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back at it again!

Processed with VSCOcam with m6 preset

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

groundhog-day

 

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.

sylvia-earle-tektite-ii-project_h

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!

tyler_beachbass

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.

_________________________

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

Letter to send to ASFMC commisioners and the Governor

I wish I had more faith in politics and the ASMFC. Then again, many voices just like ours made a big impact on policies in 2013 regarding menhaden as well as just this year for the striped bass fishery. I want to have hope that responsible anglers like us can make a difference, but everyone knows that almighty dollar trumps all. Omega Protein and Virginia own 80 percent of the menhaden catch for the entire coast. They take those millions of pounds of fish necessary for countless other fisheries and ecosystems and make them into pellets for fertilizer, fish oil, and pet food. They want to take all they can and more, to say nothing of the bycatch, which usually ends up dead before it hits the water again. They claim their target is narrow, but the environmental impact is huge. Take five minutes out of your day to copy and paste this letter, type your name, and CC the commissioners and Governor Cuomo to let them know we don’t want those sons of bitches dictating the state of our ocean. If you give even half a shit, this is a painfree, no-brainer way to make your concerns heard. Thanks in advance.

—MKL/BKUAA

Dear ASMFC Commissioners:

We are writing to ask for your help in further protecting Atlantic menhaden, a small fish that has a big impact on the health of New York’s coastal environment, economy, and communities. On May 5th a big decision will be made and we are hoping that you will not vote to increase the quota for this year with no understanding of the impact on predators like striped bass, whales, sharks, birds and all the other animals, which consume menhaden as their primary food source. But rather to adopt interim Ecological Reference Points when making decisions about the 2015 quota and initiate an amendment to transition to long term ecological management.

The Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association comprises over 2000 members and anglers from the New York City area. Like most angler communities, we are a wide cross section of occupations, neighborhoods, families, and incomes. We worked hard to spread awareness and push grassroots efforts to make our elected representatives accountable for their actions regarding the menhaden issue in 2013 and our striped bass fishery this year. Now the state of Virginia and Omega Protein are using faulty pseudo-science based on speculation, hearsay, and random eyeball-test observation cited as empirical evidence to undo the efforts of 2013 and allow more menhaden rendering in the name of the dollar and with little regard to the huge environmental marine impact that comes with easing the restrictions we all worked so hard to attain. Relaxing the necessary restrictions based on one year’s worth of larger-than-expected adult menhaden, while ignoring the absence of any evidence of actual increased abundance, including menhaden recruitment over 1-year-old, is short sighted in its most generous assessment.

The new benchmark stock assessment shows that coastwide Atlantic menhaden biomass and egg production (fecundity) have increased since the late 1990’s. However, it also showed that menhaden abundance and recruitment remain well below historic levels. It is these latter predictors of a stock’s health that matter most to their predators, who largely rely on younger, smaller fish. These downward trends are troubling because fishing effort is highly concentrated in the Chesapeake Bay and mid-Atlantic, the nursery for menhaden and many other species, where the population may be highly sensitive to environmental factors such as hypoxia.

Additionally, the assessment shows that the population has not recovered throughout its historic range from Maine to Florida, as evidenced by the fact that a number of fishery independent surveys (particularly those in Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) were rejected from the analysis because they found an “extremely low occurrence of menhaden” (see pg. 124 of assessment).

As you know, Virginia, which houses Omega Protein’s rendering plant, is the only state that would benefit from an increase in the quota. A proportional increase to the 2015 quota (for example, even the maximum proposed 20 percent increase over the 2014 quota for each state), without reallocation, will not solve any state’s quota shortages or bait industry challenges. Without reallocation, increasing the quota would do nothing for New York. The reduction fishery (Omega Protein) has 80 percent of the coastwide quota and continued to be successful in 2014, the second year under the current catch limit. Under the current (Amendment 2) management system, quota can be traded between states.  Virginia could transfer a relatively small amount of quota and solve all other states’ current shortages without increasing the coastwide catch.

We thank the Commission for taking an historic first step but now it’s time to advance the Commission’s vision and to adopt Ecological Reference Points when managing this fish. Managers should not increase the 2015 quota for menhaden unless they leave enough in the ocean as food for predators. Current quota shortages should be addressed by reallocation or trading, not by sacrificing coastwide conservation.

Sincerely,

Send this to:

James J. Gilmore, Jr.
NYSDEC, Marine Resources
205 North Belle Mead Road
East Setauket, NY 11733
James.Gilmore@dec.ny.gov
Tel: 631.444.0433

Emerson Hasbrouck, Jr.
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Marine Program
423 Griffing Avenue, #100
Riverhead, New York 11901-3071
ech12@cornell.edu

Senator Philip Boyle
4th Senate District
69 West Main Street
Bay Shore, NY 11706
Tel: 518.455.3411 (Albany); 631.665.2311 (District office)
pboyle@nysenate.gov

On going proxy: Steve Heins
NYSDEC, Marine Resources
205 North Belle Mead Road
East Setauket, NY 11733
steve.heins@dec.ny.gov

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor, State of New York
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

(can email Cuomo at https://www.governor.ny.gov/contact)

Season starting soon, and menhaden help needed

photo from Discover magazine (http://discovermagazine.com/2001/sep/featfish)

