Sunday, June 12, 2016

Fish Report 6/12/16

Fish Report 6/12/16 
Sea Bass Bite Still OK(ish)
A Sign Of Flounder 
National Reef Conference

Sailing Daily For June Sea Bass Weather Permitting - Saturday's 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. Saving Sundays In July For Research - For Now..

Opening July! Now taking flounder/sea bass reservations for July. Honestly - If you book July there's no way to know whether fluke or sea bass will bite better on any day. I absolutely couldn't guess; but I do know my crew & I will be trying our best to make everyday a success. 

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. 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 - We usually have some aboard - Better is Nuts.Com.. Chewable Meclizine is a good pharmaceutical, there's also a "less drowsy" meclizine pill that a lot of clients like; Scopolamine Patches are the gold standard.)

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 Is Fine For A Few People. 
No Galley! BYO Sandwiches & Soft Drinks. A few beers in cans is fine. (bottles break at bad times)

If You Won't Measure & Count Your Fish, The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Measure & Count — ALWAYS — No Exceptions! 

13,086 Reef Blocks Deployed at numerous sites: Doug Ake's Reef 2,491 - St. Ann's 1,483 - Al Giles Barge 797 - Eagle Scout Reef 804 - Sue's Block Drop 72 - Nichols' Concrete 578 - Capt. Bob's Block Drop 48 - Benelli Reef 48

Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation!  (lots of reef pics here..)
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. 
Thank You! 

Greetings All, 
Catching sea bass, if tapered somewhat from early on, continues. High man is usually in double digits. Low man usually missed my warning about mal-de-mer medications. Had a big party on Saturday who missed the part about "if you howl at the moon, you'll howl into a bucket".. Nine guys down for the count.. 
History's primary admonishment is that we fail to learn from history. Promise one thing, a wicked hangover & rough seas make for a brutal lesson. 

Sea bass aside, we're starting to see an occasional flounder. Even had some guy get lucky & knock out a limit in a short while. That was just once. Most days, however, we ARE NOT seeing any flounder. 
Given the forecast for the coming weekend, it may be some while before things settle our favor for flatfish pursuits. 
I'm see an amazing turn of spawning age; of small sea bass switching to male at even 7.5 inches. 
They almost all start as female - only some switch to male to meet the needs of each reef's spawning population. I have not seen a 7.5 inch male in forever. We used to see hundreds every day..
While some curse commercial effort, recreational overfishing, & even climate change for our poor sea bassing these many years, I have been trying to convince managers of a delay in sea bass spawning related to size limit for almost 9 years now. 

The "It's Warming Making Them Leave" comes from scientists & managers. Gulping this kool-aid requires our 'genetic subset' of sea bass --a species still caught daily from both coasts of Florida-- to have grown 'too warm' in the Mid-Atlantic. Cod, true cod, even in August last year - and our ocean's too warm for sea bass. 
Please.. I mean honestly; the Ph.D who first put Climate Velocity out appeared to have no idea sea bass thrive below Cape Hatteras. The thinking died for a while, but came back strong after a genetic study came out showing our sea bass were isolated from the South Atlantic. 

We do have habitat expansion. 
Yes - there are warm surface waters being trapped below Cape Cod. It's as rocky/reefy a place as you could ever hope find. Sea bass are thriving in waters roughly 10 to 12 degrees warmer than when I was a youngster catching scup up there 40-some years ago.

But down here, off the NJ, DE, MD, & VA coast, were are instead seeing the cooling of melting Arctic ice. Ice melt comes south with the Labrador Current. Our average bottom temps have not warmed at all - not even a little. Ask any SCUBA diver you know.. 
We are NOT experiencing a CONTRACTION of sea bass down here because of warming. 

While we should be congratulating southern New England on having scup & sea bass in grand numbers, our management system cannot account habitat expansion - especially when the fish are not in areas easily sampled by trawl.
Can you imagine, "Lets catch a cbass charter in Rhode Island this summer when we're allowed 1 fish per-person." 
Probably not. 

Meanwhile, down here we're seeing the first sub-9 inch spawning male sea bass in 15 years. These male fish will mature & spawn -- most of them twice -- before entering our recreational size limit. 
When that very timeline was playing out through the 1990s & into 2000 because of much smaller size limits, we witnessed phenomenal population growth - despite ever-increasing catches. 
It wasn't until the size limit hit 12 inches in 2002 that a "Hey! Slow Down On The Spawning Already!" response kicked in with our sea bass. 
I believe southern New England sea bass didn't truly respond to management until the 2009 emergency closure. When Massachussetts re-opened sea bass they had a 14 inch limit --- which protected the 12 to 13 inch first-time spawners for a full spawning season..

I hold the spawning population in our region was finally so small last year (some AWFUL fishing!) that our region's sea bass perceived lots of reef 'vacancies' and began to switch sex to fill those voids.. 
Earlier in management, however, when we witnessed factual exponential population growth despite far higher levels of commercial & recreational catch - that "habitat vacancies" trigger was created by size limit. 
It makes no difference how many sea bass are on a given piece of reef, it's how big the biggest are that determines when some will switch sex. Highly pressured inshore reefs filled offshore reefs to capacity with jumbo sea bass.....

If you don't get it, don't worry. There are very, very few who do. Rutgers University is angling toward it.. We'll see. 
Trust this - the tired old line about big fish spawners being singularly important to fisheries restorations has failed miserably with sea bass these last 15 years. 
When we understand why, management will unlock an amazing fishery fisheries restoration tool. 

Was at the National Artificial Reef Workshop this past week. It's astounding how much resistance there is to growing coral. 
Time after time we heard how EVERY reef they build in the Gulf of Mexico is quickly colonized by small red snapper - every one. 
Those fish then mature and spawn too. 
Yet the old guard still holds sway: "We have to have BIG FEMALES so there are lots of eggs!"
Every reef they build gets colonized by snapper & grouper -- fast. 
But habitat has no role in fisheries production - not yet. Not officially. 
Reefs just attract fish.  

Guys from Texas & Alabama were way past "Attraction vs Production." 
They're building reef as hard as they can go.. 

Our sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic today reveal the importance of understanding spawning production in a reef species with habitat fidelity. Populations of sea bass on natural & artificial reef train-track, they go up and down together. When I was saying & writing that I thought our sea bass were at population's peak in 2003, that we just couldn't hold any more; that's when I realized just how important habitat was. 
Every reef was loaded with cbass. Made no difference how it got there. 
For to have made any noticeably greater increase in our region's population back then, we would have needed to build substantially more reef.. 

Please consider how very precisely the many rocky areas of southern New England, newly warmed, are exact mimics of new artificial reef - vast new areas of reef now warm enough for sea bass to colonize and use for spawning have allowed incredible new spawning production to occur. 

If a hurricane uncovers a great rocky ledge; if a ship sinks; if an area warms -- or if an artificial reef is built, sea bass will colonize and spawn. 
Corals too. 

If NOAA could move past today's obtuse thinking that catch restriction is fishery restoration's only weapon, perhaps soon we'd begin to benefit from management's labors. 
For now; more pain is only an MRIP catch estimate away. 
They're coming. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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