Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Monday, September 16, 2019: It seems many of my blogs have been beginning with bad tidings, as in bad tides ...

A man is accused of doing 'doughnuts' on Trump's New Jersey golf co...

(Cops were there almost instantaneously after hearing the dispatcher say, "Donuts on the golf course!")
Below: I scored three of these boxes of brand new top-grade plugs at the Tuckerton/Pohatcong Lake show. I did get the prices down a bit. There were 35 unused plugs in this box alone. 

Monday, September 16, 2019: It seems many of my blogs have been beginning with bad tidings, as in bad tides, the result of wind whackings. Ditto, this one. We’re drifting into another blow from the northeast, with some SCA gusts.

It’s becoming mandatory to grab any quality low-wind time between the blows.  That’s why I did a work-break rush to Holgate this afternoon, just to nab a few bluefish in case surf from winds and eastbound Hurricane Humberto muck up driving the far south beachline. Even today there was unpassably high surf toward the Holgate end. That was at dusk, as the tide came up quickly.

As to surfcasting and boat fishing, the sun will shine but conditions won’t be shining. There is a decent mullet migration showing, which could make for some rough-water plugging and chunk casting for any bass drawn in close. A couple small stripers were caught in the last stir, as was a large weakfish. Even with surf things highly a-churn, it’s definitely worth a try if your have the time. Keep me posted.

Saw a goodly load of boat traffic using Little Egg Inlet today. Checking for what was being caught. Not much showing by way of reports.


Holgate Happenings: Of increasing marine life interest is the quantum increase in sand fiddler crabs along the back cut. They began appearing in scattered numbers many years back. At first, they pretty much kept put, barely inching out of their perfectly rounded home holes, often hallmarked by balls of rounded sand emanating outward from their doorsteps.

 A few years back, I noticed their numbers were starting to go gonzo. At the same time, they seemingly commenced with venturing forth in numbers, moving further and further from the dark safety of burrows. They're now inching forth even during the light of day, which isn’t their prime feeding time.

This year is taking the crab cake. Not only are they out and about in hoards but moving so far from their holes they don’t even try to scurry back home when bothered. They just sorta mosey to the side when approached. Larger packs even circle together as if inviting “Bring it on, dude!” Their numbers are becoming the look of old horror moves. Just enlarge them to the size of old VW bugs and we’ve got us an incredible C-grade science fiction thriller.  

To their indigenous credit, these kinda creepy crustaceans are important to the sandy, water’s edge ecosystem they haunt. Those balls of burrowing sand at their burrows are bringing beneficial nitrogen-bearing material to surface. Also, their aerating of the deeper down layers not only lessen the buildup of trapped gases but but enhance the advancing roots systems of wetland grasses. In fact, Holgate's bayside sand fiddlers could be part and parcel to the astoundingly fast advance of the area's salt march plants. 

What preys on fiddlers? Apparently, not a whole helluva lot. While shorebirds are listed as a prime fiddler crab grabber, I’ve never once seen any type birds go after them, not even gulls. I’ve even seen always-ravenous herons allow dozens of fiddlers to craw all around their legs with impunity. I’m betting the crabs are too puny and hard-shelled to interest most predators. I'm certain foxes will much on them if hungry enough. In fact, on the mainland side of the bay, possum and especially raccoons feast on a closely related type of fiddler crab, known as the marsh fiddler. Fish present minimal threat to most fiddlers since they’re terrestrial by nature.

As to the absurdly over-sized single claw on male fiddlers, they’re all show, meant to woo the ladies and out claw other males. Should an all-show claw break off in combat, the declawed crab will commence to eating with its reaming tiny claw until a new and bigger appendage slowly grows to fighting size.

The crabs are so plentiful in Holgate that a minnie net and a fast hand can gather plenty enough to fish with. When forced by hook into a watery realm, fiddlers shine as blackfish bait. They’ll also coax trigger fish, black seabass and even a small striper.




Fall Bow Deer Season starting tomorrow in parts of New Jersey. If hiking, biking, are utilizing the outdoors where it occurs please be careful and consider wearing blaze orange.

