Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fish Report 10/10/17

Fish Report 10/10/17 
Opening Oct/Nov 
The Problem 
My Letter To Commerce & Others

Working crazy-hard on a project.. Will resume fishing Oct 22 when sea bass reopen. 
Opening the reservation book to sea bass trips until after Thanksgiving. Not sailing Nov 5th & 6th - nor Thanksgiving Day itself. 
Also making Sunday, Nov 12th, a long trip.

Could there be some flounder? Yes? 
Well, yes. Dern Few & maybe a dandy.. But I will be targeting sea bass!

Sailing Daily For Sea Bass Starting Oct 22 - Weather Permitting - Saturday's 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. ARRIVE 1/2 HOUR EARLY! We'll want an early start. Pretty rare for me to get home on time..

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..

Bonine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works OK For Some. "Natural Dramamine" Does NOT! 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 at the White Marlin Mall location (also the post office most OCRF mail goes through) - We usually have some aboard. Chewable Meclizine is a good pharmaceutical, chewable Bonine's a "less drowsy" meclizine pill; prescription Scopolamine Patches are the gold standard.)

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! 

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

2017 Reef Raffle!! Benelli USA has donated another spectacular shotgun! A Benelli Super Black Eagle II, 25th Anniversary Limited Edition, 12ga 28" in Black Cerakote.. Tix are $10.00 - available aboard and/or email if you want me to mail you some. If you want to sell some, could REALLY use the help... 

If you know anyone with pallets of unsalable block, I know a fishy place or two we can store them. Forever. Will pay for trucking. 
If you have a few blocks in the backyard taking up space and just making snake reef, bring em. We'll toss em overboard with the rest

No New Blocks.. 19,100 Reef Blocks deployed at numerous sites: TNC's Restoration Reef 278 - Doug Ake's Reef 3,300 - St. Ann's 1,888 - Al Giles/OC RUST Reef 1,426 - Eagle Scout Reef 954 - Sue's Block Drop 529 - Nichols' Concrete 1122 - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 691 - Benelli Reef 418 - Capt. Bob's BG Reef 704 - Wolf & Daughters Reef 220
Photo Nick Caloyianis while diving from my boat, the Morning Star, to check on natural bottom/reef post Sandy. Note missing coral on stems of sea whip (the black sections..) Whips were completely stripped from shallower bottoms off DE, here they just took a thrashing. (Note too flounder in front. Aside the obvious tog/sea bass, we know flounder & squid also spawn on hardbottoms  ..but have yet to examine fishing's history for seafloor habitat loss. It's there. Just have to look...)

Greetings All, 
Looking forward to getting back to sea! 
For now, something else - life in general sort of work. 
It's even cut into my advocacy work, despite that this is a crucial time. 
I believe, now more than ever before, a case can be made to the Secretary of Commerce, Secretary Ross, that MRIP's recreational catch estimates are destroying the economic vitality of the recreational fisheries from Texas to Maine. 
Oh sure, you see crowded 4 hour trips in summer. It's the boats who have always depended on year-round access to healthy fisheries who are suffering in this age of draconian overregulation. 
These regulatory tightenings owe only to MRIP & MRFSS catch estimates showing rec fishers overharvesting allowed quota. 
I'm only going to give one example below. If you'd like further proof of MRIP's fallibility, please look at my last, Dear Commerce Secretary Ross" http://blog.morningstarfishing.com from among many.. (all?)

MRIP Calculates Shore Fishers in MD, CT, & NY Caught +134,000 Pounds Of Black Sea Bass in 2016. 
In MD they claim Shore anglers landed more cbass than everyone else - they averaged 1.3 pounds. (I often run 20 miles & better for cbass. Clients rarely AVERAGE 1.3 pound fish)
In Delaware, however, they had better bait and Shore anglers caught an Average-Size of 1.9 pound sea bass.  
In NY, Ahh New York--always a great state to check for a statistical miracle in fisheries; In NY MRIP has the "average" shore-caught sea bass at 3.0 pounds. (Yes, I'm serious.) 
New Jersey's Shore anglers, I'm sorry to report, did not cash-in on what must have been a shore-side bonanza for states north & south -- NJ pulled a zero.

Following MRIP's very typical pattern, If regulators only allowed shore fishers 2 sea bass at 16 inches in 2018 -- by MRIP's calculation they'd catch more than ever before --a LOT more.