We can all agree it’s been a long, cold winter. And though I could listen to Low’s “Last Snowstorm of the Year” over and over again, I’ve also been fiending for well over a month to get a line in the water; like seriously tying and retying leaders and sorting hooks and lures. Striped bass season starts this week! At least below the GW Bridge. The water temperatures still aren’t optimal yet, but I’m planning on hitting Jamaica Bay as soon as I can with a series of pencil poppers, Daiwa minnows, and 1/2oz. bucktails, trailers TBD. I recently moved out of Williamsburg and I haven’t updated since I still don’t have Internet at my new apartment; I need to make sure I can afford all the other necessary utilities since living at my last apartment completely skewed my idea of what a normal electricity bill looks like—our first bill was for over $2700 (did not pay that one) and averaged nearly $300/month. I’m living the total bachelor life, but this time it will look much different than when I was 24 going to graduate school in Berkeley, California. Lots of crap still in cardboard boxes, but at least all my rods and reels are taken care of, hanging neatly from the ceiling in Fort Greene, and my gear and car are primed and ready. Or maybe I’ll go up the Hudson a bit….

That being said, there’s been a lot going on around us lately, both locally and in the marine waters. First off, for us Brooklyn people, especially those who live in Greenpoint, is the development happening near Green Street pier up towards Newtown Creek. We’ve all seen the artist renderings rendering Greenpoint’s waterfront into Long Island City’s contemporary, but what we don’t always hear about is what’s going on with that land they’re planning on digging up. There was a very good article on the Greenpointers blog about exactly this, detailing the pollution under ground that’s seeping from the Nuhart Plastics building, and this is some nasty and not altogether hopeful news, but it’s something we should know about if the city’s planning to dig around and develop in our neighborhood.

From the Greenpointer blog: Note: If you live near the end of Clay/Commercial Street and are concerned about vapor intrusion speak with Jane O’Connell at the DEC (718) 482-4973. She is overseeing Nuhart’s remediation efforts and can help with air sampling questions. 

There’s also been a lot of news lately about menhaden, the fish most of the bigger fish we like to catch depend upon, and that same fish companies like Omega Protein like to scoop up by the millions and grind into pellets and fertilizer and pet food. I’ve talked about the importance of menhaden AKA bunker before in previous posts, back when the ASMFC was forced to confront the issue a couple years ago, but now they may be in trouble again. A new study, and that term is used at this point a little dubiously, found that bunker was “neither being overfished nor experiencing overfishing,” in Virginia waters. Next month, the Atlantic Menhaden Management Board will meet in Virginia, home of Omega Protein’s rendering plant, to decide if the new study is cause enough to lift the 20% reduction in the commercial bunker fishery, which happened in 2013. One can pretty easily see why this is important for the fishery in Virginia and for us anglers. Virginia/Omega takes nearly 85 percent of the total menhaden quota for the entire coast, so it’s obvious it’s in their favor when,

“The Menhaden Fisheries Coalition is touting recent media reports of multiple sightings by fishermen of vast schools of menhaden from Florida to the Gulf of Maine.

“They have been spotted coast-wide in numbers and in places that are far beyond the mid-Atlantic-based menhaden fishery,” the group said Wednesday. “This is consistent with what fishermen have been saying for years.”

—From an article in The Daily Press

Of course, evidence gathered from speculation and hearsay tells just the story the industry wants to hear with regards to opening up the fishery for exploitation again. There hasn’t been any evidence of more bunker in recent years, and this same study bases its “increase” on a higher-than-expected influx of heavier adult size bunker, the 10-inch kind we had roaming around Newtown Creek and the Harlem River last fall. The resulting higher-than-expected biomass is in no way indicative of the total health and sustainability of the species. From that same Daily Press article,

“But Ken Hinman, president of the Waterford, Va.-based advocacy group Wild Oceans, responded that the latest review only addresses the stock’s ability to sustain commercial fisheries and avoid depletion, not its role or capacity as an important forage fish for predator species from rockfish to humpback whales.

“‘Frankly,’ Hinman said, ‘recent headlines proclaiming that menhaden are ‘not overfished’ — given continued low abundance and the broader goal of providing adequate forage for the ecosystem — is like bragging that your bank account is not overdrawn, even though you still don’t have much money and you haven’t even added up your bills yet.'”

Another article that is a must-read is by John McMurray. From his post:

[The study] pretty much confirms everything I’ve just said. Lots of menhaden around, and predators and people are benefiting. But then seems to make the case that this is a reason to increase harvest. Uhm… WHAT?!

A new Atlantic menhaden stock assessment was completed in 2014 and released earlier this year. That assessment does indeed indicate an increase among fish in the oldest age classes, with more large adults than in previous estimates. Certainly not surprising, as it pretty much jives with what we’re all seeing in the water, at least in my neck of the woods. But the assessment also confirms that abundance of menhaden – the total numbers of fish – remains near historic lows, and that “recruitment” (the number of fish surviving past 1 year) isn’t great, which is bad news for the Chesapeake Bay. In fact the total numbers of menhaden actually declined from an estimated 35 billion fish in 2010, when they did the last benchmark assessment, to 13 billion in 2013, the last year we have data for.”

I received an email from Jamie Pollack at Pew asking the BKUAA to send letter and/or emails to ASMFC commissioners and Governor Cuomo regarding the importance of regulating the menhaden fishery and industry. I’ll put up a form letter you can (should) send and all the addresses in a separate post this week. We (anglers) were able to make some significant changes on this issue in the past, and more recently with striped bass regulations for 2015, and we can do it again. The label “the most important fish in the sea” isn’t just some bullshit tagline—we can’t let a company and industry that doesn’t give two shits about a marine resource except that which allows it to take all it can determine the future of countless other fisheries.

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