Sunday, August 03, 2014

Fish Report 8/3/14

Fish Report 8/3/14 
Catching Flounder & Cbass 
Dorado On The Troll 
What Oyster Restoration Looks Like 
Black Spaceships  

Taking Reservations for August & September "Whatever's Biting On The Reef Trips" - We're Catching Sea Bass & Flounder. There's No Possible Way To Know Which Species Will Bite Better. Both Delicious: If you only want cbass or only want flounder you can watch the swallop-barrel to see which day you wanted to go ..that won't mean the same species will bite better again next trip!! 

Sailing Daily For Sea Bass & Flounder. Saturday's 6:00 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00..
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..  
Be a half hour early! We always leave early! 
..except when someone shows up right on time. 
Clients arriving late will see the west end of an east bound boat. 

Sea Bass Are Closed For A Month This Fall, But Not Just October. They Close Sept. 22 & Re-Open October 18th. (Unless MRIP Catch-Estimates Again Claim Some Small Cluster Of Private Boats Caught More Sea Bass Than All Historical Recreational Landings Combined: Then, Despite Well-Understood Inaccuracies, Sea Bass Will Be Closed By "Accountability Measures" Until Our Children's Children Are In Charge..) 

Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure.  If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First! 

Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. 
Bring Lunch & Your Refreshment – No Galley. Bring A Fish Towel Too.. 

10,294 Total Reef Blocks by the rail – 2,908 at Jimmy's – 2,106 at Doug Ake's – 1,063 at Saint Ann's – 548 at Eagle Scout Reef & 504 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef.. 
Owing To Oyster Castle Popularity Along The Gulf Coast Where BP Restoration Dollars Are Being Put To Work – Owing To $upply & Demand - We'll Be Using A Variety Of Concrete Blocks From Here On. Coral & Fish Won't Mind A Lick.  

See "Videos" at for footage of Jimmy Jackson's Reef from 7/30/14 taken by Capt. Jeremiah Kogon while diving off my boat. Almost 3,000 blocks.. It's not pretty, Not Yet - there's no coral - but it offers proof of concept for boat-deployed small scale reef construction that grows larger. Tog, Flounder & Lobster Don't Seem To Mind Coral's Initial Absence.. 

Donate - Please Sponsor Reef Building At
Thank You! 

Greetings All, 
Have had numerous flounder limits of late. (AKA 'fluke' if you have any part of a NJ/NY accent) 
Very nearly had a boat limit one day. 
Some clients are also having sea bass for dinner. 
Still others had to cook extra veggies to make a fish dinner.. 

A few fellows have caught more than 2 limits. Pat, George & Donny fortunately gave their extras away.. 
I will not tolerate folks keeping over-limit or undersize. However, I'm not going to bench my best anglers when they limit-out, sometimes with hours of fishing time left: I let them share. 

Artificial reef will one day be credited with a part of summer flounder's splendid restoration. For now fishery managers still have no association whatever between marine seafloor habitat quality/quantity & fish populations. Although riverine dam removal or estuarine SAV/oyster reef restorations are somewhat understood as important aspects of fish restoration, the only tool management's currently using in the ocean is anticipated population expansion when fishing extraction is properly controlled by regulation: The Tighter Catch Is Restricted, The More Management Expects A Population To Increase. 
Here fishery science & management are run off a tall bridge into a deep canyon for recreational purpose: Because our extraction is measured by very poor statistical catch estimate, regulations pogo-stick wildly. New regulations are loosened when catches are underestimated, or a fishery is closed mid-season when estimates blow sky-high. 

Even among the most conservation/preservation-minded .orgs there is no connection made between Mid-Atlantic seafloor habitat & a fish population's response to restoration efforts. 
With our hardbottom reef communities so far removed from fishery science's radar, it is especially difficult to employ "Habitat Restoration" as a means of fishery restoration. 
The Nature Conservancy seems to be trying to understand. For them underwater video creates 'seeing is believing.' 
TNC knows we have reef & reef fish. They're just beginning to take the habitat's measure. 