Happens all the time if usually in the Private Boat mode: Regulation becomes more restrictive, Private Boat catch blows up ..while Party/Charter falls off predictably.

A known drug user you haven't seen in a few months tells you he's just completed 2 years in the Army and is signing back up. 
You KNOW he wasn't in the Army a few months ago. You KNOW he's completely full of horse-stall muckings.. 
NOAA -- Yeah, we know, but: USE THAT DATA. IT'S ALL WE HAVE. USE IT. 
Don't matter how wrong.
Don't matter everyone knows damn well MRIP's lying like a crack-head.  

Surely readers recognize that these Shore-caught sea bass estimates are pure fishfeathers. Problem is, so are the rest of MRIP's estimates. 
For MRIP's estimates to be true requires Boats On The Water/Fish In Coolers. No professional I've ever asked believed, (to offer a single instance--one example among hundreds,) ..no Party/Charter skipper believes NJ's Private Boats landed 96.5% of 2017's May/June NJ sea bass. 

Recreational "overfishing" given modern regulation from before today's overregulation is not real. It is only an illusion of statistics. 
Regulation derived from statistical catch estimates are real, however, They are dismantling the For-Hire industry.
No, not the 2 hour/4 hour boats, but boats that depend on dedicated fishers who want longer trips & a heck of a good fish fry when it's over..

The promise of fisheries management is real - we can make fishing amazing. 
We're not going to get there from a foundation of fraudulent data. 
There's no possible way true conclusions can be drawn from MRIP data. It's far-far worse than MRFSS before it. 

When we've focused of spawning production -- the very most basic aspect of enlivening a fishery -- we shall see success.
Until then? 
More of this mess...

Here's what we NEED to focus on now: 
Habitat Carrying Capacity in a graph. A population can only grow to the bounds where habitat still supports it. In college texts they'll often use an illustration where a rapidly multiplying organism's population would grow to the rings of Saturn in a year if not constrained by habitat. 
So it is with fishes. In species after species after species we see an initial rapid escalation of population as regulation begins  ..then that growth tapers. With no focus whatever on marine habitat, NOAA et al maintain catch restriction can continue to grow fish populations; and, in some cases, it can ..but only at the expense of other species. 

So.. How do we fix it? How can we get MRIP off our backs so Ecology & Biology might come to the fore of fisheries restorations? 

Write Secretary Ross at the US Dept. of Commerce: 
(Remember!! First Rule of Politics: Everyone's Your Friend When You're Trying To Get Something Done!)
We do not need MRIP's repair right away. That will come. We need managers at Council/Commission level to be able to disregard obviously bad MRIP estimates. 
NOAA will NOT allow any change from the 'centerpoint' of an estimate. Secretary Ross can change that policy. . 

Secretary of Commerce W. Ross
1401 Constitution Ave NW
WashingtonDC 20230
United States 

Would be better to address a staffer directly, but I haven't any idea who they are. Someone WILL open your letter & read it. 

Send another to: 
Mr. Benjamin Friedman 
NOAA Acting Deputy Under Secretary
1401 Constitution Ave NW Rm 5128
Washington, DC 20230 

And, a new guy in DC -- but not at all new to fisheries! 
Mr. Chris Oliver - CINC NMFS
NOAA Fisheries
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

You Should CC your congressional reps as well -- by mail, but to a field office.
If you write directly to DC, and this may be true with letters to Commerce as well, their mail is delayed going through DHS screening.. 
Printing them and applying a wet signature, perhaps with a note for the poor staffer who actually has to read it is fine..

Do not ignore your state's Governor either; Especially if you live in NJ. 
These folks all Google easily. Look for the "Contact Us" button. 
Elected reps are able to help you get heard in Commerce & in DC as well. 

NOAA's policy of using MRIP 'as-is' needs to change. The Secretary of Commerce can alter our worsening history in the stroke of a pen -- swiftly.

M u c h  -   m u c h   -    m  u  c  h   -    s  l  o  w  e  r  -    You may also want to support HR 2023: "Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Act of 2017." It has a lot of language I find appealing -- language that applies specifically to recreational data and specifies MRIP be hauled-up before the National Academy of Sciences --AGAIN-- and this time asked: "To Evaluate whether the design of MRIP, for the puroposes of stock management reference points, is compatible with the needs of in-season managemenet of annual catch limits & whether in-season management of annual catch limits is appropriate for all recreational fisheries." 

