Saturday, March 10, 2018

Fish Report 3/10/18

Fish Report 3/10/18 
Went Toggin - Enough of That!
Have To Maintain 
MRIP Troubles

Will Announce Sea Bass Reservation Opening As Soon As Our Season Is Posted. Although the delay is a pain in the neck - it's actually a good thing, I hope! 
Managers are keenly aware their constituents have been robbed by MRIP's bad recreational catch estimate data. They are trying to find a way out. 
For more on NOAA's rec catch data accuracy - see a few paragraphs below (& almost everything else I've ever written).... 

Capt. Danny swears he's working.. You be the judge. (or take my word for it - he's been working!)

Greetings All, 
Weeks ago now; my last tog trip was a near-bust. Couple keepers, a few more throwbacks, and that on really good bottom. Although water temps seemed fine--warmer even; not much to it. 
Season started strong in early January, but rapidly falling water temps after an early winter blizzard cooled the water offshore, & the bite. 
Wind coming with warmth those weeks ago, I decided to give my 6-71 TIB Detroit Diesels a good look. Took out the aft cabin benches & life jackets--a couple lag bolts, and lifted the main hatches opening the salon from side to side. 
Good thing. 
Detroit 6-71s will 'run forever'  ..but not if you don't look after them. 
We've done lots of work. 
Port turbo bearings completely shot, repair stb heat exchanger, replace most of the raw water & freshwater hoses/pipes & all their hose clamps, rebuild raw water pumps - grind/sand/paint: bring the engine room back to life. 
Have to maintain.. 
Been several times in my life when we'd work through the night in order to get a boat going come morning. 
Repairs are always better made when not in a hurry.

Also have a major 5-year Coast Guard Inspection coming. This when the CG re-issues an Inspected Vessel's "COI" Certificate of Inspection; it's a good time to have EVERYTHING perfect. Anything on the boat HAS TO WORK. 
And does. 
I like to go above & beyond requirements though - way beyond. 
Coast Guard likes that too. 

That should go for our fisheries too. Repairs to regulation would be far better made if not perpetually in a hurry -- there is ALWAYS an MRIP recreational catch estimate showing how private boats have just wiped out a fishery. That's why states to our north have shorter seasons & far larger size limits on sea bass; why NY seems to be perpetually in a battle for fluke, and why NJ leveraged connections with the Secretary of Commerce to squeak-out from under NOAA's requirements last year. 
On & on.. Since the beginnings of marine management in the mid-1990s, we've had bad estimates portrayed as science, lighting regulators' path.  
There's not a living soul with the least inkling of the recreational sea bass fishery who believes NY's Private Boats, in just Nov/Dec 2016, outfished the entirety of the For-Hire Party/Charter fleet from Maine to North Carolina----That Just One State's Private Boats Caught More In A Few Weeks Than ALL Party/Charter For The YEAR! (Outfished not just NY's Party/Charter -- but all 8 states in the management unit combined -- All Year..) 

It just didn't happen. 
Sure got held against us though. 
Other estimates every bit as bad too.

Lots & lots & lots of just-plain-dumb estimates just like that going back to 1997 when sea bass management began. That year NJ party/charter were held at over 3 million fish (as I recall) and we all paid. 
When NOAA was tasked with repairing the old "MuRFFS" rec estimating system in Congress's 2007 Magnuson re-write; (and this their, "managers MUST use this catch data," statistical estimates) - I soon found the MRIP "fix" of 2012 had instead made recreational catch estimates far worse.  