Owing to habitat ignorance the management community appears to only manage for management's sake, to regulate for regulation's sake. 
Although fishery restoration is their true goal & intent, science lags. Science is unable to 'scientifically' inform the management community of the corals I've so-often videoed. 

There are other paths to meet regulation's grand goal of restoration; methods of strengthening management's effect, their goal of population increase that must be explored. . . 

We're catching a handful of dorado (mahi) almost everyday; sometimes very good sized mahi (for nearshore) on the troll to and from fishing grounds. 
Unusual, light easterly winds have seemingly gone-on all summer. Those winds have blown the best water inshore –almost blue- I've seen since at least the 1990s. 
It might be the best inshore water I've ever seen, but I never measured & recorded water clarity. 

You can bet skippers who first targeted white marlin just 5 miles out from Ocean City in 1934 had gorgeous water. 
What we have off our coast now – that pretty, clear water – that's what oyster restoration will look like in the ocean. It's not going to last; this water we have now will be gone after a big wind. It won't become permanent until the water filter is turned back on, until trillions of oysters again filter our large estuaries. . . 
Ask anyone with a degree in fisheries why mahi are so prolific & they'll tell you, assuming they have any idea, mahi have survived intense commercial & recreational effort because they grow fast--super-fast--and spawn young - always in the first year of life. 

Both the Safina Center & Blue Ocean Institute (same place?) have this to say about dorado: "Mahimahi produce many eggs, grow quickly, and reach sexual maturity at a young age, making them resilient to fishing pressure." 

The Lahaina News (Hawaii) ran a story in Oct 2013 describing mahi thusly: "Mahi are the rabbits of the ocean and grow incredibly fast. They may turn out to be the fastest-growing wild fish known to man. In captivity, these fish have been shown to grow at 1.3 to 2.7 inches per week, up to 40 pounds in a year. 
In the wild, at five months, they can reach 5-6 pounds and are mature. Mahi are sexually productive at an early age. All mahi can reproduce by three to five months of age or 22 inches in length." 

One of the catch-phrases that make .gov writing easier, NOAA describes many species that spawn young, including mahi, thusly: "..their biology makes them resilient to fishing pressure."  

For now Mahi have no fishing controls whatever in many of the countries where they are caught. 
We have regulation on them both commercially & recreationally along the East Coast & Gulf, yet the very same population of fish is targeted in other countries around the Caribbean & northeastern South America without regulation. 

Despite unregulated fishing pressure, just like the bad old days, dorado are not in decline. NOAA has no formal biomass estimate, nor finds a need for one. Regulation on the East Coast is only for stability. NOAA's Fish Watch website claims regulation is not necessary at all in the Pacific. 
Although getting an annual party/charter permit from NOAA's Southeast Regional Office is a painful experience, the species is not thought of as a victim of industrial over-fishing.  

We know mahi spawn at Age Zero, in just three to five months. They are, literally, a textbook example of how early spawning & high fecundity act as a hedge against overfishing. 

I wonder if an experiment in a large aquarium with just a few generations of mahi would yield interesting results such as I've witnessed with sea bass. 
Where sea bass populations are always controlled to some extent by the size of a reef but mahi habitat is more truly unlimited, I wonder if "Age At Maturity" in mahi could be shifted; not just by months, but by years simply by increasing population density or the size of individual fish in a controlled setting. . . 

It really was true from the era before management, and especially during early management, that "All sea bass have spawned by 9 inches, some twice." (today we know that could also be expressed: 'All sea bass have spawned by age one, some even spawn during age zero'..) 

While the Council/Commission system is truly a representative form of governance and often creates the fairest possible regulation; There are times when what is good or virtuous in fishery restoration is swiftly lost if an overpowering need of economic stability is brought into regulation's formulation. This is why "Accountability Measures" were created, so we fishers – who pressure representatives with our economic need – are penalized by future regulation if extraction (fish we take) is greater than quota would have otherwise allowed. 
However, those same laws controlling management's response of relaxed regulation when demanded by constituent-driven economic pressure also prevent all other scientific considerations of restoration from gaining a toe-hold. 

