Skylar

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About Skylar

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  1. Fish Report 3/17/15 Going Looooong Toggin (and, um, long on the report too) NOAA's Pout Regulations Reviewing Formative Science Please Write The Secretary Of Commerce Skunks are always possible while tog fishing. Really. It's a frequent occurrence, even with a good bite. Not an easy fishery; the very best toggers sometimes get their head handed to them despite folks all around having done well. Then too, sometimes the whole boat can do very poorly. If you can't take the heat, and there ain't much of that either, stay out of the kitchen. But If That Sounds Like Your Kind Of Fishing, Good! Cause We're Going Toggin Anyway! Tog Only, Sea Bass Closed. (still) Have (some) White Crabs For Sale AT THE DOCK for the low, low price of just $5.00 per <strike>generous</strike> exact dozen. (they're small & most have died) There Is No Guarantee We'll Have Whites For Any Trip. Sometimes they all die. That shrinkage is why I prefer greens. We will not be bringing whites with us in the ocean. Green Crabs Remain Provided As Boat Bait And Are Included. Yes, it feels like spring on land and I'm glad of it. The ocean, however, has only grown colder as ice melts in our bays & estuaries. To catch a tog right now I must take a very long ride - very. Even that may not work! In three more weeks, a month, we'll see nearshore waters warm & the traditional tog bite begin. This trip is not that - not at all. Get it? Going Toggin - Thursday, March 19th - 5am to 5pm - Calm Before The Storm - Tog Only - Sea Bass Closed - $175.00 - 12 Anglers Sells Out. Expect A Very, Very Long Ride. Reservations Required for All Trips. Reservations at 410 - 520 - 2076 — They Answer 24/7. LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way.. We provide green crabs. You're welcome to bring any kind of crab you like – even lobster, even plastic. If You Book — BE SURE TO LEAVE A GOOD CONTACT NUMBER & DON'T TURN YOUR PHONE OFF! 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 Regulations) Agreed With Or Not, All Regulations Observed – Maryland: 4 Tog @ 16 Inches – Sea Bass Closed On Jan 1st Because Of Rotten MRIP Catch Estimates. 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 Still Winter Out There!! Wear Boots, Not Sneakers! Fingerless Wool Or Thin Fleece-Lined Waterproof Gloves With Handwarmers Tucked Into The Palms Make For A Comfortable Day.. Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. Bring A (not terribly big) Fish Cooler With ICE (or fresh snow if you can find any) For Your Party.. A 48 QT Cooler Is Good For 2 Guys. Even Now You Should ICE Fresh Fish.. Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early. Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat.. Please believe Sue Foster's contribution to our fishing community will be remembered in a memorial reef. Help Make That Happen. http://www.ocreefs.org Very Good Things Are Happening With OCRF Reef Building. Our Largest Concrete Project Ever In Coming Weeks. (and even that's been pushed back by ice! We start rolling trucks - stockpiling precast concrete - Wednesday for April deployments.) Now 10,976 Reef Blocks by the stern rail – 2,146 at Doug Ake's – 1,218 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 557 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and 304 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Our Reef Block pile was reloaded with monster 90 pound blocks courtesy of Potomac Valley Brick, Inc. of Salisbury. New 2015 Reef Raffle for a bronze Turner Sculpture of a pair of spadefish. About 16 inches high, it's an awesome piece. Maybe I'll keep it in my office this summer for safe-keeping.. Nearly $3,000.00 value, only $10.00 a ticket! Turner's work is, quite literally, around the world. It's true sculpture.. http://www.turnersculpture.com Send an email w/your address and I'll snail-mail you some tickets. Just return the stubs & money. We'll pull a winner Thanksgiving week. Greetings All, Got a call from NOAA the other day. Seems I reported myself for illegally landing ocean pout. The good news is someone at NOAA is actually looking at VTR Catch Reports. These are not broad two-month Catch Estimates. We report, on a NOAA form, what we land everyday. Be nice if management were told what those reports say instead of MRIP's nonsense. Sad news is now I'm one of the bad guys. Maybe they'll pull my permits.. Maybe, "Oh, that permit application must have fallen off my desk" is coming. When & who in blazes made it illegal to land a dagoned big-mouthed yellow eel? I mean really, sometimes it's difficult to keep the wheelhouse vernacular from these written words.. (See pics at Google Images ocean pout ) Never very common, I like eating pout fried.. 'Liked' I suppose. I certainly won't violate a regulation I know about. Because the now-protected (for who knows what reason) ocean pout eel lives on REEF BOTTOM, maybe NOAA will HAVE TO investigate our reefs! Our very own spotted owl? Yeah no. They're worried about these things up in Maine or somewhere. Maybe they're 'moving north' too. Fishery management began as a way to save the fishing industry. At least that's how I saw it. Save the fish & create self-sufficient coastal communities. Create Bio-Economic Resilience In Coastal Communities By Increasing Fish Populations. Initially fishing got better & better. The very best sea bass fishing I ever saw was just a few years into the regulated period--and I spent nearly two-decades working in the last of the unregulated period. I could never have ever imagined a time would come when the recreational For-Hire sea bass fishery would go from catching perhaps nearly 5 million sea bass annually to less than a million ..yet be under constant attack for being 'over-quota.' Where in the world are the 4 million sea bass we're NOT CATCHING EVERY YEAR? Commercial catch too is much more tightly controlled, they catch far-far fewer individual fish than they did both in pre-regulatory & the early regulatory period. I would never have dreamed the regulatory & scientific community would respond robot-like to 'scientific data' they do not even believe; catch estimates no one should ever believe.. Then I saw it in 1998. In 1997 the recreational catch estimate for New Jersey Party/Charter sea bass catch jumped up a million fish to 3 million. That increase in catch caused the MAFMC to raise the sea bass size limit to 10 inches, something they had very clearly intended from management's inception just a year earlier. I supported the 10 inch limit. I could see sea bass populations climbing straight up. Management was really working! But they also wanted to close two weeks in August. WHAT??? They did just that too. I put my crew, my boat & my clients in danger trying to get way-offshore to catch red hake (ling) during that 1st sea bass closure - a closure based on a single state/single sector/single period spike in the estimates. A spike exactly as has happened so many times since.. In 2014 New Jersey's Party/Charter boats landed 312,000 sea bass. That's fully an order of magnitude lower than their 1997 catch estimate - and again MAFMC is about to further restrain New Jersey's recreational sea bass season for 2015. WHAT??? Where are the fish? Where's the savings? How in the world could we possibly have been at the bottom of the worst overfishing period this planet's ever experienced and yet still have 3 million sea bass available to New Jersey For-Hire vessels in 1997; but today, after nearly two decades of regulation, have management even a tiny bit concerned over landings fully an order of magnitude lower than in the dawn of regulation. That's just bizarre. Something's very, very wrong here. It's absolutely because spawning production has tapered. Collapsed actually. I've been trying & trying to show management what went wrong. They may come to it, but for now they're deep in a real-life witch hunt for small Private Boats as their main suspect in an uncontrolled, under-regulated, over-quota theft of our nation's public resources. They can see it plain as day in MRIP's estimates. Management: "If We Could Only Control these Wicked Overfishers!!" The most powerful tools in reef-fish management are: 1) catch restriction that recognizes habitat fidelity, (even today's hot-button issue, blueline tile, is being swept-up in our old stupidity. Will we really expect the people who manage Florida's east coast fisheries to be better able to gauge our blueline fishery above Cape Hatteras? ..it's never worked yet. Not once. Quota management MUST recognize spawning site habitat fidelity or fail again & again.) 2) habitat expansion (Here's a tough one: if the stand of oak where Uncle Jed used to shoot 20 squirrels every winter is now instead a fallow field that gets bushogged every few months except for one tiny corner of trees, why can't we shoot as many squirrels there today as Uncle Jed did? If reefs once measured in square miles have only been replaced by reefs measured in square yards, why is it so difficult to restore reef-fish populations that lived upon those huge multi-square-mile historical reefs with our multi-square-yard reefs of today?) & 3) using the natural instinct of fish to spawn young when they perceive 'room to grow' or, in converse view, fish spawn more and earlier when 'put under pressure.' The "Iron-Clad Rule" (Murawski) of fish populations becoming far more numerous, if fished at the appropriate level, relies heavily on several simple assumptions that no scientist or manager should make when dealing with reef fisheries: To be true --for fish to become far more numerous-- Spawning age must either remain constant or its changes factored into management; and the base area, the footprint, The Size, of reef habitat must either remain unchanged or be increasing. But here in the Mid-Atlantic we still "don't have" reef habitat. Really. Management's not going to worry over something that's not on their NOAA issued to-do list. This was in a document put out for public comment in March of 2002: Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Alternative 1, the "No Action" alternative, states that ".. Additionally, the majority of (benthic) habitat in the Mid-Atlantic region is sandy bottom. Current research shows that bottom tending mobile gear has a short-term impact on this type of habitat. As such, further EFH regulations may not be necessary at this time." And so it remains.. I copied this off a government website in 2003. You might think this must have been forgotten; but, even today--a decade later--they remain blissfully ignorant of our reef habitats: "NOAA Fisheries and the Regional Fishery Management Councils have three roles. First, they describe and identify essential habitat for all fish and shellfish stocks managed under federal fishery management plans. Most of this work has already been completed.* Second, they must identify measures to conserve, restore, or enhance essential fish habitat in fishery management plans and amendments. And third, they recommend actions that will minimize the adverse effects of fishing on habitat." So here's where this "EFH No Action Alternative" from 2002 comes in: Additionally, the majority of (benthic) habitat in the Mid-Atlantic region is sandy bottom. Current research shows that bottom tending mobile gear has a short-term impact on this type of habitat. As such, further EFH regulations may not be necessary at this time." *completed? describe and identify? Really? I've yet to see but one heroic start by Vince Guida up in Sandy Hook & that was exactly a decade after this document was written. Truthfully, habitat impacts are growing increasingly rare. That's mostly because habitat that could be scraped away - has been. I think too trawl skippers are more dialed into it. Regardless, todays task is not so much in preventing impacts; we need to find out what's gone missing over the last 8 decades & put it back. I've been digging around, looking for evidence that will finally convince someone in authority we must more-closely examine every facet of the sea bass fishery. I see methods using biology & ecology to manage populations for accelerated growth, to repopulate reef-fish quickly. I see new methods of management we need to master in order to move this endeavor forward. I absolutely believe we could engineer any population of sea bass we'd like - from today's minimally productive but rather large fish, to a population greater than existed in 1950. To do that we have to examine aspects of regulation other than cyber-ghost Private Boats MRIP claims are able to kill with greater efficiency than the very-real foreign fleets of yesteryear. Instead of biology & ecology, management's only out to kill overfishing. They're good at "Closed." More & More Closed. You can smoke a joint in DC cause a bunch of guys wrote letters. Recently a cheap rifle ammunition was about to be banned (gun talk for Closed). Over 80,000 comments later, BATF withdrew their ban. Close cod to recreational harvest in the Gulf of Maine? NOAA "Allows" a two day red snapper season? New Jersey & all points north hammered again on sea bass regulations? Fishing's Closer & Closer To Closed. We're witnessing the end of marine recreational fisheries based on the worst possible data. Yet even people in the trade, people who own a boat or earn a paycheck from the deck or wheelhouse, won't write. We need everyone to write. I suppose it's really no different than any struggle, and fishing's very low on people's radar to begin with. Fishing ought to be. The ocean should be blue & full of fish. The reason it isn't, at least from "The Best Available Science" right now, is because regulators just cannot control small plastic boats piloted by ruthless slayers of untold fish. That's just pathetic. With all the work we need to do to set the ocean right, NOAA's pitchforks are pointed at Private Boats. In the early 1970s commercial fishermen wanted Spain's fishing fleet OUT. GET OUT OF OUR WATERS. Spain said, "Sure, we can accommodate you on that. But these military bases you have here? They have to go too." So the State Department not only allowed Spain's boats to stay, they gave them coordinates where to fish. That's just one country's fleet. There would often be dozens of foreign trawlers, trans-Atlantic fishing ships really, for every US fishing boat. That was what Magnuson was originally written to cure. The law was passed in 1976. Now, with the strictest recreational regulations ever in history, with Councils & Commissions convened to control US Fisheries and prevent foreign theft; these regulators see on their computer screens MRIP's statistical representations of rapidly increasing catch in the Private Boat sector. Every other sector's catch DROPS when regulations tighten. MRIP says: Oh No, these guys in their Private Boats are killing off entire previous successes in management! The more you regulate, the more they take! Now managers want recreational guys OUT - Stay In Your Marina! Don't you dare TOUCH a sea bass, red snapper, or cod. When some crazy bug-eyed loon hears voices in his head, that's just him being nuts. When he takes an AR to the school yard; that's a tragedy. MRIP is making regulators crazy. The tragedy is unfolding before our eyes as recreational fisheries are closed. I'm digging - looking. Re-reading old works. What on earth can I possibly use to show management how utterly bizarre their belief in MRIP's catch estimates seems to us? This stuff is just NUTS to anyone working in the recreational fishing trade. There's just No Way Private Boats from one state can outfish all US Party/Charter. It's doubtful any one state's Private Boats catch more sea bass than just their own state's Party/Charter fleet. But NOAA believes the estimates. After all, they paid for them ..and then get paid to use them. Found this. Here's something interesting management used to 'know' from page 55 in the "1995 Review Of The Development of A Joint ASMFC/MAFMC plan For Black Sea Bass" by John Carmichael: "A large proportion of the recreational landings are taken on party and charter boats." Wow. That's rather different than when NY For-Hire was recently shown to have caught 5% of their state's sea bass; or when NJ's For-Hire fishers were shown to catch just 3% of their summer sea bass. I'm certain the nature of the fishery has not changed that much, the balance has not shifted so far toward Private Boat removals - nowhere near so. Fishing seems the same out there on the water, at least when season's open, if a little heavier on the Private Boat side. Fishing's Amazingly different in the MRIP catch-estimate data though. Funny. If the estimates were true we would factually see an incredible increase in boats over our reefs - the reefs we know by heart because that's how we make our livelihood. Those enormous fleets MUST EXIST for MRIP's catch estimates to be true. That's why Party/Charter operators don't believe the estimates. Where are these fleets of Private Boats? No one's catching the fish NOAA's catch estimates claim are being taken. Not for tautog, not for sea bass, not red snapper, not red grouper, not cod or haddock either. Ghost fleets on a computer screen do not create true landings. While reported catch factually falls through the cracks; estimated catch from sectors where no one physically counts actual catch climbs higher & higher, showing catches far beyond what's seen on the water while we're out fishing. Digging around in management's formative work starts getting more intriguing for me in Kendall's 1977 Sandy Hook Technical Series, "Biological & Fisheries data on Black Sea Bass." On page 8, section 2.2: (writing in 1977) "Over the past 70 years it appears, from catch records, {would have been commercial sales by the pound - no estimates} that the center of abundance of black sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic Bight has shifted south from New York/Delaware region to the Chesapeake region." (underlines mine of course..) Yup. Kendall actually wrote that in 1977. Now -Today- NOAA's quite certain, based mostly on MRIP's numbers, that sea bass are fleeing the lower Mid-Atlantic because of warming waters. The 'species flight' theory not only ignores the South Atlantic's "restored" status of sea bass, but clearly our NOAA Administrators have no idea sea bass populations are climbing in the Gulf of Mexico.. I promise: water's plenty cold enough for even Boston mackerel. Ain't no way this ocean's "too hot" for sea bass.. I really wonder about that. Who picks our 'best available science'? Why is MRIP a 'best available science' - why is everything in Magnuson that edges management toward CLOSED FISHERIES embraced as "best"?? Yet the Essential Fish Habitat section of Magnuson is of no concern whatever. We haven't any reef habitat to excite the EFH section of the law. There just isn't any habitat. Turn the data inside-out. I have. My videos--first one sent to NOAA & Congress in 2001, are just about all there is for sea bass habitat off the DelMarVa coast. & & then Nick Caloyianis's work - all those hard star corals & soft whip corals are sunlight dependent - there are managed species of fish which require reef habitat - Nothing. According to the actions of people at NOAA in charge of enforcing the Magnuson Act's EFH provisions; habitat does not exist where we fish for sea bass. It's important to note there are people at NOAA who would love to research our corals - it's the people in charge do not see the wisdom in it. This fishery was an easy one. They shot straight up to a 50 year high early-on (if still nowhere near a post-WWII population) yet have been in decline since. Overfishing is now history. It's over. Foreign fleets are gone. Quotas are in place. Management's catch-estimate illusions/delusions have them behaving like those poor Japanese soldiers holed-up in caves & tunnels still fighting long after Nagasaki. Really. Overfishing is history. The little plastic private boats are not coming to take management's island. Overfishing now past; today we're in an un-named era when management ignored fish & fishers in favor of a government definition of science - the "best available science" - and allowed their most rapid & successful restoration, their first restoration, to falter & fail with its associated businesses' following in suit. I think that failing is because sea bass spawn years later than they used to. Kendall's 1977 work illustrates precisely what I mean. On page 15, section 4.11, Kendall wrote: "Since black sea bass are protogynous hermaphrodites*, sex ratio varies with age and size of the fish. Larger fish are all males. Nearly all fish 25 cm (9.84 inches) are males. Thus catches of large fish will consist of males." (*Like many reef species, sea bass begin life as females. Because a reef may be isolated in the extreme, reef-fish are able to switch sex to keep the spawning population of any given reef in balance.) Kendall also wrote, "Generally, males tissue is first seen in fish 3 years old at about 18cm." (7.1 inches - what we today are certain is age 1) Using his 'best available science,' Mr. Kendall believed a ten inch sea bass was 6 years old. Today we know that's an age 2 sea bass. As above, he also thought a 7 inch fish was 3 years old. While what he believed about "age at length" was a fault of science, we can not doubt the man knew how to measure---an aging table might have been wrong, but not his ruler. I doubt any recreational fisher has measured more sea bass than I have. I had boat regulations long before there was any actual law. When I was told in 1991 that sea bass had all spawned by 9 inches, I began looking to see if I could confirm that by measuring fish I believed were spawning. In 1992 I made 9 inches my boat regulation - self regulation. Over the next 6 years we would often throw back thousands of under-nine inch sea bass every day - without the force of law. Among them it was quite a simple matter to see the males. Even small; newly switched males have a blue hump on their head. When management finally began in 1997 they too chose a 9 inch limit. In 1998 it went to 10 inches. What I've been trying to tell management for 6 or 7 years now--and have suspected longer still--is made plain as day in Kendall's work ..but only if you're familiar with sea basses' modern-day response. Where Kendall thought it quite likely a catch of over-10 inch sea bass would be all male, today we could easily catch 5,000 ten inch sea bass and not a single one would be male. That's a perfectly possible scenario. Yet Kendall tells us in 1977 a catch of large (10 inch) sea bass would all be males. They did not have the aging right - not then. But they surely knew how to measure. We've gone from innumerable age-one males (<9 inches) in pre & early management, to virtually no age-two males at all today. Spawning production has declined sharply in precise match with this shift. Instead of a huge spawning population, it's quite likely our spawning biomass today is nearly the smallest in history. Moreover, the nature of sea bass in the lower Mid-Atlantic carries these larger spawners further offshore, further from the estuaries so vital to juvenile success... Management's had BOFF pounded into 'em. Closed & BOFF are good. (but habitat & population biology are bad?) Big Old Fecund Females - BOFF. Managers believe by protecting older females they can increase a species' spawning capacity. This is probably quite true in, say, striped bass. Here's what management should plainly see with sea bass switching to male years later than they used to. For black sea bass at least, BOFF is dead. Mr. Kendall wrote in his time, "The largest females are about 34 cm and 8 years old.." A 14 inch female would have been enormous. He certainly implies just that with his 10 inch males quote.. Such females, actually about 4 years old, are commonplace today. In fact, the size limit in Massachusetts is 14 inches and they certainly do not take all males. We now have 2 entire age classes that are nearly entirely female, but were once nearly all male ..yet the population is in decline. Our sea bass population is unquestionably shrinking ..but there are more females, and females represent a far greater percentage of the population than ever in the history of sea bass science - we have BOFF big-time. Today's sea bass couldn't be more BOFFy ..yet the population wanes. If BOFF were at all true for sea bass it wouldn't be safe to walk a beach - you'd get spined.. When sea bass on nearshore reef habitats felt pressured by the absence of larger sea bass on their reef, males transitioned from female even as early as a few months of age. With every reef possessing the needed percentage of males by age one, this provided a spawning population even in the worst of overfishing. Spawning productivity was accelerated as management began because all these youthful spawners were then newly size-limit protected by law for the first time in history. Regulation, in concert with biology, created exponential population growth. The real driver of this 1998 to 2002 population explosion of sea bass was as far from BOFF & Marine Protected Area theory as could possibly be imagined. It was the nearshore reefs with the heaviest pressure that drove an 'all hands on deck' spawning response. Just a little further out, a tad outside 12 miles, there were a lot of big sea bass. The first year of a recreational bag limit was 2002 - the size limit was moved from 11 to 12 inches in 2002 as well. From that day to this - population decline. (This graph only goes to 2011. When updated in will not spring miraculously upward.) I've only gotten through a couple old documents from early in sea bass management's history. I'll keep digging. Here, however, is something else that's entirely slipped away from us -- in the Executive Summary of the 1998 Summer Flounder/Scup/Black Sea Bass Plan it says, from among several Fishery Management Plan objectives: Improve Yield -- Minimize Regulation .. Would make perfect sense if it was removed in 2002. That's when management of sea bass turned sour. When the size limit crossed 12 inches it 'tricked' sea bass into behaving as though their habitat were full. Indeed, in 2003 I thought our sea bass were at habitat capacity. Today's size limit makes them behave as though they still were - they delay spawning accordingly. I believe age at maturity shift has had a huge negative affect on production. I believe today's spawning age-shift, and accompanying spawning production decline, stem soley from recreational size-limit regulation. I also believe today's recreational regulations are solely the result of catch estimates so rotten that no other industry would suffer them for any other purpose. From those estimates management has unknowingly orchestrated the decline of sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic. . . Overfishing is dead, but so too is management's promise. Please See Comment Information Below. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD If you only write the Secretary of Commerce, that may have been the most important letter. It's very simple to contact your Senators & Congressional Reps online. Please write to the Secretary of Commerce, your Senators & your Congressional Representatives. (search at http://www.usa.gov/Agencies.shtml ) The Secretary is hearing from red snapper fishers right now about catch estimates too. She also ought to be hearing from cod & haddock guys if they've not given up. Please tell Mrs. Pritzker the reef fish recreational For-Hire industry from Maine to Texas may well collapse under the weight of bad catch estimates. Tell her too that Private Boat owners deserve fair consideration in the estimates The situation requires her immediate attention. I believe the best course of action is to relieve NOAA of catch estimates all together & hand that duty to US Fish & Wildlife. They've been estimating fishing effort a lot longer, they're better at it. I can scarcely imagine anything worse.. Personally, I also think if NOAA cannot find & manage the closest reef ecologies to Washington DC, then maybe they ought to just stick to weather. Weather forecasting's much better than ever before, but maybe USFWS should have responsibility for all US fish habitat if NOAA hasn't time for it. Whether a couple sentences or a couple paragraphs - we need Commerce to know we're getting hurt bad by MRIP's false accusations. This is NOAA's third attempt at recreational estimates, their second in a decade. They just don't get it. We need tell Government: Create Bio-Economic Resilience In Coastal Communities By Increasing Fish Populations. Mrs. Penny Pritzker - Secretary of Commerce U.S. Department of Commerce 1401 Constitution Ave., NW Washington, D.C. 20230 You might try an email - TheSec@doc.gov - but I'm sure snail-mail carries a bigger stick. I'm not at all sure email gets in. You have a state Fisheries Dept. and representatives to the MAFMC & ASMFC - tell them too. Believe me - They'd like solid estimates also. As for NOAA's upper echelons? I give up. I am absolutely convinced if NOAA does not hear Mrs. Pritzker's high-heels coming down the hall, we're toast. They'll just keep doing what they know how to do - CLOSED. Yes, sea bass are not under immediate threat in the DelMarVa region, but we are next. We need to get Marine Fisheries Restoration headed in the right direction. With an ocean of potential, we're still fighting overfishing from the pre-regulatory era; now from tiny boats, not foreign factory trawlers. Want more? If that's not enough work, here's another task; a "request for comments" from the Highly Migratory Species folks.. Below is my submission. https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/03/05/2015-05079/atlantic-highly-migratory-species-essential-fish-habitat-5-year-review Comment:HMS are typically thought outside the borders of nearshore & estuarine hardbottom losses' affect. Given a deeper examination of changes to HMS recreational landings since the 1920s from OC MD; loss of oyster filtration in our major estuaries has caused an-ever increasing 'greening' of the Mid-Atlantic's once-blue marine waters. The white marlin fishery can be traced from even just 3 to 5 miles out pre-WWII, then 8 to 20, then 20 to 30 - to today's canyons fishery. Because the Gulf Stream dams outflows, reduced flushing in the Mid-Atlantic Bight creates a far different situation than in, say, Stuart Florida where billfish are still caught where they were 60 & more years ago. The Mid-Atlantic has grown far greener, not remained blue. Then too, we can be certain squid once spawned on nearshore hardbottoms as they do worldwide. Given our certain knowledge heavy stern-towed gears can reduce or destroy a hardbottom's reef-growth; and given what should-be certain knowledge by now that soft sandstones & clays can be lost permanently, especially over decades of gear impacts, one can imagine how deep research into past reef fish landings and catch locations would illuminate a need for habitat restoration preceding prey-base restoration. If oyster restorationists are successful, a true HMS restoration to these many species' full habitat range--including the nearshore--will indeed require more than a pelagic mind-set. Regards, Monty Hawkins Ocean City, Maryland
