THE TIME IS NOW

1200px-The_fishes_of_the_east_Atlantic_coast_that_are_caught_with_hook_and_line_1884_14762008156-e1522368040490The time is now for more things than one. The Fall Run is on and blackfish season is open and I swear I’m going to get one of those white-chinned bastards from a Brooklyn shoreline this year. I’ve been out here and there so far, mostly sneaking away and coming up with rats, 20”-26” bass, lately covered in sea lice, but haven’t been able to track down any bigger bass. Still, as the old saying goes, something is supposedly better than nothing, although the value of that sentiment decreases in direct relation to the length of the season and the time one puts in.

Not that I’m planning on keeping a bass. The last bass I kept was two years ago during the Thanksgiving Blitz in New Jersey and is remarkable only for the fact that this was the first, and probably last, time that someone said, “Hey, bring a fish home for dinner,” and I actually went out and caught one. We butterflied that fish and my grandmother used the head for soup as she used to do way back when, and I appreciated the hunt a little more. One thing I would like to keep are some bluefish, as we just got a new Traeger grill for the backyard at work and the thought of catching some in the early AM and smoking them all day and hopefully pissing off the neighbors really gets the blood moving in certain places. However, I have not seen a damn bluefish all year yet. Where the hell are those guys?

Just as important as making the most of the quickly shortening days and longer nights is a proposal to open part of the EEZ to striped bass fishing. NOAA is now accepting public comments on the proposal and it’s crucial if you give a shit to make your voice heard (you have until November 19 to comment—you can use that link). There is also a Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting here in New York City at the end of the month, and on the schedule is a review of this proposal.

The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is an area three miles from shore, officially Federal Waters, and is currently no man’s land for striped bass fishing, both commercial and recreational. This protection was established in 1984 by the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act with the idea that this area would provide stripers a safe haven from fishing pressure. It’s a great idea, in theory, as it draws an imaginary line in the ocean, across this line, you do not fish for striped bass as it’s in violation of Federal law. But that doesn’t stop people from trying.

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Taken from The Fisherman site. The black lines delineate the 3-mile boundary around the Montauk, Block Island, and southern Rhode Island coasts. The green area is the Block Island Transit Zone, part of the EEZ.

The proposal, pushed by New York Representative Lee Zeldin, wants to remove that restriction for an area known as the Block Island Transit Zone. This is where the three mile restriction gets a little tricky: The 3-mile radius around the porkchop-shaped Block Island is legal fishing. Within 3-miles off the coast of Montauk is fair game. The 3-mile area south of Point Judith, Rhode Island is A-OK. But tucked in that area, outside of where Long Island Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean, and bound by those three landmarks, is a pocket of Federal water, the Block Island Transit Zone (BITZ). Fishing boats from any area may only pass through this area—fishing is not allowed as per EEZ rules, and stopping for any reason, save for emergencies, while possessing striped bass is a violation. As Toby Lapinski writes on The Fisherman site: “The Federal line, which prohibits the targeting of striped bass in the EEZ, simply does not make sense as it is currently drawn when applied to the real world….[B]y strictly adhering to the line being 3 miles from the nearest point of land produces islands of legal fishing waters surround[ed] by those which are illegal.”

It’s an awkwardly-defined area, policed poorly, and well-known to the local fishing fleets to harbor lots of big striped bass. And that’s valuable real estate for the for-hire and party boat crowd, from whom Representative Zeldin receives a lot of support.

There isn’t a lot of value for the rest of us who don’t have a buck to gain from opening the BITZ to striped bass fishing. In fact, if this law passes the rest of us stand to suffer greatly for the benefit of very few, and a short-term gain for them as well because many anglers are already sounding the alarm about an impending collapse of the striped bass stock. [Read the post by Zeno Hromin, editor of The Surfcaster’s Journal, about the Gathering Of Anglers event this past Columbus Day out in Montauk. It’s an event that invites all the surf fishing clubs in New York to compete for the biggest bass, in the striped bass “Mecca,” over 48 hours. “These are not your average weekend warriors, these are guys that joined surf fishing clubs to expand their knowledge, to be amongst people that share same passion. These are what I call ‘lifers’.” Not a single fish was submitted.] Sure the Cape Cod Canal had its annual summer slaughter of big breeder bass, the usual depressing menu of high-grading, dead bass floating up and down the shoreline, poor catch & release technique, blatant poaching, and outright wastefulness, but how long is that going to continue? Even the locals know their time is coming.

