Monday, June 12, 2023

Fish Report 5/20/23

Fish Report 5/20/23

Not a great start..

Honey, I bought a boat!

Thoughts on building sea bass populations. 

All of May already open - now opening June for sea bass trips. Size limit 13 inches - 15 per person. Fishing has not been "Hot" - Some limits  

Sailing Saturdays 630 to 3:30 at $155.00 — Weekdays & Sundays 7 to 3 at $135 - All Trips Sell Out at 18 Anglers.

Anna is a one person operation. She 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 want a spot call the reservation line at 443-235-5577.. Emailing me is no good - service handles reservations. I do check email for questions; check FaceBook messenger too.. 

*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.  

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 winter deployments of 750 reef pyramids,) I take reef blocks every time the boat goes in the ocean. 

Block Update - As of 4/23/23 we have 39,083 Reef Blocks & 1,248 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 rise over the winter!) 

Currently being targeted oceanside: at the Rambler Reef 260 Reef Blocks & 10 Pyramids - Tyler Long's Memorial Reef 638 (+18 Reef Pyramids & a 115 ft barge!) 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 2,889 (+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 1,578 (+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 200 Reef Blocks & 2 Pyramids - Capt Greg Hall's Memorial Reef 222 Blocks & 2 Pyramids — And 325 Castle & Terracotta Tog Blocks, 10 Pyramids, & 16 pieces pipe 81 feet Bass Grounds Unnamed. 

Greetings All, 

Sea bass opened May 15. 

It is NOT hot! 

Some limits and anglers in double digits? Sure. 

Boat limits like normal for opening? Not so much! 

Many of the cbass we're catching are lightly colored from traveling over sandy bottom. It's my belief that the impetus for males rushing in from overwintering grounds to secure a 'good spawning spot' (used to be early May, even late April some years) is scarcely in play owing reduced numbers of spawning males:

"No Hurry Mate! June will be soon enough!" (Does Ozzy Man have a 'Destination Procreation'?)

Sea bass taking their time? I sure hope this isn't all the sea bass that's left..... 

We should be seeing a few monsters every trip from magnificent years of spawning production following the recolonization of the MD Wind Energy Area.  

And well we might - just not yet. 

We helped discover habitat fidelity in the mid-1990s with ALS tagging. 

However, I remain alone in support of my age at maturity spawning thesis. Both discoveries could be truly powerful tools for the mindful fishery restorationist. 

So far though we've mostly had to bear the brunt of ill-thought regulatory policy coming from the Fed. State and regional reps to Councils and Commission have had to fight like heck to preserve any semblance of the historical recreational fishery.  

I have been writing for years that our sea bass would shoot sky high as the Wind Area recolonized with little fellows eager to be a harem boss. I also foretold the plunge when they again began shifting their age at maturity by 2 and three years. 

It's not a guess. I'm positive: when little age one males are prolific, exponential spawning events are quite possible. That's why we caught well, even excellent at times before regulation began - and why the sea bass population in our region swelled so magnificently in early management --- until the size limit went to 12 inches. When inshore reefs are populated by larger bullies? ..the urge to spawn young is gone and the population dwindles. 

Fishing pressure is far too new in their evolutionary biology to have allowed compensatory instincts to meet it. Sea bass evolved so as not to crash themselves with vast populations wiping out food resources. When a reef is populated by age three and over males? "Take your foot off the gas boys!"

When new reef is created or after a calamity? "All hands on deck for spawning season! Fill this ghost town reef!"

From an old letter - a plea to management & science..


Here's the passage to managers and scientists I wrote on 5/11/17..... (brackets & italics new in 2017)


..two years ago our region's sea bass hit rock bottom. Spawning populations over nearly all our reefs were at the lowest I'd ever seen. 

I fished over a decade of the last of unregulated fisheries (1980s). Where we should have seen sea bass's nadir (back then) has now been replaced with a recent event. (2015)

But in that nadir we witnessed a return of age one/age zero spawning last summer -- in 2016. From that sudden influx of so many more spawning sea bass we will see a rapid population rise as we experienced year after year in the 1990s & into 2000. 

And from that population rise we will see increases in catch. ((Sure caught a LOT of limits these last five years! 2018/2022))

We could absolutely increase a sea bass population by increasing a region's reef footprint. ((Habitat expansion))

((Or by draconian regulation!!))

We could also increase that population by decreasing age at maturity - by forcing an additional 70% of a stock into the SSB. ((spawning stock biomass))

Would that we might ever do both together ((habitat expansion & best size limit for maximized spawning production)) and on purpose; Fisheries Management will have entered a new & modern phase. 

But that's not going to happen.

Instead, MRIP will, as it always does, grab a little increase in catch and make it MONUMENTAL. 

In two years, NOAA will see wicked overfishing along our shores too. (Took three years for VA to set a new MRIP record - and that when no one was on the docks counting fish..

(So far MRIP's only stolen 3 weeks of season I'd certainly sell out given good weather. Who could guess what sort of mess MRIP shall invent for 2022.)

((And now ten days in October..))


Promise - sea bass could be made into far greater populations. 

Unfortunately, I also promise management and science's hands are bound so tightly they may as well be watching shadows on Plato's imaginary cave wall and call that "scientific information."

Until MRIP recreational catch estimates are repaired? Real fisheries science will never have a voice. 

Honey, I bought a boat!

Dogone wind wants to play games early in sea bass season. 

Canceled yet another trip Friday. 

Made the most of it though. Put fresh nonskid deck paint down. Had sent up a flare Thursday evening - "Help!" - and a bunch of fellows showed up to assist in  taping off all those knees and scuppers. Would have been all day with just the boys & I. As ever, many hands made the work light (& much faster!) More than one way to get a fishing trip - Promise. 

Thanks Joey, Nick & Tanner.. 

Had 6 gallons - Man it was close. Using dollar store's finest Betty Crocker batter spreaders, we scraped & wrung every possible drop from those kits. Had just barely enough - just. 

And as we were scraping every tiny bit of nonskid, a boat came in under tow from Chincoteauge to haul out. 

If I'd had enough nonskid paint we'd have already been gone.. 

Great Scott! Sure had been a while since that rig had seen a fresh coat of bottom paint. With oysters to six inches, the hull was an honest to goodness upside-down reef. 

I'm completely serious -- fish were actually falling out of the growth onto the concrete slab. I am not kidding. 

Looked like it would make a nice addition to our reef complex to me. Low hanging fruit of the finest kind in fact. I asked the owner to give me a price. We haggled a bit and I wrote him a check. 

No longer just the hull; we'll get her cleaned up and turn all of it into reef. 

Might be something to this idea of an upside-down reef. I tried to get grants in the 1990s just for that - to float a barge in some out of the way place, then let birds and whoever do what they would topside while submerged growth, especially oysters, took over all of the hard surface. In those days oysters were  a Can't and Never species--yet we'd had oysters to 8 inches growing on a hull tied up in west OC harbor for years. I figured there must be a way to let em grow on a low profile designed habitat, then flip it over and sink it wherever you wanted to restart an oyster population.. 

I read recently that I wasn't alone. 

Still have the landing craft and two small tugs. Have a load of pyramids coming Tuesday. Going to build reef!

Might swap this 43 footer for a larger steel boat. We'll shoot up a "Help!" flare as soon as a clean up day arrises..



Capt Monty Hawkins

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