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Found 26 results

  1. As usual, I read through the many fishing reports and see the amazing pictures of anglers proudly posing with their catch. By the time I have finished looking at the photos for the fourth time, the “fishy” part of my brain is creating a new list of excuses that may convince my wife to let me go fishing. Once I have finished explaining how the tide will be perfect for the next few hours, the weather forecast could not get any better and the tackle shop just received fresh bait, she usually gives her approval. In a rush to get out the door before she changes her mind, I find myself quickly going through my mental list of surf fishing necessities. Before I know it, I am on the sand wishing I had spent a little more time on that mental list. Depending on where you fish, having to run back to your house or the nearest tackle shop may not be a big deal, however if you fish areas like the southern end of Assateague Island, having to admit to your fishing buddy how you managed to forget the bait knife is not a good feeling. Some anglers like to step out for an hour or two and they don’t need to take much with them. On the other hand, if you are like me and can’t help but fish until it hurts, there are many items you can bring that will ease the pain. First of all, make sure you know the license requirements, regulations and creel limits for the beach you will be fishing. It is also a good idea to keep a fish species reference guide with you to help identify your catch. If you are not sure what you have caught, safely remove the hook and get it back into the water as fast as possible. A good photo will last much longer than any fish you will catch, so don’t hesitate to snap a quick picture. You will need something to help carry your gear through the soft sand. A surf fishing cart can be a great investment for fishing spots such as the North end of Assateague Island. On some beaches, such as the federal side of Assateague Island, you are allowed to drive your vehicle on the beach. This is very convenient for longer fishing trips that require more fishing gear. Of course you will need your surf fishing rod and reel, sinkers, hooks, and other basic fishing tackle. Choosing the type of tackle needed always depends on the species of fish you will be targeting. There are numerous options when it comes to choosing your tackle, however don’t let it overwhelm you. Your best bet will be checking out the fishing reports on the Internet and spending some time talking to the folks at our local tackle shops. They will be able to help you get an idea which rigs are best for your tackle box. You are going to need a cooler with ice to keep your bait fresh. It does not take long for the sun and warm air to dry out even the freshest bait. In the spring, the most commonly used baits, such as bunker or peeler crabs are going to need to be cut into pieces, so having a strong, serrated knife and cutting board are essential. The springtime sun can feel very warm at home; however the ocean breeze can feel surprisingly cold! Make sure you dress appropriately and have a good idea of the weather forecast. Even on those cloudy days, you will get sunburned so don’t forget sunscreen. Having a hat and a pair of polarized sunglasses will not only help with the sun’s glare on the water, it will also keep you from getting the painful “squint eye” headache. Wearing a comfortable pair of waterproof waders will certainly help keep your legs warm and dry when that unexpected wave sneaks up on you right in the middle of your cast. After you have heaved your bait into the surf, you are going to need a sturdy sand spike to hold your rod. When choosing your sand spike, make sure the bottom of your rod easily fits into the sand spike. In my opinion, the longer the sand spike, the better. You will need to shove it down into the sand far enough to be able to put pressure against it without it falling over. As the tide comes in and the sand becomes soft, make sure you frequently check your sand spike to ensure it does not move easily. One of the most common critters you are likely to catch is the Clearnose skate. Trust me, having a quality pair of needle nose pliers and fishing gloves will come in very handy when removing the hook from these spine covered bottom dwellers, as well as many other fish. Being able to sit down and rest while you wait for that record fish to swim by will make your trip much more enjoyable. Although your cooler can also serve as a seat, I recommend a lightweight beach chair with a cup holder. It’s always a good idea to bring something to eat and plenty of fresh water for drinking and washing your hands. Most importantly, you must remember you will be in constant contact with things that can hurt you if you fail to respect them. Think about it, you are dealing with sharp hooks and lead weights that are being hurled at incredible speeds. Be aware of the power of the ocean and the heat of the sun. There is always the possibility that you will have to unhook many different types of critters and just about all of them have some sort of natural defense. Excitement and adrenaline can take over very quickly when surf fishing and you have to remember to stay focused. Always have a first-aid kit and cell phone, especially if you are fishing alone. Although it may not be on your list of surf fishing gear, being safe is without a doubt the last thing you want to forget. Whenever possible, bring a friend with you. Not only can they help you untangle that spiny dogfish from your line, but in my opinion, sharing a good day on the beach with a buddy is a reward in itself.
  2. Since it is 2013, are we now able to fish for tog and keep them? Or is the season still closed? If so, what is the length and creel limit? Thanks
  3. If anyone knows what some of the size and creel limits for 2013 are for md can you let me know.I tried looking for them, but I could not find anything. Thanks
  4. Fish Report 6/20/10 Flying Fish & Cod Fishing All Week Hi All, I wrote last Sunday that fishing was quite good: Went out Monday and gave 'em a super-spanking with a light crowd, caught at least 20 keepers on the chartreuse gulp swimming mullet myself. Tuesday we laid in on account of forecasted high winds that never came; I know they never came because Capt. Greg -TowBoat Ocean City & OCRF President- volunteered a boat to NOAA to run a repair package out to the weather buoy: They took him up on it, 44009 is back - google & save for nearly real-time wind 15 miles out.. Back at it, we struggled to scratch dinner up Wednesday. Thursday most picked along on keeper bass & some tog. Beautiful water, tagging short flounders, watch flying fish scatter, tag some cod, see a pair of gaffer mahi under an ancient loggerhead sea turtle.. Can't say as I've seen flying fish, mahi & cod in the same piece of water before.. The folks who caught tog were saddened that it's sea bass only in the pool. They couldn't have known I had two of my top toggers aboard, guys that tried to go everyday we went in January & February.. Their six pound tog wouldn't have cut the mustard. It's sea bass only until I see a few more flatties - a fair pool. Driving to work Friday morning I see a traffic light change far ahead. Get to it; the first gear exhaust-cloud from the truck I passed is hanging: Still.. A true calm. Breezed up later; nice fishing. High man had 18. Saturday there was a couple guys aboard that have fished with me close to 30 years. Sea bass didn't care. Fussy. Scratch up dinner and a bit. A fin whale did cap the day though - a first for many. I may have enjoyed it more.. Something is just good about a 70+ foot animal in our part of the ocean. Looked like it was feeding on sand eels. Fish have been holding super-tight most days, hiding in the reef. Then, just today, I found fish feeding well up in the water. Holding tight either means they're laying in ambush for sand eels or butterfish; Or seeking habitat's cover when predators are about. When they're 20 or more feet off the bottom and holding we'll often find various plankton in them, feeding on what drifts by. The holding tight -waiting in ambush- behavior has, in fact, lead to higher release mortality on the 100+ foot reefs this year. We've been picking up and measuring many of those regulatory dead discards. What I tried to show scientists last year is, I think, evident in these measurements; That cbass over 11 inches have a harder time with barotrauma, the air bladder expansion. Cbass and those that target them are as BP's 'little people' in fisheries. Going to get heard though. We saw much better fishing with an 11 inch size limit and no creel. We had fantastic production when bottoms were growing back; when even tube worms, an emergent filter feeder that forms tubes -habitat- of sand and mud, were colonized by huge schools of sea bass. Been looking, can't find a single worm colony now. Do know where there's some dense sea-whip -a soft coral- on natural substrate; Know of rocks bare too where until recently growth and fish flourished. A two foot pipe -broken- will alter ecological history in the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps far beyond. We watch the catastrophe unfold on the news. Decade upon decade of gear dragged across our region's bottom did damage too. Spread over time, it's harder to see. Environmental .orgs cheer closure and catch restriction; Ignore environment. A 17 mile bay mouth to our south, 11 mile mouth to our north: Centuries. A broken two foot pipe: Months. Where billfish were once caught even 5 miles out before my time, we now have boats going 25/30 miles to just catch a few bluefish because they can not catch them on traditional grounds. This isn't all as the whalers a century and more ago thought; That as they exterminated local populations of whales they were perceived to have 'moved' until virtually the only ones left were too fast or too far hidden in ice fields. Those fellows, generations of them, did a lot of herding, of 'moving' as they thought. It was mostly the flensing. So have we - of fish. Yes we need catch restrictions - some quite complex to maximize stable bioeconomic results. That fin whale we saw Saturday was likely feeding on what many marlin fishermen have told me they frequently saw - sand eels. Not marlin fishermen of today though. The guys that fished in wooden 12 knot boats saw and cleaned-up sand eels in the cockpit--admittedly regurgitated from fish they had no intention of ever releasing. Still, the prey is more abundant inshore than where the fish are targeted now.. I think because Marlin and bluefish are sight feeders they can't reliably feed inshore anymore; They really are moving off as water quality diminishes; That no amount of fishery restoration will restore them to the inshore grounds without water quality. Catch restriction alone is a farce; Habitat in its many important forms must be grappled as well. C'mon oysters. C'mon coral. Tubeworm? Most likely. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 Morning Star Fishing
  5. In recent years spring brings a flood of calls and emails from anglers who have caught a snakehead fish in the tidal Potomac River or its tributaries. This year there appears to be some confusion as to what anglers can do legally and what they should do with snakeheads when they catch one. Maryland DNR Fisheries Service created a regulation in 2009 which allows for the taking of snakehead fish from Maryland waters by any legal bait so long as the snakehead is killed by one of the following methods upon capture. Under 08.02.11.04 (Statewide General Regulations) of the Code of Maryland regulations,“An individual may capture and possess a snakehead fish using any legal method if the head of the snakehead fish is immediately removed, the body is gutted, the gill arches are removed from both sides of the fish, or the fish is filleted upon capture.” The regulation states further, “The capture and possession of snakehead fish is not subject to any season, creel limit, or size limit.” The bottom line is that we are encouraging anglers to keep and eat snakeheads which are caught in Maryland waters but the fish must be killed upon capture. We do not require that snakeheads be reported. However in order to track expansion of their range we are asking that snakeheads caught outside of the tidal waters of the Potomac and its tributaries be reported to Don Cosden at dcosden@dnr.state.md.us or (410) 260-8287. We asked our neighbors who share jurisdiction of the Potomac and adjacent waters about their policies and here are the replies. Federal law prohibits the import of live fish into the U. S. or across state borders without a permit from the USFWS. District of Columbia – the fish must be dead with the head removed Virginia - anglers who legally catch a northern snakehead on hook-and-line may keep the fish to mount or eat providing they immediately kill the fish and notify VA Dept. of Game and Inland Fish (best way is hotline 804-367-2925). Source: Snakehead Handling and the Law | Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service News