The other danger about opening this part of the EEZ is that it sets a terrible precedent. It’s well known that large breeding stripers winter off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina, in their part of the EEZ. In an excellent post by Charles Witek, he writes:

There is a lot of sentiment for opening the EEZ down there, so that the local charter boat fleet can get a crack at all of the big, pre-spawn females. As an article in the Carteret County [North Carolina] News-Times noted,

“In 2009 North Carolina asked President Barak Obama to address the prohibition of fishing for striped bass in federal waters, emphasizing that striped bass do not know where the three-mile boundary is and that warmer winters push the fish offshore beyond three miles. Large stripers migrate south during fall and winter from their summer habitat in the northeast, where they often live within three miles. The main harvest opportunity for oceanic striped bass fishermen from Virginia and North Carolina is during these ‘cold months.’ Even though North Carolina helped restore the population, its fishermen were losing access to this well-managed resource.”

It’s not hard to believe that, should the Block Island Transit Zone be opened to striped bass angling, fishermen down in Virginia and North Carolina will be seeking to have access to their section of the EEZ, too.

And while I consider the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission an increasingly toothless organization, they manage striped bass and they themselves in 2014 wrote:
• Tagging data indicate larger females tend to aggregate in the EEZ
• It is impossible… to predict whether opening the EEZ will result in a shift or an increase in fishing effort, but any fishing that occurs in the EEZ will result in a source of mortality that is currently minimized by the prohibition

In update to their last stock assessment, they also wrote, as Witek notes:
—“[Spawning stock biomass] was estimated at 58,853 metric tons (129 million pounds) which is above the SSB threshold of 57,626 metric tons, but below the SSB target of 72,032 metric tons…
—“Total abundance (age 1+) increased to 195 million fish by 2012 due primarily to the abundant 2011 year-class from the Chesapeake Bay. Total abundance dropped in 2013 as the small 2012 year-class recruited to the population. Abundance increased slightly in 2014 to 127 million fish, and in 2015 total abundance was estimated at 180 million fish. Abundance of age 8+ fish has declined since 2012 and is expected to drop slightly in 2016.”

“In other words,” Witek writes, “at the time of the update, the stock was a lot closer to being overfished than it was to being fully rebuilt, and the number of larger, fecund females was still dropping.”

deadbass-partyboat_editThe people who support the proposal are comprised mostly of organized lobbyists, party boat and charter owners, and “recreational” fishing groups like the New York Recreational and For Hire Fishing Alliance (NYRFHFA) and the Recreational Fishing Alliance, who claim to represent the best interests of recreational anglers like me, and yet we are almost always diametrically opposed. They are certainly no friend of Witek’s, and they had a lot of influence in removing John McMurray (who spoke with us earlier this spring at the Metropolitan Rod and Gun Club and is a charter captain himself) as the NY proxy to the ASMFC. This is not good for conservation-minded rec anglers like us. An email response to a Stripers Online poster asking the RFA’s Jim Donofrio if the RFA was involved in McMurray’s removal apparently went like this: We sure did and proud of it!! He is not a rec he is a greenie. you guys are the disgrace whats the average rec fishermen ?some JO [jag off? jerk off?] in an Orvis outfit who hates the real average guy like your buddy Witek does. He is another another wack job internet bully. [bolded notes mine, everything else sic]

[McMurray, for his part, countered with a post: I’m talking about all of those anglers with foresight. The surfcasters, the light-tackle folks, the flyfishers, the hundreds of thousands of striped bass guys who, well, get it.

These are the folks who actually believe in and understand the value of keeping a few fish in the water; who intuitively understand that ocean resources are finite, and need to be managed sustainably, with precaution; who understand clearly that the more fish industry takes out, the less they are available to the rest of us; and lastly, who understand that abundance equals opportunity, and that such opportunity is quite a bit more important than low size limits and high bags.

The industry version of such anglers? “Light tackle” guides. Those conservation-minded small business owners, both full and part-time, who understand, probably better than anyone, that if there isn’t a good amount of fish in the water, the fishing ain’t good, and people stop opening up their wallets.

Of course, I’m damn proud to be part of that industry. And there are a lot of us! Undoubtedly, we make a significant contribution to economy. We burn A LOT of fuel, and we (and our clients) buy a lot of gear, stay in hotels, eat at local restaurants, and so on.

Yet to managers, and politicians? We appear to mean little. And that’s because they just don’t hear from us.]

So “recreational” groups like the NYRFHFA and people like me, and hopefully you, too, probably don’t get along, at least on conservation issues. But here’s the thing: these groups are organized, they write letters to their representatives like their good buddy Lee Zeldin*, they show up to meetings, they make their voices and concerns heard, and they send in comments during the open-comment period and right now is our time to do the same. During the course of reading and researching, one thing is clear to me regarding the ASMFC: they will only listen to the voices that speak up. It’s easy to gloss over a lot of these statistics and legal-sounding provisions of a proposed bill that may or may not pass, but if one side is speaking up and the other side is opposed but silent, there’s little question, little choice, even, with whom the Commission will favor.

