatory response that threatens several fisheries with year-long closures or, if the data were far-enough wrong, multi-year closures. 

But the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has done something; they've crafted and passed the Omnibus Amendment for Recreational Accountability Measures. 
Going a long way toward providing recreational fishers a buffer from bad catch estimates; Now Is The Time To Support This Amendment At The Federal Level With Comment. 

This link will get you right to it:!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0108   
Deadline is October 15th. 
Something as simple as: "I support the rulemaking" would work fine. 
I've included the draft-comment Capt. Dave Konick, Esq. provided below my signature. 
My Comment: Employing policy crafted in the Accountability Measures Amendment makes for far better use of statistics. Statisticians provide fishery managers with an entire PSE spread as their "Best Science."  Very often these 'margins of error' can run to hundreds of thousands of fish, not just an estimate's centerpoint. Because the statistician's true answer to, "How Many Fish Did They Catch?" is a broad spread of numbers, anywhere along which may be the actual catch; continued use of centerpoint-only data will result in needless further catch restriction. I strongly support the rulemaking and encourage a more honest use of statistical catch estimates in fisheries rather than referring to a centerpoint as a scientifically valid data point.  

Indeed, among the first of this year's crop of highly improbable statistics is this peach from Connecticut. (see graph below) 
CT Party/Charter had zero May/June flounder. Rhode Island Party/Charter caught about 4,000 which is down from last year despite regulatory stability & an 8 fish limit. Massachusetts guys must have been too busy with sea bass, they didn't catch 500 fluke. NY Party/Charter increased their fluke catch by a couple thousand while their private boats decreased by some 35,000 — Yet Connecticut private boats increased their fluke catch more than 10-fold to 130,000.. 
Bet there's some wicked overfishing there.. These catch-estimate spikes never occur broadly across both party/charter & private boat modes & never cross state lines – even where you could shoot a cannon across them. 
Connecticut could be CLOSED for all of 2014 & 2015 if NOAA does not adopt the Recreational Accountability Measures Amendment. 
Any fishery could be next — Vagaries in catch estimates are random, not Science. 
Managers need to use the PSE spread, the "Margin of Error" - the 95% Confidence Interval. Here MRIP is 95% sure CT Private Boat Anglers caught between 50 and 200 thousand fluke.. 
But the centerpoint is 128,000 ..and they all weighed close to 4 pounds…. 

We need to support the amendment. 
See Capt. Dave's comment below..

Come catch a sea bass!


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

Estimate StatusYearWaveCommon NameTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
PSELandings (no.) without
Size Information
FINAL2008MAY/JUNESUMMER FLOUNDER39,60145.9149,67746.10
FINAL2010MAY/JUNESUMMER FLOUNDER9,28946.027,41246.00
FINAL2011MAY/JUNESUMMER FLOUNDER18,92658.279,50858.40
FINAL2012MAY/JUNESUMMER FLOUNDER11,49056.145,10961.90

John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator

National Marine Fisheries Service

Northeast Regional Office

55 Great Republic Drive

Gloucester, MA    01930


          Re: Comments on Recreational Omnibus Amendment ~ NOAA-NMFS-2013-0108


Dear Mr. Bullard,


I am writing in support of the Recreational Accountability Measures Omnibus Amendment, which was developed by the Council to modify the accountability measures for the Atlantic mackerel, Atlantic bluefish, summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational fisheries.


I agree that in-season closure and a pound-for-pound “payback” for alleged “overfishing” are not the most effective Accountability Measures (AMs) for the indicated recreational fisheries, and applaud the Council’s apparent recognition that catch estimates produced by the MRIP  program produce results that are not reliable or scientifically accurate.   Describing these results as “uncertainty in recreational catch estimates” is an understatement.  I do not support the Amendment insofar as it proposes to maintain the existing ACT process which is flawed and produces highly inaccurate results.


I also support the Amendment insofar as it proposes to remove the in-season closure authority for recreational fisheries.  


Concerning  the Amendment’s proposal to use the 3-year moving average of the lower bound of the confidence interval of the recreational catch estimate to determine if an ACL has been exceeded, it is a good first step.   Describing MRIP results as having a “confidence level” is misleading at best.  While averaging bad data may ameliorate some of the harmful results of MRIP, the fact remains that averaging bad or inaccurate data only produces “average bad data” instead of accurate data.  The Magnuson Act requires use of the best science available, and I submit to you that MRIP is not scientifically supportable.

In this regard, the Council’s determination “that the necessary information and resources to support that type of reevaluation [of MRIP] does not currently exist” should be reconsidered.  The Magnuson Act is a Congressional mandate to do so. 


While the Amendment does not adequately address all the issues in a manner that I find acceptable, it is an improvement over current regulations and a step in the right direction.  Therefore, I support it with reservations.

Instead of focusing on catch limitations, the Council should consider dedicating more resources to habitat restoration.  In the long run, this will produce better results than the past efforts to restore fish populations via recreational catch limitations.


Thanks for taking the time to consider my comments.


Very truly yours,

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