And We Continue Down That Road

Things just don’t look good for striped bass right now

Party Boat, dead fishMan…  Epic fishing the last three days.  There are a ton of sandeels in “that spot” that remained a secret for, I don’t know, maybe 5 minutes before the word got out… and there were lots of big bass on them.  I don’t think we caught one under 30-inches in the last three days.  Most were in the twenty to thirty pound class.  And it was almost all surface feeding fish, boiling and smashing sandeels for acres…. in the middle of the day!  But get this… there was chatter on the radio about bluefin in 70 to 80’ of water.  So, of course I took the ride, way past the three mile state-water limit, because I’m a full-on tuna addict.  We got to a spot at that water depth.  There were some birds and a bunch of boats set up, including a handful of party boats.  We dropped some tuna jigs down and were on pretty quickly.  Unfortunately, they weren’t tuna.  We released a striper that looked well north of 50lbs at the boat and one around 30.  Probably the largest striper my boat has ever seen.  Because we were in federal waters (EEZ – Exclusive Economic Zone), we were not supposed to be landing or even targeting striped bass.  I imagine readers of this column already know this, but in the unlikely case they don’t, fishing for striped bass in the EEZ is prohibited, and it should be as it’s really the last sanctuary they have…. assuming it is effectively enforced.  In some areas it is (see Justice Department press release).  Unfortunately in our area it isn’t.  Never really has been, and it likely never will be.  It’s just not an enforcement priority.

So yes, all those boats out there (and there were a lot) were targeting and keeping striped bass.  In fact I saw a few very large fish come to the gaff in those boats before I left in search of elusive bluefin.  As mentioned, included in the fleet were those party boats who are boldly advertising “limiting out” every day on the various internet forums.  Unfortunately, such fishing in the EEZ is not unique to this year, nor is it unique to this area.  Each year we have a brief but good run of big fish in late April/early May outside of Lower New York Harbor, often in that same 50 to 90’ depth.  Because it’s usually the only game in town every single party boat from central Long Island to Central New Jersey is on them.  And yes, it’s generally well outside of the 3-mile limit, most of the time in the old Ambrose Light Area.  And they are all advertising limiting-out as well.  But let’s not put the entire onus on party boats.  There are lots more private boats out there knocking the crap out of these fish also.  However irritating this is, I don’t want to focus on all the illegal EEZ fishing in this blog, because it’s just a small part of what is a much larger problem.  But the point is, striped bass, which are becoming more and more contracted/concentrated as they decline, and more and more susceptible, have literally no sanctuary anymore.

Moving on, I’m certainly not going to harp on what’s been a precipitous decline of the striped bass population for the last several years.  I’ve done it too many times in other blogs, and I have a feeling readers of this blog already know it all too well, more than likely from experience on the water, rather than from my incessant griping about it.  But I will note again that because of the bouts of good fishing I described above, it’s hard to convince managers that this is indeed a serious situation that requires management action now, rather than when they finally figure out that overfishing is occurring and/or that the stock is overfished.   As I’ve mentioned before, managers don’t have the perspective we have, and most just don’t spend the time on the water we do.

So yes, I’ve had some of the best days of striped bass fishing in my life in the last three years.  Days where I’ve seen more 40s and 50s in the space of a day or two than I’ve ever seen in my entire life.  The above described fishing is a good example of that.  But while such concentrations of fish are intense, they are restricted to very specific areas, and they are generally short lived.  And that makes sense given all the good year-classes we had in the nineties and even early two-thousands and the poor to average ones we’ve had during the last 8 years (with the anomalous exception of 2011 of course).   As we fish on these larger older fish, they get fewer and fewer, and show up in fewer places along the coast, but when they show up, boy do they show up.  And herein lies the problem, and why we will likely see an accelerated slide.

Years ago, when such bait concentrations occurred and stripers got on them, it was generally an island-wide event.  In the “good-old-days” in Oct we’d have solid fishing from Montauk to Sandy Hook, NJ.  In other words there was a wide distribution of fish, like there should be when you have a healthy population.  Now, because the stock has contracted (note, this is not anecdotal, a peer-reviewed stock assessment has confirmed a sharp decline since 2006), what we have are exactly these sorts of short but intense slugs of fish showing at very specific areas.  And here’s what really sucks about that.  Because of the internet, smart-phones etc., when such good fishing does occur, the word gets out so quick that every freak’n boat in the region is on them the very next day, if not that afternoon.  And they are all “limiting-out” (I hate that phrase!) every single day, especially the party boats, who often take in excess of 100 fares and run more than one trip a day.  Because we’ve had 8 years of average to below average young-of-the-year indices, we really just don’t have much in the way of schoolies anymore. So when these bodies of fish do show, they are pretty much all keepers, and most people feel entitled to keep their two per person.

