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Fool Moon Fever

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Under the Full Buck Moon of July, some of us are hoping for a change of luck that’ll come like a break in the weather. This past week saw some bad Airbnb guests sink Ben’s houseboat out in Marina 59 and our good buddy Dave Cole broke his leg playing what he claims was sports in McCarren Park. Hopefully Airbnb’s insurance is solid and Dave feels good enough so I can come over and bring some beer for the guy. We are in the dead of summer and the fluke and sea bass action is on, though there are still some pretty nice bluefish out there too. I have yet to make it east yet this summer, but with this upcoming string of 90+ degree days, I’m already yearning for an early fall, though with 14 straight months of the warmest global temperatures since 1880, those days might be over. At least in my lifetime.

Also this week there’s been some news about Barry Diller’s proposed “floating park,” called Pier 55, on the Hudson River. Located near 14th Street, the semi-private/semi-public park will comprise a green space and performance venue. In an artist rendering it resembles a lush oasis propped up by golf tees with a band shell carved into artificial rolling hills. Funding for the park comes from Barry Diller and his wife, Diane von Furstenberg, who have committed $113 million to the project, with the rest coming from New York State and NYC funding. Who is Barry Diller, you might ask? He is the man responsible for the Fox Broadcasting Company and the USA network. He is a member of the Television Hall of Fame, a billionaire (valued at 2.6b), and an apparent lover of the arts. This is not the new news: construction on Diller’s Pier 55 was halted earlier this month because of a lawsuit by the City Club of New York claiming, according to this article, the “Hudson River Park Trust [who partnered with Diller-von Furstenberg on the project] didn’t adequately invite public comment, rushed environmental reviews, and ‘violated the public trust doctrine by alienating public parkland to Pier55, Inc., a private entity.’” The City Club, an advocacy group backing responsible urban development, filed its lawsuit last summer and recently won a battle halting construction of the park until September. That is, until this week, when an appellate court ruled construction can continue—but only consist of driving the first nine support pilings into the river.

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Now, one might also ask why would anyone who fishes in NYC, or fishes at all, care if a rich Hollywood guy wants to donate $100 million to a public park on the Hudson. If you’re like me and not from New York City, you may not remember the Westway Project in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Westway Project was a David Rockefeller creation: a proposed 4.2 mile, six-lane highway to replace the then-dilapidated West Side Highway. The Westway highway would be built underground by filling in the shore of the Hudson, making available the newly created street-level, river-front property open for real estate—242 acres for parkland and apartment and office buildings. The project was estimated at $2-$4 billion and qualified for 90 percent funding by the Department of Transportation—which was huge for the city and fervently championed by Mayor Ed Koch and Governor Hugh Carey.

From Dick Russell’s excellent history STRIPER WARS (2005): “[T]he Westway Project heads wanted to create a massive landfill on 181 acres along the shore—requiring a mountain of dirt big enough, by one estimate, to bury all of Central Park six feet deep. This was where the future real estate would be built, replacing a series of dilapidated piers along a two-mile strip of Hudson River waterfront.”

The project depended on a series of favorable Environmental Impact Studies, including one by the Army Corps of Engineers. Since 1899, the Army has had control of all US navigable waters, and in particular issued the dredge-and-fill permits needed to destroy the pilings and old piers the project required. Al Butzel, an attorney who worked on a lawsuit further upriver at Storm King concerning a striped bass spawning area, was representing the New York City Clean Air Campaign at the time. From Russell’s book: “Butzel knew that a study of the interpier area had been conducted by the New York State Department of Transportation and passed along to the Army Corps. ‘I had heard rumors they were pulling up fish left and right, but I never thought that would make any difference. But when I saw the comments that the [National Marine Fisheries Service] had sent in, basically saying the Westway Project had the potential to decimate the striped bass population of the Hudson, well, suddenly a lawsuit on this seemed like an awfully good idea.’”

The initial EIS dismissed the pier area as a wasteland and “biologically impoverished,” but a further study by a consulting firm found “‘an astonishing amount of fish life’ in the interpier area, fifty times more fish than were found in the river channel,” according to Russell. “Substantial numbers found calm waters among the broken piers and littered bulkheads of the New York City shoreline and—thanks ironically, to about 150 million gallons a day of raw sewage discharged by Manhattan into this sector of the river—also found warmer water temperatures and nutrient-rich sustenance in the form of micro-organisms.”

