The Autumn Equinox has come and gone and left in its wake the dropping temperatures we’re feeling this week, and hopefully turning up the fall run. This is some of my favorite weather of the year, but it also for some reason equates a ramped-up work schedule, or seems to. Still, I must remain dedicated, and until my printing presses are running 24-hours a day, there’s always time. Thomas and I hit a north shore spot near Oyster Bay last weekend at the Harvest Moon. Gorgeous night and the water was crystal clear. I haven’t fished the north shore since the days when the son of a cop and I used to sneak into some rich neighborhood’s pier and stay until dawn. Then they put a lock on the gate and we paid some kids a few bucks to tell us the code. Then they put a security guard on duty and it was over. The spot we hit holds a lot of potential: I have mixed results on full moon nights like this one, but it made for good scouting weather and I’m pretty excited about hitting it up during the next couple months. The quickness with which the parking passes fly off the counter seems to support the high probability of fishy-ness of this place. It’s gonna be good.
The summer was hit or miss for me on the off-chance I could fish. I spent one weekend with the lady in Long Beach Island, New Jersey, right across the street from Jingles Tackle shop. In the bay there was a small marina with a bunch of peanut bunker schooling up at night under the light with snappers chasing them around. I snagged a couple peanuts with trout spinners and threw them on bait hooks into the darkness. The first peanut got this little weakfish for the lady—the first one of these I’ve seen in over a decade. We used to get a pretty good run of these fish in the Indian River Inlet down in Delaware, but they dropped out in the mid-90s. I’ve seen and heard a lot about people catching them in the bay this summer. Other than that little weakie we got a bunch of spiny dogfish, some snappers, and the lady’s brother had some fun with big rays with the rod I left for him for the rest of the week. I also broke my rule of No More Party Boats toward the end of summer. I have terrible luck on these things, but sometimes some friends want to go and they can still be fun—sometimes. I ended up on the Brooklyn VI, sipping beer at the dock and watching bluefish chase bunker around the bay. The captain decided to diamond jig for blues until dark, then switch to live eels for bass at night. True to history, the fish were not biting, and for the entire boat of 30+ people the count was one 12” bluefish and two sharks for the night. I think I’m going back to my rule.
On the political front, on the Hudson River earlier this month a panel of judges dismissed the suit against Pier 55, which I wrote about last time. The project, famously funded by the media king Barry Diller and his wife Diane Von Furstenberg, was under suit by the City Club of New York, who claimed the developers and the Hudson River Park Trust were skirting environmental impact studies and proper procedure. A quote from this article, “‘I am disappointed with the Appellate Division’s ruling. If followed, it means that the legislatively mandated protections for the Hudson River have been substantially degraded by this monster project that has avoided proper environmental review,’ said Richard Emery, an attorney representing the City Club.”
The last post talked about the Westway Project and how the area on the west side of Manhattan served as a nursery ground for Hudson River striped bass, a fact which played a significant role in shutting down the project. It’s probably folly to assume Diller’s project would have a similar effect, even as scaled down as the project is compared to Westway. But without an environmental impact study, the type the Army Corps of Engineers tried to manipulate back in the 1970s and 80s, it’s impossible to tell what, if any, effect Pier 55 will have on the water under it. The politics surrounding the suit may be personal, Diller has claimed the City Club’s suits are funded by a vengeful someone who was forced out of the Friends of Hudson River Park group, which is the fundraising arm of the Hudson River Park Trust. But that’s a whole other story; the precedent of skipping proper environmental review is what’s important here, and the suit’s dismissal could set a bad one. For their part, the developers claim to have done a proper EIS, though I haven’t seen any review of it as of yet.
There was one small political victory for conservation this summer: the Mid-Atlantic Marine Fishery Council adopted an amendment to protect more than 50 forage species of fish. From the article: “[The] decision was ‘a huge leap forward in fishery management,’ said Joseph Gordon, who helps oversee ocean-related issues for The Pew Charitable Trusts.
‘These little fish are the unsung heroes of the ocean,’ Gordon said. ‘They’re what feeds everything, from seabirds to seals to whales to sharks. They’re the lifeblood of our Atlantic Ocean.’
Now, commercial fishermen in federal waters from New York to North Carolina can’t start targeting dozens of these lower-rung species in the ocean food frenzy without scientific evidence that it wouldn’t harm the larger ecosystem.
Rick Robins, the mid-Atlantic council’s chairman, said the panel is trying to get ahead of fishing demands.
‘Too often we’ve had fisheries that developed relatively quickly in the absence of any science and the absence of an adequate management plan, and those fisheries had to be rebuilt as a consequence,’ Robins said.”
I wrote about forage fish last year, and this is only one step—the amendment was adopted in the second of eight U.S. regional councils which will decide ultimately which fish will be protected. There is another meeting next week and the MAMFC is accepting comments on river herring and shad here. Back in 2013 the Council decided not to include river herring and shad among the species targeted for federal management, and instead relied on the states to manage the populations. Now in 2016, the populations are at less than 5 percent of historic levels, so if you’re at all concerned about the health of our fisheries and ocean, we need to take some action. It’s simple and easy to comment at the MAMFC site, and Earthfirst already has a letter you can copy and paste, and sign, which I’m posting below. Take a couple minutes to do something good for the resources we all love and share.
Please add river herring and shad as stocks in the Mackerel, Squid, Butterfish Fishery Management Plan
Dear Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council members and staff,
At the October 2016 council meeting, please vote to add river herring and shad as stocks in the Mackerel, Squid, Butterfish Fishery Management Plan (MSB FMP). The current management approach is failing to increase the populations of these forage fish from historic lows. Comprehensive protection at sea is the missing piece in the puzzle to help ensure that conservation efforts already underway are successful and not lost because of what is happening at sea.
Federal, state and local governments have invested over $100 million to help river herring and shad populations return to rivers. But the large-scale catch of river herring and shad offshore is undermining this substantial investment and preventing the recovery of these imperiled species. The Mid-Atlantic Council can solve this problem by adding river herring and shad to the MSB plan. Bringing these critically important forage species under sound federal management will ensure that they are managed sustainably coastwide, through science-based population goals, annual catch limits set to rebuild stocks, and protection of essential habitat.
Restored river herring and shad populations will help support predator fish important to commercial and recreational fishermen–such as striped bass and bluefish–along with other marine wildlife, including shorebirds and marine mammals. Robust populations of river herring and shad will also bring important benefits to coastal Mid-Atlantic communities that once depended upon these fish as a key component of their local economies and cultures.
Restoring and maintaining river herring and shad populations will take commitment, cooperation and coordination from all authorities with management responsibility. The Mid-Atlantic Council has an opportunity to lead the way in addressing the threats these species face at sea.
Please act now to restore river herring and shad by adding them to stocks in the MSB FMP.
This first moon tide of the official start of Fall is getting the blood moving. I’m checking my gear and repairing/replacing anything that looks suspect so I can hopefully avoid any nights of equipment failures and focus on fishing. This weekend is when it’s going to start for me, though I’m going to try to get out tomorrow or the next day for a night tide out on the jetty. By the way, if you head out to Breezy Point, or any jetty for that matter, be careful out there and be aware of the tides, otherwise you might end up like these two guys.