A Little Bumpy, But A Decent Bite

By Scott Lenox

A Little Bumpy, But A Decent Bite

Hit the video for flounder gear available at Atlantic Tackle!

It was a hot one today folks!  Considering that it’ still May it was real hot!!  The wind was blowing a little bit too which had the back bay a little dirty and the ocean a little rough, but it was still fishable and there were still plenty of fish caught.

Captain Jason Mumford of the Lucky Break had a nice afternoon on the bay today for his anglers.  There was some catch and release rockfish action in the inlet and then three keeper flounder.

Captain Chase Eberle of Chasin’ Tides Charters put his anglers on a dock load of sea bass on today’s trip.

Anglers on board the Angler with Captain Chris Mizurak had a good day of fishing despite the bumpy conditions.  There were plenty of fat knot head sea bass for the frying pan.

Captain Marc Spagnola of Dusk to Dawn Bowfishing was on the river and the fish paid with their lives.  Snakehead, gar and some big catfish fell to some awesome shooting by Captain Marc’s crew.

Yesterday the crew of the Hot Line out of the Ocean City Fishing Center caught the first shark of the year when they boated this 347 pound thresher shark.

Bob Pino of Hook Optics and An Optical Galleria had a great day of bluefishing behind Assateague.  Bob used cut bait to catch some nice “chopper” sized fish.

Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star had a nice day on the ocean today and had some limits of sea bass around the rail.

Current ripping down the beach. Must have been a hearty SSW wind last night too. These opposing forces stood seas up in an uncomfortable manor this morning. After Stephen shoved our blocks overboard we soon found the sea bass had gotten fussy. Did what we could with it.  A true professional mariner from world wide shipping, Capt. Mike pocketed today’s pool money. Some fellows had their limit, some just dinner. An odd day in an odd year’s start to sea bass. 

Sea bass fishing really is OK, just not stellar. I think that bad NEster just before our season opened moved a lot of fish around. The new size limit too forces a lot of plump, tasty cbass to go back for a few more weeks before they grow into size limit. They’ll likely grow almost 3 inches over the summer. Perhaps we’ll get a few more to spawn as they grow that extra half inch, but its not of much use.

The reason we have a longer size limit and lost three weeks of vital season is because MRIP has Private Boats catching millions more pounds of sea bass than they actually did. 

I spent a large part of the winter, two months actually, doing a deep dive on NOAA’s MRIP recreational catch estimates. That data is what prevents fisheries managers from using biology to manage sea bass. It’s ONLY the estimates that drive regulation. 

I’m hopeful my readers, as some already have, will write their DC senators and others asking to have MRIP be given an “Extended Peer Review” – or, in some other way, have Commerce Dept & NOAA ask everyone BUT statisticians what they think of MRIP.. 

All previous MRIP peer reviews have been by statisticians only. 

Gosh, boy do MRIP’s statisticians think there’s a LOT of fish in the sea. With any amount of Private Boats and any amount of fish for them to catch possible, there then becomes a nearly infinite amount of catching. In MRIP recreational Private Boat anglers from just one state frequently “catch” more sea bass by estimate than all Party/Charter effort north of Hatteras. There have been years recently where Private Boats catch more sea bass than ALL Commercial & Recreational For-Hire boats put together. In fact, there have been times when Private Boats caught DOUBLE all professional recreational and commercial effort. There was even one time when just one state’s Private Boats did exactly that (on a computer screen.) 

I wish I were kidding – 2X All Trawl, Trap, Partyboat, & Charterboat catch. 

There are even numerous instances, so bad they’re humorous, where Shore anglers are ‘estimated’ to outfish Party/Charter by giant amounts. One estimate that comes to mind is Sept/Oct MD Shore 2016 when our shore effort alone ‘caught’ 178,000 lbs of sea  bass. Ummm..

Oh, they averaged 1.4lbs apiece too. 

Even with 40 years experience I rarely average that size sea bass for my clients in a single day, and certainly never across 2 months. As for 178K pounds – that would take MD’s Party/Charter fleet 4 years (not 8 weeks) to land that many. 

When this estimate was published, in fact, we shook the internet by its ankles and found one angler who claimed to have caught a legal sea bass in Ocean City’s back bay from Shore. 

One. 

It was not 1.4lbs. 

These estimates for Shore and Private Boat have long been laughable and will make past & present US fisheries managers and scientists appear foolish when corrected.

