Fish Report 8/21/21
Opening 2 Monday Mahi Trips (first & last?)
An essay on our once-blue ocean and how to fix it…
Reservation Line Always Jams when I first open. I've no idea how to fix it.. Sorry!
Offering Sea Bass Trips With Prices Same As Last Year. While sea bassing's still plenty dagoned good for August, it's certainly not what it was. August has always been the toughest month for sea bass. In Sept? It could improve or worsen! But back in the 1980s? Impossible. Became fantastical better after we began self regulation in 1992.
Currently we usually have a couple guys in double digits with one fellow close to or at a limit.
Have had a few fellows catch a limit of flounder in the last week. I'm selling a sea bass trip—doing all I can to catch clients plenty of cbass. It will be a sea bass only pool. If you want to target fluke? Knock yourself out - just don't hold it against us if the guy 2 spots down is limited on sea bass while you have to head to McDonalds for a fillet of fish sandwich!
Ticket Sales Limited To Four. (Let your friends take care of their own reservations!) Will sometimes sell all spots—a charter. Has to go through me and not terribly likely. I've built a livelihood carrying individual anglers and enjoy their company.
Saturdays 6:30 to 3:30 at $155.00 — Weekdays 7 to 3 at $135 — All cbass trips sell out at a nicely spaced 18 Anglers...
Sundays & Mondays continue to be held in reserve. Day off? Special trip? (Usually I spend all day working on reef building..) Any special trips I might post will announce here..
Like two mahi trips Monday 8/23 & 8/30 - Depart 7 (or a half hour early!) Return 4.. Twelve anglers sells out at $200.00. Will go with very few if need be. My crew & I enjoy it!
Reservations Required For All Trips - Call Anna (and sometimes Hanna!) Reservation Line is Open 8am to 8pm at 443-235-5577
As ever, 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
overslept or had a flat. No Refund or Reschedule for a missed trip!
Trips Also Announced (but later - email is always first) on Facebook at Morning Star Fishing
My personal and Morning Star FB pages get daily after action (or lack thereof) reports..
Bait is provided on all trips.
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. This is 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
Two 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.
As of 8/21/21 we have 34,747 Reef Blocks + 355 Concrete Pyramids (170lb ea) deployed at numerous ACE permitted ocean reef sites - and, as of August 2021, we also have 119 pyramids in Chesapeake Bay working to restore blue water…
Currently being targeted: Virginia Lee Hawkins Memorial Reef 99 Reef Blocks (+53 Reef Pyramids begun 8/18/20) - Capt. Jack Kaeufer's/Lucas Alexander's Reefs 1,856 Blocks (+44 Reef Pyramids) - Doug Ake's Reef 4,114 blocks (+16 Pyramid Reef Pyramids) - St. Ann's 2,725 (+8 Reef Pyramids) - Sue's Block Drop 1,562 (+20 Reef Pyramids) - TwoTanks Reef 1,223 (+ 11 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 912 - Benelli Reef 1,491 (+ 15 Pyramids) - Rudy's Reef 465 - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 3,414 (+52 reef pyramids) - Wolf & Daughters Reef 734 - Al Berger's Reef 979 (+11 Reef Pyramids) - Great Eastern Block Drop 1,074 (+10 Reef Pyramids).. And a soon-to-be-named reef at Russell's Reef 30 Blocks & 49 Pyramids - We've also begun work at Capt Greg Hall's Memorial Reef with 92 Tog Monster Blocks & 2 Pyramids…
Have had some very fine sea bass fishing for August. Not what it was in May, June & July - never is. Had a few clunkers too.
Have also seen a few fellows catch a limit of flounder in the last week. I'm selling a sea bass trip—doing all I can to catch clients plenty of cbass. If you want to target fluke? Knock yourself out - just don't hold it against us if the guy 2 spots down is limited on sea bass while you'll have to head to McDonalds for a fillet of fish sandwich!
Had a couple really fun days with em. Read that as TWO - we had 2 fun days on em. Had other days where we nicked a few. Plenty of days where we caught 1 or 2.
Not going to be like last year.
I think covid had southern fleets shut down in early 2020. Things had loosened some come high summer. We got to fish a basically unmolested population in 2020
..and boy was it fun.
Lots and lots of boat limits last summer (where every client aboard had their ten fish limit.) This year? Have had two guys at 8 - almost a limit.