Unfortunately, those of us who thrive on releasing most of the stripers we catch are without-a-doubt a minority.  For a long time the catch-and-release thing seemed like it was catching on/growing.  But it stalled once stripers got a bit more difficult to find.  I’d even argue that the catch and release crowd has shrunk during the last few years, for reasons of which I’m not quite sure.  What’s really irritating is that there are plenty of boneheads out there who refer to such anglers as “elitists” for not wanting to kill every darn keeper they catch.  You tell me how having some foresight, or simply wanting these fish to be around so that our kids might be able to catch a few is “elitist”!?

At any rate, the point here is that we are putting an awful hurting on those fish up and down the coast when they do show like this.   If you want to get angry and subsequently depressed, just take a look at any of the online forums/fish reports.  Lots of photos of dead bloodied fish, piles of dead stripers etc.  So many short-sighted folks out there bragging about “limiting out”.  And the party boats are doing their best to advertise such “limiting out”, so they can fill their boats, and take people out again to beat the crap out of these fish before they move on to the next region where they will likely get hammered.  It’s a real bummer.  Makes me want to drink.

I usually try and end these blogs on an upbeat note.  Like there IS something we can do.  But in this case, I’m not sure there is anything.  We now just have to wait and see what the ASMFC does at the meeting later this month (note:  for more information see CCA MD HAS IT RIGHT ON STRIPED BASS blog).   I really do hope that they vote to make a substantial reduction in fishing mortality, although judging by what I’m hearing from some of the managers themselves, I suspect they will “compromise” with something much less than what is required.  I don’t think they will balk and do nothing. I also don’t think we get what this fishery really needs to stem the decline which is somewhere around a 50% reduction in mortality.

For God’s sake please don’t respond to this blog with more talk about gamefish and slot-limits.  This is NOT the solution and was already covered in this blog:  THE STRAIGHT DOPE ON STRIPED BASS.  All we need is for significant number of managers at ASMFC to realize the importance of a significant reduction in mortality, now, before we find ourselves in a really bad situation with these fish.

Striped bass are so darn important to me and a huge constituency of anglers.  For a long time they defined who I was, and to a large extent they still do.  I not only built a business on striped bass, I built a lifestyle.  And over the years, I have developed a profound respect for the animal.  It’s so darn frustrating and infuriating to see managers sit there with their thumbs up their rears, and it’s equally maddening to see all those gaffed fish coming over the rails, all the photos of dead fish, all the bragging, and virtually no acknowledgement of the deteriorating situation.

Regarding this recent slug of fish off of Fire Island, keep in mind that it’s only been going on for a few days.  Assuming these fish stick around, (this may sound funny, but I do hope they move on) this weekend will be an absolute slaughter while these fish are so vulnerable.  And that really stinks.   The reality though is that I don’t blame those folks killing fish, at least those killing fish legally.  They are just doing what managers have allowed.  It’s the weak-spine managers that are really at fault.  How could they not know what the right thing to do is?  It’s become so obvious.

I can’t help but sit here and feel completely helpless about it all.  I would love to be able to say that we’re gonna go in to the next ASMFC meeting, guns blazing, and change things.  But having been involved in the management world, I’m jaded enough to realize that this simply isn’t the way the system works (it certainly doesn’t help that the October meeting is in St. Simons Island, Georgia).  Change can and does come, but it’s a slow process.  It certainly doesn’t happen quickly and managers certainly aren’t swayed by yelling and screaming at public meetings.   But I can say with some confidence, they have indeed gotten the message that a large portion of the recreational fishing community wants precautionary action on striped bass.  And while many, perhaps most, will choose not to represent those concerns, others will.

