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Capt. Monty Hawkins Report - 5-18-16
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Greetings All,
Went sea bass fishing opening day. Was hoping for 20 knots of west wind, got 30 to 35 NW by 9:30 or so. Dropped our reef-blocks, caught two keeper sea bass & went home - slowly - in building seas. Issued refunds/reschedules all around.

Monday, thankfully, was just a normal day in May.
Had a normal Monday crowd, and normal May weather (not raining like crazy!)
Even had a normal sea bass bite.
Really.
It was a normal May sea bass trip.
Caught some limits, other passengers close. Moved a couple times. Plenty of throwbacks.
Saw our first under-9 inch male sea bass too. He wasn't in color like larger fish yet--no bright blue; but he was sporting a clear nuchal hump--was on his way to becoming a 'knothead' sea bass.

Fishing wasn't "one-stop shopping," but there weren't any dead-drops either.
We even had one (rather inebriated) fellow with small fish in his cooler.
Shoot, with everything so "normal" I enjoyed that too! After a lecture for all to hear on the PA system, and several more checks of his catch, even he was in regulatory compliance..
Lots & lots of room Thursday & Friday coming. Most all weekdays & Sundays really. Last year was dead-slow in May. Embarrassingly so.

My gut tells me there's not a lot of "normal" sea bassing left.
Despite fishing's best managers fighting a near-epic rearguard action, Guv'mint's almost completely cooked the recreational sea bass fishery. I'm afraid we're one catch-estimate away from NOAA's overfishing alarm sounding again.
That'll mean another emergency sea bass closure, followed by who could guess how much tighter regulation
..and the end of normal.

Lost before NOAA ever discovered our nearshore corals, or age at maturity's influence on spawning production, or even the actual truth of recreational catch; NOAA's embrace of 'approved science' in climate change, and their love for MRIP catch estimates will have undone the first & best fishery restoration. True Statement: DelMarVa sea bass were near or at habitat capacity in 2002/2003.
Now they are not..

I doubt there's anyone left in management who actually believes MRIP's recreational catch estimates. Maybe, but I doubt it.
Still, as witnessed even now with cobia, (a fishery where any data at all is rare & should be suspect) we see MRIP catch estimates "proving" recreational overfishing can close Virginia & North Carolina's cobia fishing: Managers may not believe the catch estimates, but they'll sure use them: "We have to."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

Patricia Kurkul was our NOAA Regional Administrator before John Bullard took the post in 2012. When MRFSS recreational catch data showed Massachusetts Private Boats had taken more sea bass in 2009 than all Party/Charter fishers from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras, and even though NOAA's own biological science clearly showed spawning site habitat fidelity left all populations of sea bass below Massachusetts w/o harm;

she raised the same red flag Santa Anna had before attacking the Alamo: "No Quarter."

..slit their throats.
Close the fishery asap.
The data makes no difference, they've all had time to sell their boats--We gave them a chance to surrender.
No Quarter. If any businesses survive it won't be because NOAA tried to help.

Up north they have scup - lots of scup & lots of access.
They also have lots of sea bass, but no access.
Down here we have no scup, we just make 'em. See lots & lots of tiny scup in August..
We get sea bass right, or we lose.

No one's ever lowered that red flag. If recreational catch data says we overfished, no one can argue. Regardless if no one believes it, another fishery dies whenever the data says so.
Lots of closures. Lots of tightenings. No Quarter..

A fellow quipped, "They won't look at fishing, but politicians will worry about what bathrooms people can use!"
I said; "You can bet your last dollar they've written letters to State & DC reps. Lots of them.. Have you?"

People ask, "What can I do?"
I'm telling you - Write.
Write the truth & from the heart. Write your state & DC reps..

Bad data has no place in science. Congress needs to order NOAA to lower their red flag. Enough recreational fisheries & seasons have died from bad catch data. That flag should be given instead to the National Academy of Sciences for their MRIP investigation.

Ahhhh...Ummmm.. Is coral fish habitat? Even if we grew it on purpose? Right now it sure isn't. We can take some species of fish & coral to any population we'd like simply by cleaning up concrete manufacturers' bone yards & building reef.

NOAA needs to know how green the ocean's become.
No. NOAA needs to know the ocean has become green. They haven't the least idea if that's a true statement. We need a plan to fix it. Right now oysters are a fishery, not an ecosystem component in vital need of restoration.

Stern-towed fishing gears destroyed a LOT of natural seafloor reef bottom 50 & more years ago. We need to find out where & make a plan for restoring that lost fish habitat production.

Whatever your thoughts, it needn't be a full time job like mine; just write.
The reauthorization of Magnuson's coming up. It's a great time to let Congress know we're out here.

Looks like a good time to go sea bassing too.
Ain't that a switch.
Regards,
Monty


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