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NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife

Fall Bow Deer Season!
Zones In Reg Sets 4-8 Open Tomorrow!
Open Statewide Sept. 28

The Fall Bow Deer Season opens this Saturday September 14 in Zones under Regu...


Trying to establish if invasive spotted lanternflies are, in deed, in Southern Ocean County. Kind of important. Any confirmed sightings?

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Carl Hartmann to American Angler
Not a bad day over 30 fish
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Came down for the day & made it a productive one. Boat on gulp

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We received calls yesterday asking if if we were responding to this young stranded sperm whale in Ocean City, MD. (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/sperm-whale) While we would love to help each and every animal ashore, our response area is New Jersey and occasionally PA. Each state along the mid-atlantic coast has one (or more) state and federally authorized groups that are part of the Greater Atlantic Region Stranding Network. Please support your state network members, which can be found on this site- https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/report


Florida man who filmed video of a shark being dragged by a boat to its death is sentenced to 10 DAYS in jail for his part in the sadistic stunt which caused outrage

  • Robert Benac III, 30, of Bradenton, Florida, was one of three men arrested for allegedly dragging a shark from the back of a boat to its death in July 2017
  • Benac, the son of Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac, accepted a plea deal to avoid going to trial for torturing the animal
  • He was sentenced to ten days in jail, which he can serve on weekends. He also was fined $2,500, ordered to perform 250 hours of service at an animal shelter
  • Under the plea deal worked out with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and other agencies, Benac loses his fishing license for three years
  • Michael Wenzel, the boat captain in the video, accepted a similar plea deal and was also sentenced ten days in jail
  • Social media posts also show Wenzel shooting a shark, and in another he and Benac pour beer into the mouth of an Atlantic Goliath grouper
  • Charges were dropped against a third angler, Spencer Heintz, who had agreed to testify against Wenzel and Benac 

A Florida man implicated in a viral video of a shark being dragged from the rear of a boat to its death accepted a plea deal that will land him in jail for only ten days, which he can serve on weekends.

Robert Benac III, 30, of Bradenton, and the son of Manattee County Commissioner Betsy Benac, also was fined $2,500 and ordered to perform 250 hours of community service at an animal shelter. 

He was stripped of his fishing license for three years in the settlement with the Florida Fish & Conservation Commission and other prosecuting agencies, reports the Bradenton Herald.

Robert Benac III, 30, of Bradenton, and the son of Manattee County Commissioner Betsy Benac, also was fined $2,500 and ordered to perform 250 hours of community service at an animal shelter
Boat captain Michael Wenzel, 22, of Palmetto, also implicated in the July 2017 video, previously accepted a similar deal and is to serve 10 days in jail over five weekends

Robert Benac III (left), 30, of Bradenton, Florida, and Michael Wenzel, 22, of Palmetto, were implicated in a viral video of a shark being dragged from the rear of a boat to its death

Shocking video shows shark being dragged by its fin by boat.
Benac's father, also Robert, when reached by DailyMail.com on Saturday, said he son was already serving his jail time.

'He'll be out Sunday evening,' the father said, adding he was 'disappointed' over his son's punishment. 

'This is not justice. Let's leave it at that.' 

Benac accepted the deal just as he was about to go to trial on Thursday on a more severe felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals that could have resulted in prison time.

Boat captain Michael Wenzel, 22, of Palmetto, also implicated in the July 2017 video, accepted a similar deal in February that required him to serve 10 days in jail over five weekends.


Omega Protein Statement on the Chesapeake Bay Menhaden Cap

September 16, 2019

Omega Protein issued a statement last week that they will comply with Virginia law when it comes to recognizing the fishing cap for menhaden in Chesapeake Bay, but they will take more than allowed under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).

Describing ASMFC’s cap as “low and unscientific” for 2019, Omega Protein said the 2006 cap of just over 109,000 mt was a “political compromise, not ... a scientific necessity.” The ASMFC wrote at the time that the cap was precautionary and not based on a scientifically quantified harvest threshold, fishery health index, or fishery population level study.