The striped bass situation will likely get considerably worse before it gets any better.  History has been pretty clear that ASMFC doesn’t take significant action until the situation is quite dire, and there’s no reason to believe it will be any different here. What’s really unfortunate is that managers are probably looking at such fishing reports off of Fire Island and thinking “there are plenty of fish around, the stock is fine”.

Yet, it’s not all gloom and doom.  I don’t think we’re stupid enough to allow another crash like we saw in the early 80’s, and while history does tend to repeat itself, striped bass has developed a constituency of zealous advocates.  Nothing generates more passion from fishermen than striped bass.  When push comes to shove, we will rally.  For that reason alone I have hope.

The ASMFC annual meeting starts Oct 28th.  There is still plenty of time to contact your state Commissioners and let them know how you feel about striped bass.  The stock needs a clear and significant reduction in fishing mortality (Again, for God’s sake don’t mention gamefish or slot limits or it likely won’t get read).   Managers just need to have the balls to push something close to a 50% reduction through.  You can help:  http://www.asmfc.org/about-us/commissionersPlease, take five minutes to write.

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After obtaining an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Loyola College in Maryland, Captain John McMurray served in the US Coast Guard for four years as a small-boat coxswain and marine-fisheries law enforcement officer. He was then recruited to become the first Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association New York. He is currently the Director of Grants Programs at the Norcross Wildlife Foundation in New York. He is the owner and primary operator of “One More Cast” Charters. John is a well known and well published outdoor writer, specializing in fisheries conservation issues. In 2006 John was awarded the Coastal Conservation Association New York Friend of Fisheries Conservation Award.

Posted in Conservation
16 comments on “And We Continue Down That Road
  1. avatar Peter says:

    Why are you using a photo you don’t have permission to use? Also the photo in question was taken after a trip where we fished within 2 miles of the beach at all times so it’s completely out of context.

    Before you got tooting your conservationist crap do a bit of research.

    There were over 70people fishing on the vessel that day with only 61 fish retained. Sounds pretty fucking fair to me. If you wanna save bass stay home and don’t fish.

  2. avatar michael neal says:

    If in fact these boats were outside the three mile limit why were they not reported to the proper athorities immediately? I for one would have

  3. avatar David Price says:

    To Whom It May Concern,

    The state of the striped bass fishery is in our hands. Our current practices of how this resource is manged is showing signs of a strained fishery. Many people rely on this magnificent fish for recreation and subsidence in the way of revenue generated by recreational activities or even commercial use. The amount to which people can legally harvest striped bass is too much as there are less and less fish each year. Let’s not forget to mention all the illegal fish that are also taken by anglers and commercial fisherman. The distribution of striped bass has undoubtedly diminished with high quality fishing limited and isolated to specific areas. Every year it is getting worse. From my observations I see people take more fish than they are allowed with party, charter, and private boats sailing daily and multiple times a day catching limits and keeping fish on every to most outings. I have even seen many people with their two fish limit with boh fish being 30 plus pounds. What does one person need with 60 plus pounds of bass??? The harvesting is wasteful and we need to change the regulations!! Now! This is a fish that is important to many of us and its impact is significant to many and the economy.

  4. avatar Thadd says:

    To many people catch and release does feel a bit elitist. I certainly lease fish, but have been harangued for those I keep. Everything from snappers to trout can get this reaction from some people around. When it comes to stripers, those of us who have no way to fish but party boats do want to go home with something. Often because, unlike captains or boat owners, it may be the one chance a year we have to get a striper. I would love to release a thirty pound fish, but I also don’t want to be one of the people who brags about never keeping a fish and then goes out for sushi or buys striper at King Kullen. If I can keep the one or two stripers I get to land a year, instead of supporting factory farming or fishing, I will. There is no way that such an act is worse for the fish population than what you can buy at the grocery store.
    That being said, I would really love to hear some suggestions on what to do opacity boats. How do you know, as a customer, if you are going out into the protected waters? What can you do about it? I also assume that, as a captain, you don’t frequent party boats, but catch and release usually isn’t even presented as an option. Mates gaff every single striper, unless it is exceptionally short. What do we do about that?