As regular readers will likely remember, the very first MRIP estimate I compared was the astoundingly ridiculous MuRFSS assertion of NJ's shore-only tautog landings in March/April 2010. MuRFSS claimed those shore-bound anglers (factually trying like heck to catch the VERY FIRST tog of the year from shore) were assigned a "managers must use" landings number of 74,000 tautog -- which remains the largest March/April NJ shore estimate ever in the old MuRFSS estimating system. (I should note, however; truly the most idiotic March/April tog estimate is from my home state of Maryland. With our several hundred feet of fishable shore-side bulkheading, a bridge, and 1 jetty wall accessible from shore in our one seaside inlet: we were assigned a 122,000 caught & killed tog estimate in March/April '94 -- Uh Hu.. Yup. Fished hard and with no regulation whatever back then, it might be more than all MD shore effort has killed all together -- in forever. )

I figured if the then-newly-released--just hours old--MRIP offered any repair of bad catch estimates, then that just-plain-stupid NJ catch estimate from 2010 would fall sharply. 
Instead, the "New & Improved" NOAA product, MRIP, added fully 100,000 more tog to those lonely, wind-swept, bucket-perched, early spring tog anglers' catch. Instead of 74,000 tog, now those scoundrels had killed 173,000 tog! 
Yup.. Uh hu..

I knew we were in serious trouble; especially because we also had that 2007 Magnuson re-write's "Accountability Measures" now in play. With 'AMs' in place (as the management community abbreviates them) we must "Pay Back" overages in recreational quota. MRIP can ALWAYS find overages. Create them, really. And, regardless any level of academic or constituent disbelief, NOAA forces management to crunch those bad estimates through the regulatory system. 

Tried & convicted - sentenced to Accountability Measures because we "Over-Fished" -- and only upon a computer's say-so; NOAA will allow neither us nor managers to fight MRIP data. 

Now, with NOAA/NMFS--even your Congressional Representatives, & the National Academy of Sciences too, believing as instructed by NOAA that these statistical representations of catch are fully perceptive of what is real & true in recreational fishing--but ONLY if blended across broad swaths of coast & also across many months; All officials All hold a year's worth of two-month 'wave' estimates melded broadly up and down the coast is supposed to be 'accurate' 
..and then fishery managers immediately & routinely delve into the highly inaccurate small pieces--the state by state, two month 'wave by wave,'  even shore-party/charter-private boat modes to create state by state recreational regulation.
All of them -- everyone -- recognizes the smaller bits of data are not accurate; yet regulating fisheries today demands data in far finer scale than just broad 'year round' & multi-state swaths.. 

Personally, I don't see how inclusion of a single two-month 'wave'/single type of fishing 'mode' estimate--such as a number of tog caught from shore-mode fully 3X greater than all of NJ's March/April (wave 2) estimates--EVER--all decades combined: how can such a small piece of the broader estimate, with a greater value than all others combined, how can such a statistical flyer 'blend in'? 
If Jimmy has 6 oranges & Sarah has 4, yet Samuel has 890 (even though Sarah & Jimmy both say he just has 3) the average is What? Hello National Academies of Science? How in Billy Blue Blazes can that POSSIBLY be true?

There are lots & Lots & LOTS of these sorts of estimates. 
Take, for instance, Rhode Island's "July/Aug sea bass average size of 2017" - AVERAGE! 19.7 inches from SHORE!!! 
Yup.. That's what happened. Lots & lots of 5 & 6 pound sea bass from shore, but those "little" bridge & jetty-caught 2 pounders brought the "average" down to 19.7 inches ..according to MRIP. 

With sea bass populations skyrocketing this last decade, owing primarily a regulatory garrote around the fishery; and owing especially to all of rocky southern New England's granite bottoms warming into sea bass spawning's sweet-spot: regulation has tightened & tightened since the 2009 Emergency Sea Bass Closure, a six month closure declared by NOAA because of MuRFSS catch estimates now made much worse by MRIP data... 

The sea bass population is said to be astoundingly higher than even the best I had ever seen in 2003. It's more than 2X the 'target restoration' 
..and yet some states will have to tighten recreational regulation more this year because of catch estimates that just are not true. 

There is hope. Management's about had enough of regulating with Bad Statistics.
There's a new Magnuson re-write moving thru Congress also. Careful! We surely do not have legal staff redoing whole sections of Magnuson--writing the actual law--as our environmentalist friends have. 
If we don't stay atop it, we could be in far worse shape with the new re-write than with the old. 
It's a good thing to write your DC Reps about. Tell them to FIX catch estimates & allow regulators a way to ARGUE their validity.

