Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Fish Report 12/06/16

Fish Report 12/06/16
Going Again & Soon
Excellent Catching
Small-Scale Reef Building 
CCA's Fisheries Symposium  

Sea Bass Trips: 
Thursday, December 8th - 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 ..
Sunday, December 11th - 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 ..
Tuesday December 13th - 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 ..
Last three trips we've had a boat limit of cbass. It's fishing though! 
Reef Building - Saturday, Dec 10th - See details at bottom of this section..

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! Clients like "Bonine" brand best..) 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, especially Bonine; Scopolamine Patches are the gold standard. Stay away from 'ginger pills.'
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! 

14,551 Reef Blocks deployed at numerous sites: Doug Ake's Reef 2,515 - St. Ann's 1,555 - Al Giles/OC RUST Reef 1,077 - Eagle Scout Reef 904 - Sue's Block Drop 184 - Nichols' Concrete 738 - Capt. Bob's Block Drop 156 - Benelli Reef 341
Blocks Provided By Potomac Valley Brick - Thank You!
Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation! http://www.ocreefs.org (lots of reef pics here..) We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. Thank You! 

Free Reef Labor Wanted! 
Going to build some Chimney Block Tog Condos on Saturday, December 10th and deploy them from my boat at a reef site to be determined by weather conditions. (Probably inshore at Wolf & Sons Reef  ..where we are currently building Wolf & Daughters Reef.....) Not regular cement blocks; they're heavier. We'll load the boat with chimney blocks, (Thanks Potomac Valley Brick!) as many as she can carry, & assemble/deploy them in 3 & 4 block units. We're a little light on forklifts (none) strong backs needed. Will buy coffee & a sub.. Figure 7:30AM to 1 or so. If you can help please email me at my capt.montyhawkins@gmail.com address.. Other addresses I check less frequently. 

Greetings All, 
Fishing some. Catching a lot. Last few trips were real clean sea bass, (not overrun by bluefish,) resulting in a boat limit of cbass. 
Luck of the draw with keeper ratios. On Monday some guy went 15 keepers for 21 fish, others were rounded up to a limit by more fortunate clients after surely catching over a hundred throwbacks. 
Some of the fellows from MSSA DC limited on jigs - just steel, no bait. That same day I was fishing on the bow with almost no success on the jig. Presentation is everything. I couldn't find the sweet spot up front---but got bit instantly on bait. 
What do you do.. 
If your answer is 'go fishing', please believe I'm going every chance I get. 

Blowing a near-gale NW Saturday, I paddled on up to CCA's Fishery Symposium in Annapolis in time for lunch. Spearheaded by Dave Sikorski, a lot of effort goes into this 'fisheries immersion' event. 
A lot more effort goes into striped bass management in the Chesapeake. With every possible user group clamoring for just a bit more of the pie; whether to sell commercially, leave as brood-stock, carry clients to - it's all use of quota. 
Was a SSB (spawning stock biomass) graph on the screen going back to 1980 when it was at an all-time low. Maryland's John Griffin stepped up, went where no regulator had ever been in salt water -- closed the fishery. That was in 1985. You can see the population push upward on the SSB graph.
Regulation flourished for this important fish from that point on. Stripers reopened in MD to recreational & commercial extraction after 5 years. 
At that point the feds closed the EEZ.. (ocean outside 3 miles) 
Though stripers are proudly boasted as "fully restored" in every segment of professional restoration & conservation; I pointed out we hadn't been allowed to catch any since the fall of 1984..
Yes: If stripers are "inside the line" today (meaning inside the 3 mile line, the marine state waters line---a line determined by how far a shore-side cannon battery could shoot in our country's earliest days & having absolutely nothing to do with fisheries biology) I could fish for them with clients. 
But they're usually offshore -- essentially all the lumps & ridges where white marlin were targeted before the ocean started turning green with too much algae. Not just the Bass Grounds, Sugar Lump, SE Ridge & Third Lump -- I've seen stripers thick on Jackspot, the 20 mile shoal that made Ocean City famous for billfishing. 
Some pirates benefit. CLOSED, after all, only applies to law-abiding anglers. Then too, there's more marine fisheries enforcement in winter -- with far fewer boats fishing! -- than during the rest of the year. 
They're important fish. 
So, for the time being, stripers caught outside the 3 mile line are 'slaughtered' & provoke a sadness best heard in Dido's Lament ..while stripers boxed in the regulated fishery are as lambskin to fisheries. (Not up on opera? Here's another of the ladies who sing at the end, Malena Ernman, singing Dido's Lament. "It's not over until the fat lady sings" just doesn't apply in the real world.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-L-txhf9pg lyrics are beneath - Yes, it's in english. No, I wouldn't possibly understand it without the lyrics..)