McMurray said as much in his post: Take it from somebody who just spent 9 years on the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and a little over two years as a proxy on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. It is the, we-need-to-kill-more folks on the recreational side (generally, the party-boat crowd) who tend to dominate the discussion.

Managers are left with the perception that anglers just want to kill more. Same could be said for both state and national legislators. Because generally, that’s who they hear from. And that sucks. Because it’s NOT who or what the larger angling community is, and it certainly isn’t who we are.

If you don’t like the end results but didn’t vote, there is no room for complaints. One only needs to look at the last presidential election to see if it matters if people choose not to vote. (Screw the Clintons, too, by the way.) Recreational anglers, real recreational anglers, are not organized. There’s no leadership. We’ll argue over bait versus plugs and hold blood grudges over the value of boat fish versus surf fish, but we are the majority of fishing community (and part of a billion dollar industry) and most of us want the fish to be around for generations and not be lost so that a few companies can profit at our expense and the expense of our future.

Right now there’s about 500 comments on the NOAA site, and that’s not enough. Read through the comments to gauge how the majority of recreational fisherfolk feel about Zeldin’s proposal. You’ll see old timers like Vito Orlando, rod-builder extraordinaire Lou Caruso, Van Staal’s Craig Cantelmo among others against the proposal. You’ll see Tim Surgent, admin of the Stripers Online forum, there as well with an excellent comment, from which I pulled those 2014 ASMFC statements. (Stripersonline.com’s forums are a great resource for people who love to fish and argue and I’ve used the site for many years. It is not a haven for conservationists, and the majority of users and I probably would never agree on anything politically.) You’ll also see boat captains both in favor of and against the proposal.

For the record, here is the NYRFHFA comment: The New York Recreational and For-Hire Fishing Alliance fully supports the opening of the Block Island Transit Zone to Striped Bass fishing. Doing so will eliminate confusing, and unnecessary regulations that are currently in place. It will free up the coast guard and other law enforcement for more pressing issues.

Joe Tangel
Executive Director
NYRFHFA

This is my comment, lacking in important details, the likes of which you’ve read about if you got this far. It’s time to be heard and now is your chance. Time to make it count.

—mkl

[*This is what Charles Witek had to say about Zeldin: His war has been waged with a series of bills that ranged from an inane attempt to redraw the bounds of the Exclusive Economic Zone for fisheries purposes, an effort that would have actually drawn the boundary between state and federal waters through the southeast corner of Block Island, to a stealth effort to deny funding for law enforcement of the ban on fishing for striped bass in federal waters off Block Island, so that his district’s population of poachers could fish without fear of apprehension.]

 

Gone Too Long

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somewhere out there, a monster lurks

Old, man. That’s how I’m feeling right now. Old man, old, man. Some of you might know my true age and some of you might not, but rest assured, my steady and determined diet of meat-eating, booze, and self loathing has done me no favors. I’m currently laid up with some unofficially diagnosed medical condition stripping me of two of three, possibly three of three, favorite indulgences—nay, life necessities—in hopes of increased mobility in the very near future. A northeast wind blows outside, a full moon hangs in the September night like a glowing amulet. And I sit here staring up at the fishing rods hanging from ceiling, and staring down at an Edible Brooklyn from Fall 2010 with Ben pretending to fish the East River on the cover and an article on the Brooklyn Fishing Derby on the inside. At least he was out on the water.

Has it really been eight years since then? I guess I was still technically in my early 30s but already ready to pack in the future like a burnt-out 55 year old and drop everything for fishing and alcohol. Some things have changed since then, but the fire still burns.

I have lots of excuses for not getting out this spring and summer: my car, for which I waited those exceptionally frigid mornings on Long Island for parking permits, was in the shop for five months for a mysterious electrical problem that’s still not fixed. I moved my business from its location for the last 15 years. If anyone needs to move 15 tons of printing equipment with two pallet jacks and a lot of 2 x 4s, don’t call me. Work has been exceptionally busy, however, which is good because we were basically broke after moving, even after doing all the heavy lifting ourselves. Work, work, work, and now it’s post Autumnal Equinox and the fall run has already started.

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Seven bucks worth spending twice.