  6. Fish Report 10/10/09 Triggerfish, Tog & ..Drum? Closure: RFA's Response Decoys For Sale Hi All, Very light crowds offering no fiscal relief; derned if it ain't fun though. Triggerfish have been the main target. They're almost out of here; very late to have them now. Been some wonderful fishing. Fall rules - we're tagging them under 11 inches, boxing the rest. Come to think of it, fall rules will remain until the state accepts management of this important fishery. Too busy with triggers to really get down to business with the tog. Today I decided to give it a little more effort.. Dang those fish are fun. Unforgiving too; we broke 3 off close to 10 pounds, one may have gone 12/13. I will have my toggin gear aboard come morning. Water temperature is slipping, that's key. Season opens back to 4 fish later, still at two now. Couple nice dinners in a pair of good tog. A fishery that folks love or hate; heck of a lot of fun if they're biting.. My customers have caught four black drum in almost 30 years of bottom fishing off Maryland's coast. All caught this week; three of them by Hurricane Murray. Talk about odd.. Hurricane 3 -- tens of thousands of others 1. Caught on triggerfish rigs, they weren't big, just 10 - 12 pounders. Cooked one, tagged the others.... The Recreational Fishing Alliance, RFA, is going to court over the sea bass closure. And not solely for this particular closing, they want to see clarity brought to the whole process. An honorable suit, the RFA is trying to raise money for their legal defense fund. If you're so minded the website Googles easily... Fair to say that I have a conservation minded client base, perhaps the most so for a party boat. Still, raising the size limit to 12 1/2 inches was bad for business. We had the highest release ratio this June of the last ten, maybe ever: 86.15%. Having seen the cbass stock grow fantastically at closer to 50% releases--even when there was no creel limit, throwing back almost 90% diminishes the experience as the enjoyable camaraderie of this type of fishing doesn't stop until the dishes are washed. Slowed by regulation and now closed, a coastal small-business economic disaster has been created by MRFSS data that no one believes: or should. I know the statistics are not meant to be a hard number - they're a spread. How it came to be that managers 'have to' use the centerpoints of catch estimates I do not know, but there --the centerpoint-- is the crux of the problem. That and with all this squirrel hunting, no one's gone to see if there's any trees.. Common sense regulation would carry the day better than data best handled with a wide pitch-fork. A couple years after the new federal fishing registry, MRIP, has been up, the back checking will make for some interesting reading. The firmer 'number of participants' license data, overlaid on field intercepts--real, actual fish counts--will show just how crazy some of these estimates have been. Fishing 7 days a week for tog, triggers--its a water temp thing--and whatever else we can find. The rail is limited to 15 for tog fishing; limited far more by other pressures. Now selling decoys I made 20 and more years ago on eBay. Rather my daughter's children had done that.. Sunrise, pleasant company, catch fish, maybe some big fish.. With all the ills in this world I could certainly have far, far worse. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  7. "ANNAPOLIS — The 2010 summer flounder season will likely run for seven months, a change from draft regulations released last week. Fish caught in the April to November season must be a minimum of 19 inches long and there is a three fish creel limit. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources originally proposed a four month fishery with a 18.5 inch size limit but coastal recreational boat captains complained that the season was too short and would damage their business. The current plan will be sent to the Maryland General Assembly for final approval." heres the link to the article MARLYAND: State settles on longer flounder season | delmarvanow.com | The Daily Times
  8. <DIV> Fish Report 3/23/10 Goin Fishing Flounder Regs CCA's "Train Wreck" Regular Tog Trips Sailing Through April 1st: (Light Winds Thursday 3/25!) Boat sells out at 14 - Green crabs provided - Cabin heated - Leave at 7:00 for these trips (or earlier if all are aboard) - Return no later than 3 - 3:30 (usually) - $100.00 buys a spot - Reservation a must, that phone number in signature - Email does not work for reservations - Call - Leave a good phone number--Cell--in case of cancellation. Tog Limit is 4 fish @ 14 inches - We encourage the release of all females under 16 (and some way bigger too!!) Fish Pool is decided by length so tagged and released fish can count too. Stay tied-up Easter Sunday. Have Coast Guard inspection in the second week of April - Will announce more trips when I get an all clear from them........... Hi All, There is a sigh of relief among the coast's flounder fishers today, Maryland DNR has reversed course and adopted a longer flounder season with a 19 inch fish. We can officially fish until Thanksgiving. Very nearly had a much shorter season. Atlantic Coast MSSA, Larry at the Coastal Fisherman newspaper, OC's State Delegate--Jim Mathias, myself & many other fishers, local press and even Candy Thompson at the Baltimore Sun set up an awful howl.. Different somehow.. Eh, having DNR listen isn't so new; It's having them dig in, see if there's substance in the complaint -- and respond. That's different. Pleasantly so. Can't swear to it, but I think the same thing is happening at the Federal level. I was on a huge rec-fish conference call last week with NMFS director Eric Schwaab & staff; From Alaska down and around to back up the East Coast it seemed pretty evident that accumulating errors in the data are pinching the system all over---many different problems all stemming from data. Nothing concrete yet in way of action, just possibilities: Lot of listening getting ready to happen. NOAA just announced that Russell Dunn has been appointed National Policy Advisor on Recreational Fisheries. That's a brand new position, reports directly to the boss-lady, Dr. Lubchenco. In the same press release they announced a 22 member Recreational Fisheries Working Group.. In mid-April there's a recreational summit in Silver Spring. Big possibilities. There still remains the darker possibility that 2010 was the year few party boats could survive. Black sea bass regulations are still up in the air. We rebuilt these fish with barely a care, first just a size limit, then increases in size with a 25 fish creel.. I still assert that we do not have a management plan on sea bass that can actually work, but even in its scientifically-impaired fashion we somehow have a better sea bass population than before management. We just can't go fishing. With cbass closed that fishing pressure shifts--All along this coast tautog fishing will not be made better because of the extreme reaction of closing sea bass over highly-suspect data. That's just the tip of it.. Plenty more fisheries in similar trouble. Closing sea bass--reacting to the data in such fashion--was just wrong. We ought to know by now that the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey--MRFSS--is being replaced for good reason. Just today one of the guys that is always digging into data, Buddy, sent me a bit of raw 2009 MRFSS flounder data -- 44 observed fish from private boats in July/August are tossed into MRFSS's computer---just 44 observed flounder.. These practitioners of the statistical dark-arts turn 44 into 45,281 flounder caught/kept and 595,190 caught/released.. Pow! That's so cool. Reminds me of the guy that used to sell tickets when I was in my early twenties.. Always biting -- Always filling up sacks.. Crunched a bit, just back of the envelope stuff; 45,281 flounder means 91 boats with 3 people aboard limited out everyday it was fit to go --- the rest of the boats had a solid bail of smaller ones. Hmmm.. that's not how I heard it. No, I don't think so.. Looked at another way: During the same period (July/Aug 2009) 725 flounder are said to have been caught/kept on the party boats that fish exclusively for flounder in the back bays and a few on the Chesapeake. MRFSS also has 18,325 thrown back--released. Using just their fish data and a ball park guess of clients, I estimate the back-bay party boats caught/kept 12.8 fish per day on average or 0.04 keeper fish per person. <DIV>Party boats turn in daily catch data so we should be able to see almost exactly what they caught. Sometimes it seems like MRFSS is using that data, sometimes not. Given my familiarity with the fishery I see no reason to seriously doubt these
  9. Fish Report 10/16/09 Gales of October Tags VTRs: A Short-Term Solution Stay with me on this one too.. Hi All, Nicked some triggers on Tuesday, our last day before this gale rolled onto the coast. Winds peaked at forty three knots, seas sixteen feet, water temp dropping all the time: they were likely our last triggers of the year. Also caught tog, some more than nicking them, a double header of keepers, tags returned after celebrating a birthday, maybe two: but not everywhere I might expect - trouble. Oscillating up and down over decades, the tog stock has a long recovery period after overfishing. We won't contribute much to those ills with a two fish limit--a bit though. Have certainly earned our keep with building habitat, conservative management and the determination of those releasing all females or limiting their number & fishing far above the required size limit. Seemingly barbaric, bleeding these fish adds to their flavor; fillets a beautiful white, fresh and firm; a noble fish, worth the extra effort. When the wind lays down we'll be targeting them as best we might. The two fish limit designed to keep early fall pressure on our far more abundant cbass that are now closed: opening back to 4 tog come November. The fantastic abundance of summer flounder, unforeseen in occurring and apparently unnoticed by management, is denied to us in this difficult time as well. We have tagged a fair-many of late; running low, just sticking them over 18 inches. One 22 incher ate a tog bait, green crab, hardly a common flounder bait. Put a yellow ribbon in a 22 inch sea bass too. My many thanks to those that trouble themselves with reporting their tagged-fish catch returns. Light crowds - we'll get some great practice and tag a mess of these rascals, keep a pair for dinner. Sell a ticket and the weather's good, we're going.......... Though well-found, my partyboat business lies bludgeoned and bleeding, nearly breathless, hull grassing as bedsores, her mooring lines--now doubled for gale winds--are all that's left to support her though this regulatory tempest. Sea bass closed in what should be a time for putting-up fish for winter, a time for banking maintenance funds and paying down the remainder of the many bills associated with business is a regulatory failure unlike any I've seen. This region's last sea bass collapse occurred--unnoticed by management--back in very early '04. We are well into the rebound now, spawning stock comprised of many sub-legal males; we're looking great. Or would be. Commercial fisher, environmentalist, recreational enthusiast, manager, scientist, partyboat patrons & crew; all share a similar goal: healthy fisheries. But the only tool in use is catch restriction. Amazing to me is that even among a few of the best funded environmental groups, those what might understand every single link in an estuarine food web, no real connection has been made between healthy marine habitat and restored fisheries. Historically, great strength borne with ignorance has often brought a poor end. Not at all intriguing might be stern-towed gear operators working to keep fisheries scientists in the dark, but they too surely benefit with fish in abundance.. Spectacularly, some--many--in the recreational fisheries are so afraid of the dreaded Marine Protected Area, MPA, that they'd as soon there be no discovery of sensitive habitat either.."Keep that closet closed or we'll never fish again!" Living in fear of the truth.. Not a good place to be. Fish populations driven higher solely by catch restriction offer tenuous success; their creation of bioeconomic stability apt to topple at some bit of overfishing--real or imagined. Fisheries restored through habitat increase will be on sounder footing, as would many overlooked parts of the food web. Fishers having more options, these many species doing well, reduces fishing pressure as effort broadens in spectrum. Seeing what happens beneath that watery veil, which fishers have no trouble breaching for their purpose, is indeed necessary. Science, at least thus far it seems, can't be bothered about it unless it pertains to genuine discovery, not economic recovery. There are corals, exquisite in every regard, growing on every hard surface in this marine region. Fish live there. Though all groups with a marine interest want to see a similar conclusion, none are on the same path. Any hope of bridging the gulf lessens, widening daily as the regulatory difficulties of decisive management, wrought of poor data, envelop more participants with its disruptive, business eliminating, lawsuit filing result. Battles fully joined, the amity & goodwill of fishing a memory. That we might find a way out before MRIP, a way to simplify, if only temporarily, the regulations on the reef-using demersals, we might then find more common ground. Any of these rebuilding targets can be exceeded with focused management that includes habitat at its center, a center surrounded by solid catch data, and from that firming, more surety in biomass estimates. Deeper still to flesh out a solution. Try. Try by using VTRs. Fishing Vessel Trip Reports, VTRs, are a a form sent out by NMFS in Gloucester, MA. Every commercial boat, including party/headboat, has to fill out this form for each trip; at one time I understand trawlers had to go tow-by-tow. The information includes a fairly general location, number of crew, number of passengers, trip time, soak time, number of hooks, and quite detailed information on catch--species by species--discarded & kept, and assorted permit numbers. I personally