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Finding point fish required putting in lots of time in a season dominated by school stripers and a shortage of bluefish.

By Fred Golofaro  |  December 29, 2019
Quality stripers were hard to come by in 2019, but an abundance of schoolies like this one displayed by Nicole Cook kept rods bent throughout the fall.

The final results of the New York Surf Fishing Contest are in and kudos to John Citarella for his work tabulating all of the entries over the course of the season. In the Club Standings, High Hill Striper Club nailed down the top spot with a total of 2,114 points. All-Island Surfcasters finished second with 1,863 points, and Gateway Striper Club’s 1,609 points were good enough to secure them a third place finish. Other clubs topping the 1,000 point mark were Farragut Striper Club with 1,479, North Fork Anglers with 1,378 and Atlantic Surfcasters with 1,099.

High Hill Striper Club also topped the field in Most Release Points, followed by All-Island Surfcasters and North Fork Anglers. All-Island took first place in Out of State Bass, while Striper Surf and Gateway Striper Club finished second and third.

In the Individual Standings, hard fishing Matt Broderick of All-Island locked down first place with an impressive total of 1,128 points, especially given the scarcity of point fish this season. Vinny Scaccia of Farragut tallied 863 points to secure second place, and Jim Mowdy of North Fork Anglers racked up 724 points for third place. Five other casters earned gold pins for accumulating at least 400 points. They were Austin Rutcofsky with 691, Chris Voorhies with 535, Zach Zebrowski with 525, John Durante with 409 and Ross Goldman with 407. Putting in lots of time was the common denominator in the success of all the top scorers – kudos to them all.

In the Largest of Species – Striped Bass, not so surprisingly, it was Matt Broderick’s 40 pounder taking first place, with Vinny Scaccia’s 38 pounder taking second place. Mike Brady nailed down the third spot with a 35 pounder. Matt’s fish was the lone 40 pounder entered in the contest, and only six fish hit the 30-pound mark, a paltry total given the number of anglers in the contest, and a true indication of the lack of quality fish in the surf. The top three bluefish were all caught in May. Matt Broderick took the top spot with his 18 pounder. Anthony Vitti and Austin Rutcofsky both beached 16 pounders, good enough for second and third place.

Speaking of bluefish, the lack of yellow eyes again this season continues to perplex anglers and those who manage our fisheries. The MAFMC and ASMFC have finally acknowledged there is a problem with the fishery through their assessment released this year, and their votes to greatly reduce the bag limit (3 fish recreational and 5 fish party/charter boats), which is almost a non-factor where bluefish are concerned since most anglers caught so few, or in many cases, none this season. Unless things change dramatically, the only benefit of a 3-fish bag limit will come in the form of snappers. And for those of you wondering how these agencies concluded we overfished bluefish, the answer is in the way the data was collected. In their breakdown of numbers of bluefish harvested by size, 70 percent of the total harvest consisted of “bluefish” ranging from 4 to 13 inches. We continue to see a spring run of bluefish but in most areas that is the last we see of them for the rest of the season. They have been virtually non-existent during the fall. There were flurries of blues that rarely topped the 2-pound mark over the course of the summer in scattered locations but that was pretty much the extent of the bluefish action for most casters.

So, what is up with bluefish? Are they simply in a down cycle – they were gone from the scene during the 1950s and I recall frequent talk of a 30-year cycle for blues. Have our coastal waters become too warm for their liking, sending them further offshore to deeper water, or further north to cooler water? Is it the quality of our near shore waters which are being impacted by acidification? Is it an increased demand by commercial fishermen due to their increased value - $2.50 a pound at times this year? The one thing we can exclude is overfishing by recreational anglers unless we are talking about snappers, which might be part of the problem. Then again, it could be any combination of the above, or none of the above. One thing is for sure, they are sorely missed by the angling community, especially by those who ply the surf.