>> MONDAY - MAY 22, 2017 <<
ANYTHING DOING? NOT MUCH.....EXCEPT THIS
It's a Monday morning and most everyone who fishes is reading though all the fishing reports, either on fishing sites...not...or upon socialized media, and I highly doubt they are seeing much that would get them excited on looking forward to upcoming Memorial Day Weekend.
I cannot remember a time over the last few decades that the mood around here is starting to border on miserable, includes some mates this early on the fishing calendar, and that the outlook is not better when thinking about the rest of the 2017 season. I also doubt any fishing publication would even raise such a discussion since it comes across as doom and gloom talk at a time when people are/should be looking forward for the warm weather fishing that all of us enjoy each and every year...but again, not so far in 2017 in this region.
One story I was told last week was from an old time and long time retired mate standing around at the dock listening to the "young guns" moaning a tale of woe about no customers, lousy fishing and the boat being tied to the dock most days during the past two months. The old time mate listened quietly, and in no way looking to interrupt the crying game going along the docks here along Emmons Ave, but he did wonder why they were doing this "harangue" in earshot of all when they were supposed to be encouraging the few fishermen that were showing up to take a trip with them.
"Why argue with them....why even try to explain and give some wisdom to those who are not making any money these days.....am I the one to tell them they should be looking for a new line of work in order to make a steady income and prepare for the rest of their lives?"
My answer at this last point......NO.
Should we start the finger pointing and blame game on why a number of party boats light up in Sheepshead Bay on the Monday before Memorial Day weekend, and not a soul could be seen on the street? Even the bagel store across from the piers along Emmons Avenue was surprisingly empty, so empty that it did make this one fishermen calling me wonder if this wasn't a day in the later part of March instead of the later weeks of May. Don't fishermen know that we are five months into the fishing calendar, or is this the routine normal to now be expected when skies turn slightly grey and posted fish-reports spark little interest as is seen on this Monday on the 22nd day in May?
On top of the unrelenting constricting regulations, we are in a period of both unseasonably cold water as well as unstable air temperatures that have ranged between high 40's to low 90's. Some say this is to be expected, isn't it spring, and I do agree...somewhat, but the prevailing easterly winds, normally to be expected through April have not let up over the past month even when we have a day or two break with the pump of the warming southwest breeze making us think about getting out on the water sometime during the week. But as I have mentioned, the chill in the waters in this region has set the fishing calendar back by a few - now very valuable open days during the year.
Yes the bluefish have bit to the point where easy catches have been made fishing tight to ones beach or near the confines of a protected inlet in the NY-NJ BIGHT nexus, but the striped bass fishery is nowhere what it should be...or were we just so spoiled by the e-z peezy fishing that occurred in 2016 where most anyone either dunking, chunking or trolling could have landed a rockfish of 30 lbs or greater on a half-day fishing trip?
The "meat-wagon" scup fishery did get off to a slow start, and now it seems there is enough being caught to fill a small cooler. No one is complaining about the size of the silver dollars coming over the rail and into the pail especially as it is the only reliable bottom fish species that is being caught. Just a few days ago, the scup finally showed up here along the East Beach, but few would enjoy drifting on the Tin Can when 16 oz of lead is necessary to hold bottom. Can't the wind and current just let up just a little for the boats in this neck of the big pond to start sailing for them and fishing within a few minutes of the dock?
"Reliable" bottom fish species at this time of May is part of the reason for the sullen mood shared by those in the for-hire trade as well as fishermen. Bottom fishing trips during the past month have relied on the ever disappearing spring red hake fishery, where sparkling catches made on a party boat are not measured by how many ling are caught by a customer, but caught by the whole boat. Consistently hitting a triple digit number of ling during an eight hour trip is seen as accomplishment, but few hi-line bottom fishing captains would consider this anything but "a grinding slow" fishing day.
One interesting bit of news coming from the insider fish-reports is about the swarming amount of bow-wows now concentrated in the upper NY-NJ BIGHT, from the Channels south through the Dump and New Grounds bottom. I have been told by anglers that they are catching BOTH spiny and smooth dogs on the same spot over the past week. This is normally not a too common occurrence (it does happen), but rarely in ALL the stories directly told to me for those full day fishing.