MRIP and its predecessor, MRFSS, have always held their data becomes better and better with more states, with more two month ‘waves’, and by including all modes – Private Boat, Shore, & Party/Charter. 

In my work last winter (using my ‘percentage of the catch’ theory & going state by state, wave by wave) I found MRIP’s sea bass estimate 7.4 million pounds too high. All of it was from Private Boats. No wonder we’ve been sentenced to ‘Accountability Measures’ for being over quota. 

In 2021 MRIP has Party/Charter from Hatteras north at 508,000 sea bass  & Private Boats at 4.2 million sea bass. They are said to average about 1.9lb apiece. Party/Charter estimates are modestly firm. We do tell them what we caught every day. Private Boat estimates, however, are a wild guess. 

An easy illustration. 

With guys watching I have about 40 private boat trips so far for 5 days of MD’s 2022 sea bass season. Call it 50. That’s about 175 anglers at 3.5 persons per boat. 

Party/Charter in MD has already carried about 785 anglers sea bass fishing. 

You can see how I think it’s completely upside down when last year MRIP has 103,000 pounds of May/June sea bass for Private Boats & about 8,000 for Party/Charter. 

I am confident we have never exceeded the Recreational Harvest Limit – our recreational quota. 

Not Once. 

MRIP has been examined before. In those previous Peer Reviews – done by statisticians only – MRIP’s just been the coolest thing ever.  

I suppose if you know absolutely nothing about fish & fishing, these estimates are just peachy. 

If you’re trying to restore fish populations or are on the receiving end of bad regulations stemming from bad catch data? 

Oyyyyyy… MRIP’s bad. 

And then, as if punitively, every time we’ve forced a review of the data, estimates have risen. Sometimes by multiples. 

At least they’ve finally grown so bad others see what I and a few others have been making a fuss over all these years. 

I promise – Today many in mid & upper management are deeply concerned with MRIP’s skyhigh recreational estimates. I have long tried to warn, and now they see, where vastly overestimated catch has led to fish population estimates (stock estimates in the trade) becoming far too high as well. 

Now, with bad stock (population) estimates firmly in place, commercial quotas have been issued that shall soon be seen as ruinous to management’s multi-decadal effort. 

Owing only to MRIP’s inclusion in population estimates, commercial quotas for summer flounder and sea bass rose by 50% and more in 2018. 

Here’s the great news: among new people working in key positions, Dr Jon Hare is NOAA’s new chief fisheries scientist. I have absolute faith in him to seek what is factual. 

I’ve also spoken with Evan Howell who is newly in charge of MRIP. I found Dr Howell to be sincerely concerned. Extremely so. 

Write to Commerce, NOAA Fisheries, your State Fisheries reps – even & especially your Washington DC reps. 

Ask for an “Extended Peer Review” for MRIP. 

Every single letter counts. Very few anglers or even professionals in the recreational fishing trade can be troubled with writing such. 

Post endless complaints and nasty memes on social media?

Sure.  

Actually writing to the complaint dept? Not so much!

One sentence is all you really need: (Dear new person handed a legacy problem at NOAA Fisheries) MRIP needs an Extended Peer Review that includes Fisheries Scientists, Managers, and Fishermen themselves; not just statisticians. 

That’s it. 

Always catch more flies with sugar than vinegar. 

Be nice(ish.)

Regards, 

Monty

Write Your DC Reps (Senators & Congressman) Email will get read but if you snail mail a regional office they’ll reply in writing. 

https://www.congress.gov/members/find-your-member

NOAA is under Commerce, Secretary of Commerce, thesec@doc.gov Gina M. Raimondo

U.S. Department of Commerce1401 Constitution Ave NWWashington, DC 20230

Dr. Rick Spinrad PhD (rick.spinrad@noaa.gov ?? NOAA’s big boss)

NOAA/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 5128

Washington, DC 20230

Janet Coit, Esq. NOAA Fisheries (New Fisheries Boss with LOTS of fisheries and enviro experience)

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Ave NW

Washington, DC 20230

Evan Howell PhD. Director of MRIP (New! Willing to take a hard look at it!)

evan.howell@noaa.gov

NOAA Fisheries 

1315 East-West Highway 

Silver Spring, MD 20910

Michael Pentony NOAA’s Regional Administrator GARFO

nmfs.gar.garfo@noaa.gov

Bob Beal

Executive Director ASMFC

rbeal@asmfc.org

Dr. Chris Moore

cmoore@mafmc.org

Executive Director MAFMC

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