Next year when you’re wondering why you’re not allowed to go fishing...
Here an excerpt from a coming Fish Report:
No professional recreational fisherman thinks Private Boats take more sea bass, and especially not significantly more sea bass than the For-Hire fleet. Sea bass are, after all, very much a staple of the Partyboat trade. (That's me - I've carried up to 90 people fishing every day I could for 40 years now. These days I'm on a smaller boat that carries, if I'm lucky, 25 souls.)
In Maryland I'd seriously doubt any catch estimate showing Private Boats landing more than 20/25% of our recreational total. Connecticut skippers same. In DE, NY & NJ, Massachusetts too, they have more Private Boat effort. Sometimes on a perfectly calm Saturday those life-long professionals suspect Private Boats will catch as many as the For-Hire fleet, perhaps even a few more. But during the week that fleet often disappears..
To make this as simple as possible then, let me argue any Private Boat catch exceeding the For-Hire tally is suspect..
Oh Boy. How about New York's July & August-only Private Boat MRIP Estimate of 1,655,431 pounds of sea bass? This was NY Private Boat's highest summer catch ever, & caught with their Most Restrictive regulations ever -- anglers were allowed just 3 sea bass at 15 inches.. Wasn't so long ago they were allowed 25 sea bass at 12.5 inches and NEVER came anywhere near that 2017 estimate.
NY - July/August - Private Boat Only..
FINAL 2017 JULY/AUGUST BLACK SEA BASS 1,655,431 lbs.
Unless you're familiar with the particulars of the fishery, however, over a million and a half pounds of sea bass doesn't tell you a thing.
Here's what NY's For-Hire recreational boats caught all year. This estimate is probably very close to their actual catch:
NY - All Party/Charter - All Year
FINAL 2017 BLACK SEA BASS 163,011 lbs.
Remember, recreational fishing professionals doubt Private Boats catch as many as their clients. It's not that way in every fishery - is for sea bass though. Yet here MRIP, NOAA's "Best Available Scientific Information" has NY's Private Boats catching fully a true order of magnitude more sea bass, in summer when the bite is hardest, compared to the full YEAR's season of For-Hire catch, including fall/early winter when bag limits were more generous.
How about NY Private Boats catching more pounds of sea bass in a year than ALL Party/Charter PLUS All Commercial Trawl & Trap in almost Two Years!!
Our regulators/managers don't either. But they Have To use the data - and That Is Precisely What The Data Claims.
How about Rhode Island Private Boat sea bass fishermen catching very nearly as many pounds of sea bass as ALL Party/Charter from Cape Hatteras to Maine will in two years?
RI All Year Private Boat Only
FINAL 2018 BLACK SEA BASS 1,563,530 lbs.
All For-Hire - All Year North & Mid Atlantic
FINAL 2017 BLACK SEA BASS 901,810 lbs.
FINAL 2018 BLACK SEA BASS 778,861 lbs
How about nearly 11 Million pounds of Private Boat sea bass landings in both 2017 & 2018 when all commercial effort was under 4 million & For-Hire under a million lbs..
That means Private Boats catch more sea bass in a year than everyone who fishes sea bass for a living in two years!
Oh, it gets much worse.
Now, because NOAA sez, "Hey Mr. Fisheries Science guy, you HAVE to use this data" - now it appears, on a computer, as though there are suddenly a LOT more sea bass in the ocean.
They're going to raise the quota.
(This is exactly what happened to summer flounder/fluke this past spring.)
Managers are going to double the Overfishing Limit and give Commercial Fishers up to a 77% increase in quota ----- While cutting Recreational quota up to 41% because 'we're already catching ours.'
I'm not wrong here. There's no way Private Boats catch any significant amount more sea bass than just the For-Hire fleet, and dang sure never-ever the Commercial AND For-Hire fleets combined.
MRIP is taking fishery management & science off the rails -- and we rec fishers with it.
Soon I'll be asking readers to write their DC & State Reps - asking for relief.
The system's run amuck.
Stinks way worse than a bucket of fish guts on a hot August dock..
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City MD