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Fish Report 7/19/10

Sea Bass

Flounder? Eh..

Et Tu SSC?

Hi All,

Sea bassing remains unchanged. That is, it changes everyday as fishing might, but in aggregate we're scratching up dinner and throwing a lot of fish back.

Two days this week were much better than that. Much better.

Another day we got a mile past sea buoy only to turn tail and run for home: Rough. Reschedules or refunds.

Still another -perhaps rougher but with a saltier crew- boxed 'em up.

Carry more grandkids this time of year. I try to keep it in mind.

Flounder tease.. a few keepers plus 20-some shorts --the fluke we tag-- caught in with the cbass. Swell dies & picks up. A sustained calm should do it; Get'em fired-up. Hope.

Caught a few mahi on the troll of late. Running at hull speed isn't entirely too fast; We catch a few fish a year just coming and going to the reefs. Even caught a mahi inside the Bass Grounds, about 7 miles out, last week.

Pretty water. Mahi closer & closer. A trend.

Up early. Rummage in the attic for all the goodies that we pull behind a moving boat. Some lures from decades ago--each a story, super-expensive stainless steel hooks, crimping sleeves, 250 pound test, more beads than a kindergarten summer camp: Some assembly required.

Ready to give clients just a taste of offshore fishing. Perhaps wet their appetite for a trip on a charter boat or even a mega-yacht that 'charters' as a 'business'..

Ready.

Chatter on the radio turns sour. What was clean, clear water has turned green. The fleet is turning offshore.

C'mon oysters..

Ah well, throw some lures out anyway.

There's still the kites and chum too - a few sharks.

Young Gavin; who allowed he was, "..surprised to see fog this morning but glad that it burnt off so soon" -- And, after checking with Mom, knows he's going into 3rd grade, caught some keeper cbass and helped reel in a shark off the kite.

Mission accomplished.

One of 'em.....

Among many efforts to get more people fishing--kids too; I think the single most important work is to make fishing better, to make fish populations more abundant so that catch may be increased.

No matter the nation's economy, I promise this: When fishing is great, more people go fishing.

I'm positive of that.

In today's fisheries, however, it is often regulation that determines whether fishing is great or not.

Saturday's clients caught a lot of fish but won't be inviting many neighbors to the fish-fry..

With this 'Fish Report' in past weeks, months & years I have tried to encourage a deeper look at methods of restoring our region's marine resources.

We are now tied --inextricably bound to-- data sets in which similar verbalized utterance could get a person committed.

Take for instance Maryland's shore fishing catch estimate of summer flounder in "Wave 5" -- Sept/Oct.

In 2002 the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey --MRFSS, say "Murfs"-- estimate holds that 874 flounder were landed from shore in that two month late-summer/early-fall period; In 2003 the estimate rises to 978. That 10% increase is fair enough.

In 2004, however, these poor shore fishers are thought to have caught zero/none/no fish.

Bonanza the following year: In 2005 they are estimated to have caught 12,773. But - Darn the Luck!! - In 2006 these fishers again goose-egged, a big Zip/Zero/Nada in the cooler for '07..

Ahhhh, but in 2007 the sun and stars aligned.. A mad slaughter of 36,017 fish is estimated to have been carried home by Maryland's shore anglers in this same two month period.. Talk about patience rewarded.

Then, less than half of the year before's catch; In 2008 14,962 flatties are thought to have been boxed-up from Maryland's shores..

Unfortunately, in 2009 all that shiny new tackle went unused as shore anglers are again thought to have caught Zero flounder...

I suppose that there is a "Statistical" remedy here; That everything together --all these estimates-- are OK in a broader sense.

I think that's BS. (bad statistics)

Personally --though I'd believe 2002 & 2003-- I think the rest are as clearly thought out as if by an alcoholic who had won a shopping spree at State Line Liquors..

Just lunacy.

Lots and lots of other data sets with similar characteristics.

All backed to the very top by force of law.

Crazy Uncle Murfs with his old, rusty double-barrel shotgun and a fresh fifth of whiskey; He's ready to kill any fishery. Sheriff, Natural Resources Police, State Police, Coast Guard Fisheries - All standing by, waiting with carbon copy forms and handcuffs. "Now you boys listen to your Uncle Murfs."

