hamptons dealership, luxury, Southampton

Sports Center

Sep 21, 2010 10:25 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Gillnets should go

Sep 21, 2010 10:25 AM

The use of commercial gillnets for the filling of the small number of striped bass tags allotted to commercial fishermen has to be stopped. It’s a farce that makes a mockery of the system set up to allow, but limit, the commercial harvest of striped bass, and an insult to everyone who sacrificed and labored for 20 years to bring striped bass back from the brink.

Gillnets drifting just a few hundred feet off our beaches, strangling dozens or hundreds of striped bass when the owner of the net has no intention of keeping them all, is a thumb in the eye to every angler standing in the surf who throws back a 27-inch striper when he or she would like to have fish on the table that night.

The inshore gillnet fishery is not as wantonly devastating as the pelagic gillnets that once snaked through the high seas slaughtering thousands of sea creatures, nor as wholly destructive as a dragger’s nets. Varying mesh sizes are fairly good at eliminating fish that are not the target and they are an effective and lucrative way to catch some species, such as monkfish, in deep waters with relatively little bycatch (as long as you are not one of the hundreds of endangered sturgeon that die in monkfish nets each year).

Commercial fishermen are technically allowed to catch about 250 striped bass a year. Each fisherman’s quota is tied to the requirement that a steel tag be placed through the bottom lip of every fish he plans to sell. When the tags are used up, fishing is done for the year. This limitation is, of course, widely abused but striped bass stocks are robust and even if each of the relatively small number of commercial fisherman who have the tags sells two or three or four fish for every tag he is allotted in a year, it’s probably a largely inconsequential offense.

But no fisherman wants to use up all his bass tags at once. Profits can be optimized by playing the market to get the best price possible. Gillnets can catch hundreds of fish at a time if a school swims into them and using this tool is not the way to pick and choose how many fish one wants. If there’s 150 fish in the net the netter picks out the 10 or 20 he wants for the day or week and the rest go back over the side—some might survive, many do not.

The annual littering of our shores with the carcasses of dead striped bass discarded by gillnetters—one such disgusting display drifted in with the tide on Saturday in Amagansett—actually is only the tip of the iceberg when assessing the gross number of our precious fish species that are wasted each year. The draggers you see squid fishing a mile off our beaches in the spring kill more striped bass and weakfish in a week than every surfcaster and charter customer in Montauk does in a year.

Commercial fishermen are not evil destroyers and recreational fishermen are not saints by a damn sight (witness the egotistical killing of hundreds of cow stripers in the New York Bight earlier this summer). But in this day and age, when we have found that responsible management of fish stocks actually can return species like striped bass to historic bounty, it is absurd to allow such wasteful styles of fishing. I know a dozen commercial fishermen who fill all their bass tags with rod and reel. Hell, Stu Heath does it from the beach. There’s no reason that gillnetters can’t catch the same fish they net with a downrigger and umbrella rig.

Weather Smiles On Tourney

The second Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Memorial Fishing Tournament was blessed with nice weather this year and 94 anglers went on the hunt for striped bass and bluefish.

Tom Cullen, the king of King Kullen, took top honors in both the striped bass and bluefish categories with a dramatic last-minute entry of a 29-pound striper and a 13-pound bluefish caught off Montauk and delivered to the scales by his chauffeur. Applause for Mr. Cullen, who donated both of his winner’s checks back to the tournament charities, Wounded Warrior Project and Homes for Heroes.

In the juniors division, Paul Torre took home the heaviest striped bass trophy with his 8-pounder and Ryan Fitzpatrick had the biggest bluefish, a 12-pounder.

Thanks to all of the generous sponsors who donated the great raffle prizes and to the organizers for another great tournament. We’ll all look forward to next year.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

You've read 1 of 7 free articles this month.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

could not agree more. any sort of commercial fishing where there is "bycatch" shoudl be illegal. as for recreational harvests of stiped bass, there should be a slot limit as most states have with redfish. this ensures the large fish, which are mostly females and the best breeders, keep producing for future generations.
By fishy (92), East Hampton on Sep 24, 10 11:56 AM
Anyone who fishes the west end of town and has been wondering where the fall run has been the last few years needs only to look 500 yards offshore to get their answer.
By tenn tom (255), remsenburg on Sep 24, 10 3:19 PM
power tools, home improvements, building supplies, Eastern Long Island