Win one of three PENN Prevail Surf Rods

PENN Fishing in conjunction with Surfcaster’s Journal Magazine is bringing you a very special giveaway today.

PENN Fishing will award three SJ Blog readers a ten foot PENN Prevail Surf Rod , model PRESF1530S10


We will pick three random winners on Sunday September 1st and post the list of winners here on the blog. After the winners furnish their shipping addresses, we will forward them to the great folks at PENN Fishing who will ship the new Prevail 10′ surf rod right to your doors.

A giveaway from two great names in surf fishing, PENN Fishing and Surfcaster’s Journal Online Magazine. Our sincerest thanks to folks at PENN Fishing for making this possible

Here are some details on Prevail Rods

Stainless steel guides with aluminum oxide inserts

Rubber shrink tube handles

it’s not often you can find everything you want in a high-end surf rod at half the price. The Prevail provides strength and performance with a two-piece graphite composite rod blank. Stainless steel frames with aluminum oxide inserts create a lightweight and durable guide perfect for fishing mono or braid.

The rubber shrink tube handle design provides a secure grip whether wet or dry. The Prevail is a perfect match for PENN Sargus, Fierce or Pursuit spinning reels .

Carbon Shield™ Prevail rods have woven carbon fiber applied as an outer shield to protect rod blanks and guide wraps.

and a product video

YouTube Preview Image



Enter with “I am in” or “I want this rod” or whatever you want

but do enter because you Have To Be In It To Win It!

First Beach Buggies in Montauk Point, NY

Beach buggies and Surfcasters go together like peanut butter and jelly. You can have one without another, its still good but put them together and you got awesome stuff. Here is a look at post WWII buggies in a video featuring two guys who should know, Fred Schwab and Richie Gerbe, both members of High Hill Striper Club and Montauk Regulars during the post WWII years. YouTube Preview Image


And winners of our MEGA giveaway

Big Fish Co Prey Swimmer goes to Patrick Gilmartin

Guppy Pencil Popper goes to   Delawaresurfman

One Spool of SpiderWire Ultracast InvisiBraid goes to Rob Rader

Second Spool of SpiderWire Ultracast  InvisiBraid goes to Spencer K

Third Spool of SpiderWire Ultracast InvisiBraid goes to Ron Mattson Sr


All winners, you have 5 days to email us your name and shipping address to

Why are they not inshore?

I been thinking about the state of fisheries lately. Mostly at work since I been going 7 days a week for awhile now. No, I really don’t think there is   a point in debating if the striped bass fishery is in trouble. If you think all is hunky dory, then I wouldn’t try to change your mind, at least not in this post. I’ve done plenty of them over the years talking from personal perspective and shared post by others.

Darn, I remember sitting on tailgate in Montauk Point with Vito Orlando and Bill Wetzel years ago. Bill at the time was not a believer in what we thought was coming. White bait blitzes were in full force, his customers were catching fish, I cant say I blamed him. He was always a big advocate of catch and release or responsible harvest. He just didn’t believe that the inshore striped bass fishery would look like this in only few years. Hell, I am having a hard time believing what I am seeing. And I expected it!…but not to this extent.

Which brings me back to my original thought…why?

No, I wont buy the argument that it was Sandy, lack of bait, changed migration route, water temps. There is a precedent for what is going on today and you have to reach far, far back in the time capsule….

During the last collapse, there were pockets of good fishing, particularly at Cape Cod and later at   Block Island. There were pockets of good fishing this year too , on bunker schools that wrapped around NJ, to LI to Montauk Point. There were big fish, really big fish , and if you didn’t get on them in time, you could shove a thumb up your ass becouse the resident fish were not staying behind these schools. To be fair, Cape Cod Canal had insane blitzes last few weeks and you’d be happy to know (or not) that thousands of big fish were caught and dragged to the trucks. Often by same guys who were whining to me few weeks ago when I was there in late May how terrible fishing was, how we need a moratorium or higher limits. Story for another day I guess..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back to why inshore is bare. If you are having a hard time getting a bump on your local beach, you are not alone. Most of my crew is either fluke fishing or grilling in the back yard. Not too many are putting any effort and when they do, they are getting a lot of exercise and not much more. I am hearing the same from friends along the coast from NJ to ME with Cape Canal again being the exception.

