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WEAKFISH MORATORIUM? A one-fish daily limit would have that effect, JCAA's Smith says
JCAA urges ASMFC to rethink options

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 10/28/05
BY JOHN GEISER
CORRESPONDENT


The Jersey Coast Anglers Association may not number many marine biologists among the members of its 75 clubs, but the membership has demonstrated it is long on common sense when it comes to weakfish management.

The JCAA voted unanimously to reject the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's proposals in Addendum I of Amendment IV of the coastal weakfish management plan.

Bruce Smith, president of the JCAA, said the organization opposes any new weakfish regulations on the recreational fishing sector.

"As stated in the plan, the perceived low stock levels of weakfish are not due to overfishing either on the recreational or commercial side," he wrote in the current newsletter.

"Thus we are dealing with a management situation that must be completely rethought by the ASMFC," he said. "This is a rather unique situation that ASMFC management plans are unable to take into consideration, namely a normal, natural decline of a stock."

The ASMFC's response to the perception of a decline has been to propose a 50 percent reduction in fishing mortality by the recreational fishing community. This was translated into a one-fish limit.

"The decline in stock (may be) due to some undefined natural forces, possibly such as exploding croaker, striped bass, summer flounder and spiny dogfish populations, as well as a very rapidly building of the bluefish stock, reduced forage base (as evidenced in the Chesapeake Bay situation), increased human coastal expansion and consequential loss of natural habitat and nursery areas," he said.

"Weakfish and croaker stocks have historical interrelated cyclic abundance and decline periods," he wrote.

The membership agreed it is highly unlikely that all coastal species have ever been at maximum abundance at the same time.

Further, it was agreed that is is likely that an idealized population is even possible yet the ASMFC decided that the blame for the weakfish decline should be put on fishermen.

"We find this approach to be completely unacceptable," Smith said. "In fact, it would be difficult to convince many anglers in New Jersey that such a shortage of weakfish even exists with so many areas in New Jersey enjoying some of the finest fishing in four to five years.

"A huge credibility gap is rapidly spreading among the fishing community with fishery management measures," he said. "Again, status quo until all parties involved can figure this out."

Smith emphasized that the preferred options presented in the ASMFC plan are tantamount to placing a moratorium on the fishery.

The membership felt that this approach would severely impact the socio-economics of Shore area communities by affecting everything from for-hire boats to tackle sales and motel rentals.

"We recognize that we do need data," Smith said, "but the excessively unreasonable, unfunded demands for states to supply samples as a condition to remain in compliance is another objection.

"If the stocks are so low, how do we get these large numbers of samples, and who is gong to fund these demands?" he asked.

"We need some absolute specifics here, not pie in the sky options or suggestions how this financing might be accomplished," he wrote. "This is placing too great a financial burden on states that are already in financial crisis."

JCAA members also feel that commercial trip limits on weakfish would be wrong.

"It would tend to create a by-catch-only fishery and promote discards," Smith said.

"Also, bluefish and weakfish coastal gill net seasons should be coordinated so as to coincide," he said. "This alone would reduce the discard level on both species."
 

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I would love to see a moratorium. That species is in trouble.

I recently heard the restuarant in Fortesue, can't think of the name, that has weakie on the menu all the time pulled it this past year. Here at the Weakie capital of the world where all the boats come in they can't even get enough. Something is wrong for sure
 

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Back in the spring, I saw two guys come into NOBONES with a cooler full of tiderunners. They must have had 10 fish with the smallest at 5 or 6 lbs. These guys only fished a couple of hours. I for one have not done well with them, so not sure what the deal is.
 

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Yeah, doesn't make sense does it. Guys report they boat 20-40 weakies in a night, if that's the case I case numbers are not down. Never see those fish though, in fact I did not see too many big weakie catches at all this past year. Makes ya wonder
 

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The weakfish began disappearing from open bottom areas in Delaware Bay in 1999, despite the abundance claimed by ASMFC in the intervening years. Forget about peer reviewed science, a little "dockside" review would have told them their scientific data was wrong.

What we have is a situation where increasingly stringent regulations ( Kool Aid) failed to stop the decline of a natural population. Now, they would like us to drink more Kool Aid. Here's the graph of comm weakfish landings, looks like a near perfect curve with any impact from regulations not apparent to me, anyway.

 

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Ok,here's my personal observations of the WeakFishing this year...