  5. avatar Aaron Adams says:

    Hey John,
    Great piece. Right on the mark. It astounds me that so much fisheries management remains reactive and after the fact. There are way too many examples of how that doesn’t work. You probably already know this, but I’ll say it anyway – essentially what you have in the striped bass fishery, what is fooling the managers (who should know better) is “hyperstability”. Because striped bass are generally found in schools, groups, concentrations, the catch rates can remain relatively unchanged even as the population declines. Those boats you mentioned will ‘limit out’ every day whether there are 100,000 stripers or 1,000. Their catches will crash only after the population reaches a critically low point (as it did in the 1980s). This is why catch rates are such a poor metric for managers to use – they are biased and mask population declines – which means that a new method of assessment is required.
    Anyway, keep up the fight.
    Aaron

  6. avatar Jim says:

    If this is in violation of regulations now, what good will more do? If what they are doing is illegal , is this not poaching?

  7. avatar Mark Cahill says:

    The image is readily available via both Google and Bing. If it’s your picture, I’ll pull it, but you should also pull it from Google and Bing, and probably Facebook, and the numerous other sites that are running the same photo. For the record, it’s in the 1st 4 results for “striped bass montauk party boat October 2013″ on Google. Email me certification and I’ll pull it.

  8. avatar John says:

    Wow that pic is a disgrace. Keep up the fight for this beautiful fish.

  9. avatar Jason - MTK says:

    I’m grew up on a 30 acre body of water in upstate NY that had some of the best large mouth bass in all of NYS in it. I was born there, and spent 18 years fishing every inch of water there. In being such a unique and wild place, I grew very attached to it.

    As it taught me to value the outdoors, I also witnessed first hand what humans can do. I have no illusions to the intensions of mankind when it comes to nature.

    When I was a boy, you went out and fished for 3 or 4 hours and you’d catch well over 25 keeper bass. Some were over 6 lbs. They were healthy, wild and part of the critical food chain of the lake. The sunfish, perch, the fogs and the Blue Heron were all super healthy.

    By the time I was 10 or 11, word got out that the lake was populated with great bass and although it was a private road to get there, I’d see grown men trespassing to get a shot at these fish. When they did, they hooked lots of fish and for some reason mostly kept them all. Breaking the law in many instances by fishing before the season even opened. I watched hundreds of bass being taken in buckets out of the lake I was born on. It made me sick and I vowed to never be like them.

    By time I was 18, the fishing was dead. The Blue Heron were gone and the rest of the food chain unhealthy. The only good news is losers disappeared with the fish.

    Some MEN who fish are not really fishermen they more like rapists. They have utter disregard for being apart of the food chain themselves. They do it for many reasons: bragging rights, to feel superior, to be the MAN. But these guys are not MEN and never will be. They are borderline psychopaths in my view. They are incredibly numb to their place on this earth and forget that they to are animals apart of a larger eco system. If humans ever go down, I’s sure it will be because of these types of people.

    Most will say I’m being overly dramatic. To you, I say you’ve not seen enough sunrises on the open water to even understand what I am taking about.

    I started 4 years ago to seriously fish Montauk. I’ve bought a home there and love every second my time there. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the population of bass decline. You can argue it a million different ways but the best and oldest anglers in MTK agree there are less and less fish. And while these guys may not be the nicest guys on the block, they are straight shooters.

    While roaming the tides of Montauk, I’ve seen first hand tourist surfcasters and boat guys take way more than is legal. I’ve gotten in a few shouting matches recently with guys taking 3 or 4 fish at a time off the sand beaches during the last eel inspired run. I’ve seen runners at the Lighthouse working for restaurants secretly running fish to the lot while their friends continue to bang a blitz. I’ve seen a guy who tosses bait near Caswells take fish after fish, bag them and leave his shit all over the beach. What’s depressing is these guys are doing it out in the open with a strange air of impunity about them.

    I am not a liberal nut job, just a realist who loves nature and like John Muir said, “rapture is anywhere with a clear line of sight.”

    But I am a strong believer in protecting our natural resources. We don’t have managers who care enough so the restraint must be self imposed. It starts with you, the guys who care. Never become apathetic….never give up. In fact, in the face of more and more abuse, become more and more principled. Show a better example.

    For everyone else who takes advantage you’re just sad and pathetic. I watched your kind as a boy take and take and you’re still at it today. Now that I’m a grown man, I hope I get the chance to see you up-close and personal in MTK.

