Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Wednesday March 19, 08 -- Horseshoes thrown into Gov's pit; Fuel and fluke still loom large

Wednesday, March 19, 2008:

The horseshoe crab legislation overwhelmingly passed through the Legislature and is now in line, waiting to reach Governor Corzine. The best guess is he’ll quickly sign it into law, considering the insane eco-pressure placed on him by many segments of society.

However, I want to point out one significant consideration he’ll first be taking into account. (This is meant to keep you legio-savvy folks in the know). The governor could veto the bill and instead accept an offer by the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council to reverse its recent vote to lift the ban. That would mean the council reverts back to supporting the ban -- this year.
In that veto instance, the governor would take some heat until it sunk in that a ban on harvesting horseshoe crabs also takes place going by that route.

It should be remembered that the governor assigns the members of the NJMFC and removing the horseshoe crab from their domain will surely be read as a slap in the face to the commercial members of the council. And, yes, going the Legislature route does, in fact, remove management of the horseshoe crab from the NJMFC, since it would in the future take an act of the Legislature to lift the ban. The council will hereafter have no say in the matter. That also means the horseshoe crab leaves the governor’s side of things – the executive realm, where the DEP and the NJMFC resides – and places it in the hands of the other branch of the leadership, the Legislature. Of course, it has to be remembered that the DEP leadership strongly suggested the NJMFC maintain the ban. Obliviously, it didn’t listen.

That’s mainly just a quick civics lesson since I suspect the Gov needs to do damage control, nationwide, and strongly demonstrate that the Garden State really does care about red knots and the ecology.

WHY RECS BEGAN PLAYING HORSESHOES: The horseshoe crab issue got far more recreationally based than need be. That came about when the recreational members of the New Jersey Marine Fishery Council voted to maintain the ban of crab harvesting. It then came down to the commercial sector of the council taking charge, due to an imbalance in the council’s membership, as the governor shopped around for recreational members to fill vacant seats.

Why the recreational members went strong on maintaining the ban is known to them, however, I’d like to think it was a recognition of the public sentiment on the issue, a commitment to keeping a good relationship with the bird people, a realization that the family (kids and spouses) of most anglers were very much in favor of saving the crabs and the red knots and finally (and only then) a party-line vote against commercial fishing.

FUEL COST KEEPS THING CLOSE TO THE VEST: It is very likely diesel fuel will be well over $5 a gallon this summer. That will cut canyon trips by at least 33 percent by my figuring, though some say it will cut them in half.

At once, I cannot picture these poised boats sitting in port doing squat but I also can’t see them ignoring the vicious hit to the wallet off-shoring will cost. My guess is a huge emphasis will be paid to shorter "off shore" trips, where the likes of bluefin tuna, assorted sharks and mahi will come into play. Not that those shorter runs would be lackluster go-outs. There has long been the potential for decent big game fishing as close as 30 miles out. It'll be very interesting to see what shows from that zone when massive numbers of anglers converge on it -- surely more fishing pressure than it has ever experienced.

FLUKE FUROR: I've had a fairly brisk response to my suggestion that many anglers will be keeping illegal fluke this summer. Somewhat oddly, I haven’t had one emailer or caller disagree with that prediction of public disobedience. Most of the folks contacting me want to (continue to) vent about the regs.
Once again, it shows the marked difference between the fluking mentality and the striper mentality. The mere mention of keeping illegal stripers garners warnings like, “If I see anyone keeping undersized stripers, I’ll report them myself.” The fluke folks are currently in more of who-gives-a-rat’s-ass mode. However, just wait until fluking season starts. I can assure, with a rare degree of near certainty, that those obeying the regs this summer will be all but gunning for anyone within eyeshot keeping seemingly short fish. In fact, the already hopelessly overloaded Fish and Wildlife officers are going to throwing their hands up in surrender when the flood of on-water reports come in from anglers thinking they’ve seen illegal fluke be kept.

Gannett News Service • March 17, 2008
The Coast Guard says higher fuel prices have brought an increase in the number of boats illegally carrying passengers on charter fishing trips. These boats typically charge less because they don’t have the expense of meeting safety requirements.
Officials say these boats do not have licensed captains and have not been inspected by the Coast Guard.
The inspections only are required of boats carrying more than six passengers, and the certificate is required to be displayed in an area visible to passengers.
Officials recommend passengers ask to see the captains’ original Coast Guard license.

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