While Omega Protein opposed - and continues to oppose - management that is not based on science, it agreed to the 2006 Bay cap to satisfy the concerns of stakeholders while millions of research dollars were spent to determine the impacts of menhaden removals from the Bay. Despite all of the money spent and research conducted, none of the results provided any evidence of negative impacts from menhaden fishing in the Bay, they noted.

In 2012, Omega Protein agreed to, and Virginia adopted, a 20 percent reduction in the Bay cap to its current 87,216 mt figure, a change that stemmed from the ASMFC's fears of potential overfishing of the coastwide menhaden population. “Those fears were proven unwarranted by the 2015 Atlantic Menhaden Benchmark Assessment that indicated the population has not experienced overfishing since the 1960s,” Omega Protein said in their statement last week.

“While the ASMFC has since increased the quota three times, the Bay cap has never been concurrently increased.”

The Virginia General Assembly did not codify the ASMFC's 2017 decision to slash the Bay cap by over 41 percent to 51,000 mt, “an arbitrary figure that was not scientifically derived,” noted Omega Protein.

The proposed lower cap was based on the average harvest in the Bay over the previous 5-year period. Omega Protein said taking a multi-year average and making that average the maximum allowable harvest “removes necessary flexibility from the fishery, since it fails to provide for where fish are located and fluctuating weather conditions season-to-season.” 

An example was this year’s season when adverse ocean conditions coincided with an abundance of menhaden in the Bay. 

“Facing unfavorable weather conditions, the company frequently could not send its employees outside the Bay into an unsafe working environment in the open ocean,” the company said.

“But because the fish appeared with regularity in the safer, more protected Bay, menhaden could be harvested there without incurring unnecessary risks.

“Omega Protein has great respect for the ASMFC, its commissioners and its staff. But this was a rare situation in which the Commission made an unscientific and arbitrary recommendation, which would have resulted in either forced, unsafe fishing conditions or economic hardship for hardworking fishing families. 

“Risking our employees’ safety is never a choice we will make. With our employees’ livelihoods and the economic well-being of Reedville, Virginia and the surrounding Northern Neck region on the line, shutting down operations was not a viable alternative.

“Given the untenable situation created by the unnecessarily reduced Bay cap, we were left with no choice,” the company said. They remained in compliance with the existing cap codified in Virginia law at 87,216 mt.

At the ASMFC Summer meeting in August 2018, NOAA attorney Chip Lynch told the ASMFC that finding Virginia out of compliance with its menhaden management plan would be the first time ever “that the federal government would receive a non-compliance referral for a fishery that is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. And there is record evidence from the leadership of the Commission that the [Bay cap] is not related to conservation."

The company noted that statement referred to a January 2018 letter from the ASMFC’s Chairman to then-Virginia Marine Resources Commissioner John Bull acknowledging “the Bay Cap limit was a compromise reached by managers, fishery stakeholders, and environmental NGOs," rather than based on scientific evidence necessary to protect the Bay.

“Omega Protein has operated in the Chesapeake Bay for over a century. The Company continues to support sound, science-based management of menhaden, which has made the fishery successful, including its recent sustainability certification by the Marine Stewardship Council. We look forward to working with the ASMFC as it develops and implements Ecological Reference Points for menhaden in the near future. But in the meantime, we cannot adhere to arbitrary and unscientific measures that would needlessly harm hardworking Virginia fishermen,” noted the company’s press release.

Omega Protein is a division of Cooke Inc., a family owned fishery company based in New Brunswick, Canada. The Company also has a long-term supply contract with Alpha VesselCo, LLC which owns 30 vessels which harvest menhaden.

Peggy Parker

The Nature Conservancy Desperately Wanted to Protect Groundfish. Now it Wants You to Eat Them

By Tara Duggan

Environmental groups are usually in the business of protecting marine life, not suggesting that the public eat it. Yet, the Nature Conservancy is doing just that: trying to get California groundfish on the radar of home cooks, 13 years after the group took extreme measures to protect it.

In 2006, the crash of the groundfish population — bottom-dwelling fish like petrale sole, chilipepper rockfish and sand dabs that used to be common on Bay Area tables — led the Nature Conservancy to buy up 13 fishing permits and some California fishermen's vessels. The state worked with a handful of the state's remaining groundfish trawlers to change how they fish and protect vulnerable habitat. Now that groundfish populations have rebounded, the Nature Conservancy wants the public to know they're OK to eat again.

