Fish Report 2/9/22
One Tog Trip
Fighting a Regulatory Rearguard Action
NEW: Boat Regs 3 Tog @ 16 Inches - only one can be a female.
Honest truth about Tog Trips!
Do you like a good old fashioned 'drop and reel' sea bass bite? Like steady action?
Yeah, umm, toggin/blackfishing ain't that. (Except in the rarest of occasions!) This fishery, tog fishing, is the hardest from among my target species. Skunks can and do happen! Even skilled tog fishers, and I mean from among the very best, can get their head handed to em. Worse still - I've even been completely skunked while tog fishing! (Whoever said "A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work" dern sure didn't carry fishing parties for a living!)
Still, because the challenge of catching tog is both our test & attraction - we go!
Like Tommy said; "The Tug Is The Drug."
If you're this guy: "Ah, Capt, I thought we'd catch 20 pounders today?" Oh Mercy! I'm just glad if clients get bit!
I'm telling you here - I had many, many anglers get skunked last winter - my last trip!
This fishery is tough getting tougher. Those 'dinner fish' kept 10 & more years ago would have been today's jumbos.
I run Tog Trips light so anglers can move to the bite - or try too!
For those in need of the blow-by-blow catch reports, I post after every trip to facebook..
If you want a spot call the reservation line! Emailing me is no good - service handles reservations. I do ck email for questions - sometimes ck FaceBook messenger..
Tog (Blackfish) Trips Only - allowed zero sea bass. They're closed now because of bad MRIP catch estimates. (MRIP's now worse than ever!)
My crew do have a FEW whitelegs for a very reasonable price.. (Many died..)
3 Tog @ 16 Inches - only one can be a female.
Tog Trip - Friday, Feb 11 - 6:30 to 4 - $175.00 - 12 sells out (covid) - Masks in Salon - not on the rail while fishing or running.
Reservations Required at 443-235-5577
Anna is all alone here. Line sometimes jams when I open. Leave a message.
IF YOU BOOK LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER & LISTEN TO YOUR MESSAGES -
Weather Cancellations Happen - 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
overslept or had a flat..
Trips Sometimes Announced on Facebook Also - at Morning Star Fishing
https://www.facebook.com/ocfishing/ & my personal FB page along with after action (or lack thereof) reports. Email is always first.
Bait is provided on all trips: green crabs for tog. (Whites Are
available from crew for a reasonable cost. A lot died though!!) Our Tog Pool Is By Length: A Tog That's Been Released Counts The Same As One In The Boat.
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: 3 Tog @ 16 Inches - only one can be a female.
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.
Except in high-summer, waterproof boots are almost a necessity unless fishing the bow - sneakers will ruin your day when the water is cold! 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..
As of 2/1/22 we have 35,700 Reef Blocks & 431 Reef Pyramids (170lb ea) deployed at numerous ACE permitted ocean reef sites - we also have 312 pyramids deployed by MD CCA at Chesapeake Bay oyster sites working to restore blue ocean water…
Currently being targeted oceanside: Virginia Lee Hawkins Memorial Reef 99 Reef Blocks (+55 Reef Pyramids begun 8/18/20) - Capt. Jack Kaeufer's/Lucas Alexander's Reefs 1,856 Blocks (+44 Reef Pyramids) - Doug Ake's Reef 4,174 blocks (+16 Reef Pyramids) - St. Ann's 2,817 (+8 Reef Pyramids) - Sue's Block Drop 1,582 (+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 3,723 (+70 reef pyramids) - Wolf & Daughters Reef 734 - Al Berger's Reef 1,109 (+14 Reef Pyramids) - Great Eastern Block Drop 1,324 (+18 Reef Pyramids).. And a soon-to-be-named reef at Russell's Reef 30 Blocks & 49 Pyramids - We've also begun block drops at Capt Greg Hall's Memorial Reef with 212 Blocks & 2 Pyramids..
After the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council's vote, we'll most likely have a 20% reduction in the recreational sea bass quota. It's not over yet - starting to smell bad though. We're accused, as always by MRIP, of being far over quota—Just Private Boats from NY & MA are said by MRIP to have caught nearly
double all Commercial catch.
Neat trick that..
Here's A Careful Examination of the 2021 Recreational Catch Total of Sea Bass w/details on Massachusetts & Maryland Private Boat Estimates for Wave 3 (May/June) 2021..
No one believes the data - but NOAA insists on its use because "it's the best we have" & "It's been peer reviewed."
Wish "Fisherman Reviewed" counted for anything.
NOAA's Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) has recreational anglers catching 9 million pounds of sea bass in 2021 with Private Boats catching 86% of them. (MAFMC docs).
In careful examination of MRIP's state by state & wave by wave landings of Private Boat catch compared to observations of Party/Charter skippers from each state, I find MRIP's coastwide Private Boat estimate to be 7,390,500 pounds of sea bass too high.
That's a huge error, but no surprise to any student of MRIP's overestimates. There's a reason All Gulf States axed the Federal program.
