Mixed Bag

By Scott Lenox

Mixed Bag

The White Marlin Open is less than a week away!  Check out the Daily Catch at the Ocean City Fishing Center above.

I think we’re going on two weeks straight of day with temps in the 90s and my grass is showing it.  There hasn’t been much wind or precipitation to speak of so you won’t hear any reel fishermen complaining about a little heat.  Tuna chunking was hit or miss for the fleet today, there were a couple of keeper flounder caught in the bay, and the ocean going party boat fleet saw a nice mixed bag of fish.

Captain Chris Watkowski and mates Ayrton Pryor and Jacob Bialk were one of the hits for tuna chunking today.  They put their crew on nine very nice yellowfin tuna.

Captain Chris Mizurak of the Angler reported a mixed bag of fish today with some healthy sea bass and flounder up to 4.5 pounds.

Anglers on the Morning Star with Captain Monty Hawkins found the sea bass chewing after last night’s storms.

After mad t-storms last night; a serene sea this morning.
Took 30 blocks to Capt. Bob’s Reef and kept going. Pretty off there today.
Found sea bass chewing – nicked a keeper fluke right out of the gate also. That flounder would remain lonely rest of the day.
Cbass, however, stayed on the feed most everywhere I went. Chad Donbach from Middletown PA swept everyone’s pool money into his pocket with a jumbo bass. Alex Garrison from Baltimore limited first at 10:23 this morning. And Zach Warfield of Whitehall MD was our guest reef builder today.
..so we caught well everywhere — (Rant Coming!)
The only exception was an area that’s been productive for years—over a decade. There I found a blank screen. No life at all. A large area too with a lot of catching history.
Looked as though it had been shaved clean.
Bet it was. Happened since early last fall.
Whether a clammer or trawler I couldn’t guess w/o an underwater camera. Whichever, other spots inshore a bit remain productive for our temperate reef fish. Even found a new spot of patchy reef where I’ve crossed innumerable times – it’s new bottom.. This one? No fish &, apparently, no growth remain. (Yes, I can ID sea whip—a soft coral—with my sounders.)
This is a tiny real-time example of why I keep driving at “Seafloor Habitat Restoration” as a much more realistic method of Fisheries Restorations. Although it’s the first habitat impact I’ve seen in years, consider this: from 1950 to 1961 there were more sea bass landed commercially (& weighed across the dock – not estimated like recreational catch!) ..there were more cbass in those 11 years than in all the decades since—combined. Man, that’s a LOT of fish!
I’d bet anything today’s decline has far more to do with habitat loss from gear impacts long decades ago than “overfishing.” You give sea bass a bit of “emergent epifauna” (reef!) and they’ll do all they can to populate it — or repopulate it.
But if the gear used to make a day’s fishing wage prevents recolonization; if a couple trawl tows take a spot out of sea bass spawning production for a decade as growth recolonizes and reforms ‘reef habitat’ suitable to the task; or, in some instances, if the gear, especially surf clam/quahog gear, creates permanent loss of habitat – then permanent loss of the impacted area’s fishery production occurs. It happened on a daily basis in the early years of industrial fishing’s rise.
Less Spawning Habitat Must Equal Fewer Fish In The Future.
We cannot turn the ocean blue and fill it with fish using “catch restriction” alone. We must discover the habitat footprint of yesteryear and restore it. That historical footprint would be easily found in commercial landings’ history.
Every morning, before every trip, I back my old F-150 up to a pallet of reef blocks and load up 20 or 30. Mates & clients load em on the boat. We’ve dropped well over 30,000 blocks in just over a decade.
I’m 100% certain they’ve had a positive impact—those thirty-some thousand blocks have broadened our region’s habitat footprint.
But not by much.
Barge loads of quarried rock, precast concrete and cement rubble: there’s where true restoration’s task lies.
It’s a big job. I’m always working on it in small ways. Might we get the feds working on it – NOAA – (or even recognize it?) and huge positive change will occur.
Cheers
Monty

This keeper flounder was captured on the Tortuga with Captain Drew Zerbe and mate Serge Garder.

I could hardly catch bunker with my cast net this evening, but young Emily Mitchell of Dagsboro, DE caught this one in the surf today with her bare hands!

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