Anglers get a say in striped bass rules
Written by Asbury Park Press   
Sunday, 12 December 2004 17:54

A lot of fishermen hope that democracy, a rare thing in fisheries management, will be the dominant principle in the New Jersey striped bass fishery in the future.

There have been numerous opinions this year on what rules striped bass anglers want to fish under, but never an actual poll. Hopefully that will change.

James A. Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said Thursday that a campaign to solicit opinion will get under way this week.

"We're going to poll our members -- every one," he said. "There are mixed feelings out there and we're going to go with the majority. We want to do this the fair way. We don't have our minds made up in advance."

Thomas P. Fote, legislative chairman of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, said Friday that he is looking forward to hearing what the majority wants as well.

"Our organization is different," he said. "The JCAA is made up of clubs, not individuals, and club representatives vote on the issues."

Fote explained that club members vote at their respective meetings and decide what they want, but do not cast individual votes at a JCAA meeting. The club representative casts the single club vote at the meeting.

The two organizations have planned to meet Wednesday in Waretown to discuss tactics and strategy on striped bass rules for the future.

The argument over proposed rules turned bitter late last summer when the striped bass fishing community appeared to be closely divided over two proposals: what became the present law and two fish at 28 inches or over.

Herb Moore Jr., director of government affairs for the RFA, said the cards to be mailed to all RFA members this week will ask their preferences on the bass options that have been approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

"We strongly encourage every RFA member to fill out the survey card and send it back as soon as possible," he said. The RFA has set a firm date of Jan. 15 for the return of all survey cards.

Joe Pallotto, president of the Asbury Park Fishing Club, said he is pleased that spokesmen for the state's two most active organizations representing saltwater anglers will meet to discuss the issues.

"I don't care who gets the job done," he said. "I just want to hear what the majority wants and see that they get it. My club is a member of the RFA and the JCAA, and we expect them to do what's best for the majority of the bass fishermen out there."

Anglers should be aware that no proposals other than those already accepted by the ASMFC can be considered. Other ideas, no matter how logical or desirable, would require data gathering, technical study, commission votes and public hearings that might take two years or more to complete.

The present law allows for the harvest of one fish from 24 to less than 28 inches and one fish 34 inches or greater. Outstanding bonus tags are accepted by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, but no new ones will be issued.

Bruce L. Freeman, research scientist with the division, explained at a recent Jersey Coast Anglers Association meeting that the agency does not have the funds or the manpower to continue the bonus program in 2005 under the present law.

He said the program could be continued if New Jersey followed the coastwide standard of two fish at 28 inches or above.

Moore expects that the difference between the number of anglers who want one option and those who want another will be razor thin if catch statistics are an indicator.

He points to the results of a Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey and a New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife survey.

The MRFSS study revealed that 51.56 percent of the total catch was made up of fish from 28 inches up, and 59.741 percent of the catch was made up of fish from 24 to 28 inches and 34 inches and up. Slot fish were the highest percentage at 49.39.

In the state survey, fish from 28 inches up composed 47.415 percent of the total catch, and fish from 24 to 28 inches and 34 inches and up composed 50.9575 percent of the catch. Fish measuring 28 to less than 34 inches made up the largest percentage of the total at 34.1625. Slot fish were 34.07.

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