  10. avatar jeffnichols65@yahoo.com says:

    Read the book “Caught” by Jeff Nichols. IN the Afterwards Zack Harvey describes in detail what went on with the coast Guard off of North Carolina a few years back to curtail poaching in ez.

  11. avatar carl says:

    Regardless if that was the legal limit for that boat, how could someone (women in picture) be so bold to take a picture like. Such poor taste!!

  12. avatar EC NEWELLMAN says:

    Credibility Captain McMurray…and in your “striped bass fish tail” presented here, I do question a number of the statements and convoluted talking points you have put forth, especially as it concerns the for-hire fleet in the NY BIGHT area along with the current state of the striped bass stock.

    In the second paragraph, you mention “Because it’s usually the only game in town every single party boat from central Long Island to Central New Jersey is on them.” Would you stand by that statement if you filed a FOIA with NMFS for the VTR trip data from the for-hire fleet in this area? So when you mention “every party boat”, are you then stating that none were engaged in the blackfish fishery till the end of the month of April, or flounder fishing or doing offshore cod trips or ling fishing or maybe scouting around for the few Atlantic Mackerel that pass through? When you use the term “every”, is that an accurate description of what the party boat fleet is doing at that time of the year?

    Then you write, “most of the time in the old Ambrose Light area.” In the “old Ambrose Light area?”

    We here in the NY BIGHT do remember when Ambrose Light, which was a fixed structure affixed on top of Ambrose Ridge, acted as a reference point for commercial and large recreational vessels to safely transit the inbound and outbound Ambrose Shipping Channel. You then state that party boats are fishing here for striped bass, which is more then three miles into the EEZ, depending where you are measuring from. Really? Please let us know which party boats from New York or New Jersey? Do you have any pictures from your smartphone to verify this? Interesting…. in almost four decades of either working on boats, pin hooking, working in a “on the water marine law enforcement unit” and in writing about striped bass fishing in this area, I and some of the for-hire captains I know would just never, ever think about ever going out to what you term the “old Ambrose Light area” to catch striped bass.

    Now we come to this issue you have with fishermen “limiting out.”

    A recreational fisherman who “limits out”, is obeying the current recreational fishery management measures, which is in the possession two fish that meet the minimum length criteria. The problem which I personally saw when conducting vessel safety equipment checks or along the docks in marinas, was an issue which was mentioned by DEC enforcement at a NYS MRAC meeting in 2012, with private boat fishermen not observing the ”Ocean-private” regulation of one striped bass within a 28”-40” slot size, and the one so called “trophy fish” of >40 inches and were instead retaining either 2 slot limit size fish, or 2 striped bass over 40 inches, contrary to what is dictated in the NYS ECL. These anglers were incorrectly retaining limits that are reserved for the for-hire sector, and some for the lack of a better term, just did not understand that this “Ocean-charter” retention possession limit was for those anglers fishing upon a for-hire vessel.

    Further in your diatribe, you make mention of,

    “And they are all “limiting-out” (I hate that phrase!) every single day, especially the party boats, who often take in excess of 100 fares and run more than one trip a day.”

    Here we go again with the “every” description, like those operating for-hire vessels can count on everyday being a cooler filling or “limiting out” day.

    Now let’s move to your discussion on what you see as party boats carrying over 100 customers in this particular fishery. I would really like to know where on Long Island or in NYC, party boats that are carrying 100 or more fares for striped bass fishing. I can state that maybe on the most bluebird of a sunny weekend day or night here in NYC during the summer, that the largest supercruiser in Sheepshead Bay, might come close to carrying 100 customers to go ‘blue’ fishing, but you never see this during the spring and fall period for striped bass fishing. Again I ask, in which fishing port is this occurring with party boats having over 100 customers on board when they are striped bass fishing and if it is happening in one of the local fishing ports, those same captains will tell you that carrying like this is an outlier as far as the number of customers on their vessel and that it occurs extremely infrequently if ever these days during the fishing year.

    Also as most anyone can easily find in the local fishing rags or news dailies, there are very few for-hire vessels that run more then two regularly scheduled trips a day. What is wrong with that practice of a for-hire vessel engaging in more trips in a 24 hour period? Isn’t it a business and the more times this fishing business can get off the dock, the more likely the captain and crew can make a days pay? The only time you ever see any party boat running three trips, is the local half day “stay in or near the bay, and make your day” boats, which is primarily done in the spring and summer with two species, fluke and scup, not striped bass.

