This is a comment I have about Al Ristori's "Conservation Column" piece that appeared in "The Fisherman" Metro edition on 2/2/2007
I am very distressed about your piece in “The Fisherman” 2/1/2007 “Bass abundance questioned in Stripers Forever Survey”.
You essentially give credence to a non-selective and very limited survey or 445 returns from the entire Northeast.
What bothered me most was your reference to “Montauk” guides talking about excessive pressure on “breeders” and supporting a slot limit for “eating size” bass.
Why Montauk gets such notoriety when it comes to fishing laws is incomprehensible and you, having fished the western waters of NY and the bays of NJ for many years should think twice before you give “East Enders” another opportunity to sink "West Enders” fishing opportunities. This happened with the porgy size limits as just one example which were specifically generated with average size fish caught on the east end of Long Island and with no consideration for the western Long Island fishery.
The crux of the matter, and I have heard it first hand, is that the Montauk guides are in a tail spin having to deal with the “new found” method for catching big striped bass. Of course this is fishing live bait, specifically porgies, which originated in western Long Island waters. This however requires a lot of extra work for these folks. They have to buy bait and catch porgies first, probably running to Cerebrus Shoal burning extra fuel and cutting into profits. They must make sure the porgies are 10.5 inches or bigger (right), keep them alive and work the rips with live bait rigs in order to bring back to the dock stripers that are as big and attractive as the private guy down the dock. When their fares see the big fish, probably only a couple, they want to know why they didn’t catch anything nearly that big. The typical guide in Montauk trolls umbrella rigs or parachutes on wire in the rips and can usually catch their limit of “eating size” fish in a couple of hours with no extra work or expense. That’s easy money but not the kind of fishing that is as attractive as holding on to a fishing rod and feeling the fish pick up the bait and run it off. Cranking wire with a few schoolies on an umbrella rig is easy to do to put in the box but for those in the know is not very much fun. Also, nothing was mentioned about the fact that most fish are put in the cooler at two per person with anything over 28 inches.
Last year was my best year fishing as a guide for 27 years and the best in all my 50 plus years chasing striped bass. I caught the most and biggest fish ever and all on live bait and plugs. Due to the new abundance of bunker, probably due to some restrictions put upon the commercial bunker fishing fleet, the big fish glutted on this bait and lingered on the western end of the island for longer than usual in the spring. Montauk and farther north didn’t have a good spring and therefore the complaints. In addition, ninety percent of the “trophy size” fish landed on my boat were released in good shape. I do not use treble hooks and the single hook rig that I use can be removed from the throat or deeper with minimal injury to the fish. Incidentally, circle hooks don’t work with large live baits. I would suggest that all clam dunkers use circle hooks. They work perfectly with that fishery and I would also state that most of your survey respondents probably fish that way. Did “Stripers Forever” survey the method of catching their respondent’s fish? That would easily put an end to this charade. Because the majority of bass fishermen working the inlets in the Northeast fish with clams, the average size of the fish will typically be small and when huge amounts of bunker are in the waters, clam on a hook will not attract the larger fish, consequently less large fish caught by the clam chumming fleet.
I would suggest that before you put out negative vibes or even suggest another restriction relative to any sort of sport fishing that you include all aspects of the fishery or don’t mention it at all. Suggesting that a response from 445 individuals from the entire Eastern Seaboard is somehow statistically significant is no better than hearsay and the mention of Montauk guide sentiments reeks of special interest.
Captain Al Lorenzetti
P.S. All you live-bait fishermen had better keep abreast of this issue. The Montauk guides would like live-lining eliminated. They will push with every means they have to get a slot limit and do away with live-lining for striped bass. They do have some political clout with local legislators and DEC individuals. If you care about your sport you had better be ready for a fight if this comes to the forefront.
These are my personal views and not necessarily those of Skimmeroutdoors.com.