Friday, November 13, 2015

Fish Report 11/13/15

Fish Report 11/13/15
Sea Bass: Results May Vary 
Renewed Reefing Efforts 
Three Tools 

Two New Long Cbass Trips - Weather Man PROMISES a nice calm this Monday & Tuesday, November 16th & 17th - Really does look good. I've switched those dates to the 6:30am to 3:30pm $125.00 format because I used almost all my frozen fish in that dastardly sea bass closure... 
Doable, but hardly calm, I also have a few spots open for Sunday, November 15th at same long-trip times. 

Now Taking Sea Bass Reservations to November 30th Except Thanksgiving Day - Regular Schedule With An Occasional Longer Trip Announced. 

Fishing everyday the weather's fit!

Not Looking For "All-Limits, All The Time" Sea Bass Fishing. We are seeing some 15 fish sea bass limits - working for them. If sea bass management were holding a proper course, any client able to drop & reel would be able to catch 15 sea bass with one shiny bare hook. I believe sea bass management is having a very poor result in our region & will delve into some of that again in a future report.
I'll announce December trips as weather forecasts firm--like I announce tog trips. (see section in report below for an explanation of short-term trip announcements.) 

Saturdays 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Sundays At Weekday Rates: 7 to 3 at $110.00. - Other Longer Trips Announced When Winds Look Good.
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.  

In Congress: Ask your Representative to support HR 3094, 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. Every time a Congressional member hears about bad catch estimate data's effect on fisheries it helps push management toward a better outcome.

Small-scale reef building that adds up over time: We've received another load of 90 pound landscaping blocks. 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 12,394 Reef Blocks Deployed at numerous sites. Active presently are Doug Ake's Reef with 2,358 - St. Ann's 1,447 - Al Giles Barge 550 - Eagle Scout Reef 720 - Sue's Drifting Easy Reef 147 - Nichols' Concrete 528 - Upside Down Tank 132 
Working at 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!

First New Truckloads Of Concrete Pipe Saturday 11/14 - Our largest pre-cast concrete project ever was this past March & April. The Reef Foundation Has Secured The Services Of The 105 x 30 Foot "Iron Lady" Again For Several More Months. 
We're going to build more great reef with this rig beginning this week.. 
In town to demolish a sunken trawler, the long-abandoned "New Hope," the Iron Lady already took all that vessel's steel superstructure & rigging to Capt. Bob Gowar's Reef about 8 miles offshore. 
There's one more load of steel from the wreck headed to Capt. Bob's Reef. When that project's complete we'll start loading the Iron Lady with truckloads of pre-cast concrete in pipe units. Looking forward to a busy winter!

Please Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation!
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. 
Thank You! 

Greetings All, 
Last two trips - two completely different days. 
Saturday last, November 7th, I was concerned with a front passing mid-day. It came late and with strong winds, but we were already safely in the lee of Ocean City. Some clients broke through into double digits with sea bass, many did not. It was a day of mixed luck when even rookies might outfish the regulars! 
Monday.. I have no idea where those fellows got the strength to crank fish all day. Drop & reel cbassing with large to xtra-large blues mixed in. Lot of limits and, owing to saucy conditions in a 15 knot east wind, a few who, ah, retired from the angling early. 

The week before I very nearly had a boat limit of sea bass. A couple regulars & myself were on the bow armed with several jigging rods.  
Sea bass were CHEWING. 
But not biting metal. 
At All. 
What the heck.. 
Those of us who like to jig prefer sea bass with a cooperative spirit. 
Me? I threw in the towel early. Switched to bait. Long winter coming. Quick limit. 
My other jigging friends, on the other hand, did not. 
Overheard: "The bow wasn't on the fish."  
Yeah, um, I think the lesson here is along the lines of "know when to hold 'em - know when to fold 'em." 

I see it every fall. Year round really. We want fish to do as we'd wish. 
Only they ain't playing. 
I've been catching sea bass on a jig since 1982. They never-ever 'always' bite steel 
..but I sure hope they do the next couple trips! 
This calm Monday & Tuesday looks really sweet.......

