Sea Bass fishing continues to be excellent.
So do survey sounding boats continue to impact that fishery, and in ways we cannot know - yet.
On Thursday, July 15, 2021, we unquestionably experienced a sub-bottom profiler impact. I’d held course right back into sounding territory owing Wednesday’s morning bite. I had a boatload of regular clients including my old friend Acie and his daughter Brooke, Flounder George, The Hurricane, Oyster Bay Paul & many other familiar faces; as ever I wanted to show them some good sea bass fishing.
Didn’t start off so great.
At a rock pile I hadn’t fished in weeks we found the survey boats Brooks McCall and Emma McCall quite nearby.
Interestingly, the Brooks McCall may hold the answer to all this. I’ve had that boat not even 2 miles away and clients caught fine. Skipper says they are running all their gear. No wonder. It’s too expensive not too—they cannot fool around with fakery.
Anyway, when I arrived this morning atop those coral laden rocks it was stacked UP with sea bass.
Brooks McCall only a half mile away; but a far greater worry, the Emma McCall was 3 miles to my south.
Clients’ lines went in - Crickets.
Catch a single throwback.
Should have been doubles around the rail.
Been sea bass fishing over 40 years now. Should have been a smoking hot bite.
With the Emma moving NNW I moved east. Now with 6 miles between us there was a favorable bite. It improved continuously for a while as our distances grew greater.
And, while we were getting further from the Emma McCall, the Brooks grew nearer. As has been the case several times already, there was no noticeable affect on our catch from the Brooks McCall’s brand new array of survey sounding gear.
The bite stayed fine all day so long as I had fish under me. There was no “dead spot” in the day as there had been the day before.
When current change is affecting any species’ catch, it is quite predictable and blatant to all but the rankest amateur angler..
The day before, on Wednesday, July 14th, we had Wolfgang Rain, fisheries liaison with US Wind aboard. He’d come fishing to discuss a variety of wind power goings-on, but mainly as a meet and greet I think.
I headed straight into the Wind Power survey area hoping to show Wolfgang the effect a sub-bottom profiler has on sea bass. This is not “air cannon array” seismic survey gear capable of finding oil or gas a mile and more below the seafloor. That equipment is powerful enough to kill fish & even whales unlucky enough to be nearby.
A sub-bottom profiler (part of the ocean floor survey array for these boats) is just a suped-up standard fathometer—a heavy duty “fish finder”capable of seeing perhaps thirty feet beneath the ocean’s bottom.
Wish I had one but my boat doesn’t generate enough power.
We began fishing Wednesday not far from the MD Wind Energy Area near the survey ship, Brooks McCall. She’s a survey boat unlike any I’ve ever been near—it’s equipment(all brand new) doesn’t bother sea bass. We had a wonderful morning bite of sea bass.
About that time, however, another survey ship had come near, the Emma McCall. She’d just returned to duty after making port a few days; was doing pre-survey calibrations. Since a sub-bottom profiler is a simple, hull mounted affair; I doubted they were running it.
So, while running to a new spot to catch more sea bass, I radioed and asked the skipper to have their sub-bottom profiler turned on, especially since I had US Wind’s rep aboard.
I haven’t any idea if they did or not; but, Oh Boy, very few sea bass bit at our new spot. Marked plenty on my sounders - certainly appeared a good spot - couldn’t get them to bite.
From wonderful to pathetic without noticeable change in current or wind..
I ran two more miles away which put about 4 miles between us. Didn’t fare much better.
I ran three miles further still and, at last, we resumed catching some sea bass.
Hard to say from my experience whether we’d just experienced a survey sounding impact. Seemed like it. Probably, but not certainly. Wasn’t a change in current that I could tell. Wind same - no bites.
My guest, Wolfgang, would be able to find out with certainty. Have no idea if he will.
Going back a ways to the first MD Wind Energy Area surveys..
In 2013/14/&15 these survey sounding boats forced all the sea bass out the MD Wind Energy Area. I was never able to convince any Govt. agency that sounders had any affect, any at all, let alone were able to cause cbass to vacate an area.
Will it be any different this time?
Honestly? I doubt it.
I keep hoping though.
Dr. Chris Moore, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council just did send a letter to seven different wind and survey companies today expressing his concern with sounding equipment.
With a couple small changes in management and continued habitat construction we could make sea bassing better than its ever been - ever.
Derned if government doesn’t make the highest hurdles; makes em hard to clear too.
Lot more to this story. Takes incomprehensible twists - but, in a rare event, Wolfgang Rain seemed to understand what I was getting at with every bit of this story.
I’ll delve into it more deeply in the near future, but here it is in a nutshell..
I predicted in 2015/16/17 the great fishing we have now owing the recolonization of the MD WEA because ALL sea bass were in the spawning stock across over 200 sq miles of bottom. When even 6.5 inch sea bass are showing a nuchal hump, that blue ‘knot head’ we so enjoy catching and eating, spawning production rockets.
am now predicting sea bassing will be terrible in 2026. We’ll catch a few dandies, but dern few limits—if we’re still allowed to fish!
Even though there are robust sea bass fisheries in Florida & Georgia, the government will blame climate change using Malinski’s model which, even today with our best fishing since 2003, has sea bass abandoning the Mid-Atlantic in favor of southern New England’s slightly cooler waters. They are forever showing recreational overfishing as shown with MRIP too. You know, like when just the private boats in NY catch more sea bass than ALL commercial AND Party/Charter—by millions of pounds!—and THAT baloney becomes “recreational fishermen are overfishing sea bass.”
NOAA et al will claim climate & recreational overfishing..
Rec & commercial fishermen, however, will blame wind power - 100%. All of the blame for decreased sea bass amongst ourselves will fall on wind turbine construction.
It won’t be true. None of it. But it will be believed.
I absolutely believe we can reverse it and make sea bassing even better than today.
A lot better.
Fix our inshore grounds too.
All we have to do is force small sea bass to spawn — lower the size limit to 11 inches. What it was when we kept all we wanted at 11 inches or better - even over a hundred per person in fall——And the following spring there’d be more sea bass than the year before.
Of course regulation is vital to fishery restorations - but we must now grasp spawning production’s importance as well.
Those government hurdles are going to kill this fishery — and we’re going to blame wind power when it does…..
Capt Monty Hawkins