Consider Massachusetts where today a large sea bass 'fleet' fishery exists. It's not unlike armadas gathered when weakfish in DE Bay were amazingly abundant in the 1970s.
MRIP has MA Private Boats catching 1,032,000 sea bass/2,270,400lbs in 40 days of May/June 2021 open season.
I think this estimate can be logically proven as between 1,898,600 & 1,654,400 pounds over.
Although vast, and reported by charter skippers as 150 to 300 Private Boats & small commercial hand liners (a commercial presence newly grown in number owing a vast commercial quota increase in 2019) ..all these recreational Private Boats can be seen fishing on a nice Saturday morning. Even if we add 100 boats and make no deduction for commercial fishers, plus ridiculously spike this effort estimate by making it 400 Private boats fishing every single day (not just Saturdays when Private Boat pressure actually spikes) and an average of 3.5 anglers per boat all limiting with 5 sea bass, that 'only' rises to 280,000 sea bass - which leaves 752,000 sea bass (1,654,400lbs) from the MRIP estimate unaccounted for.
Using my 'Percentage of the Catch' where, in MA, Party/Charter skippers think they catch 15% of their state's total recreational sea bass, the number of sea bass is more realistically shown (actually overestimated) at 169,200 sea bass boxed in wave 3, MA Private Boat.
That makes MRIP's estimate 863,000 sea bass over. With MRIP's calculation of 2.2 lbs average per sea bass that's 1,898,600 pounds of sea bass counted against recreational quota that never saw a hook, let alone a cooler.
In Maryland, where I've participated in the recreational sea bass fishery for over 40 years, there's one ocean port with access to legal-sized sea bass.
Aside one Fourth of July Saturday that was incredibly flat calm, I have never seen a number of Private Boat anglers approaching the number of anglers on Party/Charter boats.
Although having no bearing whatever on coastwide quota; here's my simple formula to correct MRIP's estimate where I've fished 40 years — Maryland Private Boats land (catch and keep) 25% of Party/Charter VTR submissions.
Although I seriously doubt Private Boaters in MD take even 20% of MD's sea bass, I've used 25% in these calculations as a buffer.
In May/June 2021 MRIP has MD Private Boat landing 103,000 sea bass and For-Hire landing 8,900. That's 11.6 sea bass for every 1 (one) landed by Professional recreational skippers.
If we use VTRs instead, where MD For-Hire operators told NOAA they actually landed 12,700 sea bass — that we "Observed" almost 13K sea bass landed from our trips and told NOAA about those landings — then Private Boat landed 8.1 sea bass to every one For-Hire clients landed.
I guarantee that's never happened. We do not have anywhere near that level of Private Boat effort.
If this level of Private Boat catch were even remotely true, the way I fish & intel I need to provide clients the best possible angling experience would be vastly different.
By ''percentage of the catch" calculations however—and I mean by VTR submissions, not MRIP's For Hire estimates—then MD Private Boat sea bass landings would be an order of magnitude lower at 3,200 sea bass. That's 100K lower (and, trust me, this is nowhere near a 'bad' MRIP estimate.) Its simple math. We think Private Boats catch less than 25% of our landings - and MD For-Hire captains told NOAA our clients boxed 12,700 sea bass, then Private Boats landed 3,200 fish.
Conversely, in 2018 MRIP reports MD Private Boats landed Zero sea bass in May/June (wave 3) and Zero sea bass again in July/August (wave 4.) Wasn't closed. Boats were fishing. While they sure didn't catch astronomically, if we use VTR submissions at 25% then we have Private Boats landing 2,425 sea bass in wave 3 and 808 in wave 4 - numbers far more realistic than anything MRIP offers.
Owing habitat fidelity, no quota overage to DelMarVa's north would ever affect our stock - biologically.
We'll soon know.
When fishers see effective regulation employed in a species with habitat fidelity, both fish & fisher benefit.
But regulation is not a stand alone cure. Spawning production and habitat repair/creation can be made vastly more powerful with the right & light regulation.
Consider: seventeen years into regulation we had the worst sea bass fishing in DelMarVa's history. Seriously, following the MD Wind Energy Area Surveying Disaster; May of 2015 was rock bottom - the worst spring run of sea bass ever.
And, with absolutely no change in recreational regulation, in 2020/21 we've had the best sea bassing since 2003.
Fishing was excellent & exactly as I'd predicted it would become in 2016/17 owing all age one sea bass rejoining the spawning stock biomass (SSB) when the MD Wind Area and surrounding reefs out to four miles were recolonized.
The very worst sea bass fishing, & very best, with no change in recreational regulation in the period. The only change in commercial effort was an increase in quota in 2019 fallaciously based on MRIP's inflated stock guidance.
We've recently witnessed exponential population growth off DelMarVa for the second time under regulation. Once from 1997 to 2001 & again from 2016 to 2020. It's management's undiscovered ability to force almost all sea bass into the "spawning stock biomass" (SSB) that's key.
But managers, even were they keenly aware of this power, will never capture nuances of spawning production in regulation while guided solely by MRIP's nonsenseical estimates.
Attached are all the tables for sea bass 'Percentage of the Catch' from 2018..