include habitat type, marine mammal & turtle sightings. NMFS has been collecting this paperwork for some time, and from a lot of boats. The Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey is not allowed to use VTRs - or wasn't when last I heard, though it sure seems like MD partyboat MRFSS numbers smoothed out, got extra accurate a couple years back, despite the slippage with this year's cbass pre-estimates. Mountain of data; many tales to tell: ought to have a listen. Tales of passenger increases when the fishing's good, and of sliding sales when its not; release ratios over much of the coast - dividable down to several sq. mile areas, catches in same fashion--species specific catches, fishing pressure readable same; bigger boats that got out in weather when smaller ones didn't, no boats got out, more, lots more: buckets and buckets of data. All of it, every byte, can be used in some fashion to check the broad accuracy of stock biomass estimates. And all of it, every byte, can be used in some fashion to check the broader MRFSS work. Instantly, nearly all the underestimated catch would jump out as Maryland's 2009 estimate of 1,192 sea bass surely must. For those creating, using & supporting MRFSS, I'd suspect their perception an ugly thing, like a good friend gone to crack, the death of a neighbor's child, or the disappearance of 30 years--seven days a week-- hard work. Surrender? Move to common-sense size and creel limits right there? At least until MRIP is up and running? Get rid of the indefensible positions that have boats fishing next to each other under wildly different regulation? Nah - live and breath the data - anyone actually doing this would press on. I went into some great detail last year that for our state's MRFSS estimates of summer flounder catches to have been accurate there would have to have been small boats stacked atop one-another, and shore fishers shoulder to shoulder, had they caught as well as party/charter skippers: this based on VTR CPUE--catch per unit of effort. Had they not caught as well as professional effort, it would have required far more fishers. An extremely intelligent fellow, from Woods Hole I think, went over those assertions, and from others, and concluded that MD's catch could indeed be as MRFSS predicted because he didn't have hard data to use that bore-out our anecdotal offerings.. An emergency now--for fishers anyway--maybe a few phone calls to DNR police: "Where do they fish, how many boats/people.." Anglers themselves untrusted; some state and non-profit biologists are frequently out and could establish fishable area on charts. There's the often maligned MRFSS field interviewer - eyes on, at least enough to spot Bad Science creeping into a data set. Could the asserted fishing effort--the number of participants--actually have occurred? Boots treading--truthing--not paper where errors grow enormous unchecked, can yield a better answer. It might be Bad Science.. ..if VTRs show a decline in catch and passengers, but the 'private/rental' category in the data skyrockets.. ..if private/rental boats are shown catching low yet shore effort is stacking fish like cordwood, their sinkers barely missing the skunked fishers hulls.. ..if numbers of participants are high, but party boats are only sailing weekends.. ..if any marine catch is shown to occur when it was too rough to go.. Once started, a lot of comparisons would emerge. Accuracy, more solid, created in just a couple small geographical areas would establish some percentages to work with over broader swaths. Would work. Needs to. COB Tuesday? Yeah, probably not. No hurry at all? Now Katrina, front-liners fully engaged... Time for some very real leadership. Want to try Maker's Mark by Christmas. Not food stamps. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  10. Fish Report 10/29/09 Tog A CBass Prediction Wheat Field Hi All, Weather.. lots of weather. Not as bad as weather gets, but plenty bad enough to keep us in port. Tog should cooperate nicely - water temp dropping, mixing. Season opens back to 4 fish on November first. Going every chance we get - even with the very smallest of crowds - even if crew outnumber crowd. Calling for 10 knots in a long-period ground swell Friday... I listened to the House Sub-Committee on Oceans testimony Tuesday. My Congressman is on that Committee. He's heard from me. Brilliant people, especially Dr. Murawski--but human--and a guy I suspect is looking for a huge Government contract for monitoring catch made up the first panel. The second panel was fishers, mostly well-spoken and to the point. One group quite proud, the other angry. I was dismayed to hear what sounded like a verbatim recitation of a Pew press event from mid-summer coming from a NOAA scientist. The RFA's council, Mr. Moore, did a fine job. I thought his the best of the lot. Still, as the panels finished and the questions subsided.. I knew what it was to feel the wake of a passing freighter - while stranded in a life raft. No rescue - not this time.. Perhaps the financial distress caused by this "Emergency Closure" will be a catalyst for improving management. Tagging studies being definitive, habitat fidelity solidly established, dividing the mid-Atlantic into 3 or 4 regions/zones and splitting the quotas/allotments is absolutely necessary. This is the most critical change needed: Create regionally controlled quotas for winter to ensure that massive over-fishing does not occur on a single regional sub-stock. Apparently, sea bass abundance to our north is where ours was 5 years ago, at least according to the data. Remember, the need for some regulation was so obvious that fishers acted. In Maryland we had a 6 year head start on management, our 9 inch size limit giving us a solid lead when federal management came. Our stock grew incredibly soon after the creel limit was introduced, and then collapsed. In 2003 sea bass were so abundant I honestly thought we were nearing the habitat's holding capacity. I suspect what happened to our fish will now continue time after time, regionally. The currently-peaking northern area will experience heavy trawl pressure in January, February and March because it is the most valuable part of the stock. Bigger sea bass are worth more per pound, that's where the money is: it will be targeted. This heavy pressure, recreational included, on a regional stock; this mature cbass stock with the males all grown into legal size, and virtually none sub-legal, will get hit heavily and start to topple. Removal of the males, furthered by continued--even increasing--recreational and nearshore artisanal fishing in spring, will create a spawning shortfall come summer. Imbalanced, that area's cbass population will no longer replenish faster than fishing is removing--regional collapse then unforestallable. Meanwhile, other areas will be in better population phase, have more numerous fish. Statistics which only deal in coastwide stock assessments will camouflage on paper the heavily pressured sub-stock's problem. Unnoticed in the whole of the coastal data set, that regional fishery then collapses to below size-limit. The cycle, the rebuilding, begins anew as more small sea bass transition to male and create a new spawning stock. In aquarium settings sea bass transition very rapidly from female to male when a single male is removed from amidst females. That is not what I observed here after our most recent collapse in early 2004. Males never completely absent, it wasn't until 2008 that they were abundant, far more so this year--most sub-legal. From Cape May to Chincoteague we are well into the upturn--and would have enjoyed it far more had the size limit remained 12 inches. In 3 years, maybe 2, we'll be where the northern region is now; where we were in 2003. In 3 or 4 years we start all over. Unless its sooner. Or it gets fixed. Shutting us down on sea bass was, and remains, rubbish. Some are willing to peel back the watery veil and have a look. Most--including the power centers--are all about paper crossing a desk. No scholarly work exists with our natural reefs on them. While I have written several papers, made video: its anecdotal.. There's virtually no scholarly knowledge of mid-Atlantic natural seafloor habitat. There's no paper to cite. Without efforts to find out what habitat is missing, protect what remains, and restore at least the natural footprint of reef in the mid-Atlantic; the cycle I've described above could worsen depending on habitat impacts. You can not restore squirrels to a wheat field, nor can you restore reef-fish to barren bottom. A pile of horse-feathers is any claim of rebuilding reef-dwelling species without knowledge of their habitat. Managing sea bass is all about controlling fishing pressure on discreet habitats; its succesful restoration measured via the regional holding capacity of its reefs. The bold assertion of grand economic gains for survivors of this regulatory tempest--fisheries quickly rebuilt--are hollow, if not disingenuous; disappearing into thin air upon realization that we now manage fish by sky-fall, not reef production. Coastwide catch-restriction creates oscillation in sea bass abundance. The peaks will remain temporary, and the valleys more economically destructive, without a solid foundation of habitat and a method of maintaining a sub-legal spawning stock.. Unless you just close the fishery. Bloody fine bit of management that. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  11. Fish Report 3/18/10 Going Fishing Pins & Needles Hi All, We should have the inflatable life-raft back in its cradle by nightfall 3/18/10. Very confident of that.. barring calamity on the highway; we will. The water temp at the weather buoy off the MD/DE line is at 41.9 as I write. That's warm enough: But is it all the way down? No one got out last weekend in that horrible weather. We'll have to go see if they're biting-----It Is Not A Sure Bet. Just two trips with this email: Friday, March 19th & Saturday, March 20th. Light winds forecasted - Boat sells out at 12 - Green crabs provided - Cabin heated - Leave at 7:00 for these trips (or a tad earlier) - Return no later than 3 - 3:30 (usually) - $100.00 buys a spot - Reservation a must, that phone number in signature - Email does not work for reservations - Call - Leave a good phone number--Cell--in case of cancellation. (..here if the life-raft somehow fails to arrive!) Minimum Number Of People For These Trips Is Zero - I'm Going Fishing. Sea Bass by Federal Regulation remains undecided. Maryland's summer flounder too. Managers & Regulators spend much time now putting out fires, distracted. The closer I get to all this, the more I see that the fire's fuel is data; Ignition in misrepresentation: That the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey--MRFSS--and Data-Poor Stock Assessments are the fuel; Using the exact center of these statistical spreads to create a single, hard data point creates ignition. The problem is the data - It really is. Maryland rec fishers did not go over quota on flounder in 2008. All the states fishing Long Island Sound should bloody well have a simple, reasonable creel limit---New York should not have to consider, say, a 2 fish limit at 22 inches. It's ludicrous. The whole coast did not overharvest sea bass last year. When Maryland is said to have caught 30+ thousand flounder in two months from shore in 2007 - Our guys, after deepest consideration, think 600 is more realistic for that period. Not 600,000 --Not the 36,017 official catch estimate-- Just 600. Years and Years of accumulated bad data. Managers & Regulators in opposition to each other within the states and between states, combat at the federal level--These struggles can be as brutal as what we witness currently on Capitol Hill... I picture ancient Mayan Priests arguing how many humans to sacrifice to appease their gods; To get the best result from multiple killings of humans in ritualistic fashion.. Perhaps lower priests were made to carry out the orders of the high priests. They believed, they really believed it was the best thing they could do. Well documented. We can't guess how many died*. Most theologians today would argue that was using bad data.. *(OK, maybe MRFSS could.) Here--Now--While managers argue the best way forward for fisheries restoration using these unsupportable MRFSS & Data-Poor stock estimates, the economic vitality of recreational fishing slips away; wasted upon the stone-carved gutters of useless sacrifice. It could all change by order of a high-priest.. Red Snapper, Black Sea Bass, even Summer Flounder --where we seem to have selected for flounder that use robust reef-- are among the Data-Poor fisheries. Here data is collected knowing it is lacking, but is used as Hard-Data -- even though it's far more a "Best Guess." Data-Poor is what the science & management communities call it, it's their term. Fishers call it.. well, nevermind. I try to keep polite language here.. On a desk cluttered with papers these estimates seem more credible, more plausible while camouflaged amidst better science. On a fillet table that hasn't been used much recently, they find less traction. I think this is rock-bottom of the fisheries--our nadir; That MRIP, the new federal registration where they can actually count participants, will bring substantially more truth to our catch estimates. Many think I'm far too optimistic, that we'll never get a fair shake. Time will tell.. ..tell about the tog bite next couple days too. Going Fishing! Cheers, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  12. I know there is a meeting on the 23rd to discuss the flounder regs for this year. Does anyone know what the most likely size and creel limit choices are?
