Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fish Report 9/14/14

Fish Report 9/14/14 
Sea Bass & Flounder 
Flying Fish, Blue Water & A Wahoo 
MRIP Now Primed For Another Cbass Closure 

When the forecast is favorable I intend to focus on sea bass in front of the Sept. 22 closure. 
We'll pull maintenance from 9/22 to 9/25 unless it breaks calm. In that event maintenance will be postponed and a trip to the deep taken.. Will announce here if it happens. 

We'll begin the sea bass closure with two "Flounder Only" trips on Friday, Sept 26th & Saturday, Sept. 27th. - Regular Prices & Hours – Reservations Required. 
They're out there – I'm sure.

Sailing When Weather & Regulation Allow. 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. 

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.. 

The OC Reef Foundation Aims To Build Its Single Largest & Most Expensive Concrete Reef Deployment Ever This Fall. The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become A Cornerstone Of Our Nearshore Reef Restoration Efforts. 

The Reef Foundation used its small barge to deploy 22 tons of concrete pipe at the Eagle Scout Reef in the first week of September. Looking to reload the barge again & again throughout fall and winter..

Reef blocks previously weighed 30 pounds apiece. We took 24 each trip. New blocks weigh very nearly 100 pounds each; we load 10 daily. Taking out more tons in fewer blocks..
10,395 Reef Blocks by the rail – 2,918 at Jimmy Jackson's – 2,126 at Doug Ake's – 1,104 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 504 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 20 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. 

Greetings All, 
Fall's transition now begun, we've gone from very nearly "all flounder, all the time" in August to nearly a boat limit of sea bass on Saturday, 9/13/14. 
Saturday, 9/6/14, we had very few sea bass, just a handful of decent fluke in a tough bite, plus a wahoo. 
Saturday, 8/30/14, we also had a boat limit of sea bass, some very nice mahi – and a barracuda. 
Despite Saturdays, fishing was much more about flounder these three weeks past. Truly excellent fluke fishing accompanied, of course, by mediocre angling as well. 
Now air & water temps are dropping. Fall is begun.  
Sea bass close Sept. 22nd until Oct. 18 because of overfishing by private boats last summer in NY & NJ. The closure has nothing to do with real fish or real overfishing, just imaginary computer animations escaped from NOAA's desktop screens to form real regulation. More below. It's getting ready to happen again. Promise. Another sea bass closure is only one bad estimate away. 

Thursday last, 9/11, I got about a mile out and could see the afternoon's forecasted wind had arrived early. Forecasting's better than ever, just not perfect. 
I stopped the boat and gave clients my assessment of the weather; "Does anyone have back or neck injuries that shouldn't be out on a rough day?" 
No, but there was a lady 6 months pregnant.. 
Start number two went better. Found a hot bite. Wind won though. Back in early with 1/2 off coupons around.. 

Lots of flying fish & pretty water this summer. Tuna, biggest mahi I've ever seen inshore, our recent wahoo; water's greener now and cooling. We'll keep fishing. 
On Tuesday, 9/2, I personally goose-egged on fluke while clients around me did quite well. The next day I had plenty of dinner in my first two drops.. 
A long time client has a 'secret weapon' rig. He's catching zilch. I suggest a different rig and he's catching – limits out. 
Another long time client spends part of the ride out in the wheelhouse. With no uncertainty, I tell him he needs to change his rig. An hour into the day, he's skunked while using the rig I told him to change.. 
Another day I'm giving a rough weather advisory when a client interrupts: "The important thing is will the fish bite!" 
"No" I replied, "The important thing is will we come home." 

I can promise we'll give 100% effort to the fishing. 
I cannot promise it will work. . . . . 

I went to a meeting in Gloucester, Massachusetts on 1/17/13. Quite broke at the time because of sea bass closures, it was good of NOAA to pay for my flight, room & car. Snowing, Massachusetts natives didn't see the need for a 4 wheel drive rental so I paid the difference..  
During that meeting our then-new Regional Administrator, John Bullard, got as angry as I've ever seen anyone in NOAA get – a big man, he was hot: "We are using white pages to determine fishing effort?! Who uses the white pages anymore??" 

(Youngsters reading this should know the "Phone Book" was once really a book. A great big book & not a little computer screen. It was divided into 'yellow pages' for business & 'white pages' for residential listings. To guess how many fish we catch NOAA actually still dials random residences from the white pages just like when the MuRFSS system was designed in the 1980s..) 