    Your harangue in this blog is against party and private boats targeting and catching limits of striped bass. One would have to ask, isn’t this a reflection and positive sign that serves two purposes, first of a healthy coastal stock of striped bass and second as providing income for the for-hire fishing fleet for a few weeks of fishing in the spring, a short time period during the summer, and then again for a few weeks in the fall. To demonize the catching and legal possession of two striped bass on a party or private vessel, immediately leads one to see both an ENGO bias and agenda, with the objective to try to influence fishery managers at the upcoming ASMFC meeting to adopt a unmerited 50% reduction on the for-hire/recreational sector…and though you did not specifically mention where this reduction would come from (either in season length, increase in size or bag limit) it has undoubtedly been the goal of such groups as CCA to primarily have a one striped bass possession limit per an angler with an increase by a few inches from the current minimum length put in place.

    Thankfully your hyperbole about the party boat fleet, as well the latest reported survey data, does not support your arguments and as much, fear mongering about the striped bass fishery in this region.

    If you would refer to the latest updated (as of August 2013) information from the ASMFC stock status overview found here:

    http://www.asmfc.org/uploads/file/asmfcStockStatusPacket.pdf

    Which has been updated as recently with the 2011 stock assessment, the striped bass stock is neither over fished, nor is over fishing occurring, and based upon the biological reference points, the female spawning stock biomass “remains WELL ABOVE its threshold and target with F (mortality) way below the target.”

    Further using the latest collected draft for peer review survey data on the 2013 ASSESSMENT SAW 57 WORKING PAPER STOCK ASSESSMENT OF ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS, found here:

    http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/SAW-Public/SARC57-July2013/B%20Striped%20Bass/Working%20Papers/B%20StripedBass_SAW57_AssessmentReport_WP1_07102013.pdf

    Noted on pages 38 & 39, on:

    Recreational Landings in numbers:

    “The annual Atlantic coast harvest (in numbers) has been a small fraction of the catch (harvest and releases, combined) since the 1980s because the releases (B2s) have accounted for 85 to 90% of the annual catch in most years (see Section B6.6).”

    Estimation of Releases:

    “The number of striped bass that are caught and released (B2) is estimated by MRFSS/MRIP (Table B6.16). The releases have accounted for 85 to 90% of the annual catch in most years (Figure B6.5).”

    Estimation of Dead Releases:

    “Since 2006, releases have declined substantially (Table B6.17). In 2012, releases declined to about 78% of the peak releases in 2006.”

    We can clearly see the data on the bar graph on page 228 for a comparison on removals by the recreational sector, and since 2006 it has been trending downward with a noticeable decrease in total harvest to dead releases.

    As you can see from the empirical data and references that I have listed, it is vastly contrary to a number of the anecdotal statements you have made. To wit:

    “Unfortunately, those of us who thrive on releasing most of the stripers we catch are without-a-doubt a minority. For a long time the catch-and-release thing seemed like it was catching on/growing. But it stalled once stripers got a bit more difficult to find. I’d even argue that the catch and release crowd has shrunk during the last few years, for reasons of which I’m not quite sure.”

    Do you understand that if fisherman are not catching and releasing striped bass once they make their two fish limit, then they are breaking the law? If as you state you are seeing less catch and release, is your premise then that most fishermen are possessing an illegal number of fish?

    Quite the contrary based upon MRIP survey data on “catch & release.”

    In fact as you mention in this brief passage, you specifically first state an affirmation, “I will argue”, then you make a summation at the end of this same sentence, “for reasons which I’m not quite sure.” So in this talking point, you are ready to argue and defend your belief, then close out this thought with “I’m not quite sure.” So how can any fishery manager take you seriously when they have before them the most up to date collected survey data of the fishery in these documents, and then based upon your personal observations, you are stating something to the contrary, then adding that you are not sure?

    There is also this issue you bring up in the first paragraph about the EEZ being the “last sanctuary” that striped bass have. Current regulatory polices have deemed striped bass fishing illegal in the EEZ and there is no use debating this here, but the most essential sanctuaries for striped bass are within our bays and rivers along the Mid-Atlantic region. Here the threat to the eggs, larval and juvenile striped bass is at the intakes of power plants and other water use and cooling facilities situated along tidal and estuary areas that provide open access to the ocean. The direct detrimental effect to striped bass fishery is magnified here, with the mortality when measured in numbers of striped bass that are killed, is exponentially greater (in particular for the Hudson River stock, this was noted in: Striper Wars: An American Fish Story, by Dick Russell) then whatever striped bass are kept “over the state waters demarcation line” or a few miles off in the EEZ.