  13. Fish Report 9/13/09 Flounder Go Out With a Fizzle Sea Bass Bite - Weeding Pandas Hi All, The ocean settled well after that NE wind all last week. Average sea height 20 feet at 2AM Friday morning - was a nice day Saturday. Amazing. Not too surprising was the flounder's response to all the foul weather. Well, I don't know their 'response' precisely - but they sure didn't bite! Nicked a few flatties but changed focus to sea bass. They were biting. Biting just as well as an old-time November pull, only now we have 2009 regulations. A lot had to go back. I suppose krill are too camouflaged in the now-very dirty water for sea bass to feed on. Back to the bottom; best bite I've seen since May. Weeding in September? That's what I call it when you catch a lot of smalls to every keeper - usually late October through November. One poor guy had to bear his buddies catching a nice keeper here and there while he worked defense -- doing his best to keep the smalls busy & away from their hooks. Forty seven shorts in a row.. His line breaks with a 3 pounder at the rail. He did come back - put some in the box. That's sorta like 10 weather cancelations in 14 days. Ouch. Ocean's completely jumbled up: sand sharks, small croakers, small sea trout, small blues - fish I would expect to see just off the beach were found offshore in 100+ feet of water. I hope to find croakers settled by size shortly. Fish like Cathy's 18 incher Sunday would be nice. I will focus mostly on cbass through at least October, but will mix it up with croaker if worthy. I've also saved a lot of tags for the inevitable fluke that we'll have to release now that they're closed.. MRFSS, the marine recreational fisheries statistic survey, has become not only the single greatest threat to my and other recreational fisher's livelihood - it remains the foremost distraction to real fisheries restoration. Slaying the beast is MRIP - the new federal fishing license that will allow the collection of much better data. Designers say the acronym means Marine Recreational Information Program. I'm thinking it really means Mrfss Rest In Peace. Would that it might.. I/we can never prove there's been an overestimation. There's always a data-poor situation in which 'there could have been more fishers' -trained killers at that- who might have caught the rest of the estimate. That's why there needs to be a license - to count all participants. Strikes me that if something's not falsifiable - its not scientific. There's a big divide between the politics of fishery management and fisheries science. In an attempt to close that divide managers have had to use MRFSS statistics like hard data because that's all there is - there is no other source. Except what fishers tell them. Though we can never prove they have overestimated; time after time it can be proved that MRFSS has under-estimated. No one can disprove -falsify- a fishing overestimate. Dern sure we can falsify some underestimates. Should be a stake in Dracula's heart - scientifically dead. Won't be. As I pointed out last week, on a one day tagging trip in 2002 with National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) - Maryland DNR Fisheries & Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council staff (MAFMC) there were 1,150 BSB tagged. We boxed-up a bunch for dinner too. Now MRFSS has the entirety of Maryland's 2009 recreational cbass catch --all charter, party & private boats --everyone-- forecasted at 1,192 fish. Tagged 1,150 in one day, on one boat - The whole fleet killed 1,192 in a year. That 2009 data point is from the very set that almost closed the whole coast's scup, sea bass & fluke fishing. If everyone in fisheries, people that would never question the validity of the day's tagging data, believed this year's estimate I'd hope for a serious investigation into the crash of sea bass. Instead, I doubt seriously that MDDNR Fisheries, MAFMC, ASMFC, NOAA, NMFS, nor anyone else has faith in that 2009 estimate at all - not a soul. Since they can not believe that number, management then ought to gather an estimate that's more realistic. They would have to turn to fishers for that. Perhaps while they're at it --redoing a MRFSS estimate-- they, using reasonable proofs that participants offer, may want to change some overestimates that we fishers don't believe.. In a few short years MRIP will have fully replaced MRFSS. Catch estimates will be much firmer. As simply as Dr. Semmelweis' hand washing after autopsy prevented many women's birthing deaths -- allowing common sense evaluation of catch estimates could save this industry... And turn our attentions back to the real problem at hand - fisheries restoration. Chinese panda restoration focused on stock replenishment - making more bears. Zoos must now be found for newborns because there's not enough wild habitat. Shall we house our wild stocks in aquariums until we resolve habitat & prey issues? There is a tremendous amount of discovery left to do. Work that will not even get started while opponents are hunkered in the trenches. A very simple set of creel limits set coastwide --with some wiggle room-- could be made while MRIP comes alive. I know what overfishing looked like. This ain't it. Our focus must broaden in order to achieve our goals. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 Morning Star Fishing
  14. Fish Report 9/8/09 Of Sea Bass & Fluke Call For Witnesses Hi All, Labor day weekend wasn't too bad. Got out - caught some dinner. For most anyway.. Sea bass bit a lot better Saturday. Some pretty fish. Had a few shots of mahi-mahi Sunday - the first, and with this low slowly crawling up the coast, likely only dorado this year. ('Ol Murphy, feel free to smack down that prediction..) Tried the croakers for a few minutes on Saturday - very small - left 'em. Not quite a dozen keeper flounder each day - more throwbacks. Because of last year's MRFSS catch estimates, this coming Sunday is 'it' for our flounder fishing. Some clients will be targeting fluke, others bass; its all structure fishing. There is a tendency on holidays to see a customer or two with self-inflicted sea sickness, the kind they'd have suffered on land too - only hangovers are way worse at sea. Lot of different ways to make a vacation memory.. Twelve and a half inches -up a half- that's been the cbass size limit this year. There have been many days when that extra 1/2 inch caused a lot less stink in our skillets. In 2001 we had the first creel limit, 25 fish, and an 11 inch minimum. Prior to that there was never a number limit on how many sea bass you could keep. Man did we pound on them. I could clearly see where regulation was going to make fish flourish - I thought. In 2002 it was 25 again (and has remained so) with an 11 1/2 inch limit. I fondly recall the federal tagging trip in September of that year. About 25 volunteer anglers & a similar number of biologists and MAFMC staff went out on the Nichol's sleek Lydia that I ran for 12 years, the OC Princess. A few of these biologists and managers have retired, most are still in the fisheries business - many have 'climbed the ladder'. Included were some of the east coast's best & brightest. We put in a very long day, tagging in 5 different locations. If memory serves me, we tagged 1,150 fish that day; quitting only after one of my all-time favorite biologists threw his clipboard down in surrender. Then the volunteer anglers bagged up some limits to take home. It was a marathon. That many fish in one day.. But in those days I often carried 85-90 anglers - the boat's creel limit would have been 2,250 fish.. One day - one Maryland boat - over 2,000 legal fish. Not terribly uncommon. Sometimes in the fall we'd go catch a limit of croakers after limiting on cbass. Now, the fishing has slacked off quite a bit, no doubt. Still, those biologists that day saw what they saw & recorded every single tag. I have witnesses. I think the the data acquired by MRFSS interviewers is nearly pristine. I heartily encourage cooperation with field interviewers. It's what happens to the data in the upper stories of some office building that causes heartburn - and in the manner used by managers that is wholly inconsistent with good governance. I hold that this 'intercept' data --what actually got counted in a cooler - what really existed-- will prove invaluable when there is broad, reliable fishing effort data to work with, likely MRIP's. They'll be able to back-track with it; figure out what really got caught back in '08 or '98 - maybe even '88. Scorn, contempt, derision, condescension - Those words neatly sum up what I heard on that conference call a week ago when the marine recreational fisheries statistics survey --the 'MRFSS Emergency'-- caused regulators to consider shutting down the coast's cbass, scup & fluke fisheries: "We all know how anglers feel about MRFSS statistics." You had to hear the inflection - point being made was, 'Yeah, yeah, MRFSS. This discussion is a total waste of time. We need to get back to work.' Try as I might, it can not be well-enough proven that a catch estimate is too high. There's always the argument that other boats & other fishers spanked 'em leading to higher numbers. This like the new Delta Force/Green Beret/SEAL Team shore-fishers sneaking about coastal Maryland - these folks steal into the night like ninjas after racking-up huge catches that never get heard about in the grapevine. Crazy uncle MRFSS hears their voices though.. Well.. You can't push on a string. The 'spirit voices' say they caught a lot - we say we caught a lot less - that leaves room for more catch - guvmint knows where they'll side. But this is statistics: What if you have seriously well credentialed witnesses that can look at a MRFSS number and know that they're looking at a ridiculously low number. What if some digging was done and many more instances were found among the states? Is the statistically purifying correction needed then transferable as a plus/minus percentage to other MRFSS numbers? Is it not then true that not only are there are exceedingly low catch estimate numbers - but enormously high ones as well? Worse still is that these statistical spreads not only sometimes arrive on managers desks bad - they then have to use a single, precise center-point from this foul data. An example of a typical MRFSS spread has NY's center-point landings at 12,391 sea bass in 1998. Considering the percentage of standard error (PSE) of 36.3 - then the catch is as high as 16,889 cbass, or as low as 7,893. So far as the statistician is concerned - that is their precise answer to managers' query of how many fish were caught. The whole and complete answer includes PSE - the spread. From Wikipedia: The larger the margin of error, the less faith one should have that the poll's reported results are close to the "true" figures... Read the Wikipedia entry on 'percentage standard error' - it wasn't written by a fisherman. Therein lies the trouble. We require managers to use the center-point of a statistical spread - a spread often so large that pollsters would not use the data at all. To wit: MRFSS has projected all of Maryland's party-boat, charter and recreational effort at 1192 sea bass for the year 2009. That's just 42 more fish than biologists tagged with me in one day back in '02. One boat - one day. This catch number, 1192, is directly from the data that almost closed us down along the whole coast. Yeah, cbass fishing wasn't great this year, but if managers won't argue the validity of these types of errors - that's scary. The witnesses need to come forward. For many party/charters along the mid-Atlantic dark days loom if these extremely loose figures continue to get used as hard data. Worse still, its NOT fixing the fishery. Left with the system in place, our creel limit could be astonishingly low next year, the size limit higher than ever, a season closure that would prevent any liquidity within the industry, and a mighty brawl as participants try to get the closure best suited to their region's sea bass -- we still manage them under a one set of regulations fits all "coastwide" plan. We had better fishing with a 9 inch limit and no creel. We had stupendously better fishing when a creel limit was first introduced. With tighter catch controls than ever; we now have worse fishing than before official management began. Its not working - something's wrong. Management that examines and then regulates via sub-stock's habitat boundaries can succeed where catch restriction alone has failed. Management that acts to preserve and enhance the places where cbass spawn & feed will do better still. Management that takes a hard look at varying sizes of the spawning stock in response to fishing pressure, and understands the potential for reduced production in a climax population, could create a fishery better than we've ever known. There's where we want to go. It starts by managers/regulators ceasing to use MRFSS in the same manner. Reasonable limits set regionally are next. Habitat protections & enhancements; the recognition of their production values follow. Then maximizing that production via spawning stock manipulation - determining how to get the most fertilized eggs. I closed my recent letter to Dr Lubchenco with: I believe that fisheries management can restore our fisheries. Using habitat technologies & protections, I believe that some species can be made more abundant than ever before. I also believe that we are not going to succeed in the least with the present strategy. Its all doable. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 Morning Star Fishing
