Friday, March 07, 2008: Most of you have likely heard that the fluke regs are established for 2008 and once again the summerites win out over the fall fishermen. Sincere thanks to Paul. H. and Tom F. for their efforts to get the longer season – into autumn. I’ll insert here a comment from Paul:
Fluke season for NJ for 2008 will be as follows:
Option D was approved by the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council
Season begins 5/24 and ends on 9/7
8 fish bag limit
18" size limit.
I attended the council meeting tonight and spoke and spoke on behalf of the Berkeley Striper Club in favor of Option E which would have allowed us to fish for fluke until 10/6 with an 8 fish bag limit and an 18 1/2" size limit. The vast majority of people who spoke favored Option D which is why it was passed. That is probably because the meeting is held down by exit 41 off the GSP where it is convenient for those living in south jersey to attend. Nevertheless, it is too bad more people from north and central jersey did not go to the meeting and voice their opinions.
The one good that came out of the meeting is that we will be able to legally use fluke belly or back from a legal sized fluke we catch. However, the rack must be kept onboard and will count as one of the fish towards your limit.
Fish and Wildlife folks and the concept had almost made it in for 2007 but there were some qualms about enforcement. Which leads into a serious (and potentially ugly) subject regarding fluking 2008. Truth be told, I’ll likely be among the first to bring this up – and I wouldn’t be surprised if other outdoor writer refuse to even address the issue.
Let me begin by offering what I swear was an actual conversation I heard outside a convenience store (off-Island) only two days ago. It’s pretty close to the actual words since they kinda stuck in my mind – like a superglue. I’ll even leave in the ambiguitie,s since they might make sense to some of you boat people.
First guy: “Bryan made the fiberglass boxes we’ll be putting inside. We’ll resin them in place. There’s no way you can see it even if you pulled everything out.”
Second guy: “How many fluke will it hold?”
First guy: “Probably five or six.”
(In recalling, I can’t remember if the word ”fluke” or “fish” was used.)
Through some less-than-dynamic detective work, I realized these guys were creating secret storage areas for fish on their boats.
Please do not think this is a Jay Mann flight of fancy. These guys (who may even read this blog) were both loud and arrogant. Could they have known it was me nearby and staging the whole thing? Nope. They were on the side of the store and I was just around the front, standing there reading a text message.
Even before that overheard exchange, I had this sense that there is going to be rampant disobeying of the fluke regs this summer. Need I bring up – yet again – that bust up in the Raritan last summer when a team of marine police and Fish and Wildlife enforcers nabbed folks left and right in a very short span, even as word got out instantly so that other boats offloaded their illegal catches. I had an email from a guy who had been fishing up there and actually saw boats dumping contraband (scaly contraband) with the boarding still well in the distance.
I’m going to go numerical here in saying that any given weekend this summer will see one out of three boats breaking the law – many as arrogantly and aggressively as those guys I overheard. I’ll even go numerical in guessing that one out of two captains will at least ponder where he or she could place illegal fish – with a goodly percentage of those ponderers not willing to go through with such storages, for both ethical and fear-of-the-law reasons.
If any one out there disagrees with me, please sound off. I want to carry this subject into my Sandpaper column. However, I’ll let you know right now that three hardcore fishing folks I ran this by felt – with no doubts whatsoever – that my predicted numbers have already been the norm in summer past. They agreed that this summer could see, in the words of another, “insane” disregard of regs.
One of those guys had a somewhat consoling notion when he said, “It’s not like these guys are going to have a lot of fish to take home anyway. I think they’ll grab a couple (illegal) fish for dinner.” It actually hit me later he may well have been talking from a very personal level – not a hypothetical one.
The blackfish debacle is getting serious, so much so that even the NJ Marine Fisheries Council brought up the possibility of the season being shutdown by the feds, since the state is out of compliance – and down to the final hours where a shutdown could be reversed.
I’ll skip the reasons of the out-of-complianceness to begin beating the horse from the previous blog segment. There is something very wrong with the blackfish stocks. This is NOT a case of miscounts and unnecessary cuts to make federal recovery schedules. Through my annual summer seines, I have seen a precipitous decline in young-of-year tautog. The fishery is NOT coming back like it should be – not even remotely. I can’t help but think illegal keeping of tog is at the root of the problem.
More on these issue in upcoming blogs. I’m interested in input. (Come on, break out of that winter funk. Huge stripers are already inching our way).