Monday, February 13, 2023

Fish Report 2/13/23

Fish Report 2/13/23 - A Few More Trips 

Another one turns to dust.. 

A Favor Please.. 


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. Very rare opportunity for limits presents.. 

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

Anna might be slammed when I hit send.  (or maybe not!) 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. 

Tog only - unlike VA, cbass are closed in MD because NOAA's bad catch estimates could close us all summer - not playing that one-armed bandit. Never good; NOAA's recreational catch system, MRIP, has become absolute garbage. I fully intend to see that proven & MRIP swing from a yardarm.. 

Have had some great fish of late - have also had really good anglers goose egg too. Happens almost every trip. 

Long(ish) Tog - Valentines Day (I must be crazy, but thats the only weather all week!) 2/14/23 .. 

Also Scheduling 2/15 & 16 - Wednesday & Thursday (may get out if forecast calms before next storm.) 

All Trips This Week 6:30 to 4:30 - $175

Experimenting with a new voice mail too - a warning when sold out.. 

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

Bait is provided on all trips: green crabs for tog. (Whites are 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.

No Live Tog Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (I Believe The Live Tog Black Market Hurt This Fishery ..But Nowhere Near As Much As Bad Sea Bass Regulation)

Agreed With Or Not, My Boat's Regulations Observed – 3 Tog @ 16 Inches or better - only one can be a female. 

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." 

14 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. If in between two good friends? Well… But they'd better be good friends! 

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. 

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.. 

*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.  

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! 

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 and in years before also.

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..

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

In addition to OC Reef Foundation deployments of barges, tugs, & bargeloads of material (such as Tiki XIV's recent deployments of 750 reef pyramids,) I take reef blocks every time the boat goes in the ocean. 

Block Update - As of 1/24/23 we have 38,818 Reef Blocks & 1,241 Reef Pyramids (170lb ea) 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 did those pyramid numbers recently rise!) 

Currently being targeted oceanside: at the Brand New Rambler Reef 260 Reef Blocks & 10 Pyramids - Tyler Long's Memorial Reef 578 (+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 1,323 (+ 15 Reef Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 912 - Benelli Reef 1,552 (+ 118 Pyramids) - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 4,151 (+ 90 reef pyramids) - Wolf & Daughters Reef 734 - Al Berger's Reef 1,545 (+33 Reef Pyramids) - Great Eastern Block Drop 1,528 (+25 Reef Pyramids) - Two more brand New Drops Begun at Cristina's Blast 120 Reef Blocks & 2 Pyramids & an 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, 

My first stop on 2/2/23 (a trip scheduled for fellows on a weather cancelled day) was a major disappointment. What I suspect was an old wooden barge; a piece I'd fished several decades with success, was gone. 

Thought my side scan was toast at first. But no. Just gone. 

We had a storm in spring of 22 that moved a 125ft steel artificial reef barge 60some feet - into even better position, thankfully. I suspect it was that same storm gave the old, rotten, worm eaten barge her final lashing. 

Not the first time I've lost a wreck to storm and old age. Mate Brian McK found a fantastic old wooden barge outside the DE shipping lanes in the mid-1990s. It was here we were trying to film with a borrowed underwater drop camera & my $99 WalMart TV with built-in VHS tape player/recorder in 2004 when, alas, it wouldn't record. Clients and I, included my old friend Gerry Meadows, watched a federal belly tagged sea bass chill in front of the camera a few minutes. These days we might at least have taken a picture of the screen. But no, that big belly tag is simply a memory. More important too was all the structural timber forming what was, essentially, a giant bookcase where  each cubicle had a monster tog with its own private suite 

..and there were many. 

We not only had fun & ate well from that barge's production, but learned from it too..  Hurricane Sandy flattened it; sent it to the great unknown. Not so much as a swirl in the seafloor remains.. 

Fries my head that VA has a sea bass season in Feb and we don't in MD. But, they're willing to argue against NOAA's recreational data - and even take their own measures of recreational effort. At stake are entire swaths of summer season. If NOAA says there were 250,000 guys in Feb? Even though it wasn't even 250, we'd be dead all season. We're already doomed to lose two weeks of sea bass this summer at least because Virginia did NOT (could not really) argue with NOAA about their last three years of sea bass catch data. But if MD had a February season and NOAA invented an enormous fleet of Private Boats slaying every sea bass south of Atlantic City? We'd pay -- and there'd be no recourse. 

