05.18.2012 Mother Nature, two kinds of people

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Fish Report 5/17/12 <o:p></o:p>

Sea Bass Open 5/19 <o:p></o:p>

Mother Nature <o:p></o:p>

Two Kinds Of People<o:p></o:p>

The Morning Star will be fishing for sea bass and whatever else lives on our reefs (except tog) nearly every day until October 11th.. <o:p></o:p>

Advance Reservations Recommended. See for more info. Pay no attention to the picture of the young fellow in the upper left corner.. We'll also try to pick up a few tile trips this summer which will be announced right here. <o:p></o:p>

Hi All, <o:p></o:p>

Hauled the boat Tuesday. Been 8 months; Went ahead and put a fresh coat of bottom paint on, cleaned her sea-water strainers -- Ready. <o:p></o:p>

Just got an email from NMFS in Gloucester (at the request of MAFMC) informing us sea bass will open May 19th. <o:p></o:p>

Getting a weather report that says, 'Yeah, maybe.' <o:p></o:p>

Might get a day out of it Saturday--Mother Nature always has veto power. Later in the week looks great. <o:p></o:p>

Believe me, there were times tog fishing these last few weeks when I had FISH under my boat--cbass are stacked up on some reefs. <o:p></o:p>

************ <o:p></o:p>

There are skippers who worked hard to get sea bass open, managers too. I know some folks in Annapolis put in a serious effort so we could have a few more days of fishing; People at NOAA & MAFMC were fighting for us. <o:p></o:p>

When Capt. Adam Nowalsky made the motion to move the start date from May 22cnd to May 19, some knew then it was going to be tight: Here the very regulatory pathway designed to give us a fighting chance at killing bad regulation almost prevented a good one coming our favor.. <o:p></o:p>

My Thanks To All The Lifters. <o:p></o:p>

************** <o:p></o:p>

Hall's Restaurant donated another fine evening to the Ocean City Reef Foundation. All Tackle, Ake Marine & Oyster Bay tackle shops donated piles of stuff for the Chinese auction. Dick Arnold donated incredible framed photos.. Its usually our biggest fundraiser. <o:p></o:p>

Again, My Thanks To All The Lifters. <o:p></o:p>

There's so very much we could do with reef building. Need to shift management's focus off catch restriction; Broaden it. Need to fund re-reefing the Mid-Atlantic. <o:p></o:p>

Going to spend 2012 re-reefing one block at a time, One "oyster castle" at a time.. (well, 18 or so at a time.) <o:p></o:p>

In fact, we dropped two 8 block units our last trip out. <o:p></o:p>

************** <o:p></o:p>

All these cbass closures have really put the heat on our tog. Time to give them a rest. They've been hit much harder since the 2009 sea bass emergency closure. Based on terrible data, our sea bass catch-estimates grew far worse in 2010. <o:p></o:p>

Opportunity now to put some nice sea bass in a skillet means more tog will fatten up on mussels. <o:p></o:p>

Shifting effort back to sea bass & throwing back 10 pound tog is how we make 20 pound tog.. <o:p></o:p>

Be cotton-candy if we had blues, mackerel & seatrout like we used to. <o:p></o:p>


I've spent over a decade trying to convince management that A) We have reefs off our coast, B) Fish benefit from them, & C) It is precisely the knowledge of habitat and fidelity that is most crucial in quota management. <o:p></o:p>

I'm also trying to convince them their recreational catch statistics more closely resemble codswallop than science; That they can devise a fairly simple method to test catch-estimates for accuracy. <o:p></o:p>

Now I want to convince them "Recreational Overfishing" of sea bass is nearly imponderable with size & creel regulation; That "Over-Managing" -- not over-fishing -- is hampering the sea bass fishery.. <o:p></o:p>

Kendall's 1977 review of sea bass knowledge states emphatically: "Larger fish are all males. Nearly all fish >25 cm (9.8 inches) are males. Thus catches of large fish will consist of males." <o:p></o:p>

To get all this you have to understand every sea bass begins life as a female--only some fish will change to male as spawning requires.. Seemingly happens in many reef fish. <o:p></o:p>

Anyway, bet your last dollar it was true in 1977---That, Yes, many 7, 8 & 9 inch fish had already switched. In fact, in the late 80s & early 90s scientists told us ALL sea bass had spawned by 9 inches--Some Twice. <o:p></o:p>

Now, however, with the 12.5 inch size limit in place, very few sea bass have switched even by 12 inches and almost none by 9.. <o:p></o:p>

Under today's management Kendall's observation that "nearly all sea bass 9.8 inches are male" is completely flipped: If there is only legal recreational pressure on a given reef then there will be No Male Sea Bass Under 10 Inches -- None. <o:p></o:p>

They'll all be female. <o:p></o:p>

And, importantly, I bet none will have entered the spawning population. <o:p></o:p>

Our black sea bass population currently behaves as though their reef populations were at peak; They're naturally slowing down spawning activity as every animal in the world does in an overcrowded situation. But their cue is not in "crowding" or reef population density as I once thought it must be. No, instead it is the size of other fish around them that triggers or delays spawning. <o:p></o:p>

Our sea bass spawning population is now a pyramid where the fish who have survived nature--who have managed to feed & not be eaten for years, who have evaded the commercial 11 inch size limit, who have survived recreational release even 4 or 5 times; Those fish that lived 3 years are just beginning to spawn ..and that's exactly when we catch them. <o:p></o:p>

I think there'd be many, many more cbass in the ocean with just an 11 inch limit across the board - many more cbass spawning. <o:p></o:p>

************** <o:p></o:p>

There are people working hard to help recreational fishers get more season from today's management process. There are intricacies in fisheries politics I can't begin to fathom, yet these folks have them mastered.. <o:p></o:p>

Still, a few simple biological responses rest in the void between sea & screen, they represent some of management's greatest tools unused. <o:p></o:p>

************** <o:p></o:p>

"..two kinds of people in the world it seems, those who lift & those who lean." <o:p></o:p>

Strikes me the challenge is in getting all the lifters headed in the same direction. <o:p></o:p>

************** <o:p></o:p>

Gonna be some good fishing for a while. <o:p></o:p>

You ought to come see us. <o:p></o:p>


Monty <o:p></o:p>

Capt. Monty Hawkins

Party Boat "Morning Star"

Reservation Line 410 520 2076<o:p></o:p>

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