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(I'm not sure you folks are familiar with this issue yet. There should be a public comment period IF (!) things go further than this "Board Revue Draft."
www.webspawner.com/users/jmann)


I was mysteriously faxed a ?Draft for Board Review? copy of action being taken on the federal Weakfish Management Plan. There?s seemingly bad stuff within including a one-fish-a-day bag limit for next year.

First, a tad of background.

Since an initial weakfish management plan in November of 2002 ? a long-term recovery arrangement for the species -- the weakfish fishery has seen a pretty steady drop in the landings, commercially and recreationally, which is split 70 percent commercial and 30 percent recreational.

The weakfish biomass is below a threshold that requires the Weakfish Management Board to adjust the current management program to rebuild the spawning stock biomass. I?ve studied the data and there is indeed some sort of problem out there.

Interestingly, it appears that ?natural mortality? is the culprit. This could arise from a degradation of the spawning environment; a couple bad recruiting years (for whatever reasons); predation by abundant species, including striped bass; meteorite strikes.
OK, I guess that last one is a little too Cretaceous but it shows the realm of natural causes can be pretty broad.

Whatever the reason, a technical committee has been instructed to develop recovery projections based on varying reductions in mortality, i.e. reductions in fishing pressure. In other words: What percentage of fishing should be removed to assure a healthy fishery.

There are five options, as with most fishing projections. Zero percent reduction is status quo, followed by 25, 50, 75 reductions. Then there?s the biggie, a 100 reduction, or a full-blown moratorium.

It appears in this draft (which I hear is running pretty close to what might actually be presented) that the technical committee is recommending the option that achieves a 50 percent reduction in fishing mortality.

I won?t make you struggle through all the technical didgeridoo concerning this bag limit and related data. What I will offer is the first chart seen in the ?Draft for Board Review.? It clearly indicates that achieving a 50 percent reduction in weakfishing mortality would require a 1-fish bag limit for a year-round open season.

A more important (and realistic) chart deals with that all too familiar demon, known as closed seasons.

One of the only practical options to keep our current bag and size limits would be to have an open season limited to Mid-July to early-October.

Ouch.

I, like so many local anglers, have totally gotten into the very early-season arrival of spawning tiderunner weakfish, some arriving as early as April. The night fishing near the **** has attracted a veritable legion of serious anglers. Obviously, the Middle? season option would squelch the spring weakfishing right out of existence.

I should note that there is also an ?early? season option for consideration. That option would allow weakfishing from January 1 to the end of August. However, I have an inkling that particular option won?t make the cut under further scientific scrutiny. Plus, it would mean our Holgate fall weakfishing would be no more.

Oh, there is also a ?late? option of an open season from the end of August to December 31. That would serve no purpose here in Jersey.

I?m gonna end this right here. I just wanted to be one of the first writers to present it to you guys. There are, of course, huge implications for the commercial sector, which would see a hugely decreased fishing season but not necessarily a dropping in total landings, since the commercial guys would simply throw everything they have into the smaller open season ? taking, quite likely, as many fish as they are landing now.


Edited for Barn Spots Policy, Thx

[ 08-30-2005, 07:23 PM: Message edited by: NIGHTSTRIKES ]
 

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I'm 100% for a decrease in limits for Weakies. I mean, just in the past few years I've seen both the abundance and overall size of Weakfish drop significantly in my area! I was wondering when something was going to be done about it, and I'm glad it's now, before the population is in critical condition.
 

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Unfortunately, the issue is far deeper than bag limits. Weakfish populations have been reduced to the point where the normal competition they endure with blues and stripers could wipe them out of our area. This coupled with the declining bait stocks makes for a dismal outlook for weakfish. Drastically reducing the bag limit is a start, protecting their food source is imperative.
 

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Originally posted by Reel-ality:
With the price of gas and oil who's going to be able to fish next season anyway.
I'll be out there in the kayak. I think all this push for legislation just takes the focus off the real problem which is destruction of our estuaries. Baby weaks spend a majority of their lives as bait. Without a safe haven for them to grow up in they are too vulnerable and will be the first species to go. They represent to me a kind of canary in the coal mine fish. I doesn't make a big difference to me how many weakfish I can keep, I don't care much for the flavor, but how much time and money has to be wasted deciding on limits for fishermen when the real problem is an environmental one.
 