  2. Regulatory Death Of Our Fisheries - 2/26/15 Greetings All, We're experiencing the death of the sea bass fishery. It's happening now. We're also witness to the death of the red snapper fishery. Haddock, tautog, red grouper & even blueline tile: All will suffer a similar fate caused only by bad data. What I've written is true. Since 2009 we have been continuously robbed of more & more sea bass season. Today, and now with NOAA's brand-new catch estimating repair in place, MRIP's constant accusations of recreational Private Boats landing far-over quota is finishing our fisheries off piece by piece. Not just sea bass & red snapper, other fishery's catch-estimates run in mirror-like fashion. Shorter & shorter seasons, larger size limits with smaller bag limits; these are a result of management's firm belief recreational fishers have over-shot quota numerous times of late. In fact, based entirely on MRIP catch estimates, the federal red snapper season may only run for two days in 2015 - perhaps even just one day. Is that NOAA's way of thanking red snapper fishers for building all that reef? Make no mistake, MRIP isn't just a little bit wrong; our new & fabulously expensive catch estimating program is incredibly wrong. Management uses MRIP's catch estimates, and those estimates alone, to determine whether the recreational sea bass & red snapper fisheries have "behaved" - have remained within quota. I absolutely guarantee and here intend to prove - The sea bass bass & red snapper fisheries, others too, are being stolen from recreational participants by bad MRIP estimates. I've asked many clients aboard my Maryland Atlantic Coast partyboat, the Morning Star, about their experience with the Massachusetts sea bass fishery, specifically: "How many private boats did you see while you were catching sea bass on a charter or partyboat in Massachusetts?" The answer is always - always - clients either saw very few Private Boats or none. But if MRIP's catch estimates are even remotely close to true there would have to be huge fleets of Private Boats catching sea bass. Consider the 2014 May/June MRIP catch-estimate of 207,800 sea bass caught by Massachusetts Private Boats in May/June vs 19,200 sea bass landed by Charters during the same period. As always of late, the private boat estimate represents a huge chunk of recreational quota. Whatever species MRIP claims has been "overfished," a little research will reveal insane levels of increasing Private Boat catch regardless of regulatory tightening ..while For-Hire catch factually declines under greater restriction. All Massachusetts Recreational Sea Bass Catch MRIP [TABLE] <colgroup><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col></colgroup><thead>[TR] [TH]Estimate Status [/TH] [TH]Year [/TH] [TH]Wave [/TH] [TH]Common Name [/TH] [TH]Fishing Mode [/TH] [TH]Total Harvest (A+B1) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Harvest (A+B1) Total Weight (lb) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH][/TH] [/TR] </thead><tbody>[TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]PARTY BOAT [/TD] [TD]12,368 [/TD] [TD]57.4 [/TD] [TD]19,832 [/TD] [TD]57.1 [/TD] [TD][/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]CHARTER BOAT [/TD] [TD]19,173 [/TD] [TD]61.7 [/TD] [TD]43,768 [/TD] [TD]59.1 [/TD] [TD][/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]PRIVATE/RENTAL BOAT [/TD] [TD]207,836 [/TD] [TD]42.3 [/TD] [TD]603,442 [/TD] [TD]44.2 [/TD] [TD][/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] I've asked & asked; even on Memorial Day Weekend no one I've spoken with, or corresponded with, has reported vast fleets of Private Boats fishing over Massachusetts's reefs. There's just no way around it, if MRIP estimates were even remotely correct then there would have be about 18 MA Private Boats fishing (& catching like crazy) for each MA Charter Boat fishing a reef. One charter boat, eighteen private boats. That's irrevocably how MRIP paints it. Only real boats can catch real fish. If the estimates are real---real enough to cripple the economic & biological vitality of the sea bass fishery---then where are these real fleets? Because weekends are the true pressure point for Private Boats, we should actually expect to see several hundred Private Boats wherever a small fleet of 3 or 4 Charters were fishing on a Saturday. Captain Willy Hatch of Falmouth, MA -- a skipper who knows where to find sea bass, writes: "I would say on the weekends here in Massachusetts the ratio of Private Boats to For-Hire boats is 50/50. On a really busy weekend might be more Private Boats bottom fishing. During the week For-Hire boats definitely outnumber Private Boats. Two other points is that often some of the Private Boats try to follow around the For-Hire boats because they might not know where to fish or where the bite is and might not be fishing on as productive bottom. Also generally on average, the number of anglers on a For-Hire boat outnumbers the Private Boats. I feel confident saying on average For-Hire boats are much more productive and efficient at catching fish than the average Private Boat. There are some extremely good private anglers, however, and an intercept of them at the dock might spike the numbers if not enough data is gathered." By testing an MRIP estimate against Party/Charter landings, we can see that in order to have REAL Private Boat catch that is truly far in excess of For-Hire catch, there must be, has to be, incredibly many more Private Boats out over their reefs. I'll write it again: Because weekends are the true pressure point for Private Boats, we should actually expect to see several hundred Private Boats wherever a small fleet of 3 or 4 Charters were fishing on a Saturday. NOAA says we can't prove the estimates are bad. They LIKE the estimates. "Gosh, we did a swell job!" Yet there's no way around it. For the above estimates to be plausible--in any way remotely close to accurate--there would have to be huge fleets of Private Boats every Saturday & sometimes even on weekdays. But, according to all witnesses, that's not what happened. Ever. It's much more likely that Massachusetts Party/Charter caught more sea bass than Private Boats. It's much more likely that MRIP's estimate is wildly incorrect. The Math. Take 19,200 bsb/5 anglers/8 fish = 480 Charter Trips -- Then take 207,800 bsb/3 anglers/8 fish = 8,658 Private Trips. 8,658 divided by 480 = 18 Private Boat trips {if they all limited out} per Charter trip. Since all those Private Boat trips do not happen regularly--because effort spikes on weekends while remaining more consistent for well-established charters, there would be roughly triple the Private Boat effort on any Saturday while Charter remained constant. So: 18 Private Boats as an average X 3.4 greater effort on Saturday = 61.2 private boats per-Charter. If just 3 Charters were on a Massachusetts reef, in order for MRIP to be correct there would have to be 180+ private boats catching there as well. If some guys are not limiting out, the number of Private Boats climbs much higher. If MA Party/Charter doubt their Private Boats even outfished them, then the idea that MA Private boats caught more sea bass than the whole US Party/Charter fleet in May & June of 2014 is laugh out loud silly. Except NOAA believes it. That's not so funny. MA Private Boats [TABLE] <colgroup><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col></colgroup><thead>[TR] [TH]Estimate Status [/TH] [TH]Year [/TH] [TH]Wave [/TH] [TH]Common Name [/TH] [TH]Total Harvest (A+B1) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Harvest (A+B1) Total Weight (lb) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Landings (no.) without Size Information [/TH] [/TR] </thead><tbody>[TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]207,836 [/TD] [TD]42.3 [/TD] [TD]603,442 [/TD] [TD]44.2 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] All US Party/Charter [TABLE] <colgroup><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col></colgroup><thead>[TR] [TH]Estimate Status [/TH] [TH]Year [/TH] [TH]Wave [/TH] [TH]Common Name [/TH] [TH]Total Harvest (A+B1) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Harvest (A+B1) Total Weight (lb) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Landings (no.) without Size Information [/TH] [/TR] </thead><tbody>[TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]236,447 [/TD] [TD]27.6 [/TD] [TD]340,560 [/TD] [TD]26.2 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] Real regulation from catch estimates that aren't real creates really bad regulation. Plenty of really bad regulation lately. It's killing an industry. In Connecticut over a period of 32 years, most with no regulations at all; between 1981 & 2013 Connecticut anglers landed about 127,000 sea bass total in Sept/Oct. That's 127,000 sea bass all combined & all added together over thirty-one fall periods. Now for 2014: Connecticut [TABLE] <colgroup><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col></colgroup><thead>[TR] [TH]Estimate Status [/TH] [TH]Year [/TH] [TH]Wave [/TH] [TH]Common Name [/TH] [TH]Fishing Mode [/TH] [TH]Total Harvest (A+B1) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Harvest (A+B1) Total Weight (lb) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Landings (no.) without Size Information [/TH] [/TR] </thead><tbody>[TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]PARTY BOAT [/TD] [TD]15,141 [/TD] [TD]. [/TD] [TD]18,262 [/TD] [TD]. [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]CHARTER BOAT [/TD] [TD]1,444 [/TD] [TD]88.7 [/TD] [TD]1,800 [/TD] [TD]88.0 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]PRIVATE/RENTAL BOAT [/TD] [TD]193,125 [/TD] [TD]36.9 [/TD] [TD]282,556 [/TD] [TD]40.3 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] With an 8 fish limit in 2014, their tightest regulations in history, they catch 66,000 more fish than they have, all together, in all those September & Octobers combined. Regulations just do not matter. MRIP has Connecticut anglers catching at incredible new highs. In NY's 2014 summer catch-estimate we see a similar pattern as in MA's spring sea bass estimate & CT's fall estimate. Here in summer---the very period when professionals have more difficulty catching sea bass---MRIP has NY's Private Boats catching phenomenally well. New York [TABLE] <colgroup><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col></colgroup><thead>[TR] [TH]Estimate Status [/TH] [TH]Year [/TH] [TH]Wave [/TH] [TH]Common Name [/TH] [TH]Fishing Mode [/TH] [TH]Total Harvest (A+B1) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Harvest (A+B1) Total Weight (lb) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Landings (no.) without Size Information [/TH] [/TR] </thead><tbody>[TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]JULY/AUGUST [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]SHORE [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [TD]. [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [TD]. [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]JULY/AUGUST [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]PARTY BOAT [/TD] [TD]4,455 [/TD] [TD]60.8 [/TD] [TD]6,088 [/TD] [TD]57.6 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]JULY/AUGUST [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]CHARTER BOAT [/TD] [TD]39,081 [/TD] [TD]56.5 [/TD] [TD]68,399 [/TD] [TD]56.7 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]JULY/AUGUST [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]PRIVATE/RENTAL BOAT [/TD] [TD]223,852 [/TD] [TD]29.7 [/TD] [TD]455,421 [/TD] [TD]30.4 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] Odd that such huge sea bass catches occur lately, especially given that NY now has their strictest regulations ever. New York's Private Boat July/Aug catch-estimates for 1982, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 01, 02, 03, 04, 06, 07, 08 & 2011, All Added Up & All Together, are thought to have been 958,706 pounds---that's less than 2013 & 2014's July/August total. Today: Tight Regulation - Eight Fish - 13 Inches ..but record shattering catches. Unless you're out with a professional who knows where they live, what they're biting & how to anchor just so or drift.... The Mid-Atlantic sea bass population factually climbed to a 50 year high in 2003 just a few years into management. There was virtually no closed season & no bag limit at all until 2002. Quite nearly all of the sea bass that formed that wonderful resurgence has been spawned with no bag limit and size limits of 9 to 11 inches. The effect bad catch estimates has had, even from 1998, is cumulative. Once management accepts bad data, they do not back off. The best regulation for sea bass happened over a decade ago. With the sea bass population doubling annually, it's plain in NMFS's population assessments that maintaining a young spawning population is vital to stock growth. But they weren't watching the fish, just the landings - just the catch estimates. The idea that Southern New England now catches more sea bass than the Mid-Atlantic ever did is wrong by any measure. Even with today's grossly inflated catch estimates, SNE only comes within 25% of historical Mid-Atlantic landings once - This Past Year. What is true is that regulatory "age at maturity" shift is pushing the Mid-Atlantic spawning stock further & further from shore; further from the estuaries so vital to successful sea bass production. Here's what is true: Statistical Estimates Own Management. Science Has Left The Room. Further South: All US Waters [TABLE] <colgroup><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col></colgroup><thead>[TR] [TH]Estimate Status [/TH] [TH]Year [/TH] [TH]Common Name [/TH] [TH]Fishing Mode [/TH] [TH]Total Harvest (A+B1) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Harvest (A+B1) Total Weight (lb) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH][/TH] [/TR] </thead><tbody>[TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]RED SNAPPER [/TD] [TD]CHARTER BOAT [/TD] [TD]45,847 [/TD] [TD]21.6 [/TD] [TD]333,138 [/TD] [TD]21.6 [/TD] [TD][/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]RED SNAPPER [/TD] [TD]PRIVATE/RENTAL BOAT [/TD] [TD]427,372 [/TD] [TD]16.2 [/TD] [TD]3,577,071 [/TD] [TD]17.1 [/TD] [TD][/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] [TABLE] <colgroup><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col></colgroup><thead>[TR] [TH]Estimate Status [/TH] [TH]Year [/TH] [TH]Common Name [/TH] [TH]Fishing Mode [/TH] [TH]Total Harvest (A+B1) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Harvest (A+B1) Total Weight (lb) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH][/TH] [/TR] </thead><tbody>[TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]RED SNAPPER [/TD] [TD]CHARTER BOAT [/TD] [TD]40,780 [/TD] [TD]24.0 [/TD] [TD]259,111 [/TD] [TD]26.2 [/TD] [TD][/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]PRELIMINARY [/TD] [TD]2014 [/TD] [TD]RED SNAPPER [/TD] [TD]PRIVATE/RENTAL BOAT [/TD] [TD]345,518 [/TD] [TD]18.4 [/TD] [TD]2,592,287 [/TD] [TD]19.4 [/TD] [TD][/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] It's the same thing. Some Private Boat owners are indeed very skilled, but red snapper & red grouper catch is much more equally divided between Private Boat & Charter/Party than is presently represented by MRIP. No One believes Private Boats catch 10X as many of any of these reef fish.. Believe me, Alabama's head of fisheries crucified MRIP in Congressional testimony. A lot of Congressional Representatives, including Senators, know quite well something's wrong with MRIP. Management says: "Just look at the PSEs.. These estimates are so accurate!" (their statistical PSE "percentage standard error" is similar to "margin of error" in a political poll) All fantasy. Their measures of PSE are as worthless as the estimates themselves. Even if NOAA were persuaded to allow managers the use of PSE, which they have steadfastly denied, the estimates are too far wrong for adjustments within PSE to fix. Maryland, for instance, is officially estimated by MRIP to have landed 348 sea bass all last year - 348 sea bass for all of 2014. A calculation for the high side of PSE (which NOAA has never allowed management to use) takes the Maryland total to about 800 sea bass. That's for all of 2014 & all of Maryland's anglers. My little 55 foot partyboat caught more sea bass than that in three trips. MRIP can be be stone-cold provably false on the low side. In fact, I may have taken more sea bass home for my family in 2014 than they say all Maryland anglers caught all year. On the low-side MRIP's dumb stuff stops at zero. They can't go lower than zero. However, an estimate can go upward forever. On the high side there is no stop ...well, yes there is. When they've finally closed our fisheries with innumerable false accusations of having gone over-quota, there will be no catch to report from closed waters. When there's no catch at all, then we'll be able to absolutely prove high estimates were wrong. Except.. It's the same anecdotal argument falling from scientists' lips today: "Sure! Those estimates could be correct. There are a lot of fish & there are a lot of boats." That is the extent of necessary proof needed to destroy a fishery. Perhaps one day soon Management will grapple the question: "Do we need to examine anything besides catch?" For now, MRIP's catch estimates suite NOAA's need just fine. No spawning age confusion; No needless ponderings: "Is coral really fish habitat? Should we go look?" Only a handful of men on Council & Commission have kept these fisheries from complete regulatory collapse. Only a handful of Party/Charter owners & their crews can be troubled to write their representatives in DC & in their State. It's amazing that more clients write to their State & Federal Reps than party/charterboat crews. That's just astounding. With so few complaining it's no wonder NOAA keeps getting away with this.. While large recreational.orgs are busy with 'important' fish like stripers, "less important" fish like sea bass, blueline tile, red snapper, red grouper - even haddock; those fisheries are all being stolen by bad data. Management should be embarrassed, truly ashamed, to have ever used MRIP estimates as though they were science. Recreational anglers & boat crews should be mad, angry enough to write. You should write. Congress has heard about bad recreational catch estimates for decades. Congress has even tried twice to fix it ..and twice NOAA has made our catch estimates worse than before. In fact, now NOAA's plan to repair MRIP (again) is to switch from blind phone calling to a mail survey. Snail mail. That's their brand new idea. The reason we have a "saltwater registration" now was to allow a better count of catch - by phone. Capt. Rick Bellavance of RI has already developed and tested an iPhone app. NOAA could know how many fish we caught instantly. I don't think they want to know. Botched & then botched again, the authority to estimate recreational catch should now be handed to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. They've been estimating recreational catch a lot longer and will do a better job. Have to. I cannot image worse. Perhaps too USFWS should be put in charge of seafloor habitat inside 100 fathoms. I see no evidence at all NOAA has any interest in the remaining Essential Fish Habitat today or what existed in the past. We must write. Tell Your Congressional Representatives - Tell Your State Reps & Fisheries Department - Tell Them We Want Our Sea Bass Back. Tell Them We Want Red Snapper Back, We Want ALL OUR FISHERIES BACK. Tell Them We DEMAND A More Thorough Examination Of MRIP Estimates Using A "Percentage of the Fishery" from VTR Party/Charter Daily Reports. Tell Congress USFWS would do a much better job. NOAA is stealing our fisheries with bad data. Tell your Representatives you want it fixed! My Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  3. Fish Report 2/13/15 Too Cold In The Calms OC Reef Foundation at OC Boat Show New Recreational Policy & Hope & Hope & Hope Have Opened Reservations For First Two Weeks Of Sea Bass Season. May 15th, 16th & 17th - Long Cbass - 6AM to 3:30PM - $125.00 - Thereafter Regular $110.00 Trips With Saturdays As Long Trips. These Trips Are Non-Refundable. Reschedule? Yes, of course, when owing to weather. Refund? Ahh, No. (That's the rules for the first two weeks.. Has to do more with credit card policy than how I'd prefer to run my business.) Now 10,958 Reef Blocks by the rail – 2,146 at Doug Ake's – 1,218 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 557 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and 286 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Our block pile was reloaded courtesy of Potomac Valley Brick, Inc. of Salisbury. And reloaded again with monster 110 pound blocks from PVB too! Thanks! Greetings All, Much as I'd enjoy telling you I'll be fishing the next 3 days.. Yeah, not. Even one day out of the holiday weekend? Um, no. How about next Tuesday when it'll be near flat? Forecasted temps are mid-20s by noon. Will go some more when this cold breaks. No Fishing For A Little While. Instead - Show Time! The Ocean City Boat Show runs Feb 13th to the 15th. Too windy to fish. I'll be at the Convention Center - a lot. We have our new "I helped Build Sue's Reef" T-shirts, sweats, stickers; new 2015 charts, and an awesome Turner Sculpture of two spadefish to raffle. Man it's nice. Turner's work is all around the world - literally. We're truly fortunate to have their foundry down on the VA peninsula. You can have a chance to win this piece for $10.00 -- or 6 for $50.00.. We have a huge reef building project scheduled in March. I'm thinking we'll deploy a solid 80 truckloads of concrete from various yards. The materials are all donated - trucking isn't! (..and who could ever blame them.) We have a 103 X 30 foot heavy steel boat chartered from early March to early April. The Iron Lady can haul between 8 & 10 truckloads at a time. This is great reef building. We'll have pin-point accurate deployments of material that will last thru many generations of fishers. Never true of a steel boat or ship; it's entirely possible sea bass will be using our concrete reefs for more than 1,000 years. I still hold hope that a giant.enviro.org will purchase a load of boulder to deploy. There's some evidence that boulder can make good artificial reef, but it's mostly natural. Since no one's built rock/boulder reef off the DelMarVa coast, you'd have to be aware of the natural-rock reefs to suspect artificial placement of natural substrate might work. Since NOAA has never discovered our remaining natural reefs, they're unsure if natural rock would just create more of those bad "attracting" artificial reefs that aren't capable of natural reef "production". Written as a barb? Certainly. However, this is, sadly & truthfully, just about exactly where NOAA is on our reef building, but there's hope.... Lots of guys think writing & making comment is a useless endeavor. Very, very few can be bothered with such. Here's evidence commenting can influence policy. I know for a fact some readers commented on NOAA's new recreational fisheries policy. See if you can spot the influence our comments had. Go ahead. It's written in pretty plain language. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/management/recreational/documents/noaa_recfish_policy.pdf My hope is this: The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries can now die in peace. Here's the very first section of NOAA's brand new Recreational Fisheries Policy.. 1. Support ecosystem conservation and enhancement. NMFS recognizes a wide range of approaches to restore, maintain, and build diverse healthy marine ecosystems that are foundational to high quality recreational fisheries. Examples of strategies that NMFS supports include: Restoration and conservation of habitats that benefit recreational and other fish stocks Development and application of best practices to support anglers as stewards of a sustainable environment. Science-based habitat enhancement activities, including artificial reefs and natural habitats in accordance with Agency policy, which contribute to the conservation and management of recreational fisheries. Sure looks familiar. I believe, while not alone, we helped get that in there. Still: If "conservation" implies knowledge of inventory--of remaining habitat that can be 'conserved' for the future; then "restoration" conveys the impression NOAA knows what's been lost, is aware of how much habitat is in need of 'restoration.' Well, OK. So they'll begin their new "Recreational Fisheries Policy" with a blank slate. They certainly aren't suddenly 'up to speed' on our nearshore hardbottom reefs. Never know though, they might find what's left & ponder the question: "Were these reefs ever any bigger?" Then it might just follow, "If they were once bigger, wouldn't restoration be logical?" Perhaps instead they'll come at it from this angle; "Where did all the sea bass live before these guys came up with the crazy idea of building artificial reefs?" I could learn to like their new Recreational Policy. Here's NOAA's own summary: Consistent with, and in furtherance of, the purposes of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) and other applicable federal statutes, the goals of this policy are to: 1) support and maintain sustainable saltwater recreational fisheries resources, including healthy marine and estuarine habitats; 2) promote saltwater recreational fishing for the social, cultural, and economic benefit of the nation; and, 3) enable enduring participation in, and enjoyment of, saltwater recreational fisheries through science-based conservation and management. Like so many times before,however, there's really only Hope. Like last March when we were told there would be a scientific literature search to investigate shifting age at maturity in sea bass. Today's sea bass, you see, are just beginning to spawn when they would have already been great-grandparents, or even great-great grandparents, prior to 2001; prior to the 12 inch regulation.. That hope died. The old "literature search" delay.. It's there. Lengths scientists witnessed sea bass spawning/maturing to male at two decades ago & more were much shorter than today's. I had hope.. A fifty million dollar research boat searching perfect reef coordinates I had given NOAA - Hope. "Nothing but sand waves.." And that hope died. Congress ordered repair of the MRFSS recreational catch estimating program - HOPE! Nah.. What a waste of money. When I learned Congress had ordered NOAA to start paying attention to marine habitat with the Essential Fish Habitat clause of the Magnuson-Steven Act in 2001 - Hope. Eh, not yet. Lot of years now. They really might catch on though. Say they're going to. When NOAA says, "Science-based habitat enhancement activities, including artificial reefs and natural habitats in accordance with Agency policy, which contribute to the conservation and management of recreational fisheries." I do have some Hope. A little. But honestly; not much. Before reef-fish management began in 1997 we'd had boat limits for years, "Kitchen Table" limits we hashed-out among ourselves with what was then-known about reef-fish biology and our own view of actual catch. Tautog & sea bass populations grew & grew with our kitchen table regulations.. When management came I thought, "Finally!" Hope Rewarded! Sea bass & tautog numbers rose swiftly when everyone had to follow the rules in the late 1990s. It was wonderful to see such amazing population increases ..but management brought something else too besides enforcement; they brought MRFSS recreational catch estimates. Instead of using brains & experience to manage fish, they used statistics. Bad statistics. Those statistics have now very nearly destroyed the sea bass fishery. I ought to be done with hope.. I doubt we'll get offshore with reef building. Not soon. Maybe one day. I Hope. Especially given reef buildings potential usefulness in colonizing & reseeding cold-water corals to new locations. If we did build reef offshore, I guarantee blueline tile populations could be taken sky-high. It might be too that golden tiles thrive amid an enormous pile of concrete pipe. Maybe black-bellied rosefish can be made to flourish with the right kind of reef.. Lots of critters would come along for that ride. Who would complain about lobster traps in deep water? No one I know. Lobster production, Blueline production, Coldwater Coral production; Safe haven for corals, and sea bass & fluke in winter: Who could guess the potential? Maybe someone should try boulders off in the deep. Why, I bet we could find some flat rock that's been scrapped clean of reef-growth for decades. Then, taking a lesson-learned from nearshore reef building: when adding any little bit of rugosity to an already hard, but featureless bottom, Life Explodes. Should we hope? Dare we? Although building new blueline tile habitat would doubtless bolster blueline production; as management soon gets more vigorous we will see no shred of habitat in their blueline 'restoration plan,' only more catch restriction. NOAA's first test of their new Recreational Policy will come from blueline tilefish. I have no hope at all that they'll pass that test. I doubt habitat will be factored into blueline management in any fashion. None. . . . . . . A big difference between NOAA's and fishers' comprehension of reef fishing realities---judging at least by regulators' abject absence of concern over reef-fish reef habitat---is that they, collectively, haven't a grasp of habitat's key roles in determining catch. For-Hire fishers know where sea bass, bluelines, & red snapper are; we know when they're there; we know how many we might catch in any given time frame; and we know how many we did catch in a historical context. When we're wrong about any of these, we can suddenly seem quite unprofessional - and sometimes do. Get it wrong often enough & a skipper's future will be in another line of work. The regulatory world has many types of data, but there's one kind they're never allowed to consider implausible, never allowed to question - at least not publicly: MRIP recreational catch estimates are always treated as perfect. "Wrong" does not exist in today's regulatory use of catch estimates.. Recreational for-hire fishers need real fish, caught on real reef, to suit real clients--that's our boat payment/insurance/wharfage/fuel/bait/paint/haul-out/home mortgage/electric/gas/grocery store reality. Managers, however, need whatever catch-estimate data is upon their computer screen to fit "turn of the crank" regulatory policy in order to maintain a paycheck - that's their grocery store reality. Consider: What happens when you see someone in government who bucks the system? ..they end up elsewhere, Fast. We all need to go grocery shopping, we all have payments.. It is my belief, based on the strongest of evidence, that NOAA Fisheries truly has no problem believing any MRIP catch estimate. Any estimate can be logically supported even if that logic's foundation is only from other catch estimates, any catch can be seen as "plausible." We've all heard about those great days of fishing. What if a lot of those days happened in a row? The very thing scientists most dislike about fishermen is our "anecdotal evidence," and especially our thought trains that support conclusions based on stories we tell or remember hearing---our anecdotes; yet anecdotes falling from a scientists lips are "scientific".. It is precisely these scientific anecdotes that are propping up MRIP's accusations of our going way over-quota on sea bass. "There's a lot of sea bass and a lot of private boats Of course the Massachusetts Private Boats could have caught more sea bass the the entire US For-Hire fleet." That's actually what they think.. This past year's MRIP data-fields show twice where just one state's Private Boats caught more sea bass than all US professional effort in a given two-month period. I now believe NOAA/NMFS regulators truly have no problem accepting those estimates. They see red snapper & black sea bass For-Hire/Party/Charter catch plummet in tightening regulation to it's lowest catches ever, while Private Boat catch shoots to the sky, and see nothing out of the ordinary. What we fishers plainly see as wildly incorrect, they see as normal fluctuation. Our catch is NEVER rational or predictable if your perception sources only from catch estimates. I used to hear it at every single meeting: "Recreational Effort Is Hard To Predict." It's not that hard. Really. What's impossible to predict is MRIP catch-estimates. We need management to see there is a method of getting closer to the truth, of bettering their estimates; a way to make meeting both of our grocery budgets easier. Here's a method of testing an MRIP estimate against Party/Charter landings. Consider the 2014 May/June MRIP catch-estimate of 207,800 sea bass caught by Massachusetts Private Boats in May/June vs 19,200 sea bass landed by Charters during the same period. I've asked & asked: even on Memorial Day Weekend no one I've spoken with, or corresponded with, has reported vast fleets of Private Boats fishing over Massachusetts's reefs. Yet if MRIP estimates were even remotely correct, then there would have be about 18 MA Private Boats fishing (& catching like crazy) for each MA Charter Boat fishing a reef. One charter boat, eighteen private boats. That's irrevocably how MRIP paints it. Because weekends are the true pressure point for Private Boats, we should actually expect to see several hundred Private Boats wherever a small fleet of 3 or 4 Charters were fishing on a Saturday. If the estimates are treated as real catch to create real regulation, then there ought to have been real fleets of Private Boats savagely beating the reefs to death while leaving charter skippers tied to the dock with cobwebs between their antennas.. But that's not what happened. It's much more likely that Party/Charter caught more sea bass than Private Boats; it's much more like that MRIP's estimate is wildly incorrect. I have many clients that fish with MA professionals for scup & sea bass. I always ask: "How many Private Boats & For-Hire boats did you see?" Usually the For-Hires outnumber Private Boats - and certainly have more anglers aboard. . . I hear of very few Private Boats. What has been reported to me is, in fact, that For-Hire boats on a reef usually outnumber the Private Boats. The Math. Take 19,200 bsb/5 anglers/8 fish = 480 Charter Trips -- Then take 207,800 bsb/3 anglers/8 fish = 8,658 Private Trips. 