Monday, March 11, 2019

Fish Report 3/11/19

Fish Report 3/11/19 
Last Tuesday? Science!
Last Saturday? Oops.. 
Avoiding Hubris: My Coming MRIP Work-Up..

Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - Staffed 24/7 (Asking me for a reservation via FB or Email is a guaranteed way to miss a chance at a spot - I rarely check FB messenger - I do check email but USE The Reservation Line if you want a spot)
On My Rig You Can Reserve What Spot You're In. Please See For How The Rail's Laid Out.. 
I run Tog Trips light so anglers can move to the bite - or try too!

Weather Cancelations Happen - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients
Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way..

Tog Trips Only: (No sea bass allowed. NOAA seems more & more clueless as to our actual recreational catch. Could very well flare-up in
coming regulations. That is to say, MRIP could, again, really worsen
sea bass regulation in 2019..

Yes - we've had several of my best trips in YEARS. That DOES NOT MEAN IT'S ABOUT TO HAPPEN AGAIN!! ("Ah, Capt., I thought we'd catch 20 pounders today?") Oh Mercy! 

I'm telling you here -  I've had many, many anglers skunked this winter..
11 Hour Tog Trip - Wednesday 3/13/19 - Swinging For The Fence! Water's Cold! Skunks Possible! Depart 6:30
to 5:30 - $150.00 - 16 Sells Out. 
11 Hour Tog Trips - Saturday 3/16/19 & Sunday 3/17/19 - Swinging For The Fence! Water's Cold! Skunks Possible! Depart 6:30
to 5:30 - $150.00 - 16 Sells Out. 

Trips Also Announced on Facebook at Morning Star Fishing & my personal FB page..

Tog trips thus far were hardly world class affairs. Catch? Yes, Usually. But not great. Some double digit fish.. Two of my Best trips in years recently as well, but that was two days among many.. Otherwise very few guys have limited.
We've put lots of great tags in jumbos. This is a fishery for the passionate blackfisher, not the freezer-filler!

Bait is provided on all trips: green crabs for tog. (Whites MIGHT be
available from crew for a reasonable cost..) Our Tog Pool Is By Length: A Tog That's Been Released Counts The Same As One In The Boat.

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..

No Live Tog Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (I Believe The Live Tog Black Market Has Hurt This Fishery ..But Nowhere Near As Much As Bad Sea Bass Regulation)
Agreed With Or Not, All Regulations Observed – Maryland: 4 Tog @ 16 Inches

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!

It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. Bonine
seems best because it's non-drowsy. Truly cheap & effective insurance.
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 winter waterproof boots are almost a necessity - sneakers can ruin
your day. While some rarely, or never, wear gloves for fishing, you'd
not likely see me fishing this time of year w/o at least the half-finger wool gloves. Tuck a "hot hands" warmer in the palm and life is good..
Layers are best because, believe it or not, sometimes it can be very
pleasant offshore--especially when the wind lays down. In winter it's
warmer offshore owing to warmer waters. In summer it's cooler..

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

If you have concrete blocks in the backyard taking up space and just
making snake reef, bring em. We'll toss em overboard with the rest.

24,260 Reef Blocks have been deployed at numerous sites. (Site totals not updated since 1/22/19.. 
Here are sites currently being targeted: Capt. Jack Kaeufer's Reef 680 - Doug Ake's Reef 3,755 - St. Ann's 2,234 - Sue's Block Drop 637 - TwoTanks Reef 432 - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 900 - Benelli Reef 746 - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 1,274 - Wolf & Daughters Reef 688 - 56 at Al Berger's Reef.

Greetings All, 
Had a pretty good tog trip, just one, since my last report. Was a science trip, however, and doesn't really count I think.. 
Also had a sold-out Saturday trip I cancelled for weather - huge mistake! I don't trust a NE wind. Didn't want clients coming from as far as mid-Long Island for a short turn around day.  Should have gone this time..... 
Have put a lot of effort into making our tog fishery, (all our fisheries really) the best they can be. Have a spot (1) way the heck offshore that I use for science only—where participants are allowed just 1 fish and we tag the rest. These are invite only trips for dedicated toggers who can stomach throwing back what might be their personal best. 
Now that federally required scientific tautog sampling for aging can be accomplished w/o killing the fish, I'll almost certainly increase the number of trips I do with a 1 fish limit and at other spots as well. We can get the state's required sampling accomplished w/o a 200 tog decline in our coastal stock. If you'd like to be notified of such trips you can sign up on my website starting Thursday for special email blasts specifically for scientific sampling days. 
Importantly, releasing keeper tog all other days is a purely personal choice.

