Monday, October 05, 2015

Fish Report 10/5/15

Fish Report 10/5/15 
Weather Timing  
Ol' Two-Drop & The Five Minute Limit 
Regulation Season Opens 

Boat is being overhauled from wheelhouse roof to tip of propellers. 
Taking Sea Bass Reservations for the period Oct 22 to November 8th. Not looking for "All-Limits, All The Time" Fishing. May not see any sea bass limits ..but at least we'll be fishing. May even see a few flounder should there be an extended calm. 
I'll wait & see how the fishing's shaking-out before announcing more of November/December.

Saturdays 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Sundays At Weekday Rates: 7 to 3 at $110.00.  
Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - On My Rig You Can Reserve What Spot You're In. Please See For How The Rail's Laid Out..
LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Happen - 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. With a limited number of reserved spots, I do not refund because you over-slept or had a flat..

Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! (Meclizine's Better!) 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! (Wockenfuss Candies sells crystalized ginger locally - Better is Nuts.Com.. Chewable Meclizine is a good pharmaceutical with Scopolamine Patches the gold standard.) For Anglers With Known Issues Dramamine & Meclizine Work Best If Treatment Begins The Night Before..
Honestly - If you get to go on the ocean once month, once a year, or even less; why risk chumming all day? Similarly, if you howl at the moon all night, chances are good you'll howl into a bucket all day.  

Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Do Not Bring A Very Large Cooler. We DO have a few loaners - you'll still need ice. 
No Galley! Bring Food & Beverages To Suit. A few beers in cans is fine for the ride home.  

On October 7th MD DNR will have a tautog meeting at the Ocean Pines Library starting at 5PM. 

In Congress: Ask your Representative to support HR 3049, The Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act, which gives allows the States bordering the Gulf of Mexico control over their red snapper--a species supremely responsive to increased habitat via oil wells & artificial reef. At issue's core are recreational catch estimates.. Despite incredibly detailed analysis showing red snapper populations at all time historical highs; and, also owing to habitat increases, even large snapper populations in areas where they had never been caught before, Federal regulators (NOAA/NMFS) use catch estimates to hold the season under two weeks. 
It is also true federal red snapper population estimates are done by trawl survey. 
NOAA uses fish population estimates created from a method unable to go where the fish live (no one can trawl an oil rig or artificial reef) & then uses recreational catch estimates no one believes for calculating whether anglers have gone over quota. In a system run-amuck, here is a fishery fix that sends a clear message to NOAA: Stop Using "Science" No One Believes!  
It's never been easier to write your Congressional Representative..

Small-scale reef building that adds up over time: We reloaded the block pile with chimney blocks, used all those, and have another load of 90 pound landscaping blocks coming. All our free/very cheap reef blocks are thanks to the special help of Capt. Jeff Bauer, and donated by Potomac Valley Brick and York Building Products from their Thomasville, PA plant.   

Now 12,249 Reef Blocks Deployed at numerous sites. Active presently are Doug Ake's Reef with 2,298 - St. Ann's 1,399 - Al Giles Barge 530 - Eagle Scout Reef 696 - Sue's Drifting Easy Reef 147 - Nichols' Concrete 528 - Upside Down Tank 132 
..& Now Elaine's Concrete too, a reef we built in the mid-1990s to about 18 inches thick. After 3 years of wonderful colonization & crazy-good fishing, it scoured in--just disappeared. Using the old buried-in reef as a foundation, we have begun restoring production to this lost artificial reef with 24 reef blocks. A couple thousand will see it done. Have to start somewhere!

Our largest concrete project ever this past March & April; The Reef Foundation Has Another (not quite so big) Project Coming Soon! Please Sponsor Our Larger-Scale Reef Building At  
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. 
Thank You! 

Greetings All, 
So much for a few "off in the deep" trips before maintenance begins. September 19th was our last trip & the last of a gorgeous run of weather. That long calm shattered by a longer-still northeast wind; this has been among the longest periods of constant high wind I can recall. 
Although hurricane Joaquin missed us, this northeaster's been a nasty blow. Many docks were underwater at every high tide. Seas averaged even 20 feet at the weather buoy just fifteen miles offshore for almost a week. 
One thing I know about "average wave height" is that some seas will run nearly double. Although books taught me to beware of 'average' wave height--I read it first, only experience can teach how little an "average" value means when a not-at-all average wave is coming at you. 
Thankfully, I've never experienced anything at sea like what we've had recently..

With DelMarVa forecast as Joaquin's landfall in some models, my crew & I made the Morning Star fast on September 30th with 34 lines; about 2,500 feet of rope in total. After nearly 5 hours tying her up in a 5/8 nylon web and checking each side's timing with engines in gear and throttled-up, just a casual check was all that was needed as the northeaster raged. 
When storm lines come tight simultaneously (well-timed) a boat will weather OK because wind pressure is spread almost equally along all the cleats on a side. If, however, one line bears too much load & pops - there will soon be a terrible mess as each cleat rips out along the rail in succession. Thankfully, no true test of our storm lines was had as Joaquin passed far offshore. 
Wind nearly over, our multi-year regulatory storm continues. Because sea bass are closed until October 22nd & flounder do not bite well in an ocean swell, we'll continue to pull heavy maintenance (really heavy) until sometime in mid/late October. We'll certainly be ready by 10/22. 
Saws, grinders, sanders, heat guns & dremels; fiberglass, epoxy in many forms & eventually paint: all are necessary that we might continue to have clients loading their coolers & fishing rods aboard for years to come. 

