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12.02.2010 Sea Bass & Tog Fiasco Coming

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Fish Report 12/2/10

A Fine Finish

Start Again Soon

Sea Bass & Tog Fiasco Coming

Bullet Points Below

 

Tell your shoppers about Morning Star Gift Certificates! Always Honored! Reservation Line's 24/7!

 

I have poured over hundreds of hours of video these last weeks: My conclusion remains unchanged; If you want sea bass & tog in profusion, simply roll rocks off a barge and wait 3 years. It's that complex.

 

Reef Restoration Makes Fishery Restoration Simple.

Hi All,

Weatherman didn't make it too easy. Snuck a piece of Saturday in, couldn't get very far off in NW gusts to what must have been 40. Caught a few limits of tog. Headed for home with 1/2-off coupons around.

Sunday's forecasted NW at 10 to 15 was really 20. Just doable. We started on sea bass & a few tog.. Wind calmed down some. Nicked a few more tog. Saw better keeper bass. Then it got pretty. Wind just about gone, we caught tog to 16.5 pounds and plenty of sea bass. Those cbass hitting a jig.. Wonderful. Long time old friend.

Tasty fish made more fun on artificials.

Nice Day.

Monday we paddled on off to more than 70 feet of water and enjoyed a very fine sea bass pull. I used the extra-fancy, super-deluxe, buy-your-hooks-separately jigs; Pretty jigs from pretty displays with a pretty name & pretty prices: But I couldn't keep up with the guy I lent a good-ol six ounce Bridgeport diamond jig to.

My long, graceful underhand casts to where a big one must surely lie were answered by Richard's straight-down drop---POW!

It's all good.

Really good.

A fine catch. Some had limits, most had fun, some were grumpy--Uncle!

Cbass were seriously voracious; much to my tog fishers' displeasure. The least crack in a crab or any movement--BAM--sea bass.

Tog fanatics stayed their course though: Grumble, Curse, Mutter ~ Die Devil Bass! Allow us our TOG! AWAY! 

A 10 & 13 topped the tog list..

Now tog are done in MD. Looking at a lot of NW winds.. Reckon I'll give the ol' girl some TLC before tog reopen in January.

Be here before we know it.

Tog are closed in December because of a few insane catch estimates back in 2007. Ol' Uncle Murfs again.. They've laid out his headstone you know *M-RIP* but he's still getting his licks.. Please allow me one sentence with numbers, just a little closer look at the MD recreational catch estimates for tog: Zero -no fish- for private boats in early fall of 06, Then 31,023 tog in that same period for 07, Then no fish again in 08, Followed by 1,451 tog in 09..

Every bit of that tiny slice of our official estimate is wrong. Now add in the other sets--party, charter, shore--That's supposed to make it better, but it's really error squared. Then add in the stock assessment's variations; You know, the population estimate of fish that live on the reefs we haven't got: Error cubed.

The guys that fish inshore tog every year could have created a far better data set: Far, far better.

Error Cubed: It's the sort of "Data" that will decide the fate of my business--the fate of many fishing businesses in coming weeks.

"We have to restore tautog."

Oh?

When sea trout collapsed under intense fishing pressure in the early 80s, shore fishers found they had only to switch baits and drop straight down. I well remember many 8 and 10 pound tog in our back bays--12s even--and friends who took great delight in their capture..

No size limit, no creel limit; Fish under great pressure for sure.

There is, however, no argument that supports a 'restoration' of that fishery. From the start it was created in our back-bays by unintentional reef; A pair of jetties, A railroad bridge, A highway bridge, More & more stone & boulder rip-rap.

Shipwrecks, A growing artificial reef system, A rare & robust piece of natural-bottom; There is our marine tog habitat.

Tautog are inextricably tied to habitat and benefit with each and every hard surface we create.

It's a fishery that certainly needs management, but for economic stability rather than restoration. Its a fishery that we can manage to far greater heights than present; A fishery that's fun, available to everyone who can reach our shorelines, who can muster a partyboat ticket, who sallies forth in their own rig. It provides a tasty reward for succesful effort and can be taken to skill levels that must be seen to be believed.

It's a fishery for which engineered reef, even Capt. Monty's shade-tree engineered Tog-Tubes, can push populations far beyond what we now imagine.

It's also a fishery that, like all other reef fisheries, is about to get caught in the maelstrom of 'rebuilding deadlines.'

A fishery that couldn't exist in our coastal waters save for man-made reef has to meet a rebuilding schedule..

Since fish must always be a product of habitat before fishing can remove them, true fishery restoration must consider habitat restoration a priority. Restore tautog.. Hmm..