"This is such an important story for anyone who likes seafood on their menus," said Kate Kauer, director of the California fisheries program for the Nature Conservancy, which is based in Arlington, Va. "The missing piece is ensuring that it's economically viable, and that the fishermen who are doing all these great practices are really seeing the benefits, and that people want to buy groundfish again."

In July, the Nature Conservancy finished transferring the remaining fishing rights — which are now managed under a quota system — to community trusts at four California fishing ports, including Half Moon Bay and Monterey Bay, which can sell the quota back to local fishermen. The only problem is that in the intervening years, restaurants and home cooks got used to buying cheaper farmed fish imported from Asia. Most people fell out of the habit of eating buttery sablefish, meaty rockfish and tender petrale sole, which are now difficult to find outside of a few seafood markets and old-school restaurants like Duarte's Tavern and Sam's Grill.

"Here we have this amazing resource right at our front door," said Lisa Damrosch, executive director of the Half Moon Bay Commercial Fisheries Trust and part of a fourth-generation groundfish trawling family at Pillar Point Harbor. "Theoretically, everyone in the Bay Area wants to get it. But they're not able to get it or to trust they're getting it."

Damrosch gets frustrated that so little local fish is eaten in a region that otherwise prizes fresh and local food. Eighty percent of the seafood Americans eat comes from outside the country, mostly Asia, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, while the majority of wild domestic seafood is exported.

In April, Damrosch, her fisherman brother Geoff Bettencourt and fellow Half Moon Bay groundfish fisherman Steve Fitz purchased the Pillar Point seafood company Morning Star Fisheries, as a place to offload their own fish and cut out the middle man.

"We had to do that to survive," said Bettencourt.

Named for its habitat near the ocean floor, the groundfish category includes more than 90 species of fish. Trawling, the main fishing method used to catch them, is criticized because it involves pulling a net along the seafloor, which can cause habitat destruction and capture unintended bycatch.

Bettencourt and other fishermen have made adjustments to their gear for lower impact, including lightening their nets and changing the mesh so that juvenile fish can escape. In 2011, Fitz, Bettencourt and fishermen in Morro Bay and Fort Bragg partnered with the Nature Conservancy to create the California Groundfish Collective. Bettencourt acknowledges it was an unusual move in a competitive industry that doesn't usually trust environmental groups.

The Nature Conservancy provided technology so the fishermen could share data to figure out how to target more of the fish they wanted to catch and less of the fish they should avoid, and to stay out of sensitive habitat like rocky areas in more than 23,000 square miles off of California, Kauer said.

"The Nature Conservancy influenced change," said Bettencourt. "They incentivized guys to fish in a better way."

In 2014, groundfish populations had rebounded and the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program gave petrale sole, sand dabs, sablefish and several types of rockfish the green light for sustainability. Still, the fishery has struggled to regain footing. When it collapsed, California ports lost a lot of infrastructure that went along with it, such as companies that offload and process fish. There are currently no industrial ice machines at the Monterey harbor that fishermen can use to fill their holds.

That will be changing next year with new infrastructure investments planned for the harbor, said Sherry Flumerfelt, executive director of the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust, which has groundfish quota transferred from the Nature Conservancy available to local fishermen.

"It's such an important part of the history and the culture and the identity of Monterey Bay," said Flumerfelt.

Each year, the federal government sets quotas for the total poundage of different species of groundfish that can be fished on the entire West Coast. Commercial fishermen purchase what are called Individual Fishing Quotas that represent a percentage of that total amount. If they catch more than their quota, they must buy more, usually via an online marketplace. (They also must pay for a federal observer to come along on fishing trips to monitor what they catch and offload.)

Quotas are often bought up by larger, wealthier fishing ports in other states, like Newport, Ore., one reason the trusts were established — to make sure fishermen in smaller ports like Monterey regain access to the fishery, said Flumerfelt.

To promote groundfish, Flumerfelt's organization helped organize a restaurant week in Santa Cruz this summer, when chefs served local fish, with menus featuring the names of the species, vessel and fishermen.