I was at a MD DNR fisheries meeting recently when a manager I hold in highest regard presented a powerpoint slide showing, "Management has three tools: Season, Size Limit, & Creel." 
I sincerely hope from among my readers you'll also see his thinking as 'painfully myopic.' 

I consider these three tools I consider as one: Catch Restriction. 
Among management's tools Catch Restriction is the easy one. That's what we could do -did- from a kitchen table. We really did have a size limit on sea bass years before regulation began. We really did have a three tautog at 16 inches limit in 1992. It would be 6 more years before MD put it at five fish at 14 inches. 
Their regulation based entirely on MuRFSS catch estimates; tog slid slowly downhill and then fell sharply in our back-bays when an "emergency flounder closure" was declared in 2008, and then in the ocean with an "emergency sea bass closure" in 2009.. 
Regulations based on MuRFSS recreational catch estimates, there truly is --and remains-- an emergency, but it's on the readout-side of the computer, not the catching. Catch estimates used to create both "emergencies" were putrid in the extreme. 
"We have to" was management's refrain. 
As with MRIP today, MuRFSS was the 'Best Available Data" because it's the only available data. 
"Emergency!" ..effort increased 20-fold on our inshore tog during that flounder closure. There were lots of new entrants to the fishery. They raved about how much fun it was.. 
With fingers pointing everywhere, the nearly instantaneous decrease in our inshore/bay tautog population owed only to bad flounder estimates & the increase in tautog fishing effort they created. 

My point: Although Catch Restriction is the simplest form of fisheries restoration, we hardly have it hammered into sensible regulation yet. 

All our marine species require inclusion of habitat fidelity in management's thinking. With spawning production and fishing effort wildly variable in different areas, almost 2 decades of "Coastwide" regulations have come to a bad place. Managers are trying to refine regulation with numerour 'regional' quota splits in order to make catch restriction work.
Yet every time the tippy-top of NOAA can be coerced into a comment on how bad MRIP catch estimates are, they simply reply: 'the estimates are fine for what they were intended---a coastwide recreational catch estimate.' 
That means when NJ's shore anglers were estimated to catch more tog in March/April 2010 than the whole recreational for-hire fleet all year, that the 'shore' estimate really didn't mean those 'shore anglers' actually caught those tautog. No, NOAA always tells Congress any single aspect of the estimates is just a small part of the coastwide estimate. 
NOAA, you see, doesn't know WHO actually caught those 173,000 lbs of tog when NJ's jetty tog were still sound-asleep, but will bet our businesses someone did.. 


The biological fact of extreme habitat fidelity demands catch restriction-based restoration efforts be fed better estimates. 
As my gruff old friend, Capt. Bob, might have said, "Those guys had a better chance of seeing Jesus ride up and down those jetties on a unicycle than catching that much tog." 
NMFS: 'Yeah, but he was riding a unicycle somewhere.' 

We've arrived. Management knows they need to regionalize many species' regulations - need to do it now. Quota-based extraction demands production-based regulation.  
Too bad MRIP is worse than what they were using in 1981. . . . . .

I believe the Gulf Stream dams the Labrador Current creating a nutrient trap at our doorstep. Estuarine outflows that might mildly nourish nearshore marine waters are instead a huge part of the problem. Surely I have no need of selling oyster restoration to readers, but my sense of scale seems unseen in the literature. We really are turning the ocean green. 
Lots & lots of anglers saw green water in the canyons this year. 
Among old-timers are men who can recall the first time they saw green water just 20 miles out. 
Among really old timers are men who caught white marlin just 5 miles out off Ocean City, MD - not 60 or 70 miles out. 

This problem is insurmountable with only '3 tools.' We cannot repair water quality with catch restriction. 

Time & again we see sea-grass resurgence near shellfish aquaculture grow-outs. Clean water promotes grass. Enough oysters & grass would turn the ocean blue again. We need to reverse the multi-century cascade caused by oyster depletion..

