Thank you for your thoughtful article on the gill nets [“Anger Over Gill Nets Builds Among Fishermen,” In the Field, Sports & Outdoors, October 29]. As a representative for the recreational fishing sector, I agree with a lot of your points.
Unlike many recreational advocates, I understand the deep tradition of commercial striped bass fishing on the East End and feel that they should have a fair allocation of fish to harvest each year. We need to find a way for recreational and commercial fishermen to coexist without the institutionalized vitriol. Dead bycatch washed up on our beaches is a particularly bad look for the commercial sector.
As you point out, moving the nets out of casting range would reduce friction between the two sectors; 500 feet would be great. I would even take 300 feet. Not allowing sets on weekends, when there are the largest number of surfcasters, also would help move toward happier coexistence.
Connecticut, Maine and New Jersey all completely prohibit commercial fishing of striped bass, and Massachusetts, which harvests more bass than New York every year, is hook-and-line only, and they can’t fish on weekends.
In the end, all this friction would go away if there were more fish. The stock is in terrible shape, and everyone wants to point the finger at someone else.
Given that the recreational sector accounts for over 80 percent of the mortality of striped bass, there needs to be a strong movement by the state toward angler education on handling caught fish. There is no doubt that some of the trophy fish washing up on the beach are released fish that have been passed around the boat for photos, dropped on the deck, or held up by their gill plates. Having to release all fish bigger than 35 inches is great, but without educating anglers on how to handle and revive those critical breeders, the new regulations don’t work.
The only effort I have seen, on education, are the shaming comments on Instagram when 25-plus-pounders are mishandled. I have seen six-pack and party boat captains posting photos of dead fish above 35 inches floating behind their boats with comments that say, “These new regs don’t work — these fish are dying anyway when we release them.” If the fish were handled less and put back into the water more quickly, many of those fish would survive to repopulate this threatened species.
Florida’s most popular fish, tarpon, can’t even be taken out of the water. For striped bass over 35 inches, why not make that a rule until the stock recovers?
These fish are too important to our tradition and economy not to figure this out. New York needs to take the lead on angler education.
Northeast Field Representative
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
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