Editor’s Log: Wicked Reporting - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Wicked Reporting

NBC-NY news reporter Checkey Beckford recently reported on our amazing inshore bluefin bite this season under the website headline “Bluefin Tuna Boom Lures Fishermen to New York Harbor.”   As you can imagine by reading that headline alone – and no, anglers were not catching bluefin in New York Harbor – Checkey’s story had a few minor issues.

As an editor by trade, when feature stories or press releases arrive at my desk, my responsibility is to check for grammar and spelling issues, double-checking items for overall accuracy.  While it’s great that the NBC-NY news team found some positive news within our recreational fishing community to share with the masses, I just wish there were more journalists in these newsrooms that actually fished who could help properly edit a final story.

“The New York harbor typically isn’t on any fishermen’s list of best places to cast their rods, but an unprecedented boom in huge bluefin tunas has lured in fishing enthusiasts to the Big Apple in droves,” Checkey said.   Again, bluefin are not in the harbor Checkey, and anglers don’t actually “cast their rods” as that would be expensive.  They might cast lines, lures or baits, sure, but not their rods.

“Fishermen say they normally have to go a hundred miles offshore to reel the endangered fish that weigh hundreds of pounds, and they were stunned to see some once-in-lifetime catches just off the coast of New York City over the summer,” Checkey reported.  What, like the Flemish Cap?!?  Actually Checkey, anglers don’t travel “a hundred miles offshore” in search of bluefin; perhaps if yellowfin and bigeye were at Berkeley Canyon then a boat out of Sheepshead Bay might travel 105 miles out, but at 90 miles the Hudson is a much better candidate for prospecting for those species.  Bluefin meanwhile are known more for midrange or nearshore availability (think inside the Mud Hole).

Also, bluefin tuna are not an “endangered fish” either.  In fact, according to NOAA Fisheries, “U.S. wild-caught western Atlantic bluefin tuna is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed under a rebuilding plan that allows limited harvest by U.S. fishermen.”

“The phenomena drew a feeding frenzy of anglers looking to catch the fish whose population has been declining over the past decades due to high demand, overfishing and illegal fishing.”

Again, check your sources Checkey, the western Atlantic fishery is well-managed.   And while it was nice to see an exuberant young angler featured in the story, photographed holding a bluefin tuna staged in front of the Statue of Liberty, I had to roll my eyes when Checkey described the 23-year old angler as saying “he has been fishing his entire life but catching a giant bluefin tuna three miles from shore is ‘unprecedented’.”

Something that’s “unprecedented” has never been done before.  Bluefin are a notorious nearshore big game target from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras, and I can recount several instances when big bluefin were actually caught by surfcasters during the November sand eel run at the Jersey Shore!  So, no disrespect to the young man, but an “entire life” of fishing at the tender age 23 fails to recognize a lot of fishing history; the late Capt. Bob Pisano for example who revolutionized the nearshore bluefin fishery in the 70s and 80s at the Jersey Shore (think BA Buoy to Mud Hole) while helping usher in this next generation of ‘wicked’ tuna fishermen.

Yeah, I know, I’ve become a bit crotchety and cynical in my old age, but it’s just hard to think about the validity of any news story related to crime, education or taxes when I know how wickedly loose they are with their fishing facts.  Besides, someone owes the guy fishing fruitlessly with a bent butt 80W in front of Lady Liberty on October 23 an apology!

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