Fishing Report:
The Good News / Bad News

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association July 2020 Newsletter)

As president of the Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County, I have many responsibilities including recruiting speakers for my club’s monthly meetings. I try to have speakers to give presentations on various topics, but they all have some connection to salt water fishing.

Given that we are in the start of the summer flounder fluke season, I invited Dave Lilly to talk at my club’s June 16th meeting to give a presentation on his best techniques to catch summer flounder. He has won many summer flounder tournaments and certainly knows how to catch these fish. Weather permitting, he is the type of angler that is on the water just about every day to catch whatever fish is in season. He is also a very good speaker and the proof of that is when he is speaking, club members are totally silent even when the room has almost 70 to 80 of them in it!

At our meeting, Dave first talked about last year’s fluke season and said that it was the worst he experienced in memory. The fish were just not there and he, like us, struggled to land a few keepers. Fish as low as 5 pounds were winning some fluke tournaments! What caused this collapse of fluke fishing, in his opinion, was a number of factors that could include sand mining, warming waters or some unknown factors. However, whatever the cause, the major result was the lack of baitfish in our waters. We all know that if there is no bait, there is no fish! Fishing for fluke during 2019 was a struggle, even for the “sharpies”.

However, the good news is that Dave is seeing all types of baitfish in our waters! The fluke he has been catching have been spitting up small porgies, crabs, small fluke and other baitfish. Schools of bunker are everywhere and they are prime forage for striped bass and bluefish. Dave indicated that fluke fishing has had a slow start because of the unusual cold spring we have just experienced. But given the abundance of baitfish, fluke fishing for 2020 looks very promising!

The bad news is the effect COVID-19 has had on the for-hire fleet. Dave reported that during his many fishing trips he has seen party and charter boats only partially filled. The social distancing requirement has not only reduced the number of anglers allowable on boats, but captains have had to raise their fares to compensate for the number of anglers they need to turn a profit. Increased fares to go fishing, especially at a time when so many citizens are unemployed, does not put more people on fishing boats. The fear of catching COVID-19 may be the biggest problem for the for-hire fleet and just about every business and organization in our country! For example, at my club’s June 16th meeting only 35 members came to it when my club meetings normally have between 70 to 80 members in attendance. Since my club did not have club meetings in March, April and May and that we have been house bound for so long, I was convinced that we would have the normal turnout of members, but I was wrong. I also receive reports from a number of fishing boats and they petition anglers to come on board for even the next day’s trip and that shows me that they are lacking anglers to fill their boats.

What was funny at my club’s June meeting was the hairy look of our club members and a few were almost unrecognizable! It has been so long that any of us have seen a barber! I have grown a beard for the first time in my 75 years of existence! If I hardly go anywhere and are mostly housebound, why should I shave?

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