8,658 divided by 480 = 18 Private Boat trips {if they all limited out} per Charter trip. Since all those Private Boat trips do not happen regularly--because effort spikes on weekends while remaining more consistent for well-established charters, there would be roughly triple the Private Boat effort on any Saturday while Charter remained constant. So: 18 Private Boats as an average X 3.4 greater effort on Saturday = 61.2 private boats per-Charter. If just 3 Charters were on a Massachusetts reef, in order for MRIP to be correct there would have to be 180+ private boats catching there as well. If some guys are not limiting out, the number of Private Boats climbs much higher. For MRIP's estimates to be real there must be real fishing effort. But there isn't. Real regulation from catch estimates that aren't real is bad regulation. Plenty of really bad regulation.. Because we fishers know bsb are not spread over an infinite area; and, even though rock-bottoms are more vast in Southern New England, we also know there must be clustering of effort (it is the very nature of private boats to fish in a fleet) ..so, wherever a few charters and a party boat are fishing, that small fleet of professional For-Hire effort will draw Private Boats like a magnet. For MRIP to be correct there would have been some truly memorable fleets over MA's rocky reefs. Some readers will recall sea trout fleets in and just outside of Delaware Bay back in the 1970s. Back then I even witnessed boats having to shove-off from each other. A gathering of several hundred Private & For-Hire boats was a daily occurrence. You can't forget it. With a Party Boat & two Charters fishing for sea bass as portrayed by MRIP, and taken as Gospel by regulators, you should have a positively HUGE fleet of private boats - A HUGE FLEET WOULD HAVE TO EXIST IN ORDER TO SUPPORT THE ESTIMATES. But that's not what fishers see. They see some Private Boats, but no fleets. . . In NY's 2014 summer catch-estimate we see a similar pattern as in MA's spring sea bass estimate. In summer---the very period when professionals have more difficulty catching sea bass--MRIP has NY's Private Boats catching phenomenally well. Managers then seize upon MRIP's assertions to take the whole Mid-Atlantic fantastically over quota. Odd that such huge sea bass catches occur lately, especially given that NY now has their strictest regulations ever. New York's Private Boat July/Aug catch-estimates for 1982, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 01, 02, 03, 04, 06, 07, 08 & 2011, All Added Up & All Together, are thought to have been 958,706 pounds---that's less than 2013 & 2014's July/August total. Today: Tight Regulation. Eight Fish - 13 Inches. Record setting catches. Yet more than half of that earlier catch, that lesser catch for all those years combined, those fewer sea bass were landed with no bag or size limits of any kind in pre-regulation. Only in 2011 was there less than a 25 fish bag limit. MRIP claims Catch Happens, and management unfailingly salutes on their way to the grocery store. NY's Private Boats nearly surpassed their highest catches EVER post-Sandy, and with made that catch with far greater regulation, while Party/Charter caught very nearly at historic lows. . . The Mid-Atlantic sea bass population factually climbed to a 50 year high in 2003 just a few years into management. There was virtually no closed season & no bag limit at all until 2002. Management, 100% guided by false catch estimates, has steered US reef fisheries up on the rocks. We used to be worried about foreign factory ships. Then we were worried about US trawlers: Now, even while Private Boats complain bitterly about commercial sea bass traps & party boats, NOAA & NMFS reaction is "Little Plastic Boats Are Overfishing!! KILL OVERFISHING!!!" While catch does change, the percentage splits between For-Hire & Private Boat are more slow in coming -- If Party/Charter caught 60% of a region's sea bass in 2012, they probably caught about 60% of that region's fish in 2014 too. If Private Boats caught 80% of a State's sea bass in 2008, they probably still catch most of that state's sea bass. The percentages remain fairly constant. They do shift, but slowly; and never-ever in the herky-jerky fashion portrayed by MRIP or MRFSS before it.. VTRs or 'vessel trip reports' are mandatory data sheets filled out daily by the For-Hire industry. The three data sets on this graph should march almost in unison because percentage of catch is fairly constant. That's not to say "they should be the same," but the rise & fall of these 3 lines should only reflect sea bass abundance. Who would believe Private Boats might catch incredibly better than ever before while For-Hire caught fewer. In the real ocean, with real reefs & real fish: when abundance is up, so is catch - for everyone. A spike in catch & effort often has more to do with another fishery closing. Take, for instance, the spike in tog effort after the 2009 emergency sea bass closure that still continues. But again; where there's a shift in catch, it's for everyone. If NOAA knew what percentage of catch was Private/For-Hire, they could do away with their damnably incorrect statistics altogether for the reef fisheries. We tell them what we caught - almost exactly. The lines on this graph should train-track. Where they do not -- Trouble. We need to get back to what worked. I believe our region's sea bass were at, or very nearly at, habitat capacity in 2003. Our reefs couldn't have held many more cbass. Even half-day party boats would sometimes limit-out at 25 fish per-person, and that was when a limit, any bag limit, was brand new. But all those three year-old 12 inch sea bass back then were already great-grandparents. Today most 12 inch sea bass haven't yet spawned, not even once. We have reef-fish management with no consideration of population biology or reef ecology; we have fisheries management that welcomes incredibly wrong statistical catch estimates into it's calculations; we have a system whose scientific philosophy is "Ignore Success, it's just an illusion" while holding tightly to the fantasy of infallible MRIP estimates. Today we have a complete failure of reef fish management, a failure so absolute it's driving many businesses into failure while losing sea bass population gains of earlier work. We need to fix that. We need to write, to comment when asked; and comment to our political representatives whether asked or not. Consider this about habitat: If there were absolutely perfect management, if we could create no further increase for any given reef fish population via regulation; at that point the only possible way to again increase that population of reef-fish would be to increase that species' reef habitat. Given absolutely perfect management & a necessary period of time, that habitat too would become "at capacity." In today's regulatory scheme we fight for economic survival; we fight against management that's incapable of detecting horrible catch data, we fight against management unwilling to recognize blatant success from earlier regulation, we fight against management unable to recognize habitat production's importance to the reef fisheries. Perhaps NOAA's new Recreational Policy will now steer us toward a different fight. I'd like to one day fight alongside management in making the greatest populations of fish to ever exist. We could do it with sea bass in under 10 years. Maybe 5. I'm positive we could take our sea bass population higher than we've ever known ..but not while we constantly battle for fair regulation. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  4. Fish Report 2/5/15 Going Toggin In Cold Water: I Do Not Expect Epic Angling Opening First Two Weeks Of Sea Bass To Reservations NEFMC Habitat: The Condensed Version New York Reef Foundation Opening Reservations For First Two Weeks Of Sea Bass Season. May 15th, 16th & 17th - Long Cbass - 6AM to 3:30PM - $125.00 - Thereafter Regular $110.00 Trips With Saturdays As Long Trips. These Trips Are Non-Refundable. Reschedule? Yes: Owing To Weather. Refund? NOPE. (That's the rules for the first two weeks.. Has to do more with credit card policy than how I'd prefer to run my business.) Skunks are always possible while tog fishing. Really. It's a frequent occurrence, even with a good bite. Not an easy fishery; the very best toggers sometimes get their head handed to them despite folks all around having done well. Then too, sometimes the whole boat can do very poorly. If you can't take the heat, and there ain't much of that either, stay out of the kitchen. But If That Sounds Like Your Kind Of Fishing, Good! Cause We're Going Toggin Anyway! Tog Only, Sea Bass Closed. X-Tra Long Tog Trips - Saturday & Sunday February 7th & 8th - 5AM to 5PM(ish..) - Very Long Ride - Higher You Reach, Harder You Fall ..But Sometimes It Works. $175.00 - 16 Sells Out. Have White Crabs For Sale AT THE DOCK for the low, low price of just $5.00 per generous dozen. (they're small) There Is No Guarantee We'll Have Whites For Any Trip. Sometimes they all die. That shrinkage is why I prefer greens. We will not be bringing whites with us in the ocean. Green Crabs Remain Provided As Boat Bait. Reservations Required for All Trips. Reservations at 410 - 520 - 2076 — They Answer 24/7. LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way.. We provide green crabs. You're welcome to bring any kind of crab you like – even lobster, even plastic. If You Book — BE SURE TO LEAVE A GOOD CONTACT NUMBER & DON'T TURN YOUR PHONE OFF! 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 Regulations) Agreed With Or Not, All Regulations Observed – Maryland: 4 Tog @ 16 Inches – Sea Bass Closed On Jan 1st Because Of Rotten MRIP Catch Estimates. 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 Winter! Wear Boots, Not Sneakers! Fingerless Wool Or Thin Fleece-Lined Waterproof Gloves With Handwarmers Tucked Into The Palms Make For A Comfortable Day.. Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. Bring A (not terribly big) Fish Cooler With ICE (or fresh snow) For Your Party.. A 48 QT Cooler Is Good For 2 Guys. Even Now You Should ICE Fresh Fish.. Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early. Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat.. Please believe Sue Foster's contribution to our fishing community will be remembered in a memorial reef. Help Make That Happen. http://www.ocreefs.org Very Good Things Are Happening With OCRF Reef Building. If you're ever going to donate, now's a great time! Will introduce "Sue's Reef" Shirts/Pens/Decals at the OC Boat Show Valentines Weekend.. Now 10,922 Reef Blocks by the rail – 2,146 at Doug Ake's – 1,200 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 557 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and 286 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Our block pile has been reloaded courtesy of Potomac Valley Brick, Inc. of Salisbury. Greetings All, Took a reef trip SuperBowl Sunday with a bunch of volunteers from the diving community. Tow Boat US Ocean City brought our barge out too. Dropped it all on Brian Sauerzopf's Memorial Reef at the Bass Grounds. Now we're going toggin. Wind & air temps look OK, at least from this distant vantage. Water temps do not. Curious thing: where in summer bottom temps are always cooler, that's opposite in winter.. We might get bit. We might get our heads handed to us too. These trips will be the exact opposite of "backyard" trips.. There's really not a lot of people in the world who like tog fishing. I've seen sea bass fishers get mad when (how awful) singles starting to mix-in with mostly doubles. A nudge, however; just a tiny bump, is all it takes for a tog enthusiast to stay in the game. This time of year water temps focus tog fishing effort into a smaller & smaller region. Sea bass are closed because management must act as though they believe sea bass catch from little plastic boats has been greater than all US Commercial, Party, & Charter catch combined. Because MRIP creates an illusion of catch that never existed, and because these illusions create mandatory regulatory response, Sea Bass are closed. With sea bass closed, tog pressure goes up. We need to work on that. We need fishery restoration based on biological science, while having as little to do with statistical insanity as possible. Biology, sans catch statistics, can take the sea bass fishery far-far above current levels. Making sea bass spawn young was how the fishery survived the blackest depths of real overfishing. Sea bass thrived even when foreign trawlers towed within easy sight of US shores. I've been sea bassing my entire working life. I quit High Skool to work party boats in Ocean City, MD. In all the bad & all the good, nothing was ever so bad as when management drank MRFSS's catch-estimate Kool-Aid in 2009. It's only moderately better now. Were it not for the efforts of MAFMC Council Members, it would be a lot worse - A Lot Worse. Despite regulators fighting for us, we're never more than one bad estimate away from a complete fishery closure. Anyone who reads this far in one of my fish reports should write their Congressional representatives and tell them the US Treasury is being ripped off by the MRIP program. I think these estimates are much worse than the MRFSS catch estimating program MRIP replaced. . . . . Now: Promise one thing, a lot of tog purists (who would never-ever call blackfish 'tautog') live in New York & Connecticut. Funny thing is New York, where so many blackfishers live, has a dead reef program. Maybe it's not completely dead, but no one can find a pulse that I've heard of. It's a common refrain among NY reef fishers: "We can't build reef. We don't have a reef program" An awful lot of New York granite construction debris is currently colonized by countless blackfish off the New Jersey coast. I've often heard about the rail cars too.. Not so sure they missed out on much there. Yes, everyone has fish on them now - Yes, they're all colonized with spawning populations of our temperate reef fish: But they're not going to last like concrete & boulder will. Worse still for NY, I hear dredging operations are actually dumping sand ON TOP of rocks. That's pretty special. I heard too about a barge that sunk loaded with scrap iron. When the iron was salvaged - very few tog thereafter. That's because of habitat complexity. Habitat complexity is what creates reef fish production. That barge is still there. Load the thing back up with concrete block & pipe - even some boulder & POW. Blackfish will return. Those returning fish will spawn. That's habitat production. Sadly, current theory subscribed to in management has those tautog that would live on that renewed tog habitat as productionless. The resistance behind artificial reef is so poorly thought out that what should be the most effective weapon in reef-fish restoration is, instead, considered a sponge - as sopping up natural production by "attraction." You see; scattered all across the top of our regulatory world are people who learned in school, "Artificial Reefs Attract Fish For Easier Recreational Extraction." As I've pointed out in my last several emails, however, and despite this theory's obvious need of updating; Attraction Only fails in every possible way when considering sedentary reef fish known to have 'site fidelity.' Consider: If all shipwrecks, rock jetties, rip-rap shoreline protection, bulkheads/piers/pilings & artificial reefs were taken out of the ocean & back bays; where would tautog go? Once past the shorelines of Connecticut, by mid-Sound most tautog would die without habitat. Are we to believe artificial reefs only 'attract' temperate reef fish? Why do corals, mussels & oysters grow on these man-made reefs? Are these bad corals? Bad oysters? Does Management Not Like Artificial Fish Found On Artificial Reef? They sure taste great to me.. Judging by NOAA's inaction they must think our corals, natural or artificial, offer no value to any fishery; must think our artificial reefs are just drawing away naturally-spawned juvenile corals, mussels & fish that would have otherwise been "attracted" to natural reef instead of getting caught-up in our web of artificial fish traps.. I have to conclude no one in management has truly considered seafloor habitat's potential impact in the Mid-Atlantic - either in loss or through restoration. If a regulator believes habitat loss is a contributing factor in a fishery's decline, they must also conclude habitat creation to be an aid in that fishery's restoration. Folks at the top of the artificial reef world think the Attraction vs Production Debate took a bullet in the heart decades ago. That may be so; it's just that no one told management. . . I thought habitat was finally going to get "into" East Coast fisheries restoration when the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) began their second Habitat Amendment some 15 years ago. The amendment's just going out for Public Comment now. Honestly, I think it's been about 15 years. You could say it's been a little bogged down in minutia. Where a typical "Executive Summary" is summed-up in a few paragraphs, this Habitat Amendment's Executive Summary is, honestly, 483 pages long. Exactly 483 pages. If GM or Chrysler managed an automobile factory is similar fashion their plan would begin: "Jim Jones was absent from work Thursday, February 9th, 1972, with a toothache.." While wonderful to have all that habitat science collected, it hasn't done anything. Here's an idea for a working habitat plan. Chapter One: What habitats are missing? Chapter Two: How are we going to put them back? Everyone knows about the collapse of oysters in the Chesapeake. Some will be familiar with our region's "Oyster Wars." Yes, cannons were shot defending oyster bars.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyster_Wars The reason those 1880s "Wars" occurred was because the oyster fishery collapsed in Long Island Sound & points north. Those northern fishers, now in need of fresh grounds, encroached mightily upon the Chesapeake's resources. Not familiar with anyone else's oyster restoration history; Maryland's been trying to regrow an oyster population with loose oyster shell (easier to dredge) for nearly a century. Only recently, after they flat ran out of shell & began using rock, has serious progress begun. To give you an idea of how bad a taste the tire-reef fiasco of the late 1970s has left in the ecological community, no oyster restorationist I know would have anything to do with "Artificial Reef." Those bargeloads of rock (that I'd kill for in our marine program) are called "oyster bed substrate replenishment" or some-such. You could get jumped in the parking lot if you called those bargeloads of rock "Artificial Reef.." No one in fisheries has any doubt Oyster Bed Substrate Replenishment will increase fisheries production; and, assuming oysters take to these new artificial reef beds, (Oh, sorry!) no one doubts the full suite of ecological benefits restored oysters offer, both in water filtration and complex hard-bottom habitat, will accrue to our ecosystems through renewed oyster production. When oysters are growing on oysters, production will have resumed. Because of an easterly wind pattern, we had more blue water nearshore this past season than in a long, long time. We caught nice mahi in that pretty water as tight as 12 NMs off the beach. Other boats caught mahi even closer. White marlin, I'm told, were caught at the Jackspot about 21 NMs offshore. We caught wahoo there trolling between spots for fluke. When I was a young man, all the captains had tales of great billfishing at Jackspot - all of them. Whole fleets of boats, even from New Jersey, would fish the Jackspot. That's why Ocean City laid claim to being the "White Marlin Capitol of the World." Now we have rare occurrences of a few whites being caught at Jackspot. Most marlin fishing takes place at canyon's edge some 60 miles off and beyond. When I was just starting on a partyboat deck in 1980, the regulars all had stories of dolphin fishing at the 5 mile buoy & Fenwick Shoal buoy. They weren’t called mahi-mahi back then. Everyone called them dolphin or, more rarely, dorado. Wasn't until 'dolphin-safe tuna' came around that we had to disassociate our game fish 'dolphin' from Flipper.. Still, to target mahi just 4 or 5 miles offshore would be unheard of today. That shift offshore has nothing to do with overfishing. NOAA is proud to tell us that because mahi spawn so young, they are highly resilient to fishing pressure. ("Their biology makes them resilient to fishing pressure.." NOAA -- "Mahimahi produce many eggs, grow quickly, and reach sexual maturity at a young age, making them resilient to fishing pressure." Blue Ocean Institute. ...If you're familiar with my sea bass age at maturity spawning argument, you'll not be surprised by the glaring similarity that's being ignored..) Mahi are doing just fine. There's no quota, just a little regulation along the US East Coast. What's missing, the reason we don't catch them where our predecessors did, is bluewater. Where bluewaters once held bluewater species, now we have a greatly expanded region of phytoplankton-enriched jellyfish production. Our still-unstudied & still-unrecognized corals, essential fish habitat plain as can be, are dependent on sunlight. Yes, the sea whip & star coral growing on our reefs out to about 130 feet are almost certainly zooanthellae driven: that's not supposed to happen in cold-water corals.. Promise: If the water gets much greener, we can kiss what coral habitats we've managed to salvage goodbye. There's a lot of scientists who want to learn about it, study it. It's just not on any funded "to-do" list I suppose. Oysters - Lost. Nearshore Corals - Lost. Overfishing - Controlled. All vital areas of fisheries production & restoration; two remain unconsidered in a marine context ..yet there's still an "Attraction vs Production Debate" stymying artificial reef construction. Need to find out what habitats have gone missing & put them back. Reef Restoration Makes Fishery Restoration Simple. At any moment an MRIP catch-estimate absolutely no one believes could close the sea bass fishery, any fishery, for a period of years. And, at this exact moment, NOAA & upper reaches of management do not support the construction of artificial reef because "There's this attraction vs production debate.." In the ocean I think the rock in this picture is our #1 missing habitat. It's a soft sandstone easily broken by hand and then crumbled into sand. As you can see, it's easily burrowed. I've found as many as 5 white-leg crabs (rock crab) in a single burrow. In the Gulf of Maine they call this soft rock, "Pipe Clay." I've not held hundreds of pieces and certainly can't refer to a body of literature, but up north they have examples of pipe clays with tree-trunk sized holes ..and, I understand, they too have large areas of pipe clay habitat that's gone missing. Given that you can crumble this rock in your hand, when many-ton hydraulic clam dredges and trawls w/o cookies were towed across once-large areas of reef in the 1950s, 60s & 70s, the cumulative impact over decades was a now-smooth, reef free bottom. Trawl skippers would say, "We cleaned that bottom up." They mean it too. Many men once fished multi-square mile reefs without aid of precise electronic navigation. Now satellite navigation is a requirement for the few men who fish today's much smaller reefs. Both marine & estuarine natural hardbottom habitat production is largely lost. Management struggles with 'catch restriction only' based restoration policies guided by, at times, absolutely ridiculous catch estimates, yet managers have failed to even consider habitat loss's impact on today's much reduced habitat production capability. More Coral, More Fish also means; less coral, less fish. I think it's time management took habitat seriously. 2,000 page documents are useless for restoration unless we embed them in cement & toss them overboard. So far as I know, we haven't even one page for the Mid-Atlantic. It's "all sand & mud." Catch restriction has to carry the fight or we'll lose. At the rate sea bass season is evaporating in regulation's heat, I'm afraid we will lose. But at least we're building some reef privately, funding our own way out of lost habitat production with a little government help for our "Feel Good" work. There's also Maryland's well-funded artificial oyster reef* construction that could, seriously, turn the Mid-Atlantic ocean blue again. (*Sorry, I meant Oyster Bed Substrate Replenishment) Guys up in New York are especially behind the curve. The State of New York gives all their reef material away. If the Tappan Zee Bridge falls and no NY reef is built, I hope it's not because good men remained silent. There's a new thread at Fishing United about NY reef building's potential. Should the New York Reef Foundation be formed, I'll buy the first T-shirt. A ceramic coffee mug too. http://www.fishingunited.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=38&t=14817 Meanwhile, I'm working every day toward fishery restoration based on real results from real habitat. It's the only thing I've ever seen that actually worked. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  5. Fish Report 02/02/15 Oops Eighteen On Reef Water Temp Is 38 Degrees Fifteen Miles Offshore As I Write.. No Trips Offered Here. Am Watching Sunday, Feb 8.. Will have to be fit for a 14 hour trip. Please believe Sue Foster's contribution to our fishing community will be remembered in a memorial reef. Help Make That Happen. http://www.ocreefs.org Very Good Things Are Happening With OCRF Reef Building. See Below. Changing More SuperBowl Sunday - 10,802 Reef Blocks by the rail – 2,146 at Doug Ake's – 1,200 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 557 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 184 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Our block pile has been reloaded courtesy of Potomac Valley Brick, Inc. of Salisbury. There's another truckload of 100 pound blocks courtesy of PVB on its way too. Below: If habitat loss could even theoretically be an insurmountable burden in the restoration of a reef species, then it must also be true that habitat creation would aid in their restoration. Greetings All, I truly dropped the ball last Thursday. Rode up to Baltimore Wednesday to look at three different pre-fab concrete plants & an old concrete pipe storage yard/boneyard. Got jammed-up securing reef building materials and didn't notice Thursday's calm. Wish I'd gone fishing. Some winters we fish a lot, this winter not. Can't fix wind & cold. On my "backyard trip" 10 days ago I had one client with either 3 or 4 keepers, another fellow w/one & deckhand Wes caught one too. Then the current switched & the bite, which wasn't much to start with, went dead. Did have some limits on the super-short notice 12 hr trip. One fellow thought he had a lock on the pool with a tog of maybe 10 or 12 pounds when a Connecticut sharpie caught an 18 pounder. At first I though it another 20 pounder; it was at least another personal best. We tried in vain to release the fish. Tagged it and snapped pics quick, but she couldn't find the energy. Dinner instead. Lot of cold north wind since then. I fear only long trips lie ahead. So; toured several Baltimore concrete plants & confirmed there's a lot-Lot-LOT of reef material available for the cost of trucking. That's a good thing because when I tried to get a big barge-load deployed offshore last summer/fall, and this is just a coincidence I'm sure, I never heard from the reef building company again after I revealed where the concrete boneyards were. Funny. I learned that same company has been "in touch" with these same concrete sources.. Cat's out of the bag now. Have to use it or lose it.. The men I spoke with at these concrete plants sure seemed pretty keen on having their scrap become reef. We have an ex-Army Corps 103 X 30 foot boat chartered for early spring. While wharfed in Ocean City this rig will haul between 8 & 10 truckloads of pre-fab concrete (such as pipe) offshore at a time. Pending proof of insurance: we have a wharf. Now we need to secure a "lay down" - a place to stockpile pipe for faster boat loading. And trucking. Lots of trucking.. Working on all of this. Working on Sue Foster's Reef. Working on Capt. Bob Gower's Reef. Working on Brian Sauerzopf's. Working on leaving our reef fisheries a dern-sight better than we found them.. Owing to many donors, to so many truly generous donors & a $50,000 State Grant, I believe the Reef Foundation will be able to site around 80 truckloads of material. Barring a class 6 hurricane, most of it should still be producing fish in 500 years. Concrete's more cost effective but I bet boulders would work too. Need deep pockets to try it in the ocean though. The boat we have chartered can deploy boulder, but the real money wants to either stay on the sidelines or opposes growing coral because of the "Attraction vs Production Debate." Seriously; nearly everyone at the top of management will tell you they're unsure if artificial reef building is a good thing because "we know artificial reef 'attracts' fish" and they're not at all sure coral/mussels/oysters growing on artificial substrates are capable of fishery production. Here's a photo by Nick Caloyianis of a clammer sunk in 1979. It was a wooden boat. We're not allowed to sink wooden boats anymore. Please note the 'bad' corals & sponges. One wonders why fish would be "attracted" to this reef over destroyed natural reefs - now just barren sand. Judging by management's concern over the "Attraction vs Production Debate" there must be reef scholars who hold reef-fish production is occurring on long lost trawled/dredged-flat reefs, but those fish (which can only be 'produced' on natural reef?) are then 'attracted' to artificial reef and overfished by clever anglers such as myself who build these "recreational fish traps." I'm serious. PS - That crevice is a very toggy place. Fishery management's lost their dagoned minds not to support the heck out of building this sort of habitat. Boulder or not, NOAA or not, Production or not; if donations increase so will the amount of reef. Given time, concrete we throw overboard turns into coral reef. You can't stop it. No office, no staff, no payroll. Every penny goes to reef building & fund raising. More Coral, More Fish. See http://www.ocreefs.org .. It