Following up on yesterday’s blog about how bluefish have been going downhill, there are a few historical facts to be considered.
When I was growing up in Merrick, Long Island during the post WW II era, there were virtually no adult bluefish being caught. Yet, they must have been somewhere because there were lots of snappers to be caught from local docks late in the summer with my cane pole. It was the same thing with weakfish, as I could only read about earlier times when those species were abundant and big.
It was the thrill of my young fishing days when a neighbor who kept a boat in Peconic Bay took me out there where a few 2-3-lb. blues could be trolled. Hal Lyman, publisher of Salt Water Sportsman wrote “the” book on bluefishing which detailed the great runs in previous decades and speculated there was a seven-year cycle.
When blues started coming back they were all small at first, but everyone was thrilled to be able to catch some — and they got steadily larger and more abundant every year. I fished hard for them while figuring that the seven-year cycle was running out. However, it never ended even as there were ups-and-downs along the way plus disappearances at the northern and southern ends of their normal range. What we see now would still be considered great bluefishing by the standards of my youth.
Ironically, bluefish management started during a period of abundance. Despite all the overfishing waste going on, blues just continued to flood into the prime area of NJ-NY Bight every year. Their built-in protection against excessive exploitation was the fact that a fine eating fish when fresh becomes very poor when frozen. That fact made it a poor target for large scale commercial fishing. Too much going to the market in a day would drive the price so low that it might not even cover the cost of shipping — and there were no foreign markets developed for the frozen product. Purse seiners and pair-trawlers could catch unlimited quantities, but there was no money in it plus costly repairs in chewed up nets.
As a member of the original Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, I had a hard time convincing many other members to even bother producing a management plan for such an abundant species that was primarily of interest to recreational fishermen, but the possibility of improved freezing techniques and development of a foreign market couldn’t be overlooked.
Everything has changed with scarcity. Blues have always been a popular restaurant fish, but commercial fishermen were lucky to get a quarter a pound for them. Now that they’re hard to come by, the price has shot up and there’s lots of pressure to continue getting more recreational quota shifted by NOAA as was detailed in yesterday’s blog. I’ll continue with this topic tomorrow.
Since anglers are being reduced from a bag of 15 blues to just three (five on for-hire boats), you might think that there would be a similar reduction in commercial quota. Wrong! The commercial quota was reduced by a mere 18%.
With rain and snow being a complication, there’s a small craft advisory up from 4 p.m. through Sunday morning — with south gusts to 25 knots this evening. Sunday starts with west winds at 20-25 knots plus gusts to 25.
Surfcasters Journal presents Striper Day V tomorrow at Ward Melville H.S., 380 Old Town Road, East Setauket, Long Island. No hours were given in the release, but seminars start at 9:45 with a presentation by Al Albano. Admission to Striper Day V is $15.
Vinnie D’Anton broke the ice on spotted seatrout at Sarasota yesterday as he caught an 18-incher along with ladyfish on a Mirr-O-Lure while wading.