Flounder fishing during that long September calm finished wonderfully. We even had one fellow, Two Drop Terry, catch his four fish flounder limit in less than five minutes with two double keepers, a "five minute limit."  Very nice.. 
Finished that day with a boat limit and got in a tad early. Had a few other days where we could not legally put one more fluke in the boat too. 
That's good fishing.

It's also true, of course, that in a bit of light ENE wind earlier in September there were a couple trips where we had to slog it out just to scratch-up dinner. 
Overall: nice flounder fishing. 
With seas running like they are and deep-bodied hurricane swells now upon us, our swell-sensitive flounder fishery is toast for a while - probably until next year so far as a stable, predictable bite goes. 

If we'd had this weather in the first half of September, my crew & I would be eating in soup kitchens by now.
Instead we had an awesome bite in calm weather with the season open; We've gotten a lot of work done in weather unfit for fishing; Summer flounder's primary spawning period lies just ahead in better weather; And, although I'm sure 5/8 nylon rope is strong enough to tear a cleat out, hurricane Joaquin was nudged further & further to sea much of life comes down to timing. 

We'll soon get the sanders back out & begin fairing our new fiberglass. Finish paint is off in the future somewhere. Regulars will quickly spot other changes aboard. . . . .

I believe we are slowly wending our way toward sensible fishery management; toward a day when regulations are founded on facts of spawning behavior, accurate measures of catch, & an understanding of habitat's importance in fisheries restoration. 
An important early step in this journey is happening now with management's attempt to regionalize tautog management. This fishery's biological facts of extreme habitat fidelity (no north/south migration,) constant colonization of new reef, & management's recognition of regional fishing practices are blocked, as ever, by illusions of recreational catch cast by NOAA/NMFS' MRIP recreational catch estimating program. 

How in blazes could anyone unfamiliar with a region's fishery ever hope to garner a true sense of it from NOAA's catch estimates? 

A friend to sensibility in fisheries recently sent along a set of MRIP catch estimates from Connecticut. (These are from the new Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) recreational catch estimates that replaced the MRFSS estimating program Congress ordered disbanded.)
Nothing new, just that CT's private boat anglers "caught" & killed more tautog in a short twenty-one day season with a 16 inch size limit than all US Commercial Handline, Trap & Trawl; PLUS the entire Party/Charter For-Fire industry, All COMBINED throughout the species' range. 
Really, this is just another day at the office for MRIP. 
I honestly believe the new MRIP estimates are worse than the old MRFSS program. 
All US Party/Charter For-Hire Landings in ALL of 2014 - All States/All Year
Estimate StatusYearCommon NameTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)

All US Commercial Landings in 2013 (With commercial catch data surrendered per-trip, there's a two year time lag for commercial landings? Regardless, tautog catch averages about 250,000 pounds per year.) 
  • Year : From: 2013 To: 2013
  • Species : TAUTOG
  • State : All States
YearSpeciesMetric TonsPounds$

All Commercial & For-Hire Tautog Landings For All Of 2014 Equal 700,771 Pounds. 
MRIP - Connecticut Private Boat Catch for September/October. Season opened October 10th with 4 fish @ 16 inches - Twenty-One Days' Catch..
Estimate StatusYearWaveCommon NameTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)

So, from this "Best Available Scientific Information" that federal & state fishery managers are absolutely required by law to use, we see Connecticut private boats landing 430,000 more pounds of tautog in twenty-one days than all US Commercial & Professional For-Hire boats landed all year. 
That's pretty slick. 

But Wait! 
NY Private Boats did the same thing in November/December! They too outfished ALL US For Hire & Commercial effort with 330,000 more pounds of tautog..

MRIP - NY Private Boat Tautog Landings Nov/Dec. 
Estimate StatusYearWaveCommon NameTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)

Please Note: The Percentage of Standard Error (PSE) here is 90.6 - That means the actual statistical answer to "How many pounds of tautog did NY Private Boats catch in Nov/Dec 2014?" is: "Somewhere between ZERO & 3,000,000 pounds." 
Um? Gee.. Good Guess Guys? 

Everyone in fisheries - EVERYONE - is being robbed by MRIP. Commercial Fisher, Regulator, Environmentalist, Scientist & especially Recreational Anglers of all stripes: Because fisheries science & regulation's foundation are further & further undermined with every bit of MRIP data included--and, do not forget, use of MRIP catch estimates is Required By Law; we have no hope of management theory's predicted/anticipated outcomes except by random luck. A successful regulatory outcome can be no more likely than the accuracy of its inputs..

