Spring Cleaning in the Swamp - The Fisherman

Spring Cleaning in the Swamp

“So what’s the deal with fluke?”

It’s been the most asked question and biggest topic of conversation for anglers in the tri-state area this show season! While erroneous Internet reports of New Jersey going out of compliance have spread like wildfire, the fact is there’s nothing to officially to comply with since the White House transition of power in January.

New Jersey wasn’t the only state to vote against the so-called “Option 5” decision at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) in February; they were however the only state in the tri-state region that includes Connecticut and New York to do so. But simply being on the losing end of a 7-3 vote and vowing to get that ASMFC vote defeated by the Trump administration doesn’t spell out non-compliance.

The outgoing Obama Commerce Secretary, billionaire businesswoman Penny Pritzker, was back home in Chicago when ASMFC voted on the New York-led plan to set a three fish at 19-inch size limit for the tri-state region. It took another month for the incoming Trump Commerce Secretary, billionaire businessman Wilbur Ross, to arrive in Washington DC to announce his support for “obtaining maximum sustainable yield for our fisheries.” According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance’s (RFA) Jim Donofrio, that statement alone is a game-changer.

“That’s the green light to hold the line on the bogus proposal we have in front of us right now and I think we’re going to achieve that goal,” Donofrio said of the Ross quote, optimistically forecasting, “we’re probably going to be at five fish (fluke) at 18, with the help of the Secretary and of course with our team here in New Jersey.”

As head of the Department of Commerce, Secretary Ross ultimately oversees management of NOAA Fisheries; that means the final decision on whether or not “Option 5” passes muster is up to him. Of course, he could also choose to keep the 2016 regulations in place for another season.

“Fortunately, the decisions made by the Commission (ASMFC) as well as the Mid-Atlantic Marine Fisheries Council are subject to review by the Secretary of Commerce’s office, your department’s NOAA Fisheries office, the National Marine Fisheries Service,” wrote NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin in a welcome letter to Secretary Ross. “This is required before the regulation is published in the Federal Register and becomes final.”

So, going into the Saltwater Fishing Expo in Somerset over St. Patrick’s Day weekend with another show’s worth of “what’s the deal with fluke” questions, the only reasonable answer was that until further notice, this year’s regulations remain the same as last year. Delaware anglers are already fishing on a four fish at 16-inch limit and not the new Option 5 vote; they’re not out of compliance, and neither is New Jersey in terms of what happens when fluke fishing begins in mid-May.

The worm has certainly turned on Capitol Hill. Less than 48 hours after the Ross confirmation, a new Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, was also confirmed by the Senate. The Secretary responsible for managing the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service, Zinke turned some heads when he arrived at his new DC office on horseback while wearing a denim jacket and black cowboy hat.

In his first day on the job, Secretary Zinke overturned an 11th hour ban by the Obama administration on lead fishing tackle and ammo at national park sites; that lead ban was implemented by the former Fish and Wildlife Service Director on President Obama’s final day in office. Zinke went on to sign a second order directing his agencies to identify areas where recreation and fishing can be expanded in the country.

Mike Nussman, President and CEO for the American Sportfishing Association called it a banner day for the nation’s outdoors sportsmen. “Frankly, it is refreshing to have a Cabinet Secretary from the sporting community setting policy for lands, water, wildlife and fisheries,” Nussman added.

“Frankly” is a great word; to be “frank” means to be direct, straightforward, and sincere. For our regular subscribers to The Fisherman, you’ll be back to getting your weekly editions next week, which frankly contain the region’s most comprehensive fishing reports you’ll find anywhere.

Also in next week’s Editor’s Log, we’ll take a look at when being “Frank” in New Jersey doesn’t necessarily mean sincere and straightforward!

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