Tautog And A Load of Reef Pyramids

By Scott Lenox

Tautog And A Load of Reef Pyramids

Lot of frost around this morning, but with a light wind forecast for today and a gale forecast starting tomorrow, it was a good day for some folks to get out and bend a rod.

Scott Rinker, Ted Proseus, Tom McDonald and Tommy McDonald caught an almost 3 man limit of tautog on their first trip of the year with the largest weighing 10.3 pounds that was caught by Ted Proseus.’

Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star put some nice tog in the boat today and also did some more great work for the OC Reef Foundation.

Greetings All, Had a note from my MD Senator’s office today asking how the State of Maryland might help with challenges we (still) have in fisheries regulation and marine water quality.. Hmmm. Well, that took a while.To write I mean. The reply.  So, in way of an abbreviated report on todays tog fishing – one angler had 9 keepers of which he kept none. In all? 17 keepers went back. A few others went home for dinners. Sure wasn’t a ferocious bite. Sub-legals especially seemed absent – though I know they’re there. As we pulled anchor from the fifth spot Capt. Stormy on the Tiki XIV came in with a load of reef pyramids made by Kinsley Construction in York PA. In their deployment we began construction of Baybreeze RS Reef.. Nice.It will be super productive. Coupled with the idea below?Amazingly productive. Not very good at brevity. This was my reply. We’ll need everyone to ask for MD cameras and reef building funds. I see myself as having two separate habitat goals that merge to become an incredibly more productive ocean…. *****To Mary Beth Carozza 1/3/24Hi Senator! I sure don’t anticipate MD’s help out front off OC. There’s where OCRF does its work. It’s almost all outside 3 miles.. (OCRF is Ocean City Reef Foundation) Derned if we aren’t growing corals though! LOTS of em. Sea whip and star coral are our two temperate corals. Mussels, of course, are unavoidable and fish love them too.  You could say my lobbying/cheerleading/nearly lifelong effort is mostly ocean – and I’d certainly welcome any help ever(!) from the state or the feds. I must not speak “grant” very well – they never go through. Gave up on that fancy writing long ago and have done nearly everything fundraising with “name a reef” on our reef charts, an annual dinner & an annual raffle – all donations from the public..OCRF’s work builds (or rebuilds) bottom off of Ocean City. An awful lot of folks, more and more, fish on the reefs. Some scuba and free divers enjoy them as well. It’s pretty simple. More Coral – More Fish.Capt. Stormy aboard the Tiki XIV, as I was writing this afternoon, deployed 208 reef pyramids from molds I invented to gather waste concrete from industry – these from York PA and the super generous folks at Kinsley Construction, with their help and others such as Bear Concrete and Gillis Gilkerson we’ll have tens of thousands of 170lb pyramids on the seafloor before it’s over!But!! Marine restoration is NOT just about seafloor habitat. We also have a HUGE issue with marine water quality.. Ocean seafloor habitat work can never repair marine water quality. For us, along the Mid-Atlantic coast, its a Chesapeake & Delaware Bay issue. I’d wager 90+% of water quality deterioration over the last 75 years owes only to the oysters’ collapse..  Many an old timer saw marlin move from far inshore then 50 more miles off to the canyons just in their lifetimes. Jack Kaeufer, Irv Mumford, Darrel Notingham, and Jim Whaley, (all resting in peace) for instance, all told me tales of marlin far inshore of Jackspot – at 20 miles SE of OC, that’s the shoal that made us ‘the white marlin capitol of the world’.. Mr. Irv even told me his father worked surf launched boats before the inlet was cut – they hated marlin! Bluefish gear of the era couldn’t handle them. And what? Two miles out? I’d long noted the decline in water quality as WHY marlin abandoned their inshore feeding grounds. Was at a training conference in Baltimore some years ago when Jon Hare, now boss of bosses in NOAA Fisheries Science, told us how the Gulf Stream – earth’s most powerful marine current – was a meter higher on the north wall than south.. AhHa!! So the Labrador current, coming from Canada, ambles to a stop here. It’s slow, low, & cold. DE & Ches Bay lost their biofilters in oysters’ ongoing collapse that is said to have been final in the mid-1970s. Where fellows in Stuart or Palm Beach, Florida catch sailfish right where great-grandad did: for us? No. Each generation of Maryland’s coastal fishermen saw billfish move further and further out. That’s because the Gulf Stream forms a dam of sorts – our part of the ocean just doesn’t flush like many other ports. Then, at a habitat conference at NOAA’s Sandy Hook lab I heard a truly brilliant lady describe the decline of water quality in the Chesapeake – a perfect talk ..until the very last thing she said. She had told the room how algae & nutrients have long hampered the Chesapeake post oyster collapse – and then she pointed to the mouth of the Bay and said, “and the ocean just absorbs it.”I stood up and let fly.. No, No, No!The Mid-Atlantic OCEAN has turned GREEN. Oysters are NOT just a local problem – their decline has affected a huge swath of our ocean.This is why we forever have bigger and faster sportfishing boats – when Capt Jack Kaeufer threw a live marlin on the Talbot St Dock’s scale his clients had caught just five miles offshore in 1969, his boat didn’t do forty knots.. Fourteen more likely. For years I preached rock and concrete to MD for oyster restoration. And