Used to be, until very recently actually, our aging trips meant a suspension of regulation - a "Kill 'Em All & Stomp the Eggs" trip - without any size limit even! 
If the new technique is approved we'll need more participants in these now intentionally very low harvest trips. It'll be much better for our reefs.. 

For my coming report on MRIP (now about 30 hours and a decade of work) I have pages & pages of hand calculations where I've worked up "percentage of the catch" from MRIP's estimates. If from a 100% tally professional For-Hire and frequent Private Boat fishers believe, can agree on, a specific percentage split — say 60% For Hire & 40% Private Boat in the NJ sea bass fishery: management could use the far firmer catch estimate from the For-Hire side (yes, we surrender catch reports daily, but ugh.. NOAA/MRIP doesn't seem to actually use them!) Still, For-Hire Recreational estimates are better. With simple math we can test the likelihood of an MRIP estimate for Private Boats. 
I've calculated For-Hire fisher's percentage of the total marine catch of some species, especially sea bass, and have found wide chasms indeed between what fishers believe & what MRIP is informing NOAA of.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) also recently sent me exact Vessel Trip Reports state by state. These (now electronic) forms detail a day's catch from For-Hire operators (we Party/Charter skippers) and should be used in MRIP's calculations of For-Hire catch. I was told in 2003 they'd be used in calculating For-Hire catch. If they are, it's not so I can tell. 
An Example: here from MRIP's 2018 Wave 5 (Sept/Oct) Black Sea Bass (BSB) recreational catch estimate in MD (an estimate I'm deeply familiar with) - MRIP Has 167,000 lbs total for MD Wave 5 BSB. 
Holy Moly!! That's a LOT of sea bass! 
But, by MRIP's calculation, only 4.4% of the total catch was by For-Hire boats. For every 95.6 pounds of Private Boat catch, there'd only be 4.4 pounds of For-Hire Party/Charter sea bass.. 
I beg to differ. 
It should be quite the opposite, if perhaps likely a tad higher for Private Boats. That is, For Hire should show about 80% of landings for sea bass in Sept/Oct - not a mere 4.4%! 
Percentages are funny. Merely jumping to 9% would more than double For-Hire landings. Since that would be HUGE - it seems far more likely an out of step estimate would require a lowering (or, on rare occasion, raising) of Private Boat catch. 

I'm going to build from these "Percentages of the Catch" to fashion a test for MRIP estimates. I have been putting this idea out there for what must be just over a decade now. 
No scientific buy-in yet, but it has now become crucial we have a test. MRIP has ridden so far off the rails we desperately need a test. Supposedly, all science is testable. Currently MRIP is not, yet is purportedly NOAA's "best scientific information" whose use is required by law..

In all of US marine (Council/Commission) recreational fishing's regulatory history, catch estimates have played a singularly important role. Scientists calculate 'how many sea bass are out there' via "Stock Estimate" (a population estimate) ..and then split what they believe is a reasonable total allowable harvest between Recreational & Commercial fishers. This quota split is then further split down each side into state by state quotas. 
Commercial fishers sell their catch by the pound. Their quotas are thusly monitored almost in real-time. Recreational fishers suffer a +-3 or 4 month delay as our MRIP catch estimates (at best a wild guess these days) are calculated. 
Presently there is absolutely no way to check an estimate. Whatever number the system spits out - that becomes 'our catch' and management must respond appropriately.. 
Some of you have followed this saga with me many years now. Others are just trying to understand the inexplicable.
Complaining loudly, For-Hire Catch Estimates were 'repaired' in 2003. 
Complaining ever since as Private Boat MRFSS/MRIP Estimates began rising to the moon after 2003, today's MRIP estimates are often simply in-credible..
And, NOAA will tell you, there's absolutely No Way to test them. 
No one is allowed to argue. 
Yet I say there is a test via known "percentages of the catch"- I say we can argue.. 