I did get out here and there. I saw a sea robin blitz on the virgin voyage of my girlfriend’s awesome new standup paddleboard back in May. Technically it’s the credit card company’s still. I also got out for about an hour on my annual trip to Peaks Island, Maine a couple weekends ago. Gorgeous water up there, but I usually show up a little late for the bass. This time, the water was weedy. Even floating poppers were coming back dirty. I spent about 25 minutes walking of the hour I was able to sneak away but I was able to get this fat little specimen as my first striper of 2018, well into September. I caught this one on a Cotten Cordell pencil, the best $7 you can spend on a surf plug.

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I also had a weird experience looking out into the water. I saw what looked like a porpoise fin, but bigger, a dark dorsal fin waving in the water. The body seemed to be curled, like whatever it was was coraling bait or protecting something. Since it was within casting distance I stupidly cast out to it with an accuracy that would have made a seasoned fly fisherman smile. I took a couple cranks and felt a heavy thump. Way heavier than I was expecting, I don’t know what I was expecting casting out to a whale or whatever it was. After that thump I was sure would break my gear the line went slack and the fin was gone. I had a moment, not unlike two Southies on a boat. “It was a monster, you gotta believe me!” I told everyone. No, Mike, you dumbass. It was an Atlantic sunfish. I have a lot more empathy for those two guys now. Wish I had their personality.

I did get to see a sort of prehistoric-looking monster on the beach on an overcast Sunday. After I posted this a bunch of people who know better than me told me these sturgeon used to be pretty common around us. I figured this one died in a creek off the Hudson somewhere and got swept out with the outgoing tide, but now I don’t know. The scales on these fish always catch me off guard, they’re so impressive.

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I saw a lot of bird activity off the beach. I wasn’t really geared up to fish, but I kept snagging these little guys dragging this lure up the surf. If I was smart, I would have had that pencil popper on me and probably would have been in business.

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Quadruple header for worst catch of the year

There’s a bunch of striped bass and menhaden things going on that I want to get into next time. You probably already know about those crooks Omega coming up to our waters and loading their boats with millions of tons of bunker to make into fish pellets in Virgina, as well as their enablers, the ASMFC. I also want to get into a new park (with fishing access!) opening in Brooklyn, along with some references to some great research by the guy who writes the Hidden Waters blog. There’s also some political actions we should know about coming up as well, but I didn’t want to get into all of that after such a long absence. I’d rather entertain you all by talking about my mid-grade alcholism and aging health instead. Time to shut up and get out there before I’m ending the season in Asbury Park again!

—mkl

SEASON STARTS NOW!

In case you missed it, we had a great talk with Captain John McMurray on Sunday, traditionally Tax Day and also the official start of striped bass season. John has an awesome presentation on bait and migration patterns through the course of a season in Jamaica Bay and I highly recommend trying to get to one. In fact, you should have been there Sunday. I personally learned a lot about the Bay and have a lot of new ideas of how I want to try to fish it this season.

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Special thank yous go out to the Brooklyn Urban Anglers crew—some new faces I haven’t met before (hey Jonathan! hey Joanna and Clyde!) and a few regulars (hey Alex, Altay, and Robin!)—Matt Rogers and the Metropolitan Rod and Gun Club for hosting us, and my girlfriend who secured the chocolate babka and drove me around while I’m currently in a somewhat illegal driving status. The Metropolitan Rod and Gun Club is a really cool old building with tons of trophies taken by members over the almost 100 years of its existence (it’s missing fish on the walls, though—maybe we should get a gorilla blue on the wall this year). It also has a shooting range and an archery range, as well as nearly 1000 acres in upstate New York that’s available to members for fishing, hunting, and shooting. It’s worth a membership and I want to try to join up this year. It’s amazing that something like this exists right in the heart of Brooklyn.

****

The 2018 season is underway, and though the water is still in the low 40s, I’ve seen some bass caught in the bays. Right now I’m in a rough spot, transportation wise—my bike is in need of some pretty serious and urgent repairs and is basically unrideable at this point, and aside from the questionable (read: illegal) driving status, my car is also in the shop with nearly all of my gear.  This is really my fault since I should have taken it out of the trunk, but my waders, boots, plug bag, and storage containers are all in there and currently inaccessible. I have no shortage of emergency gear though, and I also stocked up a little bit over winter with some new stuff I aim to try out, as soon as I can get my girlfriend to drive me, or otherwise pay these fines looming over my head.

plastics

First up are these plastics. From left to right Cobra Bait 5″ Sad Shad, Elias V Extreme Paddletail Shad, and Cobra Bait 7″ Sad Shad, all on Tog Candy 1oz. bullet jig heads. I had some good luck with the Elias shad last season and I’m stoked to try out these Cobra Bait lures. The quality with all of these is very good. The Tog Candy jig heads are also of high quality, with a double barb on the collar that does a great job of keeping those baits on the head. As usual, a little dab of glue doesn’t hurt either. The Elias V and Tog Candy gear are NY-based businesses. Support the local scene!

