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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Monday, May 16, 2016: That was some angling weekend. It was the type you alert the media over. Thanks.

When your soccer coach is also a former player ... 

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Below: To better understand this, take note of the attire of the instructor in the background. 

Trying to impress on a first -- and last -- date. 

Monday, May 16, 2016: That was some angling weekend. It was the type you alert the media over. Thanks.

The chopper bluefish bite is ranging from Delaware to New England. It is truly epic ... and possibly unprecedented in recent fishing time.

We all know bluefish stocks are highly cyclical but this cycle might be bordering on odd ... and maybe dangerous. I kid you not. Weakfish, kingfish, spot, flounder, even blowfish, can't survive bluefish onslaughts like the one taking place now. No, I'm absolutely not suggesting bluefish-a-cide! Nor discouraging catch-and-release. In fact, I say love the excess. I'm just taking a worry-wort scientific glance at what can happen when any species over-populates --even a species so prone to insane swings as blues. 

Below, you’ll see a 50-pound bass taken north of Barnegat Inlet. It’s one beautiful thing to see. What’s just as interesting is the method used to hook it: snag ‘n drop, a term I coined way back.

I suspected the snag ‘n drop days would soon be upon us. Frustratingly, these current unseasonable west winds, honking with January muscle, snuffed any sight-fishing possibilities on Sunday and will extend into early week. We’ll then see a short blast of NE winds. Later in the week we might see a calm-down wind period, though we will stay locked into a winterish weather pattern.

I probably shouldn’t harp on the negative impact of the insane bluefish bite at Barnegat Light State Park. The bite is great overall. However, I’m not sure why there is so much resentment over fishing folks dragging off their allowable bluefish. The regs are clear: 15 fish bag; no minimum -- or maximum -- size limit; an open season from Jan. 1 – Dec. 31.

I bring that regulation to the fore because any problem one might have with the take-home bag limit needs to be taken up with NJ Marine Fisheries Council, or the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission … not with the average Joe walking off the rocks with his legally-allotted catch.

Admittedly, seeing 15 choppers on a stringer is quite a sight, even a seemingly unconservational sight, especially when the stringered fish are being dragged along the concrete deck. As to any blues found in the trash, that's just plain illegal. But I'm worried about ugly words being exchanged twixt onlookers and fish-hauling anglers. I just can’t agree with that much tension in the air. Bad things can happen. 

Below: Even inappropriately slung bags of bluefish racks can cause in-neighborhood tension. Photo: Dave Hershberger


As a bit of a counter to the above, the weekend saw a massive amount of catch-and-release going on, both blues and bass. We are still one of the most committed C&R angling realms in the county.

Below: Jimmy Otting near Barnegat Light, NJ ·  

Congrats to the slew of folks who had a wonderful Saturday of angling. If there was a skunk in the bunch I didn’t hear about it. A common report included, “I didn’t have to go far from the docks” -- before wild and woolly fishing began.

Below: Matt Garabedian

Alittle fishing before work on saturday. Love our LBI Office

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I came across way too many photos and data to display all of them in here. As usual, it was great to see the kids and gals in the thick of catching.

To be sure, I’m to the point in my fishing life where I absolutely get a rush out of seeing other folks fishing and catching, thus my willingness to videotape or photograph the action. At the same time, the BLSP deck and jetty is way too rat-raceish for me to even look upon for very long. Ouch.

To get my licks in, I tend to slip off and do my own thing. I won’t get into specifics but I had hot hooking, nearly by myself, within eyeshot of the jammed Lighthouse zone. That was probably too much info. I did have fun both fishing and watching a highly-skilled fly-fisherman not that far off. I pulled out my Zeiss binocs to steal some tips on how to lay a tan and white (black tinsel stripe) Clouser minnow fly – I glanced it when I first walked by -- that far out. Not that I even own any fly-fishing equipment. But I’m getting close, especially after watching a “How It’s Made” episode, showing a hand-crafted Ross Reel being made. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN6UP5DFSdo

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John Bushell Jr.‎ to Betty and Nicks Bait and Tackle Fishing Club

5/16/16 UPDATED 5:37 AM Happy to be wrong about my prediction, this year's Gov. Tourney was one of the most, if not THEE most successful one in it's 25 Year history. 
Loads of big bluefish and more than a few bass in the 20 - 30 pound range. The bunker have shown up on our local beaches now and the blues had them pinned up against the beach.
The Spring is just getting started as far as the bass are concerned and the blues have been here for 
a month now. The bay is still loaded with blues so with that in mind and the water temps still being in the low 50's, look for this to continue for several more weeks. -

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Eric Kerber 

This kids is how you start the ocean season!!! Capt. Nick Alfonse just bottomed my 50 scale on the DK!! 51in. 31 girth! WOW snag n drop


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Brett Taylor added 5 new photos.
I had a charter for 6hr Striped Bass and Bluefish. We hit the inlet area early for some Bluefish under birds. After getting our fill, we headed off the beach to find some bunker schools in the search for Striped Bass. After a few schools, we had one runoff and were able to connect on a nice 38 inch Striped Bass. With one of the party being green, we headed back to the inlet and played with the Blues for the remainder of the trip. Nice job by the anglers as we had multiple drifts with all 3 anglers hooked on Blues and had no tangles.
Brett Taylor's photo.
Brett Taylor's photo.
Brett Taylor's photo.
Brett Taylor's photo.
(Now that's a lotta bull. Very nice.) 

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He seemed so much smarter at the pet store ... 