    Maybe you and all these ENGO group’s time and resources would best be served when directed in these critical essential habitat areas. I would strongly support your effort in making a difference here since there seems to be a correlation with the environmental impact and success to juvenile recruitment with each year class by improving habitat breeding and nursery areas. In fact it was specifically noted on pages 86 & 87 of the SAW 57 – Striped Bass Working Paper report on issues related to making significant strides in improving water quality and protecting essential spawning and juvenile nursing areas for striped bass.

    It does bring us to the point about you, where you mention your feelings about “being angry and feeling helpless”, your words not mine when seeing the pictures and reading the reports of fishermen making a legal catch of striped bass. If a layman were to read a story about a person who runs a fishing operation that becomes overtly angry and has feelings of depression when seeing other people catching fish, wouldn’t they think this guy is a little strange, maybe needs to take a little time off the water, away from the fishing reports on the computer and spend some time on the couch with the talking doctor to come up with some ways to come to grip and control this unusual type of anxiety when seeing fishing pictures with happy anglers who caught their limit of striped bass?

    Really in all seriousness, think about it for a moment, because your mindset and range of depressive emotions, transcends throughout this particular piece where you write at one point that you even want to go so far as self-medicating yourself by indulging in alcoholic beverages, to wit: “It’s a real bummer. Makes me want to drink.” Would this be considered “talking out load”, or just an inherent personality trait when under such duress in witnessing or looking at images of fishermen catching and legally possessing striped bass?

    For more then a century, these types of reports and pics have been used by for-hire vessels to bring fishermen down to their boat especially as we are coming towards the last month and a half of the fishing season for striped bass. This is the advertising that is done in the fishing business and without this type of promotion of what we would all call “a good catch of fish”, how would the casual fishermen know that the fishing was good at this time? In fact, I don’t remember this type of striped bass fishing in the vicinity and between the Moriches and Fire Island area last season, and thankfully this season we are seeing the largest concentration of sand eels off the south shore of Long Island during 2103 which the striped bass and big bluefish are feeding upon at this time.

    This type of advertising promotes the economic activity that is needed to keep these fishing boats in business, and for bait & tackle shops as well as marinas to remain viable and keep their doors open, and in some areas there is a secondary economic offset to businesses (small food stores, motels) due to fishing related activities which is desperately needed especially after the negative economic impact caused to our coastal communities due to super storm Sandy.

    I understand after reading your article that you are talking in the first person with the “I, me, my”, but the resource is open to everyone, both recreational and commercial to legally fish upon. You mention how you built “a business, a lifestyle” around striped bass. How about those other fishing businesses that have built “a business” around the striped bass fishery over the years?

    Let’s just take a step back for a moment, and for those who have lived and fished in this area of New York City, let us think back to the so called “bad old days” of striped bass fishing in the 1980s, and yet we still caught striped bass during the season. It is easy to find the old fishing reports in such publications as the Long Island Fisherman, where each and every week, for-hire fishing boats, private boat and shoreline fishermen making at times impressive catches of striped bass.

    How many of us here would eagerly await the first showing of stripers down the East River and then go right out to the power plant where we would cast lures from the shoreline in March and April and then transition to bunker dunking and chunking at the jetty and then to trolling with umbrella rigs, bunker spoons and big plugs, to then doing some clam belly and “worming”, to going back to bunker dunking and chunking to again tossing bait tails and diamond jigs in the fall. Goodness back during the 1970’s and 1980’s, in October and November a number of the fishermen around here would go on foot and cast simple lures like mackerel-back Rebel along the Brooklyn rocks and shoreline of NY Harbor, and for a few hours catch at times, a few dozen ‘schoolies’, and for the most part it was catch and release. It has changed over the decades as this phenomena doesn’t occur on till later in the fall and early winter, and you can still do this as I have witnessed right off Battery Park in Manhattan or anywhere along the North and East River especially for those who use bait. There is no shortage of ‘schoolie’ fish around, you just have to go to the right areas to catch them which is pretty apparent if you keep your eyes open.