I believe that when the fisheries are healthy and fish are plentiful, the competition for food is fierce and stripers take residence all over the coast in search of food. In fall, they reunite in big schools for their migration southward but for most of spring and summer, they feed in smaller schools in local inlets, harbors, rivers and such. That is why NJ guys and NY guys and MA guys used to all have a good bite in June when today only one out of those three for example, will have it AND it will be limited to a specific place, not spread out throughout the region. And yes, there were always fish in deep water too. Boats caught fish, surfcasters caught fish, kayak guys caught fish.

So now we have smaller schools, which do not need as much food to sustain themselves. Hell, there is more food (bait) last few years than I have ever seen but nothing is chasing these baitfish. Just like baitfish congregate in numbers for safety, is it possible that striped bass do too? Maybe as a survival instinct? Why would they come inshore when there is plenty off food offshore and no competition?I think there might be something to that but as of right now, striped bass are refusing any interviews due to what they perceive is a lack of respect by the general public.

I honestly have no desire to beat the drum continually and yell Sky is Falling, that is not the point of this post. I think its little too late for that. In all honestly, I am curios why many of you think that suddenly the resident fish are missing ffrontier usual inshore spots?


I got a feeling we are going to get an early fall run, whatever it might look like, this year. In fact, I would not be surprised if it started already in few places. Reason? Nothing more than temperatures. This is unseasonably cool for too long not to have an effect

thanks to our friend Dennis Zambrotta for this 1977 article from Boston Globe


MEGA giveaway, Big Fish swimmer, Guppy Pencil AND Spiderwire InvisiBraid

A new giveaway for our readers. Been meaning to do this for awhile but unfortunately I haven’t had time to sit down for a minute in weeks.

First the winners of last week giveaway of 3 1/2 ounce Wally’s Lures Danny Swimmer and a Wally’s Lures 1 1/8 ounce Stubby Needlefish. You can get more information about Wally’s Lures at


The winners are


You both have 5 days to email us your shipping address at

And now for today MEGA giveaway as Tommy would say, so lets get to it

First, a stunning Big Fish Bait Co , Prey Swimmers, made by our friend and reader Larry Wentworth. You can reach Larry trough FB at

He does not sell in the stores but I do know that he makes small batches available trough FB



Second, and by no means less of prize is Guppy 1 /14 ounce Pencil Popper, made by Hess Family. You will get a chance to read a full interview with Peter and Wayne Hess in the September issue of the Surfcaster’s Journal and some videos to follow. You can get more info about Guppy Lures at


Third, hell, lets get crazy, fourth and fifth winners. Each will recive one spool of Spiderwire Ultra Cast InvisiBraid


Courtesy of our friends at SpiderWire. You can read all about this line at

and a Public Service announcment

Our Friend Bob Jones wanted to make us aware of a special  show/benefit for the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum.

 “We will be displaying lures and artifacts from WW-2 until the present.
Frank Pintauro’s sister is the Director of the Museum and his nephew: Steven Lobosco and Richard Doctorow organized it. It should be pretty cool. I lent them 4 showcases full of lures and a few other choice items; including a homemade Campo Bag.
The reception is this Friday at 6PM. And the show runs until August 25th
There is no admission charge. Bring the kids.”
and last but never least, Montauk Surfcasters Association Picnic
Saturday, August, 23 – 10 AM.-4 PM.
Third house,Theodore Roosevelt Park, Montauk
Casting contest – raffle
Adults $5.00, children under 16 free

Where We are With Striped Bass..By John McMurray

If I been MIA a bi, its becouse I am working seven days a week now and late on most days. Its getting to the point where I am just thrilled if I get to see my whole family at least for a minute each day but even that, with kids all over the place is not given. Construction is feast or famine and with new WTC sucking half of our company talent, its been crazy busy. Then again my son is starting college next week so I’ll take any work that comes my way for a long, long time. I thought you should read this..even if you think sky in not falling


This post appeared originally at on August 13th

Here is the link to original piece

Where We are With Striped Bass

ASMFC moves ahead with an addendum to reduce fishing mortality, but getting the cuts we need will not be easy.

Photo by Capt. John McMurray

This is, I dunno, part 10 or something in my disjointed series on the decline of the striped bass resource and what the Atlantic States Fisheries Management Commission (ASFMC, or the consortium of states that manages striped bass) is going to do about it.

