Sunday, May 17, 2009: Fog, mist and a myriad of other weather conditions have made angling highly hit-or-miss. That hit-or-miss-ness has intended to the times when you can actually get lines in water. Some folks are finding all-time bassing along the beach, per a few reports I got at church today, including a rave revue by piano man Paul P. who had his arguably his best week ever, working the suds of Harvey Cedars. However, even he saw the ebb and flow of scalding hot hooking one day and down to scattered bites the next.
I also had more interesting reports of daytime bass near the bayside spans onto and off LBI. I’m a dedicated night timer of the bridges but never realized how brisk the daytime bassing can get. Also, it’s not just the Hochy Bridge but also the other ones offering loads of shorts and even keepers, going for jigs, plugs or flies. I’m not sure what chunk baits (at anchor) might do there. Any folks tried that yet?
I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback from the recent bust of a slew of folks taking too many river herring (bluebacks and/or alewives) and getting busted, including an Island fellow I know quite well. He told me his getting popped was a buncha crap and it was due to some other baitmen (competitors) out to get him. I don’t know all the details but I sure know that is the most cutthroat of the bait-getting realms and I steer way clear of it even though I have some spots that absolutely no one else knows about, meaning I could easily get my daily legal allotment to sell. And I have a license to do so. It’s just not worth the grief and aggression from other baymen – and, growingly, conservationists.
By the by, don’t be surprised to see a moratorium (or close to it) on river herring. They have been driven to the brink of endangerment, due to an increasingly insane recreational fishing pressure, a horrific loss of habitat – something I consider the real long-term killer of this eco-essential anadromous species and (what else?) inane commercial fishing practices. I want to offer this excerpt from a ASMFC report:
“… River herring stocks are a multi-jurisdictional resource occurring in rivers and coastal and ocean waters. While oversight of river herring management in state waters lies with the Commission, river herring can be encountered in ocean fisheries beyond the states' jurisdiction. Bycatch of river herring in small mesh fisheries continues to be a significant concern. Preliminary analyses indicate that, in some years, the total bycatch of river herring by the Atlantic herring fleet alone could be equal to the total landings from the entire in-river directed fishery on the East Coast. Based on the Board's request, the Commission will send a letter to the Secretary of Commerce supporting efforts underway by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils to effectively monitor bycatch of river herring in small mesh fisheries, and encouraging additional resources to support the cooperative efforts to better manage anadromous fisheries. Additionally, the Commission will request that the Secretary of Commerce take emergency action with regard to implementing the bycatch monitoring measures recently under discussion with New England Council…”
I want to also include this DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife press release in its entirety because it indicates just how grave the river herring shortage has become.
May 7, 2009
Capping a lengthy undercover investigation, Conservation Officers with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife have cited eight people for illegally taking and selling river herring from South Jersey waters. Fishermen are allowed to take up to 35 herring per day, but are not allowed to possess more than 35 herring at one time, or sell herring, unless they hold certain commercial fishing licenses.
Herring are anadromous fish, meaning they live in saltwater, but return to fresh water to spawn in the spring. In recent years, herring migrations have precipitously declined, raising concern and prompting regulatory action by federal and state government. Since Colonial times, many populations of blueback herring and alewife, collectively known as river herring, have faced threats from commercial and recreational fishing, habitat loss from dam construction, silt and pollution – among others.
The National Marine Fisheries Service identified a 90 percent decline in commercial landings of herring between 1985 and 2004, and those numbers have continued to decrease. The closure of river herring fisheries by Atlantic coastal states -- including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Virginia and North Carolina -- and documented declines in river herring abundance have raised questions about the adequacy of current management of the species to promote healthy fish stocks.
Given the circumstances, the Delaware River Basin Fish & Wildlife Management Cooperative’s Fisheries Technical Committee in 2008 took regulatory steps to reduce the current daily limit of 35 river herring to 10. If approved in Pennsylvania, the regulation would take effect in 2010. A regulation to reduce the herring limit to 10 is also proposed for New Jersey’s fresh waters and would require anglers wishing to possess more than 10 fish to produce a receipt proving that they purchased the extra herring.
The seriousness of the decline is also reflected by a May 7 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approval of an amendment to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for river herring. The amendment prohibits commercial and recreational fisheries for herring in marine waters beginning Jan. 1, 2012, unless a state or jurisdiction develops and submits for approval a sustainable management plan by Jan. 1, 2010. The amendment defines a sustainable fishery as "a commercial and/or recreational fishery that will not diminish the potential future stock reproduction and recruitment."