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bucktails2

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I also am trying out these bucktails made by Tinman Tackle. Dan over there makes some really nice bucktails and will make nearly any combination you want, to order. I was really impressed with the quality of these bucktails when they came in the mail—and they have lots of hair to keep the bucktail buoyant and slow sinking. I started off with a light assortment of bucktails from 1/2oz to 1oz for the early season, but I’ll probably order more as the season goes on. I ordered mine directly from Dan on the Stripers Online site—he has his own ordering thread here. Dan was a great guy to work with, and he’s fast too.

So even though my plug bag is stuck in my car, I still have a pretty decent early season arsenal, and one in which I have a good amount of confidence. Now, if I can only get out on the water….

—mkl

CAPTAIN JOHN McMURRAY AT THE METROPOLITAN ROD & GUN CLUB SUNDAY APRIL 15!

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Super stoked to announce Captain John McMurray is coming to talk with us at the Metropolitan Rod and Gun Club in Cobble Hill on Sunday, April 15! John runs One More Cast Charters and is a fantastic source of info on striped bass fishing the NYC area, particularly Jamaica Bay in the early season. And right now is the time as we’re starting to see some more consistently warmer days to get those migrating fish moving and the striped bass season opens that same day.

John wrote an excellent article about the particular ecology of Jamaica Bay that make it such a unique place that’s favored by baitfish and the bigger fish we’re chasing. [Just an excerpt: “Jamaica Bay is essentially a semi-closed, 10,000-acre marsh with the usual productivity associated with such systems, plus an excess of nutrients that attract large amounts of baitfish to feed on the resulting algal blooms, with all the deep water needed to draw in large predators. Such predators are not as easily spooked in Jamaica Bay, thanks to the presence of deep water just a tail stroke away. And believe me when I tell you that large bass and blues come right up into the flats regularly to feast on the abundant baitfish.”] This article is a must-read if you want to fish and understand the waters around New York City, and John is going to explain even more in person. John’s talk on Sunday is an excellent chance to get started this season, if you’ve been fishing NYC for years or if you’re just beginning to explore all the fishing available in NYC.

A little more about John:  He is on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Striped Bass Advisory Panel. He is also the Legislative Proxy at ASMFC for NYS Senator Phil Boyle, and was the first executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association of New York. He is also a writer the the Marine Fish Conservation Network, a frequent source for a lot of our blog posts.

The event is free and starts at 5pm. Beers and food will be on hand, so don’t be a fool, Data, and get out to the Metropolitan Rod and Gun Club!

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—mkl

Sayonara, DC!

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The Great Dave Cole — pic by Geralyn Shukwit

Good lord, what year is it? With all that is going on in the world it’s hard to tell sometimes. First off, many apologies to the three readers out there for the lengthy absence. When I just don’t feel confident or good about something it seems easier to always find something else to do in order to procrastinate. You should see the floor next to my desk right now. It’s piled high like an Arby’s Roast Beef sandwich with photo and fishing crap I still haven’t unpacked since moving in at the end of August. It’s a problem I have, apparently.

To summarize my season simply: it was full of small bass pretty much everywhere I went. I also caught a squid on a rubber shad. I fished a lot up in Caumsett State Park and there was beautiful water everywhere. Small bass by day on poppers and small bass by night on swimmers in the boulder field under a full moon. I did not venture out onto the Diamond Bar, but did once spy a guy who looked like he was 100 yards off the beach standing out there. I’m not sure that’s something I want to explore until I’m a little more familiar with the area. There’s a pretty good series of videos from this guy Mark McGowan on Youtube that takes you on a little video tour of the park and that’s inspired some ideas for the early season. Back in our NYC waters, I witnessed a bass blitz a football field wide along the beach. The water was a washing machine of chocolate milk brown and a constant, howling wind made casting near impossible. Out in the distance I could see gannets diving and gulls roiling over the rough water, tumbling over each other it seemed from so far away, and thought they would surely not make it back in this direction. After an hour though the wind shifted and back the birds tumbled, so tantalizingly within distance but the constant wind swatted everything aside. I could not cast 10 yards in front of me. I battled in chest-deep waves (which I guess is not really that deep) to hurl a 2.5oz bucktail far enough to reach the edge of the blitz and nailed a couple barely-legal fish. With the birds and fish came the trucks and the guys who got out, fished for 2 minutes, caught nothing, got back in the truck, drove, LA-style, 30 feet, got back out, fished for 2 minutes…. A few guys were doing alright with metals so I swapped out and did just as well, but with better distance did not come better fish. In fact, I think they actually got smaller.

