Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

It's time for some folks to get back into the pool ... for others, not so much ...   Wednesday, May 06, 2015: I now have reports of bluefish to the upper teens! One was taken opn a spoon in Barn…

It's time for some folks to get back into the pool ... for others, not so much ...  

Wednesday, May 06, 2015: I now have reports of bluefish to the upper teens! One was taken opn a spoon in Barnegat Inlet by Jay H., who I met while buying a bleeder cap at TLC, Tuckerton Lumber Company, Surf City branch. My Mikita hdq. Below: Need one of these quiet buggers when cutting burls in, uh, secret forests.  

No a bleeder cap isn’t the latest in ways to drain blood from a bluefish. A bleeder cap – a small compression cap -- is the little, utterly-essential, threaded brass cap that screws on and off the bottom of strategic, brass, hot and cold water pipe shut-off valves beneath older non-PVC Island homes.

The removing of the bleeder cap is the final step in seasonally shutting down  a section of pipe, most often to the outside shower and hoses.

Located beneath or to the side of a shutoff valve, when removed it allows any residual water in the pipe to drain off. It allegedly prevents the drained pipe from freezing. Yeah, fat chance.

The replacing of removed bleeder caps is part of a spring ritual, done right before opening the valves to loose water back into the pipes. Then, right after the valves are turned on, it’s the famed stop-look-and listen. Mentioning this ritual should get a small, somewhat pained, smile of recognition from those who have performed this ritual – many of us for decades on end. That listening can become akin to the sound of money – either being saved in the silence or lost in the telltale gush and hiss of burst pipes or joints, as they spewing forth.

BACK TO THE BLUES: I’ve gotten a few calls from folks wanting to get in on the bluefish happening. I send many folks to the Barnegat Light south jetty. There’s tons of space on those rocks, so I’m not burning a site by being so jetty-specific. There are also tons of fish there.

The blues brothers

Maria Martucci Handley's photo.
Maria Martucci Handley's photo.
'Guess blow fish are going to be harder to catch this year.'
'Dissecting the stomach and two of the three had whole blow fish'

At the same time, I also highly recommend going out on one of our excellent local charters. Many of the charters run ads near my fishing column in The SandPaper. Others leave reports with tackle shop websites and in here.

HEARTPOUNDING DRUMS: The black drumfish have been offering some fine bay fishing variety. Many better drum are now running to 50 pounds. You read right. I also got a photo of a released boat-caught drum being held up by dad – with kids aboard – that I swear had to be well over 60 pounds. Massive. The catch-and-release rate for these spawners remains admirably high, though, statewide, I’ve seen some cows dragged in just to impress the shops.

Here’s an interesting parasitic worm thought, since we’re talking black drum, fairly famed for spaghetti worms. The notion that larger drum have more worms is not really that well-founded. The type worms in black drum only stay in the fish for five years, tops. Then, they drop out.

If you do the math, the worm incidence can actually lessen in a fish that was loaded earlier in life but thereafter lived in cleaner surroundings – steering clear of wormy domains. A massive cow black drum might have no more and possible way fewer worms, per dining portion, than a smaller fish. That is also confirmed by many folks who manually/meticulously remove worms from drum meat before cooking.

From a more epicurean angle, like so many fish species, the meat of larger drumfish can lack some of the flavor of smaller fish. Striped bass, weakfish and bluefish are other perfect examples. Fish with flavor unaffected by size: flounder, tog and (by far the most famous) tuna.  

STRIPED BASS 401: I’ve fielded a few noisy complaints about the way the slotfish striped bass (part of the NJ Striped Bass Bonus Program) has been bumped to the fall, via the latest regs signed into law by the governor.

Here’s an official read:

The recreational striped bass size limit has changed

to one fish at 28 inches to less than 43 inches and

one fish at greater than or equal to 43 inches. The

Striped Bass Bonus Program has been modified

to one fish at 24 inches to less than 28 inches with

a season of September 1 to December 31.

Since I’m insanely busy in spring – and not nearly so much in the fall – that shifting of the slot to autumn fishing times kinda works for me.

One compelling logistic problem I heard came from a bass conservation buff, who fears that the flood of folks targeting slotfish between Sept. 1 and Dec. 30 cold be astronomical. “We could easily overshoot our allotment.”

I’m not even remotely buying into that – and the stats support me.  

Below: Where bassing meets business. 

As you likely know, the poundage for the NJ Striped Bass Bonus Program is based on the federally-allotted poundage NJ commercial fishermen could get if they were allowed to harvest stripers in NJ. They’re not. All of that poundage -- which, at some point, gets converted to pounds, from 24 to 28 inches -- goes to the state’s recreationalists, via the SBBP.

In the past, that annual SBBP quota has weighed in at around 320,000 pounds, give or take a few pounds/inches. With this year’s nationwide cutbacks, the NJ share drops to 241,313 pounds.

Since the SBBP has been around, the greatest poundage used by NJ’s rec segment has barely been 30 percent of the allotment. And that was on the “best” year. We’ve essentially let more striped bass poundage swim free over the years than some states are annually allotted.

Even if we had insane SBBP participation this year, the odds of us reaching even the reduced 241,313 poundage is beyond unlikely. It ain’t happening. But speaking academically, we’ve gone so many years never reaching our SBBP-allowable poundage, that we’ve hypothetically covered any 2015 overage many times over -- not that fishery management types will accept such an academic plea.