A far more difficult sale: nearly everyone who has studied population dynamics, even briefly, can recall text-book instances of accelerated population growth. Reproductive fluctuation & variation are inherent in biology/ecology and have been hard studied. 
Although alone at present, I am certain management can harness a simple spawning accelerant for sea bass restoration. I am equally certain what I have seen in sea bass can be found in other species, especially other reef species. 
Yet somehow, convinced perhaps MRIP guides regulation with veracity, this astoundingly powerful tool I see sitting high-atop managers' tool kit remains completely unknown. 
I promise - exponential population growth can be managed for. We already did it. 

When the sea bass population shot from historical lows in the mid-1990s to historical highs just a few years later - it wasn't luck. Size-limit management was forcing sea bass to spawn young (as they had for as long as we'd studied them.) We were catching better & better every year - and STILL the population grew. 
That's production. 
Today we are using the same spawning triggers--but on the other end of the scale--to hamper restoration's progress & destroy the recreational sea bass fishery in the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Instead of spawning at age zero or age one, our region's sea bass spawn at age three or four.. 

I believe sea bass production in our region has never been lower since sea bass first colonized 10s of thousands of years ago. Sea bass were more productive (had greater spawning success) with fully unregulated fishing than today.  

Regardless the explosion of sea bass along Florida's west Coast since a simple 10 inch limit was created 4 years ago, management thinks "global warming is pushing sea bass further north, away from the lower Mid-Atlantic toward Southern New England. 

Gosh. What a coincidence. Regulated to new historical highs just 12 years ago, suddenly warming comes into play and completely unseats regulation's effect. 
"Spawning what? Who?"
"What would that matter?" (why look at facts when a funding lever has been created..) 
"Oh, we only have MRIP estimates. With one tool split 3 ways (Catch Restriction's tools of Season, Size Limit, & Creel) we don't need habitat science or population biology." 
"By the way, youse guys seen anyone on a unicycle over those schools of sea bass?" . . . . .

Management is quite sure a big part of the reason flounder are not growing into legal size is because of hooking mortality - because recreational discards kill more than we take home to eat.. (Yes, that's really what they think.)
Man. I thought this stuff was put to bed over a decade ago. 
I should have known-not when two really good men from Gloucester's main NMFS office presented the single worst collection of misinformation I've yet seen in fisheries. 
NOAA has no idea about kahle, or "wide gap" hooks & circle hooks. 
I suppose that's because they spent (wasted) all their money creating the repair to MuRFSS - MRIP. 
Management is something I begged for in the 1990s. As management began we witnessed astounding increases in fish. 
Now fishers are in trouble-deep because management is so utterly reliant on the worst possible representation of restoration's path. Three tools with one primary guide - recreational catch estimates. 

Did I mention marine reef habitat? NOAA has me painted as a unicycle witness here. 
Been sending Congress & NOAA video since 2001. But dot-guv's really good at sticking to their science. Especially when their 'best science' is their only science. 
MAFMC was actually considering my work on seafloor habitat in the early 2000s. When it came before Council trap/pot fishers testified their gear became overgrown in less than one year---that their (then wooden) traps were well-covered in growth in under a year; that, by-golly, if they didn't haul them for winter no fish could get in - this is if the worms didn't destroy the traps.. 
Well, that was science enough to demonstrate trawl impacts are only temporary and in no way in need of further consideration for fisheries restoration or production.. 

Three-quarters of a century of marine seafloor habitat loss owing to massive industrial gears.  
So far it hasn't grown back in a couple months. 

A new artificial reef off MD takes about 15 years to start showing some hard coral growth. 
On Delaware's Site-Eleven I understand sea whip, a soft coral, can be well-colonized in just 4 years. 
Amazingly fast; that's because of that reef's robust spawning population. 

Three tools really are all some see. With marine seafloor habitat & regulation's effects on fisheries spawning production--even simple hook mortality work--completely absent from restoration policy, fisheries restoration is stuck in a dark place. 

Everytime you write a letter you help with the lighting. 
I'm coming to believe everyone should know at least a few Congressional staffers. . . 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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