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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Wednesday Oct. 24, 07 -- Storms a-comin' -- and a long Fote read

Wednesday, October 24, 2007: Waves: Rapidly building north swell; astronomical conditions (full moon) combining with a weather system that could build into significant trough – accompanied by SCA-plus winds – will create huge surf and open-sea swells. NE winds will gust to 35 mph. Beach erosion will likely be a problem, though erosion from NE winds is very fast top repair – as opposed to long-term southeast wind erosion that holds the damage.

As for fishing, let’s hit it. Things would be just fine if we had stripers around. We don’t. They are so AWOL that it’s tough to get even small fish. Yes, there have been a few caught, mainly because of the heavy autumnal fishing pressure, but it is dismally slow for the arrival of these ideal conditions. That said, this is a fine time for the hard-core folks to get out there and grab a daily, weekend or even weekly prize in the Classic. Personally, I’m thinking slammers. I hope to work Holgate or the shallows near the Old South Jetty in Barnegat Light. Gators love churned up conditions as much as big bass. I’ll be working huge popper, the type that cast into hurricanes and are so big they scare away smaller blues. The technique I use is the “insane retrieve,” all but skipping the plug across the surface.

By the by, we’re rapidly approaching 1,000 contestants in the Classic. This contest, fished by my dad, is profoundly traditional and, well, Classic. Screw those who hate it because it brings fishermen to the Island. We only have a few things left that are Old LBI. Long live the Classic.

The following, written by Tom Fote, is a long technical read but if you have true interest in fluke fishing, you’ll wade through this. By the by, the guys in Holgate are still catching fluke at a rate only slightly below bluefish.

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Summer Flounder:

The Problem Of Bad Scientific Assumptions & People That Force Us To Live With Those Assumptions.

The summer flounder debate continues hot and heavy. Congressman Frank Pallone is requesting a Congressional Hearing on the controversies surrounding stock assessment and targets. There will be some organizations that will be pushing for NMFS to support the quota suggested by the monitoring committee regardless of the hearing or any outside peer review. I believe these organizations misinterpret Magnuson Stevens Act. Magnuson/Stevens Act require that quotas do not exceed the recommendations of the Science & Statistical Committee (SSC) Committee. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council does have an SSC Committee and they have never used this committee to make recommendations for a summer flounder quota. This year JCAA and our Congressmen demanded an SSC review of the Monitoring Committee and it was never done. The membership of the Monitoring Committee and the SSC are entirely different and would bring different perspectives to the discussion. The quota of 15.77 million pounds was approved by both ASMFC and MAMF. In August 2006 ASMFC and MAFMC requested an outside peer review of the model and the targets that NMFS uses for summer flounder. NMFS has given nothing but excuses for their inaction on this request. Numerous Congressmen, Senators and Governors have also requested this review. ASMFC is equal partners in this plan and each state is represented on ASMFC. Those state agencies have turned to their Governors and have questioned the science used by NMFS. JCAA published a letter from Governor Corzine requesting this peer review. This request has been echoed by other Governors and various state agencies.

JCAA is an environmental group and I am reluctant to place the blame broadly on all environmental groups which include other recreational anglers. However, there are some NGO’s who don’t all include representation from the fishing public and the fishing industry. They are the ones calling on NMFS to support the lower quota. They have not a clue about the science or the 17-year history of this plan. They simply take NMFS science without question and react. They are very quick to excuse NMFS for not following the rules in determining the quota without going to the SSC’s and ignoring the requirements for providing a study of the economic and social impacts. They blatantly ignore that this study is also required under NEPA rules. They can’t have it both ways. Either we follow Magnuson Stevens to the letter or we ignore it altogether.

JCAA understands we need to rebuild stocks, even if the process is painful. However, summer flounder is not a collapsed stock. It is a stock that has been rebuilding since 1990. The stock has gone from SSBMSY a 1994 spawning stock biomass (SSBMSY) of 22 million pounds to a 2007 estimate of between 80 – 109 million pounds. This means the spawning stock biomass has increased by 4 – 5 times in the last 13 years. It also means that we could be at half of the total of the proposed SSBMSY and then overfishing would not be taken place and the quota recommendations would be much higher. There is a very good distribution of older year class fish. If you compared to other species, summer flounder has 80% of a fully recovered stock for older year class fish. We have discussed the problem of flat line or below average recruitment for the last five years in numerous articles in the JCAA newspaper. Please read those articles for the information you need. Remember, recreationally we are not harvesting any summer flounder until they have spawned 3 – 4 times. Summer flounder spawns at 13 inches and New York is fishing at a 19 ½ inch fish recreationally.

I pulled the following from NMFS' SARC Documents (all numbers in pounds):

1993 2000 2005 2006

Spawning Stock Biomass

20,460,000 42,680,000 67,320,000 93 290 810

Total Biomass

46,860,000 61,380,000 104,060,000 103 914 887

What I find the most discouraging is the people at these NGO groups will actually ask and get increased funding because things look bad. It makes me wonder if they don’t create “bad” to prove they are doing something and they need more money. They don’t seem to care who it hurts. The people who depend on the commercial or recreational fishing industry won’t get increased funding – they’ll just go out of business. Look around. There are tackle stores going out of business and charter and party boat owners laying off staff and failing to make their loan payments. I attended a meeting in Florida with the tackle manufacturers and their sales are way down on the east coast. These are not corporations like General Motors that can sustain years of loss. These businesses just go bankrupt and people lose their homes, boats and hope. No one at NMFS or the lobbyists at the NGO’s won’t lose their jobs or their homes. They keep promising if we wait, we will see the benefits. I can’t imagine who will still be in business to reap those promised benefits. And, finally, the quality of life issue is really important. For many anglers, this is their recreation, not golf, just fishing. Summer flounder is the fish sought out by most recreational anglers to take home and eat. The point is there is no point. All of this is needless if rebuilding summer flounder is your goal.

Tom Fote

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