Beautiful Day on the Ocean

By Scott Lenox

Beautiful Day on the Ocean

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I was able to get out on the ocean today to film a new episode of Hooked on OC and it was absolutely beautiful.  I fished on the Angler with Captain Chris Mizurak, mates Rich and Steve, my son Ryan, my good friend Dan Hackett and Ryan’s buddy Owen West.  We had good fishing for sea bass putting a bunch of fish in the cooler and Owen even added three keeper flounder.  I had good luck with our Deadly Tackle Double Trouble in orange….even caught an estimated 50 pound angel shark on it!  Should make for a great show!

Lots of other folks had good fishing on board the Angler today as well with some nice sea bass and flounder coming up, and Mike from my old hometown of Bowie, MD was the fish pool winner.

Yesterday, the crew of the private boat Sea Hag had an epic day of offshore fishing with eight stud yellowfin tuna ending up on the dock.  Thanks to Ginger Fleming for the pic!

Captain Chris Watkowski and mate Chase Porter had a good day for their crew today putting them on two white marlin releases, a yellowfin tuna and a mahi.

Justin Staats, Joe DiMattia, and James and Alexis Montgomery had a nice day of ocean fishing out of Indian River, DE with a pile of flounder and sea bass.  Justin said the Deadly Tackle white Squidly caught five keeper flounder and a bunch of the sea bass.

Joey Abbatichio had this nice keeper flounder on board the Miss Ocean City today.

Heather and Dave Borrell had a great day fishing Gulp in the Thorofare putting these keepers in the boat from 16″ to 19″.

The crew of Bayside Guide Service had several throwback sized rockfish and this nice bluefish at the route 50 bridge.

Captain Marc Spagnola of Dusk to Dawn Bowfishing put his shooters on the meat again today in the south bay.

Bobby Mallory submitted this photo of some good action on flounder, sea bass and a couple of cutlassfish from the Old Grounds.

Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star had a beautiful ride today and put his folks on some beautiful sea bass.

