Monday, October 28, 2019

Fish Report 10/28/19

Fish Report 10/28/19
Catching Cbass - Tues/Wed Oct 
29-30 Look Great! 
Opening The Rest Of November
A Whale Of A Tale
MRIP Offers Neither Hope Of Good Fishery Science, Nor Acceptable Management Outcomes Based On Badly Influenced Science. In Fact, MRIP is DESTROYING Recreational Access. Make Some Noise! 

This coming Tuesday/Wednesday 10/29-30 look to be flat calm. "Calm before the storm" kind of calm.. 

Special Extra-Long 11 Hour Cbass Run - 11/11/19 - $135.00 - 6 AM to 5 PM..
Reservations Now Open Through December 1st. No Fishing Thanksgiving Day.
Lots & Lots of weather cancellations lately. Right pain in the neck! Have a reservation? Keep your phone on & Check Messages! 
When we CAN get out, however, sea bass fishing's been kind. We're allowed 15 cbass at 12.5 inches. Catching Lots of Limits....

Going Everyday Possible! 

Sailing Daily For Sea Bass Weather Permitting (Sakes!) 
Sailing Saturday's 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 –Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00..
Fishing's mostly been a matter of some clients catching limits of cbass while others aren't too far behind. Have had numerous boat limits also. 

Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancellations 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..

It's boots season! Fishing the back half of the boat? Waterproof boots highly advised unless flat calm.. 

Bonine Is Cheap Insurance! "Natural Dramamine" Does NOT Work!
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..

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!
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential.

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.

27,687 Reef Blocks + 21 Reef Units (Pyramids/Reef Balls) have been deployed at numerous sites as of 10/26/19..  
Here are sites currently being targeted: Capt. Jack Kaeufer's Reef 985 (+9 Reef Units) - Doug Ake's Reef 3,861 (+3 Reef Units) - St. Ann's 2,305 (+2 Reef Balls) - Sue's Block Drop 1,148 (+ 3 Reef Units) - TwoTanks Reef 959 (+ 3 Reef Units) - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 900 - Benelli Reef 1,037 - Rudy's Reef 209 - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 2,043 (+4 reef units)  - Wolf & Daughters Reef 713 - 352 at Al Berger's Reef - 408 Great Eastern Block Drop (+ 1 Reef Unit)..

Mate Tanner making short work with one of the new 160lb pyramid reef units we're making..  

Greetings All, 
Sea bass fishing continues along just fine. Lots of limits with some days the entire rail limited. Saturday-past was a tough bite, but there were still limits aboard. 
Weather has been an issue, have had a calendar's worth of cancelled trips lately. Been some calm trips too though. This coming Tuesday/Wednesday 10/29-30 look to be just that - flat calm. "Calm before the storm" kind of calm.. 
That kind of day often works our favor. 

Was monitoring channel 16 VFH radio when, at 10:40 am on 10/24/19, the Private Boat 'Glory Days' with Steve and Lori Insley aboard reported a whale entangled in fishing gear. The young humpback was moving south just a few miles inshore the reef we were fishing. 
This is serious stuff. NOAA has several teams ready to respond to entanglements - will fly them in if necessary. 
It wasn't. 
Strangely, OC CG station's radio operator adopted a 'bless your heart' tone. Said, "Thank you for reporting a whale" if maybe the fellow reporting it didn't realize whales live in the ocean. 
But this was an entangled whale dragging buoys for perhaps hundreds of miles. Dern sure wasn't local fishing gear. An entanglement will eventually kill even a whale. 
Thankfully MD DNRP's Sgt Wilson & Crew responded in their 37' Patrol Boat — running 17 miles to where the Glory Days was still on scene. I advised NRP I had a 13 foot knife; a custom Spyderco knife designed for mammal & turtle entanglements — an XXXXL safety blade if you will. 
After sizing up the tangle, DNR ran some 3 miles further to where we were fishing and got that knife.. 
Whale freed.. 
According to the manufacturer there have only been 48 of those blades made. The idea apparently originated in Australia. Spyderco claims they lose $100.00 on each blade they sell. They're not available to the public. I had welder Jim Leitner mount mine to a 12' gaff maybe 10 years ago. Had only used it once before on a leatherback sea turtle fouled in a pot line.
Interesting piece from Spyderco about the blade..… 
Sure came in handy this time....