Still in 1981, the Army gave its approval to the Westway project, but was stifled by lawsuits brought by the Sierra Club, the Clean Air Campaign, and the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association, led by Al Butzel. The judge in the case was Thomas Griesa, whose decision would be based on the Army’s EIS. Using “hundreds of pages of data on fish populations from thousands of spots in the Hudson River Harbor,” the Army Corps of Engineers concluded Westway “would harm the habitat for less than .04 percent of the Hudson River’s commercially valuable striped bass (p. 96).” But a scientist named Ian Fletcher reviewed the same documents and found the project would affect 64 percent of the overwintering nursery habitat for juvenile striped bass would be destroyed. While unraveling the discrepancy, Fletcher found the Army consultants distributed the fish population evenly across a wide spread of the lower Hudson River area in order to mask the concentration of fish directly in the path of Westway.

On March 31, 1982 Judge Griesa, citing the Army’s data manipulation and the “obvious purpose… to detract from the startling revelations about the presence of fish in the proposed landfill area,” invalidated the Army Corps’ permit. The New York Times’ headline read that day: “U.S. Judge Blocks Westway Landfill as Threat to Bass.”

In 1984, the Army resubmitted its EIS and again was sued by the Sierra Club. A year later, Judge Griesa, citing a history of deception and collusion by the Army Corps, the Westway Project, and the Federal Highway Administration while preparing its EIS reports, blocked all funding for Westway. Perhaps because of striped bass, but probably more so because of shady dealings with Federal agencies, the Westway project was dead.

From a NY Times opinion piece in 1984: “During the trial, two years ago, Judge Griesa became outraged at the behavior of the Westway witnesses and their lawyers and said: ‘I have sentenced people to prison for securities fraud where the conduct was less blatant. . . .’ And a year ago, a former Federal Prosecutor, Thomas Puccio, who had been asked by Governor Cuomo to examine the allegations of wrongdoing, declared them serious and called for an independent investigation. In an interview at the time, Mr. Puccio said: ‘This is a real-estate boondoggle. People commit perjury because big money is at stake. There are heavy interests involved here.’ Now the [State Investigation Commission], following up on the Puccio report, has confirmed virtually all of Judge Griesa’s findings of dishonest conduct.”

Now, Diller’s floating pier project is no where near the scale of the Westway. But if allowed to proceed without the proper environmental impact studies, as the lawsuit by the City Club alleges, it could set another bad precedent for overdevelopment in the area. A thread on Stripersonline.com started by Pete Silverstein, a longtime opponent of Westway and  member and former director of the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association (that later became Riverkeeper, which now supports Diller’s project), stresses the importance of the EIS and the fact that, again, 30-some years later the Army Corps of Engineers apparently approved the project without one. Some posters support Diller, in a bizarre pro-capitalist trumpeting that what’s-good-for-this-rich-guy-is-good-for-me.

Not knowing anything about Barry Diller’s character and intentions, it’s still obvious who benefits most from privately-owned waterfront property, and it’s not the visitors, tourists, music and arts fans, and it’s not the common taxpayer. None of this discounts any inherent goodness in Diller/von Furstenberg’s project—but the fact is that this is an investment for them and when a media mogul, even a billionaire one, makes moves like this, even with the best of altruistic intentions, he expects a return on that investment. That’s all well and good, but circumventing the proper channels, much as those pushing for Westway and advocating all the financial and public benefits it would have afforded, arouses some suspicion. The people know when they’re being lied to and they know when they’re being screwed. All one has to do is look at the current political climate in America to see massive evidence of that being played out in various extremes.

Is there any good news out there? In the same thread, Charles Witek, whose blog One Anglers Voyage is usually full of depressing news regarding fish stocks and conservation, pointed out: “One of the most interesting things that came out of the Westway debate was the way the bass adapted to what was an entirely artificial habitat along the coast of Manhattan.

Historically–or, perhaps, I should say “prehistorically,” as European colonists began changing the shape of the island just about as soon as they landed–juvenile striped bass inhabited the marshes that bordered Manhattan, and sought food in the interface between the saltier water of the Hudson and the fresher water poured into the big river by a host of streams.

In late-twentieth century Manhattan, the coastal marshes were long gone, and the streams had been filled. However, the juvenile bass were still there, now living among the decaying pilings of old piers, and the new ecosystem that had sprung up around the man-made structures.  Fresh water incursions still existed, too, but now they came in the form of discharges from wastewater treatment plants.  And it turned out that the juvenile bass were thriving in the novel environment that surrounded them, and that destruction of the piers and old pilings to create Westway would have had a significant deleterious effect on the Hudson River stock. It’s not speculation: although this occurred before everyone had Internet access, there is still information out there for people who care to look.”