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Asbury Park Christmas baby bass

I finished my season in New Jersey, in the exact same spot as last year—almost on the same rock. More small bass at the Asbury Park shore where I managed to sneak away for last light while the Lady graciously went about Christmas shopping. The week before that I got hammered on the IBSP jetty for a bunch of small bass and several of us almost got a free ride into the inlet behind us on what at first appeared to be a bright, calm morning. The water was clean and cold, and had no concerns if it wanted to pick you up and move you back a few feet.

Now it’s winter and I have nothing to do but play with fishing lures and make (probably) unnecessary modifications to gear. Youtube has plenty of videos for homework, like Rich Troxler’s new surf fishing series , and of course there’s an unending video loop of fish porn to make you feel inadequate. There’s also Peter Laurelli’s new video and it’s been a while, but it’s right up there with his previous work, and there’s even more dimension to this one, even if it’s “only” an 8-minute excerpt of a 20+ minute film that’s to come. The footage this guy gets is just incredible. There’s really no other word for it. Take a few minutes, grab a drink, put the headphones on, and turn the volume up.

*****

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Dave and Denton with a nice Brooklyn bass

I suppose the offseason is time for more than just replacing rusty hooks and watching fishing videos. Than just reevaluating those days you didn’t change your techniques or weren’t humble enough or you slept in a little longer than you should have. Than just planning goals you hope you won’t abandon this year. It’s easy for me in the winter to bury my head in work and drop out until spring, but we’re losing our buddy Dave Cole to the land of AC/DC and the kangaroo, where he will no doubt regale us with stories from his adventures with the Morning Tide Crew.

I met Dave years ago working a Derby table on Bedford Avenue. He likes to tell his friends I’m the first friend he met in NYC that didn’t initially involve drinking or drugs. Dave fished his ass off that Derby and picked up a nice bass on North 5th Pier on an all-night session with Denton. That picture of them late at night under whatever that sculpture is supposed to be is still one of my favorite Derby photos of all time. I remember the first time I fished with Dave—we destroyed two digital cameras and I sunk my phone and learned a valuable “waterproofing” lesson about Ziploc bags. I remember the time in Montauk when he wandered down this gravel drop off near Browns and turned and asked me, “Am I going to regret standing here?” right before getting his ass smashed by a series of waves. I remember teaching him how to use a bail-less reel in the Rockaways and catching my plug on the fence behind us and snapping my rod into 3 pieces.  He caught a bunch of fish at that spot one night. He was so stoked, he kept dropping his gear in the wash and his reel got gunked up with sand and he had to go back to the car and get another and then he’d catch another fish. I don’t think I ever caught a fish with Dave; maybe I did, but I always loved fishing with him. It was so easy for him to talk to anyone around us, and we’d get some good stories, then I’d go home and write about it later and now I suck at that. Godspeed, Dave! Take good care of that gigantic VS300, shining like the trophy you deserve. Love ya, dude!

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Don’t worry guys. We’re getting all his old stuff, haha.

—mkl

Bunker Time! Write to the ASMFC!

“If we do not put the heat on the ASMFC to do the right thing, Omega Protein will prevent any meaningful protection, the menhaden population will continue to crash, and species after species of the valued fish dependent on menhaden will crash with them.”
— H. Bruce Franklin, author of The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America

The October New Moon is here and while I’ve pretended like I was waiting for it to start the fall run, in truth I’ve been adjusting to domesticated life and all of the now-doubled family obligations that come with it. September was a complete wash of out of town weddings and birthdays, but it was 90 degrees for almost the entire month so perhaps I didn’t miss much. I moved at the end of August and the apartment is still a mess and full of boxes and I can’t find anything when I look for it, but there are more important fishing matters now with a window opening of an unknown, but always shrinking, length.

More immediately though, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission held its meetings regarding Atlantic menhaden (aka bunker) management over the past six weeks and today is the last day to send in public comments to the ASMFC. The Commission is considering what’s called Amendment 3, which will lay out a management plan for menhaden based on their role in an ecosystem—meaning it will be managed as a prey species and will consider factors such its role as a food source for predatory species like striped bass, birds, and mammals like whales and dolphins. It will not continue to be managed like a single species independent of environmental impacts, factors, but rather by its importance in the food chain. The bottom line of how many millions of pounds Omega Protein is allowed to take from the Chesapeake Bay is ostensibly no longer the primary factor in menhaden management, but more on that later because Omega’s take in the Chesapeake is also an important consideration.