for years I heard “oysters only grow on shell.” (this despite watermen diving on tire reefs in the early 1990s so grown in with oysters you couldn’t put your hand through the middle!) It was always can’t. Can’t rebuild oysters. Then, when MD ran out of shell and started using rock? Bam!Success!!!Oyyyyy… My point today is this: Why settle for a single veneer of habitat on the bayfloor when we can put concrete pipes (usually free!) down in units and create many times the suitable substrate for oyster spat to strike to in the same footprint.Simple 5 pipe units would create 11.3 X the surface over the same bottom. One acre of pipe units would create the equal of 11.3 acres of substrate. And because watermen are loathe to give up bottom in any form to oyster restoration – and oyster purists will forever remain leery of ‘artificial reef’ “Oh, only shell is natural!” – we will have to demonstrate how to maximize biofiltration on artificial reef permitted sites – the only places concrete is allowed. For now. It really is something that in 1920/21 the founder of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Reginald Truitt, sought the creation of “concrete brood stock preserves” to ensure there was always a reserve population throwing spat. Yeah. No. That idea didn’t fly a century ago – nor today.Hopefully this pipe unit idea catches on. It will take vast numbers of oysters to turn the ocean blue. Absolutely Doable. We know how. Put a shoulder to it – and a pile of money – I think huge gains could be made in just five years.. Turn off the algae? Clear water.  In the ocean, clear water is blue. A BIGGER pile of money? I don’t know. Concrete is usually free. Rock, and especially shell, are not. I know scientists have a whole laundry list of other issues with water quality. Yet, somehow, every time I see a lot of oysters? I see clear water.. And, Oh! By the way! Every issue we’ve EVER had with seasons and size limits – our forever tightening recreational regulations – they ALL stem from bad catch estimates. All of em. Did you know in 2017 MD Shore anglers caught more (and bigger!) sea bass from Shore in Sept/Oct than all MD Partyboats & Charterboats catch in three years?Neat trick that.. How about when MD surfcasters in 2007 caught over 50,000 pounds of flounder in two months. Surfcasting! That ‘overfishing event’ lead directly to the 2008 emergency flounder closure in MD. The next year sea bass had an emergency closure for six months. That closure dern near – very, very near, bankrupted me.. Oh, there was an emergency alright. Bad data destroying businesses..Not so long ago the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council experimented with a video camera at the inlet for a couple years. As I and others had long been preaching – the camera absolutely showed NOAA overestimated Private Boat fishing effort by an enormous amount. In a nutshell?  When a number of rec anglers is high – MRIP’s recreational catch and effort estimates are incredibly too high. For instance: approx 750 private boats Per Day – Every Day! – & each with four anglers – would have been needed to meet NOAA’s wave four (Jul/Aug) 2020 ‘official’ MD ocean-only Private Boat estimate. That’s Just Crazy. Even the folks who Have To Use The Data laughed out loud at that effort estimate. But assertions given by local knowledge have never gained traction when MRIP wanted to claim impossible effort. NOAA , Council & Commission – “We Have To Use This Data” MAFMC’s video camera, however, irrevocably showed we don’t come anywhere near that level of effort – not even when hosting the world’s largest billfish tournament.. After solidly proving our decades of complaints were spot on?  The MAFMC took their camera down. “Not much use” they said. Oh no? Give a statistician a solid piece of information and the work should tighten fantastically. Instead of a WAG? How many boats went fishing in the ocean becomes a number.. Such a simple method of stopping so much regulatory pain. I have been asking everyone to ask their reps in Maryland to fund an inlet camera. Why suffer when it’s So Cheap To Fix!!Why just recreational ocean effort. A camera here, a camera there; pretty soon all recreational private boat estimates are tightened up.How about one more “Oh, By The Way”.. NOAA announced this summer that their MRIP catch estimates were going to fall 20 to 40%!! That’s still not enough – but a sure sign they finally recognize there’s a serious issue. Virtually every species targeted by recreational anglers is now regulated with loopy science – crazy – because the hard calculations that go into “What did they catch” are so poor. Fisheries science & management has been forever waylaid by bad catch estimates, NOAA can’t even think about habitat off the coast. Haven’t. I swear – I had an excellent mid-level manager tell me, “How can habitat matter? Catch jumps all over the place.”No.. Estimates jump all over the place -lousy data rams a sharpened log in science’s eye as Odysseus’s men wounded the cyclops.. I tell anyone who will read my work: we are squandering an ocean of potential. Given real catch data? Habitat’s importance will leap to the fore. From there? Amazing progress. Hope I live to see it. That’s what I want from both state & federal government. Amazing progress in fisheries, seafloor, bayfloor & water quality. For the most part? It’s as easy as rolling rocks off a barge. (But pipe units will get us there quicker!) Cheers Senator Mary Beth! My Regards, Monty

Check out the vid of the nice rod rack I swapped out in my garage….Subscribe!!

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