Lots of information out there still. One final epitaph on Westway can be found here in the Observer, Rocky’s Last Laugh: The Westway Project Comes Full Circle. It turns out maybe the landfill from building Westway may have mitigated the damage from Hurricane Sandy, though building lower Manhattan on landfill and trees from midtown didn’t seem to help them any when Sandy buried it under 14 feet of water.

—mkl

no time to get lazy

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Two things usually run through my mind when I show up at a fishing spot and no one else is there. The first is “I’m about to have an epic blitz when no one else is watching,” closely followed by, “Wait, what does everyone know that I don’t know, and how do they all know there are no fish here?” I’m not sure if it’s my unbridled optimism that leads me to the first thought because this has never happened to me once, while thought number two happens all the time. However, this has never stopped me from buying more and more gear and plugs.

I’ve almost stopped writing in my log book; these nights have been so empty. A couple of small blues here and there, but the bass remain elusive for me this season. Still it’s nice to see the pencil popper get yanked under the surface, even if it’s small bluefish—they were a good eating size at least. I went out to the jetty on Wednesday and passed a few bait guys along the way with some big Jersey-size blues in buckets. With a cold front approaching, a falling barometer, and a howling Northwest wind it shouldn’t be hard to predict the outcome. The question of why no one else was on the jetty was answered pretty quickly and I got absolutely slammed by the wind and waves. I stubbornly stuck to the old fishing adage, “If the weather is bad, that’s good. If the gear is cumbersome, you’re dressed right. If the bass and the blues aren’t biting, and you’re still happy, you’re a surfcaster.” (James Kindall) I expected that wind whipping south of the Verrazano to deliver me bait and thus the bass and blues, but they never appeared. The ocean side looked like a lake while the bay side appeared to be churning like in a monsoon. I called it a night.

 

It’s mid-June already, but I hear there are still fish on their way north. The bait is here and balled up nice and tight if you can find it. Everyone I talk to is on edge that this is going to blow up soon—it could be this weekend. It’s fluke season too, so there’s no reason to give up now!

Also, I received an email from Capt. Paul Eidman of the Anglers Conservation Network this week. He’s looking for written comments to support bait fish protection from industrial and commercial fishing. Look here for a sample letter. We can send them to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council via traditional mail or email.

Mail to Dr. Chris Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 North State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE, 19901 (please write “unmanaged forage public hearing comments” on the outside of the envelope.)
Fax to: Dr. Chris Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council at 302-674-5399 (please write “unmanaged forage public hearing comments” in the subject line.)
Email to Julia Beaty, Fishery Management Specialist, at jbeaty@mafmc.org  (please include “unmanaged forage public hearing comments” in the subject line.)
Online at http://www.mafmc.org/comments/unmanaged-forage-amendment-comments

back at it again!

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So much water so close to home.

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The 2016 striped bass season started Friday and for some reason I thought my luck might change with the offseason. I was wrong. But I had to shake off the rust of the winter, or off-season, whatever you want to call what happened between the months of December and the present. Pretty much the only other thing I accomplished recently was getting kicked off another fishing page’s social media app for calling out a supposedly “keeper size” (an extremely generous assertion) bass on a stringer a month before opening day. I DID manage to re-up on a bunch of gear I needed over the winter, but as a few minutes of standing in the water in Jamaica Bay would prove, I neglected to replace my waders.

I’d seen and heard reports and pics through the grapevine and the Internet that the bass are here in the bay and harbor if you could find them, well before the official start of the striper season. I hit a spot in Floyd Bennett Field on the outgoing, which seemed like a promising tide and a light wind out of the south. Within 15 minutes I’d made my first sacrifice to the Fishing Gods of 2016, in the form of a Daiwa SP Minnow that went sailing in the direction of the green buoy in the distance. If someone finds a bone-colored SP Minnow with no tail hook and only a front treble, that’s mine. Please throw it back in the water, or you might catch my bad luck. I remember reading about, and hearing from Bill Wetzel in person while on a guide night, the benefits of “cutting back” on line, but I guess I still haven’t learned to not be cheap.