In 2007 Congress ordered the repair of recreational catch estimates, the repair of the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey (MuRFSS). At the very, very top of the requirement, supposed to be completed by 2009, was a "Saltwater Fishing Registry" (aka, fishing license) so that new recreational catch estimates would not have to be based on a random phone survey to gauge fishing effort.  Instead, estimators would have actual names & phone numbers of recreational participants. One can imagine tightening up statistical estimates by calling a sample of participants rather than a sample of the general public who do not fish, nor want to talk to some phone solicitor about their not going fishing. 

Besides a better idea of who to call, a really important number in the estimation of "How many fish did they catch?" is "How many people went fishing?" 
A license should tell NOAA that. 

2009's deadline came & went – no MuRFSS repair.
2010.. 2011.. 
Congress yawned. NOAA yawned. The sea bass fishery was closed twice in emergency closures because of unrepaired recreational catch estimates – estimates which could never have been true resulted in instant economic hardship. 

NOAA did an 'Economic Impact Survey." Eh, maybe a couple hundred bucks per boat. No biggie. 
That 2009 "Emergency Sea Bass Closure" wiped me out. It was only the generosity of clients, family plus good credit that pulled my business through. 
Economic impact study found nothing. That's what NOAA told Congress too. Funny how .guv most always finds exactly what .guv wants to find.  

In January 2012 MRIP's 'repair' was announced. Among so many gems in the 'repair' was the assertion that NJ's shore anglers hadn't actually caught the perfectly ludicrous 74,000 tautog during March/April 2010 that MuRFSS had claimed. (it's much more likely those anglers caught 74 tog in cold spring waters with 740 being huge.) The new MRIP number, our long awaited repair, MRIP claimed those anglers caught ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY THREE THOUSAND – 173,000 tautog.. 
MRIP asserts anglers caught more tog from NJ jetties in March & April than were caught by the entire multi-state region's Party/Charter industry, all year, throughout the species entire range. 

That's just stupid. One of MuRFSS' dumbest-ever estimates made incredibly more worse by MRIP's 'repair.' 
Then MRIP writes about that same estimate in a press-release: "..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." 

Uh Oh. 
Some repair. 
.guv sees what they want to see. 
"It's Fixed."

Now nearing the end of 2014, MRIP has yet to use any 'saltwater recreational registry' data in its calculations. Still using the white pages; plans are to begin experimentation with license data in 2015. 

MRIP's May/June sea bass estimates were recently released. 
Uh Oh. 

Last July/August MRIP claimed New Jersey's private boats caught 97% of that state's sea bass. 
From this year's May/June estimate one can plainly tell NJ's private boat anglers do not like fishing in May & June because they only took 5.6% of NJ's sea bass. This division, at least, is more congruent with at-sea observations. 

Up in Massachusetts it's quite the opposite. In Massachusetts private boats positively CRUSHED the Party/Charter fleet's sea bass sea bass totals by catching 90.5% of that state's spring sea bass. 
Thing is, no one ever sees these boats. For private boats to have 9 sea bass to every single fish caught in the For-Hire fishery there has to be at least 9X more private boat anglers..
To have that kind of catch there would have to be 9 guys on private boats for every guy on a for-hire boat. 
While there's certainly that capability from the private boat side, no one ever sees 210 private boats around one crowded party boat. 
No one ever sees 429 private boats around 2 party boats and three charters. 
Doesn't happen. 
Never has. 
MRIP's full of crap. 

To further illustrate the absence of truth seen in this sort of estimate, no one has reported seeing any amount of private boats at all during the week. Sure, there must be a few – but very few. 
For-Hire guys are going sea bassing during the week though. Making clients glad they came too. 
Still, that means there would have to be 735 private boats catching sea bass for every party boat on Saturday & Sunday. If there were two party boats with decent ticket sales then there'd have to be 1,470 private boats fishing -- successfully fishing, on nearby reef to have caught 9X the For-Hire landings.
Be some HUGE fleets. Fleets like we used to see back in the 1970s in Delaware Bay during sea trout's heyday. But even then private boats might have topped out at 20 for every party/charter boat. 

