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It’s been a while since I’ve been able to fish outside of NYC. I haven’t made any trips out east yet to Montauk and some would consider the fall to be already almost over. I haven’t done much in the way of “urban angling” since Greenpoint got hyper-developed, but I have a few spots in my neighborhood marked to hit. Most of my fishing takes place in the Rockaways and Breezy Point these days. But a couple weeks ago I also saw a few pictures of a guy catching schoolies on a fly rod out of Newtown Creek! Right by the new bridge the city is building to replace the Kosciuszko Bridge! (Aside: this is a pretty interesting article about the Kosciuszko) I remember a couple years ago when all the menhaden were schooled up under the Pulaski Bridge and we snagged a few for bait, but there weren’t any bass or blues on them. And I’ve never caught a striper out of Newtown Creek. This city never ceases to surprise me.

It’s also been a LONG time since I’ve fished the North Shore of Long Island, but I got out there a couple weeks ago in a Nor’Easter. I did make it out to Caumsett two weeks prior on a super bright moon and thought the place has a lot of potential that I’ll have to investigate further, but before that it was probably years. If you know the North Shore, you probably know the difficulties of finding a way to fish the very lucrative waters up there. Probably the best bet for us common folk are parks, in this case it was Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge, just east of Caumsett and Lloyd Harbor. It’s about 25 miles from NYC as the crow flies, which means it’ll take you at least an hour and fifteen to get there by car. You will drive past some great looking bay spots along the way, through some pricey neighborhoods in woody lots that exude refinement and pleasant living, and, of course, zero places to legally park along the water. There is literally no place to park along Lloyd Harbor Road, but if you follow it past all those tempting coves and cuts, you will reach Target Rock Park.


Target Rock park gets its name from a large, roughly crystal shaped boulder that juts rudely out of an already very rocky beach in what is technically Huntington Bay. Local history says the rock was used by the British as target practice. Parking in the park is easy: the lot is well maintained with restroom facilities and while it’s small, it doesn’t seem crowded. There is a fee for parking: $4. It’s on the honor system, but do the right thing to help maintain the park. When I reached into the box for pay envelopes I somehow grabbed one, out of about a hundred envelopes, that already had $2 in it. From the lot it’s about a 10 minute walk through the woods on a trail to get to the beach. On this day it was very overcast, with 15 knot winds out of the north east. I arrived about an hour after dead low tide in the early morning. Usually on conditions like this with a Nor’Easter brewing over the weekend I would head to Montauk and tempt fate. However, seeing as how I haven’t been out there all season, plus the fact that my waders have so many holes in them that I pretty much just have to be near the surf for them to start filling with water, I decided that maybe this storm wasn’t the time to get reacquainted. I also knew that guys were watching this storm for at least 7 days and that this weekend would probably be a crowd—also a big turn off, but that’s Montauk in the fall.
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There’s a lookout point where the trail reaches the beach. I took a second to look through these park-provided binoculars out over the bay out to Hobart Beach Park across the water. There was a misty rain along with strong winds, so there wasn’t much to see out there. The water an hour after low was already rough and choppy. Snotty as they say. I looked down on to the beach and to the surf to see that it’s very rocky: a very fishy looking boulder field. It almost looked like a mini-Montauk south shore. If one wanted to practice wet suit fishing, this is probably a good spot as there is a good mix of rocks to stand on close to shore as well as big boulders further out. The north east wind and rough water seemed like a good mix, but there wasn’t any sign of fish, no other fishermen around either. Target Rock proper, the park, is not that big, but there is a very prominent point to the south that I didn’t explore on this trip. Technically Target Rock only comprises the half-mile of rocky beach, so I’m not sure if you can fish down at this point which leads in to Lloyd Harbor, but, looking at maps, I certainly hope you can.