Anyhow, even with all the new gear I acquired while not fishing, I still went with the white bucktail for my first cast of the season. Uncle Josh’s stopped producing pork rind so people went nuts hoarding it, but has anyone tried the Otter Tails Straight tails yet? I haven’t run out of my pork rind from last season yet, so I haven’t gotten around to trying anything new on that front. Eventually I will and will report back.

I guess it doesn’t need mentioning, but I didn’t catch any fish YET. The season is still early and the water isn’t quite at peak temperatures. Some friends are still doing pretty well in Maryland—and the water off Asbury Park on Sunday was still pretty cold as well. I got my Gateway parking permit in order and have a few East River spots mapped out for the ever increasing nights when I don’t have a whole lot of time. With the last Democratic debate in the Navy Yard and all the new industry they’re building there, I’m guessing my days here in Fort Greene are numbered, so I better start making the most out of it instead of just listening to the constant rumble of the BQE 100 feet away.

How’s the start of the season for everyone else?

-mkl

Rich Trox’s Bucktailing Video

 

Check it out! Good info for the upcoming season!

 

Groundhog’s Day

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It was Groundhog’s Day a couple days ago, and aside from being notable for a cinematic masterpiece, and less pleasantly,Bill DiBlasio sparing this year’s groundhog from an untimely death, this arcane and bizarre ritual told us what everyone already knew: expect an early spring. Of course, it would be a stretch to say we’ve even had a winter at all. Despite the blizzard a couple weeks ago, we’ve really only had to suffer through a handful, less than a week’s worth by my count, of really painful, frigid days, and otherwise the weather has hovered in the 40s, 50s, or even 60s on some days. I feel this disconnect between the warm-ish weather and not heading to the beach or jetty, and instead sitting at home tying leaders or replacing hooks and plugs as per a usual winter. I did pick up some freshwater gear, including a little Shimano Sahara 2500FE and some Zoom Flukes these dudes at Cabelas put me on that I want to try out at the city ponds. With this weather, some largemouth fishing seems possible to scratch the itch, so speak. I grew up fishing in Maryland and Delaware for bass so I have to say I’m a little excited to get back into it in the off-season.

I finished reading Dick Russell’s excellent Striper Wars last month. Russell himself was one of the leading striped bass activists, along with the likes of Bob Pond, the inventor of the Atom plug, in the decline of the 1970s and 1980s, so Russell spent many years in the trenches of conservation efforts, both personally and lobbying politically. The book has a strong environmental angle, but Russell is also a journalist and makes efforts to show opposing sides, even interviewing his old rival in Rhode Island, George Mendonsa. Mendonsa was a third-generation commercial fisherman in the years of fast and loose rules regarding catch limits and fish sales, but the chapters regarding the fight between recreational, commercial, and conservation sectors show a human side of some of the private interests at work and the difficulties involved in fishing for a living. The Groundhog’s Day (the cinematic masterpiece) reference is important here, as it’s incredible, but shouldn’t be surprising, to see the similarities between the decline of the bass population, environmental degradation, the political foot-dragging, and the decline that we’re observing now.

Even if you’re not interested in the conservation of striped bass and justify keeping every short you catch before the resource runs out, Russell’s book is still a good read about the life cycle and biology of stripers, as well as the role it played in American history. Even as far back as 1639, the striped bass has had a place in economy, and along with cod, promoted one of the earliest fishing regulations “[I]t is forbidden for all men to imploy codd or basse fish for manuring of pasture.” More locally (and recently), striped bass stocks and spawning areas shaped policy regarding development along the Westside Highway and further north in the Hudson near Cold Spring. I didn’t know about any of these.

I’ve been digging through Charlie Witek’s latest posts, starting with this one. Witek’s posts always very thorough, probably owing to his background as a lawyer, and this one looks at some options the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC, or the Commission) considered during its February 4th meeting. Titled, “The Ink’s Not Even Dry Yet,” Witek writes,

“When the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Striped Bass Management Board voted, in late 2014, to reduce harvest by 25%, we won a victory of sorts, although the ultimate reduction was smaller than we had requested.

But as soon as that fight was done, we were forced into another battle at the state level, as fish-hungry businesses and angling organizations began to press fisheries managers, using ASMFC’s concept of “conservation equivalency” to find was to kill more striped bass than the one fish, no less than 28 inches in length, that the Management Board set as the coastwide standard.