Yes, I write about striped bass a lot, and I do hope readers aren’t rolling their eyes right now. But, I can see which blogs drive traffic. And if I so much as mention striped bass in the title, the number of readers goes through the roof. So I really don’t think so. The point is, striped bass “is” (or crap, maybe I should start saying, “used to be”) really, really important to me… to just about all of us that fish in this region really. I’m not gonna get into why, because I’ve already waxed a few times about how that stupid fish has actually driven my life up to this point. How my business depends upon it, etc. So I’ll spare you that part this time. What I’d like to do this week is to bring readers up to speed on the good, the bad and the ugly on where we are as of last week’s ASMFC meeting.

Yes, the ASMFC Striped Bass Board did meet last Tuesday to discuss (read: add and remove options) to an Addendum to the management plan which is intended to reduce fishing mortality on striped bass. If you haven’t been reading my other blogs, the really short version is that striped bass numbers have declined precipitously over the last eight or so years. Of course if you fish, you already know that. But it’s a fact that we’ve currently exceeded some of the management “targets” that are supposed to require prompt action. Yes, it’s taken a long time to get to the point where we are beginning to see any glimmer of light, but Addendum IV is indeed a “light” of some sort. Even the most precautionary option may not be, and probably isn’t enough (I’ll get to that later) but there will most likely be some action in 2015.

So, last week, after some debate, ASMFC voted out a Draft Addendum IV to Amendment 6 of the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass for Public Comment. It includes a bunch of options to reduce harvest along the coast and in the Chesapeake Bay. Some are good, others, not so good.

But before I get to that, let’s talk about Maryland and Virginia because they are really beginning to annoy me. Those two states have been working really hard to water down/chip away at the Addendum, and to some extent they’ve been successful. Through various letters and of course the public record, it’s become very clear that they don’t appear to want any sort of reduction at all, despite all the anecdotal warning signs, the pleas from the public to do something, and, well, the science.

Lou releases a nice by Capt. John McMurray

I do understand why. They have a very vocal and influential commercial fishing community. And, not surprisingly, there are a handful of really loud charter boat captains that apparently don’t want to have to stop killing lots of fish. I get it… Watermen are suffering down there. Crabs have crashed, although certainly that’s not the fault of “too many” striped bass, as commercials and even some managers may argue. (Note: there is absolutely no science to back up such a contention, and it should be pretty well known by now that those two species have existed together in abundant numbers since, well, since they both first existed.) But hard lessons learned quite recently with cod in New England should show us pretty clearly what happens when you focus on keeping the commercial fishery fishing on a depleted stock.

In short, neither Maryland nor Virginia appears to give a crap about the hundreds of thousands of anglers in their states who depend on abundant striped bass stocks to be successful, not to mention all the businesses that depend on those anglers. Instead, it’s all about the short term economic gain the Baymen and charter-boats can reap before the stock completely collapses. And I know there are still people who keep saying that the sky isn’t falling. But these are not the people who spend any real amount of time on the water. Listen… The sky is f’n falling.

I could go into more detail here about Maryland and Virginia, but fellow blogger Charlie Witek has already done that quite well here: Maryland Seeks to Slow Striped Bass RecoveryBefore moving on,I would also quickly note that Maryland and Virginia’s biggest allies are commissioners from (you guessed it) New Jersey, (surprisingly) Rhode Island, and (to some extent, though I hate to admit it) New York, as well.

Fortunately, despite all of their efforts, Maryland and Virginia were largely unsuccessful in adding separate reference points for the Chesapeake Bay, which would have allowed them to harvest a significant portion of the 2011 year class–the only good year class we’ve seen since 2003. They also tried to base commercial reduction on quota instead of actual harvest, which in many cases would have resulted in no real reduction at all. Fortunately that effort failed as well.

There are only a few options in Addendum IV that we should focus on going forward… So if I’ve still got you, let’s get to them.

“Option A” is of course, status quo. Believe it or not, there are commissioners who have supported this option, and who will argue for it as we move forward, even though it will have less than a one-percent chance of keeping fishing mortality below the target in one or three years. Obviously we do not want Option A!