During the past several years in New Jersey, amateur harvesters have refined their gear and techniques to boost the size of their catch. However, as conscientious sportsmen witnessed anglers taking more than the 35 herring a day limit, they reported it to the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. Through information and surveillance, Conservation Officers learned that hundreds of thousands of herring likely have been illegally taken and sold out of the waters in Atlantic County. Anglers stockpiled many of these fish in holding pens, a violation of New Jersey’s possession limit.
Herring are prized as bait in the increasingly popular recreational striped bass fishery, and at a price tag of up to $5 a piece, the demand and profit incentives has fueled black market commercialization at the expense of the species.
In an effort to help protect this important wildlife resource, plainclothes Conservation Officers worked for more than 14 months alongside herring fishermen in Mays Landing in Atlantic County on the Great Egg Harbor River, and compiled evidence on at least 16 people for taking more than the legal daily limit of herring, having more than the possession limits and for illegally selling herring.
On May 3, Conservation Officers executed search warrants at three locations in Atlantic County, and wrapped up the undercover investigation, led by Lt. Greg Honachefsky by citing eight men with dozens of violations in connection with illegally catching and selling herring. Eight others were apprehended and charged last spring at the start of the investigation. All told, possible penalties for the violations exceed $33,000.
The eight men cited this week are:
Peter May, 29, of Hutto, Texas, formerly of Mays Landing, was charged with possession of 350 river herring over the legal limit, unlawful use of a bait seine, and unlawfully screening a river.
Thomas Valiante, 49, of Galloway, was charged with possession of 270 river herring over the legal limit, unlawful use of a bait seine, and unlawful screening of a river.
Anthony Compton, 37, of Mays Landing, was charged with possession of 37 herring over the legal limit and conspiracy to sell wildlife illegally.
Victor Stott, 69, of Barnegat Light, was charged with 25 river herring over the legal limit.
Joseph Milza, 52, of Egg Harbor City, was charged with 31 river herring over the legal limit, unlawful sale of wildlife and conspiracy to unlawfully sell or purchase wildlife.
Mark Constantino, 19, of Egg Harbor Township, was charged with illegal sale of wildlife.
Thomas Vanzant, 24, of Brigantine, was charged with possession of 119 river herring over the legal limit, unlawful sale of wildlife, conspiracy to sell wildlife illegally, and failure to keep required records.
John Hoagland, 27, of Egg Harbor Township, was charged with possession of 125 river herring over the legal limit, unlawful sale of wildlife, conspiracy to illegally sell wildlife and failure to keep required records.
Pro report: Hello All,
This was a strange week on the bay. Normal spring patterns aren't holding... in fact, there doesn't seem to be any discernable pattern from one day to the next. We were out Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and the results were completely different each day.
On Wednesday, Karl Stefan brought out his son Karl Jr. for a day of planned light tackle catch and release fishing. The first hour or so was excellent back bay fishing, with a bunch of blues from 7 to 10 pounds plus a 26" bass coming over the side. Then, as if someone had thrown a switch someplace, the bite stopped. Totally. The only thing that came over the side for the next couple of hours was immense wads of slime weed that continually fouled our baits. Fortunately, a quick trip to the jetty at the turn of the tide led to the guys absolutely bailing big blackfish for the final hour or so of their trip. The final count was around 35 blackfish released, with most of them in the 5-8 pound range... really nice fish. The younger Karl also managed another bass that somehow managed to beat the hungry tog to his bait. A couple of pictures showing the variety that showed up are attached.
Thursday was a different story. Old friend Bill Murphy brought out sons Bill Jr. and Brian to celebrate Brian's upcoming wedding, and Mother Nature greeted them with winds howling from the south at 30-35 with higher gusts. Tough conditions to begin with, but then the slime weed started flowing as thick as I've ever seen it in my years on the bay, making it near impossible to keep clean lines for more than a few seconds. When the rains finally started late morning, we could only laugh and wonder when pestilence would show up. Final tally for the day, just a couple of big bluefish.
Friday was different yet again. Southampton's Hal Gilham was out with father-in-law Charlie in damp, foggy conditions and not even a breeze on the bay. We still had issues with slime weed, but found enough breaks to manage a pick of blues and bass throughout the morning topped by Hal's 34" bass (picture) taken way in back.
So that's the story for this week. The good news is that there are plenty of fish around, including some big ones, but they're just not as thick as we usually see them this time of year. The slime weed was definitely a problem this week, but we see it every year, it does eventually come to an end, and things return to normal. We should be in pretty good shape leading up to Memorial Day weekend.
Until next week.
Capt. Jack Shea
Barnegat Bay Fishing Charters