I'd bet the whole of State and Federal Fisheries couldn't find 10 tog living on natural bottom--natural reef--within normal fishing range of Maryland.

But I'd also bet there are far more tog within range of Maryland today--Right Now--than in 1985.

It's a fishery that certainly needs management, but for economic stability rather than restoration......

Have a habitat conference in Virginia Beach coming up.

It's a huge shift in management--a brand new direction that I am heartened to see. Seafloor habitat in the mid-Atlantic has been very difficult to get on the table--been trying for over a decade.

Message: Reef Restoration Makes Fishery Restoration Simple. I have poured over hundreds of hours of video these last weeks: My conclusion remains unchanged; If you want sea bass & tog in profusion, simply roll rocks off a barge and wait 3 years. It's that complex.

But no, in the mid-Atlantic we have yet to discover reef. In fact, our corals are officially classed as "Non-Habitat Forming."

Honest!

Very difficult here.. With 30 years on the water I do have a sailor's vocabulary.. Be nice.. I hope whoever formed that opinion--and made it policy--is at the conference. I promise to show that our corals are habitat forming, That they form habitat complexity which fish have great need of to survive. That "non-habitat forming corals" are simply corals that have been been disturbed too often, haven't had time to regrow.

That rocks with a lot of "non-habitat forming corals" support many fish; That rocks without these useless corals or some other dense growth do not.

I have video of reefs that have been bush-hogged by trawl to bare rock, Reefs that have been left alone and thrive with life; I have video of an artificial reef sunk in 1969 that is 100% covered in Very Habitat-Forming "non-habitat-forming" hard coral. It's 8 miles out.

Any scientist or regulator that views that coral growth and declares it non-habitat forming isn't in a drug screening program..

Speaking of which; If you happen to get called up for a random drug test, remember to get the live green crabs--that day's tog bait--out of your pockets.

Some things we learn later in life..

Anyway:

Reef Restoration Makes Fishery Restoration Simple.

That doesn't mean reef restoration will be simple..

Simple in concept; but politics lie just over the next rise.

Core biological principals -- especially habitat's broad importance and, more narrowly, the response of fishes to spawn earlier when under pressure -- have been completely disregarded in the reef fisheries to pursue data of dubious quality.

They call sea bass a data-poor fishery..

Right about that at least.

Fish are always a product of habitat before fishing can remove them. Yet we presently have reef-fish management with, literally, no concept, no science, no idea of their habitat: We have no way to allow for habitat production's loss or gain in any reef-fish rebuilding plan. 

Witness the mammoth artificial reefs made of Manhattan's granite construction debris & Massachusetts' protected natural rock/reef habitat restorations, Places where today's sea bass catch is supposedly centered, Places where people have worked hard to make fishing better with real reef, Places restored where fish can shelter, feed, spawn & grow: The reward for real fisheries restoration work? Fishery closure. 

We've done some of that reef building here too. Closure's our reward as well.

I'd bet that's exactly what's going on with red snapper, another reef fish down south; That the positive effects of habitat enhancement refuse to fit in a restoration model that does not recognize habitat.

Its not a joke. In this regard management has failed.

We must discover sky-fall theory is wrong, that fish are always a product of habitat before fishing can remove them---Always.

We'll eventually discover our lost reef's footprint and restore it.

We'll eventually use engineered reef to maximize habitat production.

For now we restore reef-fish with catch-restriction only ..using data that no scientist can stomach.

Reef fish restoration without concern for habitat & holding capacity theory implies that regulators believe our habitat is in stasis, that nothing is increasing or diminishing habitat..

The 2007 Essential Fish Habitat Source Document for black sea bass presumes that, from studies before 1987, sea bass are spawning at a younger age --7 1/2 inches-- because of increasing fishing pressure.. Sakes! How about after 1987? How about after the 1997 nine inch rule, the 1999 ten inch, 2003.. We're now at 12 1/2 inches! 

That's how carefully considered all this is. It's just one more item on a get-me-the-heck-out-of-this-meeting agenda. I've seen my whole world suspended as an agenda item - will again.

I believe size limit increases have diminished spawning numbers. The Source Document supports that, if only in offhand way. It's really basic fisheries science. 

Our reef fisheries are called 'data poor' for a reason. They can't sample numbers of living fish well with present population estimating techniques: Our recreational landings estimates are simply ludicrous at times.

And, according to the Source Document, our region's sea bass live over soft sediments in winter......

UhHu.

True: Last year's "Emergency Sea Bass Closure" certainly did our tog no favors.

From Encarta -- Fiasco: Humiliating Failure, A total failure, especially a humiliating or ludicrous one. 