******My Letter******

Capt. Monty Hawkins
Recreational Party Boat Morning Star, Ocean City, MD.

Dear Secretary Ross, (& Undersecretary Friedman, & CINC Oliver, NOAA Fisheries..)
Marine Recreational Sport Fishing Is Being Economically Decapitated By NOAA’s Forced Use Of MRIP Catch Statistics.
Recreational fishers have long complained about the accuracy of NOAA’s recreational catch estimates through MRIP. Errors in this new system are incredibly more huge than in the previous system, MRFSS.

By ALWAYS & FOREVER finding overfishing—the taking of more fish than quota allows—NOAA always & forever sees further need to restrict recreational catch.
With such as MRIP’s assertion NY Shore Fishers average size sea bass in 2016 was 3 pounds--& this assertion is nothing short of insanity: They close season. They raise size limits. They reduce bag limits. 

All of which has knocked the economic vitality from fisheries, no matter how clearly on the mend. 
Yes, in some purely statistical examination even the NAS is OK with MRIP – It’s just that the estimates are WRONG!!
Then too, those in the regulatory chain of command will respond: “Of course estimates have errors at wave/mode/state levels. They become much better as they are grouped into regions & over longer periods of time.  
AND AS SOON AS THEY TELL YOU THAT, back to business as usual. State by State & two month ‘wave’ estimates are at the absolute heart of US Fisheries Regulation – any assertion otherwise is a lie.

How bad is it? Black sea bass, for instance, are thought to be at nearly an all-time historical high in population – but because NOAA policy (POLICY!) forces Councils/Commissions to regulate with MRIP rec catch estimates as-is, and with NO corrections based either on hard data or common sense, recreational access to sea bass is at its lowest in history – and the fishery of the least economic value in history. 

I assure you Sir, we fishers were FAR BETTER OFF with our self-regulation in the early 1990s than this mess today.  With every new set of catch estimates, the possibility of a complete closure for many species looms larger. 

Please Help! Help Change NOAA’s Policy Where regulators “MUST USE” MRIP. 
It’s, literally, destroying businesses. 

Monty Hawkins 

And, it's hardly "just a partyboat skipper from MD" complaining about MRIP. Here's an excerpt from : http://www.thefishingwire.com/story/415756 

Preliminary numbers from the Alabama Red Snapper Reporting System, aka Snapper Check, indicate the fear that Alabama anglers would exceed the 2017 quota were unfounded.

"Using the Alabama Snapper Check numbers, we're going to be well within the historic allocation for Alabama, so the 39-day season did not put us over, which was a concern for the commercial fishing community and part of the charter fishing community," said Scott Bannon, Acting Director of the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD). "Now the concern we have is what the MRIP (Marine Recreational Information Program) numbers will show, and those numbers are not out yet."

Since the inception of the Alabama Snapper Check program, the federally produced MRIP numbers for red snapper caught by private recreational anglers have consistently overestimated the snapper harvest, according to MRD officials. The federal survey overestimated harvest numbers by 81 percent in 2014, 68 percent in 2015 and 79 percent in 2016 compared to Snapper Check numbers.

Kevin Anson, MRD's Chief Biologist who sits on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council as a proxy member, said MRD has confidence in the Snapper Check data. Alabama has worked hand in hand with NOAA Fisheries staff and their consultants in the development of the Snapper Check system. They anticipate that the program will be approved for use in the management process by year end.

The 2017 total catch per Snapper Check indicated the charter industry (not including headboats) and private recreational anglers landed 1,649,242 pounds of red snapper. Anson said that total breaks down to 790,382 pounds for the charter-for-hire industry and 858,860 pounds for the private recreational anglers.

The Gulf-wide red snapper quota for 2017 for the recreational sector was 6,603,094 pounds. Historically, Alabama lands between 30 and 35 percent of the total snapper catch in the Gulf because of its unparalleled artificial reef program.Former MRD Director Chris Blankenship, now the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, has said on several occasions that Alabama feels much more confident in the integrity of the Alabama Snapper Check data compared to MRIP.

"We were glad when we got our preliminary numbers from Snapper Check," Blankenship said. "This is exactly what we thought would happen when they extended the season. We felt like the more days people could fish, the effort would spread out over the season. They could go when it was good for them and their family and not have to go every single day it was open.


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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