A recent email from Fisherman subscriber Len Locascio should be a wake-up call for all recreational anglers here on Long Island. His letter was motivated by an article in Newsday reporting on an increase in the daily catch limit for commercially caught summer flounder that took effect in mid-July. Here’s what he had to say:
What the hell is going on???? Is the recreational fishing industry shot? What the hell are the powers to be doing? Does anybody think this will help anybody, or anything, including the fluke population? Does anybody who has authority in this matter know what the hell they are doing?
We really need to do something about this. What that is I do not know! The people that make up the recreational fishing industry are human too and depend on healthy fish stocks and sensible regulations to be able to feed their families. What about all the businesses affected by recreational fishing like Delis, gas stations, tackle shops, marinas, boat dealers, party and charter boats, The Fisherman? The Industry is being torn apart. Have you looked out at Long Island Sound recently? How many boats do you see?
From where I stand at Crab Meadow Beach, I see fewer and fewer boats on the water. Long Island is a great place to live, but look at what is happening. It is deteriorating and losing the quality of life status that it once had. Fishing was one of those things that, besides catching dinner, allowed you to spend quality time with family and friends, and a great escape from the toils of everyday life and work. It was a chance to clear your head, to relax and to laugh. As the fishing opportunities decline, so do these benefits. Many of us who live on Long Island, tolerate the traffic, taxes and high utility bills because we love being on or near the water and the fishing opportunities it provides. It appears to me that those opportunities are becoming fewer and fewer.
Len Locascio had a right to be upset, as thousands of other anglers who target fluke in New York waters should. The article revealed that the daily catch limit was being increased from 70 pounds to 280 pounds – four times the previous limit. When you consider that the commercial size limit is 14 inches, while the recreational size limit sits at 19 inches, there’s plenty of reason to question the thought process that governs that fishery. It is a hard pill to swallow when you might catch one keeper out of 20 or 25 fish while a commercial pinhooker (draggers will kill those 14 inch fish anyway as bycatch mortality even if the size limit is raised) in the boat next to you is catching and keeping those same fish you have to throw back.
The mantra for commercial fishing always seems to be regulating for maximum allowable harvest. In the case of bluefish, a portion of the recreational quota was transferred to commercial because anglers are not fulfilling their quota. What a surprise – we are not catching enough because they are not there, and much of what anglers do catch gets released. How about restoring the fishery so the recreational sector can take advantage of their traditional allotment, before handing it over to the commercials? The daily commercial trip limit for bluefish was raised from 750 pounds last year to 1500 pounds this year. You can expect commercials to demand more of the quota as the market price for bluefish continues to rise.
There are many more issues where it seems recreational anglers get the short end of the stick and the economic factor appears to get ignored. There’s the proliferation of gill nets along the South Fork, and the lack of enforcement of striped bass tags being shared and transferred. Let’s not forget that DEC does collect a fair amount of revenue from commercial fishing licenses while recreational anglers pay nothing. One wonders if that factors into the decision making process on some fishery issues.
There are also access issues, especially where piping plovers are concerned. We’re all for conserving and protecting wildlife but like it or not, our beaches should at the very least be shared by people and plovers. Instead, entire stretches of state and county park beaches created for people to recreate, are deemed off limits to fishermen and everyone else while the birds can choose to settle wherever they please. Is that fair to businesses like Smith Point Bait & Tackle and Dick’s Bait & Tackle who depend on Smith Point traffic to keep their businesses afloat and feed their families?
Hopefully enough readers out there feel the way Len Locascio does. Stop by the local offices of your state senator or assemblyman and tell them how you feel about these issues. Write Governor Cuomo and the commissioner of DEC. Or you can sit back, do nothing and watch the recreational fishing industry crumble.