  15. Fish Report 9/4/09 Week That Wasn't Huge Artificial Reef Project Closures Avoided For Now Letter to Dr. Jane Lubchenco Hi All, Only fished Sunday -one day- since my last report. In the remnants of Danny we caught a few croakers then pressed-on to sea bass and fluke over the reefs & wrecks. Wasn't great, though it sure beat the heck out of sitting at the dock. The tropical systems killed a couple Saturdays. A regular ol' nor'easter with just enough wind to keep us in shut down the whole week. Supposed to abate soon. I anticipate doing the same thing - croaks/wrecks & reefs - for some time to come. We'll have to do it without flounder come the 14th of September - that's when Maryland closes. (lot more on that below) Last day of summer past; lot of artificial reefing takes place in the coming months. One huge project that is finally coming into play is the reefing of the USS Radford - a decommissioned 560 foot Navy Destroyer. As of this writing the ship is destined for Delaware's "DelJerseyLand" reef site - so named because of its equi-distant location to the three states' inlets. And --darn the luck!-- wielded without mercy in these tough economic times, Maryland's budget ax recently fell on the money set aside for this project. Its going to be a big deal. Huge ship, three state co-operative reef - there'll be lots of press & television coverage, likely a TV show.. All of which offer a chance to get 'artificial reef as restoration tool' into the public eye. Sign me up - I'm in. But now we have to raise the money in "Grass-Roots" fashion. Ah, just 200,000 Marylanders donating a buck apiece - cotton-candy.. I donated $1,000.00 from the boat's reef raffle to the CCA's "Buy a Ton" MARI tax deductible website which you can get to with the link on my site. I put Radford in parentheses {e.g. M. (Radford) Hawkins} in the 'name' section of the form so the CCA treasurer knows what project its to go toward. Soon I hope we'll have a new donation site up specifically for the Radford. Despite that budget cut, Maryland really is moving forward with artificial reef construction. The State just hired Erik Zlokovitz as its first Reef Director since 1997. He doesn't even have a dept. email address yet. I hold that Maryland has the greatest documented loss of hard-bottom habitat in the world - oyster reef. We don't yet know what's missing out-front in the ocean - just that every reef we put down works. Natural restoration of hard-bottom could take thousands of years, if it occurs at all - artificial reef gets right into production. Erik will be busy for a long time to come. I hope he ends up heading a full fisheries section... I should imagine that everyone in the coast's partyboat trade spent many an hour at the keyboard and on the phone this week. Preliminary marine recreational fisheries statistics survey numbers (MRFSS) indicate that we have already exceeded our quota for flounder, scup and sea bass from Cape Hatteras north. Acting on that information as they must, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) held an emergency internet/conference call to determine whether to close these fisheries throughout the region. State fishery managers and federal regulators form the panel that met - the decision to leave these fisheries open was made. Clearly, it is simply a stay of execution. A press release the following day stated: The recreational fishing community should be prepared for considerably reduced fishing opportunities next year due to anticipated large overages in the 2009 harvest of scup and black sea bass. Like an addled relative, our ol' friend MRFSS is mostly harmless: now he's found a machete and a loaded Glock. How many businesses will die.. Oddly, with at least a fifth of the nation's for-hire fishers highly uneasy, the new Administrator of NOAA, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, also had a press release: ..."I’m announcing my commitment to take a fresh look at our relationship with the angling community." Really is good stuff - thought she'd want comment straight away. That letter below. That fishers are solely responsible for rebuilding stocks through catch-restriction --the seasons, size & creel limits that we're all familiar with-- is an idea that has failed. These harvest quotas are very important in providing enough fish for succesful spawning. However, once fertilized, the success of that spawn is wholly dependant on habitat. Also in this period I wrote my Washington DC representatives and asked, "Who, precisely, is in charge of essential fish habitat (EFH) in the Mid-Atlantic EEZ" Feel free to do the same. I've had no answer. Yet.. Here --a little port where the great majority of Maryland's flounder effort occurs-- you could have plus/minus 600 participants in the for-hire party/charter fluke fishery on any given summer day. Its likely that +-110 are fishing the limited area where shore fishers might have access to a fluke. The party/charter numbers are pretty derned tight - we submit daily catch logs --the fishing vessel trip report (VTR). MRFSS has shore effort out-doing party/charter by 18 to 1 in '07 -- 12 to 1 in 08 -- 6 to 1 so far in '09. Why do folks pay us money when they're catching the heck out of 'em on shore.. They ain't. MRFSS is wrong. Really wrong. Or maybe they're not. In reports I've read MRFSS was never intended as a hard quota number. It is a statistical spread - often a huge spread, sometimes even greater than 100%. These statistical spreads are, after all, usually inclusive of what fishers feel is a correct catch number. That managers must --have to-- use the center-point of this spread is where real trouble begins. This center-point is the "hard data" that has us closed for flounder come Sept 13 and a big size limit. This is the reason NY/NJ and DE/NJ bay fishers have one side fishing while the other can't. And this is the reason why a lot of party boats are going to fall on very hard times in the coming year. Not because we've actually overfished, but because the government has over-guessed. We must find a way to give managers a chance to call the MRFSS center-point Bad Science - or agree with it. We must undertake the management of making sure larvae survive to recruitment - to harvestable size - thru habitat protection and restoration. We must do these things very soon.. Letter to Dr. Jane Lubchenco below. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 Morning Star Fishing Dear Dr. Lubchenco, I am heartened to see you reaching out to the recreational fishing community; we have much to do. This week I have had my very livelihood threatened by agencies that have made no effort to truly understand and restore black sea bass in the mid-Atlantic bight. Just now I have received notice that recreational overages will be dealt with severely in the coming year. My family, my house & my boat's security depend on thriving fisheries; a regulatory closure offers the same effect as biological collapse.. I put a 9 inch size-limit on sea bass aboard the partyboat I was running in 1992 - more than 1/2 a decade prior to any action by management. There were immediate benefits, repercussions too: we started catching more fish, and clients unable to go along with our size-limit took their business elsewhere. I also put a 16 inch/3 per person limit on tautog. This because I had first-hand knowledge as a participant that the fishery had been decimated. For us, "Over the rail, into the pail" had died. The sea bass population, as evidenced by catch, began to grow enormously. That 9 inch limit sure did the trick... Or so I thought at the time; restoring fisheries is a complex task. By the late 1990s I was puzzled at the expansion of reef-like areas. How can a place I've anchored over so many times grow a thousand-fold in footprint? A ponar dredge borrowed, we went to work finding out. Water-hauls with a few grains of sand, a sea mouse, bits of growth.. An underwater drop camera revealed what we could not cipher: Hardbottom reefs. Beautiful, Caribbean-looking expanses of sea whip, rocks with hard coral and numerous other emergent growths decorated a small $99.00 Wal-Mart TV screen. I thought because corals are protected by federal law I simply had to tell the appropriate agencies and the machine would grind into gear. That was almost a decade ago. No federal action whatsoever has occurred. Not even an attempt at discovery. The second short video I made is still on YouTube - Common seafloor habitat in the mid-Atlantic. More recently, state officials in Maryland have taken a keen interest. Our region's fishing history includes hydraulic clamming on an incredible scale. It must have been the single greatest destruction of hard-bottom to have ever occurred. Our region's fishing history has almost three quarters of a century of trawling's impacts to the bottom. As an individual for-hire fisher I can not afford to have environmental impact statements written, nor pay consultants within management to keep me 'informed'. Through 2009 --and into the foreseeable future-- we have attempted to restore squirrels to a burned cut-over using only hunting controls. Though supremely necessary, there will never be true restoration of many demersals using only catch restriction based management. MRFSS insanity evidenced in our small port where fewer shore anglers are said to routinely out-fish party & charter operators by huge margins.This despite it being frustrated bank-fishers who buy the trips so they might catch. On and on.. continuing to use tried and failed restoration techniques, bludgeoning participants with regulations that only those deepest within management can fully fathom, fishers in the same body of water with entirely different regulations, people afraid to eat--or even touch--their catch, quotas divided in a time when only one team was truly represented at the table staunchly adhered to even today, species regionally extirpated that have had no scrutiny, complexities of managing fish with oscillating ages in spawning stock biomass and their opportunities offered for stock enhancement ignored, failing to use habitat fidelity as an accelerant to restoration, no consideration of historical prey availability, water quality deterioration.. And a state of the art (research) fleet that won't be distracted from chemolithoautotrophic hyperthermophiles long enough to discover our remnant reefs, let alone determine what once was. I believe that fisheries management can restore our fisheries. Using habitat technologies & protections, I believe that some species can be made more abundant than ever before. I also believe that we are not going to succeed in the least with the present strategy. Thank you for your time Dr. Lubchenco, there is much to be done. Regards, Monty Hawkins 9/2/09