I've hammered at their nonsense since 1998. I would have never believed how bad it would get.. Elevated far beyond merely miraculous; fisheries scientists -- forced with threat of paycheck, I'm sure -- have continued to use NOAA's recreational catch estimates in their population estimates & therefore assigning of quotas. 

MRIP has us catching millions more pounds of sea bass & fluke (summer flounder) than we really do (or they actually believe!) It's those giant recreational catch numbers that make fish populations appear far more vast that truth would have. When quotas are created recreational anglers are the bad guys - because our catch is so overinflated there's rarely been a time when we weren't past our previous allotment or RHL (recreational harbest limit.)

Commercial? Awwww.. The poor guys haven't even reached a sea bass or fluke quota since NOAA folded their last MRIP "recalibration" into fish population estimates (stock assessments in the trade) back in 2018.. 

Are kind hearted commercial trawl skippers fishing below quota for the betterment of recreational fishers and overall ecology? 

Yeah no. 

This is why quotas are not obtained - MRIP has the stock estimates so blown out - and therefore commercial quota so high - they cannot catch their quota.  Commercial fish have operated on sea bass & fluke virtually without federal quota caps since season began in 2019. 

Can't blame em. We'd have done same if this mess were their data's doing. 

Like balloon hunting of late, sooner or later this mess has got to come back to earth. 

Don't think NOAA could be that wrong? Really? 

It's coming. Every 'ocean only' MD recreational fishing Effort estimate I have checked was far too large. My fave so far though (& some have seen this before) is summer of 2021 (July/Aug or "Wave 4") when MRIP's official Maryland Ocean Only rec estimate would require an average of 742 boats going every fishable day.. 

There are going to be a few high days - possibly even 250 when we host the White Marlin Open - but those boats should show in a separate Highly Migratory Species or Large Pelagic Survey effort estimate and only a few days at that. The 742 estimate probably doesn't include bluewater fisheries. I could be wrong there, but we'd still be nowhere near the level of effort we're being charged for. 

How many Maryland Private Boats with 4 people each are actually going on average in summer? 15? 20? Maybe 50 on a gorgeous Summer Saturday? 

We'll find out. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council put up a camera (at my begging!) to count boats in our state's one inlet. Couple years data. So far no one's counted em yet. Lot of work? I don't know.. I volunteered to pay for it if I did the work. Sure weren't interested. Wouldn't have trusted my count. 

There's no possible way they'll be able to justify MRIP's marine effort estimates (or any, really) after these counts come in. 

In truth? That might make it worse still for a while - science & management will go buttocks over teacups a while when MRIP's estimates tumble   ..but we'll then be on a path to create real recreational catch estimates - honest data used to create sound scientific quotas. 

Always greater & greater complexity in every aspect of fisheries owes only to trying to accommodate data that's not true -- MRIP's recreational catch estimates. 

Fellow who headed up the dismantling of MRFSS (old system) and brought MRIP to life told me, on a windy day in the parking lot of (then still) Ake Marine, that if I kept insisting MRIP was too inaccurate, the situation would only worsen. 

Man of his word. 

Incredibly worse.  


In May/June 2021 MRIP has the Massachusetts sea bass fishery at 1,592 Private Boats per day. At 4 anglers per boat (or kayak?) they caught 1,038,493 fish total or 25,963 keepers per day (all better than two pounds) with a four fish limit.. (locals say a day or two over 200 boats with 20 or 30 more normal.) 

Those 40 days in one state accounted over one third of the entire recreational quota from Hatteras to Canada in 2021. 

Cameras would have helped - just drone flyovers would do it.. 

Common sense allowed to overrule bad data? 

Yeah, that would work too.

Here's the thing - the favor - my "ask" as they say in DC.. 

Every state needs these cameras. It doesn't have to be 100% coverage. Who, after all, knows how to cook up some juicy statistics better than NOAA? 

And cameras are cheap these days! 

Cotton Candy really - ask your state to start doing these camera counts too. Its really important to get our catch data squared away. 



Capt Monty Hawkins

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