If we are to continue to have good fishing access, sound fisheries, a healthy marine environment, and clean lakes and streams going forward, it is critical we have a strong population of anglers to act as stewards to protect these critical issues. We all know how important it is to introduce youngsters to the fishing game and I am encouraged by the number of parents who send me photos of their children with their latest catches. In fact, in all the years I’ve been at this gig, I don’t recall ever getting as many of these photos as I have this season. Credit some of that to the i-Phone, and some of it to a generation of parents that are heavily involved with their children’s activities.
But there is another factor at play here. When I was a kid, I could walk across the street to a Great River dock and fill a bucket with flounder in short order. At the age of 7 or 8, my brother and I caught over 350 blowfish off of my grandparents bulkhead in Bayport during a day long fishing fest. We learned the lesson of keeping only what you need when my dad and grandfather, after a quick lesson, made us clean the entire catch.
Snappers were always at our disposal during the summer and they were easy to catch. More recently, such easy fishing has been tougher to come by. Flounder have for all intents and purposes disappeared from the scene. Snapper fishing is good in some areas but not in others, and blowfish appeared to be a thing of the past up until the last few years when they were making signs of a comeback.
This season, the comeback appears complete and it has given families and their children an easy to catch and abundant target species for those fishing the bays, docks and piers around the Island. Bill Witchey of Comb’s Bait & Tackle in Amityville feels it is the best thing that has happened to fishing in his area in a long time. Parents and kids are excited. They are fishing often and buying new rods, reels and tackle, not to mention bait, chum and chum pots. Bill said, “The adults feel like heroes because they put their kids into fish, and the kids are excited about going fishing.”
While blowfish might be the straw that stirs the drink, kingfish are also appearing in good numbers and are mixing in with the puffers. This season has been one of the best for weakfish and if things hold true to course, next spring could be special. Imagine if weakfish rebounded to what the fishery was in the 1970s? People who never fished before were getting into fishing, buying tackle, even buying boats. You could take a youngster out and virtually guarantee them a fun day on the water. Many of those kids are adults still fishing today.
I can remember thinking of blowfish as being a pain in the – you know what –
while trying to catch flounder or other species because they were so prevalent and very adept bait stealers. These days we should be praising their return. It’s probably a good time for DEC to do a little preventive managing and institute some reasonable size and bag limits on both the recreational and commercial side.
Recruiting new anglers goes beyond the younger generation. Kudos to NY DEC and State Parks for bringing ladies to the forefront with a first-ever Women’s Fishing Expo slated for Saturday, September 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Belmont Lake State Park. It will be run primarily by female anglers, deckhands, and fisheries scientists. Although the primary focus will be on women and families, all interested anglers are encouraged to attend.
Expo activities are provided free of charge. Participants will be able to learn about fishing opportunities on Long Island and statewide, fishing basics and intermediate fishing skills, basic knots, fish filleting, fly-fishing demonstrations, casting demos, fisheries management information, and other fishing-related activities. According to the most recent survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, women now make up more than 25 percent of all anglers, a number that has increased over the last several decades.
This is also a designated Free Fishing Day in New York State, so the freshwater fishing license requirement for anglers age 16 and older is suspended. This is a rain or shine event. For more information call the DEC’s I FISH NY Program at (631) 444-0283. A vehicle use fee of $8 will be in effect. Parking is free for Empire Passport holders.