There was a LOT of talk about stripers at this symposium. That's what the people there wanted to hear about. 
There was even a presentation by two of MD DNR's best & brightest, Jim Uphoff & Tom Parham. 
THIS was one of the best pieces of fisheries work I've ever seen - a "WhoDunIt" expressed from the vantage of fisheries science & ecology. 
Perhaps I should delve more deeply, but what struck me was multi-year low oxygen events.  Science expects parts of the bottom of the Chesapeake & major tributaries to go anoxic (w/o oxygen) during the year

..and why? 
Simplified here: Algae bloom uncontrollably in over-nutrified waters. As they die off, they are consumed by bacteria down deep. This process must be in vast scale because it uses all (or too much of) the oxygen in the water. 
Fish can flee water with low/no oxygen (dead zones) - some crabs too - but what of all the critters fish feed on? The worms, clams, and host of other animals needed for every stage of life?

Looking at a pretty river doesn't mean it's healthy.. Oxygen down deep - or else.

Also over-simplified.. As I see it; the collapse of oysters is what allows algae to go unchecked. Yes, far too many nutrients feed those algae - but restoring oysters in what must be billions, & on  reefs we know once existed, would likely go a long way toward lowering the cause of dead zones. Lots & lots of science on it, going back many years. 

A slice of fisheries ecology; Jim & Tom's presentation touched on what scientists call a benthic/pelagic coupling. Stripers eat clams & worms during part of the year. Some stripers travel the coast, even up into Canada preying on Atlantic salmon smolts in rivers where they've never been seen before. Clams, a star of the benthic (bottom) ecology, ain't goin nowhere. 
If clams/worms die of suffocation in a river; stripers go somewhere else - or die too. 
(Their presentation was far more detailed. See: http://dnrweb.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/calendar/events/1037/N_Striped_Bass_the_Lower_Potomac_Presentation-Oct2016.pdf  Both biologists are approachable with questions..)

A little later, after our state reef coordinator's powerpoint, Maryland's one-man reef program, I was able to cheerlead our reef building off the coast. Told those present we were growing corals like crazy, even on tires.. 
Seemed like a lot of surprise at that, our corals. 

Think about that. Who in blazes spends all day listening to presentations on ecology & fisheries? I mean, it was a free sandwich, a good sandwich, but a sunny Saturday in December? All day? This was a 'core' audience. The folks who write letters and do their best to stay abreast of fisheries news. 
Few of them knew of our ocean corals. I myself hadn't considered the importance of benthic  (bottom living) worms/clam species in the Chesapeake's food web. 
Fewer still ever considered the benthic/pelagic coupling that is oysters/bluewater pelagics. Oysters/marlin? 
The ocean--Our Ocean--the Mid-Atlantic ocean, is turning green. Been getting greener a long time. Where men once caught billfish by the boatload just a few miles out, now none would even dream of trying. 
The same algae killing river & bay bottoms is slowly choking the sea as well. 

That SSB graph I wrote about above is like so very, very many graphs of fish populations. It wavers low left when overfishing was at its max during the late 1970s/1980s/& early 1990s, then shoots up to whatever high point and wavers along high-right at todays restored levels. 
Lots & lots & lots of fish population charts follow the same general shape. 
So does a K graph, a habitat carrying capacity graph..

To lift fish populations higher-still will now require far more emphasis on habitat. 
By understanding spawning triggers during the exponential population growth phase (the steep climb up) managers can also increase quota for some species without stressing habitats. 

Green water can be fixed. 
I think CCA's Habitat Program, their Building Conservation Trust https://www.buildingconservation.org will be an important part of it. 

Meanwhile, I'll take a few volunteers out Saturday to build reef. 
Curse a green sea..


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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