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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Monday July 30 2007 -- Reports taking a turn for the better

Of the nearly two dozen fluking reports I picked up via emails or by calling around today, all talked of huge takes of flatties, with a very decent keeper count.

I’ve noticed that anglers don’t maintain keeper-to-throwback percentages as much when they’re getting adequate take-homes material. When fluking goes sufferingly small, as it had been earlier this summer, I get a calculator-esque exactness on the keeper-to-throwback ratio. “We averaged 1 keeper to 13 throwbacks,” was typical of exacting emails. Now the reports tend to read, “J, Flounder fishing is good, both bay and ocean. Caught a nice limit Saturday near the LE reef, good ratio of keepers to shorts. They wanted meat. Big strips of sea robin or bluefish on either a bucktail or a hook. Sunday, in a short trip south end, my wife caught an 8-lb, 27-inch slab in the bay, south end, on a bucktail tipped with squid, plus one other keeper, then we called it a day. Paul.”

That e-reprot is very telling. While the north end, especially Barnegat Inlet (via Double Creek) has had flounder in very fine numbers, the less fluke-populated south end has had a slew of doormats. I’m not sure why that is.

SIZE MATTERS: There is a huge contingency of flukers who swear by the “big bait” theory. While I’m anything but a fluke expert, I, too, like a major “look” when drifting for flatties. I always go with offshore strolling squids (those are the huge squid you buy one at time) and maximize the length and width of the strips. Robins also work superfine. Those big and fatty single-side fillets from sea robins may make a seemingly unsightly presentation but apparently looks just fine to flatties. The only down side to mega-chunks of sea robin is the dead feel it gives a rod when hand-holding it during a drift.

Obviously, there is an increased wait time after a bigger chunk has been picked up and before setting the hook.

FLUKE REG RATTLINGS:

Oddly, it’s always with subtle trepidation I talk about ass-kicking fluke fishing.

Flatties have become as sensitized a subject as striped bass were back in the 1980s, during moratorium times.

As you likely know, there is a huge push by the National Marine Fisheries Service (part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to cut back on next year’s summer flounder quota after, only months back, talking about the great increases on the recreational horizon, beginning in 2008.

The fight against the cutbacks is being lead by Congressmen Jim Saxton and Frank Pallone. Both of those politicos are heavily geared to help recreational fishing – and both congressmen (Jim, in particular) carry some serious weigh in D.C. However, they could carry the weigh of a wooly mammoth and still not be able to trample down NMFS, which has the legal leverage of the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act. That powerful bipartisan legislation was actually designed to be tamper and trample resistant. One of its most poignant properties was to absolutely assure – and carry out – the scheduled recovery of all U.S. fishery based on the best data science has to offer. Right now, science is saying things are not on the right track for a proper summer flounder recovery in the allotted timeframe. That would violate federal law, plain and simple.

Fortunately, our country is not run by the no-sway premises of Napoleonic Law. Despite what some officials like to believe, there is always sensible give-and-take within laws. For that reason, the congressmen (heavily spurred by anglers) are looking for some give from NMFS. (See Fote statement below)

Back to hooking. Bluefish abound. Kingfish are pretty much no-shows. Junkfish are easy to find -- and hard to avoid. Bluefin tuna didn’t leave with WMIT’s end. Turning into very bad year for mahi. Stripers a non-factor in overall action.

Weakfishing pulsates from decent to glowing. West Barnegat Bay has offered hooking session that border on tiring. When combined with fluke and blues, very fine days are highly doable if you even remotely know the lay of the land.

Typical for summertime, there is a rash of “run-off” reports. From backbay to main bay to inlets to nearshore water to offshore canyons, the one-that-got-away tales are still the main talk of the block. During the WMIT2007, I heard about losses of fish so big (both the fish and the tales) that one can only guess at what monsters lie in wait when you put a bait or lure in the water.

