Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Saturday, June 16, 2007 -- Waves persist and Bill Figley's letter

Saturday, June 16, 2007: Waves: Rebuilt to about 3-5 feet today; a bit of a surprise increase in the wave action. It lead to my contacting the weather Service to increase rip current warning levels from “low” – that it seemed it would be when I called in at sunrise – to a healthy “moderate.”

I’m not sure why the swell surged so much but it did make surfcasting tough. Also, the rock and roll for boats out on the ocean – also contending with 15 mph southwards – made for less than ideal fluke drifts.

Fluking is very cellular, meaning there are some nice cells of flatties but they can come and go quickly. It is very tough to find a pattern.

During volleyball on the beach today, I chatted with longtime surfcaster Manny, as he was being frustrated by what seemed to be stripers offering some serious swacks to his clam bait. We chatted bassing and Manny talked about the not-too-distant days when eels could nab every cow bass in the vicinity. He had a right-on theory on why eels have fallen out of favor with the fish. Noting the stocks of American eels is way done (very proven in recent stock studies), Manny feels the fish simply aren’t as familiar with the creatures. It is a “fishing from the hatch” concept. This is not to say bass won’t still suck in an eel, they simple aren’t tuned to them – or their common place in the water column. Live bunker are far-and-away the ‘hatch’ now and the bass have their eyes tuned to them. Should a huge surge in eels come along, these slippery baits will return to glory.

By the by, there was a very good showing of bass in the surf despite the muddled water and still-strong currents. That bite should persist through tomorrow’s 6 p.m. conclusion to Simply Bassin’ 2006.


Here’s a reality check email from the height of the wind swell:

Hi Jay. Fished from 4:45am to about 12:30pm today. Fished a favorite Beach Haven spot early and moved towards Holgate after about
an hour. A wicked North to South current was dragging my 8oz of
weight down the beach in minutes. Plus, every cast resulted in a
ridiculous amount of weed accumulation. Not a single touch. Only
sign of life was a single porpoise swimming North about 200 yds out.
Not knowing that I was licked... I moved to a spot in between Brant
Beach and
Spray Beach. The jetty provided me with just enough
current defection to fish a nice hole on its South side. I fished
here for about 3 hours without a touch. I finished the day back up
down in Beach Haven again dealing with weed and current. No touches
there either.

Tough day, but no complaints. That's fishing. I guess I should have
fished with Joe last night. Hope to give it another go sometime this

Nick H

REEF LETTER BLOG: I want to print Bill Figley’s recent letter to the Press of Atlantic City regarding artificial reefs.

As you know, Bill built the state’s artificial reef program. Now that he’s retired (but still active with the building effort), Bill is embroiled in a battle to keep commercial fishermen from essentially destroying the angling experience at the reefs. The professional fishermen are overloading the reefs with commercial gear.

It should be noted that gear from scant few commercialites is causing headaches for thousands of anglers headaches who paid for the placement of the reefs.

Bill’s ‘Letter to the Editor’ is a bit of an update (and further) explanation of his efforts to make the reefs the exclusive domain of anglers.

I’ve know Bill for a good many years – including his tenure with the reef program – and I want to note that he’s long been an excellent writer, as this letter shows. However, it’s going to take a lot more than craftiness with a pen for Bill to win this battle so stay tuned to ongoing, widespread efforts to save the reefs and get seriously involved. I will keep you posted on just what can be done.

Dear Editor:

I was New Jersey’s Reef Coordinator since the inception of the State’s program in 1984 until I retired in 2006. During this 22-year period, I was asked to establish an ocean reef network (15 sites), design and build reefs (over 3,600) and to study all aspects of them.

I would like to provide some information that may help readers better understand the Press article of June 6 entitled “Sport-fishing groups reject compromise on reefs.”

For over 20 years, the Division of Fish and Wildlife has used Federal Aid to Sportfish Restoration Funds, derived from a 10% excise tax on recreational fishing gear, to fund the administration of the State’s Reef Program. According to the State’s Reef Plan and its State and Federal reef permits the purpose of this effort is to enhance marine habitats and to create fishing grounds for anglers and underwater attractions for scuba divers.

The reefs are designed for the general fishing public and are open to everyone to use, residents and non-residents. They are designed for hook and line fishing. An old adage states that 10% of the fishermen catch 90% of the fish. Being a public resource, the reefs are geared toward the average angler – the guy who takes his two kids out on a party fishing boat or a couple buddies out in his 20-ft. boat. For the average angler, the fishing experience is more important than catching large numbers of fish.

The reefs are designed so that precise navigating and anchoring are not necessary. Most reef sites are built as “drift fishing areas,” where pieces of concrete, pipe or Reef Balls (specially designed fish habitats) are dispersed on the sea floor, thus spreading out both fish and anglers. Anglers only catch fish when their boat happens to drift over a small piece of structure. The concept is to give the fish a chance and provide moderate catch rates over the entire fishing season so that the maximum number of people have the opportunity to catch a few fish. The reefs are not designed to sustain large harvests by highly efficient commercial fishing gear.

We found reefs to be very productive marine habitats, holding over 150 species of fish and marine life. A ten-year study found 15 juvenile (cricket-sized) lobster and over 100 young-of-the-year fish per square yard of reef structure. So far, the State has created 4.1 million square yards of reef. Multiply that figure times the densities of baby fish and lobster to calculate how effective the reefs really are in producing marine life.

A small number of fishermen are setting hundreds of traps on reef sites. They set their traps on long submerged lines and then leave for a week before returning to check them. The traps are usually left on the reefs for months at a time. The unattended trap lines snag anglers’ hooks and anchors and even interfere when the state tries to put down more reef material on the site. Anglers don’t catch lobster and since both lobster and fish move off the reefs, traps do not have to be set on reef sites to catch them.

Commercial trap fishermen hold special permits granted by state and federal governments that grant them exclusive rights to set traps on 8,000 square miles of the sea floor off New Jersey. If you want to enter their fishery, you have to buy a permit from one of them --- the government won’t sell you one. Reef sites occupy 0.3 % of this area. Is it really unfair for this small amount of sea floor to be set aside for public angling and diving? Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia and New York have already designated their reefs “hook and line and spear only.” Commercial fishermen are welcome to use reefs, but they should have to use hook and line.

The reefs were designed to be like public parks, open to everyone, as long as their activities conform to those for which the park was intended. In the case of the State’s reefs it is for angling and diving. So, grab a rod and reel or some tanks and fins and come out and enjoy New Jersey’s public reef resource. Sincerely, Bill Figley


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