ain't all about the big projects though. We continue with our more routine reef building as well. Capt. Jeremiah Kogon, a dive boat skipper out of OC and supremely helpful to the Foundation, announced a reef building trip on the Foundation's facebook page. Email's enough for me. I'm a flip-phone guy in a iPhone world.. Anyway, he swiftly rounded up 6 volunteers, all divers this time, for a reef building trip Super Bowl Sunday. Tow Boat US Ocean City might also get underway with a truckload of concrete pipe. We'll be back long before the game. . . For the most part, regulators have treated seafloor habitat study/restoration theory as a bastard redheaded criminal stepchild they'd prefer to keep behind bars. Coastal states each have large "Dept. of Fisheries." You can see where the emphasis is by the amount of staffing. Maryland & New York each have one person in fisheries devoted to reef building. I'm pretty sure NY's guy must spend most of his time working on something else. New York is where US reef building began. Really. The McAllister Grounds was the very first 'official' artificial reef in the US. I understand it's still fished heavily. Odd that no group of men has convened to inform NY state government of reef building's continued usefulness and nearly unlimited potential. Even a fly-fishing striper guy ought to recognize reef's potential as he's fishing a rock jetty built of giant boulders. If stripers feed at jetties, then that same habitat fully submerged would also serve as a feeding ground. "Oh No! If we build artificial reef we'll 'Attract' stripers and make catching them easier." I'm sorry. While "Attraction Is Bad" does represent current thought at the highest levels of management, at least in simple fashion; I think it's time the recreational community forces reconsideration of the theory's illogical foundation. Here using the striped bass example above: If artificial reef builds more feeding grounds, then habitat expansion must thin fish populations that use new reef habitats for feeding. Because some fish will certainly continue to use the old feeding grounds, density is reduced. The idea reef building 'attracts' & concentrates fish for easier harvest is illogical. To concentrate fish we'd have to remove habitat. Boy, history shows we're really good at that.. This "attraction is bad" theory, from inception, has been about larger fish. Whether gag grouper or striped bass, it is possible to create feeding grounds for larger predators. In my observation you could include sharks in this category. Whether ill-considered or simply unconsidered, what reef building opponents are missing is this: reef building creates so much new habitat production that large predators are able to feed in an area that was previously barren - a feeding ground created where there was none before. Because locations where feeding had previously occurred are not lost, because they continue as feeding areas also, habitat is increased. The Chesapeake is missing 99% of it's historical oyster biomass. Should we halt all efforts of re-reefing the Chesapeake because new reefs will "attract" fish & promote successful fishing? Or should we simply accept oyster reef restoration increases fishery production; accept oyster restoration as a vital component of both estuarine & marine fisheries restoration.. Some fish, such as our region's tautog & sea bass, are not so different from mussels, oysters or even temperate corals. Any reef species first colonizes new reef as it becomes suitable habitat. For mussels the primary need of colonizable hard-bottom habitat is rather simple, "Is it wet?" If yes, then: "Is it in salt water?" Once a reef species has successfully colonized new habitat, spawning is only a matter of time. From this initial colonization, production must follow. If a species lives & feeds for most of it's life cycle on the same reef habitat, then top scientists assert an increased habitat footprint will create new fisheries production. Here Dr. Bill Lindberg, a professor at the University of Florida with a lifetime of marine study writes: Small fishes that are highly sedentary and highly site attached, meaning they get their shelter, get their food, and complete their life cycle essentially at the same place, for them an artificial reef may very well lead to new production. . . . Hmm.. That sounds like a description of tautog. The ASMFC has a management plan to "restore" tautog. If we took all the man-made rock, shipwreck, artificial reef, pier, bridge & rip-rap habitat away; virtually no tautog could survive in the Mid-Atlantic given industrial fishing's 70+ years of marine habitat damage and almost two centuries of estuarine hard bottom impacts. Because the remaining natural reef habitat would support very, very few tautog; an argument against habitat construction as vital in tautog restoration owing to fears of "attraction" must yeild to the certainty of today's tautog production taking place almost exclusively on man-made habitats. Very soon big bridges will fall. It's about the only thing everyone in Congress can agree on. We need to get to work on our infrastructure. One of these bridges will almost certainly be the Tappan Zee Bridge. That's a big son of a gun. It would cost about the same, or perhaps even be less expensive, to recycle the concrete as artificial reef than to landfill or crush it. It's a big bridge over big water. Barges can get there. Lowering material down to barges is easier than lifting up to trucks. If just a few New York anglers write letters to their Governor, Transportation Secretary, Natural Resources Secretary & Head of Fisheries - even their MAFMC & ASMFC reps, they might build reef with these old bridges; they might save their state money while building a LOT of new reef habitat. If not, maybe New Jersey will get that NY reef material too. I know Maryland anglers have to get going on this too, and we should know better. Every coastal state, save perhaps Alabama with their well-respected "Roads to Reefs" program, ought to take a lesson from Maryland's Chesapeake Bay reef work of the mid-2000s. We had to raise millions to reef the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in the Chesapeake. It would have been nearly as cost effective to have reef building built into the bids, into the contract - with us paying for towing beyond some number of miles if we wanted to reef the material further away. . . I have had people at the TopTopTop of management tell me they cannot support reef building until the "Attraction vs Production Debate" is settled. No one in fisheries would claim habitat loss makes fisheries restoration an easier task. Not unless it's to throw their arms up and say, "We're done. We can't restore these fish because their habitat's been lost." If habitat loss could even theoretically be an insurmountable burden in the restoration of a reef species, then it must be true that habitat creation would aid in their restoration. No fish fall from the sky. All fish are a product of habitat. The only reason there's a "debate" at all is because we're ignorant of habitat. Our "Best Available Science" in the form of recreational catch estimates isn't believed by anyone but used by everyone. Whether coral habitat produces fish in the nearshore water of the Mid-Atlantic is in "debate" and defunded permanently while the US spends millions to conserve, protect & enhance the pretty corals where more people swim. Where "conservation" implies knowledge of inventory; "restoration" conveys the impression we know what's been lost. I can assure readers that although NOAA & NMFS are assigned both tasks in the Essential Fish Habitat clause of Magnuson; so far as our nearshore coral habitats are concerned NOAA has no inventory of seafloor habitat and therefore no possible means of conservation. Ignorant even of habitat that remains, we can give no thought whatever to Mid-Atlantic coral restoration. NOAA hasn't any knowledge of historical reef loss and therefore no possible means of creating a restoration policy. Our recreational reef fish restoration plans stem 100% from catch estimates no one should believe. That's the state of reef-fish restoration in 2015. While management's debating, I'm going to throw some concrete overboard. Tomorrow in fact. Go grow some coral. More Coral, More Fish. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  6. Fish Report 1/19/15 Going Some More Heart of Winter Chance To Get Bit Fantastic Failing Of Scientific Integrity Skunks are always possible while tog fishing. Really. It's a frequent occurrence, even with a good bite. Not an easy fishery; the very best toggers sometimes get their head handed to them despite folks all around having done well. Then too, sometimes the whole boat can do very poorly. If you can't take the heat, and there ain't much of that either, stay out of the kitchen. But If That Sounds Like Your Kind Of Fishing, Good! Cause We're Going Toggin Anyway! Tog Only, Sea Bass Closed. X-Tra Long Tog - Tuesday, January 20th - 4:30AM to 4:30PM(ish..) - Very Long Ride - Higher You Reach, Harder You Fall ..But Sometimes It Works. $175.00 - 16 Sells Out. Backyard Toggin - Wednesday & Thursday January 21st & 22 - 7AM to 3:30 - $125.00 - 10 Sells Out - Little stuff I like & want to try before it gets too cold.. Tog Trip - Friday, January 23 - 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 - 14 Sells Out.. Long Tog - Saturday - January 24th - 5:30AM to 4:30PM - $150.00 - 16 Sells Out.. Have White Crabs For Sale AT THE DOCK for the low, low price of just $5.00 per generous dozen. (they're small) There Is No Guarantee We'll Have Whites For Any Trip. Sometimes they all die. That shrinkage is why I prefer greens. We will not be bringing whites with us in the ocean. Green Crabs Remain Provided As Boat Bait. Reservations Required for All Trips. Reservations at 410 - 520 - 2076 — They Answer 24/7. LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way.. We provide green crabs. You're welcome to bring any kind of crab you like – even lobster, even plastic. If You Book — BE SURE TO LEAVE A GOOD CONTACT NUMBER & DON'T TURN YOUR PHONE OFF! 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 Regulations) Agreed With Or Not, All Regulations Observed – Maryland: 4 Tog @ 16 Inches – Sea Bass Closed On Jan 1st Because Of Rotten MRIP Catch Estimates. 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 Winter! Wear Boots, Not Sneakers! Fingerless Wool Or Thin Fleece-Lined Waterproof Gloves With Handwarmers Tucked Into The Palms Make For A Comfortable Day.. Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. Bring A (not terribly big) Fish Cooler With ICE (or fresh snow) For Your Party.. A 48 QT Cooler Is Good For 2 Guys. Even Now You Should ICE Fresh Fish.. Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early. Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat.. Please believe Sue Foster's contribution to our fishing community will be remembered in a memorial reef. Help Make That Happen. http://www.ocreefs.org Very Good Things Are Happening With OCRF Reef Building. More To Follow In Coming Weeks.. Unchanged - 10,802 Reef Blocks by the rail – 2,146 at Doug Ake's – 1,200 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 557 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 166 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Our block pile is being reloaded courtesy of Potomac Valley Brick, Inc. of Salisbury. Greetings All, Thursday, Friday & Saturday offered three different bites but ended with about the same result. Everyday we had some limits & many more releases. One thing that hasn't happened in a while, Stelly put a 27 inch male back Saturday & won the pool. Yup: a fine looking bull of about 14(+-) pounds swam away. I run a "by length" pool for tog. If a fish swims away with a tag, length listed on the card counts the same as a fish in the boat. Stelly's fish also had a "third fin rip" - our poor man's tag. Simply tearing the soft filament between the 3rd & 4th dorsal bones with a hook, careful not to get any more than about 7/8s of the way, leaves an easily noticed mark when recaptured. Had a rail full of NY talent Friday. Guys were good at toggin. Ended with a fair number of limits but no outrageously big fish; it was a good day with only one legal fish released. The further north you go, the more rocks there are along the granite coast. The tog bite that's been described to me from up there is something I've seen very few times off Maryland's coast. A cbass-like "drop & reel" tog bite that happens quite often in, say, Rhode Island, is rare here: as rare as a billfish grand-slam north of Hatteras. We don't have that big, boisterous New England rocky/bouldery habitat along Maryland's coast. Descriptions of bottom so rocky that finding sand to anchor is the hard part are very much the exact opposite of our experience. Along DelMarVa finding tog habitat is the hard part of anchoring. That's why we use very precise double anchor sets; a slight swing can put clients in the mud. So, one of these very skilled NY blackfishers is offloading at trip's end. I think he & his buddies were limited. "Nice trip, Capt. Too bad they just didn't chew." Oh Boy.. Looked like they bit to me. One of my better days lately. Guy wasn't whining, he wasn't complaining; he was making an observation based on his experience with the northern fishery. I have no idea when or where the best RI/CT/LIS/SNE bite is, but Maryland ain't it. I'm not selling "a hot bite," I'm offering a chance to get bit. It's heart of winter toggin.. The dumbest MRIP catch estimate ever--the NJ shore estimate where guys caught more from New Jersey's jetties in March/April 2010 than all US commercial effort for that year; that overestimate, along with a slew of other bad estimates in 2010, allowed/forced regulators to adopt tougher regulations on tog. Had it not been for this egregious overestimate, the estimate I've made so much fun of, tautog would have been been hit much harder in successive sea bass closures. In Maryland tautog are almost back to my pre-management boat regulation. We're currently allowed 4 fish at 16 inches. I started in 1992 with 3 at 16 inches.. I think 4 is sustainable given our increasing habitat - maybe. I like a 16 inch limit. I very much believe if sea bass production can be reinvigorated, if management can find a way to surmount catch-estimate dictated regulation and again lower the spawning age of sea bass via size-limit regulation, in 5 years we'll have far better tog populations as a direct result of effort shift - of more people sea bassing & fewer people togging. If sea bass populations can again be set on an upward trajectory, with a corresponding increase in creel & season, the resultant decline in tog fishing pressure will allow marine stocks of both tog & cbass to flourish -- again. Yes, we're catching fish - sustainably. It's definitely not red hot. This fishery is not an example of what fishery management could do, not yet. For now it's just another example of how bad data erodes the Mid-Atlantic's potential & possibilities. In a recent letter to management I insisted that today's tog population wouldn't be remotely possible w/o man-made habitat. Not surprisingly, there was some push-back on that. I'm standing by my assertion. If we pulled up all the rip-rap, bridge armor, rock jetties, shipwrecks & artificial reefs - tog would be hard-pressed indeed to find suitable habitat for feeding, avoiding being eaten, growth to maturity & spawning. While I'd trade all our modern creations to have natural oyster & marine hardbottoms back in historical proportion, there's no possible way today's tog population could survive on what remains of our region's natural habitats. It's huge. Maybe not one tog in 20,000 could survive on our natural habitat. How in blazes can there possibly be an "attraction vs production" debate about artificial reef building when the tautog production we have couldn't possibly exist on our remaining natural habitats? This modern tale of state & federal tautog "restoration effort" illustrates how profoundly ignorant management & NOAA are of benthic habitat's essential need in reef-fish production. No one familiar with the "bait 'em up & drop 'em in" side of our region's tog fishery would dispute habitat's importance: we fishers easily see the benefit of more reef - we live it. Persons only familiar with MRIP's wild ups & downs, however, only see regulation's need on a computer screen and do not dread going to the tackle shop for more sinkers. Just as habitat capacity, or "K" in their equations, is a hypothetical - nothing that could ever actually hamper restoration in the modern era; so too is their idea, "Diminished habitat creates diminished production" a couple chapters in several college texts. Basic biology, these things are taught in every class on fisheries. There's an awful lot of arm-waving over lost habitat by big enviro & NOAA too - but no marine connection. Oh sure, if it's something you can see with waders on: estuarine water quality, subaquatic vegetation, oyster bars, dams blocking river access to anadromous species; that resonates somewhat as part of fisheries restoration. In the ocean we've not yet penetrated to the, "Oh, they have that too?" stage.. If a manager believes habitat impacts have diminished a fishery's restoration potential, then that manager ought to believe increasing habitat would aid in it's restoration. Instead we have stymied reef building efforts because management's unsure about "Attraction vs Production." I'm currently selling trips for a fishery that could not exist today, for a species we might have called 'oyster wrasse' had we not borrowed the indian 'tautog,' a fishery wholly unsupportable by remaining natural hardbottoms; and upper management would rather bucket-out a latrine than be heard supporting artificial reef. Believe this: Regardless of their stance on habitat, some in management are doing all they can to keep us alive. Seriously. Tog & sea bass would both likely be closed -period- and sea bass positively, without the efforts of a few managers and Council/Commission members. Our battle is 100% about what NMFS says we're allowed in quota & what NMFS says we took by MRIP catch estimate. (We don't see government tasks Federalists Madison & Hamilton would have surely have split apart in their thinking. We'd be better off if the US Fish & Wildlife Service were responsible for estimating our catch & NMFS our quotas.) Battle over MRIP reported landings fully joined in Council & Commission, there's no time for anything so esoteric as allowing the thoughts of habitat ecologists to be brought into our restoration efforts. Worse still, population biologists won't even come forward. It's possible there are none in fisheries. Management: "So what if sea bass now spawn 3 years later. Look at these catches! Head for the shelters! The Little Boats Are Coming!! Help!!" Sea bass stolen by bad data, stolen with MRIP's assertion that Private Boats take far more sea bass than Party/Charter; the fishing effort cascade mostly effects tautog, but it certainly adds to recreational pressure on summer flounder & scup as well. Needs Fixing. But no fix will be/can be forthcoming without relaxing policies that dictate management's use of MRIP catch estimates. Though far too slow for some businesses now absent coastal communities, now lost to one cash-flow crisis too many; and certainly too slow for millions & millions of sea bass lost in accumulated years of reduced spawning capacity, here there is hope: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/laws_policies/national_standards/ns1_revisions.html Not only is NOAA contemplating its own policies, but I understand both the House of Representatives and Senate included language in their Appropriations bills requiring NOAA/NMFS to explain spikes in MRIP - particularly for sea bass - as a condition of their funding.. I'm sure this won't be anything a seasoned NOAA-aucrat can't double-speak their way around. I'm positive it won't keep them up at night or drive them to the edge of insolvency. An explanation to Congress won't drive them to drink or force their best employees to find steadier work, but at least the requirement lets NOAA know Congress is hearing from constituents. It may help force NOAA to allow managers the freedom to bring a lot more biology to this battle. MRIP's attempts at guessing recreational catch, combined with management's insistence they only use an estimate's centerpoint, leaves the fishery restoration endeavor no more effective than depression-era "cloud seeding." Biggest difference with MRIP is fishermen, not farmers, are getting ripped off. NOAA's long-standing insistence recreational catch-estimate centerpoints be weighted far in disproportion to their accuracy introduces a fantastic failing of scientific integrity to the management process. Let us hope for swift repair so that we may begin to grapple reef-fish restoration from new angles. Not only has catch-restriction done all it can, it's constant over-tweaking is now a hindrance in our battle to make temperate reef fishing's future much better than today's reality. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  7. Fish Report 1/13/15 Going Again Ouch! Tiny Bumps Skunks are always possible while tog fishing. Really. It's a frequent occurrence, even with a good bite. Not an easy fishery; the very best toggers sometimes get their head handed to them despite folks all around having done well. Then too, sometimes the whole boat can do very poorly. If you can't take the heat, and there ain't much of that either, stay out of the kitchen. But If That Sounds Like Your Kind Of Fishing, Good! Cause We're Going Toggin Anyway! Tog Only, Sea Bass Closed. Long Tog - January 17th - Saturday - 5:30AM to 4:30PM - $150.00 - 16 Sells Out - Very Cold Morning. Inshore Tog Trip (maybe, weather's iffy) - January 18th - Sunday - 7:00AM to 3:00PM - $110.00 - 10 Sells Out. Pulled Wednesday For Weather. Still have Thursday & Friday's Trips On The Book - January 15th & 16th - Toggin - $125.00 - 6:30AM to 3:30PM - 14 Sells Out. With the forecast holding west at 10 knots & a long-period swell, Thursday looks especially nice. (for this winter!) Have White Crabs For Sale AT THE DOCK for the low, low price of just $5.00 per generous dozen. (they're small) There Is No Guarantee We'll Have Whites For Any Trip. Sometimes they all die. That shrinkage is why I prefer greens. We will not be bringing whites with us in the ocean. Green Crabs Remain Provided As Boat Bait. Reservations Required for All Trips. Reservations at 410 - 520 - 2076 — They Answer 24/7. LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way.. We provide green crabs. You're welcome to bring any kind of crab you like – even lobster, even plastic. If You Book — BE SURE TO LEAVE A GOOD CONTACT NUMBER & DON'T TURN YOUR PHONE OFF! No Live Tog Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (I Believe The Live Tog Black Market Has Hurt This Fishery ..But Not As Much As Bad Sea Bass Regulations) Agreed With Or Not, All Regulations Observed – Maryland: 4 Tog @ 16 Inches – Sea Bass Closed On Jan 1st. 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 Winter! Wear Boots, Not Sneakers! Fingerless Wool Or Thin Fleece-Lined Waterproof Gloves With Handwarmers Tucked Into The Palms Make For A Comfortable Day.. Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. Bring A (not terribly big) Fish Cooler With ICE (or fresh snow) For Your Party.. A 48 QT Cooler Is Good For 2 Guys. Even Now You Should ICE Fresh Fish.. Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early. Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat.. Please believe Sue Foster's contribution to our fishing community will be remembered in a memorial reef. Help Make That Happen. http://www.ocreefs.org Very Good Things Are Happening With OCRF Reef Building. More To Follow In Coming Weeks.. 10,802 Reef Blocks by the rail – 2,146 at Doug Ake's – 1,200 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 557 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 166 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Our block pile is being reloaded courtesy of Potomac Valley Brick, Inc. of Salisbury. Greetings All, While plenty chilly, Sunday offered an unbelievable calm. Could barely percieve the sensation of being on the water. Unfortunately, the red-hot bite must have been in another ocean. Dern sure wasn't where we were. Catch a lobster? Bad Luck. Pat caught one about 5 pounds. Instantly dreaming of hot drawn butter, he didn't seem to consider it bad luck. Did have a 14 year old out-fish the whole boat. Youngster beat down some mighty talent with three keepers. Most aboard were skunked, myself included. Ouch! Sometimes tog just won't bite. Who can figure it. Will go again Thursday. Perhaps this time they'll be hungry. I made an error in my last fish report & I apologize. I try hard, really hard, to ensure as great an accuracy as I can muster in both my habitat/fisheries advocacy & business. I reported high-hook had 18 tog last week. That was not true & owes only to my mistaken memory. The client in question revealed the truth. I don't want to use any names, but his initials were A. L. E. X. & he had 16 keeper tog, not 18. Tog fishing: Last week Alex donated a bunch of fish to scientists, this week a kid cleaned his clock.. I doubt he was offered any lobster either. Another fellow fished between the kid & the lobster. Hot spot? Nah. It's A Cruel World. Nothing to do but keep fishing. Where NOAA & NMFS are concerned, however, there's nothing to do but keep fighting! NOAA will not hesitate to force regulatory-caused economic hardship on recreational for-hire fishers & marina/tackle shop sales when MRIP catch estimates claim there's been too many fish taken. They do not hesitate to CLOSE a fishery if that's what MRIP estimates decree. Whether anyone actually believes the estimate is beside the point. Widely understood to sometimes be completely off base; I've often shown how a way to test MRIP estimates would be to compare against daily "vessel trip reports" (VTRs) which Party/Charter For-Hire must send in for each trip. I've heard, actually witnessed, top-top scientists at the NE Fishery Science Center declare VTRs their worst data.. Boy do I doubt that. But then, my view of MRIP recreational catch estimates is colored by several close brushes with bankruptcy & daily irritation with regulations carrying the Mid-Atlantic further & further from fisheries restoration. We threw back dozens of nice sea bass this Saturday-past for no other reason than MRIP's recreational catch estimates that no one believes. (at least I don't think anyone would believe Massachusetts private boats fishing below Cape Sea Bass (oops) could catch more in two months than the entire US Party/Charter fleet all year. I hope no one believes that.) When people at the top of management & science see wide divergence between catch estimates & VTR reported recreational landings, I suppose they must think the estimates are correct and we're all lying. That's the only way I see their actions can be made to seem rational. Either that or they simply haven't looked at Vessel Trip Reports; haven't considered whether a comparison of MRIP estimates vs mandatory reported landings (VTRs) could test for veracity. If not, I have a graph below that may well demonstrate VTRs true value. We MUST soon get closer to the way things really are, rather than how they appear on a computer screen. We must begin testing/truthing MRIP's catch estimates by comparing VTRs against "percentage of the fishery." I've been asking for a few years. VTR data is touchy stuff. There's a lot of delicate information on each daily sheet. We report our VTR data with confidence that NOAA Fisheries won't share too loosely.. When I asked MAFMC's Director, Dr. Moore, for very broad data, MAFMC staff swiftly sent 'preliminary investigations' in Excel format. I've include one crucial graph below. My contention is whether catch is up/down or flat, the percentages between participants remain the same. For instance: if less than 20% of Maryland's sea bass are usually caught by private boats, then it would take a well-documented shift to move that percentage sky-high as recent NY or Massachusetts estimates have been. If there are fewer people chartering boats & buying party boat tickets for sea bass in NY & NJ, there will not be untold new entrants to the sea bass fishery in the private boat sector. If party/charter boats are whacking tautog in Long Island Sound and carrying good crowds, so too are private boats catching in similar/comparable/traditional numbers. Because changes DO occur in catch rates, but rarely do percentages of Charter/Party/Private Boat catch change, I believe VTRs offer an excellent method of testing MRIP's estimates for truth before they're used to destroy businesses and harm restoration efforts via management's blind obedience to bad inputs. In the graph you can see VTR reported catch in blue. Management says VTRs are no good for guidance of any sort because "Guys Cheat On VTRs." Yeah, that's likely on occaision. But it's not a lot of guys, and it's consistent. No matter what part of life you examine, cheaters always cheat. They also point out, and have for years & years, that not all sea bass fishers in state waters are required to submit VTRs. Well, who's fault is that? In the above graph For Hire estimates flew sky-high in the early 2000s. Those over-estimates, and those over-estimates alone, resulted in the transition from 11 inches with no bag limit to a twelve inch, then 12.5 inch size limit with a 25 fish bag limit regulations. Congress demanded NOAA fix those estimates - and NMFS did. We know such high levels of catch were unlikely, but those overestimates' accumulated damage in stricter regulation remains to this day. Then there was a "Pax Regulandam" (regulatory peace) while sea bass spawning production in the Mid-Atlantic fell of a cliff as their spawning age tripled. NMFS/NOAA know sea bass numbers are in decline, that's why our quotas are shrinking - and so too is our catch. Catch is declining not just because of tighter regulation, but especially because summer availability of sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic is way off. In 2009 NOAA issued an emergency sea bass closure owing to miraculous catch in the private boat fishery. No one believes there was a swift and sudden divergence from normal percentages of catch, but NOAA/NMFS catch estimates said Private Boats were suddenly capable of catching some 3X more sea bass than Party/Charter. The resultant emergency closure forced me to dissolve every asset save my home & boat in order to refund advanced sales; a very close brush with bankruptcy. Bad sea bass regulations are still forcing boats out of business. In 2010 MRIP witnessed two sea bass (2) in the Massachusetts Private Boat fleet and turned that observation into 650,000 pounds of catch. Not making this up, it's a fact. MRIP extrapolated two Massachusetts sea bass in "Observed Harvest" into about one third of the recreational quota. Nonsensical catch estimates are counted against quota & become harsher regulation. We're being robbed. The sea bass fishery north of Hatteras & Mid-Atlantic sea bass production as a whole; a spawning population so resilient it even survived foreign trawl fleets -- that fishery has now been stolen by bad data. Some hold these estimates against field interviewers. That's as wrongheaded as MRIP's estimates. When you're being interviewed by a "fish counter" please know their data is pristine - what they submit is as close to perfect as it gets. They have no way of knowing what the big salaries are going to do with it up at MRIP HQ in Silver Spring. I have every confidence that when we have devised a truer method of estimating catch, decades of interviews can be made into better estimates. . . . There's an artificial reef conference in Florida this week. My kingdom to have gone. I asked this question be considered by attendees. It's my understanding that it will be a panel discussion & possibly become a white paper: **** An Open Question To The Florida Sea Grant Artificial Reef Conference, I believe it is because of reefing's negative press (tires, units washing ashore, trawl interactions etc..) that upper management, especially at the top of NOAA - including Russ Dunn, our recreational advisor to the Secretary of Commerce in NOAA who told me, "We need to find out about "Production vs. Attraction".. Upper management clings tightly to the "Attraction vs Production" argument as a device for doing nothing. Clearly, and quite easily proven with red snapper in the south & tautog in the Mid-Atlantic, reef builders have every reason to believe increasing marine habitat increases populations of fish known to use reef. What are lay people to say to managers when they run headlong into objections such as this recent example from NY where a young party boat skipper was told, "We have no evidence artificial reef building can increase fish populations." The idea 'Reef Building Is Bad,' that it's just a "Feel Good Measure," is set deeply in upper management's conscience. What work or works might we use to unseat this notion and bring reef building to the fore of restoration efforts; and, one day, be recognized as the tool most responsible for exceeding restoration targets? **** I'm keen to see what comes of it.. Indeed, a pamphlet in the conference's materials contained a Q & A session with noted Artificial Reef Scholar, Dr. Lindberg. Indicative of Florida's commitment to reef research, Lindberg's a University of Florida Professor specializing in Artificial Reef. (My kingdom that the estuary with the greatest documented loss of oyster hardbottom had similar interest & similar professors.) Florida's Dr. Lindberg holds: Small fishes that are highly sedentary and highly site attached, meaning they get their shelter, get their food, and complete their life cycle essentially at the same place, for them an artificial reef may very well lead to new production. "Complete their life cycle essentially at the same place" - there we have sea bass & tautog. I promise, sea bass, lobster & tautog all benefit not only in addition of habitat, but in thinning of fishing effort. For every new reef built, there are fewer trips taken annually to another ..unless we have new fishing effort. But that would mean new expenditures, new economic benefit in beleaguered fisheries.. NOAA: "Oh No! New effort & we still don't really know if there's any such thing as fishery production: Reef Building Must Be Very Bad." Maryland has approximately 1% of her original oyster reef footprint ..and we're fearful of reef building? Men once caught sea bass in wonderful abundance just 7 to 9 miles off Ocean City's coast. The "Bass Grounds" reef was easily found with only rudimentary navigational equipment in the early/mid 1900s. That vast reef-bottom cannot be found at all with today's state of the art equipment. Square miles of reef have become square yards.. We have an ocean to work with. It's huge. We have the assets of the United States government, its scientific might & regulatory oversight. We have support for fisheries restoration from huge environmental organizations & many citizens in every walk of life ..yet we can't figure whether growing coral is good for fish; we can't figure whether using bad catch estimates will lead to poor results in every way; we can't figure whether mandatory catch reports (VTRs) offer a sound base for testing MRIP's wildly incorrect catch estimates: We can't figure whether a fishery that survived the entire era of no regulatory oversight at all can withstand today's recreational pressure, we cannot see that MRIP's peyote-induced assertions of unbelievable private boat landings will not undo decades of restoration effort. Size & bag limit protected recreational fishing in today's ocean will do no harm, especially when we consider sea bass grew to their 50 year high with no closed season, a smaller size limit & no bag limit. Honestly undoing restoration efforts requires eliminating scientific & managerial deliberation in favor of "plug & play" management with catch estimates no one believes. Honestly limiting fisheries restoration effort's potential requires ignoring the existence of nearshore reef habitat lost in an earlier period; requires inaction on Congress's Essential Fish Habitat requirements, and requires artificial reef production be considered harmful to restoration. Hey NOAA Fisheries, you're going backward. Those tiny bumps you feel are fishing businesses & boat crews being run into the dirt by a federal behemoth. We need our sea bass back while NOAA tries to figure out just how poorly they're done. "Oh No, Mr. Congressman, we're not having trouble with sea bass regulation, it's climate change!" Sea bass populations climb in the Gulf of Mexico under the simplest of regulation; yet NOAA Fisheries claims the Mid-Atlantic's sea bass are too warm. Science fed a steady diet of false information, and management's acceptance of it, is causing the recreational sea bass fishery to come unglued. Needs Fixing. Soon would be good. Really soon. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  8. Fish Report 1/5/15 Going Toggin - Tomorrow! Capt. Kane's World Record Hey Secretary Sullivan! Skunks are always possible while tog fishing. Really. It's a frequent occurrence, even with a good bite. Not an easy fishery; the very best toggers sometimes get their head handed to them despite folks all around having done well. Then too, sometimes the whole boat can do very poorly. If you can't take the heat, and there ain't much of that either, stay out of the kitchen. Going Toggin Anyway! Tog Only, Sea Bass Closed. Long Tog - January 6th - Tuesday - 5:30AM to 4PM - $150.00 - 14 Sells Out. Cold? YES! But very light winds & I have from among several places I want to go before inshore waters get too chilly.. I want to go toggin everyday in January, February & March. Not possible. Looks like after tomorrow's trip we'll be breaking ice before we can fish again. Lots of sub-zero temps.. New! Currently Have White Crabs For Sale AT THE DOCK for the low, low price of just $5.00 per generous dozen. (they're small) There Is No Guarantee We'll Have Whites For Any Trip. Sometimes they all die. That shrinkage is why I prefer greens. We will not be bringing whites with us in the ocean. Green Crabs Remain Provided As Boat Bait. Reservations Required for All Trips. Reservations at 410 - 520 - 2076 — They Answer 24/7. LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way.. We provide green crabs. You're welcome to bring any kind of crab you like – even lobster, even plastic. If You Book — BE SURE TO LEAVE A GOOD CONTACT NUMBER & DON'T TURN YOUR PHONE OFF! No Live Tog Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (I Believe The Live Tog Black Market Has Hurt This Fishery ..But Not As Much As Bad Sea Bass Regulations) Agreed With Or Not, All Regulations Observed – Maryland: 4 Tog @ 16 Inches – Sea Bass Close Jan 1st. 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 Winter! Wear Boots, Not Sneakers! Fingerless Wool Or Thin Fleece-Lined Waterproof Gloves With Handwarmers Tucked Into The Palms Make For A Comfortable Day.. Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. Bring A (not terribly big) Fish Cooler With ICE (or fresh snow) For Your Party.. A 48 QT Cooler Is Good For 2 Guys. Even Now You Should ICE Fresh Fish.. Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early. Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat.. I have a pile of Reef Foundation mail to respond to (and finally time later this week to do so!) Please believe Sue Foster's contribution to our fishing community will be remembered in a memorial reef.. I Need All Of You To Help Make That Happen! http://www.ocreefs.org 10,784 Reef Blocks by the rail – 2,146 at Doug Ake's – 1,182 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 557 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 166 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Presently out of blocks but will try to change that this week. Capt. Bob Gower's Reef Is Top Of Mind.. Greetings All, While my clients enjoyed moderate success ranging from skunk to several limits per-person (lot of keepers tagged) on each of my last three tog trips, it was a client on Capt. Kane's boat, Fish Bound, who caught it. Fellow's name is Ken Westerfeld of Queens NY. At 28.8 pounds - 35 inches Fork Length - 35.75 Swept Tail Length, it's positively the biggest tautog ever on rod & reel - A New World Record. Pending, of course. I personally took the lengths & also witnessed its weight on the tournament-certified scale at Sunset Marina that Larry Jock of Coastal Fisherman photographed for MD DNR's use. What a beast.. Capt. Kane's website is here. http://www.fishboundcharter.com An honest skipper who fishes by the book & supports reef building, I'm very glad to see to see him capture a world record - especially for this species! And no, the rest of our tog aren't running 20 to 25 pounds. We'd have heart attacks aboard everyday! No, No, No! They're not "Running Big." I've already had several emails, "We're Looking For Some Monster Tog." It's togging. We're tog fishing. It's no different here in Maryland except perhaps we've been throwing tog back, even big tog, for 30 years. I've had seven fish over 20 pounds on my boat in my life. Not one was ever planned for. Imagine how many baited hooks have been dropped along this coast before a 28.8 pound fish came up.. And now they're running big? No. Please. We're going fishing. But every single reef does have the potential for a big fish, even the most heavily fished half-day reefs. It's my understanding that the current spear fishing world record of 23.9 pounds was shot at the Cape May jetties. Two of my boat's jumbos were caught in easy sight of shore and on not-so-secret spots. A NY skipper had a 20 pounder last year so close to shore you could see buildings in the photo's background. To catch big tog you need to have good gear & especially a good drag. There's a reason Alex is forever blowing the drags out of his Avet reels.. You need to be prepared even when it seems like nothing is biting but rats. Believe me, I've seen truly outstanding anglers hook tog they could not stop. I've seen men cry because of dropped monsters. It almost always happens during what was otherwise a perfectly normal bite. Make no mistake, Ken Westerfeld's fish was not caught because of luck. He's really good, a truly accomplished angler. But you could say he was lucky the fish didn't get into steel or coral. As I heard it, the fish was more than halfway up when, despite his drag being set as tightly as possible, it ran all the way back to bottom. Whether a tog is 10 pounds or El Grande; when you've hooked one you can't stop, a fish you know is huge from the moment you swing; that's when you become a tog addict. That thumping run is what you'll want to repeat, but win the fight next time. Ken Westerfeld did. We'll see if we can this tomorrow ..if they bite. We're doing tog right. We've already blown past "restoration." I believe we currently have a greater population of tautog than has ever existed off Maryland's coast. Throughout the species range we'll leave a great fishery behind when we've gone. Management can call up all their fabulously impossible tales of recreational catch, they can shout and wave their arms, "Oh No! Shore anglers in New Jersey caught more tautog in March & April than all US commercial landings for 2010! They're even OVERFISHING FROM SHORE! How can we ever stop it! Regulation Help Us!" ..their barnyard stench aside, reef building has already won this fight. We're not going to stop building reef either. Think I'm joking about that shore catch estimate? Think no data set paid for by the United States could ever be so full of baloney? Here are both copied exactly from NMFS websites - http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/recreational-fisheries/access-data/run-a-data-query/queries/index & http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/commercial-fisheries/index Commercial: · Year : From: 2010 To: 2010· · Species : Tautog· · State : All States· [TABLE] <tbody>[TR] [TD]Year [/TD] [TD]Species [/TD] [TD]Metric Tons [/TD] [TD]Pounds [/TD] [TD]$ [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]2010 [/TD] [TD]TAUTOG [/TD] [TD]129.3 [/TD] [TD]285,151 [/TD] [TD]789,459 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]GRAND TOTALS: [/TD] [TD]- [/TD] [TD]129.3 [/TD] [TD]285,151 [/TD] [TD]789,459 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD][/TD] [TD][/TD] [TD][/TD] [TD][/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] ** And Recreational - Just New Jersey Shore Catch in March/April [TABLE=width: 100%] <tbody>[TR] [TD][TABLE=width: 100%] <tbody>[TR] [TD=colspan: 3]Your Query Parameters: [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Query: [/TD] [TD]MRIP CATCH TIME SERIES [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Year: [/TD] [TD]2010 - 2010 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Wave: [/TD] [TD]2 MAR/APR [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Species: [/TD] [TD]TAUTOG [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Geographic Area: [/TD] [TD]NEW JERSEY [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Fishing Mode: [/TD] [TD]SHORE [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Fishing Area: [/TD] [TD]ALL AREAS COMBINED [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Type of Catch: [/TD] [TD]HARVEST (TYPE A + B1) [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Information: [/TD] [TD]NUMBERS OF FISH [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD][/TD] [TD]WEIGHT OF FISH (POUNDS) [/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD] Return to Query Page [/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] [TABLE] <colgroup><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col></colgroup><thead>[TR] [TH]Estimate Status [/TH] [TH]Year [/TH] [TH]Wave [/TH] [TH]Common Name [/TH] [TH]Total Harvest (A+B1) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Harvest (A+B1) Total Weight (lb) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Landings (no.) without Size Information [/TH] [/TR] </thead><tbody>[TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2010 [/TD] [TD]MARCH/APRIL [/TD] [TD]TAUTOG [/TD] [TD]173,092 [/TD] [TD]86.4 [/TD] [TD]469,367 [/TD] [TD]86.4 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] There you have it. MRIP, the brand new Congressionally mandated repair to our old recreational catch estimating system, says New Jersey's jetty fishermen, sitting on plastic pails freezing their butts off & praying for the first tog of the year; MRIP says those guys caught nearly TWICE AS MANY TOG IN TWO MONTHS AS ALL US COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN CAUGHT ALL YEAR!! Managers swear the only thing that can fix our estimates is more money. I guarantee whenever I've had a deckhand who couldn't tie a boat up, cut bait or pass a drug test - there's a solution. Capt Dave Marciano of Wicked Tuna stopped by with a friend bent on bettering catch data just after New Years. He didn't know me & I don't watch fishing on TV, but we quickly struck common ground because we both fight nonsensical regulation. When I said,"NMFS always gets good results early in management, but.." the famous skipper finished my sentence in the wheelhouse vernacular, "then they %$# it up!" Believe me, a scientific & management community that accepts data such as above is bound to find their work easily summed-up in simple & familiar language. It's an affront to all of science in all of history to call estimates such as that, "The Best Scientific Information Available." From https://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/science-quality-assurance/national-standards/ns2_revisions What is National Standard 2? The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the principal law governing marine fisheries in the U.S. and includes ten National Standards to guide fishery conservation and management. One of these standards, referred to as National Standard 2 (NS2), guides scientific integrity and states that “(fishery) conservation and management measures shall be based upon the best scientific information available.” Despite management & fishery science's abject failure to refute obscenely bad data; managing tautog with a low creel limit and high size limit, combined with expanding robust manmade habitat, has created rock-solid population growth in tautog. But they don't get that. Don't get the habitat thing. Capt. Amanda Peterson recently told me she was at a NY Fisheries meeting and asked permission to drop concrete blocks for reef building during their boats' fishing runs. She was told, "There's no evidence increasing habitat by artificial reef increases fish populations." That sums up pervasive thought in the management & fishery science community. There are many too in the environmental camp who would say exactly that if offered a chance to help build artificial reef. These major players simultaneously decry habitat loss for all fisheries while stomping creative reef building at every chance. It's not a secret: fish, coral, oysters, mussels & everything else that grows on natural hardbottoms will also grow on manmade substrates. Still undiscovered in the literature, natural hardbottom reef habitat off our coast should very precisely be called "Essential Fish Habitat." It can be artificially mimicked to suit fishes' need with any hard substrate. Fish are too dumb to know they shouldn't spawn on fake reef. The reason management can't plainly see the incredibly obvious benefit of reef building is because they've got their attention solely focused on computer screens full of MRIP's wild guesses of recreational catch. Our landings jump around so much that assigning any favorable conclusion to a strategy other than catch restriction is impossible. Reduced fishery production ("whatever that is") from habitat loss is locked in science - it's irrefutable. Why in Billy Blue Blazes we have such a hard time convincing management habitat creation bolsters fish populations is beyond me. If it is true that every habitat impact lowers fisheries production, then it must also be true that every expansion of habitat, no matter how small, increases fishery production. Feel free to quote me on that. We need that logic to replace management's current, 'Oh No! We can't stop recreational overfishing and there's nothing we can do about seafloor habitat loss!' We need our sea bass back too. NMFS used bad catch estimates to steal the sea bass fishery. Management's got sea bass fishermen in retreat, a rout you might say. Our economic blood-spilling continues in Barnegat, NJ where a business with three generations of history just sold, the party boat, Doris Mae. Among their primary reasons for selling was being denied access to "Fully Restored" sea bass in winter. For all management's "victories" via greater catch restriction, sea bass are worse off, much worse off, than they were just 6 years into management. Recreational management began in 1997. From the very, very bottom of industrial overfishing; by 2003 sea bass were at a 50 year high. Self imposed, along Maryland's coast we'd been using an identical strategy to federal management's beginnings since 1992. I do not know how it came to be my task to convince this Federal Behemoth that having lots & lots of spawning sea bass is much better than having very few; and having lots & lots of new hardbottom habitat would make their job of "sea bass restoration" fantastically more simple. One voice among many, I've made it my task & I shall not shirk from it. I've written about age at maturity shift in sea bass, have written deeply on it. The crux of "age at maturity shift" follows in seven easy sentences: We used to release hundreds of under nine-inch male sea bass everyday - even a thousand. Owing to almost 100% of sea bass on marine reefs being engaged in spawning, the sea bass population grew during that time despite massive recreational & commercial extraction. Now we see three, four or five (3, 4 or 5 and not 3, 4 or 5 hundred) under nine-inch male sea bass a YEAR and the population is contracting. Variations of maturity are commonly seen in the study of populations. Today's much larger size limit inhibits age one maturity in sea bass, delaying reproduction to age three or more. Where we used to throw back hundreds of obvious males daily; now we keep almost ALL of the males we catch. It is quite nearly a true statement that All sea bass released today under 11.5 inches are still female. Spawning thusly curtailed by size limit regulation sourced only from catch estimate's input, the overall sea bass population is declining despite vast new stretches of now suitably warm rocky bottoms in Southern New England. When we put that first size limit on years ahead of fishery managers it was because I'd been told, "All sea bass spawn by nine inches, some twice." Now virtually no sea bass have spawned by nine inches and sea bass are fewer in number.. NMFS: "Oh No, It's Salinity!" "Oh No! It's North Atlantic Oscillation!" "Oh No, It's Climate Change!" "Oh No! It's Uncontrollable Recreational Private Boat Catch!" Oh No, NMFS, It's YOU. NMFS' own population estimates back up my assertions 100%. Theirs is a system focused on catch restriction mandated by recreational catch estimates: statistical estimates that, presently, cannot be overridden by any amount of managerial objection. We have irrefutable proof management's scheme for sea bass is not working - the sea bass population is shrinking. That's why sea bass quotas are smaller than they used to be. But there's no interest from NMFS in my lifelong careful observations of shifting age at maturity in sea bass as size limits went up. With fewer fish spawning, we have fewer fish to catch. Along the Gulf Coast of Florida a recreational angler can keep one hundred pounds of sea bass per-person at ten inches. If that were expressed as a bag limit, it would be about 250 fish per-person. That ten inch size limit regulation was only begun a few years ago. Their sea bass population along the Gulf Coast is growing fast in highly saline, bathtub-warm water. Along the Mid-Atlantic our population too grew very swiftly when the size limit was 9, 10 & 11 inches with no bag limit. The sea bass population literally doubled & doubled. Our sea bass have been in decline, however, ever since we went above a 12 inch size limit. A 25 fish bag that's now down to 15 -- A year round season that's now down to a few months -- A 12.5 inch size limit up from 9, 10 & 11 -- More & More & More Regulation ..and the population is in decline. "Oh No, It's Salinity!" "Oh No! It's North Atlantic Oscillation!" "Oh No, It's Climate Change!" "Oh No! It's Uncontrollable Recreational Private Boat Catch!" I am fully aware early explorers died trying to find the NW Passage above North America and that it is now routinely used by shipping: the ice has melted. Here, however, is how climate change is being spun by NOAA/NMFS as an game-changer for Mid-Atlantic sea bass. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2014/12/oceanadapt_trackingfish.html I first saw a rendition of this data at Managing Our Nations Fish 3. When presented at that huge nation-wide conference it was obvious to me that Dr. Pinsky had no knowledge sea bass even existed below Cape Hatteras, let alone had been fully restored. After his presentation I gave him both barrels during a follow-up question period. The sea bass part of his presentation was subsequently withdrawn from conference materials. I could not find sea bass in the MONF3 materials though it featured prominently in his presentation. Now it's back. Here from the above website: Black sea bass are important to both recreational and commercial fishermen on the East Coast, and each state gets a fixed share of the total catch. That catch was divvied up based on where black sea bass were in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At that time, the fish were most abundant off North Carolina, so that state got the largest share of the catch. Since then black sea bass have moved, but the regulations haven’t caught up. Today, New England fishermen are catching black sea bass as far north as the Gulf of Maine. Meanwhile, North Carolina fishermen often have to motor far north to fill their quota, with the extra fuel costs eating into their profits. “Our fisheries regulations are built around the idea that fish distributions don’t change very much. When they do, that makes things complicated for fishermen and for managers trying to maintain a sustainable fishery,” Pinsky said. But changing fishery regulations to reflect today’s conditions won’t be easy, in part because any redistribution will inevitably leave some states with less than their historical share. What’s more, fishery regulations exist to prevent overfishing, and in that respect they have worked—36 stocks have been rebuilt in U.S. waters since 2000. For that track record to continue, any changes to fishery regulations must be made with great care. “How do you make the regulations effective and yet flexible?” asked Pinsky. “That’s one of the big challenges ahead.” Strikes me the "big challenge" is making science see past their dagoned computers. The huge swings science "sees" in the Mid-Atlantic sea bass population are mostly due to MRIP/MRFSS catch estimates. While Professor Malin Pinsky sincerely believes he is representing truth, the body of his work is supported by recreational catch estimates and makes no allowance for the true shift in spawning production caused by size limit regulation. But wait a minute.. Hey Secretary Sullivan! Is NMFS just trying to give New England commercial guys more sea bass quota? Is that why the official estimate for Maryland party/charter is zero* for 2014, while Massachusetts private boats alone catch more sea bass than all US Party/Charter? Is NMFS throwing the Mid-Atlantic For-Hire sea bass industry under the bus so they can shuffle quota around to suit old Bureau Of Commercial Fishing ties? (*I catch a lot of sea bass. For-Hire boats have to submit daily catch reports and swear to their truth. NMFS would seize our permits if we didn't. No one is apparently seizing anything at MRIP's offices over bad estimates. The Maryland Party Boat sea bass estimate actually is zero fish from January through October, 2014.) They're using warming as a crutch. It should be the greatest weapon at their disposal. Warming New England rocks should only add to sea bass populations, not shrink them in the lower Mid-Atlantic. If sea bass are doing fine, even increasing in the Gulf of Mexico; then NMFS' assertion ours are in decline because of warming waters is full of stink. If NMFS will go back to making sea bass spawn young and concentrate on giving them lots of habitat, we'll soon not know what to do with all of them. Instead, there's a rising sea bass population in the Gulf that they're "watching closely for overfishing," and a declining population in the Mid-Atlantic because of "climate change." Great Scott. Even Galileo, the father of modern astronomy, once thought comets arose from the earth. Misguided restoration policies are killing fisheries. We need to fix that. Congress begins anew.. They cannot know what constituents do not write. Write. My Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  9. Fish Report 12/02/14 Three Cbass Trips Notation: Excellent Santa's List ..on my mind Three Long Sea Bass Trips Coming: Wednesday, Dec 3rd - $125.00 - 6AM to 3:30PM. Thursday Cancelled. Now Offering Saturday & Sunday, Dec 6th & 7th - $125.00 - 5:30AM to 3:30PM - Weather Looks Good! All Winter Trips Announced Via Email Only. Times, Prices & Species Will Vary. Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way.. It's Winter! Wear Boots, Not Sneakers! Fingerless Wool Or Thin Fleece-Lined Waterproof Gloves With Handwarmers Tucked Into The Palms Make For A Comfortable Day.. 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. Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First! Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Bring Lunch & Your Refreshment – No Galley. Bring A Fish Towel Too.. If You Will Not Count & Measure Your Fish, The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Fish By The Rules - No Exceptions!! The OC Reef Foundation Aims To Build Its Single Largest & Most Expensive Concrete Reef Deployment Ever. Progress Is Being Made In Getting Bids. The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become A Cornerstone Of Our Nearshore Reef Restoration Efforts. (even if it's early next year!) 10,726 Reef Blocks by the rail – 3,000 at Jimmy Jackson's – 2,136 at Doug Ake's – 1,182 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 557 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 118 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Greetings All, Fished Saturday in beautiful weather that stayed beautiful. Cbass bite was OK early and then went phenomenal. Here's a rare notation from my fishing log: Excellent. At first cbass were uncooperative on the jig, then bit hammered gold jigs like I've rarely seen. Fellow to my left, I'll call him "Herb," had already limited out with bait and was just dropping bare hooks.. Yup, it was a bare hook bite. I dug up a pair of huge silver circle hooks like we used a decade ago and also caught doubleheaders with no bait. We were in a tad early with a boat limit; absolutely could not have kept one more fish.. If management were creating even 25% of our region's possible sea bass we'd be able to catch doubles like that in August. To get there all we need to do is roll MRIP's catch-estimates into a baseball bat and smash management's computers; force management to look at real fish population response instead of MRIP's hallucinations--and we'd soon have outstanding sea bass fishing year round ..again. At least as true as any MRIP catch estimate, No One with a rod & reel over 4 years old caught many fish last Saturday. Quite sad really; the advances in tackle are too great. Even for an angler of great skill to keep up, he or she must posses new tackle. Being as some readers may want to share these sentiments & ideas with Christmas shoppers they know, I'll include a few rods & reels that might save them from such an embarrassment as we witnessed last week. Regular clients know I'm a St. Croix rod fan. The 7' & 7'6" medium heavy and heavy Muskie rods are fail-safe. They range in price from just over a hundred bucks to $330.00 depending on how light the stick is (less weight = more money.) These also do quite well for tog fishing. Once you have one in hand, you can ask a salesman to show you other sticks of a similar nature. Lots & lots of good rods out there. I sometimes like a shorter stick for jigging sea bass & a longer stick for tog fishing in any bit of swell. As you might expect a photographer to have many cameras & lenses, so do fishermen have sticks & reels to match conditions. For sea bass/tog reels I am presently drooling over the latest Shimano Trinidad 14. I don't own it yet, but the Trinidad 16 Narrows I have acquired over the years are awesome. I also like the Avet MXJ. I have 4 or 5 of them that I use very frequently. Many clients prefer the slightly smaller SX series. Avets are half the price of the Shimanos and I've only known one guy who could blow them up. (he speaks fluent Russian and catches a LOT of tog..) Because microbraid fishing lines are so much thinner than monofilament of equal strength, the larger reels of just a few years ago are no longer in favor. Reels of similar size should have at least a 5 to 1 retrieve. There are lots & lots of reels - great reels. Diawa is making some of the very best out there. Pure Fishing (Penn) is starting to catch on. A good test is to run the drag way up and see if the handle is suddenly much harder to turn. You want your reel to work the fish - not you. For fluke/flounder the smaller reels are more popular - Trinidad 12 (10s too) & SX Avets and similar sized reels are what you want for working a bait or bucktail all day. Because it appears as though I may not age well, I have installed large handles on all the reels I use for heavy bottom fishing. Jignpop's handles are top shelf & keep my knuckles from flaring up. http://www.jignpop.com/jigging-master-t-bar-handle-lt-051/ They require a bit of shop work to install, but it's a fairly simple matter to drill out the factory handle and screw in these ball-bearing replacements. (Warning: If you leave that exact webpage you may end up purchasing a reel your great-grand children will fish with in their retirement.) A gift long overdue; very soon the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI) will be building a reef off Love Point in the Chesapeake Bay with what I consider a vertical substrate.. Oysters are known to create vertical substrate when growing naturally. They don't grow flat, they grow up. That's what they're looking for to settle on as spat. While scientists have somehow corrupted "Three Dimensional Habitat" to mean an undulating flat plain --that is, they use shell mounded to various heights and call that 'vertical three dimensional habitat' -- here's what I have in mind. Our gravest regional concern in fisheries restoration is water quality degradation. Large estuaries are so over-nutrified & unfiltered they've turned the ocean green. We need to get busy with oyster repair. It is absolutely true that progress is being made. An important measure is, "are oysters growing on oysters?" That's how an oyster bar grows. The Nature Conservancy has made fantastic progress in their Virginia Coastal Preserve. They have lots & lots & lots of oysters growing on oysters. A huge cooperative project in Harris Creek is also seeing success. There are others.. An experiment I'd like to see in & near Chesapeake oyster reserves would entail anchoring Christmas trees suspended by a polyball. But before these trees are suspended at various depths, shoot them with cement and let dry. These Christmas tree "oyster spat traps" would then create excellent midwater reef that also captures oyster spat for commercial harvest. They'd all have to be moved to leased sites after oysters in the sanctuary were spawned out. For a brood-stock preserve to offer best effect, we must capture spat for market oysters. Oyster restoration is vital to marine fisheries restoration. In the grandest of all "Benthic Pelagic Habitat Couplings" we must harness the oyster's ability to turn the Mid-Atlantic blue again. If an economic driver can be fashioned that propels vast bio-filter reefs swift construction, we'll witness blue waters again sooner. . . The Marine Recreational Information Program (and not MuRFSS Rest In Peace) - MRIP is pleased to announce they are going to begin using the "Recreational Fishing Registry." (Which most readers would call a fishing license..) http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/recreational-fisheries/program-overview/mrip-effort-survey Owing to the fact no one has any idea just how many recreational users there are, Congress mandated a "registry" in 2007 so estimators would finally have that vital component to guessing how many fish were caught: They need a count of how many people went fishing. The registry also adds contact info - How often did these anglers go? Pretty important stuff.. Recreational catch estimates were due to be repaired by 2009. MRIP has told the world their repairs, finally issued in 2012, are top-notch. While I consider this among the greatest fibs ever told; now MRIP has announced that in just a couple more years they'll actually begin to use the registry data - the fishing license information that was supposed to be the backbone of catch-estimate repair by 2009. Beginning under NMFS Chief, Bill Hogarth, in 2004, estimators have added more & more recreational private boat catch to estimate totals. Despite the Great Recession occurring in a time of tighter & tighter regulation; all those rich guys who fish seven days a week for sea bass, red snapper & cod are catching more & more fish. Amazingly, the more catch declines for Party/Charter patrons who are factually fewer & fewer in number while also allowed to keep less fish during less fishing season; the more Private Boat catch increases. Those Private Boat guys must have a lot of friends that can go all the time. The tighter regulations become, an unending supply of extremely skilled friends join Private Boat owners who can just take off any time to go fishing.. In reality, of course, most private boat owners aren't rich. They do love to go fishing though & sacrifice a lot to own their boat. Most must work to put fuel in their passion and can rarely fish more than some weekends. Bravo to the successful entrepreneur who can go fishing whenever he wants - they're just nowhere near as numerous as MRIP thinks.. Speaking of fuel, didn't that go up too in the Great Recession? Perhaps act as an economic spike in the checkbooks of those stretched too thin on their mortgage? MRIP, still today shooting in the dark w/o a body-count of registered anglers, shows absolutely fantastic increases in private boat catch going back a decade. This while Party/Charter catch has fallen on regulation's sword - our catch has bled-out to historically low levels. In a brilliant grasping of Congress's intent, MRIP is going to (in just a few years) begin a mail-in survey. The US Equestrian Society strongly supports this idea, probably in the hope MRIP will hire Pony Express riders to deliver their new surveys. Regional farmers eagerly anticipate a rise in horse feed prices while carpenters at Union Hall will have to trade in their screw guns & air nailers in favor of traditional 16 penny nails & framing hammers to build MRIP's pony express riders' their new stables. Maybe too MRIP will have Federal Fisheries enforcement trade in their Sigs & M4s for black powder revolvers & double-barrel stagecoach guns. Maybe MRIP will contract with clay producers also to make long-lasting tablets so their information won't be lost to history. Worked for Mycenaean accountants.. I don't think MRIP has accomplished one single goal of Congress's 2007 Magnuson re-write - except spending guvmint money. Good at that. Very successful. A "New" mail-in survey in this day & age will just be one more fantastic flop. I may be the last guy to abandon his flip-phone, but these folks must still be using a land-line. What a goat rodeo. Recreational catch estimates are destroying fishery management's potential. I've seen a handful of private boats fishing for sea bass since mid-summer & just one private boat all fall/early winter. There have, however, been a fair number of party boat trips with catches reported directly to NOAA & NMFS.. MRIP tells management their true concern had better be Private Boats. MRIP assures management Private Boats are who's catching all the fish and vaporizing recreational quotas. MRIP also tells all who will look that Maryland Party boats caught not one sea bass between May & the end of August. This despite threat of permit seizure if Party/Charter operators fail to submit Catch Reports: We told them what we caught and our catch included many sea bass.. MRIP tells my representatives in Congress that sea bass are not an important fishery in Maryland - Look, here's what they caught. Though difficult; Fishery Science must be based on reality, not statistical illusion. We must get MRIP off our back, off managers' backs & off science's back too. Once management has seen through this expensive charade of catch-estimates as "best available scientific information" they can begin to look for means of increasing fishery production based on habitat & maximizing spawning potential. I believe it is precisely because of habitat fidelity that the smallest sea bass have to swim the furthest inshore to establish spawning sites. Bigger sea bass have always owned offshore reefs, and because now size limit regulation has advanced spawning age from age zero/age 1 up to age 3/age 4, our once hyper-productive nearshore reefs have grown nearly inactive. Where a decade & more ago even reefs in 5 fathoms were lousy with actively spawning cbass, now sea bass spawning production is almost 100% dependent on reefs in 20 fathoms or more for continued recruitment. There are a handful of large sea bass on every piece of reef structure keeping the age at maturity high - somehow preventing small fish from maturing. But because fishing pressure is much higher nearshore, those same large cbass are caught before they actually begin spawning.. Like sea bass, oysters too begin life as a female and only some switch sex to become male. It's a trait seen extensively in reef species where isolation may prevent a spawning population from occurring. "BOFF" or Big Old Fecund Females is everyone in fishery management's darling ..it's just that BOFF doesn't always work. Habitat Fidelity is what allowed "age at maturity" spawning size to work in the early years of management. If I could convince managers to attempt exponential population growth again, we wouldn't want to drive the entire population of sea bass down to 11 inches, just the inshore fish were production would, and once did, get it's biggest lift. It was age at maturity that gave us that huge rise in population by forcing every single cbass into the spawning stock. When there was no closed season, no bag limit and tiny size limits, reefs offshore swiftly neared habitat capacity; those reefs became populated by older & older fish while nearshore reefs-always pounded down to size limit-forced the youngest fish to spawn. The Mid-Atlantic's sea bass population, at a 50 year high just 6 years after management began, has now declined to pre-managemnt levels. Management is chasing their tail because MRIP has them convinced Private Boats outfish all professional effort. We witness marine fishery management's dawn. It's a lot prettier in reports to Congress. Habitat restoration & creation; fact-based regulation & forced spawning populations can take our reef species higher than anyone currently dares hope. First we'll have to have managers drop their laughing; "Oh, we can't lower the sea bass size limit. That would allow overfishing." A population that doubled & doubled early on has now been in decline for over a decade, and they think they have their arms around it with catch estimates. Heck with an iPhone, I'm going to buy me a horse. Maybe I'll ask Santa for that Trinidad 14 instead.. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  10. Fish Report 11/21/14 Old-Time Sea Bassing Continues Reef Raiding Bluefish Diminish Please Comment On "Draft" Recreational Policy Long Sea Bass Trip: Saturday November 22nd - $125.00 - 6AM to 4PM. Saturday's Forecast Is Flat-Flat-Flat Calm. Cold Too, But W/O Wind Cold Isn't So Bad.. Going Long For Sea Bass Either Side Of Thanksgiving - 11/26 & 11/28 - 6 to 3:30 - $125.00 - No Fishing TG Day. Now Have Reservation Book Open Thru November 30th For Sea Bass On Our Regular Schedule. (current weather pattern should allow us to get at least 3 of these trips in!) Saturday's 6:00 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - 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. Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First! (Translation: Go Throw Up On Someone Else's Boat!) Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Bring Lunch & Your Refreshment – No Galley. Bring A Fish Towel Too.. The OC Reef Foundation Aims To Build Its Single Largest & Most Expensive Concrete Reef Deployment Ever <strike>This Fall</strike>. (this winter??) The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become A Cornerstone Of Our Nearshore Reef Restoration Efforts. (even if it's early next year!) 10,704 Reef Blocks by the rail – 3,000 at Jimmy Jackson's – 2,136 at Doug Ake's – 1,182 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 557 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 106 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Greetings All, Been a lot of sea bass limits. Even days when some anglers are sharing fish early on. That guy that looks a lot like Big Dave, for instance, ah.. umm.. Kevin! Yeah, Kevin was bagged-out and sharing just an hour & twenty minutes into the first drop. The boat's been done & in early several trips. I barely avoided getting my head handed to me another day in higher than anticipated NW winds. And, on our last trip out, we even had some clients jig a limit. One fellow, I'll call him "Jeremy" to protect the innocent; Jeremy, in fact, never touched a piece of bait all day, caught 'em all on a 4 or 5 ounce jig. That takes a really nice bite.. Sea bass are moving offshore, compacting, getting denser. That's why the bite is sometimes outrageous in fall. Through the mid/late 1990s up until 2001; during fall high man would have 100, 150, or even 200 fish. In the 1970s & 80s sea bass trips weren't as common in fall. We were trout fishing. When we did go cbassing we'd sometimes even fish 12 hooks on a rod. We'd bait every other hook with dish towel.. AH HA! Some are thinking, it was the overfishing in the 1990s that drove sea bass down. That's why we have such trouble now. Right? Well, no. In August during the 80s we'd often see trips with less than 10 sea bass. None were ever thrown back - ever. (MRIP/MRFSS show millions & millions of sea bass being thrown back before regulation began. How nice. Three inch fish on a jetty maybe, no 7 inch fish in the ocean though. Ever. We were taught all fish died if you threw them back. Believed it too..) From 10 fish on the whole boat in early August during real overfishing's darkest hour; by the late 1990s, still early in regulation, we'd see trips with 7 or 8 thousand sea bass in August. We actually did throw a lot of those back. And, as was predicted by managers of that era, all those releases were spawners protected by 9 & 10 inch size limit. These days in August, fishing the same reef structure, we might catch 30 or 40 sea bass and a mess of flounder (fluke). The bag limit started in 2002 with 25 sea bass at 12 inches, dropped to 20 cbass at 12.5 inches in 2010, & then 15 last year.. Of those 30 or 40 summer releases these days, almost none are spawners. Well, how can that be? If ALL the throwbacks were spawners from 1992 to 2000 or so with a size limits 11 inches and under, it's preposterous to assert there are virtually no spawning throwbacks with today's 12.5 inch size limit.. Right? Well, no. Population biology is positively loaded with shifting ages of maturity. When a species somehow perceives it's well being will be threatened, that it's habitat will be over-taxed if over-populated: spawning is delayed. What's preposterous is having witnessed the sea bass population double, then double again, while under far more fishing pressure than today and not even TRY to grapple the question: Why? It's scientifically shameful for a species to decline while under vastly more restrictive regulation - and blame it on little plastic boats. 'We're sorry Mr. Congressman. These private boats just catch too many fish! See? It's right here in the catch estimates! And you just paid A LOT OF MONEY to get those fixed Mr. Congressman. They're ALL BETTER Now.' Uh Hu.. In red snapper, in black sea bass, & in haddock too - in all these species For-Hire catch has dwindled to insignificance as regulation becomes ever-more restrictive: as seasons diminish & bag limits tighten, the For-Hire sector's catch declines as management theory would predict. In the period since 2004, however, private boat catch has climbed ever-more skyward regardless of ANY regulation. MRIP tells us NY's private boats caught 97% of that state's recreational sea bass in 2013, for instance. MRIP tells us those same anglers developed so much skill that they outfished the entire Atlantic coast's For Hire boats. They outfished the For-Hire fleet AND the commercial trap fishery even. It's a damn lie. That precise lie is why we won't be able to keep a sea bass this January while we're tog fishing. Decades of those lies, acted upon as though scientifically sound, are why we have a declining population of sea bass from the South Shore of Long Island to Cape Hatteras. Management's so sure of their path, so sure recreational regulation's development need only source from catch estimates, that they've not troubled themselves with examination of why more sea bass were caught commercially between 1950 & 1960 than in all years since combined. More sea bass in 11 years than in the 53 years since put-together.. Odd that nearly all of that decline was on the trawl side. Trap catch, working more robust bottom, has remained more stable. We are enveloped in a system amazingly misguided by catch estimates. We suffer enormous regulatory wrath owing to estimates no one should believe. Management is not working well, not even for 'important fish' like striped bass. After almost 15 years of trying to get the Mid-Atlantic's nearshore coral communities recognized as Essential Fish Habitat, perhaps here is an opportunity to bring marine & fishery science's failings to the attention of those in charge; to pry their eyes away from their precious catch estimates by shouting, "HEY! Will You Look At What You're Doing!?" Here's a link to the new "Draft Recreational Policy." http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/management/recreational/policy/index.html Really? A Draft? In 2014? Such darkness. Plenty of these folks remember when NMFS was the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries though.. Here's the "Comment" link. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1p0tLl0btNpg4IyUe5mvXoyak_YyPCNUqptSGBrASkxo/viewform In the draft document is this section: 2) Support ecosystem conservation and enhancement which provide natural and, where appropriate, enhanced habitats to support diverse, healthy fisheries and fish populations including abundant and resilient forage fish stocks; and, encourage development and application of sustainable, safe aquaculture to support recreational fisheries consistent with existing agency policy. We MUST Comment. PLEASE comment! We need to change #2 to: Discover the historical extent of ecosystems & support their conservation, restoration & enhancement.. (enhancement; that's what tire reefs in the 1970s were supposed to do. Lots & lots of managers don't LIKE enhancement, its a code word for artificial reef. Ask anyone involved with oyster restoration if they are building artificial reef. They'll do back-flips to avoid the label. Huge barges loaded with rock are 'preparing the substrate for natural restoration' and never-ever artificial reef.. Never.) The tire 'enhancement' disaster & catch estimates cloud restoration's path. At the start of regulation catch restrictions were an absolute must. They remain so. Catch restriction put out the fire of overfishing. If we truly want to restore fish populations of yesteryear, however; we'd better insist NOAA find out how much fish habitat there was, and make a plan for re-creating it. For sea bass, tautog & red snapper; I think we'll sail past any historical population estimate once we've discovered habitat fidelity's role in management; combined with our ability to increase populations via habitat increase & spur reproduction by manipulating instinctual spawning response. In its simplest form: Were the biggest farm field imaginable planted in trees; from that point forward an increase in the squirrel population would only be a matter of time. I don't know why, but for our reef species that's been an amazingly difficult concept to deliver.. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  11. Fish Report 11/7/14 Old-Time Sea Bassing Reef Raiding Bluefish Thoughts On Restoration Long Sea Bass Trip: Monday November 10th - $125.00 - 6AM to 4PM. Monday's Forecast Is Flat-Flat-Flat Calm.. Going Long For Sea Bass Either Side Of Thanksgiving Too - 11/26 & 11/28 - 6 to 3:30 - $125.00 - No Fishing TG Day. Now Have Reservation Book Open Thru November 30th For Sea Bass On Our Regular Schedule. (current weather pattern should allow us to get at least 1/5th of these trips in!) Saturday's 6:00 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - 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. Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First! Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Bring Lunch & Your Refreshment – No Galley. Bring A Fish Towel Too.. The OC Reef Foundation Aims To Build Its Single Largest & Most Expensive Concrete Reef Deployment Ever <strike>This Fall</strike>. (early this winter??) The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become A Cornerstone Of Our Nearshore Reef Restoration Efforts. (even if it's early next year!) 10,634 Reef Blocks by the rail – 3,000 at Jimmy Jackson's – 2,136 at Doug Ake's – 1,146 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 547 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 82 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Greetings All, Plenty of wind. Sea heights exceeded twenty feet November 1st. I'd like to report wind-speed too but the weather buoy 15 miles off the MD/DE line is down again. It was just repaired a few weeks ago after being broken for over a year. Not new technology. Wind reports from offshore buoys go back at least 4 decades. "Don't make'em like they used to" I suppose.. Plenty of sea bass when we can get out. There were many limits among passengers over the last few trips. Only two things prevent cbassing from being "All Limits, All The Time:" Failure To Prevent Motion Sickness & Bluefish. On Tuesday's long trip blues got so bad we couldn't reel in a legal sea bass. Bluefish would let smalls come up OK, but we'd only see eyeballs & a gill plate of larger fish. Hate when that happens.. Picked up anchor and moved. Several clients then sealed the deal, caught their limit. It's old-time fishing. Wednesday blues were less numerous. Had one stop shopping with everyone limited who was able to fish. Those who were unable to fish also went home with dinner+ on account of generous clients & crew. Giving fish away sure doesn't happen every day.. I know a chef who also teaches. Because many clients do not want blues, he has been getting lots of bluefish for kitchen instruction; to smoke & work his magic on. Everyone who's tried Uncle John's Mexican salsa bluefish recipe, however, keeps at least some of theirs.. Doesn't get much simpler. Deboned & blood line removed, line a baking dish w/fillets tightly together, or fold-up aluminum foil to secure fewer fillets. Spring for the fresh salsa; jarred a distant second choice. Mango salsa works like magic. Put a couple tablespoons atop the fillets, the whole tub if you're making a big batch. Cook for 15 - 18 minutes at 400 degrees. That's it. Good clean living - Promise. Numbskullery of summer, when the boys close Seacrets Bar & spend a day throwing-up instead of fishing, is over. Wisdom accumulated the hard way, we celebrate after fishing ..or commiserate depending on the day's action. There's still plain ol' seasickness though. Dramamine's cheap insurance.. If you get car-sick it's probably not going to work. Many regular clients prefer scopolamine patches, but that requires a prescription. Some regulars just do not get sick.. However, the very same part of the brain/ear interface that causes aging people to become less stable is also what causes, "I Don't Know What Happened. I've Never Been Seasick In My Life!" You don't have be in need of a walker to have lost enough balance to get messed up in heavy weather.. I try to always have crystalized ginger (think of a spicy-hot dried apricot) & dramamine aboard. Mythbusters tried ginger pills and Confirmed they work. http://mythbustersresults.com/episode43 I do not know where to get pills, but Nuts.Com has been very reliable for good quality crystalized ginger. If an angler waits until they're just about to lose breakfast before taking ginger or medicating ..they're going to lose breakfast. Sea sickness is easy to prevent for most folks; a son of a gun to cure. My business relies on repeat business among folks that enjoy fishing. Seasick clients do not enjoy their day, and truthfully, no one wants to hear a seasick chorus all day anyway. . . Another client who will not enjoy fishing on my boat will insist they have a special set of "relaxed" regulations that apply to them. My "no man stands above another" attitude on regulation is absolute. I fight senseless regulation every day - every single day, but I'll abide whatever regulatory nonsense gets concocted meanwhile. If you will not measure & count your fish, the state will provide a man with a gun to do it for you. Here's A Couple Thoughts On Fisheries Restoration. All recreational regulation & present-day restoration philosophy is inextricably tied to recreational catch estimates. Scientists set a quota; managers devise regulations to keep us from overharvesting our allotment. To determine how much of any given species we have extracted, MRIP catch estimates are used. Current policy precludes the use of common sense in determining if estimates are even in the ball park. What is shown on computer screen is what we're charged with taking whether real or not; whether even remotely possible or not. For instance: when Maryland private boats pulled a zero in the flounder fishery for May/June 2012, an estimate absolutely no one even vaguely familiar with the fishery could ever believe; with that zero replacing what should have been one of the year's highest values, we were so far under quota that another fish was added to our daily bag, the size limit dropped substantially & the season extended to year round. Flounder are still doing fine despite the regulatory response to this stunningly stupid catch estimate. On the darker side, when Massachusetts Private Boat was said to have taken their highest sea bass numbers ever in the summer of 2009, a catch quite nearly greater than their previous 20 summers put together; no field observation could dissuade regulators from using the estimate. In fact, it was anecdotes brought forth within the scientific community, "There's a lot of sea bass out there" that bolstered the catch-estimate despite the very science they were supposed to be using showing a decline in sea bass. Anecdotes supporting impossible catch estimates were strongly overweighted and used to close the fishery by emergency regulation. Now, here's what I want to get at in this report. When the For Hire catch estimates were repaired in 2003, the following year was the first time Private Boats ever out-caught For-Hire in the black sea bass or American red snapper fisheries. I believe MuRFSS & MRIP are both over-sensitive to Private Boat catch. When catches are low, estimates come in VERY LOW. When catches are decent, estimates come in SKY HIGH. Before 2004 recreational red snapper & sea bass landings were either split 50/50 between Private Boat & For-Hire, or For-Hire professional effort had significantly more. After 2004 red snapper & sea bass began to become property of private boats. Today there are frequently grossly mismatched assertions of catch favoring Private Boats. It is an unfounded assertion found only in MRIP/MRFSS. New regulation, tighter regulation, shorter seasons, lower possession, & longer size limits; Together they slam For-Hire catch dead in its tracks, while Private Boat catches reach ever more spectacular heights. It's not at all what we see on the water.. Estimates are not science, they lie & must be examined carefully before use. In the last few years we've come to a pretend-place where just as the Bogey-Man is scared of Chuck Norris being under his bed or in his closet; Management is frightened of Private Boats that can suddenly outfish all Trawlers, Trappers, and For-Hire skippers such as myself who anchor over reefs for a living ..outboards outfish all of us put together. One state's Private Boats can now outfish the entire Mid-Atlantic's Commercial & Professional For-Hire effort. It happens all the time in the estimates ..but never-ever would happen at sea. It's not science, it's a lie. This screw-up is getting MUCH WORSE in our new and much-vaunted catch estimate repair - MRIP. We need to fix it. Not only to prevent further economic pain w/o biological gain in the sea bass & snapper fisheries, but also that a true path toward restoration & then a population expansion beyond anything now imagined might be fashioned. In management's view spawning production is always random, nothing they can influence. Because catch-estimates pogo-stick about with unfathomable irregularity, production is thought by regulators so random they cannot even begin to grasp .. ..Habitat! What a simple tool. Roll rocks off a barge, boulders, concrete pipe - sink a ship - you cannot stop growth & fish from colonizing. Even if we first coated every square inch of any new reef substrate with the most wicked boat-bottom paint known to man, colonization by fish and growth would eventually win out. You Can't Stop It. What management's missing is this: If we build reef in industrial scale, stay at it; if we keep building reef, it follows that fantastic amounts of new fisheries production can be fashioned. Ponder this: were anyone tasked with squirrel restoration might they, as an early step, calculate trees available for suitable habitat? We haven't gotten there with reef fish yet. I mean, it's underwater, you know? Who would have equipment to see down there? Um, Walmart? Really? The videos I have online were all recorded on a $99.00 Walmart TV. NOAA's got ships that cost $50 million.. I'm really not at all sure why NOAA & NMFS are so resistant to the idea reef habitat might be important to reef fish. When I first sent a video to Congressman Gilchrest in 2001, I thought sure this obvious fish habitat would swiftly be mapped & studied. A NOAA boat did find coral in 2013. Before that it was just "sand waves." I haven't heard another peep despite fantastic coin being spent for benthic surveys where windmills may go. I'll use tautog to provide a simple test of habitat creation's importance. Consider: If all man-made reef & shore-armor (boulder) habitat were removed from the sea & bayfloor in the Mid-Atlantic, where would the region's remaining tautog go? If California Fish & Game's 1961 findings on Artificial Reef are true, if new reef does indeed begin to create "natural fisheries production in just 5 years;" Why isn't habitat creation an active component of tautog restoration? Is the tautog population not therefore limited only by our own industry? Could we not determine how many tautog we would like to catch at any given sustainable rate and simply build that much habitat? Even more? Actually, that is what we're trying to do. That is EXACTLY why I & many other fishers pour so much effort into reef building. That's why clients play the 50/50 Reef Raffle everyday. We know intuitively what management has, thus far, failed to grasp. (Looks like Louisiana voters sure get it though.. http://www.nola.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2014/11/artificial_reef_development_fu_2.html ) Because a desk with a computer on it is a dangerous place from which to view the sea, management apparently believes no variation in tautog production or population can be fashioned from habitat. Despite entire volumes of fishery science dedicated to production loss in many fisheries owing to habitat loss ..new reef just isn't part of anyone's plan. I have extensive knowledge of the seabed in our region's depth range suitable for tautog. I do not use catch estimates except when they can be fashioned into a sharp stick with which to poke NOAA. I'm positive there is no possible way tautog from all our shipwrecks, jetties & artificial reefs could survive only on today's natural habitat remnants - No Possible Way. Therefore, if we took away the man-made habitat, tautog would collapse. I firmly believe we have a far greater population of tautog than could exist without our additions of habitat. Those in charge of tautog restoration haven't so much as said "Thank You." Instead, they've seized our reefs' tog production and claimed it for their restoration. I also believe we could fashion any higher population we'd like by adding more habitat and maintaining simple catch regulation. . . The 'full restoration' I envision for both tautog & sea bass is far grander than theirs. Because management's restoration goal has been formed w/o deeper time considerations, w/o consideration of pre-industrial fishing's sea floor habitat; without any thought given to the abundance of habitat well-evidenced in sea bass commercial landings from the 1950s; and because management was not there in the 1980s to see how bad it really got, to feel what real overfishing actually felt like; because management didn't see entirely new tautog & sea bass populations flourish on habitat we sank, didn't see them flourish on natural hardbottoms where sea whip grew back: Because their computer screens lack our experience, the explosive population growth we could manage for; what we could try to achieve, isn't even a twinkle in management's eye.. They sure know how to raise size limit, reduce bag & close season though. Plenty more of that coming this winter, you can bet. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  12. Fish Report 10/16/14 Unlocking NOAA's Pillory Not Possible Have Reservation Book Open Saturday, October 18th & Sunday, October 19th to long sea bass trips - 6 to 3:30 - $125.00 & the rest of October until November 2nd on our regular schedule. Am Now Opening November 3rd to the 11th For Sea Bass On Our Regular Schedule As Well.. Saturday's 6:00 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - 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. Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First! Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Bring Lunch & Your Refreshment – No Galley. Bring A Fish Towel Too.. The OC Reef Foundation Aims To Build Its Single Largest & Most Expensive Concrete Reef Deployment Ever This Fall. (early this winter??) The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become A Cornerstone Of Our Nearshore Reef Restoration Efforts. Reef blocks previously weighed 30 pounds apiece. We took 24 each trip. New blocks weigh very nearly 100 pounds each; we load 10 daily. Taking out more tons in fewer blocks.. 10,553 Reef Blocks by the rail – 3,000 at Jimmy Jackson's – 2,136 at Doug Ake's – 1,115 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 537 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 42 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Greetings All, Opening more days in November. Ought to be some decent fishing. Fall always was my favorite sea bassing. We'll find out starting Saturday when sea bass reopen. In colonial times every town had a pillory, a post with a hinged board that had three holes - one for the neck and two for the wrists. Townsfolk would throw rocks. Sometimes they'd even nail the accused's ear to the board. Who could guess what nastiness was done to the defenseless, no matter how deserving. With only economic bruising, NOAA's going to release us from their pillory this Saturday; let us go fishing a while. Environmental community, managers, even some recreational fishers at the heart of regulation know we got what we deserved for taking more than our quota ..overfishing scoundrels deserve to be closed, deserve the pillory! While we're fishing in October & November .guv will likely do some maintenance. Varnish the wood & oil the hinge; keep their pillory operational. New catch estimates are due out anyday for July/August. NOAA's gonna need lock us up again; probably stock a load of rocks nearby.. Did offer a triggerfish trip on Friday, October 10th. Pretty day - No clients.. Decided to do a reef building trip anyway because the weather was just right for getting our barge out. It has to be perfect. My crew & I first deployed a mooring at Lindsey Power's at the Isle of Wight Reef and then dropped 33 hundred pound reef blocks. A half hour later Tow Boat U.S. Ocean City made the Reef Foundation's barge fast to our mooring and rolled 22 tons of cement pipe off. Bullseye. Exactly, Precisely Where I Wanted It. There are four subway cars, three piles of pipe & 537 blocks at Lindsey's so far.. Wasn't very long ago Lindsey's was just sand, then an idea ..now people are fishing the reef because fish live there. Here's an article from ARS Technica - http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/10/californias-most-productive-fisheries-the-offshore-oil-rigs/ It shows California's oil rigs as their most productive fish habitat. Science is slowly beginning to grasp what fishers have known intuitively all along.. Even today "Fisheries Restoration" in the marine environment is almost singularly devoted to a philosophy of "Catch Restriction." To restore fish populations in the ocean we must only restrict catch.. Science sometimes takes a while to catch up with common knowledge. It was in 1847 that Semmelweis deduced deadly infections received in childbirthing & other procedures were sourced from doctors, students & staff coming directly from autopsy - without washing their hands or even cleansing their instruments. Yes, women died because students & doctors would come directly from autopsy to assist with birthing. Women knew they DID NOT want to give birth at Vienna's General Hospital because so many never came home ..but no one knew why. Even though science has long recognized habitat as an essential component of estuarine repair, NOAA has no marine re-reefing strategy. They truly have made no effort to even discover if an entire ecological component, clearly vital to all reef-dwelling species, vanished in the age of industrial fishing. In 2008 a fifty-million dollar research boat hovered above an area I told NOAA contained rock & growth; what we might call reef. NOAA: Nope, just sand waves. So I took scientists out and dropped an underwater video camera: Rocks & Growth. Is NOAA willfully ignorant? ..or just too busy with important fish. Here from a 1961 study: California Fish Bulletin 146, Man-Made Reef Ecology: Summary & Conclusions -- Page 198 Brackets { } are mine, BOLD original but emphasized. Parenthesis ( ) & quotes are original. ..it is apparent that "non-productive" areas of nearshore ocean floor can be made "productive" by installation of relief structures {artificial reef}. Initially, these structures attract fishes from surrounding areas and present a substrate suitable for development of the complex biotic assemblages {reef growths, e.g. mussels & coral} typical of natural reefs. As these new reefs mature, biological succession occurs and fishes which may have been initially attracted only to the structures are incorporated into the reef community in response to increasingly available food and shelter. Ultimately (in about 5 years) a natural situation is attained and the plant & animal populations exhibit fluctuations typical of {natural} reef ecosystems. I truly wonder why NOAA is so obstinate concerning reef ecologies in our nearshore waters. They delight in finding a lone coral in 1,000 feet of water yet refuse to consider habitat remnants scattered amid square miles of once-dense reef in 60 to 120 feet of water. There are even amazing reef ecologies in 300 feet. NOAA: 'Ain't got time for that.' It makes me think of the Washington Post's iconic photo of Big Tobacco execs swearing before Congress that their products are neither harmful nor addictive.. Is this how NOAA will one day be perceived in failing to account our nearshore reef habitat in any fisheries restoration strategy? Here's a video - unnarrated - of a wreck off the MD/DE line. It was made by a scuba diver - not a scientist. It cost a few dollars, not millions or trillions. We, the fishers & divers - even those solely concerned with ocean health, are as Semmelweis's patients crying out for mercy, begging those in charge to examine the obvious. The possibility of grand restoration in our time withers while NOAA assures Congress all is well. They have MRIP's catch-estimates to prove it. Not so different from many philosophers throughout history, I explore for meaning and cause while I await my primary fishery's summons to the gallows. Because Massachusetts has already had a supremely-normal yet impossibly sky-high sea bass catch estimate in May/June, when MRIP announces July/August I anticipate big trouble for the recreational sea bass fishery. We're almost certain to be 'over-quota' again for 2014.. Readers have often seen my catch comparisons such as the very recent over-estimate from the Massachusetts Private Boat fleet. There our brand-spanking new recreational catch estimating program (MRIP) has that State's Grady White/Boston Whaler private boat fleet outfishing all US Party/Charter and Commercial Trawl/Trap. Yes, just Massachusetts private boats are said to have outfished all professional effort from Texas to Maine. All you have to do is look through the estimates. Happens all the time - annually in fact. Readers may also recall how in the months after Sandy's devastating blow to New Jersey's & New York's recreational fishing infrastructure; the catastrophic loss of boats & marinas in one of the most powerful storms ever recorded: In the following spring & summer NY & NJ private boats are estimated to have had their highest sea bass catches ever. Landing, again, far more sea bass than all US Professional Effort. Hmmm.. Gee wiz, sure are lucky anglers to have caught so many sea bass while their respective For-Hire boats (who did NOT lose wharfs & boats in Sandy's aftermath) caught at their lowest levels since estimates began. Highest & Lowest. What an odd coincidence. Well, that's what happens when MRIP has to guess at some aspect of recreational catch. MRIP was supposed to begin using the new saltwater registration (aka fishing license) so the guessing would be easier ..but haven't gotten around to it yet. They still just dial random phone numbers and plug those responses into their 'new' catch estimating formulas. Below I'd like to show readers what happens to estimates when another sector, the For-Hire sector, surrenders data for every single trip. We have to tell NOAA almost exactly what we caught. Every Trip. Yes, there are a few bad apples in our fishery. Men who are very clearly willing to circumvent regulation so that they might sail with clients. Most of us are not they. Most of us surrender near-perfect VTR data. But we all do our time in the pillory. In fact, I have just finished the paperwork associated with my VTRs for this week. (Vessel Trip Report = VTR) Sea bass are closed so not a lot to report. Despite my best effort, however, I have not been perfect in my reporting. I have before me a letter from NOAA advising I failed to send in two (2) "Did Not Fish" reports from back in late spring. I quote from the letter: "Information on the status of your vessel is being provided to the Office of Law Enforcement." NOAA's VTR office further informs me: "Until all required VTRs have been received and accepted for processing by the VTR office, the Permit Office will not process* an application for: Renewal, Vessel Replacement ..on & on... (*bold is from the original) In other words: 'Tell NOAA what you caught or never fish again.' MRIP's predecessor, MuFRSS, is as dead as the Wicked Witch of the East in the Wizard of Oz.. You'll recall her sister's cry: "I can cause Accidents too you know! I'll get you my pretty, AND YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO!" Under harsh regulatory duress, For-Hire recreational sea bass fishers have supplied NOAA's VTR Office with a steady stream of fairly accurate catch data for almost two decades. Here's a look at Maryland's For Hire sea bass catch estimates over time. Readers --managers too-- might think these estimates would be based, or at least compared against, VTR data surrendered directly to management under threat of loss of license. I recently complained to management about Maryland's "Zero" in MRIP's wave 3 (May/June) sea bass For-Hire estimate. That's the official 'estimate' for Maryland's party/charter fleet - Zero Sea Bass Caught.. None. But we were fishing! We told NOAA what we caught! I then heard from several sources deep inside the regulatory community, "A zero is OK for now because VTRs are added in at the end of the year." That's what they were told anyway. I Disagree. In 2010 we also pulled a zero in May/June, our single most important two months for sea bass fishing. That estimate remains a Zero even though there have been 4 years in which VTR data might have been included. In the MRIP/MRFSS estimate table below for all of MD's For-Hire effort (not a lot of us, but we do fish for sea bass) there are 4 instances where JUST my boat alone caught more sea bass in ONE DAY than is shown for all For-Hire effort in two months. Pretty snazzy estimates ..it's just that they're not possible. One wonders how much of NOAA's best available fishery "science" is simply not possible. There are two other instances below where just my boat alone caught more sea bass in a week than is reported for All For-Hire in two months. Then too, in another table, MRFSS has Maryland landing 237,307 sea bass in Sept/Oct 2000. With a fast 90 foot party boat carrying at about 2/3rds capacity, I landed exactly 29,626 bsb in Sept/Oct, 2000. I was running one of only 3 boats going from MD that fall & certainly the only boat going daily. Sea bass fishing was very, very good. MRFSS has Maryland For-Hire Sept/Oct landings at 237,307.. I'm positive this estimate is absolutely at least 180,000 sea bass too high. We told NOAA what we caught.. Some think it's high-time managers divided the sea bass quota between Private & For-Hire sectors to give stability to the party/charter industry. I'd be all for sound bio-economic fisheries policy, but will MRIP's recreational catch estimates form the basis for sector-seperation? Who could possibly decide on an equitable division of quota between Private boats & the For-Hire sector with discrepancies rampant throughout MRIP & MRFSS estimates.. One thing you can clearly see, if you allow a little on the spot averaging, is that Maryland's sea bass fishing was far better when we began self-management in 1992 and into early management than it is today despite incredibly tighter regulation. It's not that regulation keeps us from the fish so completely; It's not as though sea bass are stacking up in incredible density while we we contemplate fiscal solvency in lost ticket sales - there's just a lot fewer sea bass to catch today than when we self-regulated & into early management. (search "age at maturity" among my work for an explanation of how a region's sea bass population can decline swiftly despite sharp declines in extraction) In the MRIP table below, 1999, 2000 (completely missing), 2001 & 2002 really skew my assertion that fishing was fantastic during early management. Consider this: It was in 2002 when we tagged 1,115 sea bass in one day with 20+ biologists/managers aboard and then allowed our volunteer anglers (and some biologists) to take a then brand-new 25 fish limit if they still had the energy. Sea bass fishing was excellent. In the late 1990s & up until the mid-2000s this time of year I would sometimes catch my clients 25 sea bass, then go catch a limit of croakers. In 2003 I limited clients out on sea bass more often than not. Now I'm not fishing at all. Reopen soon though. Management takes recreational data way too seriously. "Overfishing is serious! Over Quota Again!! WE HAVE TO CLOSE THE FISHERY!!" The only thing serious is that the estimates are seriously bad and are seriously screwing up all fisheries science even remotely connected to them. Make sea bass spawn young & give them lots of habitat, that'll make the magic of management happen once again. NOAA: "What habitat?" "Who's Spawning?" "Oh No, Mr. Congressman, the recreational data's MUCH Improved!!" Mercy.. (See table below. Easiest to just look at the year & "harvest" columns..) My Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD [TABLE=width: 100%] <tbody>[TR] [TD][TABLE=width: 100%] <tbody>[TR] [TD=colspan: 3]Your Query Parameters: [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Query: [/TD] [TD]MRIP CATCH TIME SERIES [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Year: [/TD] [TD]1990 - 2014 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Wave: [/TD] [TD]3 MAY/JUN [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Species: [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Geographic Area: [/TD] [TD]MARYLAND [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Fishing Mode: [/TD] [TD]ALL FOR-HIRE MODES COMBINED [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Fishing Area: [/TD] [TD]ALL AREAS COMBINED [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Type of Catch: [/TD] [TD]HARVEST (TYPE A + B1) [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD]Information: [/TD] [TD]WEIGHT OF FISH (POUNDS) [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD][/TD] [TD][/TD] [TD]WEIGHT OF FISH (KILOGRAMS) [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD=colspan: 3] **Review the glossary for a description of how the for-hire survey methods have changed over time. [/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD] Return to Query Page [/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] [TABLE] <colgroup><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col></colgroup><thead>[TR] [TH]Estimate Status [/TH] [TH]Year [/TH] [TH]Wave [/TH] [TH]Common Name [/TH] [TH]Harvest (A+B1) Total Weight (lb) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Harvest (A+B1) Total Weight (kg) [/TH] [TH]PSE [/TH] [TH]Landings (no.) without Size Information [/TH] [/TR] </thead><tbody>[TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]1990 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]63,495 [/TD] [TD]36.0 [/TD] [TD]28,801 [/TD] [TD]36.0 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]1991 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]287 [/TD] [TD]100.0 [/TD] [TD]130 [/TD] [TD]100.0 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]1992 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]63,426 [/TD] [TD]36.3 [/TD] [TD]28,770 [/TD] [TD]36.3 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]1993 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]100,215 [/TD] [TD]34.8 [/TD] [TD]45,457 [/TD] [TD]34.8 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]1994 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]108,827 [/TD] [TD]31.7 [/TD] [TD]49,363 [/TD] [TD]31.7 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]1995 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]263,612 [/TD] [TD]30.5 [/TD] [TD]119,574 [/TD] [TD]30.5 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]1996 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]104,135 [/TD] [TD]34.9 [/TD] [TD]47,235 [/TD] [TD]34.9 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]1997 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]182,762 [/TD] [TD]30.4 [/TD] [TD]82,900 [/TD] [TD]30.4 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]1998 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]234,857 [/TD] [TD]34.2 [/TD] [TD]106,530 [/TD] [TD]34.2 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]1999 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]2,433 [/TD] [TD]71.7 [/TD] [TD]1,104 [/TD] [TD]71.7 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2001 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]21,876 [/TD] [TD]31.1 [/TD] [TD]9,923 [/TD] [TD]31.1 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2002 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]84,532 [/TD] [TD]47.3 [/TD] [TD]38,343 [/TD] [TD]47.3 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2003 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]131,665 [/TD] [TD]26.5 [/TD] [TD]59,723 [/TD] [TD]26.5 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2004 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]8,871 [/TD] [TD]77.2 [/TD] [TD]4,024 [/TD] [TD]77.2 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2005 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]35,522 [/TD] [TD]38.8 [/TD] [TD]16,113 [/TD] [TD]38.8 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2006 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]78,641 [/TD] [TD]23.4 [/TD] [TD]35,671 [/TD] [TD]23.4 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2007 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]32,031 [/TD] [TD]33.8 [/TD] [TD]14,529 [/TD] [TD]33.8 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2008 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]19,984 [/TD] [TD]26.5 [/TD] [TD]9,065 [/TD] [TD]26.5 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2009 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]26,671 [/TD] [TD]41.4 [/TD] [TD]12,098 [/TD] [TD]41.4 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2010 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [TD]. [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [TD]. [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2011 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]18,563 [/TD] [TD]46.2 [/TD] [TD]8,420 [/TD] [TD]46.2 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2012 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]14,044 [/TD] [TD]26.8 [/TD] [TD]6,370 [/TD] [TD]26.8 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] [TR] [TD]FINAL [/TD] [TD]2013 [/TD] [TD]MAY/JUNE [/TD] [TD]BLACK SEA BASS [/TD] [TD]7,502 [/TD] [TD]29.0 [/TD] [TD]3,403 [/TD] [TD]29.0 [/TD] [TD]0 [/TD] [/TR] </tbody>[/TABLE] I think you SHOULD go back with VTRs to examine the estimate's veracity. I think you SHOULD go back and create a comparison of 'percentage of the fishery' between private boats and for-hire with those in the sea bass fishery.
  13. Fish Report 9/16/14 Sea Bass & Flounder Flying Fish, Blue Water & A Wahoo MRIP Now Primed For Another Cbass Closure When the forecast is favorable I intend to focus on sea bass in front of the Sept. 22 closure. We'll pull maintenance from 9/22 to 9/25 unless it breaks calm. In that event maintenance will be postponed and a trip to the deep taken.. Will announce here if it happens. We'll begin the sea bass closure with two "Flounder Only" trips on Friday, Sept 26th & Saturday, Sept. 27th. - Regular Prices & Hours – Reservations Required. They're out there – I'm sure. Sailing When Weather & Regulation Allow. Saturday's 6:00 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - 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. Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First! Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Bring Lunch & Your Refreshment – No Galley. Bring A Fish Towel Too.. The OC Reef Foundation Aims To Build Its Single Largest & Most Expensive Concrete Reef Deployment Ever This Fall. The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become A Cornerstone Of Our Nearshore Reef Restoration Efforts. The Reef Foundation used its small barge to deploy 22 tons of concrete pipe at the Eagle Scout Reef in the first week of September. Looking to reload the barge again & again throughout fall and winter.. Reef blocks previously weighed 30 pounds apiece. We took 24 each trip. New blocks weigh very nearly 100 pounds each; we load 10 daily. Taking out more tons in fewer blocks.. 10,395 Reef Blocks by the rail – 2,918 at Jimmy Jackson's – 2,126 at Doug Ake's – 1,104 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 504 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 20 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. Greetings All, Fall's transition now begun, we've gone from very nearly "all flounder, all the time" in August to nearly a boat limit of sea bass on Saturday, 9/13/14. Saturday, 9/6/14, we had very few sea bass, just a handful of decent fluke in a tough bite, plus a wahoo. Saturday, 8/30/14, we also had a boat limit of sea bass, some very nice mahi – and a barracuda. Despite Saturdays, fishing was much more about flounder these three weeks past. Truly excellent fluke fishing accompanied, of course, by mediocre angling as well. Now air & water temps are dropping. Fall is begun. Sea bass close Sept. 22nd until Oct. 18 because of overfishing by private boats last summer in NY & NJ. The closure has nothing to do with real fish or real overfishing, just imaginary computer animations escaped from NOAA's desktop screens to form real regulation. More below. It's getting ready to happen again. Promise. Another sea bass closure is only one bad estimate away. Thursday last, 9/11, I got about a mile out and could see the afternoon's forecasted wind had arrived early. Forecasting's better than ever, just not perfect. I stopped the boat and gave clients my assessment of the weather; "Does anyone have back or neck injuries that shouldn't be out on a rough day?" No, but there was a lady 6 months pregnant.. Start number two went better. Found a hot bite. Wind won though. Back in early with 1/2 off coupons around.. Lots of flying fish & pretty water this summer. Tuna, biggest mahi I've ever seen inshore, our recent wahoo; water's greener now and cooling. We'll keep fishing. On Tuesday, 9/2, I personally goose-egged on fluke while clients around me did quite well. The next day I had plenty of dinner in my first two drops.. A long time client has a 'secret weapon' rig. He's catching zilch. I suggest a different rig and he's catching – limits out. Another long time client spends part of the ride out in the wheelhouse. With no uncertainty, I tell him he needs to change his rig. An hour into the day, he's skunked while using the rig I told him to change.. Another day I'm giving a rough weather advisory when a client interrupts: "The important thing is will the fish bite!" "No" I replied, "The important thing is will we come home." Oh.. I can promise we'll give 100% effort to the fishing. I cannot promise it will work. . . . . I went to a meeting in Gloucester, Massachusetts on 1/17/13. Quite broke at the time because of sea bass closures, it was good of NOAA to pay for my flight, room & car. Snowing, Massachusetts natives didn't see the need for a 4 wheel drive rental so I paid the difference.. During that meeting our then-new Regional Administrator, John Bullard, got as angry as I've ever seen anyone in NOAA get – a big man, he was hot: "We are using white pages to determine fishing effort?! Who uses the white pages anymore??" (Youngsters reading this should know the "Phone Book" was once really a book. A great big book & not a little computer screen. It was divided into 'yellow pages' for business & 'white pages' for residential listings. To guess how many fish we catch NOAA actually still dials random residences from the white pages just like when the MuRFSS system was designed in the 1980s..) In 2007 Congress ordered the repair of recreational catch estimates, the repair of the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey (MuRFSS). At the very, very top of the requirement, supposed to be completed by 2009, was a "Saltwater Fishing Registry" (aka, fishing license) so that new recreational catch estimates would not have to be based on a random phone survey to gauge fishing effort. Instead, estimators would have actual names & phone numbers of recreational participants. One can imagine tightening up statistical estimates by calling a sample of participants rather than a sample of the general public who do not fish, nor want to talk to some phone solicitor about their not going fishing. Besides a better idea of who to call, a really important number in the estimation of "How many fish did they catch?" is "How many people went fishing?" A license should tell NOAA that. 2009's deadline came & went – no MuRFSS repair. 2010.. 2011.. Congress yawned. NOAA yawned. The sea bass fishery was closed twice in emergency closures because of unrepaired recreational catch estimates – estimates which could never have been true resulted in instant economic hardship. NOAA did an 'Economic Impact Survey." Eh, maybe a couple hundred bucks per boat. No biggie. That 2009 "Emergency Sea Bass Closure" wiped me out. It was only the generosity of clients, family plus good credit that pulled my business through. Economic impact study found nothing. That's what NOAA told Congress too. Funny how .guv most always finds exactly what .guv wants to find. In January 2012 MRIP's 'repair' was announced. Among so many gems in the 'repair' was the assertion that NJ's shore anglers hadn't actually caught the perfectly ludicrous 74,000 tautog during March/April 2010 that MuRFSS had claimed. (it's much more likely those anglers caught 74 tog in cold spring waters with 740 being huge.) The new MRIP number, our long awaited repair, MRIP claimed those anglers caught ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY THREE THOUSAND – 173,000 tautog.. MRIP asserts anglers caught more tog from NJ jetties in March & April than were caught by the entire multi-state region's Party/Charter industry, all year, throughout the species entire range. That's just stupid. One of MuRFSS' dumbest-ever estimates made incredibly more worse by MRIP's 'repair.' Then MRIP writes about that same estimate in a press-release: "..With these improvements in place, we can say with confidence that we have enhanced the quality of our estimates. In fact, the cases you cite are good examples for demonstrating exactly what we mean by that." Uh Oh. Some repair. .guv sees what they want to see. "It's Fixed." Now nearing the end of 2014, MRIP has yet to use any 'saltwater recreational registry' data in its calculations. Still using the white pages; plans are to begin experimentation with license data in 2015. MRIP's May/June sea bass estimates were recently released. Uh Oh. Last July/August MRIP claimed New Jersey's private boats caught 97% of that state's sea bass. From this year's May/June estimate one can plainly tell NJ's private boat anglers do not like fishing in May & June because they only took 5.6% of NJ's sea bass. This division, at least, is more congruent with at-sea observations. Up in Massachusetts it's quite the opposite. In Massachusetts private boats positively CRUSHED the Party/Charter fleet's sea bass sea bass totals by catching 90.5% of that state's spring sea bass. Thing is, no one ever sees these boats. For private boats to have 9 sea bass to every single fish caught in the For-Hire fishery there has to be at least 9X more private boat anglers.. To have that kind of catch there would have to be 9 guys on private boats for every guy on a for-hire boat. While there's certainly that capability from the private boat side, no one ever sees 210 private boats around one crowded party boat. No one ever sees 429 private boats around 2 party boats and three charters. Doesn't happen. Never has. MRIP's full of crap. To further illustrate the absence of truth seen in this sort of estimate, no one has reported seeing any amount of private boats at all during the week. Sure, there must be a few – but very few. For-Hire guys are going sea bassing during the week though. Making clients glad they came too. Still, that means there would have to be 735 private boats catching sea bass for every party boat on Saturday & Sunday. If there were two party boats with decent ticket sales then there'd have to be 1,470 private boats fishing -- successfully fishing, on nearby reef to have caught 9X the For-Hire landings. Be some HUGE fleets. Fleets like we used to see back in the 1970s in Delaware Bay during sea trout's heyday. But even then private boats might have topped out at 20 for every party/charter boat. Massachusetts party/charter guys tell me their private boats catch about 50% of that state's sea bass. Personally, I doubt it's that high. MRIP tells us For-Hire catch is just 5% of Massachusetts sea bass totals, that Private Boats catch 95%.. Maybe what the estimates really tell us is NOAA has no idea – none. No clue. Not the least inkling of the fishery. Please know MRIP's assertion that Massachusetts private boats landed 603,000 pounds of sea bass this spring will have consequences when July/August estimates come out. That's just over 25% of the region's quota. It will almost certainly be a larger catch-estimate than the entire Atlantic Coast's For-Hire sea bass landings for all of 2014. MRIP guesses Massachusetts private boats, with their 8 fish limit, have already landed more pounds of sea bass than every party & charter boat along the whole East Coast will catch in all of 2014. MRIP's using white pages to gauge fishing effort and have not begun to gather estimates based on actual fishery participants via license sales. NOAA still insists MRIP estimates are "the best available scientific information" and will force Council & Commission to use MRIP's estimates no matter how fraudulent their claim, no matter how perjured their testimony. MRIP's estimates are almost always grossly imbalanced from true proportions of catch between For-Hire & Private Boat sectors. It would be a simple matter to flag bad estimates with predetermined "Percentage Of Catch" values.. A couple more bad estimates, especially like last summer's, & the for hire sea bass fishery will be in big trouble. Over-Quota Again. Capt. Rick Bellavance has developed a smartphone ap to send NOAA recreational private boat & for-hire catch data in real time. MRIP's using the white pages. If management's inputs were correct – the cbass fishery would be doing fine. Instead, management not only has false input from MRIP/MuRFSS recreational catch estimates, they are focused on those estimates in almost singular fashion. If estimates show recreational anglers have exceeded quota, regulation is swiftly tightened. If estimates show recreational anglers have taken below quota than regulation is either left alone or loosened somewhat. If the estimates do not create alarm, no further thought whatever is given to the fishery. We witnessed a terrific population expansion during early management with smaller size limits & virtually no closed season. We experienced exponential population growth with no bag limit and a 9 or 10 inch size limit. Owing only to bad catch estimates, the sea bass population has contracted since 2003. For-Hire extraction is factually at an all-time historic low yet the sea bass population is in decline. Although you couldn't tell it in the estimates, so too is private boat catch ..