 

Here are the Black Sea Bass Options (our upcoming Fiasco) as they stand now. My comment in bold below each.1) maintain the current minimum fish size and possession limit, and adjust the season only;regulations would include a 12.5 inch TL minimum fish size, 25 fish possession limit, and an

open season from September 1 through October 19 (majority of peak wave 5); [reduction bywave; 0+0.0214+0.2705+0.1768+0.0829+0.1100] = total reduction* = 66.2 percent

Here we're offered 7 1/2 weeks where we rebuilt the fish from scratch with rarely ever a few weeks of the year closed.

2) maintain the current minimum fish size and possession limit, and adjust the season only; regulations would include a 12.5 inch TL minimum fish size, 25 fish possession limit, and anopen season from May 19 through August 22 (partial waves 3 and 4); [reduction by wave;0+0.0214+0.0798+0.0258+0.4213+0.1100] = total reduction* = 65.8 percent

Gee, go dolphin watching the rest of the year? be nice..

3) adjust the minimum fish size, possession limit, and season; regulations would include a 13.0inch TL minimum fish size (+ 0.5 inch TL), 10 fish possession limit (-15 fish), and an openseason from September 17 through December 31 (partial wave 5 and full wave 6);[(0.1847+0.5792)-0.1070] = reduction* = 65.7 percent

Super Fiasco..

4) maintain the current minimum fish size and adjust the possession limit and season;regulations would include a 12.5 inch TL minimum fish size, 1 fish possession limit (-24 fish),and an open season from September 1 through December 31 (full wave 5 and 6);[(0.4179+0.4687)-0.1959] = reduction* = 69.1 percent

Complete & total super fiasco..

 

OK - Not Nice - The whole thing is a cooked-up bunch of uncleaned chitlins. The Dagoned Data's No Good! No one will argue that it is.

A bad, terrible bad, set of options. But, since we must discuss them.. Then shred them I hope.

  • Dropping the creel limit to 1 fish only saves 48% of the catch.. Heroin clouds. It's gonna save all the fish my clients might have caught..
  • Dropping the creel limit to 10 fish might be OK in 7 weeks of summer with other seasons open: Won't sell in spring, fall or winter.
  • Sea Bass fishers were too proud to file for federal fishery failure/emergency assistance last year. Most of us now on economic edge, we'll have no choice this time.
  • The client who shells out $100.00 or $150.00 for a day's fishing is looking for a different experience than the many-many more people who go on shorter, much less expensive trips.
  • Much of the extra time purchased is spent running to reef with less pressure: Fishers know that a little-known reef only a quarter mile from a well-known reef can have fantastically more fish---This a result of the habitat fidelity that tagging has proven.
  • Managers just don't get that THIS--the habitat fidelity--is why fish caught in Massachusetts don't mean a thing in Maryland, why a 'coastwide plan' is silly, non-fish restoring, paperwork saving, job killing, business destroying rubbish. ..be nice.
  • Since fish must always be a product of habitat before fishing can remove them, true fishery restoration must consider habitat restoration a priority.
  • The reef fisheries are called data poor for a reason. Managers can't sample numbers of living fish well with present population estimating techniques: Our recreational landings estimates are simply ludicrous at times.
  • Size limit increases have decreased the spawning population & potential. Size limits should be the same for com/rec to magnify spawning potential. The size limit should be brought back down slowly to 11 or 11 1/2 inches. 
  • Habitat fidelity demands sea bass management by region, especially in the highly-mobile industrial winter fishery. No Black Sea Bass Management Plan Will Work Without Factoring Fidelity--ask a salmon restorationist. Use the major Bays and Sounds as regional centers. Angle the divisions along migratory corridors.
  • Fish a product of habitat.. Yet we presently have reef-fish management with, literally, no concept, no science, no idea of their habitat: We have no way to allow for habitat production's loss or gain in any reef-fish rebuilding plan. 
  • Areas of rocky or otherwise productive seabed must be protected from gear impacts either by paper regulation that may work, Or by making the areas more robust permanently by adding boulder. That would really restore a lot of fish!

Sea bass management in the Mid-Atlantic is a total, humiliating failure: A fiasco that has cost me nearly everything and may yet finish me.

It could all be changed in a few months time.

Or stay the same for years to come.

Just with less participants.

 

Regards,

Monty

 

Capt. Monty Hawkins

mhawkins@siteone.net

Party Boat "Morning Star"

Reservation Line 410 520 2076

http://www.morningstarfishing.com/

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    Thanks for that report and info Monty,glad you didn't go past cubed,my mathamatical skills are limited.Agree with you 100%.

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