Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Fish Report 12/20/22

Fish Report 12/20/22 

Just back from yet another sea trial and passed! Going Toggin! 

Have a Merry and Safe Christmas! 

Sea Bass Are Closed Because of Bad Data. 

We Have Irrefutable Proof NOAA's Catch Estimates Are Dead Wrong. Our Nation's Finest Fisheries Statisticians Are Not Fishermen And Have Absolutely No Concept Of Real Recreational Fishing Effort. (That's NOT an exaggeration, not some evil boast - it's true. A recent letter below..) 

Boat Rule: 3 Tog @ 16 Inches - only one can be a female. (Maryland is 4 of any sex - we're fishing the boat rule.) Release of all sizes encouraged. Keep a few for dinner? Sure. Load the neighbors up? Not so good for the fishery's future. 

Funny, 3 tog at 16 inches was my boat rule from 1992 to 2003 too.. 


Anna might be slammed when I hit send. If she cannot pick up, Leave her a message. She has a method to her madness.. Reservations at 443-235-5577 - She's a one person operation & has other jobs too. The line closes at 8pm and reopens at 8am. She won't take reservations for trips that are not announced. If you leave a message that you want to book Feb 32? ..she probably won't call you back. 

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

Does the thought of not keeping a state legal limit gives you pain? Then you will not like tog fishing with me.. Shoot, I may have some clients skunked every trip all winter. Seriously. 

Togging is a most unkind fishery - especially for the novice. Then, I've also seen abecedarians bowed-up steady while incredibly skilled anglers suffer in hubris. 

But when it is kind? 

As Tommy said, "The tug is the drug.. Bully Bob says, "They're Delmarva Grouper." 

Fishing for tog Wednesday Dec 21 and again from Monday 12/26 to Thursday 12/29/22 (a four day run? Feels like months since we've had that..)  All these trips are 6:30 to 4:00 @ $175.00 - 12 Anglers Sells Out so anglers can move to the bite. Boat has 20 well marked spots. If someone's in a spot? No mugging. If it's open? Have at it. 

Green crabs provided. You're welcome to BYO crabs for bait too. Anglers are further restricted than state regs would have  - Boat Regs are 3 fish (not 4) only one can be a female. This fishing will not be over the horizon runs.. 

If fishing the stern area waterproof boots are advised in fall & winter. Shoes & sneakers will ruin your day. 

It'll be chilly in the AM too! Cabin is heated. 

*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. Seriously, with a limited number of reserved spots, I do not refund because you overslept or had a flat.. If you're reserved and the last person we're waiting on - you'll need to answer your phone. I will not make on-time clients wait past scheduled departure because of a misfortune on your part. 

Try to always leave a half hour early (and never an hour early!) I rarely get in on time either. If you have a worrier at home, please advise them I often come home late. It's what I do. 

Trips Also Sometimes Announced on Facebook at Morning Star Fishing


I post after action reports (or lack thereof) (and sometimes detailed thoughts on fisheries issues) for every trip on my personal FB page and Morning Star page..

Bait is provided on all trips. 

No Galley. Bring Your Own Food & Beverage. 

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 a 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 have a few loaners - you'll still need ice. Should you catch some monstrous fish, we'll be able to ice it. 

No Galley! Bring Food & Beverages To Suit. A few beers in cans is fine for the ride home.  

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.

Wishbone doesn't replace backbone.. Have to keep a shoulder into reef building to make it happen.

Block Update! As of 11/20/22 we have 38,500 Reef Blocks & 1239 Reef Pyramids (170lb ea or an equivalent) deployed at numerous ACE permitted ocean reef sites - there are also 786 pyramids deployed by MD CCA at Chesapeake Bay oyster sites working to restore blue ocean water… (and, boy are those pyramid numbers about to rise!) 

Currently being targeted oceanside: at the Brand New Rambler Reef 260 Reef Blocks & 10 Pyramids - Tyler Long's Memorial Reef 548 (+18 Reef Pyramids) Virginia Lee Hawkins Memorial Reef 406 Reef Blocks (+72 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Jack Kaeufer's/Lucas Alexander's Reefs 1,988 Blocks (+46 Reef Pyramids) - Doug Ake's Reef 4,174 blocks (+16 Reef Pyramids) - St. Ann's 2,867 (+14 Reef Pyramids) - Sue's Block Drop 1,642 (+24 Reef Pyramids) - TwoTanks Reef 1,303 (+ 15 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 912 - Benelli Reef 1,552 (+ 118 Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 4,091 (+ 88 reef pyramids) - Wolf & Daughters Reef 734 - Dr. Berger's Reef 1,505 (+33 Reef Pyramids) - Great Eastern Block Drop 1,528 (+25 Reef Pyramids) - Two more brand New Drops Begun at Cristina's Blast 80 Reef Blocks & 2 Pyramids - Unnamed Site South Side GEBD 160 Reef Blocks & 2 Pyramids - Capt Greg Hall's Memorial Reef 222 Blocks & 2 Pyramids — And 325 Castle & Terracotta Tog Blocks & 10 Pyramids 81 feet Bass Grounds Unnamed ..