  16. Fish Report 7/5/09 Some Fluke/Flatties/Flounder - Precious Few Cbass Belly Buster YOY Tog Hi All, Hmm.. This fishing isn't what I'd like. Yet everyday we get a few good flounder, tag a bunch, and scratch up a few sea bass. Even put together a very nice catch once in a while. Doing all I can to get folks on fish; can not force the fish to cooperate! Luck & skill, both can be improved by listening to the mates. I strongly suspect that sea bass are more intrigued with making more sea bass than eating. I wish them great success! They'll get hungry soon.. Not just flounder, tagging a few triggers too. Message-in-a-bottle those tags; no telling where they'll end up. The literature sez they come inshore and spawn on guarded nests at about 12 inches. I have advocated successfully for the building of shallow water reef specifically targeted at spadefish and triggers. I thought Maryland would see the value of spreading the fun around and initiate size & creel limits on the fish. Dah.. Thought the feds might see the value of coral off the coast too. May happen yet. Don't see triggers every year. Never-ever do I catch them with any regularity. Ever! Breakfast at a marina - pretty chancy. Yet some pull it off with great character. Had the opportunity to fish a few times out of Sailfish marina in Palm Beach. Their breakfast was bright lights, stout coffee and sharp-tongued waitresses. Soriano's downtown OC wasn't dissimilar and the food was better. Now the Fishing Center where I tie up is making a run at breakfast. Need it. Wawa's OK in a rush, but where's the local charisma.. Already contributing to some certain captain's portly rotundity; they have named one major item the the "Morning Star Breakfast Buffet." Coincidence I'm sure. ..So I tell the cook, "Just make me a sandwich" and Bob's Breakfast Belly Buster is born.. Huge. Even the other half for lunch cold - delicious. The lights aren't bright, the coffee's OK, deck seating magnificent.. 'Before too long I think it'll have it own character. Going back for more sea bass release mortality work on July 13. The first trip we had very close to zero fish die upon release - most swam straight down even in 120 feet of water. Warmer water now.. Depth, sea water & air temperature are key: I think size is too. Smaller fish release quite well. I have the stern booked out for biologists: DE, MD & MAFMC represented. Selling the rest of the spots as we might normally do. No slam-dunk this trip. Research. On the previous release monitoring trip I had the great pleasure of meeting a biologist who did his masters on 'young of the year' (YOY) tautog. Fascinating. Chameleons they are: no matter if the seaweed is red, green or brown, at a few weeks of age they change color and blend in. Estuarine - "No juvenile tog in the ocean" he claimed. Eh, I thought that a bold assertion given our lack of seafloor research. He did look at some ocean wrecks for YOY tog without success.. But we still haven't 'found' the natural corals and tube worms.. Sure do tag a bunch of short flounder. Seeing reproductively mature sea bass as small as 7 1/2 inches and others to 5 1/2. Tiny scup at times. All that on 4/0 hooks. I think the nearshore waters are as estuary - vital to marine production. There is so dogone much work to do out there.. Recognizing that fish do not fall from the sky; that their production hinges on habitat is key to really turning around the fisheries. I have heard and read industrial fishers propose to bulldoze waterfront communities; they know the marshes were/are important to production. No acorns - no oaks. Waterfront homes vital to a local tax base; what benefit to society when 100 pounds of fluke are caught but a reef is trawl-lost for a decade. There are now some bottoms coming back to life, re-growing reef, as they did in the mid/late 90's. Not on purpose, again by accident. A few boulder piles, shipwrecks, and the horrors of Nazi U-Boats preserved our reef fisheries through the worst of the unregulated industrial fisheries. We recreational fishers did our best to finish off what they could not. Now both sides are strangled with regulation. Habitat management will help. Increasing production benefits all fishers. Need to get on with it. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  17. Fish Report 7/5/09 Some Fluke/Flatties/Flounder - Precious Few Cbass Belly Buster YOY Tog Hi All, Hmm.. This fishing isn't what I'd like. Yet everyday we get a few good flounder, tag a bunch, and scratch up a few sea bass. Even put together a very nice catch once in a while. Doing all I can to get folks on fish; can not force the fish to cooperate! Luck & skill, both can be improved by listening to the mates. I strongly suspect that sea bass are more intrigued with making more sea bass than eating. I wish them great success! They'll get hungry soon.. Not just flounder, tagging a few triggers too. Message-in-a-bottle those tags; no telling where they'll end up. The literature sez they come inshore and spawn on guarded nests at about 12 inches. I have advocated successfully for the building of shallow water reef specifically targeted at spadefish and triggers. I thought Maryland would see the value of spreading the fun around and initiate size & creel limits on the fish. Dah.. Thought the feds might see the value of coral off the coast too. May happen yet. Don't see triggers every year. Never-ever do I catch them with any regularity. Ever! Breakfast at a marina - pretty chancy. Yet some pull it off with great character. Had the opportunity to fish a few times out of Sailfish marina in Palm Beach. Their breakfast was bright lights, stout coffee and sharp-tongued waitresses. Soriano's downtown OC wasn't dissimilar and the food was better. Now the Fishing Center where I tie up is making a run at breakfast. Need it. Wawa's OK in a rush, but where's the local charisma.. Already contributing to some certain captain's portly rotundity; they have named one major item the the "Morning Star Breakfast Buffet." Coincidence I'm sure. ..So I tell the cook, "Just make me a sandwich" and Bob's Breakfast Belly Buster is born.. Huge. Even the other half for lunch cold - delicious. The lights aren't bright, the coffee's OK, deck seating magnificent.. 'Before too long I think it'll have it own character. Going back for more sea bass release mortality work on July 13. The first trip we had very close to zero fish die upon release - most swam straight down even in 120 feet of water. Warmer water now.. Depth, sea water & air temperature are key: I think size is too. Smaller fish release quite well. I have the stern booked out for biologists: DE, MD & MAFMC represented. Selling the rest of the spots as we might normally do. No slam-dunk this trip. Research. On the previous release monitoring trip I had the great pleasure of meeting a biologist who did his masters on 'young of the year' (YOY) tautog. Fascinating. Chameleons they are: no matter if the seaweed is red, green or brown, at a few weeks of age they change color and blend in. Estuarine - "No juvenile tog in the ocean" he claimed. Eh, I thought that a bold assertion given our lack of seafloor research. He did look at some ocean wrecks for YOY tog without success.. But we still haven't 'found' the natural corals and tube worms.. Sure do tag a bunch of short flounder. Seeing reproductively mature sea bass as small as 7 1/2 inches and others to 5 1/2. Tiny scup at times. All that on 4/0 hooks. I think the nearshore waters are as estuary - vital to marine production. There is so dogone much work to do out there.. Recognizing that fish do not fall from the sky; that their production hinges on habitat is key to really turning around the fisheries. I have heard and read industrial fishers propose to bulldoze waterfront communities; they know the marshes were/are important to production. No acorns - no oaks. Waterfront homes vital to a local tax base; what benefit to society when 100 pounds of fluke are caught but a reef is trawl-lost for a decade. There are now some bottoms coming back to life, re-growing reef, as they did in the mid/late 90's. Not on purpose, again by accident. A few boulder piles, shipwrecks, and the horrors of Nazi U-Boats preserved our reef fisheries through the worst of the unregulated industrial fisheries. We recreational fishers did our best to finish off what they could not. Now both sides are strangled with regulation. Habitat management will help. Increasing production benefits all fishers. Need to get on with it. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  18. “Sam, they are here!” was all it took to get me on the beach one evening this past week. I had been receiving e-mails and reading a lot of great fishing reports online about successful anglers catching stripers from the surf, but hearing those four words from a good friend was like a shot of adrenaline. It did not take me long to pack up, stop to get fresh bunker, a few peeler crabs and before I knew it, I was kicked back in my beach chair anxiously watching every movement of three rod tips. After about an hour, I saw a familiar truck bouncing down the beach towards me. It was a good friend of mine I had met a few years ago. He is someone who has always been very generous to me when it comes to sharing his experience and knowledge about fishing. He had expressed many times that he was not interested in catching smaller fish; he wanted to catch the “big one”. Before long he pulls his truck up next to mine for a quick chat before heading home. With a hint of sarcasm, I asked him, “So, did you get that big striper you’ve been looking for?” To my surprise he calmly said, “yep… fifty-one inches”. It took me a few seconds to comprehend what he had just said. “Fifty-one inches”, I exclaimed, “that is your biggest striper, right?” Again, in a calm voice he said, “yep, she was a little on the skinny side, but I could tell she was a big fish right away”. Then, with much anticipation, I asked him to recount the entire event. He politely answered my numerous questions and also told me about the other several large stripers he had caught and released over the past two days. After many “congratulations” and “you deserved it” I waved goodbye and he left me there to ponder what had just happened. My good friend had finally caught the “one fish” he had been looking for, the fish of a lifetime. Not only did he catch that fish, but he released it. Because of the incredible amount of respect he had for that old striper, he did not even take precious time to get a photo. I’m still not sure if releasing that fish was easy for him or it took an amazing amount of willpower. Either way, I am certainly impressed. With the larger stripers currently being caught from the Delmarva surf, remember that it is very important to have respect for the fish you catch. There is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping your catch as long as it meets the size and creel regulations for that fish. However, if you plan on releasing a large fish, do it quickly and safely. You have to realize this fish has just fought the battle of its life and now, being out of the water, it is unable to breathe. Quickly and safely remove the hook, gently pick up the fish and “cradle” it against your chest. If possible, have someone take a quick photo and then get the fish back into the water. The best way to make sure the fish survives is to get into knee-deep water and submerge the fish in its natural swimming position. Then, while holding on to the base of the tail gently push and pull the fish back and forth to get the water flowing through its gills. If done correctly, the fish should “kick off” and swim through the breakers. If the fish goes “belly up”, do your best to get a hold of the fish and try repeating the process. Always be aware of the waves, especially when concentrating on releasing a fish. When surf fishing, having respect for your surroundings is very important and this includes respecting nearby anglers. There are many unwritten rules that surf fishermen live by and abiding by these rules can make a big difference to other anglers. First of all, I believe most fishermen are superstitious in one way or another; however I think the quickest way to upset any experienced angler is to set up your fishing gear too close to them and their “fishing hole”. Even though it may seem like common sense not to do this, some anglers have a hard time keeping their distance (especially when they just saw you catch a nice fish and then proudly pose for a picture). I have had anglers stop and set up their sand spikes within twenty feet of mine. Not only can this cause tangled lines because of wind or a strong current, it can also be very uncomfortable not knowing the casting ability of your new neighbor. Anglers in general like to have plenty of elbow room. If you find yourself the one who has been encroached upon, it is likely because the other angler does not know any better. If you decide to talk to them try to be patient and polite. Seagulls are very common on our beaches and you will almost always find them watching you in the distance. They are waiting for you to change baits and will be right behind you to scoop up the scraps. The problem occurs when anglers throw the old bait back into the wash. The birds will fly down to get the scraps and sometimes right into your fishing line. I have found just dropping the old bait will attract less attention than tossing it in any direction. If you are fishing near someone, please do not dump your leftover bait into the water. The bait is likely to drift towards the other anglers and it will attract an unbelievable number of gulls. Another commonly talked about annoyance occurs while surf fishing at night. Some anglers believe that bright lights, such as vehicle headlights, large fires and lanterns, “spook” the fish. There are many opinions on whether this is a superstition or a fact. Personally, I find it annoying when I have to re-acquire my night vision because of unnecessarily bright lights. You may hear or read anglers advising others to turn off their vehicle’s headlights while driving by someone’s fishing area; however I feel this is very bad advice. Using headlights on beaches that allow vehicle access is a necessity at night. Depending on the beach, there can be many dangerous objects that are barely visible even with headlights on. I recommend using your low beams and trying your best not to point them directly towards another angler or the surf. Instead of a large lantern that lights up your entire fishing area, I have found the use of a small headlamp very helpful. If you have a hard time seeing your fishing rods at night, you can get the bracelet style glow sticks and attach them to the rod tips. There are various other “rules” but the bottom line is using common sense and being respectful. Not only will you be able to relax and enjoy your fishing experience, but you never know who you could be influencing.