Most readers will have closed this email at that word. 
Marine Recreational Information Program, NOAA's marine recreational catch estimates. Dull stuff. Need to pay attention though! MRIP's use is destroying fisheries science & recreational opportunities all along the East Coast. 
Along with myself, many readers have written over the years clamoring for repairs to our catch estimates. Instead? They're getting worse & worse. MRIP is destroying both 'faith in' & 'results of' fisheries management. 
I rode out the whole period since Recreational Catch Estimates began in 1981 & management of sea bass & tautog in 1997. Have been fishing party boats out of Ocean City MD for 40 years; not tied up in a marina and going once in a while as some who brag about "50 years experience" - I've fished every day possible and taken my role seriously in repair of our fisheries. 
I've watched catch closely all those years too. If you're going to catch clients fish in my trade, you have to watch. In our temperate reef fishery knowing the amount of pressure a spot gets is crucial to clients' success--we strive to know who's fishing where..

In the early/mid 1990s I was lobbying for Fed/State regulation on sea bass. Had already begun self regulation in 1992. Before that? "Over the rail, into a pail." We killed everything. By 1995 many in Ocean City, including most commercial trap fishermen, were also employing self regulation. Anyone could see it was working. Still, I was a lonely voice asking for regulation at Council meetings.. 
I have everything vested in the success of fishery management. If it fails, I'm toast. We NEED abundant fish and access to fisheries. A "Fishery" includes not only a fish population, but the human use of those fish.  
NOAA, by insisting on the use of MRIP's catch estimates in calculations of fish abundance (a "stock assessment" in fisheries vernacular,) & in formation of regulation, is about to eviscerate all of management's progress in Fisheries Restorations to date. 
I'm not exaggerating. We've arrived at our most crucial need of Recreational Catch Data's repair yet. 
What a waste. 

..wasn't a large group. Just a handful of people were complaining loudly about the accuracy of MRFSS' For-Hire (Partyboat/Charter Boat) catch estimates during the late 1990s/early 2000s. MRFSS (MRIP's predecessor) was showing
 zeros when we knew we'd had landings, and fantastic catches that couldn't possibly be true: gross inaccuracies even though we tell NOAA what we caught everyday in a mandatory Vessel Trip Report. 
For-Hire fishers were often represented on computer screen as catching incredibly more than we actually had -- We were therefore accused of Overfishing, of Overshooting our quota. Overfishing results in tighter regulation the following year.
In 2003 we got the For-Hire estimates repaired. 
Getting the whole system revamped took longer. In the 2007 re-write of the Magnuson-Stevens Act Congress instructed NOAA to repair MRFSS. The result was MRIP. Due in 2009, they finally rolled it out in 2012. 
That very day, the day MRIP's first data sets were unveiled, I instantly knew we'd gotten no repair at all.
In fact, we'd been played - taken. 
What a disaster. 

Used to be when I'd gripe about a catch estimate I'd get a smirk.. "Oh, Monty's complaining about the estimates again." 
Har de har, he-he. A recreational fisherman doesn't like the data. What a joke it was. 
Owing no real recreational overfishing at all; in 2009 we suffered a complete closure of sea bass - that closure nearly bankrupted me. I wasn't laughing.  
It's gotten so bad now, however, that virtually no one involved with fisheries believes an MRIP estimate anymore. 
Not One Manager or Scientist. Anyone, say especially in the environmental community, who takes MRIP at its word is horribly misinformed.  

Seriously. Managers & fisheries scientists are fed up with the garbage. 
That hasn't stopped MRIP from being used, however. The law says they 'have to use the best available data' and MRIP's all they have. 