Or Else.

This is the modern fisheries dilemma. Everyone wants resurgent populations, but because managers have to use this type of data their credibility is following in true Coriolis fashion--Flushing counter-clockwise down the hopper.

Distracted by WWI-like trenches charges; State & federal fishery managers must constantly defend these statistics from those affected by them--The set above indicative of why we have a 19 inch flounder size limit this year. Similarly, there was recently an "Emergency Closure" of sea bass and tighter regulation..

Our fishing village withers in economic pain while much of real restoration science remains unused because managers must, by law, listen to the voices in their hard-drive.....

The voices of fishing's history, however, and from the yardsticks around the rail of my party boat, warn of bad things in wasting so much opportunity.

Lately I have tried to offer management some indication of their miscalculations in sea bass restoration. I have asserted that, in itself, historical seafloor habitat decline in the mid-Atlantic would preclude restoration of past reef-fish populations without an aggressive habitat restoration policy; That habitat fidelity makes this an absolute imperative.

Some hurdle. There is no science whatever on our region's corals and only the beginnings of charting existing reef remnants.

...given a drop camera cord of 60 or so fathoms I could video coral communities that no human has seen, but may well have been trawled upon last winter or suffered a scallop dredge last week. It is almost exclusively the footage from my 130 foot cord that has established any nearshore coral reef in the Mid-Atlantic.

I have also pressed that sea bass's habitat fidelity necessitates tighter regional fishery controls because concentrated, multi-state, industrial effort in winter can cause real, unsustainable, damage to an area's cbass population - yet remain well within thresholds of current 'coast-wide' fisheries controls.

I have asserted that size limits can control the number of fish in the spawning stock biomass both by natural means -More small fish join the spawning stock when surrounded by mostly other smalls- And via regulation which requires we make dead discard of some of the spawning stock --Here where fish under 10, perhaps even 11 inches, survive barotrauma of release out to 120 feet of water better than fish closer to and over 12 inches.

In other words, management has not concerned itself at all with habitat issues for fish known to live only on reef; And are reducing the spawning population of this region's fishery through regulation.

When fishing is great, more people go fishing. Fairness in regulation can determine whether fishing is great or not.

I have, this week, had several indications that my theories have been dismissed out of hand because of the success of sea bass management in Massachusetts.

You see, when everyone else was starting cbass management at 9 inches 15-some years ago; Massachusetts, with scarcely any fishery, went straight to a 12 inch commercial limit with tightly controlled landings and a 13 inch recreational limit of 20 fish..

POW!

Their commercial cbass fishery is now like an Alaskan herring fishery: Measured in days I'm told, their state's commercial quota is caught very rapidly -- And all in state waters.

All in state waters.. Hmmm.

Massachusetts is well-known to have a rocky coast.

Massachusetts state waters are pretty shallow too.

And: Massachusetts is well known to have aggressive trawl-gear restrictions.

..maybe the stuff growing on rocks always stays in the productive habitat loop? And there's a lot of it?

..maybe all recreational and commercial trap released cbass live?

..maybe it's not possible to have multi-state effort occur yet remain undistinguished in catch reports?

It's good to know that where there is a thriving, protected, rocky/reef-like ecology; A shallow water fishery where recreational release and commercial trap discard almost always means survival to rejoin the spawning stock; And tight, state controlled, access to a region's fishery -- Massachusetts is having great success with restoration: Very likely exceeding rebuilding targets.

Somehow has a familiar ring to it..

Almost as though it supported rather than disproved my thoughts.

Data in coastwide collection hides regional calamity.

Dig deeper Science & Statistical Committee.

Look for successes and failures in management, not the pretty bikini-clad statistics, so distracting in scientific allure, that deserve a straight-jacket: Look for real regional restorations and real regional crashes occurring under highly restrictive coast-wide management: Look for the lessons they offer.

Soon.

Our industry is dependant on it.

Regards,

Monty

Capt. Monty Hawkins

mhawkins@siteone.net

Party Boat "Morning Star"

Reservation Line 410 520 2076

Morning Star Fishing

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