(pics accompanying this essay will be on FB..)
"We've recently begun to use industrial cement plant & truck wash-out to turn the Mid-Atlantic ocean blue again."
Some readers will know exactly what I mean by that. Most won't.
No worries. It's easy enough to explain. Just takes a while.
Near as I can tell the Mid-Atlantic ocean began turning green in the 1950's. That greening accelerated when Chesapeake & DE Bay oyster populations collapsed.
Forty-one years reef fishing out of Ocean City Maryland now. Never know when checkout time is. I'd sure like to see a bluer ocean before my time's up.
It's 100% doable. Repairing the Mid-Atlantic's marine water quality is not an unobtainable goal. There's already an army of people working on it, including the Army Corps of Engineers. In fact, I'd have about sworn we were seeing a small improvement in the ocean owing fantastic successes in oyster restoration in VA & MD's Chesapeake projects. That water's moving on now.
Have to be careful with that sort of thinking. Thoughts of "We're Winning" need to be tempered with a more full realization of 70 years of decline. Any comparison to assert better water quality we might make today is sorely tainted by 'generational shift'—the greening of the Mid-Atlantic has happened slowly; decades passing have numbed our realization: the loss of blue water along the Mid-Atlantic has been a long, slow, multi-generational worsening.
Each generation accepts their own marine water as 'normal'. For this reason when an improvement is noted, it's seen as phenomenal — a "Wow!" moment despite conditions incredibly much worse than in the 1950s or 60s.
White marlin tell the tale fairly simply. Capt Jay Coleman used to frequent the Angler restaurant for breakfast in the early 1980s when I worked deck on a partyboat there. In those days releasing white marlin was still contentious. Capt Jay would exclaim, "What good is it to throw em back? The blue water's gone!"
I heard him say it many times in 1982/83/84. Not just the inshore shoals of Winter Quarter, SouthEast Ridge, & Jackspot (all roughly 20 miles out & all once frequently targeted by charter skippers for white marlin) Capt Jay felt we'd lost the ocean entirely, that we couldn't win.
Thankfully the sea's a bit bigger; but, boy, is our greening sea a lot worse than in Capt Jay's time.
More recently Capt. Jerimiah Kogan began a dive boat business about 20 years ago. He used to take newly certified divers to shallow artificial reefs at Great Gull Shoal (Big Joe's at Russell's Reef) some 5 miles out. They had green water, sure, but not so dense with algae they couldn't see. Those new divers even spearfished successfully.
Wasn't a decade gone by, however, and Capt Jerimiah could no longer take his dive clients so close. He had to go 5 more miles to what is now the outside edge of the Bass Grounds artificial reef site just so his divers could see.
Ocean water quality, once pristine, has grown steadily worse since the 1950s. Now, as it has been in the Chesapeake so very much longer, visibility in the nearshore ocean is closing to zero.
Most of the folks slaving away at Bay restorations in our region, professionals & volunteers alike, haven't any idea they're doing anything other than estuary & river works. They're trying to make Delaware Bay or Chesapeake waters more clear - more alive with aquatic vegetation, oysters, healthy marshes & living coastlines.
It's a wonderful effort & I wish they all knew they're also all working to turn the ocean blue too.
I believe the greatest Benthic/Pelagic Ecological Coupling in the Mid-Atlantic is the bond between white marlin & oysters. Oysters do not grow in the ocean. Marlin do not enter the Chesapeake or Delaware Bays (at least not for a very long time!) yet they're very much connected ecologically. As oyster populations declined to their lowest levels in the late 1970s owing well over a century of industrial harvest; this loss of our region's vital biofilter, the oyster, not only created changes to our region's estuarine water quality, but our marine water quality as well.
Yes - oysters are "the filter." A single oyster is said to filter up to 50 gallons of bay water a day. That's how they feed. Collected in their once-thriving billions? They certainly filtered entire estuarine ecosystems. When natural reproduction no longer sustained each localized oyster fishery in the late 1970s—when the wild oyster fishery became fully unsustainable owing disease and overharvest—the greening of the Mid-Atlantic's ocean water accelerated. Nearly 200 miles (as water flows) from the closest Maryland oyster reef; those who fished Mid-Atlantic pelagics, including marlins, were forced to go further & further to sea because marlin are dependent on clear, clean, bluewater for feeding.
