Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fish Report 10/19/13

Fish Report 10/19/12 
Early Cbass Closure – Will Reopen Nov. 1st
Jimmy's Paintings – One of One
Hauled Out 

Be Ready & Able When Sea Bass Reopen November 1st. Now Booking Reservations For Same.. 
Will Open December Sea Bass Trips With 'special trip' announcements similar to winter tog. 

A Gift From Tom Jackson, There Are Three Jimmy Jackson Prints – Numbered 1 of 1, 2013 –  on display & set up as silent auctions at Ake Marine, Ocean City Fishing Center & Sunset Marina. Stunning. Proceeds To Ocean City Reef Foundation, a tax deductible 501c3.. Auction Ends December 15th @ 5PM..  
7,560 "Oyster Castle" reef blocks by the rail – 2,293 at Jimmy's Reef – 1,324 Ake's – Now 120 at Lindsey Power's and counting! 

Greetings All, 
September's last a wind-lost weekend, we returned to fishing first week of October and  again found a ferocious sea bass bite ..that swiftly fizzled and turned into a flounder trip – many flounder trips. Caught sea bass everyday, a few anglers even catching well, but the emphasis remained on fluke.    
Details have grown fuzzy; I do remember a lady in the port corner putting a thumping on the fluke; far and away high-hook. A group of guys out for a day were stressing because she caught more keepers than they had throwbacks. 
Have to be mentally prepared for these things, men.. Happens to all of us.  
I remember too the guys on either side of Murray being limited-out. Sadly, you could have safely mixed drinks with his unstained ice. 
Painful to watch. 
Undaunted, Hurricane Murray then boated an 8 lb 10 oz fluke and took their pool money. 

Had a right-many tickets sold into the scheduled cbass closure on the 15th, but the entire week vanished. A 20 to 30 knot NE wind closed cbass on the 6th instead.. 
Hauled the boat early & went to work. 
Currently painting from waist to waterline, it goes something like this: Sand/Fill/Sand/Fill/Sand/Prime. Sand/Fill/Sand/Prime. Sand/Paint. Sand/Paint. 
Then we'll start on the bottom, non-skid the main deck too. 
I love yachting. 

Will get her in shape for fall/winter sea bass & our chisel-tooth crustacean-crunching quarry—tog. 
Cbass reopen November 1st. 
Start togging January 1st – Looking forward to first jigging sea bass in November/December as they move offshore. 
MAYBE do a few tog trips on weekdays in November – maybe.. (Tog closed here in December) Will announce those trips separately & December's long cbass runs too. 
Tow Boat US—Ocean City, snuck a barge-load of concrete pipe (Thanks Bob!) out to Jimmy's Reef during the early October calm. My crew had set a two-anchor mooring buoy just hours before the tow-boat crew made-fast: Bullseye. 
A perfect set. I'm trying to tie the largest pieces of Jimmy's Reef into one really big, single reef. 

It would seem simple foolery to states with a robust reef building program: Who would bother taking out 18 pieces of concrete pipe on a 40 foot barge? 
They'll take many hundreds, a thousand, on a 180 foot barge. 

Best we can do: At Jimmy's there's now three barge-loads of pipe and a fifty foot steel boat loaded with 7 pallets of concrete block stitched together with those 2,300 (and counting) oyster castle reef blocks. Next is a cluster of stainless rail cars thirty seven yards away. 
Want to knit these many reef-sets into a single large reef. 
Trust this — We're making reef. We'll Grow Coral. 
Barge loaded again. Hope Tow Boat US gets out this week coming. 

If we get painting wrapped up in time we'll test the new non-skid deck paint with a reef building trip or two. 
See for more or to donate.. 
CCA National sent me some work by Dr. Bob Shipp that he'd presented at the Idle Iron Conference. 
Twisted as any ancient myth; While NOAA/NMFS are exercising greater & greater catch restriction on red snapper and other Gulf reef species in order to "rebuild" them — BOEM is removing old oil wells, Idle Iron, for safer navigation. When scrappers blow the legs with explosives — all the fish die. These coral-encrusted habitats are then entirely removed.  

Its not so different from the prediction at birth that Oedipus would murder his father, the King, & marry his mother. In order to thwart the prophecy Oedipus was "exposed" as an infant (left to die in the wilderness). Discovered and raised by neighboring aristocracy, he had no idea of his true family. Having left the only childhood home he'd known, also in order to foil the prophecy; he fulfilled it instead. 

NOAA & NMFS, focused only on over-fishing—the only reef-fish restoration tool they know, are bringing the human side of fisheries to the brink while not doing near what they might for fish, especially regarding reef.   
What Dr. Shipp's recent effort did was to examine fisheries works from the Gulf of Mexico going to the early/mid-1800s for red snapper populations. Very clear boundaries were delineated. Despite serious exploration bent on profiting from unfished reefs, neither habitat nor snapper were found anywhere west of the Mississippi.. 
At first none; Now there are large populations of snapper in the western Gulf. 
All on artificial reef. 
Especially the very ones being blown up & removed. 

Fishery management attempts to balance our extraction against spawning's renewal - production. 
But in the Gulf future reef production is removed in a blasting-cap's instant — BOOM. 
Creating successive reef-fish populations is rendered impossible when coral & substrate are removed.. 

Progress is being made. Avenues of compromise are being explored that increase navigation safety, reduce mandated removal expense & maintain or even increase reef production.

