Halfway through the fishing season and it’s time to vent on a few issues that rise to the forefront year after year. Complaining about them likely will not do much good, but it does make me feel better.
Once again, how long do we have to wait before we see some regulating of the blowfish fishery? I am tired of seeing buckets full of blowfish, some no more than three inches long, removed from the fishery every summer. The puffers were absent from our waters for many years after being so prolific they were actually a hindrance at times when targeting other species like flounder and fluke. For the past ten years or more, they have showed signs of making a full recovery only to sputter the following season. Those seasons when they are abundant is a boon to the recreational industry. Tackle shops speak of parents bringing their children in to buy rods, reels and bait – new customers taking advantage of a fishery with easy access and a better than even chance of having their child catch something. More important, the easy to catch blowfish are just the ticket for getting youngsters involved in the sport. It would seem common sense to create reasonable bag and size limits for northern puffers, but there has been no movement on the recreational or commercial end. Members of the Moriches Anglers Club have been pushing the issue of regulating commercial potting for years to no avail.
On the freshwater side, what is it going to take to make black bass (largemouth and smallmouth) a catch and release fishery throughout all of Long Island. It has been catch and release only in Nassau for years, and in a few select Suffolk bodies of water like Artist Lake and Belmont Lake. Other bodies of water are catch and release only from December 1 to March 15, but revert to a five fish bag limit during the regular season which kicks off on the first Saturday of June. Five fish – are you kidding me? Taking five adult bass out of Long Island’s typically small and shallow ponds makes the fishery unsustainable. Two bodies of water in Suffolk where I once enjoyed consistently productive bass fishing are now hardly worth fishing after non-locals began fishing these ponds and keeping all they caught. These were not experienced freshwater anglers but unfortunately, they were smart enough to use live killies for bait, and bass are suckers for live killies. On more than one occasion, it pained me to see as many as four dead largemouths from 3 to 5 pounds in their buckets.
Sunfish are another freshwater species that could stand some regulating. There is no size limit and the 50 fish daily bag limit is a joke. Think about it. It is conceivable for a family of three to keep 150 sunnies, which is crazy. The bottom line is Long Island waters, unlike elsewhere in the state, are too small to support catch and keep fisheries, especially given the Island’s high population levels. What is DEC waiting for?
Healthy fisheries in salt and freshwater inspire and encourage people to fish more often. Unproductive trips result in declining interest and less people to advocate for issues like fishing access, fisheries management and conservation. That spells bad news for all concerned.