Friday, October 30, 2009:
The fishing has definitely slowed. I’m not sure of the cause. Maybe just one of those things – or not. There also seems to be very little in the way of bait on the move. Of course, all this wind and wetness makes it tough to get a read on things. I had three reports directly today. All were pretty much skunkers. I see a few Classic weigh-ins, bass in the upper teens. That showing is obviously down considerably. We’ll see hard south winds tomorrow, usually a bass turn-on.
Below is a communiqué from Paul Haertel and a presentation he made to management. I’m not in agreement. I feel the problem has nothing to do with too many bass not reaching spawn size. Stripers are insanely prolific. There is no need for insane numbers of first-time spawners but a far greater need for genetically gifted fish to fertilize eggs. The problem is allowing larger bass to survive and become the prime breed stock. I believe the dilution of the genetic stock is already leading to weaker fish far more susceptible to disease. Add to that, problems in forage and pollution in breeding zones and it becomes doubly necessary to think fully in terms of quality not quantity during spawns. I also stand firmly in forwarding the danger in allowing an over-proliferation of a species as aggressive as stripers.
Seldom addressed, is the issue of commercial fishermen being the prime recipient of smaller fish. That becomes inane when one sees the number of 18-inch bass being taken by them. Yet, even recreational representatives want anglers to pass on keeping cleaner more edible stripers below 28 inches. With that concept in mind, I have decided to throw my support into the effort to seek gamefish-only status for stripers – even though that could create a catastrophic imbalance in the biosystem if anglers can’t harvest enough bass. Sounds odd but it’s true.
Here’s Paul’s written presentation (again, I’m not sure where this overwhelming support for no slot fish is coming from. A tad fishy but hey … :
As an advisor to the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council representing the New Jersey Beach Buggy Association, I attended the striped bass committee meeting on 10/15/09. Since the council requested additional input I wrote the attached synopsis of the meeting. I then forwarded it to Paul Harris, President of the NJBBA. I also emailed it to many of my fishing friends and posted it on various websites including the Barnegat Fishing Hole, Bass Barn, Striped bass obsession, Stripers online and Striper Surf. I also contacted the representatives of several striped bass fishing clubs including Joe Palotto of the Asbury Park Fishing Club, Scott Christensen of the Bradley Beach Fishing Club, Jamie Gibbons of the Monmouth Beach Cartoppers, and Jerry Van de Sande of the Spring Lake Live Liners. I also spoke with several members of the Berkeley Striper Club, a club I have belonged to for over 25 years.
In my synopsis I asked whether they would prefer keeping the striped bass regulations the same as they are now, allowing a slot fish of perhaps 24” -28” and another bass perhaps over 30”, or allowing one fish 24” and over and a second fish 32” and over. What I found is that anything pertaining to changing striped bass regulations will be highly controversial. Opinions vary a great deal and while most agree that protecting the larger stripers is a priority, how to best accomplish this is the subject of great debate.
Of the NJBBA members that were polled, most preferred that the regulations remain the same. All the clubs also favored the regulations remaining the same and would most likely vigorously oppose any regulations that would allow striped bass under 28” to be kept. On the other hand most of those who responded via the internet web sites seemed to favor a slot limit or the one fish over 24” and a second over 32”.
The majority of those opposed to allowing a bass under 28” to be kept remember what happened from 2001 through 2005. During those years I can attest to the fact that many small bass were being slaughtered particularly during the fall. This size fish was far easier to catch and because they were killed, never had the opportunity to spawn even once.
It was sickening for me to see day after day the hundreds of surfcasters lined up along the beach many of whom were permanently removing these small bass from our potential spawning stock biomass. During these years anglers were only allowed to take home one bass over 28” but they were not nearly as common so that the relatively few that were spared by this law did not nearly compensate for all the smaller ones that were killed.
On the other hand many larger bass are now being killed particularly during the spring run as they follow the bunker schools north. While most agree that something should be done to protect these larger breeders I believe that the best way to do so is to increase the size limit, not lower it. If we really want to protect the SSB we should not consider killing several smaller bass to protect a couple larger ones. That makes no sense and although some may argue that we are protecting more of the larger bass, this is undoubtedly why the ASMFC has developed equivalency charts.
As an avid striper fishermen, who has fished close to 100 days or nights a year since the mid 1970’s, I can attest to what happened as the striper regulations changed over the years. When the moratoriums on commercial fishing were put into effect during the 1980’s the fishing for stripers quickly rebounded. During that period and into the 1990’s recreational fishing regulations were made more restrictive as well. What I noticed was that as the minimum size limit was increased, the average size of the striped bass I was catching also increased. I distinctly remember when the size limit was 34” there were many fish around that were just under that size. When the size limit was dropped to 28”, I began to catch fewer fish in the 30”-34” range and more just under the 28” size limit.
While on the subject of size limits we had a one fish slot limit of 24” to under 28” and a second fish of 28” or greater from 2001 though 2004. New Jersey was then found to be out of compliance by the ASMFC and in 2005 we changed the regulations to one fish at 24” to under 28” with a second fish of 34” or greater. If we had to do that then to come into compliance, how could one fish over 24” and a second fish over 32” possibly be approved now? In 2006 the regulations were changed to two fish at 28” as that is what the majority of fishermen wanted. I also recall the great amount of controversy the proposed changes in 2005 and 2006 created. While I cannot speak for the Recreational Fishing Association I am sure that any of their representatives can confirm that their organization had polled their members regarding the proposed regulations. Their members were deeply divided at that time. I recently exchanged emails with RFA Managing Director Jim Hutchinson who told me that it is doubtful that his organization would take a position on any possible new regulations regarding this issue.
While I am not a conservation officer, I am a police lieutenant with over 32 years of experience. Keeping the laws simple make them easier to enforce and ensures a higher degree of compliance. Currently, the surrounding States of Delaware and New York have the same two fish at 28” regulation as we do. Many of the fishermen who fish in the Raritan or Delaware Bays may fish in the waters of two different States on the same day. They are bound by the regulations of the State that they are in at the time so it is certainly less complicated for everyone if the regulations are uniform throughout the area.
In conclusion, I can assure you that any attempt to change our striped bass regulations will be met with controversy. Most striped bass fishermen are very passionate and opinionated about their sport. Getting a clear majority to agree on just about anything will be a difficult task. However, I have found that most would agree on more restrictive measures to protect the larger breeders and the overall SSB provided it is done on a coast wide basis. Many would oppose further restrictions in New Jersey as long as commercial fishing is allowed in several other states and recreational fishermen off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina are allowed to continue to decimate the SSB during the winter months. Perhaps our representatives to the ASMC could suggest a 50% decrease in quotas for both commercial and recreational fishermen along the entire east coast.
Attached is the letter that I posted on various web-sites, which I also emailed it to various organizations and individuals. It is followed by a sampling of the diversified responses I received.
Striped Bass Committee Advisor