Public Access

by George Browne
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association November 2020 Newsletter)

This month’s public access column is going to be a little different and the issue was brought to my attention by other members of the Berkeley Striper Club. This public access issue is not about a homeowner trying to block fishing access, a town closing their beaches due to Covid19, or even a fishing spot where parking regulations were changed to limit access. This column is about Sandy Hook National Recreation Area, the site called The False Hook at the northern end of Sandy Hook, and the Army Corps of Engineers decision to dredge The False Hook area beginning October 1st.

Over time, sand from beach replenishment projects to the south of Sandy Hook migrates north with the littoral currents and is deposited at the northern end of Sandy Hook. The sand bar that is created is called The False Hook because it is extending Sandy Hook north into the mouth of the bay. As this sand accumulates the bar extends out towards the channel just off the beach and there is a periodic need to dredge the sand to keep the channel open. No one disagrees with the need to dredge the channel so that boats can safely pass. The problem is the timing of the closure.

With about one week’s notice, Sandy Hook announced that the area surrounding The False Hook would be closed from October 1 until the end of the year. This wipes out oceanside fishing on the northern end of Sandy Hook for the entire fall run for Striped Bass, False Albacore, and Bluefish. The closure starts at the J Lot and extends about one mile to The False Hook. You may not enter the beach north of the J lot and you may not fish that area (see the map for the closed area). A mile of beach is closed so that an area about 1/10th of a mile can be dredged. And it will take three months to dredge that 1/10th of a mile. This is unacceptable.

Once JCAA learned of the closure, several board members, including me, went to work on doing three things:

First, we investigated the closure to see what information we could get from Sandy Hook about the closure, the short notice on the closure, the area involved, and why it was scheduled when it was.

Second, several board members reached out to Senator Cory Booker’s office and Congressman Frank Pallone’s office. We got their attention, and they contacted the agencies involved. We have a conference call the last week of October where we will get an update and a chance to give our views on the closure. We want to get The False Hook reopened as soon as possible this year and prevent an ill-timed closure in future years. Part of the reason cited for the fall closure was to protect the winter flounder spawn in late January or early February. We get that, we want to protect the species we fish for, but we also think there is a way to dredge late in the year and have it completed before the winter flounder spawn.

Third, the JCAA board has drawn up a position paper on the dredging related closure of The False Hook. We want anglers to be considered beach stakeholders. We need to have our voices heard this year and in the future. The northern fishing area at Sandy Hook is already closed for half the year for nesting birds. Closing that same area for an additional three months to dredge it blocks us from fishing for three quarters of the year. Enough!

The position paper is included in this month’s JCAA Newsletter. Please read it and share it with other anglers and your fishing clubs. We need to make sure our voices are heard.

If you have any public access questions or issues, please email me at publicaccess@jcaa.org. Provide a phone number or other way to contact you and I will get back to you.

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