On the front end MRIP's estimates (such as NY Private Boats catching over a million pounds of sea bass this past summer {2019} with a 3 fish limit) are an important part of calculating "how many sea bass are in the ocean" (or any species under management.) From these 'stock estimate' calculations commercial & recreational quotas are derived. 
Anyone involved with sea bass knows it's an extremely important fishery to For-Hire (Partyboats & Charters) from Florida to Cape Cod. It's not unusual to hear Private Boats complain about Partyboats 'cleaning out' some reefs. That's not untrue either. 
Yet if you look at NOAA's "Best Available Science" on recreational catch - MRIP's estimates portray the sea bass fishery as if For-Hire boats can't even find a place to anchor. 
I have pages & pages of hand calculations from other pieces I've written showing State by State how badly Private Boats are outfishing the For-Hire fleet - at least on a computer. 
In 2018, for instance, (and here coastwise) all Party/Charter landed 779,000 lbs of sea bass from Virginia to Cape Cod. That ought to be pretty tight. We tell NOAA what we caught - and they double check us too. According to MRIP, however, Private Boats caught 7,046,000 lbs.. That's 9.04 pounds of Private Boat catch to every pound of For-Hire landings.. 
In 2019 (reported through the end of August) the disparity has shrunk some. This year Private Boats have "only" caught 3,894,000 lbs so far while Party/Charter is at 819,000 lbs -- that's 4.75 lbs of sea bass to every 1lb caught by professionals. Almost all of those fish were landed where anglers now have their tightest regulation in the history of marine management. 
MRIP also offers this observation: In 2019 there have been 149,980 lbs of sea bass caught & kept from shore between Virginia & Maine. They averaged 2.2 pounds apiece. (Some dern fine science there. In reality: maybe a few bushels?) 

How about real observations from out on the ocean? Yeah no. Sorry MRIP. For-Hire boats catch a LOT more sea bass than Private Boats. 
I make that assertion having spoken & written to a great many in my trade up & down the coast over the years. 
Rest assured I especially know of what I speak in my own backyard. Forty years experience..
Just this past Saturday I saw more Private Boats fishing our "Great Eastern Reef" than I have in the last two months. (MRIP's two month designated periods are called 'Waves', here Sept/Oct is 'Wave 5'.) 
There were 7 private boats on a flat calm Saturday in late October. 
Also fishing were 3 party boats & a charter - I'm estimating roughly 95 folks on these For-Hire boats and perhaps 24 on Private Boats. Several Private Boat guys knew what they were doing; got over the reefs in fine style--probably using OC Reef Foundation charts. Other boats never drifted across a blessed bit of reef and probably didn't catch any sea bass. 
Most days on our reefs I see no Private Boats. Can go for weeks without a Private Boat sighting this time of year. 
In 2018 
MRIP portrays this tally for Maryland's Sept/Oct sea bass fishery: Party/Charter 8,232 lbs v Private Boats' 156,568 pounds.. 
Instead, it's very likely our Private Boats didn't catch 20% of the For-Hire landings. 
According to NOAA's official catch estimates Maryland Party/Charter only caught 5.26% of our state's sea bass. 
Using 25% as Private Boat's "percentage of the catch" (I've written a lot about using "percentage of the catch" to put a check on MRIP. More management & scientific laughter..) Our state's landings would be 10,976 lbs in MD's wave 5 (Sept/Oct) sea bass catch if we'd used at-sea observation rather than inane estimates. 
But no, it's 'officially' 165,000 pounds.. 

They're ALL like this. All the MRIP estimates.
And For Every Species. 
Maryland only has one inlet. The bigger the State & the more ocean access, the bigger MRIP's Private Boat error. 

In New Jersey last year Party/Charter only caught 5.7% of that state's summer flounder (fluke.) In 2017 it was 6.8%. In 2016 it was 2.6%.. 
Every NJ port has Party/Charter boats ready to take shore visitors out. 
MRIP says: 'Nah, everyone has a boat and knows how to catch em.' 
It's a dern wonder we can find a client. It adds up to millions of pounds of NJ Private Boat landings while For-Hire anglers struggle to break 150,000 lbs...

