Saturday, April 26, 2014

Fish Report 4/26/14

Fish Report 4/26/14 
Keeping A Few Tog
First Spring Cbass
NMFS Writes Back 

Tog Fishing - Inshore Trips - Monday, April 28th; Friday, May 2nd & Saturday, May 3rd - 6:30 to 3:30 Each Day - $110.00 Per–Person – Fourteen Anglers Sells Out –  Green Crabs Provided. 
Reservations Required 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..  

REEF DINNER – Sunday, May 4th – 4:30 to 6:30 – Live & Silent Auctions - $20.00 At The Marlin Club's Door – Our Menu Rocks! Conch Fritters, Jerk Chicken & Steak Kabobs – Be Early, 140 Sells Out – Still Cheerfully Accepting Live & Silent Auction/Raffle Donations – Thanks Marlin Club, Benelli Firearms, Lighthouse Guns & Gear, Oyster Bay Tackle, PT's Marine, Tampa Florida's Gander Mountain, Ake Marine, Baldy, St. Croix Rods.. 
And let me tell you, there's a mountain of donations coming from non-fishing related businesses around Ocean City. Mate Mike's wife, Stacy, has put this dinner together with Amanda, COO at the Marlin Club. There will be many auction/raffle items with broader interest including:  Zenna Wellness Center, Energy Gym, Yogavibez, Liquid Assets, A Perfect Face, OC Hair and Nails, Kirby's Pub, The Red Onion, Mark Stoehr Acupuncturist, Gina Drago Web Design, Seacrets, Fish Tales, Seascape Photography, Raye Gillette Photography, George's Bloody Mary, & Walk On Water.. 
More To Come.  
I'm telling you, it'll be a great dinner & a great year for reef building. 

8,796 "Oyster Castle" reef blocks by the rail – 2,548 at Jimmy's Reef – 1,770 at Ake's – 408 at Lindsey Power's..  

Greetings All, 
As calm a sea as you could imagine, the bite Friday was not as kind as the weather. 
But some tog bit. One client had a limit, most had dinner I think. We tagged a few and threw a bunch back. 
It's Toggin. 
Saturday's trip was postponed until almost noon owing to a nasty overnight storm front. A couple clients who were coming from afar were turned around the night before, while those already in town got a half-day out of it. It was the best I could do. 
As late as this is, almost May; the fish acted like a cold-water bite.  
Going some more. Monday looks to be the 'calm before the storm.' 
Friday the first day we can get out after the blow.. 

It happens that this year's regulatory battles are not as crucial as in recent years, that we're only loosing 15 more days of sea bass season & 5 fish off our bag-limit. 
According to NMFS, we're about 200,000 pounds over our 2013 recreational sea bass quota. 
Not that bad. 
Only 15 days & 5 fish.. 

It's accretive. In years past we witnessed fishing get better & better. Now we suffer regulation as it grows worse & worse. 
Many have given up hope. 
Pretty sure my Marine friend called it "Fouled Up Beyond All Repair." 

Embattled all last year, we nearly lost all of 2014's sea bass season owing to Accountability Measures. These "AMs" they're called, are very strict caps put on quotas by the last re-write of Magnuson. 
If MRIP's recreational catch estimates claim we caught over our recreational quota.. Pay Up! A fishery can be closed until the estimates show the overage would have been "paid back." 
Regardless of the biological state of a fish population, Multi-Year Fishery Closures Are Entirely Within The Law Owing To Accountability Measures. 

Law makers in DC felt certain their requirement of MuRFSS' repair, of the old recreational catch estimating program's replacement with a better estimating program, would allow formation of accurate & sensible catch-estimates with MRIP. That's why Accountability Measures even exist – because catch estimates were truly going to be repaired. 
Law makers heard plenty of complaints about MRFSS catch-estimates over the years, even the National Research Council bashed MRFSS in 2006. Legislators knew those old estimates weren't fit to force draconian Accountability Measures from so they ordered their repair. 

Funny thing happened on the way home from the catch-estimate repair shop: Our estimates grew worse, not better. 
But Accountability Measures based on anticipated improvement haven't gone away. 

