Wait, What? Fishing?!?!

By Scott Lenox

Wait, What? Fishing?!?!

Check out the 12 Days of Christmas at Atlantic Tackle in the above vid!

We’ve had some non-fishable weather over the past couple of weeks and now that MD sea bass season is closed there are even less folks interested in getting out on the water.  We will hopefully see a run of striped bass inside of three miles in the next several weeks, but other than that it’s tautog until spring.  Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star is one of the boats in the area that will be out trying to get them whenever the weather allows.

Went Toggin 12/21/22. 

Went catchin too. 

Always and forever working on my port engine this fall, wasn’t sure if a part would be here or not – waited until late yesterday to post todays tog trip. Somehow, perhaps a bit of Santa’s magic, I ended up with a few guys to go. 

Just kicked around the back forty some – working nearshore tog hangs, many of which I helped/and or watched get built. Wind started at 16 knots. I said “Don’t you dare!” 

And it didn’t. Certainly not on my account, but the wind laid down and got pretty. Late in the day it picked up again. No worries. 

Norman & Richie were today’s guest reef builders. They dropped blocks at Peter Kangas’s Memorial Reef before we paddled on a bit. 

Patrick Taylor pulled from behind to crush everyone’s dreams of winning the pool. 

Nice fish – he tagged it and let it return to the spawning population too. 

Nice work Patrick!

Guys who yesterday got to keep the Capt and Mate’s 8 tog limit fished with me today and likely tossed 40+ keepers back. Tagged and fin marked many more too. We had 1.5 fish per person when we got in. Could have had a boat limit easy. 

Been working on this project since the mid-1980s. We absolutely stomped tog in the early/mid eighties until every piece of tog habitat we knew was scraped bare. 

No commercial effort. 

Just ours. 

Quite a lesson. 

Nowadays I work to: 

Increase the spawning population & increase spawning production’s success from those now older/larger fish by creating lots of new habitat. 

Increase fishing success and client satisfaction when they catch larger fish. 

And if they throw em back? Chicken isn’t so bad when you’re telling friends about the 18lb tog you released.. 

The tug really is the drug. Get one in the mid-teens or better and the drug becomes quite powerful indeed. 

I should be offshore sea bassing. Not toggin. Not that Mother Nature has allowed us to do much damage, but cbass can take fishing pressure a lot better than tog. Thrive on it even. Not making that up. Doing this 42 years now. Fishing pressure, applied wisely in management & combined with reef building, could take sea bass to levels not seen since WWII. We can make them spawn young – or could. 

Actually? Did. 

I’ve lived it twice. Once in the late 1990s and again when I correctly predicted a massive cbass population jump coming from a historical low in 2015/16/17.. 

Ahhh, but there’s a problem blinding fisheries science & management to what’s real – MRIP’s recreational catch estimates.. 

I looked up the directed effort (how many trips were taken for tautog in the ocean-only estimate. It does not include For-Hire trips such as I provide.) Last year in this Nov/Dec period the estimate seems really low, just 1,792 trips. 

I used to think this sort of estimate wasn’t worth prying apart. 

It’s fine – whatever NOAA. 

I used to think we only had to lop off the outliers – the high statistical spikes – to bring these out-of-control catch estimates to earth. 

Now? Not so much my statistician friends! 

I doubt any of MRIP/NOAA’s effort estimates are legit. 

Seriously. 

They have no idea how many people go fishing. The one thing they’re sure of? People Lie. 

And Cheat. 

NOAA believes Licenses are no reflection of actual fishing effort. 

None. 

Ahhhh.. It’s a mess. 

Anyway, if we divide 1,792 by 3.5 anglers per boat, and again by 25 days (yes, I know there’s over sixty days. But if I can’t get 30 days in Nov/Dec in my 55 foot party boat, I doubt seriously they’re getting 25 days fit for a Private Boat to slip off for a bit of toggin.) 

The estimate points to 20.5 Private Boats toggin in the ocean every nice day. 

In Nov/Dec? 

Ahhh.. 

No. 

Maybe 30+ for the whole two month period combined? 

I’d buy that. 

Not fifty. 

And definitely not 512 Private Boat trips as their (always crazy) estimate shows. 

Now, it happens that NOAA believes these guys weren’t very good anglers. They averaged .25 (a quarter of a fish!) per angler trip.. 

Ahh.. NOAA? The guys who fish Private Boats in Nov/Dec are more skilled.. 

Usually I find CPUE (catch per unit of effort) much tighter. 

It really needs fixing. 

All of it. 

I’m going to keep asking for the evidence. There is video of boats leaving OC MD inlet—every day for years. 

We can and shall disprove NOAA’s recreational catch estimates when we have the data. 

I bet over 95% of MD’s ocean-only estimates have to fall like a meteorite to become correct. 

Maybe 100%. 

I’ll also bet the same math can be applied to ALL THE ESTIMATES up and down the coast. 

They’re all too high. 

When estimates are too high? NOAA proclaims to any who will listen: “Recreational Fishing Cannot Be Controlled!” 

And they tighten our regulations more. 

That’s why I can’t sea bass now. “Overfishing!” 

..that never really happened. 

Next year another 10% cut in sea bass. 

And we just never know where a real huge spike will show itself. That’s why there was a 6 month sea bass closure a few years ago. 

“We can’t control them!”

Oh man.. 

Merry Christmas? 

If we take MRIP’s recreational catch estimates down it sure will be.. 

So have a great Christmas y’all!

Regards

Monty 

Don’t miss Winterfest of Lights in North Ocean City!

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