Winter doesn’t want to go without a couple resurgent death struggles as this weather keeps seesawing back to the 20s and low 30s. I often get fooled going outside expecting it to be decently warm in the sunshine only to get slapped around by an ill westerly wind howling across the East River. Still, I’m hearing reports that early bluefish are in Jamaica Bay and some resident bass are perking up in the Harbor and lower Hudson. There’s only a couple weeks until the official opening of striper season (April 15) so I’m working on getting all my gear in order and in shape. I talked with Thomas last week over a couple beers and we both realized we haven’t done much over the off-season to get our fishing stuff together. By the way, since that fish knocked my bag into the river I’m almost back to my normal stash of plugs thanks to some gracious donations by friends and family. However, lots of them are hanging from my shelf or are still in plastic packages, and I haven’t tied many leaders and I think I may have to brush up on the Rapala knot in the next week. I gotta buy some new Sluggo hooks too. I hear these are the new joint. Also it’s a good time to catch up on some reading if you’re interested in fish stories; a couple in my collection (and well recommended) are Striper Surf by Frank Daignault, The Art of Surfcasting with Lures by Zeno Hromin, The Big One by David Kinney, and Fishing With Bucktails by William Mueller. I still want to get David Dibenedetto’s On the Run: An Angler’s Journey Down the Striper Coast, too. Pretty much all I did during the off-season though was work, drink beer, watch hockey, and get that tattoo above.
Also, the NYS fishing license was reportedly repealed recently. I haven’t had much time to look into it other than reading some short news reports and conversations on fishing forums, but the tentative plan is to repeal the $10/year license for two years, during which time saltwater fishermen, err… fisherpeople will have to sign up (for free, for now) with a federal registry. This is scheduled to go into effect 180 days after the new state budget is approved, whenever that will be (the vote is scheduled for April 1, but is usually delayed by several months), and until then, the state license registry will still be in effect, however half-heartedly.
For those of you who’ve read this blog for a few months, you know my feelings on this subject. It wasn’t the best system, but, to me at least, it provided the most good back to the marine fishery. Instead, a few East End towns claimed pre-Revolutionary War rights (using the Dongan Patent defense) and the DEC was forced to acquiesce due to a court ruling. For now, the registry will be free, but will probably end up costing us $15/year, with that money going to a federal general coffer instead of the NYS marine fund. There’s lots of sides to this situation: one side claims victory in the name of town rights, another side claims victory against Barack Obama and his tax-hungry liberal government, another side worries that at the end of the free registry the lifetime license (which cost $150 when offered by NYS and will be refunded once the state budget passes and the new registry goes into effect) will jump in cost to $400 or so, another side is concerned about where the $2.4m that was projected to be gained from the SW license will come from, another side cries foul that freshwater and hunting license fees will have to make up the costs lost by the SW license repeal, another complains SW fishermen are unwilling to “pay to play” like the rest of tax-paying sportsmen.
It’s a complex issue that ostensibly, at its root, had intentions—actually it was more than just intentions; rather, the states were mandated by the federal government to collect better data on the state of the recreational fishery, which is why we had to pay that state license fee to begin with, and why we will be paying a federal fee later—on helping a fishery in which we all participate, whether we’re C&R or taking fish. Like I said, I never thought the license program was the best system, but one that would do the most good over time: there was the prospect that our money would go directly to the state marine fund, aiding in the DEC’s enforcement efforts to reduce illegal fishing (some may, justifiably so, scoff at this, but that was part of the idea), there were reciprocity benefits to neighboring states (i.e. states like Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island would respect the NYS license, as NY would recognize theirs), and that the money would eventually better our fishery (again, some may scoff at this, and again, justifiably so, when thinking of state government’s track record when it comes to utilizing funds—which goes for any state government, not just our regularly beleaguered one—but armchair cynicism will only accomplish so much, but usually nothing more than dismissiveness. But that’s enough for some.) Like I’ve written previously, the government is going to get the information it wants, and whether we pay them or the state to collect was really up to us, but a knee-jerk reaction crying “taxes” and (frankly, nonsense) of “town rights” changed the game, and either way all of us, whichever side we were on, have to see what happens next.
I’ll try to keep the site updated with information as I can get to it. In other, more positive news, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) began work, announced 3/24, on an addendum to reduce striped bass mortality, citing “recent trends in the fishery and resource, including a 66% decline in estimated recreational catch from 2006 to 2009; a 25% decline in estimated striped bass abundance from 2004 to 2008; and lowered recruitment in recent years. Additionally, states in the northern extent of the fishery have expressed concern over decreased availability of striped bass as a result of the diminished water quality in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer months that may also contribute to increased prevalence of mycobacteriosis in striped bass.” The draft addendum is scheduled to be reviewed in August, so we’ll see what they come up with then. I’ll try to keep everyone updated on this as well, as it is an admission of the decrease in striped bass, and by extension other fish stocks unnamed, most intriguingly the menhaden stock. We will most likely be seeing a decrease in recreational bag limits and possibly season lengths, but don’t expect anything any time soon as the ASMFC’s earliest projected “public comment” on this issue is estimated as some time in November.