“Thanks to the leadership of some state fisheries managers, notably most of those in New England and—yes, I’m proud to say it—right here in New York, 1 fish at 28 inches or more became the standard all along the coast, except in New Jersey, where conservation is as alien as a three-headed cow, and Delaware which, in recent years, seems to have been infected by New Jersey’s mismanagement efforts.

“Now, with the ink on last year’s regulations barely dry on the page, it appears that New Jersey’s contagion is spreading even farther south, and morphing into a sort of even more malign infection as it hybridizes with native greed in the Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions.”

New Jersey, which doesn’t have a commercial sector for striped bass, has regulations of one fish at 28″ to less than 43”, and one fish 43″ or greater, plus a bonus tag system of one fish from 24”-28”. Delaware also has this stupid “trophy” system, with 2 striped bass per day (in any combination) from 28” to 37”, or 44 inches or greater. I say stupid trophy system because this regulation results in a lot of half dead fish being tossed back. During a New Moon tide at Indian River Inlet last May I watched more than half a dozen fish between 38”-43” getting pulled from the water, up the rocks, five minutes for the guy to take out the hook, five minutes to get their photo taken, zero minutes reviving and instead tossing the fish back like a burlap sack full of potatoes, and about as lively. This figure doesn’t include the dozen or so fish of around the same size guys dragged back to the parking lot before it was light out (when the park rangers *might* show up), knowing full well these fish “were too big to keep,” as another guy explained to me that day.

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Of course, I feel somewhat of a hypocrite, because with all my interest in environmental conservation with stripers in particular and also the bigger ecosystem approach (which includes forage fish and others in the food cycle) of fisheries management—one of the topics my contact at Pew is working on this year—most of the other research through books/forums/web magazines/inquiries/gear concern HOW TO CATCH MORE FISH. In Ian Frazier’s piece on the ocean activist Sylvia Earle for Outside magazine, she posits him a question: “I had made the mistake of telling her that I liked to fish, and she kept asking me why. I said I just loved it because it’s my bliss and I want to follow my bliss. That argument had no effect. ‘But why do you enjoy torturing wildlife? It’s just a choice for you. It’s life or death for them. Why not just observe them without torturing them?’ I mumbled an answer about the thrill of the chase.”

Ian Frazier, stumped. And I am not nearly as eloquent or intelligent as Mr. Frazier, so I’m having even more difficulty reconciling my love of fishing with Sylvia Earle’s quest to protect the ocean (which I believe in, by the way), and being a responsible fisherman. The truth is, I’m not nearly a good enough fisherman to think I’m putting any pressure on the population, but if one thinks about all the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people fishing up and down just the east coast, and do the math on taking one fish, or two or three like New Jersey allows, and what Maryland is currently considering (not even considering the poaching that goes on). This is the gist of what Witek was writing about in his 31 January post: that it is not commercial interests that are contesting the ASFMC’s 25% reduction many of us fought for last year, but rather these are ostensibly recreational interests. More thoughts on this in an upcoming post.

For now, other “fish catching” stuff I’ve been into are these series of videos on reading the beach by Rich Troxler, which I started watching at the end of last season and already have been pretty useful when checking out new beaches, and ones I’m pretty familiar with too.

There’s a ton of fishing videos to get you through these somewhat cold months of whatever winter we have left, whatever the groundhog has predicted. None are more enviable, at least in my opinion, than John Skinner’s videos, in which he catches bass on pretty much every cast. This guy must have sponsors lined up begging him to use their plugs. His books are pretty damn good too. Here’s a good video to get started:

 

More to come this week (I hope)!

 

–mkl

It’s Not Over!

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That’s not me. That’s my friend Tyler. I don’t think I know how to catch fish anymore.

 

On the Friday after Thanksgiving I was fishing the Indian River Inlet in Delaware on a clear, cloudless morning under a gorgeous cerulean sky while wearing waders and a t-shirt. The surf up and down the beach was crisp and clean, with lots of white water and a swift current thanks to the moon tide, and in the inlet the water was rushing through. You definitely did not want to fall in here. Everything, to me at least, looked very fishy and promising. However, I’d been seeing a lot of beautiful sunrises and fishy-looking tides of late in the Rockaways, and this particular beautiful morning wasn’t much different: a few shorts here and there and lots of fishy-looking water. Even the boats working the drift were coming up empty this Black Friday. This was basically December. It was a balmy 68 degrees outside. The conclusion I drew from this day: the fish weren’t here yet.