It is a very difficult thing to connect, to associate, to discern between what is 'true' in the ocean with what is shown on a computer screen. 
It is difficult to isolate what is causative in fish population responses at sea: Is a population flourishing or in decline because a single user group is over or under pressuring? Has spawning success been influenced for better or worse by habitat? Are biological keys being unknowingly pressed by regulation to slow age at maturity? 

Sea bass now spawn at age three. They used to spawn at age zero/age one. We witnessed exponential population growth with smaller size limits and now witness a population withering despite increased size limits & incredibly tighter bag/season regulation. 
To fishers, sea bass are never associated with featureless bottom – there must be "reef" in some measure. They are not choosey whether "reef" is natural or artificial: so long as the functions of feeding, growth to maturity, avoidance of predation & spawning site are provided by any complex habitat, sea bass will use it. 

Tell a top manager today (a manager who might cheerfully quote how Pacific mahi have no need of regulation because they spawn young) Tell a manager size limit regulation has brutally impacted sea bass spawning success by delaying maturity: That top manager will treat you as if you were describing Martians taking sea bass at night from black spaceships. {Nevermind the lesson of mahi & the biomass estimates of sea bass from a decade to 15 years ago, they "know" only Big Old Fecund Females (BOFF) can make a large population resilient to some fishing pressure..}
Tell top managers reef-fish need reef & reef restoration to truly flourish – Their Response: "What Reef?" 
Tell top managers a small fleet of private boats from a tiny portion of NY's Long Island – Montauk – Tell the management community a few private boats managed to outfish not only their state's Party/Charter operators in July/August, 2013, but those private boats from one port outfished the ENTIRE EAST COAST'S FOR-HIRE FLEET – and they will, in fact, convene to discuss new sea bass regulations & implement far tighter regulatory restriction impacting the fishery from North Carolina to New Hampshire. 

Who's worried about black spaceships? 
We're in a very bad place. Fishery management has come unglued from science's foundation of truth. 
Management's strategy is consistent. With no consideration of habitat or habitat fidelity/spawning site fidelity, with no thought given to fluctuations in age at maturity; sea bass quota is driven by stock estimate and regulation created in consideration of past landings as estimated by MRIP/MRFSS. 
If there's a problem, if sea bass are not responding to tighter catch restriction/tighter regulation, if the population is not going up; the only thing management knows to do is restrict fishers further. 
If that still doesn't work; they'll increase regulation further. 

Pretty soon we end up with a vastly reduced season, a vastly reduced population, and the distinct probability of a long-term closure hanging over our heads like Marie Antoinette's guillotine. That's Exactly Where We Are Today: Waiting For The Next Big Screw-Up In MRIP To Close The Fishery Entirely.  

We need to drop the size limit on sea bass to 11 inches for recreational fishers from NY south to reinvigorate spawning. 
We need to incorporate reef building/reef restoration into reef-fish restoration everywhere in the US. 
We need to reign in MRIP's recreational catch estimates; need to pull them back from the front-lines of regulation. We need management to use MRIP loosely as an indicator, not as a solid, knowable number with which to base regulation from. 

No scup fishery here; we need sea bass to flourish again in the Mid-Atlantic for economic stability of the party boat fleet & economic vitality in the commercial sea bass fishery. 
We need science-based restoration efforts based on real science – not WAGs of recreational catch. 
We need Population Biology & Population Ecology brought to the fore while MRIP's being kicked in the can. 
We need Anthropology to gain an understanding of habitat lost to human impact that's now in need of restoration.
What we need right away is fishery management based on fishery science – not MRIP. 

Having Unlocked Methods Of Increasing Spawning Productivity; To Sustainably Support Restored Fish Populations We Must Have Healthy Habitat In Suitable Quantity. 
That's How To Create Resilient Fisheries.
Ask anyone who's studied mycobacteriosis. . .  


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

Blog Archive