We're being robbed. 
I'd bet there were numerous individual trawl tows this winter where as many sea bass were caught in a single drag of the net than all MD's recreational fishers caught all year combined. 
Honestly. A 25,000 pound tow is not that unusual. I've heard of some twice as large. 
It's legal. Sea bass knot-up in winter. Winter trawl has always had the largest commercial catches. It could be thought of as "Best" too. 
This because trawls sop-up a lot of quota with very little bottom time. It must be that less habitat is impacted owing less bottom time for trawls. 
But because we shed so much quota owing the ghost-fleet in MRIP's statistical magic world, we are not allowed anywhere near our recreational 51 to 49% commercial split of quota -- it's stolen by computer. 
Not by commercial fishers -- by computer. 
MRIP's computers.

Here are NJ's Numbers for 2017 (metric data removed)
Estimate StatusYearCommon NameFishing ModeTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total Weight (lb)PSE

Average Length (in)PSE

Average Weight (lb)PSE




Who believes NJ's LARGEST AVERAGE SEA BASS were caught from shore? Does anyone think NJ Party/Charter operators have softened to where their clients only take 20% of NJ's sea bass? 

This data transition began in 2003 when NMFS/NOAA were instructed to tighten-up on Party/Charter data. From then to now Private Boat numbers have soared - and still are. No One Can Prove Or Disprove MRIP Data To The Satisfaction Of NOAA. (I believe "Percentage of the Catch" calculations based on observations of old-timers in both Private Boat & For-Hire can be made to "Truth" MRIP's data.. I've written about it to regulators extensively. No bites yet.) 

Yes, MRIP has us by the throat. So far as regulators know there is no habitat we need show concern of. There is only the constriction of catch so that fisheries might finally rebound. 
In the real world--the ocean--there's a near-century of habitat impacts, primarily from stern towed fishing/clamming/scalloping gears, negatively impacting spawning production &, especially, habitat capacity of our temperate reef fishes. 
There's also a decade after decade-long greening of the Mid-Atlantic's marine waters; in constant decline since the collapse of the oyster. "Deep Blue Sea" is frequently a misnomer until you get east of the canyons now.

​Here the Morning Star's hull easily visible from about 35 feet: rarest of the rare - great visibility just 10 miles off the coast of Maryland. We happened to be doing reef monitoring on a Sunday when this beautiful water moved in. It should be like that almost all the time. Instead, it was the first time I'd ever seen this artificial reef from the surface. This reef had been grown completely over by sea-whip; but, too shallow to withstand such wave energy, hurricane Sandy scrubbed it clean..

Today we know how to grow oyster reef. It's been successfully done. But 'generational shift' has set in. A little improvement seems a big deal because much of the damage was so long ago. Only a few of us even remember water quality in 1980, let alone 1920..
We absolutely know how to turn Chesapeake & DE Bay waters clearer. That will make the Mid-Atlantic's marine waters bluer -- not more green.
Yet today's oyster restoration effort seems, to me at least, lacking urgency. 

Here an "Oyster Castle" (made of oyster castle concrete blocks) atop a very expensive​ shell pile in VA's coastal bays. Note where oysters are growing well & with colonization year after year.. Works the same in sq miles as with sq feet -- Vertical Substrates Work, Shell Doesn't.  

NOAA can pat themselves on the back for a graveyard full of lost recreational seasons, lost recreational businesses, and decreased fishing effort; but real success in marine fisheries restorations will remain undone until lost habitat is recognized as missing and then repaired, and a great deal of now-green waters have been turned blue again. 

Meanwhile MRIP's constant cry, "They're OVERFISHING!! Stop Them!!" holds management's full attention. 

What a waste of decades.. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Party Boat Morning Star 
Ocean City, Maryland 

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Morning Star Sport Fishing · 12940 Inlet Isle Lane Slip B-2 · Ocean City, Md 21842 · USA

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