Fish Too Big To Keep

By Scott Lenox

Fish Too Big To Keep

Hit the video for the Angler’s Advantage at Atlantic Tackle

It was a beautiful day on the water today with sunny skies, not much wind and awesome fall temperatures.  It was too good to pass up….so I didn’t.  I took the Fish in OC skiff out for a few hours this afternoon with some live bunker and our Fish in OC Live Bait Rig and had some luck catching some flounder down by the route 50 bridge.  Four throwbacks and a fat 19″ fish were plenty of fun in the not so great water conditions.

The bay was pretty crowded today thanks to the nice conditions, but there weren’t a ton of fish caught thanks to the doo doo colored water.  Big Bird Cropper and Shawn Flaherty didn’t have any problem with the conditions though and caught themselves a bunch of rockfish.  They released over 30 fish, one of which was this jumbo 37″ rock that ate a “dredged” Stretch lure.  Unfortunately this fish was over the 35″ maximum size for rockfish so it was released.

Speaking of fish that are too big to keep….David Moore has been catching and releasing some big red drum in the Assateague surf the past few weeks.  David has caught fish from 42″ to 49″ and his buddy Kyle Mooney has released fish of 37″ and 48″.  Red drum have a size limit of 18″ to less than 27″ so all of these fish were released.

Captain Marc Spagnola of Dusk to Dawn Bowfishing is on the water again right now and he’s been on the water a lot the past few days.  His shooters are having great luck with cow nosed and southern rays during the day and snakeheads, gar and some big catfish at night.

Folks fishing down at the Oceanic Pier have been having luck with shad, spot and croakers over the past few days.

Mike Monteleone and Roy Butler caught their limit of flounder over ocean structure today.

Anglers fishing on the Ocean City Girl had a wheel barrow full of fish after this afternoon’s trip.

The ocean going party boat fleet was glad to get out to the fishing grounds today.  Captain Chris Mizurak of the Angler took full advantage and put his anglers on some good fishing for flounder and sea bass.

Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star had a nice day with some sea bass, flounder and cutlassfish today…..and he has an opinion on what’s coming for sea bass in the future if we (and I do mean “we”….I sit on the Mid Atlantic Fisheries Management Council) don’t move things in the right direction.

Sea Bass & Old Man Murphy.. 9/25/21
Left the dock this am into a fine early fall sunrise. Bit of north breeze stiffened at first, eased off by 11:30 or so.
Michelle from Seaford DE sent 25 reef blocks onto Al Berger’s Reef North – we kept going.
Found several pieces of bottom with cbass; couldn’t keep em chewing. Still had two folks but one shy of a limit. Sea Bass Bob snuck the pool into his pocket by a hair. It’ll be a while yet, but later in the fall they do keep biting. We’ll have more trips with ‘one stop shopping’ in late fall than any other time of year.
Sure hope nothing happens in the catch data to make it appear as though we’re “overfishing” though.
Was at a public fisheries meeting Friday and did some prep by checking this year’s recreational catch estimates to date.
A short illustration: At Friday’s meeting there was a good representation of local angling effort. Among private boaters present I doubt even one had gone sea bassing this past spring. (Yes, there are some who go, and some too that are as ninjas – but not at this meeting.) From among charter/party skippers present we’d had thousands of anglers out for sea bass, almost always successfully in May/June.
In fact I’d only seen one instance where private boat anglers approached the number of party/charter anglers at a reef site — we were about evenly numbered just one fine calm Saturday before offshore fishing heated up any.
MRIP (Marine Recreational Information Program) – is where regulators learn of recreational overfishing. When MRIP claims Maryland’s private boats outfished MD party/charter 11.84 sea bass to Party/Charter’s 1(one) – that private boats landed 103,000 sea bass to Party/Charter’s 8,700 – that’s bloody well what it is and don’t you dare argue it.
Uh Hu..
Sooo many days pass where I see no private boats on our reefs. Yet rarely does a day pass when there’s not a well-railed party boat at a reef.
And then? We TELL them what we catch everyday! We’re required by law to confess our overfishing sins daily via electronic Vessel Trip Report (VTR). It’s supremely likely that just my clients alone exceeded MRIP’s Partyboat estimate for May/June. I’m certain of it.
In MD’s sea bass fishery I’d estimate private guys catch a quarter what party/charter catch. And that’s up considerably from even a decade ago.
These sorts of “catch estimate” data are precisely why NJ, NY & points north are in such trouble with sea bass – closed or 3 fish limits in summer, huge size limits – and all because MRIP has (for instance) NY Private Boat catching nearly 10x what all Commercial and Party/Charter caught from Hatteras north several years back.
It’s all nonsense. There are no good private boat estimates – none.
Been telling the same DNR people the exact same data complaints for nearly 15 years or so.
I didn’t even bring it up this time. Numb.
When I complained about disruption of sea bass’ life cycle back in 2013/14/& 15 it was called Baloney by BOEM. (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management). I even took out half page ads. Yet in 2015 we had the worst, by far, (by really way super far,) ..the worst May sea bass run ever. There was ZERO hurry for those fish to come to their spawning grounds – virtually none did. It wasn’t day after day successful ‘all client limits’ of early management; in May/June 2015 the best time to catch limits of nice sea bass was much more like early August in the 1980s when overfishing was brutally real – 2 or 3 keepers per angler – occasionally on the whole boat.
I then predicted beginning in late summer 2015, & restated in 16, & 17 the fantastic surge of sea bass we’ve had in the last few years. It’s just a repeat of history to me. With the recolonization of the survey area in 2016 it became “all hands on deck” come spawning & their number blossomed exactly as we’d seen when the size limit was 9 inches but no bag limit. We could and certainly did take as many as we could find over 9 inches – and the following year there would be more sea bass. Sometimes a lot more. The MD WEA & out 4 or 5 miles beyond was fully evacuated by sea bass come late summer 2014. When surveys ceased in late August 2015 I’d predicted they’d recolonize and spawn as they always had prior to regulation hitting 12 inches – I knew all that unoccupied reef would allow sea bass to again spawn at 7.5 to 9 inches — boy did they!
Once an areas reefs are all populated by 12.5 inch and better cbass, a switch is thrown where age one/age two sea bass no longer participate in spawning. This is evidenced by no nuchal humps (what makes males a ‘knot head’ or ‘knucklehead’ — the beautiful colors that must have something to do with attracting females..)
Now, sadly, I’m predicting sea bass will fail 3 to 4 years out – & fail spectacularly.
I’ve written a fair bit on it. If we don’t lower the size limit they’ll collapse far far worse than in the period of true overfishing. Even now our two “half day“ boats have begun running 18 & 19 miles because there are no sea bass inshore. In a few years those 20 mile reefs too shall fail because of mis-managed spawning behavior.
Fishermen will blame it on wind construction, I’m sure; but management’s failing to force sea bass to spawn at age one will be the real culprit.
Have some heavy duty maintenance & repair to tend to. Appears as though my stb vulcan coupling has a free ride to the dump coming.
Oh Boy!
Old man Murphy must have overheard me say I’d had an OK summer. Bam! BOATT (break out another ten thousand!)
Most won’t have any idea of it. A vulcan coupling is a huge rubber gear that transfers the engine’s power to a marine transmission. The idea, I suppose, is to have that rubber (or a brass/bronze propeller) shear away before the engine can seize.
Didn’t foul any rope, no carved up whale, just an old part gave up the ghost.
I shall find another ASAP and press on.
Cheers
Monty

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