Stricter rules likely to hit Jersey next spring
This week’s column will wrap-up another season of Salt Spray reports from here at the shore.
It has been a rather peculiar season, with the materials coming out of the various regulatory bodies making more news than the anglers and the fish they were catching.
It all began when the regulators wanted to impose even stricter rules on summer flounder fishing in New Jersey. The regulations would have decimated the fishery and probably forced many of the small bait and tackle shops and charter and partyboats out of business.
Fortunately, the state’s recreational and commercial fishing industries banded together to fight back, and they were able to convince the new administration in Washington to overrule the regulators. What we got was not idea: A shortened season, an 18-inch minimum size and a three-fish bag limit. But, even this was far better than what had been ordered before the big guns stepped in.
But no bureaucracy likes being overruled, and the regulators of the various agencies have made it clear they want to punish New Jersey for doing just that. It certainly appears the battle is not over, and it looks like the state will have to appeal to Washington again next year after the — what probably will be — even stricter rules are published.
The really strange thing about the regulator’s actions is it contradicts scientific proof. They claim they want to save the flounder population, but their rules are actually killing the female breeding stock. Hardly any male flounder measure 17-inches, yet those are the ones that must be released. The breeding females are the ones going into the coolers.
The rule makers also made a mess out of the black seabass fishing. They mandated a convoluted, hacked-up season with a ridiculous two-fish bag limit in July and August, and the closing down of the season during September. That closing coincided with the closing of the flounder season on September 5, meaning the two most popular recreational fish in the state were offlimits, forcing many party and charter boats to remain at the dock during a prime part of the season.
A number of meetings are slated for this fall and winter; and the more people who can attend, the better. Perhaps the most important session is December 11 to 14 in Annapolis, when the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the MidAtlantic Fishery Management Council will meet.
Enough with the regulations. The fall fishing got off to a rather slow start, primarily because of warm water. We had a rather nasty blow last Sunday, and that has helped drop the water to the point where the striper action should begin to pick up. Surf casters have been picking them, especially in Long Beach Island.
The back bays have been producing smaller sea bass, bluefish, triggerfish and even some out-of-season flounder. For the big humpback seabass, you have to head to the deep water offshore wrecks. Once you get there, you should be well-rewarded.
Mixed in with the bass will be some really big porgies, taug and triggers.
There still is some trolling activity off the beaches, with little tunny and bluefish being main attractions.
ACROSS THE BAY
Fishing action in Delaware remains quite good, although there are no really lunker catches to report.
The Broadkill River is giving up quite a few white perch and a few short striped bass. As the water temp continues to fall, we can expect those stripers to get up to keeper size. The Roosevelt Inlet and the Canal have been harboring a fair number of flounder and some short stripers.
If you are looking for flounder to put in the box, I suggest the Cape Henlopen State Park after dark, where flatties up to 20 inches are congregating under the pier lights.
Along the Outer Wall, there are reports of sheepshead and tautog; and in the surf, there is steady activity of false albies and bluefish. In the Indian River Inlet, anglers are getting a steady pick of taug along the rocks.
Well, this puts a cap on another season of Salt Spray report. I believe I began writing it way back in 1974 or ‘75, but, you know what ... each and every report continues to be fun for me. I hope you have as much fun reading them.
I want each of you to have a great holiday season, and a healthy and happy 2018.
So, until the spring when the macks are back, stay well. Thank you very much for your loyalty.