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hey, I'm a border line de-generate gambler... and maybe I'm also just salty, unnerved when it comes to the proven track record of "man" pounding a resource into the dumps but... I sure do not want to take a chance on the recovery of the weakfish stocks or anyother resource for that matter...
 

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Thanks for the Info Jay,,,

I would encourage everyone to try to make any public comment meetings on this subject..

I will go the record as saying that I am all for a ONE FISH A DAY LIMIT or catch & release only during key spingtime spawning periods,and a increase in the minimun size too. What ever it takes to bring back this fishery...
Not in favor of any closed season at all. Because it would almost be impossible to enforce,when fishing in April,May & June we catch just as many stripers while targeting weakfish and visa versa.
Same tackle etc... Maybe someone might want to tell the weakfish of any such closer plan then it might work...
 

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I dislike giving up any portion of our recreational fishery. I'll have a hard time accepting a 1 fish bag limit under any circumstances. If we need to make a change I'd much rather raise the size limit. 16-18-even 20 inches would be a far better choice than a 1 fish bag limit.
We cut weakfish bag limits a few years ago, yet I continued to see our fishery decline. Even though the commercial fishermen are reporting poor catches, I continue to see 12-inch weakfish in every seafood market along the coast. Whatever the rule changes, they must be equal for both the recreational and commercial fishermen. If we have specific regulations for the spring run, I hope commercial netting around our inlets during April will be outlawed.
All that being said, I'd like a few more answers as to why their numbers are decreasing before making any drastic changes. All of us have to wonder why our numerous late summer spike weakfish schools never seem to return the next season?
I'm sure our weakfish stocks would be in great shape if they received half the attention the almighty striped bass gets!

[ 08-30-2005, 10:46 PM: Message edited by: Far26 ]
 

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I will remind you that say "stripers came back, no reason weakfish can't" THAT STRIPERS CAME BACK WITH HELP OF A COMPLETE MORITORIUM.
Given the state of weakfish and the slaughter that takes place every winter off North Carolina,without a complete shutdown there is little chance of a full recovery like we are experiencing with Bass
 

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WILLIE I AGREE -

I AM ALL FOR A COMPLETE MORATORIUM - REC & COMMERCIAL - THEN AFTER A 3 OR 4 YEAR PERIOD, SLOWY RELAX THE MORATORIUM.

I THINK THE WEAKFISH IS IN SUCH BAD SHAPE ITS THE ONLY WAY TO POSSIBLY RECOVER THEM - NO GUARANTEES THAT A COMPLETE MORATORIUM WILL HELP - BUT IT WONT HURT.
 

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I agree with Far26 its very strange how we can go out there now and catch as many spikes as you want and we never see those fish return as 20inch fish the next season? My suspicion is that they are making their way to the catfood and fertilizer plants in NC area.
 

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I won't support a moratorium until they give us specifics on what the future share of the fishery will look like. We don't want another fluke situation where we get screwed because the the years they pounded them down south are used to continue to give them 80% of the fishery.
 

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I'm for a cut in the bag limit as long as comms take the same hit. No point in the recs going to one fish if the comms are still netting huge amounts of weakies and turning them into cat food.

The weakies deserve the same support we give to stripers.
 

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Come on folks, think about what you are saying! How could you say you are all for a 1 fish bag limit or moratorium to bring back the weaks, for who, the comms! The problem is with the 70/30 split, weakfish are far more sought after as a sport fish than a food fish, yet the commercial slaughter continues each fall..for what..most of the comm take probably becomes fertilizer, catfood or it just rots! Never admit you are in favor of reducing any recreational size and bag limits when we aren't the problem! Or you just might get what you wished for and more! Don't think predation of young weakfish by an overabundance of striped bass isn't a problem either, especially where there is a lack of bunker. What we need is sound ecosystem management to ensure a natural balance of predatory fish vs. avaliable forage, etc, and an equitable comm/rec split in the quoatas of all our fisheries, which would help in achieving this rather then catering to the comms for maximum sustainable yeild and giving the left over scraps to the rec sector!

[ 08-31-2005, 02:35 PM: Message edited by: CaptG ]
 

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Maybe we aren't the problem, but watching guys
walk to their cars with a limit of tiderunners
can't help. I'd like to see the same bag limit,
just different sizes. It makes my stomach turn
when people keep their limit of fish over 26-28".
I know they can, but that's where I think a
change needs to be made.
 
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