Much more on that in my next report. For now, some examples of WHY we need a test - soon. 
For the very first time, to my knowledge at least, the "Monitoring Committee" has tossed parts of the sea bass estimate from 2016 & 17.. What's really different is that, and they are a tall step above, the Science & Statistical Committee (or SSC - the "Super Smart Committee") hasn't tossed those removals right back at the Monitoring Committee. 
It appears, and I could be wrong, it appears as though the catch assertions where MRIP holds NY Private Boaters landed nearly the ENTIRE recreational sea bass quota (Recreational Harvest Limit or RHL) in a few weeks of Nov/Dec -- that NY Private Boats caught THREE TIMES more sea bass in Nov/Dec of 2016/17 than ALL the For-Hire Boats from Cape Hatteras north ALL YEAR! Three X More! MRIP shows those few NY Private Boats landing three million pounds. This while large party boats, some of the biggest on the coast, whose skippers rarely see a Private Boat in that period—NY Party/Charter is shown at 25,000 pounds in Nov/Dec -- yet NY Private Boat is at 3 million pounds? Uh hu... The total annual rec quota is 3.6 million pounds! 

Fisheries scientists DO NOT have an MRIP test. But since that particular NY Private Boat estimate is so obviously Bad Statistics, it got pitched. I think. One day I'll learn the inside scoop. 
Bottom Line? BRAVO!! Scientists tossed a few of MRIP's Bad Statistics!! A FIRST! 

Now though those same scientists have recently folded-in MRIP's catch estimates on summer flounder (fluke).. With such a vast increase in rec landings, catch that would not be possible under their previous population assements, these scientists had to change their Stock Assessment UP.. 
We now have a LOT more Flounder in the ocean..
Oh do we?

I have warned the science & management community for decades - we cannot base ANY SCIENCE on rec catch estimates. 
It's bad enough our regulations come from MRIP, now they've seriously mucked up the summer flounder population estimate (stock assessment.) Commercial fluke quota just rose 40% while our recreational 'increase' disappeared into oblivion -  a victim of statistical ghost catch.. 
Striped bass too will be/have been messed with I'd wager given recent go rounds. 
One environmental group's headline on stripers: "Recreational Catch MUST be controlled!"
I promise - we are. 
What's completely Out Of Control is MRIP. 

So the NY Nov/Dec sea bass example is an extreme. MRIP is generally more insidious.  
Maryland's 2018 sea bass wave 5 (Sept/Oct) estimate has MD rec fishers at 167,000 pounds of landed and baked/fried/sushied sea bass.. 
Strangely, only 7,000 pounds come from Party/Charter, while 160,000 pounds come from Private Boat.. 
Good Gracious! What a mess.. We rarely see private boats in fall, and especially not targeting BSB - and rarer still on a weekday. If Private Boats are on a reef/wreck this n early fall, they're targeting fluke though they may have a handful of sea bass. 
I and other For-Hire fishers in the trade believe Private Boats catching 20% our total Wave 5 landings would be generous in the extreme. 

So, with "Percentage of the Catch" calculation, (which assumes MRIP gets Party/Charter right - unfortunately that's a long shot too..) "7K is 80% of what number?" = 8.75K .. So my method has MD's Wave 5 Total Recreational Landings at 8,750 lbs - while MRIP has 167,000 lbs or 158,250 lbs higher... 

You see, MRIP currently has MD Party/Charter at 4.4% MD's Wave 5 Landings & Private Boats 95.6% -- I'm generously giving Private Boat 20%.. Promise: the lower number is far more accurate.  
This "Percentage of the Catch" test for MRIP scales up where there's more boats.
Way Up. 

In our current summer flounder (Fluke) fiasco Party/Charter clients are credited with just 4% of summer flounder landings. MRIP will not change Party/Charter Estimates - But has raised Private Boat some 600% and Shore even higher just in the last three years. 
Having management sit down with frequent rec fishers from both sides of the marine boating world will hopefully temper fishing's hubris: "We catch ALL the fish!" 
No, there discernible percentage splits. I'm positive they'll - in conjunction with firm For Hire estimates - give science & management fabulously better indications of factual catch. 
If it's science, we must test it. 

We need a test - Quick! 

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star

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