Just today I made my first successful snapper bluefish outing of the season. It was a bit early in the summer, but I had heard they were starting to pop up and I needed an excuse to get my son outside for an hour so we figured we’d give it a go. We didn’t see any signs of life at first, so he threw a small spook followed by a rubber shad to see if there were any schoolies present. He got bored after a few minutes and started to look for blue crabs and silversides. I took a few casts with the shad and a school of snappers eventually followed it to the pier. I called my son back over, swapped out the rubber for a snapper popper with a small tube lure, and in about 15 minutes time we had a bunch of hits and each hooked and landed one snapper. As usual, they all went back to keep on growing, but my son hasn’t stopped talking about how much fun it was and how he is going to be a professional fisherman someday. He also asked at least a dozen times on the ride home when will we be going back, so I’m sure by the time you’re reading this that number will be in the double-digit range.
When it was announced a few months ago that bluefish regulations were being cut, and the new bag limit was to be 3 fish per angler, a lot of people lost their collective minds. Among other things, they felt that over fishing was not the cause of the decline in numbers, and making a drastic change to the bag limit such as this did nothing but ruin a fishery that has long been considered a catalyst to getting new anglers into the sport. Now I am not going to debate whether or not this was the right move to make in response to the poor status of the bluefish stock but I will say that it can’t hurt. Further, as I pointed out each time this subject was brought up back in the spring, the ability to harvest a bucket of fish shouldn’t make or break a great outing, especially for a new angler. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with teaching new anglers the value and pride that comes from harvesting a meal from the lake or ocean, to the well-rounded angler this is not the end all, be all of fishing.
Take myself as an example, I grew up absolutely loving the snapper bluefish. Every summer while on vacation at the coast, my dad and I would head to the local causeway and catch a bunch of snappers on tiny Kastmasters. We very rarely kept them, and only then a few if we were going fluke fishing the next day, but the fact that I was unable to kill a pile of them had zero negative effect on my enjoyment of the experience and I ended up taking a pretty strong liking to the sport of fishing! Heck, a good argument could be made that it actually made for a better experience when I was just 5 or 6 years old as I didn’t have to worry about keeping the catch cold or cleaning it or anything else when the day came to an end. Instead, I could freely brag to my mom and dad about my fishing prowess and how someday I was going to be a professional fisherman.