A glorious summer day. Calm but with enough current to allow a decent bite; I tried to make the most of it.
Among today’s regular clients, John G dropped our Reef Blocks at Sauerzopf’s Reef – we kept paddling.
Sure was a smooth ride.
Nice fish too.
John won the pool despite lots of fish hot on his heels!
Have openings next week..
Want to try and get Mid-Atlantic marine restoration issues on the table?
Believe me, there’s not a trace of consideration otherwise. A letter I wrote yesterday needs to get read by the President. Been trying across 5 administrations. But this time the Boss has a house in Rehoboth.. Might hit close to home. I’ve challenged him to find anyone in NOAA that can tell him about corals growing not 10 miles from his beach house.
There isn’t anyone.
How can we possibly start a restoration of what we have no idea is missing, or even know of what remains?
Send this along, perhaps one of us will land on his desk, or screen. (Letter below)
Mr President, I believe if you borrow a neighbor’s ax, you should return it well sharpened, perhaps even sanded & painted; certainly in better condition then you received it.
I write you today about the ocean; the ocean just offshore of Delaware, Maryland & Virginia. It was borrowed by past generations and in no way put back right from their abuses.
I doubt those men had any idea the repercussions fishing in grand scale post WWII would have on future fisheries productions. There was never evil intent; they were just making a living in one of the hardest, most dangerous professions.
Where marine restorations have a special emphasis in many parts of the country, indeed around the world; along DelMarVa the ocean has a special challenge – it is situated between two huge funding vacuums: Chesapeake & Delaware Bays. In between lies a sea of ignorance..
I promise you Sir: If you ask from among your most knowledgeable of NOAA staff, even and especially at the top – and this a group I have confidence in unlike at any other time; you’ll find no one who comprehends what todays temperate coral footprint is in the Mid-Atlantic and surely not 10 miles from your beach residence; no one who can value habitat productions of lobster, sea bass, tautog, summer flounder or squid; you’ll find no scientist with knowledge of how vast and valuable these reefs once were; and certainly no plan – not even the vaguest notion there might be need of a plan – for restoring reef habitat lost a half-century and more ago.
Remember clam strip sandwiches at Howard Johnsons? Plenty tasty, but that period was our worst for habitat impacts owed to stern towed gears. The DelMarVa coast was ground zero for surfclam harvest. With fifty and more boats fishing a clam bed at any one time, each using a hydraulic dredge weighing many tons; the fleets from every port literally liquified whatever bottom they were working. Just 9 miles off Ocean City is the Bass Grounds. Once 4.5 square miles of patchy sea whip meadows (soft coral) & star coral (a hard coral) growing on a somewhat hard substrate I believe was once marsh peat – it was reduced to mere square yards.
I do not jest.
Certainly dozens & perhaps hundreds of square miles of hardbottom substrate along the coast from NY to VA did not survive the fishery. Similar tales have been told to me from fishers as far north as Massachusetts.
I have so much more to tell you and it all ties together. As you’d well imagine,our large marine ecosystem is not simple. Discovery of what once was and a plan to put it back won’t come easy either.
An issue blinding science is that recreational catch estimates remain a complete farce – worsening even – a slap in the face to fisheries scientists & managers who MUST use NOAA’s recreational catch data despite no professional has confidence in the numbers anymore. When folks on NJ jetties are said to have caught more tautog in March & April than all commercial & recreational professional effort in the species’ range catch all year; when folks fishing Delaware’s shoreline are shown to catch more and vastly larger sea bass than Delaware’s skilled charter skippers; when private boats, mostly weekend fishers, & just those in New York catch 2X as many sea bass as All Professional Recreational & Commercial fishers land from Hatteras north All Year.. Two Times ALL professional effort!
It’s not real. It’s not true.
No confidence remains.
In fact, some managers are deeply concerned the myth of ever-larger recreational catch has skewed fish population estimates so much that commercial quotas, raised incredibly in 2018, have not been met since.
I promise – these estimates of small private boats are often orders of magnitude too high and regularly an order of magnitude. NOAA’s MRIP estimates, all of them, are garbage.
I do believe the men newly in charge, Jon Hare & Evan Howell, want very much to make repairs – but, even from their high positions, they’re going to need a nudge from on high to rock the boat.
Time after time after time in administration after administration Commerce or the NAS has blocked repair. The NAS even refused to hear fishers’ thoughts owing our ignorance of statistics.
But to fishers? We’re out here nearly everyday of season. It’s not much beyond checkbook math to us. In fact, a video camera experiment in OC Inlet proved NOAA is calculating impossibly high recreational effort..
We need help out here.
Wherever fishery management has had good result while guided by such bad data – it’s only been by luck.
Means of regulating sea bass, forcing them into exponential reproduction are blatent to me after 43 years of fishing. I predicted the last such surge in their spawning two years beforehand; yet this result, surely the best fisheries science has to offer, remains far beyond the grasp of anyone forced to include NOAA’s catch data in their calculations.
Even habitat, Mr President, even our temperate coral reef habitat cannot be brought into focus; “Why would habitat matter when recreational catch varies so greatly?” (a quote from one of the sharpest mid level federal managers you could ever hope to meet. It’s NOT catch that varies so – it’s the statistics!)
And blue water.. The Mid-Atlantic has turned green in your lifetime Mr. President. When oysters collapsed in our major estuaries; our marine waters – dammed so efficiently by the Gulf Stream and Labrador Current – our part of the Atlantic became laden with nutrients that fed algae. Those algae have turned a huge swath of sea off our coast green.
The whole story of a greening sea is writ plain in our famous marlin fishing. When you were but a boy marlin were caught from small, slow wooden boats, sometimes in sight of shore (without highrises) from Lewes, Indian River & Ocean City. Today those beautiful fish are caught in again fantastic numbers – but 50 and more miles further out. Sometime many more.
NOAA knows nothing of marine water quality loss, not that I’ve seen.
Yes, there are efforts to restore estuarine waters and wonderful progress has come of late. When at last successful they’ll carry the ocean too.
But the time of CAN’T has passed. We KNOW how to restore oysters. A ten fold increase in restoration effort could clean the sea & restore blue water in half a decade.
Essential Fish Habitat Corals off the Delaware coast? Ignorance.
Ocean water quality sadly diminished over 70 years? Ignorance.
How much recreational fishers actually catch? Ignorance.
How vast was the area of ‘livebottom’ – our coral seafloors – that was destroyed, lost forever, in the early industrial fisheries? What would be a plan to restore them? How much money would such a restoration add to our waterfronts via increased fisheries productions? Only the deepest of ignorance..
How can we force some fish to Make More Fish – the Most Fish? Ignorance..
Fishery management’s promise is real, but not if formed from ignorance. After 43 years of fishing I often wonder If my business will survive the next round of regulation. We should instead be flying high..
It’s 100% doable. But scientists and regulators won’t often listen to ‘annecdotal evidence’ offered by fishers. First then we must have scientists learn what work needs done.
If NOAA intends to begin with the Bigelow’s work from July 2007? Save taxpayers the money and just pull the plug.
If instead the work Vince Guida did in 2012 forms a beginning? Discovery shall come rapidly and in great leaps.
There is no distraction by fabrication here – everything I’ve told you is true.
If it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease; sometimes its helpful if the guy with all the oil has an interest..
I sincerely hope your grandchildren and their children come to know a Delaware seacoast with beautiful clear blue waters teeming with fish.
Cheers Mr. President,
Capt. Monty Hawkins (nautical)
Berlin, MD

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