For now, I’ll sidestep the newer on-line method of keeping tabs on what’s being caught via the SBBP, except to say the data once associated with the program has taken a dive in recent years. Still, important information is part and parcel to the program, including the upcoming 2015 phase. In fact, I’m betting any enhanced SBBP participation will mean a resurgence of NJ bass data, despite the current less-than-stellar system of monitoring weigh-ins.

Below: Check out this form, used in Conn.

By the by, there will still be a goodly amount of (permit) paperwork – and computer input -- to register for fall slotfish. It will also run about $2 a fish.

The state is just now adjusting to just-amended changes to the SBBP. Give this a read to see where they’re currently at, as of today:

The current allocation from ASMFC is 215,912 pounds to be distributed between individual anglers and party/charter boats. Should NJ overshoot this quota in 2015, any overage would be subtracted from the 2016 quota. Although this program does allow for the harvest of an additional striped bass for New Jersey anglers, the Division encourages catch and release whenever possible so this species can prosper for future generations.


Note: New Jersey recreational striped bass regulations have been modified in all state waters to the following:

One fish 28" to less than 43" AND one fish 43" or greater

With a bonus permit, anglers can keep one fish 24 inches to less than 28 inches from September 1 to December 31. Please note the order of fish harvested does not matter (Bonus fish can be the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd fish). Visit the Marine section of the Regulations page to check current Federal and State possession and season regulations for striped bass fishing in your area.

Participants in the Bonus Program can receive immediate notification of regulation updates, emergency closures, special notices, etc., by subscribing to the free NJ Marine Fishing E-mail List. For details, visit the E-mail List Subscription page.


Permits are currently not being issued. Applications for the SBBP may be submitted now: SBBP Application and Child Support Certification Form (pdf, 70kb)


Ever wonder why NJ has to wait for the governor to sign a bill into law in order to changes the states striped bass laws? I’m not 100 percent sure.

I know that not many years back, in a bit of a controversial move, recreational groups hounded the NJ Senate and Assembly to take control of regulating striped bass, seemingly removing the fate of the fish from the decision-making of the (DEP) Fish and Wildlife Division’s Marine Fisheries Council.

This move was done as a way to assure due-process in Trenton when it comes to regulating our beloved striped bass. As part of this safeguard, changes to  striped bass regs must go through the Legislature, meaning bills have to be introduced to and passed out of Senate and Assembly (sub)committees, presented to and passed by the full Senate and Assembly and finally get signed into law by the governor. 

Yes, it’s a tedious process but the prevailing feeling was: any and all suggested changes to bass laws will then undergo advanced scrutiny, via public and political debate.

In the past, when bass changes were in the hands of the Marine Fisheries Council, only open-floor commentary was allowed at a council meeting, along with the publicizing of proposed regulatory changes in the state registry. Not much was needed, short of a council vote, to make wholesale modifications to fish management. That spooked many a basser, not to mention powerful groups like the Jersey Coast Anglers Association and the Recreational Fishing Alliance.  

Truth be told, the state’s Marine Fisheries Council usually does an amazingly good job – and I used to sit in on many a meeting. However, the fear regarding bass was basic. Should a Council somehow become skewed, toward either commercial or recreational interests, there was little short-term recourse. And it has long been rightfully said that it’s much easier to put a regulation in place than to remove it.


Anglers click your pens ...

NOAA kicks off updating the recreational fishing effort survey

NOAA Fisheries announced today it will transition from a telephone survey to a mail survey to gather data on fishing trips (effort) of Atlantic and Gulf Coast saltwater recreational anglers. 
During 2015-2017, NOAA will conduct both surveys together to calibrate new mail survey results with historic phone survey effort data. NOAA Fisheries will not use the new data in fishery management decisions until 2018. We will continue to work with our partners throughout the three-year period to ensure a smooth and efficient transition. 
The Transition Team includes experts from state agencies, Regional Fishery Management Councils, Interstate Marine Fisheries Commissions, and NOAA Fisheries. Members of the team provided input into the process for calibrating the new estimates to the historical time series and will create a framework for updating stock assessments and catch limits which is respectful of regional decision-making, 
The major change during the transition will involve switching from our current Coastal Household Telephone Survey to a more comprehensive mail survey. Mail surveys do a better job of measuring recreational fishing trips by reaching a broader population (including households without landline telephones), collecting more accurate information from respondents and delivering higher response rates.

Last fall NOAA Fisheries concluded a multi-year Marine Recreational Information Program pilot project in Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Florida. The pilot project results indicated that more people report fishing in the mail survey than the telephone survey. This means that fishing effort is most likely greater than previously estimated. Our revised estimates reflect improvements in our ability to measure fishing effort, but do not necessarily show an actual change in fishing activity.

The current phone survey will be used to provide recreational fishing effort information for the Atlantic and Gulf coasts for science and management decision-making through 2017. When the calibration between the two surveys is complete, we will drop the phone survey and use only the mail survey for estimates of fishing trips. Stock assessments will then be updated to use the mail survey results and the recalibrated phone survey data. These new tools will be used to manage recreational fisheries.

Jay Mann's photo.


Chet Bojarski 

On hooks

Chet Bojarski's photo.
Gary L Baldwin's photo.

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