I just submitted a letter to my local congressman regarding this situtation. Feel free to read. I hope you respect my opinions and don't think I am too lenient or too harsh. I honestly think we are at a tipping point and if the situation isn't addressed our fishery will feel a world of hurt. Mery Christmas fellas..and ladies!
To the Office of Congressman Pallone,
I am a life long recreational fisherman who grew up in coastal Monmouth. I fish from the surf as well as a family owned boat. One of the biggest thrills for a local NJ fisherman is hooking into a large striped bass. "Cows" is the term affectionaly used to describe a plus 40 lb striped bass. Landing one is becoming more and more difficult. Worse, finding bass over 10lbs is becoming an arduous task. Throughout the years I've watched my own numbers decline. Even as recent as the early 2000's, I recall classic fall runs with 20 lb bass schooling throughout our waters beginning in October and crescendoing in late November. That might has well have been 50 years ago because now in 2018, we are treated to sporadic "good days" with most fish being in the 16-24 inch range. Where have all the big bass gone?? Well here are some theories;
-The Army corp of engineers has decimated our beaches. Any structure that was left on the Jersey coast has been flattened. No structure equals no areas for fish to hide, for bait to be held.
- Too many breeders are being kept. Often times, the big girls are being harvested. This takes millions of eggs out of the ecoystem depriving the northeast/midatlantic of future striped bass.
-Storms. Noreasters, hurricanes, and days of 40+ mph winds are changing the structures of our beaches. They might also be disrupting our fall runs (see fall 2018).
What's the solution?
I think it begins with a cap on the keepers. Right now the current rules state that an angler without a bonus tag can keep one fish at 28 inches plus. I think it's time this get's updated. 1 fish at 28-36 inches. This will allow for the breeders to be released an ensure more eggs in our oceans and more opportunity to "land the big one." Plus, and this is subjective, I think the table fare of 28-36 inch fish is much better than 40 inch plus fish.
The 2nd, more complicated solution is this...the army corp of engineers has to back off. They are destroying the beaches. Ask any surf fisherman there opinion on dredging and you'll likely be met with a few dozen swear words. Every year, rigs are out there, dirtying up our water, turning structure into flat sand parking lots. It is undoubtly distrubing the ecosystem. We need to introduce some structure back into our oceans. Create new wrecks close in to give fish areas to hunt. Artificial reefs create a new trophic structure that can re-engergize the food chain.
I hope my suggestions don't fall on deaf ears. For many of us, this was the worst fall run in decades. A change needs to be made or else our thriving recreational fishing industry will be completely decimated. Thank you.