Sixty & seventy years ago marlin were commonly caught just 5 to 20 miles offshore, they're now rarely targeted inside 55 miles and often quite further. The 15 knot wooden sport fish boat of the 1950s hasn't a prayer of being competitive today.
The solution fishermen sought, quite practical for marlin fishing enthusiasts with deep pockets, was to build faster and bigger boats. In recent years some boats have been known to run 120 miles—more!—from Ocean City Inlet to get good action. They get there quickly too.
Conservation and management of white marlin has worked. Just in the last decade there have been records set for most white marlin caught in a day & in a year.
Their disappearance inshore is habitat related - not population related. Fishery management's controls of catch and season are of no use in restoring marlin to their inshore grounds - we've got to repair the failed habitat that pushed em off.
Water quality, not a diminished population, is why boats sometimes run 70/80/90 miles further than anglers from the 1950s/60s/70s did.
I've spoken to men who had great catches (measured in their day) not 10 miles out. I even spoke with one skipper who was among the first to fish Ocean City's brand new inlet in 1934. He told me they'd put lines in at the 5 mile buoy - Great Gull Shoal - and trolled to Fenwick Island Buoy (about ten miles north & 4 miles offshore.) Day after day, marlin trips 4 or 5 miles offshore. They must have been fishing bluewater.
Capt. Jack Kaeufer put a live marlin on Talbot St. dock in 1969. The billfish was one of two his party caught just 5 miles out at Great Gull Shoal. A marlin still flopping about on the scale is just unimaginable nowadays.
Capt Jim Whaley told me of winning the Marlin Club tournament in 1958 with a white he caught just 9 miles out on the outside edge of the Bass Grounds—a huge area of natural reef we'd lose in its entirely before another two decades had passed. Once a reef best measured as roughly 4.5 sq miles, today you could measure what remains of that natural reef in sq yards. Now here is where some readers become confused. My efforts at marine seafloor restoration & improvement—recreating reef habitat so vital to spawning of ocean reef species such as sea bass, tautog, & summer flounder, even squid—fish anglers might target year round off Ocean City; that habitat work will eventually be overgrown with coral just off Maryland's ocean coast.
Restoring white marlin to where Capt Jim caught his tournament winning fish just 9 miles out is about Chesapeake & DE Bay oysters; about naturally filtered water leaving our estuaries; about putting back our region's two huge biofilter systems; about restoring the oyster bars & reefs of a century and more ago so that the ocean is no longer overfilled with nutrients and algae that feed and reproduce in their presence.
Promise — it wasn't an accident. Capt Jim was an an expert charter skipper in his time. He was fishing for marlin just nine miles offshore on purpose: while experts today are often 60 miles out at a minimum..
Going back in time a full century, Irv Mumford, (Sue Foster's father,) told Marty Gary & I how his father had worried about white marlin wrecking bluefish trolling gear while commercial fishing from surf-launched, one-cylinder engined boats in the 1920s. Think about that, contrast it with today's ocean — They used horse drawn surf-launched boats when pound betting was slow to catch bluefish (in demand by local hotels) .. and feared marlin just two miles out..
Repairing our greening sea isn't on NOAA's to-do list. Where algae and excess nutrients are concerned, even today scientists still believe "the ocean just absorbs it." I actually heard one of the smartest marine ecologists I've ever met say exactly that to a room full of scientists. Showed all the issues with algae and water quality on a chart of the Chesapeake via power-point; had a line drawn across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay as if to say, 'our work stops here' because "the ocean just absorbs it."
Whether my immediate dispute at that meeting changed any minds has yet to manifest itself in published work that I'm aware of.
Their knowledge is the spearpoint of marine restoration; yet they think "the ocean just absorbs it." Nearly all scientists believe where overnutrification (eutrophication) is concerned, the Atlantic Ocean can handle DE & Chesapeake Bays' outflows without a hitch.
But it can't.
If our ocean waters off DelMarVa were to have gone from their beautiful blue of 1950 to pea-green of 2020 (or 2010, or 2000, or 1990) ..were this change to have occurred suddenly; if our ocean just two miles offshore turned from clear blue to an impenetrable pea green in only a year or two, there'd be one heck of an environmental commotion.
We're used to it.