Back in late April and early May I found the Large 30"+ Tiderunners in their usual haunts.
But I did notice a decline of numbers of these fish from the previous two Spring seasons..
Whether that had something to due with the weather or other reasons, I don't know..


Come July and August the smaller Spike - Legal (14")size fish showed up in big numbers,and I did notice that these schools seemed to show up alot earlier this year and hang pretty long..


What really suprised me this past summer was the amount of fingerling weakfish that was also present in the backbays of N.J.. I found I guess thousands of these little guys swimming around.


So that being said there was at leaset three generations of Weakfish in our waters this year.
Something is working and something is not working that is causing this delcine in this fishery... My guess would be the increase of the Striped Bass in these same waters,not to mention quite a few Bluefish most of the year also being around and competing for food... Also the fact that commercial netters are still getting their share adds up to trouble.. But if I am stuck to one fish per day next season,so be it if it helps out the situation...
 

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If you look at landings - the highest landings where when the stripers where in trouble - early 80's.


Could be cyclical or could be the bass - a combo, or yet another factor.
 

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The weakfish problem is all normal, back in the 50's catching a weakfish was rare except for Delaware Bay.Early 60's they started showing up in big numbers around all the South Jersey inlets and bridges ranging from 10" to 24".
They continue to be strong through late 80's when the HUGE weakfish were being slaughtered in Delaware Bay. From 1990 on a significant down turn in weakfish population. Small fish showed up every year off the coast but never seem to return
This year the small fish popluation was huge following what I felt was a decent Spring for tiderunners.
I'm under the understanding that North Carolina has shut down netting of weakfish in Jan-Feb which to me means we should see a return of more and larger weakfish next year
However I am seeing weakfish patterns change and the fact that areas like Raritan Bay and Long Island Sound had good weakfish this year may indicate they are on different migration patterns due to forage fish populations.
I expect to see a lot more weakfish next year in the 18-25" range
 

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NMFS shutdown the winter flynet fishery in NC, not all netting. Basically a small area was closed. NC has tried to reopen many times.
 

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I don't want to see a moratoruim placed on weakfish.
In my experiences, fishing for weakfish this year was slightly below average. We had some big fish early and plenty of small fish filtered into our waters later into the summer.
That chart is great but why were the number of weakfish landed so low from 1950 to 1970?
It seems the main body of weakfish are showing up in the northern portion of the state, while we get stuck with croakers.
I believe our weakfish glory years were due to perfect conditions that can only be created again by nature. Our current bag limits and size limits are a bit liberal (13-inch size), but I believe within reason. What used to be the weakfish capitol of the world is now the croaker capitol of the world. I'm sure plenty of croakers are caught and taken by both commercial and recreational anglers, yet they continue to come back in numbers each year. Maybe its just because its their time to flourish.
 

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Regardless of what's the cause, if us taking fewer weakies will help the situation then I'm all for it. Who cares if it's not our fault? Here's my favorite analogy for the situation, and I may have used it on this forum already. If you're walking down the street and see a guy that was shot laying in the gutter, would you not help him just because you're not the one that shot him? Of course not! Then help the weakfish, even if you aren't the one that "shot them"... :(
 

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Originally posted by cam:
Regardless of what's the cause, if us taking fewer weakies will help the situation then I'm all for it. Who cares if it's not our fault? Here's my favorite analogy for the situation, and I may have used it on this forum already. If you're walking down the street and see a guy that was shot laying in the gutter, would you not help him just because you're not the one that shot him? Of course not! Then help the weakfish, even if you aren't the one that "shot them"... :(
Appreciate the thoughts. Cause after a while a bunch of opinions that can't be proven on why the population is in trouble with no focus on a solution gets old. I agree with you, for whatever the reason is if I can help by taking less than I will do it, and if I do what Twins and Strikes say , I should just kill more stripers :D

Booking another flight now ;)
 

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Originally posted by MDC:
Landings is not what they are basing the decision on.
Your contention is that regulations make more fish. I say no such thing is in evidence with weakfish. Where's your proof? We've had regulations for near 30 years and the biomass has gone downhill.

We're covered up with croakers. What management plan produced those? You dodged or otherwise sidestepped these quesions in the DBay forum.
 