Here's a quick look at estimates from the old MuRFSS program & new MRIP. 
Estimate StatusYearWaveSpecies New MRIP  {Old MRFSS}PSE  or MRIP's Margin of Error Spread
FINAL2004JULY/AUGUSTSCUP752,942        {19,547}48.9    or      20,000 to 1,450,000
FINAL2005JULY/AUGUSTSCUP     1,382       {12,557}   67.3    or        Zero to 3,200
FINAL2006JULY/AUGUSTSCUP  76,908        {49,624}46.2   or       6,000 to 140,000

The sea bass estimate that quite-nearly triggered Accountability Measures, the main estimate that almost closed sea bass for all of 2014 and set managers in a multi-month struggle to save at least part of our fishery; That estimate's foundation is based in large part on Field Observers seeing just 6 sea bass among private boats in Massachusetts during May/June, 2012. 
Those 6 sea bass then became over 600,000 pounds of our recreational quota. A miraculous catch; we "went over."

Attached to this Fish Report is a letter from Eileen Sobeck, the new head of NMFS, to my Congressman, Dr. Andy Harris. 
In it she tells him how catch estimates improve as they are collected into more time, a broader area with more types of fishers; the boiler-plate I've seen so many times: "As the data are aggregated over more modes of fishing, a longer time period, and larger geographical areas, the overall sampling size is significantly increased and the precision of the catch estimates for the combined strata is much improved.
There's also, "In general, annual MRIP catch estimates for the entire management unit of a species inform federal stock assessments and are used for specifying annual catch limits and determining annual adjustments to regulations to prevent overfishing." 

She's probably a nice lady. Not sure if she has any experience in fisheries. 
She may even believe what's in this letter. 
Perhaps it's more likely that she hasn't even read it. 

Stepping aside from NMFS' Orwellian "Ministry of Truth" view for a moment: it's far more accurate to say Fishery Management Would Grind To A Halt If Regulators Only Used MRIP Estimates In Large Geographic Regions and In Annual Format. 
When regulators decide on a fishing season they don't divide the number of fish estimated over a year's time throughout the Mid-Atlantic and give equal weight to each of 365 days. They go into two month MRIP estimates and weight daily catch-values from when catch occurs. Closing flounder, for instance, from March 10th to April 1st is not weighted the same as from July 10th to August 1st, and they certainly don't do it by broad geographic region.. 
In Massachusetts Private Boats are restricted to 4 sea bass while Party/Charter can catch many more. That would have never come about without management's use of single-state/various mode two-month estimates. 
Whatever recreational fishery is examined, whichever fishery is chosen, its management is performed with small slices of MRIP – not the whole 'more accurate' pie. 

NOAA must ask, "Why were NY sea bass professionals estimated at about their lowest catch in 10 years post-Sandy, when Private Boats are estimated at their highest catch, not in 5 years as reported in this letter, but since estimates began in 1981. 
Does everyone know NY's bag limit was cut from 25 to 8 sea bass? That with a 13 inch size limit and super-small bag limit, that's when NY's Private Boats set their all-time record? 

These estimates have Professional For-Hire effort landing just 5% of NY's recreational sea bass and, lower still, 3% of New Jersey's. 

If NY & NJ party/charter skippers had truly abundant sea bass so easily located by recreational users, they'd have at least caught their far-higher traditional 'percentage of catch.' 

Instead, these two outliers, these estimate-spikes, are terribly wrong. 

To top it off, federal fisheries staff had friends who caught sea bass out near Montauk – as far as possible from Sandy's impact. "Sea bass are abundant!
This anecdotal observation now forms the backbone for defending MRIP's assertion of elevated NY private boat catch. 
"I hear fishing was great!
That's our best available science. 

All my work is automatically dismissed because its anecdotal. 
Yet, "They're really catching them!" supports a federal program..

MuRFSS estimates were supposed to get repaired by MRIP. 
Instead they're worse. Much worse
Bad estimates keep scientists & managers fumbling around in the dark while whole fisheries drown in unnecessary regulation. 
I'm going to do everything I can to get this fixed. 

We caught a 14 inch sea bass just 8 miles offshore Friday. I believe that first fish had already moved back inshore for one reason – To Defend His Spawning Territory. 
I wonder how many people see that particular event as I do. 

We must repair MRIP's two-month wave estimates if we're going to ground fishery restoration in truth. 
We must repair MRIP soon. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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