Greetings All, 
Looks like another winter of fighting bad data ahead. NOAA is taking at least 10% more of our sea bass season.. 
Was up all night writing my DC representatives the other day. Finished just after 3am and posted it to Facebook too. Stirred a few souls anyway. 
One of the comments from the "Awww, but NOAA is trying so hard. We just need to repair the statistical spikes.. 
I believed that too for a long, long time. Urged it even. 
Now, in consideration of Maryland's inlet video camera evidence, I doubt seriously that even the lowest effort estimate isn't far too high. Every estimate is far too high. Where even a stopped clock is right twice a day, MRIIP isn't ever right. 
If you'll read on you'll see what I mean. 

Hi Travis, 

Got an auto reply from Tim. Pleasure to meet you! (Tim was a great guy at Dr Harris's office.. 

Going clean back to 1998 I've told your predecessors innumerable times I thought NOAA's recreational catch estimates were a farce. Now theres proof NOAA's recreational catch estimates are wildly incorrect. 

Absolute proof. 


I begged for a video monitoring camera at Ocean City Inlet for years. Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council funded it. Because Maryland only has one access point to the sea it's the simplest state to check. We're not talking about For-Hire numbers here. They're pretty solid. 

Private Boat catch estimate data has become just nuts. NOAA's program, called MRIP, has an "all ocean" effort estimate requiring 742 Private Boats A DAY leaving OC Inlet in June/July 2021.. If calculated at 4 anglers per boat and fully 60 fishable days - that's 742 per day. A more realistic number would be higher still, say 40 fishable days and 3 people per boat average - that's over 1,400 boats per day.. 

NOAA calls estimates like that "Peer Reviewed Science."

I attended a small meeting where we looked at actual video of sample days. This is where I've fished 42 years now. I became convinced what I've said all along about MRIP being incredibly too high shall be borne out in the video evidence. 

In fact, everyone in attendance laughed out loud (really laughed) at the notion of 742 boats per day leaving Ocean City's inlet. 

Promise - every single Private Boat Angler effort estimate that can be checked by video will be fantastically too high. I've done the math. They're way off. 

We see few Private Boats sea bass fishing. Never 100. There might be a fifty boat day - one day a summer maybe? Lots of "no boat" days for weather - lots of weekdays with a handful. This is the Private Boat side we've had trouble with - worse and worse and worse since 2004. The For-Hire catch estimates were fairly well ironed out in 2003 (though they still botch em real bad sometimes!) Congressman Gilchrest lead that fight for us. He also had repair language inserted in the 2007 Magnuson rewrite that brought MRIP into being. No one knew we'd get played until they released it in 2012. 

Today's Private Boat estimates by MRIP are computer driven illusion; they're the source of "Recreational Overfishing."

It's those "Effort" estimates that give us trouble. When I look at CPUE (catch per unit of effort) - when boiled down to the "fish-per-angler" estimates - they seem in line with reality. Usually. 

MRIP's problem is in effort. "How Many Anglers We're There?" Always has been. That's why the 2007 Magnuson bill that had MRIP's provisions also had a "Saltwater Registry" - a license. I supported the license and count it among my worst failings. We got played on that too. Registry data was supposed to be fashioned into a clear picture of fishing effort. From the MRIP staff I've spoken with, NOAA thinks everyone cheats. They absolutely believe license data is no good. I believe this is why NOAA blows up the number of anglers far beyond license sales or "free registry" numbers. 

Either way, we can 100% prove Maryland's actual effort (a whole lot closer to the truth at least) with these videos. 

..but, dogone it, we don't really know about the video evidence because the data hasn't been gone thru. No one's counted the boats. 

Years of video. 

No count yet. 

Whoever counts em, I want those videos public so we don't get played again. We need to be able to check the count. 

I'm telling you, every time I make enough noise to get heard - the number of anglers jumps skyward further! We have to be able to check the work. 