Massachusetts party/charter guys tell me their private boats catch about 50% of that state's sea bass. Personally, I doubt it's that high. 
MRIP tells us For-Hire catch is just 5% of Massachusetts sea bass totals, that Private Boats catch 95%.. 
Maybe what the estimates really tell us is NOAA has no idea – none. No clue. Not the least inkling of the fishery. 

Please know MRIP's assertion that Massachusetts private boats landed 603,000 pounds of sea bass this spring will have consequences when July/August estimates come out. 
That's just over 25% of the region's quota. It will almost certainly be a larger catch-estimate than the entire Atlantic Coast's For-Hire sea bass landings for all of 2014. MRIP guesses Massachusetts private boats, with their 8 fish limit, have already landed more pounds of sea bass than every party & charter boat along the whole East Coast will catch in all of 2014. 

MRIP's using white pages to gauge fishing effort and have not begun to gather estimates based on actual fishery participants via license sales. 
NOAA still insists MRIP estimates are "the best available scientific information" and will force Council & Commission to use MRIP's estimates no matter how fraudulent their claim, no matter how perjured their testimony.  

MRIP's estimates are almost always grossly imbalanced from true proportions of catch between For-Hire & Private Boat sectors. 
It would be a simple matter to flag bad estimates with predetermined "Percentage Of Catch" values..

A couple more bad estimates, especially like last summer's, & the for hire sea bass fishery will be in big trouble. 
Over-Quota Again. 

Capt. Rick Bellavance has developed a smartphone ap to send NOAA recreational private boat & for-hire catch data in real time. 
MRIP's using the white pages. 

If management's inputs were correct – the cbass fishery would be doing fine. 
Instead, management not only has false input from MRIP/MuRFSS recreational catch estimates, they are focused on those estimates in almost singular fashion. If estimates show recreational anglers have exceeded quota, regulation is swiftly tightened. If estimates show recreational anglers have taken below quota than regulation is either left alone or loosened somewhat. 
If the estimates do not create alarm, no further thought whatever is given to the fishery.

We witnessed a terrific population expansion during early management with smaller size limits & virtually no closed season. We experienced exponential population growth with no bag limit and a 9 or 10 inch size limit.  
Owing only to bad catch estimates, the sea bass population has contracted since 2003. For-Hire extraction is factually at an all-time historic low yet the sea bass population is in decline. Although you couldn't tell it in the estimates, so too is private boat catch ..& the population contracts. 

When we experienced rapid population growth despite very high levels of extraction, every sea bass in the ocean in summer was actively spawning. 
Now only 10 to 15% are. 
Those few spawners are the ones we target, the ones that are legal. 
Management does not understand why age at maturity shift is bad for a fishery. Management does not understand their utter reliance on bad catch estimates as a convenient tool for managing a third tier fishery has now destroyed all previous gains. The money lost to commercial & recreational cbass fishers – money squandered by bad management - is astounding. 

Science moves forward when new knowledge is gained, when new facts emerge. 
Science moves backward when it accepts false premises in its calculations. 

We shouldn't be staring down the barrel of a total closure. Sea bass should instead be at habitat capacity. When the population began to turn south in 2002 and started to decline in 2003 – that's when NOAA should have realized something was amiss. 

False comfort of management held accountable only to random catch estimates has allowed the fishery to  lose its vibrancy - except where it was a secondary bycatch in the scup fishery.
NOAA has no idea why. 

1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 & soon 2014 – Those years contain wild statistical outliers, fantastically unlikely estimates, that tightened sea bass regulation. 
The population grew to its highest level of the last 50 years with almost no oversight other than a small size limit by 2002. In that period EVERY sea bass in the ocean was a spawner – even fish far below size limit. 
Now the population withers because management is forcing sea bass to spawn 2 to 3 years later – to start spawning just as they become legal to recreational harvest & a year after they've been legal to commercial fishers. 
Yet NOAA will tell you the trouble is in Private Boat harvest.. 

What a mess. 
Council & Commission will not convene to regulate MRIP, they will use MRIP to regulate us. 
If regulators would learn to make sea bass spawn young we can again be at habitat capacity in a few years. When further population elevation is only possible by habitat enhancement because existing habitat can hold no more, the need to understand habitat loss during the rise of industrial fishing will be made plain. 
Habitat production understanding, combined with forcing early maturity, will unlock fishery management's true potential. 
If NOAA continues to insist regulation be based wholly from false estimates, the cbass fishery's light will grow dimmer. 

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

Blog Archive