Striped Bass Limits Public Meeting September 16

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Almost anyone who fishes on the South Fork is mourning the untimely death of Carl Darenberg this week. Carl was a friend and one of the genuinely good guys out here. It’s hard to imagine the docks of Montauk without his gravely voice and wry sense of humor. We will miss you terribly, Carl.I’m not sure how to find the good in a week like this. We go fishing and we enjoy life, but it’s hard to find glee when loss has cast a pall over so many lives.

Tuna fishing continued to be ridiculously good this week. The bigeyes are getting bigger—two topping 275 pounds were weighed in by Montauk boats this week. Fat 50-to-70-pound yellowfin are so abundant that many fishermen have taken to daytime bait fishing rather than trolling, which is essentially unheard of in these parts.

Inshore, fluke and black sea bass continued to be the best-bet target both in Montauk and around Shinnecock Inlet. Inside Shinnecock Bay there are still fluke to be had on light tackle in shallow waters.

In the first official sign of the fall run beginning, false albacore showed up in the waters around Montauk Point this week. They are fleeting glimpses, but a few were caught. Bluefish are thick but aren’t really in that fall pattern blitzing mode yet.

The guys at East End Bait & Tackle tell me that the striper fishing around the Ponquogue Bridge has started to pick up. Which reminds me of two important points:

First, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will host a public comment period on its proposed addendum to the striped bass management plan on September 16 at 7 p.m. at Stony Brook University. You can be sure that plenty of charter and party boat captains will be there to offer their input on how the various proposals for reducing the number of striped bass that fishermen remove from the population each year will affect them. Anglers need to be there too, since the organizations that ostensibly represent us don’t always take stances that many of us agree with.

Personally, as a general guideline for the recreational angler not on a charter boat, I think that a one-fish-per-day limit, with a minimum size of at least 33 inches, is more than fair. Even 36 inches wouldn’t be unreasonable, since the majority of the fish in the striper population in the next several years are going to be very big fish, and fish in the 28-to-36-inch range are going to be mostly those from the very weak year classes from 2003 to 2010. Limits like that are not going to put a dent in gas, bait or tackle sales at all, and will greatly reduce the number of dead stripers, even accounting for the unscrupulous self-absorbed douches who will kill whatever they want.

Anglers on charter and party boats should continue to be allowed to take two fish each, but I think the size limits need to be controlled a bit more. The two-fish-over-40-inches thing has to stop. No matter what you think about the big fish vs. little fish debate, killing as many female striped bass as we’ve seen taken off Fire Island last fall and off Montauk this summer just can’t be good.

Read up on the addendum and the options they’re considering, and make your opinion known to those doing the figuring. If you can’t make the Stony Brook meeting, send your thoughts to: Mike Waine, Fishery Management Plan coordinator; email: mwaine@asmfc.org, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Subject: Draft Addendum IV). Or snail mail your comments to Mike Waine at 1050 North Highland Street, Suite 200A-N, Arlington, VA 22201. Or you can fax them to (703) 842-0741.

And speaking of making your voice heard, the other point was about the Ponquogue Bridge. The old drawbridge was effectively destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, and it needs to go. But it was an important fishing destination and it needs to be replaced, and by something substantial. Floating docks sticking 50 or 100 feet out into the bay aren’t going to provide the kind of access to deep channel waters that the old bridge did, especially not on the north side of Ponquogue Neck.

Regardless of whether the feds and state cough up the money for the demolition of the old bridge, and maybe a few bucks to help toward some replacement, Southampton Town needs to dig into its robust rainy day funds to build a real fishing pier there. It must reach to the edge of the channel, and it must be broad and sturdy enough to host fishermen on both sides. Think the Navy Road dock in Montauk.

I know there are a lot of pressing and important issues that are begging for funding, but a pier would be a one-time expense that would pay dividends for decades.

Fishermen, organize—you could start at the counter of East End Bait & Tackle, where Captain Scott is a strong supporter of this idea—and go to our local lawmakers and tell them how important having good fishing access is.

Rest in peace, Carl. See you up there.

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