Outdoor Writer’s Workshop Report

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association June 2018 Newsletter)

The NJ DEP’s Division of Fish & Wildlife (F&W) gave a presentation on April 19th to members of the press and representatives of the JCAA, NJOA and the NJ Federation of Sportsmen’s Club on a number of activities that it is involved with. The purpose of this workshop is to provide communication on what the F&W is doing for the benefit of anglers and hunters in this state so that members of the press can convey this information in their respective papers and that we all can be appraised of its current activities. This Workshop started at 10:00 a.m. and concluded around 2:30 p.m. I will give you only a quick summary of what was discussed.

Al Ivany, Chief, Bureau of Information and Education, opened this Workshop by welcoming us and then he turned it over to F&W Director, Larry Herrighty, who indicated that NJDEP’s Acting Commissioner, Catherine McCabe, could not be at this Workshop because of a schedule conflict. We were somewhat disappointed over this development since we all wanted to meet this new commissioner and get to know her and her thoughts on New Jersey’s fishing and hunting issues.

On the Bear Hunt issue – Director Herrighty indicated that he and his staff gave a detailed briefing to Commissioner McCabe on the population of bears in NJ and the danger they pose to our residents. Our new governor has indicated that he wants to stop the hunting for bears in our state. The information provided to Commissioner McCabe gives a picture of the consequences involved if the bear population is left unchecked.

Funding of Marine Fisheries – this has been, unfortunately, an ongoing issue and the $1.2 million earmarked for Marine Fisheries, largely through Senator Van Drew efforts, has been removed to fund other budget issues of our state! Director Herrighty is hoping that this funding will be eventually restored in the near future so that he can hire more staff for critical positions.

Assistant F&W Director, Paulette Nelson, was the next speaker and her topic was the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. She indicated that our nation is losing up to 46% of its many birds, forests, habitats and species of fish through pollution, over development and other problems. A Blue Ribbon panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife was formed consisting of many organizations including recreational, commercial, manufacturing and retail industries, and state and federal officials to review these problems and offer recommendations for improvement. This panel in 2014 recommended that 1.3 billion dollars be available to help fund the initiatives of our states intended to prevent further erosion of our country’s natural resources. This funding would derive from federal royalties on energy and mineral development (approximately 10% of existing royalties) so that no new taxes would be required for this funding. There is currently 12 billion in this account and New Jersey could stand to receive up to 26 million from it. The stumbling block is that New Jersey has to come up with 6 million in matching funds to receive the 26 million. Given our state’s money problems, our legislators are not rushing to find the 6 million to receive the matching funds. Legislators have signed on to support this initiative, but none have taken the lead to make it happen as a primary sponsor.

On behalf of the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries, Ross Shramko, gave the results of the study concerning stocked trout in the Flat Brook River. Despite extensive stocking of this river, (36,000 trout) anglers were complaining that they were not catching much trout and Ross indicated that he and his crew could not figure out why this was happening. To compound this problem, the fishing on this river is catch and release! To get a better understanding of this problem, a total of 40 trout were imbedded with microchips to monitor their movements. Without going into too much detail on this study, it turns out that many of these trout are falling prey to the natural predators around this river, especially the Great Blue Heron and other birds of prey. A number of these microchips were found at the shorelines. Ross indicated at least they have an answer to this problem that seemed unsolvable and even more so, vexing to them!

Sharon Petzinger, Manager of the Non-game Species Program, gave a presentation on her “Songbird Response to Forest Management in Northwestern New Jersey.” She explained that our forests need to be managed properly so that birds and other species have a better chance of not only surviving but also increasing in their numbers. She showed pictures of a forest with heavy growth and lack of wildlife, and another one with this same forest that had some clearing to it with removal of a number of trees and dense shrubbery. This better managed forest showed improved wildlife numbers and the return of many bird species that were not previously there.

Liz Jackson and Alana Newmark, both from the Bureau of Information and Education, gave us a presentation on their Hooked on Fishing not on Drugs Program (HOFNOD). The thrust of this program is to get kids/youths involved in fishing and nature activities and not on drugs. HOFNOD has a special emphasis toward inner city kids to introduce them to aquatic resources and also expose them to good role models. HOFNOD is nationally recognized and is not just a local program.

Jeffrey Brust, Research Scientist, gave the final report on Marine Fisheries Administration issues. Jeff reported that F&W now has a new Administrator of Fisheries and that person is Joe Cimino. He has twelve years experience with Virginia’s fishing administration and he does not need that much on the job training. Jeff is very excited and happy about his coming on board to help us with our fishery problems.

Jeff also covered the minimum size limit of 83 inches with Mako sharks and that measurement can be possibly adjusted downward with more experience on any recovery of this stock. He also pointed out that recreational anglers are not catching their quota of bluefish (now split as 80% recreational 20% commercial) and the commercial sector is making a case that if we are not using our allotted share, then their quota should be increased at our expense. With regard to fluke, New Jersey is now in its own region and he said, “We are going to live or die” since we are the only ones that have the responsibility to stay within our given fluke quota. Hopefully, we will not exceed our 2018 quota, but that can be a challenging prospect given our increased seasons to fish for them. For 2019, he indicated that possible new slot ideas for fluke are being considered along with our state being split with lower size limits for the southern part of New Jersey. With New York threatening to go out of compliance over their 2018 sea bass season, this issue was also discussed and Jeffrey said that F&W would fight to keep New Jersey’s sea bass quota from being raided by New York. (days later after this workshop, this became a non-issue with NY being OK with their 2018 sea bass season with additional days added to it). Scup has a 9-inch minimum size and 50 of them can be caught throughout the year.

The lunch for the Outdoor Writer’s Workshop is sponsored by both the JCAA and the NJ Federation of Sportmen’s Club. I always enjoy this Workshop and look forward to attending it next year.

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