You may have already cast your vote in New Jersey’s gubernatorial election on November 2 by the time you read this. I watched both debates pitting the incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy running for a second term against Republican challenger and former state assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, sitting down in front of my television as if I was watching a boxing match. And true to form, they were bloodbaths! As NJ.com described in an October 13th headline, “Murphy, Ciattarelli fight over COVID masks, school funding, abortion, white privilege in another heated N.J. gov debate.”
You no doubt have paid attention to the campaigns and know as well as I do that there’s been zero talk about recreational fishing and our outdoors community in this battle for New Jersey governor. From the time I started at The Fisherman back in 2002, I’ve frequently tried offering space in the magazine for various candidates – governor, senate, even a few Hail Mary presidential attempts – to express their views before a statewide angling audience. Having been put on the back burner by disinterested staffers too many times to count, I’ve come to accept that fishing isn’t really a heady concern for most candidates.
But then an LBI buddy of mine who is friends with Ciattarelli (he owns a house in Surf City) asked if I’d be interested in speaking with the candidate about fishing. “Sure,” I said, going about my business and paying the question little mind based on previous experience. And then my phone rang; it was Jack, and he wanted to talk.
The candidate for governor and I met at Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine on October 14th, spending several minutes with the camera rolling chatting about the Jersey Shore, recreational fishing, and perhaps the most controversial topic in the sociopolitical history of New Jersey, ever since John Taylor first invented his magical meat. “Oh for me it’s pork roll, sorry guys,” he said with a laugh.
On fishing Ciattarelli told me “We need to make sure that people have every opportunity to enjoy fishing here in New Jersey, it’s a rite of passage, and that includes people that just do it off the beach, off their boats, and also the commercial fishermen, it’s important, right here in New Jersey.” Of course when you combine the recreational and commercial fishing sectors fishing is a $4 billion industry in the Garden State. “It’s critical to our economy” Ciattarelli said, citing Jersey Shore related business as making up “one-fifth of our state economy.”
As for addressing economic concerns, Ciattarelli said “What I’ve always said is I’ll reinstate the Department of Commerce here in New Jersey and it’s going to have four sub-chiefs, each responsible for a different part of the state, North, Central, South and Jersey Shore, to make sure that economic development in any and all forms is thriving in New Jersey.”
Yes, we fish recreationally, and often do so to get away from politics and the stress of everyday life (jobs, taxes, etc.) But it’s important to remember that recreational fishing in New Jersey is a huge business, and when politicians recognize what we bring to the table (i.e. jobs, taxes, etc.) then perhaps our interests will be moved to a burner towards the front of the stove.
But does he fish? “I fish when I can,” Ciattarelli laughed. “My sons like to fish right off the beach there, so we enjoy it.” There I guess is Surf City on LBI, my own homestretch for many years. I had to laugh too, pointing to the fact that I’d never fished with a governor before. “I’ve got a better idea, in 20 days I’ll be governor-elect and we’ll go fishing right there and then,” Ciattarelli said.
Look, I’m not telling you who to vote for, but Gov. Murphy never once invited me fishing!