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Originally posted by cam:
Regardless of what's the cause, if us taking fewer weakies will help the situation then I'm all for it. Who cares if it's not our fault? Here's my favorite analogy for the situation, and I may have used it on this forum already. If you're walking down the street and see a guy that was shot laying in the gutter, would you not help him just because you're not the one that shot him? Of course not! Then help the weakfish, even if you aren't the one that "shot them"... :(
Guy shot on the street? We're talking about human intervention in natural populations. There's no evidence that regulations have had any impact on the weakfish biomass. Furthermore, you can't claim that there's any proof that humans can rebuild a natural population. YOu may point to the striped bass as evidence that there is, and I shall point to the sturgeon that there is not. The regulations could be 36 weakfish per man per day but guess what? It don't matter cause you can't catch what's not there.
 

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Originally posted by Dr. Bass:
, and if I do what Twins and Strikes say , I should just kill more stripers :D

Not so. I'm trying to combat the notion, which seems to have taken hold particularly in the younger anglers, that we can shape Nature to suit our every whim. This is simply untrue, yet it's spoken with almost certainty that we can do so through human fish management. The natural rebound of the striped bass is the basis of this thinking, but here we have stark proof in the weakfish, that shaping natural populations is anything but certain. Heck, the Addendum 1 public document for weakfish even alleged striped bass came back because of "dramatic actions" to curtail fishing while completely ignoring the obvious; regulations on anglers have had no apparent impact on weakfish. To read this document is really incredible. The flaws in their logic, if not intentional, are amazing. This was a meeting for weakfish and what they claim they know about weakfish. The header of the document indicated they needed to take drastic action to cut landings. :D LOL Guess what? Nature already took drastic action. :D Like I said earlier, the regs could be 36 fish per man per day but ya' can't catch what's not there.

The Amendment 4 hearings from a few years ago offers more proof about what they know about weakfish. They claimed tremendous biomass, while simultaneously discussing restoring weakfish to their historic ranges in New England and establishing a trophy fishery there. :D LOL!!

The only thing I'm sure of is ASMFC controls only one thing; fishing effort. For that reason you should be very afraid because when they become bewildered, you can bet you'll be banned from fishing. Any guarantees that regulations will change natural populations are simply not in evidence.
 

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ASMFC needs to point it fingers in another direction. For those that attended the weakfish meetings it was made perfectly clear that no form of fishing is to blame.NATURAL MORTALITY is to blame.
I say we tell ASMFC to address NATURAL MORTALITY and then come talk to us.

BTW There are a few laws that somebody is breaking. This was brought to there attention in the letter that I sent them.
 

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Originally posted by TWIN D'S:
</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by Dr. Bass:
, and if I do what Twins and Strikes say , I should just kill more stripers :D

Not so. I'm trying to combat the notion, which seems to have taken hold particularly in the younger anglers, that we can shape Nature to suit our every whim. This is simply untrue, yet it's spoken with almost certainty that we can do so through human fish management. The natural rebound of the striped bass is the basis of this thinking, but here we have stark proof in the weakfish, that shaping natural populations is anything but certain. Heck, the Addendum 1 public document for weakfish even alleged striped bass came back because of "dramatic actions" to curtail fishing while completely ignoring the obvious; regulations on anglers have had no apparent impact on weakfish. To read this document is really incredible. The flaws in their logic, if not intentional, are amazing. This was a meeting for weakfish and what they claim they know about weakfish. The header of the document indicated they needed to take drastic action to cut landings. :D LOL Guess what? Nature already took drastic action. :D Like I said earlier, the regs could be 36 fish per man per day but ya' can't catch what's not there.

The Amendment 4 hearings from a few years ago offers more proof about what they know about weakfish. They claimed tremendous biomass, while simultaneously discussing restoring weakfish to their historic ranges in New England and establishing a trophy fishery there. :D LOL!!

The only thing I'm sure of is ASMFC controls only one thing; fishing effort. For that reason you should be very afraid because when they become bewildered, you can bet you'll be banned from fishing. Any guarantees that regulations will change natural populations are simply not in evidence.
</font>[/QUOTE]Well said, but I Certainly meant it in a sarcastic way. Just curious, what about regs on the commercial guys??? Would that have an effect ?? Do these guys net in the bay ??Can we really say for certain that regs on the angler would have NO effect ??? That surprises me.

Bottom line is anyway If could help in any individual way I would. Can't remember the last time I went out targeting weakies alone anyway
 

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Considering how off the ASMFC was in their last weakfish stock analysis why does everyone take their assessment that overfishing is not a problem as the word of God? They had no clue before and they continue to have no clue now.
 
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