  19. Fish Report 5/15/09 Sea Bass - A Limit Spiny Dogfish Tale of Tautog Eleven Summer Flounder Hi All, Friday, May 15, 2009 - a passenger caught a 25 fish limit. Someone probably hit a big jackpot at the Dover slots too. The new 12 1/2 size makes it tough. Definitely sending all home with enough for a big fish fry - rarely have to count what's in the cooler though. This fishing beats the heck out of grinding fiberglass. It does not beat the sea bassing earlier this decade. You know, before there were creel limits and the legal size was just starting to mosey up towards twelve inches. Management ought to seriously ponder that. Might be some other tools beside the recreational fishers' shock collar/choke chain of more restriction. Really. Dogfish, devilish scourge of the Mid-Atlantic, seem to be thinning. Not wishing them on fishers to our north - won't miss 'em either. Mid-May is extremely late for spinys here. Good riddance. That, I expect, also explains the less than robust start to this spring's sea bassing. Not that the spiny sharks were scaring/preying upon/competing for prey with sea bass, but that the water temp suited the gray devils and even a few early May codfish. Colder on the bottom. Some sea bass would chew - the rest shiver. Better bite today. Once in a lifetime overhaul took me out of the loop for toggin' this winter. We've nicked just enough to remind me that I miss it. Next year. On the dock I listen while a great angler describes losing a dandy last week. I know the pain. Next day I watch as another skilled fisher breaks off the perfect tog. Already a 13 pounder in the box - this next fish could not be stopped on 50 pound. Wrenching. Really, these guys are on point, yet this species... January. Got the rod holders mounted. Spots 1, 20 & 23 have vanished like the southern stocks of scup, red hake and Atlantic mackerel. Only amounts to a few more inches per spot, sometimes a foot, but its a big difference. Nice. The lost fish are attributed to warmer water - couple degrees. Horse feathers. I think its colder on the bottom. Ice melt flows down coast with the Labrador current.. Habitat fidelity renders 'coastal stock assessments' nearly useless in restoration. Act local - restore coastal. Warm water is not why scup/ling/mackerel have left - fishing is. It can be fixed. So I was at a meeting. Missed a bunch of 'em this winter; made this one. "No one was whining and crying about these numbers." as she pointed to some fairly realistic catch estimates from past years. My head almost exploded. Near as I can tell we have this fall flounder closure because two guys had 11 flounder for one MRFSS interview last year. Could be wrong about that. That's what I got. Shore bound effort is fairly constant in the early fall. Same regulars. Same spots. None seem to recall catching 30 times what the party/charter guys caught in that period. Odd. Statistically perfect, these shore bound anglers caught between 2000 and 60,000 some flatties. Unfortunately, managers have to use the mean - 30 some thousand. Therefore, shore bound anglers did catch 30,000+ in September/October - that put Maryland way over their recreational flounder quota. I tried to understand. I know Copernicus's proof was hard won, Einstein's 'light will be bent by gravity' too. Mathematics require proof - testing. If Pythagoras hadn't been right they'd have berated the heck out him - we sure wouldn't know of him today. Yet the assertion that the center of this statistical spread is suitable for management is unquestioned and, apparently, unprovable. Hmm. Needs to be a test - a proof, something that will narrow the spread of the numbers. Lot of talk about more interviews. Funding for same. More kerosene to put out the fire. Hammer at the data - where is the CPUE (catch per unit of effort)comparison from the fairly hard data of the charter/party fishers? Where in blazes is the computation of the number of participants? Can it be that statistics simply 'are'; there's no proof required? Can it be that managers will watch participants suffocate from such swill? That's how it is now. Think I'll go nick a few sea bass. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  20. Harbor Tackle Fishing Report March 10, 2009 <o:p></o:p> My first fishing report of the year – really nothing to tell; however, I just talked to my ocean bait man and he has forecasted a good fishing season. He feels that since we had a winter, the fish have wintered in their normal areas and should be showing up very soon. He feels that the stripers and big blues should be starting to move up into our area no later than mid to late March. The commercial fishermen have caught a few bunker and mackerel in their nets. If the weather holds up I will have fresh ocean bunker for the weekend. Maryland DNR has decided the 2009 founder regulations. The legal size is 18 inches 3 creel limit and the season begins April 15<sup>th</sup>, 2009 and ends September 13<sup>th</sup>, 2009.
  21. Fish Report 7/27/08 Flatties UFOs More on Sea Bass Hi All, Nicked a few flounder last Saturday. Better than that perhaps. We've been catching some -a few- for a month; now we're focusing on them. Oddly enough, with the size limit 2 inches bigger this year we've not had a boat limit yet. More tagging opportunities though. Pool winners have been over 6 pounds, one 8. If you like a fancy flounder rig fastened to 20 lb. micro-braid on a light but stout 7+ foot rod... I certainly wouldn't describe it as red hot -it's not- just the best I have to offer. There are a few -very few- sea bass mixed in as well.................. At any fisheries meeting there are descriptions of UFO sightings. I watched one fellow tell how Russians were coming in at night and trawling all the flounder up. We all have a theory, and since the federal black sea bass panel meets soon... Stay with me on this. My last report went deep --too deep some said!-- into the vexing decline of sea bass after 10 years of federal management. I noted that as the size of spawning sea bass decreased -and our region's habitat footprint increased- the population grew. I think it was a thousand fold increase. Really. That expansion was underway prior to the first federal and state regulations on sea bass. It's a fact that all sea bass are born female and some will transition to male. When/if that change occurs is dependant on the size and number of other male breeders. As the population grew the young didn't transition and enter the spawning class right away as they had. Males in the mid-90's were frequently 7 1/2 inches. By 2003 the average male was probably 15 inches. Are there similar selection processes for the females? Do all of the females, no matter how small, spawn simply because we see roe while cleaning them? I doubt it. No, I think as the sea bass spawning size moves up the production curve falls off - they naturally won't overpopulate. At that point fishing pressure on large fish becomes a more important management issue. I was reading in Jeffrey Kluger's book "Simplexity" about the 1854 London cholera epidemic. Physician John Snow focused on finding the source and succeeded. Taking the handle off a water pump brought the outbreak to a close. Fishery management has a 10 + year history with sea bass. What looked like a stunning recovery has gone flat - below flat actually. It's not as good as when they started. Managers will respond by tightening landings - the increased size limit and decreased creel limit that we're all familiar with. What we need is for our managers to follow Dr. John Snow's example and find what handle needs to come off. The fix won't show up in a "coast-wide sea bass landings chart" just as a chart of the number of deaths per week in that London epidemic would never have resolved it. They'll have to dig deeper. Habitat fidelity is key. Fishing Vessel Trip Reports too. Throw the MRFSS numbers out; it's mostly a 'for-hire' and commercial fishery anyway - use the FVTRs. A spawning stock biomass assessment that isn't fixed in it's 'age at maturity' might help too. And unless management is satisfied that German U-Boats and storms created all our sea bass habitat; there might be something in the "Protect and Enhance Essential Fish Habitat" section of the Magnuson Act that could be used as an important tool in rebuilding many fisheries.. Did I mention coral? Need to get it right. Soon. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 The Morning Star
  22. Fish Report 7/20/08 Still Sea Bass & A Very Few Flatties Oscillations The Four-Seventy Plan After a decade of tightening recreational and commercial quota management, I think sea bass numbers have declined to below their pre-nine inch federal size limit population. Hi All, Heart of summer's a busy time in Ocean City. Weeks and weeks of calm seas and warm temperatures.. Would that the fishing were as predictable. In my last report I wrote: A tough summer; tough if you expect to fill a box with sea bass. Not so bad if you want to enjoy a day on the water and don't mind just catching a dinner or two.. And every once in a while either having to go out to dinner - or buy freezer bags to put fish up! Usually lots of throwbacks with a few keepers. Seems like the slower days have a much better grade of fish. Flounder tease - just a handful. Based on my 4 years of fluking the same wrecks and natural corals that I've fished for 28; not time yet. And that is exactly the case now, perhaps a bit tougher. Thought I'd wait 'till fluke were biting better before sending a new one. Not Yet. Soon. I hope...... "Well captain, why aren't there a lot of sea bass." It's a question I'm asked a lot; sometimes venomously, as if I headed up their management. Sheesh, though there is some progress, I haven't even been able to get the region's coral reefs recognized as Essential Fish Habitat nor even tried to get our tube worm colonies looked at. If coral's too much trouble... Still, I am going to wander through a lot of years spent in the fishery and try to point out ways that we ought to manage sea bass differently; also point out some 'coincidences.' I worked deck on the old wooden Angler in the early '80's. It was a time when the first 2 weeks of August were brutal. We'd go in the ocean knowing that 7 or 8 sea bass on the whole boat was going to be about it. Not 7- 8 keepers and a lot of throwbacks. In those days everything was a keeper. Everything. I put the first 9 inch size limit on bass in 1992. Just a boat rule; it was enforced with the blessings of the Nichols who owned the OC Princess. Angus Phillips called the idea a 'Band-Aid'. And so it was. Derned if it wasn't a pretty deep cut. The fishery needed first aid. A band aid was all I had. Often carrying 85-90 people; the self imposed size limit ensured we'd put some back. But with no creel limit we'd often have customers with 40 or 50 fish each. In late fall high man would often break 200. Yet the sea bass population continued to expand. In '97 or '98 the state and fed got on the same page and regulated sea bass with a 9 inch limit. It was during this time when I noticed reef areas getting bigger. as an example, I'd fished a rock for years on two tight anchors - set just so. Now I could drift 3/4 of a mile there. And catch 2 or 3 thousand fish before moving. In other places 6 or 7 thousand fish. A thousand fold increase. Even with the tiny 9 inch size limit, most of the sea bass caught were throwbacks. But there were enough keepers to make it interesting. These sea bass were so small that once filleted, gulls could swallow the carcass whole. A lot of the keepers were male. A lot of the throwbacks were too. (Hermaphrodites; sea bass all start life female; some then transition to male) During the 80's - early 90's multi-state trawl effort off our coast, especially in the fall, was substantial. After considerable research and underwater video work, I attribute the new reef growths --the expansion of natural reef-like habitat-- to draconian restrictions put on flounder trawls in the early mid-90's. Exploding demand for horseshoe crabs as bait in the conch fishery and one hundred pound summer flounder trip limits kept the trawl fleet tight to the beach. With no gear mowing it down, the soft corals, sponges and bryozoans grew back - the rocks further offshore had become reef again. Many large patches of tube worm grew too and were colonized by sea bass. Also during this time of expanding habitat and increasing sea bass numbers we tagged about 5000 sub-legal to jumbo cbass. Recaptures strongly indicated habitat fidelity; that the fish returned after overwinter migration to the same area. Management escalated: 10 inches, then 11 inches and a 25 fish per person limit, then 12 inches with the 25 creel. In 2003 it had all come together. Customers were often limited out on whatever size limit they chose. Twelve was legal, but why waste opportunity. Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen inches; you could get a 25 fish limit or dern near on the high end. Only on the hot, calm days in deeper water did I insist that all legal fish be retained - release mortality skyrockets in those conditions. Interestingly, release mortality is rarely a problem in sea bass smaller than 10 1/2 inches. What I best remember of the peak: two old gentlemen giggling as they caught double keepers on bare silver hooks; whole days when we'd never use bait, just plastic grubs - that's what the fishing was like. And virtually none of the throwbacks were male.. A mature stock of fish. I believe our present dilemma began in the early part of 2004 when commercial boats were steaming way offshore to pick up sea bass from trawlers working the wintering grounds that had caught too many. I heard a lot about it then, but didn't give it much thought. They were under quota regulation - so many fish and that's it. In some instances a trawler 50 miles off may have had tens of thousands of pounds of sea bass, but no permit to land them. Better to have offloaded them to those with a permit than dump 'em back dead.. I saw the graphs. It was the highest reported trawl landings where our sea bass overwinter. And, many were actually landed by other types of boats. I have no idea how they 'reported' their 'catch'. It was a lot of fish. Knocked off balance - the stock began to topple. With high expectations, coastal fishers -the trappers, partyboats and charters- worked hard to catch in subsequent years. Really hard. Still are. We tried to catch on the pummeled remnants what we had caught in the 2003 season. Sea bass, like so many species, spawn at a younger age when their population is down. In well developed populations spawning occurs later. If my assertion is correct that the amount of sea floor habitat expanded, then that would also be cause for numerous young sea bass to transition to male. This because the new habitat being colonized was not inhabited by older 'bulls' nor large females that could fairly rapidly transition to male. Also, during most of the period when the sea bass population was expanding, there was no creel limit. Constant heavy pressure on the species kept the spawning age young. Curiously, commercial spiny dogfish landings peaked in 1998. If there is a case to be made for direct predation or competition for prey it may show here.... Now, after a decade of tightening recreational and commercial quota management, I think sea bass numbers have declined to below their pre-nine inch federal size limit population. Enter the Four-Seventy Plan; or, Another Fortunate Accident In Sea Bass Management. With diesel at $4.70 a gallon and Individual Fishery Quotas (IFQs) in place, trawl fishers seem to be waiting to capture their quotas of flounder. From what I can see, trawl effort in the 12 to 30 mile range is way down. There is once again an abundance of sub-legal males. The oscillating curve of the sea bass population is going to swing upward. Meanwhile, managers are going to continue to do what they always do: respond with far stricter regulations. An increased size limit and decreased creel. It's what to do when there's no other known course of action. Essential Fish Habitat protections; varying recreational trip type limits; vigorous and visionary artificial reef development; close examination of recreational discard mortality; overwinter quota by habitat area, simply being mindful of the species' habitat fidelity... A clear effort to look for ways to keep the spawning stock abundant; to prevent imbalancing the stock. That's the management we need. At the very least, management must ask, "Why did it seem to work so well and then fail miserably." Despite an obvious stock expansion in the period of no creel limit, we'll end up having to fight tooth and nail for a 15 or 20 fish recreational limit. I doubt folks will drive to OC for a chance at 10... Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 The Morning Star
  23. Doug J calls at 0800....."hows it look out there ?" I was at the Rail tagging small flatties with the tourons (47 this morning) ........I said its windy and very smokey and the whole ocean front stinks from carolina burning .....didnt phase him one bit as he then said......"go get some donuts and meet me at the dock behind my house in 1 hour." So in 45 minutes flat I pull up in the driveway with rod in 1 hand and a dozen fat pills from Dunkin's in the other hand- and we head out....under the Lesner & around the corner from Dennis's we slowed in 16 feet of water a 1/4 mile off the beach, right in front of the HMFIC's big brick dwelling on Ft Story.....same place Tony left off yesterday.....I took the wheel and was told I could not catch any fish until Doug and his special little friend - We will call him "Timmay"- had filled their limit of fish.......as Doug deployed the first 00 spoon with a 3oz inline it was hit in his hand before it ever got in the rod holder.....he handed the rod off to "Timmay" and he cranked away ..........next line went out and Doug had a fish of his own with a 2 oz and a 1 silver spoon.......this went on back & forth for 45 minutes......20 fish in the boat and I had had enough ! Come on let me catch some I shouted - Doug bellowed back at me ! Shut up and drive you fat fricker.....eat your donuts.....so with powdered sugar all over my face- the wheel in 1 hand and a cream filled in the other I continued to troll away........ another hour passes and here comes our new friend "GAL-OF-MINE" to the rescue......I haled him and let him know just what was going over on the "DRIFTWOOD"......He very point blank informed our Captain that I was to be allowed to fish too.....so we rode in close to the breakers along the beach once again and reeled in fish after fish after fish.....100's of fish,maybe 1000's.....there could have been a million for all I know.......all in the water. Not wanting to tax our creel limits we stopped at 30- 10 fish each os plenty and headed inside lynnhaven to drift for flounder and bail spot for the live bait tank........all this and home by 1 pm........I left them jokers cleaning fish at Dougs dock while I took mine home. kinda looked like Feb & striper season out there today with 200 boats just driving aimlessly in 30 directions all at once........
  24. Here are links to Delaware, Maryland and Virginia's size and creel limits. This is something you should check now and again every year there are sure to be some changes with size or creel limits. **** Make sure you check all links on these sites there are some areas like Coastal Bays and other places that have different size and creel limets ***** Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife Maryland Tidal Recreational Fisheries Regulations Virginia Marine Resource Commission
  25. Fish Report 4/1/07<o></o> Goin' Fishin'<o></o> Editorial<o></o> <o></o> <o></o> Hi All,<o></o> This past week found toggin' - eh, OK.<o></o> Really. A few days were just decent, one excellent, and a stinker.<o></o> Did have a fish tip the scale to 17 pounds. When your hot your hot ~ Sam's...<o></o> I'm pretty sure this is the last year we're going to legally be able to keep 5 tautog. I'm certain that'd be a good thing. <o></o> Until then ~effective immediately aboard the Morning Star~ anglers will be permitted only one female tog over 20 inches in their legal creel limit. <o></o> No April Fool's joke: More spawn's a good thing.<o></o> Causing another tog crash wouldn't be.<o></o> Going Fishing - Tuesday - 4/3 - 7am to 3pm - crabs provided - reservations required - calling for a nice day.<o></o> And, we'll book reservations for April 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 as above - be sure to leave the best phone number in the event of weather cancellation though.<o></o> Below is an 'editorial' I wrote and was published locally.<o></o> Regards,<o></o> Monty<o></o>> Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservations 410 520 2076 www.morningstarfishing.com<o></o> <o></o> Rebuilding Fisheries From The Bottom Up<o></o> <o></o> The "Fisheries in Decline" problem makes the news on occasion. Some fish, such as sea trout, were so abundant only 30 years ago that no one thought they could collapse: they're gone and remain so. <o></o> Still, like the herring and black-back gulls whose numbers were below 10,000 a century ago, it is possible to restore species, sometimes to new heights.<o></o> Our region of the mid-Atlantic has numerous reef-dwelling species such as lobster, sea bass, tautog, codfish and porgy. Even flounder and sand tiger shark use the habitat. Some remain economically viable fisheries, others are just a memory. <o></o> Although 'coral reef' conjures up images of lush islands and tropical seas, a closer study of corals reveals huge areas of this important seafloor habitat in temperate waters such as ours. In fact, corals flourish even at tremendous depths and frigid temperatures. They can occur anywhere that hard substrate, like rock or the hull of a sunken ship, exists.<o></o> Preserving habitat is important in any species restoration effort. Around the world corals are being mapped and protected - not just because they are coral, that's certainly important, but because they form a key habitat to so many of the stressed fisheries.<o></o> And then there's the mid-Atlantic. <o></o> Unfortunately, a geological seafloor study by Wigley and Theroux in 1981 failed to find anything other than sand and mud throughout the mid-Atlantic and therefore presumed there was no "hard-bottom" for hundreds of miles of mid-Atlantic coast. Another study, Stiemle and Zetlin 2000, found a little. <o></o> Too bad they didn't ask the fishers.<o></o> Almost since the inlet was cut in 1934, a time when marlin were frequently caught within 15 miles of Ocean City, the reef species have been a large part of the commercial and recreational fishing economy. <o></o> You can be sure that artificial reef construction hadn't even been considered at that point. A handful of shipwrecks could not have provided the footprint of habitat needed to create the fantastic catches of that era. It would be a long time before the electronics necessary to pinpoint their exact locations became available and wasn't necessary. Running by watch and compass, the fishers of that time put out their lobster and sea bass traps upon huge meadows of sea whip, sponges and star coral common to our area. <o></o> Problem was that lots of other fish and shellfish lived nearby.<o></o> There's no disputing the fact that towing a dredge or trawl net over these delicate habitats destroys them - and did. <o></o> Today only the most robust rocky bottoms are still pristine; the low-lying substrates have all been damaged at some point - maybe last week. Some areas have regrown only to be mowed back down, a process that seems to take nearly a decade. It's only where there is fear of losing the trawl net or dredge that corals get left alone.<o></o> Habitat loss equals holding capacity loss which, in and of itself, must cause a decline in the number of fishes. It's not just that fish were being overcaught ~ the surviving ones had less and less habitat on which to reproduce. Artificial reef can be used to restore some of what has been lost but it would take a tremendous effort to reestablish the original seafloor complexity.<o></o> Now there is consensus in the fisheries sciences that seafloor habitat is important - well worth preserving and allowing regrowth to occur. Advances in navigation allow astonishing precision. It is entirely possible for damaging fishing gears to stay clear of corals and rocky areas where corals could again flourish. <o></o> Our region's reefs need to get 'discovered' by fisheries scientists and managers before we can see real progress with population restoration. These areas need to be charted and zones of protection for certain gears declared around them. <o></o> Given sound fisheries management, an expanding footprint of habitat will allow populations of reef dwelling fish to recover far more quickly. Predators too would benefit - not just the sharks and marlin, but the recreational and commercial fishers as well.<o></o><o> </o>