Habitat Fidelity is important--brutally important--to restoring robust spawning production & stabilizing fishing communities economically. It's inclusion vital if we are to ever again witness bioeconomic resiliency along our beaten down wharves. But spawning site fidelity's importance (meaning fish return to "their" spawning grounds time after time) cannot be at all obvious to regulators struggling to understand a managed species' response to regulations through the lens of badly flawed catch data. 

Connecticut party boats, for instance, have (according to NOAA's Best Available Science) landed just 578 tautog in the last 20 years. This while that state's private boats put the whole coast to shame just last year. CT's charter boats, meanwhile, caught about 16,000 tautog (all added together in total) from 1995 to 2013 - then caught 28,800 in 2014 while their private boats caught 261,000 tautog.. 

Hey MRIP, there are a lot more people who do not own a boat, especially a boat suitable for open water fishing, than do. The pool of anglers is much higher for the For-Hire industry than among privately owned boats. 

Using the above tautog catch estimates, (as required by law,) it would be perfectly logical for the ASMFC (Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission) to require NY & CT state regulators to further restrict all private boats to one Saturday & 6 weekdays per year of tautog fishing ..while allowing Party/Charter & Commercial fishers far less restrictive regulation. 
(Oh wait, isn't that EXACTLY what's happening with red snapper? I promise, less restrictive Party/Charter & Commercial access with grossly more restrictive Private Boat access is for exactly that reason . It's a logical regulatory conclusion when management's bound to reason the problems of fishery restoration primarily through MRIP catch estimates.)
Anyone who's read this far in one of my reports knows seven days a year would be wholly unnecessary. Readers also know loosened regs for professional/commercial effort might result in swiftly diminished populations. But, given its inability to present scientists with accurate catch, that is unfailingly where MRIP points. 

Instead of focusing federal & state efforts on creating & restoring tautog spawning habitat; instead of management by regional quota derived from each region's habitat production value, we have a mess. 
That mess, for so many species, is sourced from MRIP recreational catch estimates and MRFSS before it. 

Regulation Season opens October 7th when MD DNR will have a tautog meeting at the Ocean Pines Library starting at 5PM. 
Some in management are trying to capture habitat fidelity for use in their suite of regulatory tools - trying to have it allowed. They want to 'regionalize' tautog regulations & quotas in order to get better results from management. 
I say "Bravo!
"Coastwide" quotas are far too broad. Managers need to be able to regulate region by region.. "Regional Management" or "Regionalization" they say..
In Alaska oil tax money funds the world's finest fisheries management. Because of salmon's natal spawning-site fidelity, each river is managed individually. They do not open 1,000 miles of coast at the same time with the same limits. Alaska manages salmon with distinct populations in mind as divided by spawning site fidelity. 
Alaska's got coin devoted to fishery management. 
We have bridges falling in & squad-level armed skirmishes in our cities.
Still, your presence and perhaps even comment at one of these meetings would help steer restoration efforts in a better direction. 
DE & VA's meetings are also soon. 
We need management that can respond to and use biological facts, rather than management continually forced to use MRIP's catch estimate fictions.

With sea bass doing fine on both coasts of Florida, and sea bass also at new population highs in the ultra-regulated Cape Cod area, perhaps the unbelievable decline in sea bass production off DelMarVa will force managers to reckon habitat fidelity's role in regulation.

Unfortunately, despite successful summer sea bass trips even off the west coast of Florida, many managers have already decided climate change has forced sea bass to retreat from the lower Mid-Atlantic region. 
Some managers think luck plays a part in regulation's success; that favorable outcomes are random; that regulation is nowhere near as powerful as NOAA's primary money-maker of today, climate change. 

I believe strict adherence to MRIP/MRFSS recreational catch estimates has forced sea bass restoration efforts back to the beginning.  
There is so much variance between actual catch & estimated catch--in both directions--that some regulators scarcely believe laws they create ever actually play any real role: Catch Estimate Data Is So Bad, Managers Often See No Result From Tightened Or Relaxed Regulation ..and when they do see an increase or decline in catch, they have no idea if it's real. 

If the truth of catch were known, regulation's great might would be obvious--including biological effects on spawning. 
  • We Need Regional Quotas created with an understanding of each region's Habitat Production: Quotas That Recognize Spawning Site Habitat Fidelity. 
  • We Need Methods of Increasing Habitat Production via Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Guidelines. We Must Discover, Restore, Enhance, Preserve, & Create Marine Fish Habitat - Ocean Habitat, Not Just Bays & Rivers. 
  • We Need Regulatory Manipulation of Age At Maturity As Best Influences Spawning Production. 
  • We Need Regional Catch Regulations. 
With these tools I believe we can make fishing better than ever. 

Creating economic resiliency, even vitality, in coastal fishing communities will not come from a shrug, "Oh, that's climate change. Sorry. We can't help." Recognizing regulation's great strength depends on escaping from under MRIP's ill-found statistical hog-wash. 
Management's rationalization for failure, for abandonment of restoration duties because "Climate Change Did It" must stop. 
If we cannot know the truth of catch, we must at least recognize we do not know it: Management must be released from their obligation to use catch estimates no one believes.  
There are ways to determine if a fishery's restoration is going well. 
MRIP is not among them. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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