It's 'not that much different' than when dad was fishing here. Waves still break on the beach for non-fishing tourists; their fine mist cools the body and soothes the soul on the warmest summer day. The ocean remains beautiful if of a different color. What concern that it's only the rarest patch of water that allows bathers to see through wavetops and down to their toes..
Dern sure ought to be a concern. Our ocean is ill. I fear Government won't grasp the wholeness of it until fish kills are a regular occurrence. Once ocean health starts shaving billions off Ocean City's summer economy, it'll get some attention.
No government money in my reef building world - on the coast ours is a garage sale/estate sale, dumpster dive sort of thing. We've funded construction with spaghetti dinners, raffles, charts and swag; always asking, "where can we find cheap reef?"
In my search for free or cheap reef substrate, especially cement, I've often found huge mounds of lost product - waste concrete from industrial operations that will end up in the crusher to make road bedding or just left to become part of the property.
I would always wonder, "How can we capture this waste in a reef unit?"
Better still, capture it in a reef unit two men can lift, a small boat deployable unit..
That would make a really inexpensive reef building substrate that's deployable inexpensively.
It's not at all unusual to find owners/managers/workers at a cement plant who are ecologically minded fishermen - they get it. Some want their miscast and 'off inventory' product to be put to work. The guys at York Building Products have built an awful lot of block reef off Ocean City, MD. We're coming up on 35,000 blocks deployed from the stern of my small 55' partyboat. We've also used precast product such as pipe from virtually every manufacturer within 150 miles to build reef.
But waste or 'wash out' cement? Some everyday of a plant's operation turns into a LOT - but there was no convenient mold.
These concrete plants are busy places. There's no time for fancy anything unless it's billable. If it's complex, it has to be making money.
We needed a simple mold..
In August of 2019, (with a hurricane shutting down fishing,) my crew & I made a prototype for a two-man portable, rapidly assembled reef unit mold using poured cement - a 160lb pyramid. I tried to design it to avoid scouring in too—made so sand passes through instead of building up & burying units.
Beginning with Atlantic Concrete in Dagsboro DE & Bear Concrete in Bear DE (plus a bunch in my backyard made with bagged cement) we deployed over 300 pyramids that first year with only 14 molds.
Now we have roughly 40 fiberglass molds (each costing about $500.00 all considered) and will build more this winter. It's my design funded by the Ocean City Reef Foundation. There's no patent. If you or your .org/.com want to make molds to use - have at it.
Our 40-some molds are now spread out among four more plants and job sites including 2 sites with Gillis Gilkerson, and two others who desire anonymity. We've just crossed a threshold where units can be collected via tractor trailer load and sent to reef deployment projects around the Mid-Atlantic.
That's with 40 molds..
What might we accomplish with 120? With 300?
Should a cement plant in WV want to participate, would a full trailer load of pyramids not be worth the expense of trucking to a site on the Chesapeake's western shore - even Ocean City?
I sure think so.
There's a lot of cement plants.
Really. A lot.
If just 5% participated with pyramiding their waste cement we'd have one heck of a job getting it overboard.
Boy, that's a lot of writing to explain why I think the reef pyramid mold idea struck a milestone last week.
One hundred twenty reef pyramids were deployed off CCA MD's at Janes Island Reef in the Chesapeake.
Those were the first reef pyramids of what I sincerely hope will become tens of thousands deployed for oyster restoration.
The tiny nonprofit I run, the Ocean City Reef Foundation, did not incur any new expense in lending molds to these cement companies - even the trucking was donated..
We must re-reef the Mid-Atlantic that we might successfully restore fisheries most have no idea we've lost.
Chesapeake, Delaware Bay, nearshore ovean hardbottom reefs; they've all been pummeled and need repair.
Opening sentence make more sense now? "We've recently begun to use cement plant & truck wash-out to turn the Mid-Atlantic ocean blue again."
If you'd care to help with our efforts visit Donate at ocreefs.org.
You might also visit CCAMD Building Conservation Trust for habitat. Those monies go into oyster restoration.
The monster .green.orgs CBF & TNC work on it too. Inquire how to make sure your donation goes into a shirt-sleeves up oyster effort and not a "teach children what we should have done" program.
Then too State and Fed projects abound. Some quite huge and are, recently, successful. Write your representatives about funding that work.
Very few have any idea the ocean has turned green.