We should support Amendment 3 and push for a “75% Target; 40% Threshold” interim rule while the Commission figures out the final details of implementing Amendment 3. This interim rule refers to maintaining a 75 percent unfished stock, and the Commission would be forced to take action if the stock falls below 40 percent. We should also push to revamp the allowable catch in the Chesapeake Bay—the headquarters of Omega and the reduction industry. The available option in Amendment 3 caps the Bay catch at 51,000 metric tons, reduced from over 85,000 metric tons. The argument here is that Omega never comes close to the 85K cap and can in turn take as much as it wants—there is no real regulation on how much they can take. I’ll have a sample letter that you can copy and paste at the bottom of this post.

So far, at least in the New York meetings, it looks like most people are on board with better menhaden management. That includes recreational fishermen (and women), commercial fishing captains, scientists, tackle shop owners, conservationists, bay watchers, and whale watchers. [Speaking of which, during a time of particularly high abundance of peanut bunker out in the Rockaways last Spring, I casted fruitlessly in the dawn hours into a gorgeous morning. Out in the distance I watched birds making great wide circles, as if they were slowly looping an oval race track. More birds appeared, seemingly out of the air, moving in the same direction, making those great circles. It was not the kind of bird action I’m accustomed to seeing—I’m more interested in the chaotic diving into the water variety. But this looked almost ritualistic, a conjuring even. And it was—seconds later a humpback blasted out of the water like something crashing out from the surface of a mirror. I didn’t catch any fish that day, but it was one of the most awesome things I’ve seen in NYC waters.] But while consensus among citizens may be near universal—according to John McMurray, the ASMFC received over 25,000 comments in 2016 in favor of ecosystem-based management, and only 11 comments favoring the current, single-species management—agreement among states is far from certain.

Obviously Virginia, home to Omega Protein who still controls 85 percent of the total allowable catch, and New Jersey, which has a smaller stake in the bait industry (11 percent), probably won’t support an ecosystem approach. The problem with the current single-species management these industries favor is there isn’t any consideration for predator/prey relationships. The increased number of whale sightings, the healthier birds, the more bunker we’ve seen pooled up in places like the Harlem River and even Newtown Creek (ugh!)—a lot of this is likely due to the 20 percent harvest reduction back in 2012. The menhaden industry believes it was solely environmental factors and not the reduction that impacted the increased numbers of bunker. However, they also believe their harvest has no impact on the population, which is just intellectually dishonest at best—the fishing industry once thought they could never out fish the cod population either and you know how that story ends.

So here’s the letter you can send to the ASMFC (should be sent to Megan Ware, comments@asmfc.org, Subject line: Draft Amendment 3). It’s short and to the point and takes less than five minutes.

Hello ASMFC Commissioners!

I am writing on behalf of the Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association. You have a unique opportunity on November 13 to make a huge impact on the quality of marine life in the Atlantic Ocean. The importance of menhaden in our ocean ecosystems is well documented and cannot be overstated. This is not a resource that should be managed based on the short-term desires of a single industry. More menhaden in the water has more potential to have positive results across the spectrum of marine life resulting in benefits for both the recreational and commercial communities. We believe we are just seeing the beginnings of potential long-term benefits of menhaden management.

In the interim, we support ISSUE 2.6 REFERENCE POINTS – OPTION E: “BERP Workgroup Continues to Develop Menhaden-Specific ERPs with Interim use of 75% Target, 40% Threshold.” Menhaden from this point forward should not be managed as a single-species, even before full implementation of Amendment 3.

We also support a cap on the Chesapeake Bay allotment. We support Option B which sets the cap at 51,000 metric tons, an approximation of the five-year average of reduction harvest from the Chesapeake Bay between 2012 and 2016. It’s important to close the loophole which allows Omega a virtually unlimited take of an essential resource in a critical area.

The Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association is a group of dedicated citizens who fish all of New York City’s waters, from Prospect Park and the East River, to the Rockaways and the upper Hudson. We were established in 2009 with the vision of expanding awareness of New York City’s fishing history, the life found in its waterways, and the benefits of responsible conservation and clean rivers. Please consider the impacts of your decisions regarding Amendment 3.

Regards,

Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association
http://www.bkuaa.wordpress.com

 

The Fall Run is On

For some of us anyway. I got into some rats this weekend; I took a couple pics to prove I actually caught a fish, but it was nothing worth writing much about. Still it was a start, and just look at this water!

 

 

You guys have probably heard of Elias Vaisberg by now. He’s a kayak guide who lives in Brooklyn and fishes all over the NY area. The guy gets into fish for sure. They do pretty well drifting eels out by the Statue of Liberty and I’d say he’s really in the New York Harbor, but I guess he could make an argument he’s in the “East River.” And Zombie fish? Not really sure how he managed to catch fish that were so badly damaged in that video. I’ve caught a lot of fish out of the East River and haven’t seen a fish with its gill plate torn off like that, or anything like he has in the video, but I guess he has. Weird.