Sharks keep cropping into “run-off” conversations. One kayaker surmised that he needed a “bigger kayak” after hooking a major shark that went acrobatically airborne, not far from the beach. Although his shark may have been a bull or a blue or even a hyped up dusky, I had heard from a few folks who swear they’ve seen makos in close. That is not out of the question, since the nearshore water all the way out to the canyons has been chilly and not that clean. Such watery dankness could get just about any species o shark cruising the close-in coast for a look-see.

Cow-nosed rays are also willing and able to take lighter tackle to the cleaners. However, we seem to be in the “off” side of this off-and-on fishery. When we’re on with the rays, the schools are mind-boggling numbering in the tens of thousands, often darkening huge stretches of beachline waters, as they smoothly wing around.

Interestingly, fishermen and scientists of the Chesapeake Bay area are pondering the possibility of encouraging the commercial fishing of rays in an effort to prevent the opportunistic feeders from obliterating aquacultural shellfish beds -- not to mention natural shellfisheries slowly recovering from flagrant over fishing.

Fishery biologists aren’t overly keen to that commercial fishing concept.

Female cownose rays don’t reproduce until 7 or 8 years of age, thereafter birthing only one pup a year. Slow reproducers are indubitable vulnerable to sophisticated fishing.

Of course, an anglers’ knee jerk reaction is to point to the massive number of rays now in the system.

Biologists will counter by pointing to Brazil, where a very similar ray species was intentionally targeted. Within a few years, Korean fishermen had all but obliterated that ray’s biomass. That stingray species is now considered “critically endangered” in most areas and is marked as “obliterated” in others.

I’d have to say we have a far larger quandary when it comes to skate, which seem legitimately too plentiful -- and more than willing to eat everything in sight, whereas the rays have a more selective diet.

HOLATE COVE NOT TO GO: Great cove news. Like many folks here for maybe too many decades, I quietly bemoan the fact that build-out has left a barebones look of what LBI once was. For me, the horrific hit the bayside has taken tops all aesthetic loses. While there has always been loads of house hereabouts, and the beach is actually pretty much what it was decades back, the bay’s edge is where the look, feel and accessibility has been lost forever.

And I’m not the only one thinking that.

The state has doubled its efforts (albeit ineptly enforced) to stop the loss of bay accessibility to common folks – who technically own the bay’s banks via the public trust doctrine.

Just try to find a piece of bay that isn’t bulkheaded to hell and back.

One such touch-of-the-past bayside piece of real estate is down Holgate way. As noted in here in past columns, a tiny cove where actual sand meets actual bay, stands fairly defiant off Roosevelt Avenues. I had fretted that the sands there-at would fall to the build-out craze. Then, over the weekend, one of the folks owning a home along the edge of that cove told me that the homeowners in that area are also wild about the serenity and naturalness of the cove and assured that there are no efforts to bulkhead it, though one owner apparently has one of those “riparian rights” deeds that, I’m guessing, is what one needs to place major dockage. None of that is seemingly in the future for the cove.

I have a special interest since I launch my kayak from a street end accessing the cove. It allows me to reach the bayside Holgate fishing zones in short order.

FLUKE REG FOCUS: JCAA’s Tom Fote is “the man” when it comes to understanding the utter complexities of the entire management system. In order to get a proper read on what’s about to transpire regarding next year’s (gloomy) fluke fishing regs, please closely read the following release from Tom.

Commit to memory the legal procedures involved. In that way, you won’t be among those last-minute ragers who come up with all these high fallutin’ cure-all fluke management suggestions for 2008 when all that can be done is to assist the state in deciding on which highly undesirable selection should be made.

Fote’s statement: “The Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC) and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will be having a joint meeting in Port Jefferson, NY on August 7-8 to set the total quotas for summer flounder, black seabass, scup and bluefish for 2008.

The ASMFC can delay its actions on setting quotas until another meeting and that is what they did last year.

The MAFMC and the ASMFC will them meet in December to set the recreational size and bag limits for 2008.

If ASMFC decides to allow conservation equivalence it will send out tables to the states that will show different options that states can pick from. These tables do not leave a lot of room for new ideas.

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