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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Wednesday, February 16, 2011: Another day closer to another day. It was a tad nice out there. I did some afternoon out-time on the Quail Fields off Rte. 539. They’re part of the very large Greenwood …

Wednesday, February 16, 2011:

Another day closer to another day. It was a tad nice out there. I did some afternoon out-time on the Quail Fields off Rte. 539. They’re part of the very large Greenwood State Forest/Pasadena Wildlife Management Area. That’s the largest piece of Pinelands real estate being preserved by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife's Bureau of Land Management. It is off-limits to motorized vehicles for a goodly chunk of the year but open during certain hunting seasons. I was once told I couldn’t be back there mountain biking but last year I had a ranger stop me as I biked and all he asked was if I had seen any dirt bikers riding the fields – which I had, since they almost took me out on a blind curve.

Despite the Quail Fields having dozens of cleared fields, supposedly meant to attract wildlife, I really only see deer and some hand-raised fowl (released). Still, it’s a super cool hike and peddle zone.

Interesting historic aside: If you look at the Pasadena WMA on Google Earth or, better yet, http://njstateatlas.com/1930/ you’ll most likely first spy the very mathematically laid out Quail Fields, dozens of them like ducks in a row – hey, it’s a wildlife management expression, what can I say? And those 50 some football field-sized fields are indeed an impressive chunk of land clearing work. However, if you look just to the west of the politely placed fields, you’ll see all these scattered everywhichaway areas of cleared land. Look closely. Yep, they’re shaped just like alphabetic letters – but only discernable when viewed from miles above! My friends, that would be irrefutable evidence that our very own white-tailed deer have eaten away vegetation in such a way as to cosmically communicate with extraterrestrials whom the deer have stayed in touch with for thousand of years.

Or, far less likely, they are human-cleared areas, sometimes called rye strips, which were part of an experimental wildlife habitat improvement project that took place after the horrific wildfire episodes in 1963. Those fires charred just about all of what is now the Jersey Pinelands – back then solely called the Pine Barrens.

Seemingly not overly hip on the absolute need for fire to perpetuate the “pine” part of the Pinelands, the state decided in the late 1960s to help the “Pines” recover by clearing tons of fields. The thinking was they were creating “edge habitat. In theory, such clearings would enhance wildlife habitat and encourage biological diversity. In other words, the Pine Barrens had been doing it all wrong for tens of thousands of years. Yes, that’s just me being cantankerous. However, the fields have now been there long enough that they have become yet another ecological element of the Pinelands.

As for those large letters that pilots, to this day, see and question, they actually are just that. Apparently, part of the rye strip field making project included follow-up studies, meant to monitor how various vegetations fared in the clearings. Someone came up with the idea of literally crafting different fields in the shape of letters. In that way, aerial surveillance could be done via fly-overs. It was like reading a managerial alphabet soup. Pretty weird sutff but it was begun back in the Sixties, well-kown for weirdness and try-stuffishness.

February 16, 2011 - OUTER BANKS, N.C., The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries has put more restrictions in place on catching striped bass, but some sport fishermen worry even the new rules fall short of what's really needed to make a change.

'These fish are owned by the American public and they're being wasted by the thousands right now,' said sport fisherman Rick Caton.

They're still trawling for striped bass off the coast of North Carolina, even after thousands of fish were found dead in the water.

Many sport fisherman hoped trawling would be banned, but on Friday, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, whose members include representatives from the commercial industry, voted only to limit the amount of time a trawler can tow its net.

'So that folks can't go out and soak their nets for long periods of time where there will be mortalities,' said N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Director Louis Daniel.

The new tow limit is 30 minutes. The Division said the change will keep more fish alive.

'Our experience has been from tagging cruises for the last 20 years, you get a lot of successful releases, live releases from trawls,' said Daniel.

But sport fishermen like Caton said as long as trawling is permitted, there will be more fish wasted at a cost far greater than the market value.

'Right now at the rate we're going, your grandchildren are never going to get to see none. They're getting wiped out at a horrific rate,' said Caton.

Commercial fisherman Jamie Daniels said, 'We're the ones being killed.'

Louis Daniel said, 'At least based on the stock assessments for striped bass, they're not considered over-fished and over fishing is not occurring.'

Regardless of how healthy the striped bass population is or isn't, there is no doubt that many of the fish are being wasted when discards happen in order to comply with quota limits.

'Rather than throwing the fish overboard or wasting it in some dump, give it to a food bank,' said recreational fisherman John Newbold.

'That is a good idea. I'm all for that. I don't have a problem with that,' said Michael Daniels, Wanchese Fish Company manager.

Only three states along the Atlantic coast allow striped bass to be harvested this way, and sport fishermen want North Carolina removed from that list.

Several sport fisherman contacted WAVY.com and said they believe there is enough support amongst state and federal legislators to have striped bass designated as a game fish.

If that happens, commercial harvesting of that species would be prohibited.

In addition, WAVY.com sent an e-mail asking how the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries plans to enforce the 30 minute tow time. Our question was not answered but they sent a summary of the results from last week's meeting.

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