Posted on September 25th, 2023
We’ve got some pretty crappy weather staring us in the face for this week with wind and rain forecast for most of the week. Unfortunately the ocean doesn’t look too inviting this week so hopefully things settle down quick.
There was little to no wind today so there was an opportunity for some anglers to get out and do a little fishing. Jeff Weeks and Dave Weller took Alex Cabada from Florida out for some sheepshead fishing today and they put him on the fish. Alex was able to put the hook in several sheep including this stud 23″, 8.5 pound citation sized fish.
Captain Monty Hawkins of the party boat Morning Star was able to get out today and he put his folks on some good fishing.
I’d have sure lost that wager; derned if we didn’t see a few mini-mahi today – despite a 4.5 degree temp drop at that. I expect my folks kept a few, but sea bass held their attention better.Some nice cbass too. Today’s sea conditions could be replicated fairly well, modeled if you will, by making a miniature paper boat, origami style, and setting it afloat in an old-time washing machine on ‘agitate.’ Oyyyyy.. But, was doable. Everyone fished. Everyone caught. Even saw little guys moving offshore. No acorns/no oaks. Jeff & Donna gave today’s reef blocks a shove – Jeff parlayed his ‘reef builder’s karma’ into a fat pool fish. Nice. Couple guys had limits of cbass even – and Ms. Holly! Rent will get paid too. Nice day. Hmmm.. Now there’s a word: the word “Nice” ..that no one will use to describe the coming week’s marine fishing weather. Double Darn! That will take me up to 47 days lost to weather since sea bass opened May 15. Good thing NOAA spotted Virginia Private Boats catching an order of magnitude more sea bass than normal. Think maybe such an unusual jump might be a flaw in the data? NOAA all but concedes it is. But? They’ll insist managers use that exact data anyway. “It’s the best data we have.” I suppose if you insist on remaining unimaginative and uncommunicative, then comparing a wild guestimate against actual day-by-day catch data For Hire guys send in after every day of fishing is going to be a bridge too far. Seriously. Where Virginia’s For-Hire guys usually report 2500/3500 cbass in May/June (what MRIP calls ‘wave 3’) and, here in rare & astoundingly believable fashion, MRIP has generally/often estimated about the same for Private Boats in the period so that Private Boat & For Hire split Virginia’s recreational cbass catch about 50/50.. Come 2021? Naw. Suddenly, when season opened in 2021, Chincoteague and Wachapreague were inundated with sea going Private Boats on trailers (cause they certainly don’t have marina slips there.) Fuel trucks had to be on standby to fill the small tanks used for dockside service; tackle shops couldn’t begin to keep anything in stock when their sea bass catch improved 10 fold. Not the For-Hire guys, mind you. They didn’t hear about it. Their catch didn’t budge by much at all. Nope. No extra sea bass for the professional skippers. It was just Private Boat catch shooting to the moon. Using my ‘percentage of the catch’ method, I calculated MRIP overestimated VA Private Boat by 224,825 sea bass. Did it again in 2022. Now, because of those extra 200-some thousand cbass, we have to pay for our DelMarVa region’s (wholly imagined!) overfishing with a 9 day closure from Oct 1 through the 9th. MRIP themselves have announced they’ve overestimated Private Boat catch by 30 to 40% throughout the whole program – that they’re doing some silly thing with their questions to fix it.. No. No way. It’s not 30 or 40% stuff that causes our heartburn. Problem with NOAA’s recreational catch estimates is they often overestimate by an order of magnitude. Or two. Once I calculated a NY Private Boat estimate that was over by 3 orders of magnitude.. MRIP’s really bad. We need to pour on the letters while they’re considering such a sharp decline and make it sharper still. We are ignorant of so much in the ocean, even our region’s corals evade science’s sight. These catch estimates are the poorest imitation of science, yet their inaccuracies are presented by NOAA’s Regional Administrators to Council & Commission regulators as gospel. Instead of honing & refining regulation, catch estimates amplify management’s ignorance. Among tasks at hand, getting the sea bass fishery out from under catch-estimate’s ax and pushing for MRIP’s real repair are perhaps first. Then, perhaps, we can turn the ocean blue.. At the very least, we will not have surrendered. We have more say in Government than a simple vote – Write. Sometimes they read. Write who? & Say what? If everyone sends the same letter we’ll have accomplished nothing. Oyyyyy.. Here’s an easy one to start with. There had been a video camera up at the OC Inlet that counted private boats going fishing. That video evidence may have been an important part of what broke MRIP because it proved NOAA’s recreational catch estimates, (which are based on ‘effort estimates’) were massively overestimating MD’s private boat effort. Solid proof. The camera has been taken down. Recreational catch estimates are going to be reduced by 30 to 40% they say. I say seeing is believing. Forty percent isn’t enough anyway.. Ask your contacts at MD DNR or in state governance to take over the project and put up a boat counting camera. (Wasn’t theirs – was a federal grant – but MD DNR can sure put up a camera counting boats at MD’s one ocean inlet. I’m sure there are hundreds of us who would buy them the camera – maybe two for a backup!) With these counts we can make sure we’re getting honest effort estimates, at least for marine fisheries. Seriously – if you think it’s a good idea too that MD put up a camera to double check MRIP estimates – then simply ask anyone in MD DNR or MD.Gov to forward the idea to MD DNR Secretary Josh Kurtz or MD DNR Fisheries Director Lynn Fegley.. As guerrilla lobbying goes, this is cotton candy. Stick with it and we can bring MRIP down to earth too. National Academy of Sciences didn’t want to hear my thoughts on MRIP when they doubled down & doubled down again – ‘Oh, this statistical theory is just wonderful..’ Now NOAA admits they need a thirty to forty percent haircut. We’ll need to write over the next year or so – forty percent’s not enough. Cheers, Monty