Tautog? In 2016, throughout the species range, Party/Charter landed 130,000 lbs. Private Boat boxed just shy of 8 million.. That's 61.4 pounds of Private Boat catch for every 1 pound of For-Hire landings. 
I'd wager the exact opposite ratio more likely.
How in the heck are fishery managers supposed to have ANY IDEA how to manage fish with this junk being fed into the system?

What's become critical of late is fishery science's use of MRIP's two fairly recent "Recalibrations." They've suddenly shot Private Boat catch skyhigh. An example: In 2004 MRFSS had ALL recreational striped bass caught from Virginia to the Canadian line, whether killed or not, at about 19,242,000 million fish. When MRIP was first released in 2012 that 2004 number lowered a bit to 18,996,000 million. Now, after MRIP's two 'recalibrations' they're claiming it was 44,708,000 million.. 
More Than DOUBLE!! How in BLAZES did fishery management work AT ALL - EVER - with data that far off? 
Oh, and the For-Hire catch didn't change. It was just Private Boat and Shore landings that jumped.. And Oh, now, SUDDENLY, there's a huge issue with release mortality. I don't doubt striped bass are in some trouble. Using MRIP alone to ascertain what that trouble is? That's Trouble! What of new predation in the Chesapeake? And especially mycobacteriosis - the red blotchy disease so common now in Chesapeake & Delaware Bays in summer. . . 

Now some fancy work - truly difficult - Mr & Mrs Fishery Scientist have to calculate: "How many fish are in the ocean?" and "How many can we safely harvest?" using MRIP data as an important measure in those calculations. 
They fold MRIP's gargantuanly mistaken recreational estimates into their population/stock assessment totals. Now, SUDDENLY, there are a LOT more fish in the sea. "Has to be" because now, SUDDENLY, we're catching so many more. 
With MRIP's newly 'recalibrated' rubbish now folded into stock assessment calculations - this past spring management upped the commercial summer flounder quota 49%.. 
It's entirely likely sea bass commercial quota will increase similarly this coming spring or sooner. 
On and on it's going to go like that. Increased commercial access with every species under management. 
All while recreational access is lessened - our quotas hit hard because "we're already catching ours." 
No Matter How Much Regulation Tightens, MRIP shows Private Boats catching MORE FISH! 
Yet for those same regulatory tightenings For-Hire landings decrease as they should..

Time & Time Again we hear the Science & Statistical Committee (SSC) declare management's need of "Precautionary Measures" owing 'scientific uncertainty.' 
Is that what they have in mind when they raise commercial quota like that? Are these HUGE JUMPS being cautious?

I'm doing all I can to put a stop to this. We're not only being robbed of recreational quota at statistical gunpoint, but now it's grown so much worse by management's increasing commercial quotas too far beyond their rightful share. 

The data, with MRIP inclusion, shows all is peachy. 
We'll ALL be tied to the dock once this gigantic error is realized. Real commercial overfishing promises to retard all restoration progress to date. 

Having read this far You can HELP too! 
Write your State's DC Reps, Fisheries Reps, Write NOAA & ESPECIALLY 
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere within the U.S. Department of Commerce - RDML Tim Gallaudet. 
More than any other head of NOAA in my time - the Admiral gets it ..and is in position to force change. 
All addresses google easily or you can use the link below.  

I promise - MRIP is undoing 30 years of progress. 
One day Managers will have to close everyone because they've allowed commercial fishers far too much quota  ..all because NOAA and the SSCs forced managers to use recreational catch data not one of them believed. 

We have to make noise. DC's a very noisy place. 
Handwritten or typed and wet-signed letters sent to a rep's field office are best. (if mailed straight to DC they have to undergo poison testing.) 
Calls, emails.. 
A lot of noise. Get to KNOW some staffers. They're uniformly pretty sharp folks. They get paid to listen. 

Feeling Noisy? Don't be the guy on FaceBook who complains endlessly but never lifts a finger to bring change. Make your noise COUNT!  
For much more on MRIP, addresses, & a sample letter see especially "Fish Report 4/22/19 DC Continued" at .. 
I've complained about recreational estimates since 1998. With the exception of For-Hire's 2003 repair, it's only become worse. 
Needs Fixing! 

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star 
Ocean City, MD 

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