We need some action on menhaden tomorrow. Post on that coming up tonight / tomorrow!

—mkl

PORGY BEATDOWN!

PORGIES

Technically it was already Sunday by the time I got back to Brooklyn. 3AM to be exact. I had just driven back from my parents’ house in Delaware after being humiliated after my grandmother’s 90th birthday at a 1987 version of Trivial Pursuit, a victim of such vexing quandaries as “What sound does a hiccup make?” and “How many cylinders does a V8 fire?”. I could hardly believe I was reading these questions off to my all-female team of opponents. I have to admit I missed an easy one on Shakespeare, but, I mean, come on.

The boat was leaving in four hours. I still had to gear up, make some food, toss a bunch of crap in a bag and wake up in two and a half. I left the light on and set two alarms. At 545AM I woke up to the second one, having no memory of the first ever going off. I managed to drag my ass out of bed and put my contact lenses in the wrong eyes, right before my friend Heather showed up at my door. We loaded up my car and headed for Sheepshead Bay for the Ocean Eagle V.

About 20 minutes later I pulled off the Belt Parkway to see Scott Behr’s truck plowing through a giant puddle. He pulled off and in front of him was Alex A.’s Subaru Outback, newly lifted and very much jealousy-inducing (for me—really gotta get those CELs figured out to move on to bigger and better things with my Forester). We stopped at the bodega across from the Ocean Eagle to buy some beer, but Important to Note: They will not sell you beer on a Sunday before 0800. What kind of savages did they think we were?

Aboard the boat we had a good crew already cooking. Altay and Robin came in from the city, Alex M. from Bay Ridge, Scott and his son Chase, Alex A., a new fishing buddy I met this winter talking fishing and Subarus at the ranger station at Floyd Bennett Field, my friend Heather—a newbie to fishing; and myself, a terrible fisherman. For some reason there was a guy backstroking through Sheepshead Bay when we boarded. At 0700 we were off!

Captain Greg was prepared to put us on fish. I was severely underprepared. I had a couple rods, one I set up Skinner-fluke style, and the other for porgies, which were on the menu today. However I had no porgy rigs. I had some hooks and a couple peanut butter sandwiches. Alex hooked me up with a high-low porgy rig and I promised to try not to lose it. After some early queasiness by Chase and myself—honestly I don’t know what I was doing on a boat or any other vehicle I myself wasn’t driving since in my old age I seen to get motion sickness all the time—the fishing was on! And it was a porgy massacre! The pics (by Alex M., Scott, and me) will tell the story of 150 porgies.

CHASE_ROBIN_ALEX_ALTAY

Chase, Altay, Alex A., and Robin about to crush some fish.

SCOTT_ROBIN_ALTAY

Scott and Altay. These guys cleaned up on the porgies.

 

CHASE_ALEX_SCOTT

Alex had the first double-header of the day. This guy probably caught like 50 fish on Sunday. Plus he’s a stand-up dude. I forgot to ask him how Iron Maiden was the night before. I know he was there.

SCOTT-DOUBLES

Chase wasn’t feeling that great early on, so Scott took both rods on and was double-fisting catching fish.

CHASE_DOUBLE

Then he walked out of the galley and cleaned up on a double-header of his own. This dude was the most popular guy on the boat.

HEATHER-2

Casualties of the party boat scene. I’ll chalk it up to a language barrier, but there were a couple times I was about to get salty with that guy in the Yankees hat. He caught a ton of fish though.

heather

Heather muscling up a giant porgy. Or maybe it was two of them. Her first party boat experience wasn’t successful, but she cleaned up on this one. Next time, she’s gotta unhook her own fish, haha.

PORGY

I caught a fish.

ALEX_TRIGGERFISH

Alex caught this fat triggerfish.

ALEX_POOLWIN

Which at the end of the trip resulted in a pool win!

ALTAY-COOLER

Altay and Robin’s cooler was literally stuffed with fish. They probably caught well over 60 fish between the two of them, with a couple sea bass thrown in. If we do another derby these two are gonna crush us all.

alex_rod-2.2

Alex with his brand new rod and reel. It was a hell of a morning to break this one in. Let the record show that Alex is immune to the curse of the new rod and reel. He caught like 50 fish on his own and won the boat pool with that triggerfish. I might need him to break the skunk off a couple new fishing rods for me.

ALEX_HAUL

Just a small sampling of his haul for the day.

SCOTTSHAUL-2

Scott and Chase kicked a bunch of porgy butt too. Look at this haul!

CREW-2

A good crew. You shoulda been there!

Join us next time!

—mkl