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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Thursday, August 12, 2010: The winds of change are upon us, short-term -- but I’ll take it. A high pressure gradient from the north and a developing low off the Carolina’s is coming close to giving …

Thursday, August 12, 2010:

The winds of change are upon us, short-term -- but I’ll take it. A high pressure gradient from the north and a developing low off the Carolina’s is coming close to giving us an old-fashioned midsummer nor’easter, a clockable tradition many years back. This weather event won’t go the full-blown nor’easter route but we will see brisk ENE winds for a few days and astronomical tides will already be fired up so streets areas near sewers on LBI and backbay mainland areas are going to show a very unsavory mix of very salty water and whatever has gathered in the sewer system after weeks on end of little or no real gully washings, via storms. While I am usually the dead opposite of those folks who go into convulsions if their precious vehicle gets even a splash of saltwater on it, even I’m going to be avoiding that street flood water. It’ll have no freshwater at all and will contain the aforementioned nasty stuff. And, yes, I’ve vowed to take better care of my new(er) truck than I did my last one.

As for the impact on fishing, I’m thinking the fluke will get their first break of the summer, as many fair-weather flukers will have no problem taking a little break from the near boring nonstop hooking. I’ll not again for this week that I do like the way so many anglers have actually adjusted to the low keeper right and have come to at least accept the challenge of finding something to invite to dinner. I sat that because those of you who’ve read this column for years know that over the past few years the gripes and complain emails were as nonstop as the undersized fish. Again, this year it really seems even those moaners and groaners have given up the gripe ghost -- and taken an extra six-pack out with them. Just kidding. I spend a load of time telling folks how alcohol is not as large a part of fishing outings as comedians play it up to be.

Anyway, look for winds to gust well over 20 mph through a large part of the weekend before a return to southerlies ushers in yet another protracted bout of muggy bothersome HHH days. While such hard onshore would regularly draw stripers toward shore, the bass just aren’t in the house to draw in. Just enjoy the cooler air. Adding to the striper turnoff will be utterly balmy waters over the next few days. Look for mid to even upper 70s in the surf.

The cooler air will have me doing Pines time, to handpick “white cranberries” from wild (abandoned) bogs. These unripe berries have become something of a rage among many cranberry farms. The white to blush-colored fruit, which must be handpicked since they are not ready to come off the vines (meaning they can’t be flood harvested), are very sweet compared to the tartness of fall berries. The only trouble this year has been the brutal beat down via a summer sun that has topped 100 at least two dozen times this summer, in the bogs, which are veritable heat magnets in the Pines. Scald is killer for the cosmetics and health of the cranberries, however, it is not quite as noticeably damaging when the berries are in the white phase.

Early warning: If you are going to be part of fall surf and nearshore fishing tourneys, you need that federal angler registry card – the free one that takes mere minutes to obtain by phone or computer. If you’re like me and got one but now aren’t sure where it is, go online and tell them you need a duplicate.

Amazingly, there is still a great deal of confusion – or is it simple denial – over the legal necessity of having an angler registry card for 2010. IT IS MANDATORY, albeit free. It is NOT optional and free. Help all us tourney organizers – and even shop owners where you weigh-in fun fish -- by just getting the frickin’ card. Hey, I don’t like ‘em either but why risk some ugly s*** because you didn’t have the card when you caught that amazing potentially big-money fish? If you have a license from any other state, it works in NJ. I’m not sure how that out-of-state thing will play out when NJ gets a for-pay saltwater license next year – should ongoing efforts to get the state to foot the registry bill fall short. I say that because I know Florida WILL NOT accept out-of-state saltwater licenses to fish down there so I’m not sold on us accepting their licenses up here.

(((((((((((((((((((()))))))))))))))))

Here’s an upbeat report, via RFA. HOWEVER, we all know it’s easy to get burnt at these management meetings, though I’ve long been saying we’ve got to be getting a break, maybe a big break, on the fluke front. Surely the new federal angler registry (in place in many areas, including NJ) is showing how many fluke there are in the sea – and the inlets and the bays and the back creek and the …

Summer Flounder, Scup Quotas Poised To Increase

Mid-Atlantic Council to Meet in Philly to Set 2011 Quotas

(8/10/1010) New Gretna, NJ - The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) is set to meet in Philadelphia from August 16-19. On the agenda is the 2011 quota setting process for black sea bass, bluefish, scup and summer flounder. Additionally, the MAFMC will also be considering final action on the Annual Catch Limit (ACL)/Accountability Measures (AM) Omnibus Amendment.