It brings us to the summer flounder...at least for fishermen in the once Empire State who can at least target and legally possess at this time of the year. New Jersey for-hire as well anglers are seething over the "compliance/non-compliance escapades" going on over the past few months of this year and can bitterly read the latest New Jersey Proposal for 2017 Summer Flounder Recreational Management. Folks I doubt there is much we can say than for a starting point to UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DATA & SCIENCE, and where the two shall meet.
Normally, and in a less dysfunctional fishery management environment, both will meet and somewhat correlate with each other...or as a few would say "find some semblance of equilibrium where constrained regulations help rebuild and restore a sustainable level of fishing effort." With fluke, regulatory controls have gone awry as the for-hire industry as well as anglers are forced to specifically target larger fluke due to minimum legal size limits...... but which both the latest data, model and science arising out of the studies just completed by Dr. Pat Sullivan of Cornell University which proved once again:
Researchers say lab analysis findings confirm prior observations that female summer flounder dominate the recreational catch, although it was also demonstrated that this does not hold below the legal size limit where fish smaller than the legal limit were predominately male.
On average, across all ports, dates and depths, the sex ratio approximates 50:50 at 15.35 inches in length, with males dominant in the size classes less than that mark and females dominant above the 15.35-inch (39 cm) mark.
Let us look at a chart from the SCIENCE of the DATA collected from this latest study:
From the conclusion of the RUTGERS - Sex and Length of Summer Flounder Discards in the Recreational Fishery, NJ to RI
These result confirm prior observations (Morson et al., 2012, 2015) that:
- Female summer flounder dominate the recreational catch; however, we demonstrate that this does not hold below the legal size limit.
- Fish smaller than the legal limit are predominately male.
- On average, across all ports, dates and depths, the sex ratio approximates 50:50 at 39 cm, with males dominant in the size classes less than 39 cm and females dominant above 39 cm.
This trend varies by depth, with larger males being caught in deeper water.
Considering only the largest discards (lengths 40-45 cm), and holding depth constant, we show that female fish are more prominent at a given length at southern ports. In addition, the proportion female decreases over the fishing season.
The data reported here provide important insights for possible management strategies in this fishery.
One of those is the potential for a slot limit fishery (Bochenek et al., 2010) to distribute the fishing mortality more evenly across both sexes. This could be achieved by allocating some of the allowable catch to smaller size classes where males are more dominant.
The data provided in this study could be used to help identify an appropriate slot limit size, or in management strategy evaluations to compare various slot limit options.
Haven't I/WE/ALL TO MANY IN THE INDUSTRY been mentioning a solution to the slight decline seen in the summer flounder fishery to lessen at least the wasteful regulatory discard practice (due to the higher minimum size) as well as to distribute the harvest by the recreational sector between female and the smaller male fish which become stunted in growth when they approach a size range of between 15-16 inches?
Haven't we mentioned that a solution should be for a pilot program done among the states to have a slot limit with a small possession limit and 1 trophy fish - with '1' being the idea that the trophy fluke will only be allowed during a short few week period during the season? Doesn't this make some sense based upon what we now know on:
- the nature of summer flounder physiology, or
- on where they appear and disperse during and throughout the inshore fishing season,
- as well as to the point of reasonable possession limits for anglers?
Isn't this more of the "same old, same old" recreational management "catch" controls that have led us to a point where states are pushing the non-compliance issue while others having to work with the once again "constrained possession limit for 2017," and who knows for how long in the upcoming years? Will for-hire businesses....even half-day for-hire businesses either party or charter survive under these fishery regulatory constraints?
Nonetheless, this is the current state we are at in 2017 with the fluke fishery where there are all too many anglers publicly talking about "fillet and release" and then go about posting images of pirate patches and or flags, fillet knives and Ziploc bags? Then they wonder why they see the fish Po-Po showing up in places where they were rarely seen before? Don't complain fishermen....didn't you ask for this in one form or another?