By Bill Degnan

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association -December 1995 / January 1996 Newsletter)

It has been a busy and rewarding year for the Jersey Coast Anglers Association. A lot of members deserve our sincere thanks for helping us with several major accomplishments. To list them all would take up a lot of space and they didn’t do what they did for personal recognition, they realized JCAA works as a team. When you are the president of a large organization like this, accomplishments are only made possible when everyone does the job they volunteered to do with team spirit and that we all keep our sights on the goal we are trying to attain. That is why JCAA has been so effective in the past and why it will continue to be even more effective in the future. The more members we can recruit to become activists and actually work within the Association, the greater the impact JCAA can generate and the more we can continue to reverse the tide of ineffective and inequitable fisheries management.

In May, JCAA introduced its first coast-wide fluke tournament. This contest was not only a major financial success for JCAA, but turned out to be the largest saltwater fishing tournament ever held in the state, with 742 boats entered and over 4,000 anglers participating. Trump Plaza Casino & Hotel in Atlantic City was our co-sponsor for the event and hosted the awards ceremony, which was attended by an overflow crowd estimated at over 2,000 including tournament anglers, their families and friends. It was held in the Imperial Ballroom and so many people attended that a second adjoining room had to be opened to accommodate the overflow. Trump Plaza personnel did a marvelous job, but the biggest thank you must go to Don Kamienski, who took on the massive job of being tournament director for a major, first year event and made it happen. He worked closely with a team of JCAA members, outdoor writers for various newspapers, The Fisherman Magazine and Eastern Outdoors, the shops and marinas that acted as weigh stations and with the many sponsors who made donations to the prizes and raffle. It was a monumental team effort which exemplified what JCAA members can do when a well managed group works as a team!

Greg Kucharewski, chairman of the youth education committee, did a fantastic job of teaching the next generation of anglers the joy of fishing in conjunction with "Hooked on Fishing-Not on Drugs" and "Pathways to Fishing" programs. Working with organizations from Fort Monmouth, Seaside Heights, Clean Ocean Action, Pequest Trout Hatchery, the Governor’s Cup Surf Fishing Classic, Shore Surf Club, Newark Bait & Fly Casters Club, the New Jersey Beach Buggy Association and many others, a lot of kids are learning that fishing can be fun and rewarding and often an avenue toward avoiding drugs, gangs and other negative pressures kids must grow up with today. Greg puts his heart and soul into these programs and his love for children makes them all phenomenally successful events. Requests for more programs keep coming in and if we can continue to grow Greg’s support staff, we hope to be able to bring the message of fishing to more kids in 1996. Do you like working with kids? Contact Greg and get on board. His phone number is included in the list of officers and committee heads in this newsletter every month.

The fisheries management and legislative front was busy throughout the year. To go into detail on this important function of JCAA would take the rest of this newsletter and most of the next one. The newsletter is usually dominated by fisheries management topics and we will continue to work hard to press for conservation and fair representation for recreational fishermen. Thanks to the efforts of many members, far too many to list, a lot of policies and goals were set and acted upon. The power of your voices was particularly loud during the hearings on reopening the EEZ to the taking of striped bass. Your voices enmass were loud enough for the ASMFC’s Striped Bass Board to vote unanimously to reverse its earlier position and recommend that the EEZ remain closed until further research can be conducted to gauge the health and pace of the recovery. Congressman James Saxton offered a bill, H.R. 2655, which will impose a five year moratorium on striped bass taking in the EEZ, which needs our undivided support and the support of congressmen all over the East Coast to pass.

This year, anglers were allowed to keep two striped bass at 28 inches per day. It’s been a long time coming in this fishery and we must remain vigilant that managers do not reverse the years of good that was accomplished on this fishery’s behalf. We must keep the pressure on.

Other fishery issues we’ve been working on include bluefish, fluke, winter flounder, tautog, weakfish and large pelagics. There is activity on plans for all of these species and you can bet the commercial user group would like nothing more than to keep us quiet and proceed on their merry way making them all just that much more fodder for their nets and processing plants with no consideration for recreational fishermen and the huge industry and million jobs it supports in this country.

Our committee members and executive board put in untold hours at public hearings, scoping hearings and meetings to research these topics so that we can present factual arguments on behalf of the recreational angler. They are out there fighting for your rights and your increased support is needed to keep us active in the pursuit of equality in fisheries management and for the future conservation of our fisheries.

JCAA also formed a partnership with the New Jersey Chapter of the Alliance to Save Fisheries. Six JCAA members sit on the board of directors of this new coalition. We don’t feel that the Alliance is duplicating JCAA’s efforts, but rather augments what we do by bringing in the support and lobbying efforts of recreational fishing industry and recreational boating industry members. The group is helping bring together tackle dealers, manufacturers, conservationists, marina operators, charter and party boat operators, sports writers and fishermen into a group capable of taking on the organized lobbying efforts of the commercial fishing industry, and we can see the shape our fisheries are in as a result of their domination of the management system over the past twenty years. The Alliance and JCAA will be tackling the same issues with more power and greater finances.

The JCAA office is growing and getting busier. For next year, we will hire a part-time secretary/office manager to get us more organized and keep the operation running more smoothly. The amount of work in the office continues to grow in leaps and bounds and has become hard to handle with part-time volunteers. We need more volunteers to work in the office, a great place for a retired fishermen or group of retired fishermen with some time to donate to a great cause to work. Call if your interested. We have a sophisticated computer system, scanners, high-speed print shop and much more in the office and it’s not hard to learn how to operate any of the equipment.

For 1996, I see the work load increasing with the issues we must address. A lot of challenges are on the horizon and more team work than ever will be needed to meet them. Our work is never done for the future of recreational fishing. It’s up to all of us to pitch in when we can. I would like to wish all the members and their families a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a happy and prosperous New Year! Thank you for all your help in making my year as president enjoyable and rewarding.

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