I need to mount (another!) write-in campaign to complain, as ever, about NOAA's recreational catch estimates via MRIP. 

Even though I have recently met with NOAA Fisheries' top scientists & have great faith they see the problem for what it is, Congress needs to be on top of it. Congress has to relieve us of this farce; every state that uses MRIP needs to have enough video monitoring to create a solid statistical estimate of effort - a good estimate. We need these videos to create a true effort estimate for Maryland and then the calculations applied to other states as well. 

I've shown you a ridiculous recent effort estimate from Maryland. Here's what happens when 'effort' is too high in a larger state. New York, for instance, has had a ludicrously too high estimate of 100,000+ pounds of sea bass caught by Private Boats in just a week of late June season for years. 

Then, this year, with a newly increased size limit of 16 inches (a BIG sea bass!) - a tiny three fish bag limit and still only a week of season, MRIP has NY's Private Boats catching 600,000 lbs of sea bass. Up half a million pounds despite tighter regulations. Six hundred thousand is exactly half what all party and charter boats from Maine to Virginia caught all year in 2021.. Really. Not in a week — All year. 

NOAA is claiming Private Boats from one state, with a huge size limit and three fish possession limit, caught, in a week, half of what the whole management area's professional skippers caught in a year.. 

And that, right there, is what "Recreational Overfishing" looks like. 

It's fake. Virtually no one believes the data anymore. But, "Law's the law, you know".. NOAA's Regional Administrator will remind everyone MRIP's data is "Peer Reviewed" and managers must use the data exactly as is. If it claims overfishing? Them managers will have cut our season for next year because we went overquota - surpassed our Recreational Harvest Limit..

And that's what MRIP shows. 

It's baloney. 

MRIP's throwing up so much smoke across all of fisheries science and management that the real work of fisheries restorations is being hidden by this false facade of peer reviewed 'data' — so well hidden, in fact, that we're actually going backward now. 

Yes, backward. When I last wentbto DC in 2018 I told staffers it was because of stock analysts (fish population estimators) inclusion of MRIP's recreational Private Boat catch estimates that quotas would be set too high for commercial fish. 

I imagine an analyst's conversation going like this.. "Oh, Gosh, if recreational anglers are catching THAT many fish, then there must be soooo many more than we'd previously estimated. There's a lot of fish in the ocean we somehow didn't notice the last 40 years." 

When MRIP's last "Recalibration" was forced upon fishery scientists, to make their models work they had to add enormous numbers of fish to match the positively ridiculous Private Boat catch estimates——and, owing these vast new fish population estimates, commercial quotas shot straight up: 49% for summer flounder & 69% for sea bass. 

As I predicted then - it's getting bad. 

Recreational "overfishing" is a mirage on a computer screen, not dead fish. Higher and higher and higher levels of catch - but never real. 

Commercial landings, however, are real. They are fish caught and sold. With additional quota, more fish died. Almost everyone at any level of management should see the population declining in summer flounder. The population is solidly down. Sea bass are so over-regulated on the recreational side they're doing OK with commercial pressure. (So far)

When I last visited the Capitol in 2018 staffers asked; "Where's everyone else? How come no one else is complaining?"

Sorry others couldn't see it - especially sorry for those in system that knew what would happen and made no complaint. 

I haven't any objection to commercial fishing - sustainable fishing is what all the work I do on habitat is all about. Increased fisheries productions benefits all users and fish too. 

But since NOAA approved vast increases in commercial quota for summer flounder, sea bass and scup: since that incredible increase commercial fishers have NOT caught their entire federal quota. 


That never happened before the big 2018/19 increase. They always caught quota. 

Rest assured these fellows have not suddenly decided to go easy on fish. The ocean is essentially wide open to commercial effort on these species.

Seriously. Just like pre-1976 Maguson/Stevens - the unregulated era's overfishing we're still trying to repair - commercial catch is essentially as "Wide Open" as it was in 1975. That's what it is if commercial catch hits no quota. 

Can we talk about this? Know anyone I should also be talking too? Have you someone who handles fisheries issues? 

I'm telling any who will listen and have for a very long time, MRIP stinks to high heaven. It's throwing fisheries restorations hard astern. 



Photo is a reef I'm building by taking out twenty cement blocks every trip. 38,500 now - mussels here, many are growing coral. 

We've built a LOT of fish and coral habitat off here. Makes people glad they visited Maryland.. 

Capt Monty Hawkins 

Blog Archive