Pillar Point harbor in Half Moon Bay scheduled a seafood festival Sunday in conjunction with Half Moon Bay Commercial Fisheries Trust. Restaurants will be there to cook up local fish, along with local fishermen like Bettencourt.

The trawler man still struggles to find a market for his groundfish. Last month, he spoke on the phone while heading back from a great fishing trip that he had to cut short because he had orders for only a limited amount of fish.

"We could produce more, but the market can't stand it because they're full of all that other (imported) fish," he said. "That's what seems broken to me."

Extreme Lengths Fisheries Go to Catch Rogue Fishermen

Copyright © 2019 Courier-Mail
By Domanii Cameron
September 16, 2019

Perched in mangroves donning camouflage gear and using night-vision equipment, fisheries officers have launched a hi-tech war on rogue fishermen.

The State Government has cracked down on black market operators who threaten the livelihoods...

Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said the highly mobile patrols were ready to outsmart illegal operators both offshore and within inshore creeks and mangroves.

“Those doing the wrong thing wouldn’t see the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol (QBFP) teams but our officers will certainly detect them with their night vision gear, infra-red cameras and other specialised covert equipment,” he said.

“The QBFP’s surveillance capacity has been turbocharged with an array of high-resolution digital, dashboard and infra-red cameras, night-vision monoculars, camouflage suits, image stabilised binoculars, digital and UHF radios, portable cameras and recording units, trail cameras and thermal scopes.”

The crackdown is already reaping benefits, with several prosecutions already underway. New heavy penalties have also been employed, including jail terms.

“During a targeted two-day patrol in north Queensland, the new equipment detected serious offences at night within the commercial net fishery,” Mr Furner said.

“In central Queensland, QBFP recorded a commercial fisher blocking off more than half a waterway and removing crabs from a net by smashing them against the side of their boat.”

A raft of new regulations came into effect on September 1 for commercial fishers including new total commercial catch limits of 42 tonnes for snapper and 15 tonnes for pearl perch. There is currently no catch limit on these species.

For recreational fishers, new annual seasonal closures for snapper and pearl perch have been introduced from July 15 to August 15.

New boat limits have also been introduced, which will hold the operator of a boat responsible for ensuring no more than two times the possession limit for nine priority black market species — mud crab, prawns, snapper, black jewfish, barramundi, Spanish mackerel, shark, tropical rock lobster and sea cucumber — are on board at any time.

“In the southeast, extended-range digital radios on a secure network now allow officers to safely communicate between patrol teams and the QBFP base, including an officer ‘duress’ system,” Mr Furner said.

“As well as having the ability to observe black-marketing operations, the specialised

equipment allows patrols to detect crab pot interference and identify heat signatures in

hidden compartments which hold illegally caught fish and crustaceans.”


Shocked teenager catches alien-like fish with 'head of lion and tail of dragon'

Oscar Lundahl, 19, was fishing in Norway in 2,600ft of water when he reeled in the ratfish, whose name comes from a Greek mythological creature.

Oscar Lundahl, 19, nearly jumped out of his fishing boat when he saw the bizarre-looking species with bulbous eyes on the end of his line.

The specimen is in actual fact a ratfish, whose Latin name Chimaeras Monstrosa Linnaeus is aptly derived from a Greek mythical monster that had the head of a lion and tail of a dragon.

The fish - a relative of the shark that dates back 300 million years - live in deep water and are very rarely caught.

The ratfish gets its name from a Greek mythological creature which was half lion and half dragon (Image: JørgenZwilgmeyer/BNPS)

Although ratfish are harmless to humans and feed on crustaceans like crabs and sea snails, their odd appearance is enough give any angler worth their salt the creeps.

Their huge eyes are believed to have been developed to help them see at such dark depths.

Oscar was fishing for the blue halibut when he caught the ratfish by mistake off the island of Andoya in northern Norway.

He had four hooks on his line with mackerel as bait and was fishing in 2,600ft of water at the time.

Oscar, a fishing guide for Nordic Sea Angling, said: "We were looking for blue halibut which is a rare species about five miles off shore.

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