Grasping reef production's essence seems simple enough: If you have no reef, there can be no reef fish. If newly-submerged substrate is allowed to grow in, it will produce fish. If well grown-in substrates are removed, that reef's production will cease. 

Yet many — most even — of today's managers are as children raised in a wildly prejudiced home: They Know, Are Positive, Artificial Reef Only Attracts Fish For Easier Recreational Removal. Most Believe Reef Building Has No Place In Fishery Management. They Believe Reef Building Is, At Best, Tolerable. At Worst: Very Bad - Something That Should Be Blocked Wherever Possible. 

And Why Not? That is what they were taught in school. 
I have a large collection of college fishery texts. Along that shelf are numerous titles dating from the 1970s & early 80s.
Although it ceased to be used as a college text in about 1992, Lackey & Nielsen's 1980 effort, "Fishery Management" holds illustrative examples of thinking in a time when National Marine Fisheries Service had recently been the Bureau of Commercial Fishing, a time in which many of today's top managers were being educated.
Take for instance this sentence from page 259: "Commercial fishermen are disinclined to spare ten fish so that anglers, in their hilarious ways, may catch five."
From that same college text we come to what I believe is at the heart of the "Reef Is Bad" Attraction/Not Production argument: page 286: "In contrast to the success of increasing wildlife populations through provision of cover, fisheries management utilizes artificial cover principally to concentrate fish for harvest."
Maybe that's what they did, but two paragraphs below on the same page Nielsen & Lackey reveal how reef building would come to be used in our time: "Although provision of reefs in moderate amounts may effectively concentrate fish for harvest, reefs in excess have much the same effect as submerged vegetation in excess. That is, prey fishes may become over abundant and game fish will be so widely scattered that they are difficult to locate." 

So: Too many sea bass or red snapper would make sharks hard to find? Shame.. 
No matter logic's failing, the authors must have held 'game-fish' production as a constant, that only X number of game fish could ever be produced & never XX game-fish whether habitat/prey would support a larger population or not. 

In William F. Royce's, "Introduction to the Fishery Sciences" 1972 (and last checked out of a Texas college library in 1987) there is no mention of reef that I can find. It does, however, go on in great length—in fantastic mathematical examination, about fishery production. 

Here is our brick wall, here is where the upper-management notion "We'll never see fishing as good as it was," comes in. For Reef-Is-Bad Attractionists, "Production" is a static number; something uncontrollable we must suffer in bad times or enjoy in good. Habitat holding capacity, "K" they call it in fishery production formulas, is a theoretical boundary; Habitat is nothing you could actually know or measure. In the eyes of Attractionists, K remains a mystery constant. 

In the eyes of Pro-Reef Building Productionists, K is a value that is lowered in hurricane's impact & raised with each dollar spent on substrate deployment; Reef's habitat value rises where natural rock substrates are slowly regrown after weather or anthropomorphic impact, and rises further still in each deployment of suitable artificial substrate. 

Productionists know new reef habitat will, in short time, produce new reef-fish – fish above what would have been produced by a previous, lower amount of habitat.  
Productionists know explosive removal of reef absolutely must reduce K; must lower a region's reef habitat & therefore reef habitat production potential. 

Productionists Believe Growing Coral & Oysters Raises K, Makes Fish.
Attractionists Believe Artificial Reef Is Bad, Concentrates Fish For Easier Harvest.
Instead of seeing fishery/bay/seafloor restoration's need as at least partially, if not mostly, created by these ecosystems being starved for hard-bottom complexity lost over centuries & only in that habitat's restoration can ecosystem restoration truly move forward; many in the upper-most tiers of management & governance are instead steeped in the tradition of 'artificial reef only attracts fish for easier catching.'  

guarantee you — The very top tiers of management have no idea of reef building's potential contribution. 

No idea.. 

"Say there, Important NOAA Person, What do you think of doubling the reef habitat footprint as a population driver ?" Instant Conclusion & End Of Conversation: "Reef building can't be a restoration tool because its BAD." 

The "Production vs Attraction" debate needs to happen at the very top of the ladder.


Ocean's turning green & folks at the top are tepid in their action because 'reef is bad.' 

At present we're experiencing a regulatory peace for reef fish in the Mid-Atlantic. Sea bass  could have been closed the rest of this year & all of next without the Recreational Accountability Measures Amendment. We'll continue to suffer recent unneeded & detrimental regulation, but participants don't currently have a regulatory ax suspended over their Mid-Atlantic reef fisheries. 

Council & Commission Committees always & forever tasked with arresting overfishing, perhaps instead of greater & greater catch restriction bringing benefit to neither fish nor fisher, now they'll pause to consider how better to drive our reef fish populations upward, how to use habitat & population biology to bring greatest managerial benefit..

This I do know – Even in the darkest days of pre-regulatory & very real overfishing, no one ever wasted reef-fish like today's regulation squanders this resource's potential. 

Give sea bass lots of reef & force 'em to spawn young — POW! 

Ignore reef's potential & force sea bass to spawn years later – dud.. 


We'll come to it. 

For now its back to Sand/Fill/Sand/Fill/Sand/Prime/Sand/Fill/Sand/Prime/Sand/Paint/Sand/Paint. . . 



Capt. Monty Hawkins 

Ocean City, MD 

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