The previous week and a couple weeks after that, the south side beaches of Long Island and Queens were loaded with bait. Maybe it was a matter of bad timing on my part, because I always seemed to show up a few hours late. A day late. Six hours too early. Peanut bunker washed up all over the shore the morning I arrived at one spot in the afternoon. An old-timer at the bar told me about the whales he spotted around noon. There were big bluefish blitzes up and down the beach, he said. Schoolie bass, too, with some keepers thrown in here and there. I managed to hook a stingray with a heavy needlefish in the unusual heavy darkness of dusk. Now that I think about it, I think that’s the last damn thing I’ve caught in the last six weeks.

A few days later a friend who works in the Rockaways spent his afternoon chasing a blitz up and down the beach from Tilden to Jacob Riis and back to Breezy Point. I showed up the next morning at dawn to a cold, snappy wind with just enough light to see the birds awake and pick at the abandoned bait leftover from the previous night. As the day turned from pink to bright sunshine I could see hundreds of birds working about 500 yards from the beach. Heading east. Heading west. Heading anywhere but within casting distance. A guy came up behind me and asked if that—the mass of birds, bait, and pursuing fish—had come towards shore. I shook my head. “Oh man, you should have been here yesterday!” he said. “Fish not 20 feet in front of me. Man my arms were tired!” I rolled my eyes. For what reason do people feel they have to tell the same story about yesterday, last night, last week.

The good news is, despite my poor timing in these outings, is that even now close to mid-December, it’s not over yet. The water temperatures off the Rockaways are still in the mid-to-low 50s, and there are reports of lots of herring moving through to follow the peanuts and adult bunker that have passed through already. Oh, and the air temperature is supposed to be in the low 60s this weekend. It’s December for god’s sake! I hate to think about what’s on the other side of this coin—I’m guessing a prolonged and extremely bitter winter lasting somewhere into June—but I’m pretty sure I’ll be fishing until at least the day after Christmas. I had to sell a bunch of gear a month or so ago due to some financial crisis, but I’m pretty confident they went to a couple good homes, and I still have enough to keep going through the end of the year. Plus, now that I can see a dim light at the end of this financial difficulty, I’m picking up a new piece of equipment this weekend which I’ll hopefully have time to use before the year is out.

This (the weather conditions, bait in the water) isn’t going to last too much longer, so I’m also preparing my winter reading list, which I’ll get to in another post this week hopefully, as well as updating the state of our conservation efforts we’ve worked on this year. Speaking of which, I never posted this response I got back from Jamie Pollack, my contact over at Pew Charitable Trusts. A few months back, I wrote about the hearings on Unmanaged Forage Species and how it’s important for us to jump on pushing for research and potential conservation of fish like bay anchovies, spearing, and sand eels, among others, before they end up in the grinder like menhaden. This is her response, and it seems we made a good start so far.

Thanks so much for your help and support on the Council’s Unmanaged Forage amendment. Our efforts during the Scoping period were incredibly successful, and the voices in favor of the action far outnumbered those opposed.

Last week the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council met with in Philadelphia, PA for their fall meeting. On their agenda was discussion of next steps for the Unmanaged Forage Amendment. Because of your support, the Council overwhelmingly voted to initiate an Amendment that protects currently unmanaged forage species from new and expanding fisheries.  

 This isn’t the last we’ll hear of this action. The Council’s staff will now draft an amendment including a broader list of protected forage species as a result of your comments, and there will be future votes and hearings before we cross the finish line. There will be challenges and some may seek to delay or sidetrack this important initiative, so our work only becomes more important from here. However the Unmanaged Forage amendment wouldn’t have gotten this far without your support, and most importantly your voice.

You can find a copy of the Unmanaged Forage presentation describing the Scoping hearing process and comments received here.

Thanks, and we’ll keep you posted on next steps.

More to come this week and next. Get out there and fish while the season is open and the weather is good. Get outside. Maybe head south if you can.

—mkl

Jack Yee

I came across this video posted tonight on Surfcasters Journal. I met Jack Yee out at Paulies a couple times and talked with him a bit, but I really wish I had taken the time to get to know him and interview him like I wanted to. Jack Yee died earlier this year. Time is short, I suppose. Dia de los muertos and all of that tonight in my head.

Comments Needed for Unmanaged Fisheries! A Rare Opportunity!

Note my epic measuring technique, useful for getting that extra 1/8

Note my epic measuring technique, useful for getting that extra 1/8″ for the win. Oh, and also the silversides this blue spit up.