I waded out about a dozen yards and found a series of three good rocks to stand on. In places like this I always start with the bucktail as I’ve had lots of success in boulder fields with it. But with the north east blow the water here was really weedy—lots of cabbage as Dave likes to say. Nearly every cast came back with weeds, making it difficult to work the boulders the way I wanted to. I threw a series of pencil poppers and this new 247 Spook, which I have to admit I have no idea how to work as a walk-the-dog kind of plug, and just tried to use the same way as a pencil. It casts very well by the way. Also another By-The-Way: the rod I had Lou Caruso build for me last winter is awesome! It took several trips to break it in on fish, but I love this rod. It’s a Cousins 10M, a one-piece rod comparable to the GSB 120-1M, but without, as Lou explained, the noodle-liness of the GSBs. I’ve never used the 120-1M, but I have a GSB 132-1M and can say the recovery on that rod is slow and it is pretty whippy. It (my GSB) is not my favorite rod—it’s tough as all hell, but the cone-of-flight layout on it, built for a guy who was 6’5” (the guy I bought it from), actually kind of sucks for this rod, but Lamiglas is coming out with their “Old School” GSB series of rods soon, and those rods were the standard for surf fishing for a long time, so I may give them a shot when it comes time for another Montauk rod, with a more custom build for a guy of my size. The Cousins 10M, however, is an excellent all-around rod and is now my go-to rod in most situations. I use a VS 200 on it.

Anyway, getting off track with gear stuff. The three rock perch wasn’t producing so I moved closer to Target Rock itself. The day before I checked the Navionics app (an EXCELLENT app by the way, I highly recommend it) and marked a bunch of deeper holes and cuts. Unfortunately, Target Rock Park is adjacent to a neighborhood, and the residents have taken it on themselves to build sea walls at the high water mark to keep the riff-raff like you and me out, and a lot of the holes I wanted to hit are in these residential areas. At low water you can get in, but if the tide comes in while you’re out there you will probably be stuck and some rich prick is probably going to call security, if not the police, on you. Target Rock is a Can’t Miss landmark, and it has a big osprey nest perched on its peak. It being the early incoming tide, I couldn’t help but notice a high water mark about six feet up Target Rock—something to keep in mind while wading out to stand on rocks. I found a very nice rectangular and flat rock about 20 feet from Target Rock. I wasn’t having any luck with the pencil or bucktails, but the conditions, the wind, the water—it was the kind of water you just knew had fish. I just had to find a way to work the water and not get hung up. Out came the SP Minnow. I initially didn’t want to toss minnow lures because they generally suck at casting, but the SP is a different kind of minnow. I love Bombers, but you’d never get a good cast with a Bomber Long A in wind like this. I lost an SP earlier this season and replaced it with this crazy looking Mother of Pearl and chartreuse colorway. I removed the back treble and replaced it with an inline VMC 3/0.

First cast paid immediate dividends. I was so caught off guard I didn’t really set the hook well and thought I was losing the fish. “Oh what the hell,” I said to nobody because I was the only one on the beach, as I reeled up the slack, only to find the fish was making a beeline for my rock. I recovered enough line to reconnect and get the fish in close. Nothing big, but a nice fat schoolie about 24″ released for another day. A few casts later I had another hit that felt heavier, but because I was lazy about setting the hook I lost it after a couple seconds. In my mind it felt heavier, but that’s how it is whenever you lose a fish. It was probably not any bigger than any of the other fish I caught off that rock, and there were two more, all around the same size. Sorry no pics, but I don’t really take photos of small fish, plus I like to get those guys back in the water as soon as possible. The size limit is beside the point, and anyway if I have to measure the fish, it’s too small I always say. On that note, I had this ridiculous conversation with a friend of mine last month about a 27” “legal” bass:


Again, anyway. Did you know it’s blackfish season? Target Rock, with its rocky coast, I think could be a great blackfish spot too. I’m pretty psyched on this spot seeing as how it’s a public park and pretty easily accessible for the North Shore. It’s a nice walk in the woods before getting to a very fishy looking beach. The only downside I’d say is open hours. You can’t fish here at night at all. The lot opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes before sundown. I’m sure there’s a way though. There’s always a way.