    Captain McMurray when it comes to fishing, both of us as well countless other fishermen are extremely passionate about the striped bass fishery, but your passion has been misdirected as you are ranting about the legal catching and possession of “limits” upon party boats which is neither a crime nor should it be looked upon and perceived as those business owners and anglers not caring or having a lack of concern about the future sustainability of this fishery.

    We understand that this is one of the most valuable inshore fishery resources along our coast, but it is the right of any angler to take up to two striped bass on board either a party, charter and for that matter private boat during the open season that fall within the harvest criteria that is currently set at this time.

    Striped Bass are one of the most resilient species of fish and have a magical way of just showing up sometimes in large concentrations in a number of well known areas, and then like any other species of fish, becoming so scare you would never think there was a fish in the ocean. Haven’t we witnessed this in 2013 with bluefish this summer when you couldn’t catch one bluefish, no matter how far a professional party boat fishing captain would run off, then seeing the largest bluefish that anyone can remember in their lifetime show up out of nowhere in September?

    Your call for the ASMFC to move to make an immediate 50% reduction for striped bass, has become an ENGO based obsession over the years to reduce the current legal recreational possession from two to one fish. Based upon the most recent survey data, it is factually and scientifically without merit, and what you essentially stated in your blog, will have a direct detrimental economic impact upon for-hire vessels, bait & tackle shops, marinas and a number of fishing communities if the ASFMC does ultimately impose such a draconian cut in what an angler can legally have in their possession.

    We can all find common ground and agree that habitat preservation and restoration as well as the improvement in water quality and sewage treatment along our coast has to be upgraded during the coming years. This is what is essential for the continued success of striped bass recruitment in the coming years, not the senseless 50% reduction which you are rallying for.

    As I sum up here, it is pretty apparent that your rant is to rile up your base in very large part comprised of surf, fly and strictly catch and release fishermen against the for-hire industry, most notably the few party boats left that engage in this fishery for a very limited time period of the fishing season.

    It is not about fishery managers on the ASFMC having “cojones” to make an unwarranted drastic cut in this fishery, but for fishery managers to objectively follow the fishery laws of the United States in maintaining the current regulatory management of the striped bass fishery. It has worked over the years to rebuild the fishery and is working now to maintain a sustainable fishery as can be seen in the official NMFS documents I provided links for.

    EC NEWELLMAN
    FISHING UNITED.COM

  13. avatar Jim says:

    As a 66 year old Long Island Fisherman I might be qualified to run my gums a little. Please do me a favor and save your backwash for someone else.
    I’ve seen migration cycles occur naturally in our bays and inshore waterways all of my life.
    Now we are going toe to toe over a magnificent creature trying to get home for a long winter.
    Can we stop the “slaughter” ? Unfortunately not.
    We should do something to at least slow it down.
    Maybe (I am the first to say there are too many restrictions on our fishery, size limits etc.) but how about closing Striper fishing one week each month from September thru December say the first week of each month. At least we should try. There were a lot of years when I couldn’t catch a Bass in the 70′s and 80′s, then haul sceining stopped out East and our fishery responded. Now unscrupulous party boat “Captains” are steaming to the birds like Genghis Khan. Hey, anybody want to go Flounder Fishing?
    I heard there was one caught this year so far.

  14. avatar pete says:

    First of all you are a ass. And the more I think about YOU make me want to drink. There Is nothing wrong with a party/charter boat advertising there catch of a boat limit. Second I have been on the bite now for the last 10 days as a captain of a party boat and no party boat has been outside the 3mile line.Third I wish I had all the ppeople on my boat that you say we have 100 or more pass I have not had that in the last 10yrs on any trip and if I did saying I had a boat limit is perfectly legal. I wish all you assholes would actually use alittle bit of common sence with how bad our industry is and our economy and just use a little bit of your brains before you talk and I no if that was my pic you used I would have some law suite against you. And to think you actually have a college degree…..ha you paid to be this stupid

  15. avatar John G says:

    If this keeps up , in a couple of years we will be happy to catch a sea robin

  16. avatar John Glynn says:

    Wait a couple of years adn we will all be going on sea robbin trips. what a tragedy.

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