& the population contracts. When we experienced rapid population growth despite very high levels of extraction, every sea bass in the ocean in summer was actively spawning. Now only 10 to 15% are. Those few spawners are the ones we target, the ones that are legal. Management does not understand why age at maturity shift is bad for a fishery. Management does not understand their utter reliance on bad catch estimates as a convenient tool for managing a third tier fishery has now destroyed all previous gains. The money lost to commercial & recreational cbass fishers – money squandered by bad management - is astounding. Science moves forward when new knowledge is gained, when new facts emerge. Science moves backward when it accepts false premises in its calculations. We shouldn't be staring down the barrel of a total closure. Sea bass should instead be at habitat capacity. When the population began to turn south in 2002 and started to decline in 2003 – that's when NOAA should have realized something was amiss. False comfort of management held accountable only to random catch estimates has allowed the fishery to lose its vibrancy - except where it was a secondary bycatch in the scup fishery. NOAA has no idea why. 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 & soon 2014 – Those years contain wild statistical outliers, fantastically unlikely estimates, that tightened sea bass regulation. The population grew to its highest level of the last 50 years with almost no oversight other than a small size limit by 2002. In that period EVERY sea bass in the ocean was a spawner – even fish far below size limit. Now the population withers because management is forcing sea bass to spawn 2 to 3 years later – to start spawning just as they become legal to recreational harvest & a year after they've been legal to commercial fishers. Yet NOAA will tell you the trouble is in Private Boat harvest.. What a mess. Council & Commission will not convene to regulate MRIP, they will use MRIP to regulate us. If regulators would learn to make sea bass spawn young we can again be at habitat capacity in a few years. When further population elevation is only possible by habitat enhancement because existing habitat can hold no more, the need to understand habitat loss during the rise of industrial fishing will be made plain. Habitat production understanding, combined with forcing early maturity, will unlock fishery management's true potential. If NOAA continues to insist regulation be based wholly from false estimates, the cbass fishery's light will grow dimmer. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  14. Fish Report 8/26/14 Catching Flounder w/a Few Cbass Three Reefs If MRIP's Estimates Were Real . . Taking Reservations for what's left of August & September to the 22nd for "Whatever's Biting On The Reef Trips" - We're Catching Sea Bass & Flounder. There's No Possible Way To Know Which Species Will Bite Better. Both Delicious: If you only want cbass or only want flounder you can watch the swallop-barrel to see which day you wanted to go ..that won't mean the same species will bite better again next trip!! Sailing Daily For Sea Bass & Flounder. Saturday's 6:00 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - 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. Sea Bass Are Closed For A Month This Fall, But Not Just October. They Close Sept. 22 & Re-Open October 18th. (Unless MRIP Catch-Estimates Again Claim Some Small Cluster Of Private Boats Caught More Sea Bass Than All Historical Recreational Landings Combined: Then, Despite Well-Understood Inaccuracies, Sea Bass Will Be Closed By "Accountability Measures" Until Our Children's Children Are In Charge..) Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First! Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Bring Lunch & Your Refreshment – No Galley. Bring A Fish Towel Too.. The OC Reef Foundation Aims To Build Its Single Largest & Most Expensive Concrete Reef Deployment Ever This Fall. The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become A Cornerstone Of Our Nearshore Reef Restoration Efforts. Donate - Please Sponsor Reef Building At http://ocreefs.org Thank You! Greetings All, Been catching flounder. Even some pretty ones. Not catching any of these fluke away from reefs & wrecks – they're being caught in the structure. Since structure's my specialty – we're catching. Ain't all gravy. Sometimes a completely unskilled angler can do OK. Sometimes they're given an opportunity to strengthen their skills for next time.. Sometimes they walk with the pool-money and a big grin. I had three separate days last week where I fished reef we'd built off the back of my boat with Oyster Castles, the concrete blocks we've lobbed over the rail for two and a-half years. If they were all in one place 10,294 of them would make a big pile of block.. Capt. Jeremiah recently took a bunch of photos of block Capt. Ted & crew have built into castles on existing reef.. Pics are at ocreefs.org Now too expensive, we're employing our many friends in the concrete block world to find mis-cast & odd-lot blocks to build reef with. Our first truckload came Saturday. These crazy-heavy 100 pound retaining wall blocks were free – had only to pay the trucking. Saved over $4K.. Will deploy most of these on the places we've been building. It was on places where we've dropped a thousand or two or three oyster castles where we had some pretty good fluke fishing this past week: catching flounder where I hope to also raise innumerable tog & sea bass. Umm.. I can't seem to recall the exact coordinates, but we also had the single greatest flounder bite I've seen this year; maybe ever seen.. For an hour and ten minutes or so clients pulled singles & doubles in "drop & reel" fluke fishing – awesome. Then a shark picked up a bait and swam around the stern. Happened fast; I thought spectra line represented an incredible hazard to human necks so I cut it. Then another shark bit – a juvenile tigershark – awesome. And ANOTHER shark bit. Flounder bite history, we caught 8 or 10 more fluke during the last hour and went home.. Because you just read about an incredible flounder bite does not mean you will experience one if you go this week. It's far more likely that we'll have to work for a catch as we often do and did several other days last week. . . Because NOAA is in charge of restoring/protecting all our marine fisheries & because flounder/sea bass/tautog & sharks all use what remains of our natural reefs as well as accidental/catastrophic wrecks and, increasingly, artificial reefs, does not mean NOAA will find any value in the habitat. Fantastic sums of research dollars are being spent to discover even a single coral beyond canyon's edge (and Bravo!) yet this vital part, the corals, of our nearshore ocean's ecosystem gets NOAA's Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award. They have no interest in nearshore reef. None at all. Some scientists would, of course, be keen to study undiscovered habitat. In need of a paycheck, however, they all have to follow orders from above. Not interested.. What an odd world our current attempt at "fishery restoration" has created. Using catch estimates as stringently as fishery managers do while creating regulation, I could make a very strong case demanding Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) where No Private Boats are allowed ..but commercial trap & party/charter fishers would be. True. According to the multi-multi million dollar MRIP estimates; to protect sea bass from overharvest we must prevent private boats from having access to the sea bass fishery. According to MRIP estimates, private boats from just one state – any state – can outfish the whole coast's party/charter fleet. In 2013, for instance, NY & NJ private boats are credited with annihilating the coastal sea bass quota. These private boat guys have the audacity to complain about party boats cleaning off wrecks & reefs - even when it's PERFECTLY CLEAR IN THE ESTIMATES THAT PRIVATE BOATS TOOK 95% OF NY'S CATCH. Worse still are NJ's private boats – those monsters took 97% of the sea bass caught in summer of 2013. But ninety-seven percent's not enough! You won't have to look far to find private boats complaining about party/charter catching MORE THAN THEIR SHARE.. In Massachusetts we see party/charter muscling-in for a full 8% of sea bass in 2009. MRIP's recreational private boat catch estimate of 372,231 pounds in Massachusetts is based off observers witnessing 10 (ten) sea bass. The following year MRIP observers would report seeing 2 (two) sea bass in July/August. Those 2 (two) sea bass would become 616,512 pounds of quota-crushing recreational catch. Those private boat estimates are why party boats can't fish for sea bass from mid-Sept to mid-Oct. That's why we can't catch sea bass from January to mid-May either. From these estimates I can build an excellent case for closing off huge areas of ocean reef to private boats – It's made plain in the estimates that regulation does not control them. How odd then from my own personal experience, a lifetime in the fishery, that I could far more logically build a case for having reefs where ONLY private boats could fish – so they could actually catch a few. Very few. That's what private boats really catch compared to party/charter. NOAA's use of catch estimates as perfect data has created an atmosphere rarely seen in science today, perhaps only in reef fisheries. There's no practical use in management or scientific/technical staff worrying about what's real in the sea bass fishery. Their real life; the honest, actual, day-to-day life experience of modern fishery managers--their non-fictional life experience--is all about responding to what's ludicrous, about reacting to catch estimates that could not possibly be true. No Amount of Reef Habitat Could Matter, Nor Whether Reef Is Gained or Lost. No Biological Forcing of Maturity Will Be Explored For, Nor Will Any Use of Habitat Fidelity Occur In Quota Management. Because There's No True Notion Of Actual Recreational Extraction, Any Population Response That Might Have Been Made Plain With Good Estimates Is Impossible To Recognize. A sheriff friend in rural Dorchester County described responding to 'gun shots fired.' An old timer, sitting in his living room, was shooting flies on the wall with his 30/30 deer rifle. Who could imagine what he was thinking & Who could imagine what MRIP is thinking – Modern recreational fisheries management based on MRIP catch estimates offer regulation's surety decreed by a crazy old man.. POW!! Another part of our season gone. NOAA's wordsmiths will make Congress beam with pride when they read about sea bass – if they read about sea bass. The sad truth: While warming water has added an incredible new rocky habitat footprint up north, and surely their sea bass have--starting from near-zero--increased; yet the coastwide population has been cut in two over the last decade. We actually did catch the heck out of sea bass while the population was doubling every couple years during early management. You'd think folks tasked with restoration would pursue a strategy where populations double. You'd think scientist would be keen to find out why. Instead, following a catch-estimate-only based regulatory pathway to restoration, the coastal sea bass population now plummets ..while management awaits new estimates to inform them of their next regulatory strategy. I can show every estimate, every flier, every statistical outlier that has blinded NOAA to sea bass's reality. If the ocean hadn't warmed and that rocky habitat up north hadn't become suitable sea bass spawning territory, the very real decline we have here in the lower Mid-Atlantic would garner scientific interest. Instead, yawn, the population's only been cut in two since the seventh year of management when it had already doubled several times. Can NOAA tell Congress they're doing great with sea bass? Can NOAA call sea bass 'fully restored?' You betcha. "Sea bass are at biomass target!" They'll tell Congress they had a little trouble with private boats but now it's under control. Season Soon Completely Closed Save Some Small Sliver, And Then With A Creel Limit That Wouldn't Feed A Single-Child Family For One Night, NOAA Will Tell Congress – "We Did It!" Destroyed A Fishery Is What They've Done. A Fishery That Rebuilt Itself Now Almost Lost. Hooray. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD
  15. Fish Report 8/11/14 Nice Bite Maine Sea Bass Coming This Week: An Opportunity For Repair My Apologies To Those Watching These Reports For Deep-Drop Trip Announcements. The Weather Has Been Unfavorable On Sundays – Today, However, Would have Been Perfect. I Felt The Sea Bass Issue At This Week's Management Council Meeting Was More Important Than Going Deep & Enjoying A Perfect Day On The Water. Bringing Sea Bass Management Back On Course Is Hugely Important To Me. Sea Bass Should Be The Easiest Fishery To Manage.. Taking Reservations for August & September "Whatever's Biting On The Reef Trips" - We're Catching Sea Bass & Flounder. There's No Possible Way To Know Which Species Will Bite Better. Both Delicious: If you only want cbass or only want flounder you can watch the swallop-barrel to see which day you wanted to go ..that won't mean the same species will bite better again next trip!! Sailing Daily For Sea Bass & Flounder. Saturday's 6:00 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - 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. Sea Bass Are Closed For A Month This Fall, But Not Just October. They Close Sept. 22 & Re-Open October 18th. (Unless MRIP Catch-Estimates Again Claim Some Small Cluster Of Private Boats Caught More Sea Bass Than All Historical Recreational Landings Combined: Then, Despite Well-Understood Inaccuracies, Sea Bass Will Be Closed By "Accountability Measures" Until Our Children's Children Are In Charge..) Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First! Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Bring Lunch & Your Refreshment – No Galley. Bring A Fish Towel Too.. Have 2 Truckloads Of Block Coming – No New Additions For Now.. 10,294 Total Reef Blocks by the rail – 2,908 at Jimmy's – 2,106 at Doug Ake's – 1,063 at Saint Ann's – 548 at Eagle Scout Reef & 504 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef.. Owing To Oyster Castle Popularity Along The Gulf Coast Where BP Restoration Dollars Are Being Put To Work – Owing To $upply & Demand - We'll Be Using A Variety Of Concrete Blocks From Here On. Coral & Fish Won't Mind A Lick. See "Videos" at http://ocreefs.org for footage of Jimmy Jackson's Reef from 7/30/14 taken by Capt. Jeremiah Kogon while diving off my boat. Almost 3,000 blocks.. It's not pretty, Not Yet - there's no coral - but it offers proof of concept for boat-deployed small scale reef construction that grows larger. Tog, Flounder & Lobster Don't Seem To Mind Coral's Initial Absence.. OCRF Aims To Build Its Single Largest & Most Expensive Concrete Reef Deployment Ever This Fall. The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become Home To Tautog, Sea Bass, Flounder – Coral & Mussels – Anglers Too. Donate - Please Sponsor Reef Building At http://ocreefs.org Thank You! Greetings All, Been some pretty fishing. Had a day where the flounder bite peaked in wonderful crescendo just before we headed to the barn. A steady bite all day, most aboard never imagined it could get better. Then it did. Awesome. More common is a bright-spot in the day when anglers have to be in the groove & seize the moment. Mix of sea bass & flounder. Fishing's not unkind. Dropped a chartreuse flounder rig down until it was lost from sight Tuesday. Brought it up a touch until it was again visible, then measured. Forty Two Feet – That's how far down we could see.. Amazing. Friend to reef building, Capt. Jeremiah's diving clients went overboard Saturday in approximately 75 feet of water. With masks on they could see the wreck from the surface, all of it. A persistent onshore wind has shown us what cleaned-up discharges from DE & Ches Bays could look like in the ocean: I believe oyster restoration could make this clear water event permanent. Recent events in Toledo show us another direction – city water unsafe to use: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/us/lifting-ban-toledo-says-its-water-is-safe-to-drink-again.html?_r=0 Unbelievably polluted, the Cuyahoga River fires of the 1960s are credited with creating the "environmental movement." Where we go with estuarine oyster restoration decides our fate at sea. Shell as a reef substrate has failed for a century. Progress is being made with rock. Where once marlin fed in blue ocean waters just a few miles of Maryland's coast, the ocean grows greener. Here we are offered a chance to see why blue is worth doing. Saw a fin the other day in this pretty water. Haven't done enough billfishing lately to recognize species. I have, however, seen innumerable dolphin & shark fins – big rays too; you can bet that fish had a very pointy nose. Inside twenty fathoms ..one fish today where once there were thousands; another glimpse of what restoration will look like. Uh Oh: Maine is now catching sea bass. Some at least. This is a very new development. In the real-world it couldn't possibly matter. Owing to habitat fidelity our Mid-Atlantic sea bass population would not be impacted in the least if all of Maine, New Hampshire & Massachusetts's fish were completely wiped-out by commercial & recreational effort. But management hasn't grappled sea bass's expansion northward, not yet. In the regulatory world there's but one sea bass quota above Cape Hatteras – it's split 50/50 between recreational & commercial fishers: This New Sea Bass Production Among Newly Warmed Rocks Weighs Heavily On Traditional Areas Of Catch. In this world of hard quotas measured by weight when sold by commercial fishers, along with the stunningly illogical assertions of recreational catch-estimates, there is no mechanism for factoring in new habitat production; there is no method to open up new quota despite overwhelming evidence of rapidly escalating recruitment/production owing to suddenly & suitably warmer rocky habitat: this new fish production in new habitat is counted against old quota. How I wish there were a team of habitat/population ecologists/fishery analysts who would bring NOAA/Council/Commission up to speed on habitat production.. At a MAFMC meeting in December 2011 a senior Council Staffer was commenting on my "Course Correction" piece. Concerning 'habitat production' this staffer said, and I quote precisely, "Whatever that is." Not a hallway conversation, this was into the microphone while Council was in session. It's vital that we bring real "at-sea fisheries" to the computer/paper/statistical image seen through management's eye. Theirs a far broader view, ours the hard-luck lessons of abundance turned to scarcity & vice-versa. . . We know zooanthellae-laden corals gain weight despite being denied food; so long as they have sunlight these filter-feeding animals become plant-like. Therefore, if rocky areas suitable for colonization by fertilized coral eggs and clear water exist where corals are spawning, one could expect an increase in coral production/recruitment owing to favorable habitat. If waters were instead a pea-green soup (such as we usually have in summer) and hard-surface for colonization absent, the coral population in such a location would, at best, remain constant. Overly-simple certainly; but because our waters are still solidly in the sea bass production sweet-spot all throughout the Mid-Atlantic, and because rocks surrounding Cape Cod & now far to the Cape's north are newly bathed in suitably warm water, we should expect sea bass production/recruitment to skyrocket in this recently-warmed & very rocky part of our ocean while ours remains somewhat more 'normal.' The problem is, just as Massachusetts's cbass recreational catch estimates from 2009 onward created havoc in the traditional fishery's area, Maine's sea bass are almost certain to come off our Mid-Atlantic quota as well. Fishery science from 1977 has the sea bass fishery stopping at Block Island. Now it's gone around Cape Cod & keeps growing. No One Saw It Coming. Quota evaporates in catch from now-warmer waters, catch that never would have occurred when the management plan was being devised. At the same time, scientific measures of sea bass in coastwide total hide our true, management-induced, Mid-Atlantic sea bass population decline. A single Mid-Atlantic party boat would have easily caught what all of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire & Maine would catch annually between management's inception in 1997 to the mid-2000s or so. Despite high levels of catch, the sea bass population climbed sky-high. Now our cbass production is shut-down in the size-limit 'age at maturity' troubles I have so often described - science sees this diminished population and lowers quota. But they also see the population & extraction increase up north and lump it in with the New York to Cape Hatteras traditional fishery's total. The lower Mid-Atlantic's sea bass population has tumbled downward from its 2003 peak, while Massachusetts & points north climb from near-zeros with their new fishery. Escalating/increasing catch owing to new habitat production in a time of reducing quotas sets management on edge.. Sea bass are still doing fine along Florida's coasts. You can book sea bass trips in Georgia right now. The SAFMC has recently announced sea bass are "fully recovered." But, mark my words, a study with the sea bass section later withdrawn has lodged firmly in upper management's conscience. That study, whose sea bass section was based almost entirely on MRFSS catch-estimates, claimed "Sea Bass Are Moving North." Well, Yes; sea bass are expanding north. We can see that. Remember, however, Florida is still catching sea bass even in the far warmer Gulf. What top managers believe, unfortunately, is that sea bass are leaving the lower Mid-Atlantic for now-luxurious accommodations along Cape Cod. They are not thinking "expansion" - they have "exodus" in mind. Nevermind the solid result of habitat fidelity in every sea bass tag study; management somehow believes sea bass are fleeing the lower Mid-Atlantic sauna where we still catch some cod and never-ever catch red snapper. It's more convenient to believe the fallacy of exodus than dig in to discover truth. Mahi-Mahi require almost no management around the world because "their biology makes them resilient to fishing pressure." Mahi (dolphin-fish/dorado) begin spawning in the first MONTHS of life. Regulators marvel at their productivity & cheer commercial & recreational effort on. Back when ALL of our sea bass were spawning during age-one, and some in the first months of life, the population climbed straight-up despite greater & greater recreational & commercial removals. We know sea bass, in those early years, were resilient to fishing pressure because they spawned young. THEY WERE SO RESILIENT TO FISHING PRESSURE THAT THEIR POPULATION IN THE TRADITIONAL FISHERY'S MID-ATLANTIC REGION GREW EXPONENTIALLY DESPITE RISING EXTRACTION. Sea bass's five-decade population high was just six years into management - 2003. We can extrapolate a higher-still population from trawl/trap landings of the 1950s, but the early management period had our greatest population of current memory.. That population grew exponentially, it doubled & doubled, with no bag limit & no closed season – just a size limit that forced sea bass to start spawning young and a recreational release ratio that ran about 30%.. I've pointed out the exact catch-estimates that brought our sea bass fishery to its knees. Or rather, management's response to those bad estimates that drove the size limit to a point where sea bass's "habitat capacity" alarm is triggered. Sea bass are no longer resilient to fishing pressure because we've tricked them into a 'habitat at population capacity' spawning response. Because they begin spawning later in life they're now highly susceptible to fishing pressure: fish & fisher suffer sorely diminished spawning production. Sea bass used to spawn at age zero/age one – now it's age 3 or better. Really driving a stake into the fishery's heart; sea bass start spawning exactly when they become legal to recreational effort and a year after they've been legal to commercial fishing. Fairly prolific even in the blackest heart of overfishing, even when foreign boats towed huge nets in US waters – sea bass were available to savvy fishers year round. Sea bass survived, thrived even, during the height of unregulated overfishing because, like mahi, they spawned young when they perceived their habitat wide-open for colonization. Their habitat was indeed wide-open because we took every single sea bass we could catch. Scientific works are uniform pre-2000: sea bass are 50% mature by 7.5 inches with some mature even at 5.5 inches. Scientific works from 2003 on, though scarce in this unglamorous fishery, show sea bass beginning to mature north of 11.5 inches.. Tag returns are uniform too – sea bass exhibit strong summer spawning-site fidelity. As salmon return to their natal river, sea bass return each summer to a certain reef. Unlike salmon, they return year after year. (cbass don't die after they spawn. Our main problem now is they die BEFORE they spawn) I think we should be able to accurately predict a sea bass population simply by knowing it's age at maturity & available habitat balanced against regulation/extraction. Available habitat.. Habitat for spawning, feeding, hiding from predators & growth to maturity. Spawning Site Fidelity.. An annual return. Habitat Production: "Whatever That Is." Age at maturity - "their biology makes them resilient to fishing pressure." ..on our small nearshore reefs I believe even a single large male sea bass will either kill or drive-off other males, especially the smallest/youngest. The primary failing of size-limit management; I believe this is why our fishery along MD's coast is condensing offshore. Nearshore reefs, positively thriving with cbass until the mid-2000s, have virtually no sea bass now. For decades management's been too busy to fuss over sea bass. Plug the data in, no matter how poor, & out come new regulations. That was good enough for a long time. Might still be. We have some champions in management now though: Managers who see the stain this fishery will leave on US Fisheries if not fixed, who see the fishery is badly in need of repair. The meeting this week could turn the tide. Management could hand New England their new fishery & wish them luck with their 3 to 8 fish limits—just a couple nice bonus fish with a load of scup. Management could finally ponder the Mid-Atlantic stock assessment's stunning downturn after the size-limit hit 12 inches, they could look into all the assertions I've made based on science they should be well-versed in. Or they could lump Maine's new catch into our quota. That and one small blip in an MRIP catch-estimate will trigger Accountability Measures. No Exaggeration: The Sea Bass Season Could Quickly Be Closed Until 2016. An angler in the Mid-Atlantic will never catch a sea bass that spawns below Hatteras. Neither will this angler catch a sea bass in summer that spawns in Southern New England. In fact, an angler who fishes Delaware's Site 11 exclusively in summer will never catch a sea bass that spawns on the Radford or MD's Great Eastern Reef. Because these spawning populations are all unique in that they are isolated by habitat, so too is their production. (whatever that is..) New England's sea bass production is all their own – let them have it to manage as they see fit. If the boys from Jersey nick a few Massachusetts sea bass in the heart of winter, it won't be too burdensome. If New England's fish continue to be taken from our Mid-Atlantic quota, however, no biological science will be in use. All of fisheries science will have been surrendered to rote turn of the crank numerical management. Unless the MAFMC recognizes these issues this week, I predict regulators who have fought so hard recently to save the fishery will at last be overwhelmed by bad data. We still won't recognize our reef-fish need reef. We still won't recognize each and every existing reef or reef-like habitat has a production value influenced by two primary factors: Extraction & Age At Maturity. We still won't realize reef production can be elevated in any given area by creating new reef – or lowered by gear impact/hurricane – by reef removal. We'll only have some outlandish spike in recreational catch that never could have occurred coupled with a vast new area of habitat-production burning through old, early management quota. Accused By Bad Data Of Being Over Quota; Accountability Measures Will Kick-In And The Sea Bass Fishery Will Be Lost For A Year Or More. Because that's far more closure than the human/economic side of the fishery can withstand – the fishery is lost altogether. Without true benefit to the fish ..or their habitat. If habitat production's importance to reef fish were instead recognized & dealt with - while age at maturity is lowered to maximize the fishery's productivity & resilience, management could create a sea bass fishery of unimagined abundance within six years. This week in DC counts. Send a note to your fishery representatives. Sea bass ain't striped bass. They ain't flounder or scallops either. It's a very low-level fishery - unimportant. But management does discuss them. A single sentence could change the course of this fishery's history. Write your fishery representatives, tell them to modernize the sea bass management plan. State by State Representatives at MAFMC - http://www.mafmc.org/members/ ASMFC - http://www.asmfc.org/about-us/commissioners Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Partyboat Morning Star http://morningstarfishing.com Ocean City, MD