Spearing on the deck! Coughed up by a bluefish on that spot I used to fish all the damn time.

Spearing on the deck! Coughed up by a bluefish on that spot I used to fish all the damn time.

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The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council is actually taking a proactive step and looking into the sustainability of currently-unmanaged fisheries, like sandeels, silversides, bay anchovies and several other species of anchovy, Spanish sardine, and round herring. These are all important food sources for fish like albies, tunas, bluefish, weakfish, and of course striped bass; and we already know what happens when commercial/corporate interests come first in our fishery: think menhaden and cod. Captain John McMurray has a good column regarding the importance of these forage species and some general outlook and information on what the MAMFC is looking for in its series of scoping hearings it’s holding during the next few weeks. It’s a good read on why we need to take advantage of this rare opportunity to effect change in the fishery before it starts, instead of scrambling and baling water when it’s already too late like we usually find ourselves.

The MAFMC is accepting comments and letters until 23:59 Eastern Standard Time on Friday October 2, 2015.

Written comments may be sent by any of the following methods:

1) Online at www.mafmc.org/comments/unmanaged-forage

2) Email to the following address: jbeaty@mafmc.org

3) Mail or Fax to:
Dr. Chris Moore, Executive Director
Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council
800 North State Street, Suite 201
Dover, DE 19901
FAX: 302-674-5399

Please include “Unmanaged Forage Scoping Comments” in the subject line if using email or fax or on the outside of the envelope if submitting written comments.

I wrote up a letter to Julia Beaty, Fishery Plan Coordinator at the MAFMC (the jbeaty@mafmc.org), which, while somewhat personal, you are all welcome to copy/edit/paste as you see fit.

Dear Julia,

First off, bravo for the Council’s initial forward-thinking move to study and consider the regulation of unmanaged fisheries. We’ve been down this road so many times when it seemed a constant uphill battle against corporate and commercial interests, at which point the best we could hope for was to mitigate the damage and pray for a stock recovery. Thanks to you and the MAFMC for devoting time toward species like sand eels, silversides, and bay anchovies—fish that are so important to the survival of striped bass, among others, that we at the Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association have advocated for many times in the past.

We are aware that NOAA has looked into some of these fisheries as potentially viable commercial sources before, so we feel it’s very important the MAFMC take careful and deliberate steps to studying these unmanaged populations before the rendering plants determine the courses of action for us. You (the MAFMC) have asked that we consider eight questions in our comments. By now, you’re probably familiar with Captain John McMurray’s response to these eight considerations. In general, we at the BKUAA agree with McMurray’s assessments.

1. What is the most appropriate type of action?
We believe amending a current management plan and adapting it to forage species is the best of the three options, out of consideration for time, effectiveness, and deliberate action. Waiting to address new fisheries for forage species as they arise (the third option) would only put us in a difficult, albeit familiar, position.

2. What type of management provisions would be most effective?
We believe adding forage species to the management plan as an “ecosystem component species” is obvious because of their importance to the vitality of other fisheries, and would initially give the unmanaged fisheries the attention they need before possibly opening these fisheries to commercial sources.

3. Which forage species should be included in this action?
Sand Eels. Chub Mackerel. Spearing. Silversides. Bay anchovy. Striped anchovy. Silver anchovy. Round herring. Thread herring. Spanish sardine.

4. What types of fishing should be addressed?
The commercial (especially) trawler fleets. See Omega Protein.

5. What is the most appropriate geographic scope of the action?
What areas the Council has under its jurisdiction would be an appropriate start.

6. What are the most effective ways to prohibit the expansion of existing fisheries?
Scientific studies and research with allowances for proper evaluation before opening the fisheries to the rendering plant. Not bowing to pressure from corporations or people from New Jersey.

7. What is an appropriate process for allowing new fisheries to develop?
McMurray suggested “exempted fishing permits,” which have had documented success on the West Coast fisheries in both data collection and exploring the vitality and sustainability of a controlled fishery.

8. What is the ability of current scientific data and models to inform action?
That’s more of a question for you to answer for us. There’s plenty of examples of poorly managed fisheries that teeter on collapse or have already collapsed (cod, menhaden, striped bass). There’s also examples of properly managed fisheries (Florida comes to mind) that worked and allowed the species to recover. We hope you make the right decisions with regards to the overall health and sustainability of the Atlantic fishery.

Regards,

Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association