Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Sunday March 20, 2011:


Over the weekend, I stopped by the home of Alfie S. to see some of the newest fish decoys and lures being invented by this Tuckerton craftsman. You might have seen The SandPaper article on his out-there creations, with very unnatural seeming colors – though the shapes hold kinda true to life, be they mice, frogs, minnows.

When you see his decoys or fishing plugs close up and personal, it’s obvious that they have a cool coating of fantasy, both in the shaping and coloring mix.

I did some research, tracking down stories and photos from the olden ice fishing and fish decoy carving days. You can tell that even the earliest of fish decoys were a tad phantasmagoric. Although the oldest ones – worth a mint to collectors – have seen their paints fade drastically with time, a little artistic imagination can bring back the decoys’ original hues. The folk art oozes out when one imagines these nearly psychedelic artificials lighting up the dark icy-cold spearfishing days of the distant past.  

Alfie has recently taken to making super cool walnut “jigging sticks,” based on very old “jiggers” first made by Native Americans, then adopted up by Euro-settlers. They were used to dangle decoys to simulate a swimming action. The sticks are shaped a bit like a long barrel revolver. Many have a very primitive line holder on the top, shaped a lot like a boat cleat. It can hold maybe ten feet of dark twine wrapped around it. The tag end of the line goes through a hole near the front of the stick’s barrel. That’s where the decoy is attached and jigged. See www.fishdecoys.net , cursor down and click on box entitled “Fish Decoy Items.” As a break from hand-carving

When it comes to fishing plugs, many of Alfie’s artificials are colored like something that over-successfully partied all night at Mardi gras. However, they are actually proven fish catchers of the highest order. Some of his craziest colored lures have produced the largest bucketmouths. In fact, he has a standing competition with fellow plug/decoy crafter and neighbor Don Johnson. They challenge each other to create the most out-there artificial still capable of fooling the baddest of bass. 

I have a theory on why the wildness of their plugs works on better fish. It’s pretty much a given that bass in NJ lakes have been caught/fooled and released in the past. They quickly wise to the look of what might be called production lures. The loud lures made by Alfie and Don bare little if any resemblance to store-bought plugs. They are also generally large and bulky, just what bigger bass crave -- when it comes to bright purple and glittery edibles.



Can we talk technical stuff for a minute. All it has to do with is the future of recreational fishing.

A very interesting thing is happening down in the Gulf O Mexico. It stems from a kinda good thing. The much sough after – and heavily overfished -- red snapper is making a comeback, due in large part to fishing folks not harvesting the allotted poundage in the wake of the oil spill.

With more fish on-scene, there will soon be a revisiting of the existing allocation system, allowing commercial fishermen 51 percent of the poundage and angler 49 percent.

Here’s where it get interesting – and conceptually move closer to our realm.

The recreational realm will be making a case of a much larger cut coming is way. Bandying about scientific studies, a case will be made that “species, such as grouper or snapper, are worth three to four times as much to the national economy when caught by recreational fishermen versus commercial fishermen. The difference comes from the amount recreational anglers spend buying boats, tackle, gasoline, bait and hotel rooms.” See release below:

Chief among the possible changes would be the way the Gulf's red snapper harvest is split between commercial and recreational fishermen. For more than 20 years, commercial fishermen have been allowed to catch 51 percent of the annual harvest, with the recreational side catching 49 percent.


The so-called 'snapper allocation' will be up for discussion at the April meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

Part of news story.

“Federal fisheries law dictates that harvests should be allocated in part based on the largest socioeconomic benefit. And that, say recreational fishing groups, means that sport fishermen should be allowed to catch a larger portion of the Gulf's red snapper harvest.

“That is already the case with some species, such as amberjack, with recreational anglers allowed to keep more than 70 percent of the annual harvest, while the commercial side takes a much smaller portion.

“ 'Those allocations are 20 years old. It is something we've needed to look at for a long time but we've been so preoccupied with the overfishing problem,' said Bob Shipp, longtime member of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and head of the University of South Alabama's marine sciences department. It will be up to the Gulf Council to decide whether to change the way the snapper harvest is split between the fishing groups.

“ 'We can start to look at socioeconomic factors. If the council looks at the socioeconomic impacts, then they can change the allocations,' Shipp said.

“But there is more to the equation than just dollars and cents, said Crabtree, whose agency must approve any allocation changes made by the Gulf Council.

'You can't make decisions based solely on economics. It goes more to what would produce the most benefit for the nation. There is value in people getting enjoyment out of going fishing,' Crabtree said. 'The allocations have to be fair and equitable. They have to promote conservation.... It's a tricky thing. I suspect there will be a lot of intense discussions.'”

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