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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Saturday March 15 -- Bunker still showing; bridges could be growing; blackfishing still going

Saturday, March 15, 2008: Reports continue to flow in about bunker on the beach, being fed upon by winter-famished gulls. These are healthy bunker by all reports; fat with clearish somewhat blue-tinted flesh, the look of just-dead fish. There is a new possible source. Apparently there could be a bunker boat or two are out in the EEZ. Gulls could surely be grabbing wounded fish near those boats and fly them beachward. That is still a stretch, due to the time of year and general laziness of even starving gulls. Also, I have already begun seeing some bunker near the Causeway bridges.

Speaking of those bridges. As you might know, the final plans are being made for the “New Causeway.” Work is scheduled to begin as early as 2010 (fat chance, though). I had been under the impression that all the Causeway bridges would be coupled with second parallel bridges – ending up with upwards of three lanes on and off the Island, along with wide emergency shoulders. I’m now hearing only the Big Bridge will have a second bridge parallel to the existing one, which would be fully refurbished once traffic could be diverted to the new one. The other smaller bridges would then be totally revamped – greatly widened -- and coupled with extra shoulder lanes.

At this point, it’s all just being bandied about in the form of architectural renderings. However, the bandying will have to give way to exact finalized plans to allow (hopefully) for public comment. God willing, I’ll surely be there to foster the initial concept that the smaller bridges have built-in fishing areas.

Yep, that fishing area notion is already drawn into the intro plans – and has already been questioned as to safety. Well, considering we’ve non-fatally been fishing at night for years, while standing on a 2.5-foot wide sidewalk with 60 mph traffic zipping by all but brushing our backs, shows it can easily be done, especially if given a four-foot wide fishing deck with protective railings, like that have on most bridges over the water in Florida.

Should those fishing bridge decks make it into the final plan (and they’ll take some public backing, as final money-saving cuts are made and most public amenities are cut), I’ll then cash in by building and selling “bridge nets,” that one lowers down to hoist up the likes of 50-pound stripers, which I know for a visual fact sometimes hulk about under the Causeway spans. Also, just wait until anglers get a load of the massive amount of bunker bait snag-able off the bridges. Fishing decks will get used.

I know my always secretive bridge folks are glaring at me now but it’s really no secret about the fine fishing beneath the spans. It’s simply a case that either the new bridges will have a fishing area or absolutely no fishing allowed at all, including a ban on the clandestine angling now being done. And don’t worry about it getting crowded in the here and now. Not many folks (short of we whackos) want to get out there in the middle of the night, with too-close traffic flying by (scaring the bejeezus out of us by blowing horns, sometimes to scare and sometimes just to say “Hi.”), jigging in often frigid conditions to finally lure a major fish that has to be fought to exhaustion, then walked off -- whereby we literally “walk” the uncooperative hook-up around the bridge pilings, guiding it toward the bridge’s land end where we have to tediously scale down a rocky embankment (keeping tension on the line and still fighting any runs left in the fish) only to still face a bulkhead pull-up that can be a netting bitch in its own right. All that and in the case of the east side of the Hochstrasser bridge having to scale a cyclone fence (I’m dead serious) while trying to hold onto rod, reel and fish. Whew. Makes me wanna just stay home thinking about it. (Reality: can’t wait until next month when the fun begins).

I have had a slew of emails asking if the tog season might be lost and my answer is maybe yep and maybe nope. As we saw with striped bass a few years back, an eleventh hour fix can save the season. That is what management wants. They actually hate to shut down fisheries and appear the evil empire. That’s a public relations nightmare and one that flies in the face of the solidarity needed to peacefully maintain regional fishing councils. Still, NJ is totally and defiantly out of compliance as of now, with virtually no plea in the wings, or so it would seem.

My main tog complaint – as it is with most serious tog fishermen I know – is not whether the stocks are in trouble(and need protecting) but why they’re in dire distress despite very pronounced conservation efforts for years now. The prevailing thought is the well-publicized poaching business (in live and undersized tog being shipped all over the world) along with a less-publicized defiance of tog fishing regs by summer bank and rock fishermen. To be honest, that beachside (and headboat) illegality seems to center on Asian and foreign anglers. I also have personally seen horrific disregard for the tog laws by summer snorkelers with spear guns, especially in Surf City and Harvey Cedars. I’m dead-stuck serious. These divers (including a slew of lifeguards), kill every last tog, regardless of size, on individual jetties These are spawn-ready fish and resident to that particular jetty. It’s a total decimation of that ecology. That balance does not heal itself quickly, if at all, considering the tog population is so diminishes. I do not know if commercial fish pots are part of the tog problems but those guys know the laws and I’m not sure they’re going to risk fines -- and possible loss of boat -- over undersized tog. I’m thinking not.

Seems the Sea Shepard folks got it done –
(Australian Broadcasting Corporation) - March 14, 2008 - Japan's Fisheries Agency says the country's whaling operation now under way in the Antarctic Ocean is likely to fall far short of the targeted catch as a result of 'sabotage' by a US anti-whaling group.
The operation is aimed at catching some 900 whales - 850 southern minke whales and 50 fin whales - by the end of March.
But the total number of catch will be 500 to 600 this year, as the operation was suspended for about a month following action launched by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in January.
The Sea Shepherd group has been involved in a number of confrontations with the Japanese whalers in recent months, culminating a week ago when Steve Irwin skipper Paul Watson claimed to have been shot by the Japanese.
Japan sent the ships last November under its scientific research program.
International criticism forced Japan to give up a plan to catch 50 humpback whales in the operation.
As the operation is partly financed by revenues from the sale of meat from whales that are caught, the expected shortage will deal a financial blow to the operation as well.
Japan's whaling expedition last failed to catch enough whales because of protest activities by Greenpeace members in 1988.

Here’s an interesting blurb on a recent Greenpeace initiative to put the heat on stores that hype nonsustainable fish species. I’m not in agreement but I do see the group’s point –especially on the tuna side of things:

(By Ken Coons) - March 13, 2008 In a possible indication of tactics it may use in other countries, Greenpeace is locking display cabinets holding fish species on its 'red list' in Stockholm, Sweden.

This is part of an effort to jawbone supermarkets in Europe into discontinuing species that Greenpeace claims are from unsustainable fisheries.

This follows publication by Greenpeace of a list ranking the major Swedish supermarket chains on the basis of their policy with regard to endangered species of fish or fish 'caught using destructive methods. Among the species on the list are cod, plaice, tuna and swordfish.”

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