As of today, fishermen are expecting some good news next week following recent meetings of the Council's Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) and Monitoring Committee (MC). At those meetings, the SSC and MC recommended that summer flounder total allowable catch quotas could be set in the 32 to 34 million-pound range, representing a 30% increase over the 2010 quota while providing for a landings level amongst the highest allowed in the past 20 years. Scup, also known locally as porgies, could see an even larger increase, with the SSC and MC offering recommendations of increases in allowable catch from 15% to near 200%. Status quo was the consensus recommendation for black sea bass, while bluefish quota is poised to drop slightly.

"This is good, potentially great news for anglers," said Capt. Adam Nowalsky, the Recreational Fishing Alliance's New Jersey (RFA-NJ) Chapter Chairman, who attended the meetings. "Industry and public involvement by groups such as the Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund (SSFFF) and constant lobbying by the RFA have made the case for increasing quotas as stock biomass grows, and the regulatory process is responding in a positive manner."

Increases in quota should provide the opportunity for less restrictive regulations in 2011, but recreational landings in 2010 based on the MRFSS system could mitigate or eliminate entirely those potential improvements to size, season and possession limits. "We won't know what potential regulations we will be facing until November and December when those specifications are set," explained Capt. Tony Bogan of United Boatmen and a member of RFA-NJ Board of Directors.

MRFSS, or the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey, has come under heavy scrutiny in recent years after having been labeled "fatally flawed" by the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council (NRC). When the Magnuson Stevens Act was reauthorized by Congress in 2006, strict mandates requiring NMFS to replace MRFSS with a more effective recreational harvest survey program were to have been met within two years of the signing of the law. However, only limited improvements have been made.

"The MRFSS survey has statistically high percentages of error and continues to be used by the federal fisheries service to collect hard landings numbers for recreational fisheries," Nowalsky said, adding "it was never designed nor intended to be used for that purpose, and that's why Congress mandated the change." According to the RFA, a random survey program known as MRIP (Marine Recreational Information Program) has potential for improvement, but is still being developed. According to requirements contained within the Magnuson Stevens Act, it's almost two full years behind schedule, which Bogan says is having a grave impact on the recreational business community.

"Our recreational anglers continue to be penalized with more restrictive regulations based on MRFSS, despite increases in allowable catch. Something's got to give, but mostly it's been the recreational sector giving the most," Bogan said.

Equally important for anglers with respect to available quotas in upcoming seasons will be the MAFMC discussions next week of the ACL/AM Omnibus Amendment. Designed to bring Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Plans into compliance with the revised Magnuson Stevens Act, provisions of the new amendment could penalize recreational anglers by reducing allowable catch quotas based on MRFSS estimated landings. "Overwhelming public comment against the use of MRFSS in the manner prescribed by the Omnibus led to some important modifications at the June MAFMC meeting," explained Capt. Nowalsky.

"Some troubling aspects concerning the use of MRFSS remain, particularly recreational paybacks," he added. According to Nowalsky, MAFMC members representing New Jersey including Erling Berg, Peter Himchak (from the state's Marine Fisheries Administration) and Chris Zeman were unanimous in opposing the use of MRFSS for prescriptive in-season closures. The NMFS Regional Administrator may still have authority to close fisheries based on MRFSS. An RFA lawsuit is presently ongoing challenging this authority.

The Omnibus Amendment is on the agenda for Tuesday, August 17, while quotas will be set on Wednesday, August 18. The Council meeting is open to the public, and more information about the meeting location and times can be found on the RFA-NJ website at www.rfanj.org. (Click the Council Meeting link under Upcoming Events.)

In other regulatory news, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) met in Alexandria, VA the week of August 2. The Commission's Tautog Management Board was convened for the first time in over two years, meeting to discuss current issues in the tautog fishery, including the illegal harvest of tautog. The Commission voted to initiate the development of an addendum to reduce illegal harvest of tautog for the live market, which includes several strategies designed to help curb poaching.

New Jersey's anglers should also be happy to hear that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has completed the process of adopting amendments to N.J.A.C 7:25-18 concerning the recreational and commercial fisheries for Atlantic coastal sharks. This brings to a close a multi-year regulatory update process that threatened NJ with a closed shark season in 2010. Updated 2010 shark and other recreational fishing regulations in NJ can be found online at www.njfishandwildlife.com/digmar10.htm with shark regulations specifically detailed on pages 15 and 18.

"Many thanks go out to the state for getting this done and keeping the fishery open," said Capt. Nowalsky, "especially Marine Fisheries Administration staff." In recognizing the $1.6 billion industry that is recreational fishing in this state, Capt. Nowalsky added, "RFA-NJ looks forward to continue working with the state on ongoing fisheries issues."

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