By now you may have heard the news that river herring and shad did not get the protection they needed from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, AKA The Council. Earlier this month I made a post about a meeting the Council held whether or not to designate the fish as “stocks in the fishery” under their Fishery Management Plan for the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid and Butterfish Fisheries program. Basically, the fish would have then been under management to regulate their numbers in bycatch of other species (like Atlantic herring, mackerel, and others) in ocean waters. River herring and shad are already protected in state waters, however they are not regulated on a Federal level. From an article on 10 October,

The iconic fish now are under badly needed protections for the parts of their lives they spend in rivers and waters close to the East Coast, said Joseph Gordon, manager for U.S. Oceans Northeast at The Pew Charitable Trusts. But he said, millions of the embattled shad and river herring are caught in federal ocean waters farther from the coast – often as accidental bycatch.

“In the end there’s no limit in the ocean to how many of these fish can be taken and there’s no plan to reduce the catch,” Gordon said. “Hollow statements of support are not enough for species that are this depleted, and in the case of blueback herring, listed at risk for extinction.”

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council recently turned down proposed catch limits. The fishing industry has described the limits as unnecessary over-regulation.

Historically, shad were so plentiful in Virginia rivers they were easily harvested in huge numbers. Gordon said they’ve been nicknamed America’s founding fish; George Washington was a shad fisherman.

Now the numbers have fallen so low that eastern coastal states have all banned shad fishing entirely, Gordon said. But more than 100,000 pounds of the fish are estimated to be caught in the Atlantic each year – a serious threat to the shad and similar river herring.

“A lot of the states feel like they’ve done almost all that was possible to protect that part of the life cycle of these species,” Gordon said. “If that large catch in the oceans was held in control, the populations might rebound in a very significant way.”

However, as Charles Witek says, it is not just a matter of simple negligence or ignorance by the Council. “The problem is, there isn’t much hard science available to guide federal actions.  Pew points out that: ‘The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is planning stock assessments for river herring and shad for 2017 and 2018, a NOAA technical expert working group for river herring is compiling information; a River Herring and Shad Committee and Advisory Panel serves the Mid-Atlantic Council; and council staff members have compiled significant work analyzing river herring and staff issues.’”

Witek, whose blog I read often and respect as a well-informed writer, is not known as the conservation guy who brings the hot mixtape to the house party. He points out that despite the ASMFC’s involvement, there is no guarantee there will be any hard data next year, “or the year after,” that the Council can use as “reasonably accurate reference points that could be used to set biomass and fishing mortality thresholds for various shad and river herring stocks.” That does not mean, however, that the NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) doesn’t have river herring and shad stocks on the radar.

In Amendment 14 to the squid, mackerel and butterfish plan, NMFS adopted rules that allow closer monitoring of major participants in those fisheries, which will better allow federal observers and port samplers to check for shad and river herring bycatch in such fisheries.  In addition, unless the safety of the vessel is at risk, or the net is filled with spiny dogfish (which are extremely difficult to handle, and can have their own conservation issues), trawlers are not allowed to dump netfuls of fish at sea, so that they might conceal instances of high river herring bycatch from onboard observers.

Amendment 14 also provided for the establishment of a bycatch cap, which would shut down the mackerel fishery once a preset poundage of shad and river herring were caught.

This of course is dependent on the honor system of fishermen and the availability of fisheries observers, which, also of course, are dependent on budget. The Council sought coverage on 100 percent of the mackerel fishery, but it was rejected.

Instead, the great majority of vessels will sail without observers, and when unobserved fishermen are faced with the choice of either 1) taking nets filled with shad and/or river herring on board so that such fish will be counted and included in a cap that could easily shut down their fishery, or 2) dump the fish dead at sea and not recall them at all, thus better insuring that the fishery, and their personal incomes, will not be impeded,  it’s probably safe to assume that in most cases, human nature, and the second option, will prevail.

Like many things in the fishery, we will have to settle for Better Than Nothing. For now.






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.




Fool Moon Fever


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


no time to get lazy


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

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


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

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

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

back at it again!

Processed with VSCOcam with m6 preset

So much water so close to home.


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?


Groundhog’s 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.


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)!



It’s Not Over!


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.