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What Can We Fish for and Tough Times for the For-Hire Fishing Boats

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association October 2017 Newsletter)

The fluke season closed on September 5th. The sea bass season opens October 22nd to December 31st. Only 1 (one) Blackfish can be kept now until November 14th. On November 15th, this limit jumps to 6 blackfish at 15 inches minimum. What are we going to fish for from September 6th through October 21st!

To see this information in another way to better bring this point home:

At the time of my writing this article, the bluefish are not really around and one party boat that normally targets bluefish is going for sea bass and advertises that "you can keep all the sea bass you want" - but does not tell you that you can keep only two of them! They are also going for fluke which they usually don't and, hopefully, also catch some mackerel. Basically, they are doing everything they can do to stay alive in business and have jobs for their mates!

Fishing management focuses on one species at a time when they should be focusing on all of the species that are connected together, basically a holistic approach, so that we do not have these huge types of voids in our fishing seasons. They think that protecting one species is good, but then fail to recognize that anglers who want to fish will pound other available species in season so that they have something to fish for like ling and porgies. If the bluefish were around, they could be that targeted fish, but many anglers really don't like to fish for them because they are too strong for dinner fare.

Boat captains have bills to pay like insurance, dock and maintenance fees. How can they pay these bills if they are sitting at the dock? What are the mates to do during these down times in September and October? How can they subsist while not working? The mates in many cases have to move on to some type of work making it more difficult for boat captains to maintain dependable and good mates. All of these factors, unfortunately, are causing more and more boats and related businesses like tackle shops to go out of business. Captain Bob Bogan of the Gambler that sails from Point Pleasant, NJ, recently wrote an article that first appeared on line pointing out that from 1996 to 2006, fifty (50) once viable party/charter boats operating from Bayonne to Cape May have gone out of business due to terrible regulations/management decisions. (This article is also in the Fall edition of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance's newsletter). The Bogan family has been in the fishing business for many years and they know the ups and downs of this industry. At the end of 2017, I fear (and I certainly hope that I am wrong) that we will be losing more fishing - related businesses.

This issue and others were brought up at an April 3rd meeting with John Bullard, Administrator, U.S. Department of Commerce and his staff at the Manasquan Reservoir Center in Howell. This meeting was also attended by Tom Fote, Paul Haertel and myself along with other members in the fishing community. I have received information that this issue and others will be discussed at future meetings with fishing managers to seek resolution of them. But, talk is just talk and our fishing industry is dying a slow death because of mismanagement by our fishing managers, especially at the federal level. What is needed is action/resolution now to resolve these issues facing our recreational industry. Hopefully, during 2018 we may see some light at the end of the tunnel and see some changes that will turn things around for people connected to this important fishing industry.

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