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Nick Honachefsky  with Ristori .
Fantastic trip to Abaco, Bahamas to flycast bonefish! Great times at the Abaco Fishing Lodge and Blackfly Lodge. Look for the full feature in the summer issue of Guy Harvey Magazine. Yes, by the third day, the bones weren't laughing anymore at my flycasting technique!
Nick Honachefsky's photo.
Nick Honachefsky's photo.
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At the recent Jamaica Bay Classic kayak angler tournament, Eric Harrison paddles away with a spot at the Hobie World Championship. The tournament, regarded as the 'Woodstock of Northeast kayak fishing, was packed with hundreds of folks camping and fishing...

And then there were two. Eric Harrison is on the way to the Hobie Fishing World Championship after winning the Jamaica Bay Kayak Fishing Classic.
HOBIEFISHING.COM
|BY HOBIE CAT COMPANY
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Eight-Year Rebuilding Effort Paying off as Chesapeake Bay Crabs "Are Everywhere"

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [The Daily Times] By Jeremy Cox - May 16, 2016 

Fisherman Scott Wivell's license allows him to sprinkle up to 255 crab pots around Virginia's portion of the Chesapeake Bay.

Last Monday, he only had to check 220 to reach his daily limit of bushels.

"Crabs," he said, "are everywhere."

Up and down the bay, watermen are returning to shore with hulls brimming with blue crabs. To be sure, it's a good season for the Chesapeake icon. But it also represents a lucrative payoff after eight years of grudging sacrifice.

Since 2008, Maryland and Virginia have put themselves on a strict diet, lowering the limit on the number of female crabs that could be harvested and ending the winter dredge fishery, among other actions.

For the first time since that watershed year, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, which manages the commonwealth's crab fishery, is considering loosening some restrictions, such as reopening winter dredging. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources isn't there yet, but it may be open to making some mid-year changes that would allow more crabs to be harvested, officials say.

The regulations, painful as they have been, are a big reason that Wivell and other watermen are so busy now, scientists say.

The bay-wide crab population, according to last winter's survey, is estimated at 553 million, almost double the total abundance from 2008. While the 194 million females is slightly below the 215 million target, it does come in above the minimum threshold of 70 million.

"To me, this is a real success story," said Rom Lipcius, a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. "What was implemented in 2008 is truly effective fishery management."

Staving off disaster

Lipcius contrasts the plight of the blue crab with the rockfish, also known as the striped bass. Its stocks were so depleted that Maryland imposed an all-out ban on catching the fish in 1985 and didn't lift it until the population had recovered — nearly six years later.

"I'm familiar with a lot of fishery failures," Lipcius said.

For years, crabs seemed relatively immune to the stressors in the bay that had decimated rockfish and oysters. But by 2008, their abundance had fallen to less than one-third of 1993 levels.

In a historic action, three jurisdictions — Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission — acted to save one of the bay's most-prized species.

"It was really needed in terms of crab management in Chesapeake Bay," said Chris Moore, senior Virginia scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The crab population hasn't grown steadily — harsh winters and an eating spree on juveniles by red drum and other predators fueled severe dips in 2013 and 2014 — but the general trend has been an upswing.

Scientists credit this year's mild winter, in part, with the current resurgence. If it had been as cold as it was last year, the population increase would have been cut in half, said Brenda Davis, Maryland's blue crab program manager.

Crucially, after years of harvesting females above the sustainable threshold of 34 percent of the entire stock, watermen have been consistently staying at or below the bay-wide goal of 25 percent, she said.

The new regulations left the seafood industry with fewer crabs — and fewer dollars — to go around. Wivell, for one, saw his daily bushel limit slashed from 51 to 29. Assuming a modest dock price of $25 per bushel, that was $550 a day no longer going into his pocket.

Worse, in an effort to reduce the overall catch of females by up to 40 percent, officials shut down the winter dredge. That protected females from being scooped up from their muddy burrows, but it marked an end to the year-round fishery. As a result, several processing plants in the region shut their doors.

"That, in essence, killed our industry," Wivell said.

Tangier Island used to have one of the most bustling dredging fleets along with the York River, said Daniel Dise, a waterman who lives on the island. Many have switched to oysters, putting more pressure on that fragile fishery.

Population strong

Some relief may be on the way.

Virginia's crab managers are considering moving up the opening date of the crab pot season from March 17 to March 1, Lipcius said. Global warming trends appear to be heating up the bay earlier, putting crabs on the move. A change in the calendar would almost certainly be offset by a reduction in bushel limits, he added.

Year after year, the Marine Resources Commission had declined to reopen the winter dredge, but 2017 may put an end to that streak, Lipcius said. Maybe.

"We're at a time at which the population is strong, when management has provided a buffer to manage disturbances. We need to be cautiously optimistic," he said. But "you don't want to make drastic changes at this point."

Another move in the works: possibly extending the peeler season from Sept. 25 to Oct. 31, which would be a particular boon to Tangier-area crabbers.

Some tweaks are possible to this season in Maryland, Davis said. When abundance is up, the harvest can be raised without threatening proportion-based targets. The state Blue Crab Industry Advisory Committee is expected to discuss possible changes soon. The changes, if any are made, would go into effect by July 1.

Whatever happens, managers should proceed with caution, said Moore of the Bay Foundation.

"We're still not at the target for female abundance yet. A few tweaks are what we've done as they population has moved up and down. We don't have a survey that gives us information that allows us to make big wholesale changes in the fishery," he said.

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