“Option B” would reduce fishing mortality to a level that is at or below the target within ONE YEAR. This represents a 25-percent reduction from 2013 total harvest. The reduction would of course be shared by both commercial and recreation fishermen.

Option B is the best of the choices available, but it’s a long way from perfect. If you read some of my other stuff you will recall that the what the Technical Committee was initially recommending was a 31 to 34-percent reduction, but it later revisited the commercial discard numbers (those fish they throw back dead,) which ended up being lower than initially projected (Note: the Technical Committee admits that they don’t have a firm grasp on that number.) Really, it’s hard not to think that the change was political, in some way influenced by the wailing and gnashing of teeth. But I don’t really know.

Photo by Capt. John McMurray

Getting back to the options, “Option C” would reduce fishing to a level that is at or below the target within THREEYEARS. This represents a 17-percent reduction from 2013 total harvest starting in the 2015 fishing year. There are no additional reductions in subsequent years; the 17-percent reduction would be taken all in the first year. Yes, I had to read this a few times also before I understood it. So we’re taking a 17-percent reduction in one year. And theoretically, by doing so it would reduce fishing mortality to at or below the target mortality level by the end of the third year, 2017.

Now, “Option D” would reduce fishing mortality to a level that is at or below the target withinTHREE YEARS also. But instead of doing the reduction in the first year, it would meter it out at seven-percent a year. This is by far the least precautionary option. In fact, a seven-percent reduction over three years is almost as bad as just doing nothing at all.

What I don’t really understand here is how the three year options (C and D) are even compliant! Amendment 6 is pretty clear that if the fishing mortality target is exceeded in two consecutive years and the spawning stock biomass (SBB) falls below the target within either of those years (the fishing mortality target was exceeded in 2011 and 2012, and SSB has been below target since 2006) the Management Board must adjust the striped bass management program to reduce the fishing mortality rate to a level that is at or below the target WITHIN ONE YEAR. WTF man!?

If ASMFC can change its mind any time a management plan becomes inconvenient rather than living up to its promise to the public to take action when a trigger is tripped, then it is telling the public that those management plans aren’t worth the paper that they’re written on. They are saying management plans can be altered at the whim of the management board, regardless of the impact of such change on the health of a public resource. ASMFC has a serious credibility problem if it adopts the three-year phase-in.

But really, who am I kidding. Pretty sure they don’t care.

The point is that Options C and D, which drag things out for three years, are unacceptable. Option B, the 25-percent reduction in one year, is really the best option at this point, and I guess the one we should be advocating for moving forward. But even that isn’t great.

I should note here that all these options, including Option B, have only a 50-percent probability of achieving their goal. In other words, a coin toss. I’m not gonna get into how wrong this is and how given the history of fisheries management we should know better… and how it’s really foolish to not have options that have a greater chance of success because I’ve covered that in other blogs (e.g On Downplaying the Plight of Striped Bass.) And believe me, I voiced that concern at the Striped Bass Advisory Panel meeting. So yeah, I think Option B sucks, but it may be the best we have at this point.

Well, that’s not entirely true. During last week’s ASMFC meeting Massachusetts Commissioner Paul Diodati moved to include an option in the draft addendum for a 30-percent reduction in one year. That makes sense given that the great majority of the public seems to want more significant cuts. But I doubt it will get much support from commissioners. Nonetheless, if that option gets fleshed out and included in the Draft Addendum, we should support it.

Of course there are other more specific options in the document, including bag, size, slot and trophy size limits for the recreational fishery and quota reductions/quota trading for the commercial fishery. But for right now, the goal should be to just get the largest reduction in fishing mortality we can. Because despite what a shrinking number of naysayers are spouting, striped bass are in big trouble.

Having listened to ASMFC discuss the striped bass decline during the last two years, it’s pretty darn apparent that the emphasis is all on money, and whatever economic benefit Commissioners can squeeze out of these fish. But what no one—except for Deodati—seems to be talking about is the loss of income to guys like me. Guys who focus on striped bass charters, guys who depend on abundance. And what about all the surfcasters who are losing access to this fishery very quickly? And all the gear they or any recreational striped bass fishermen buys, the hotels they stay in, the restaurants they eat at? The far-reaching loss of income due to the decline is, I’m sure, extraordinary.

But, of course, it’s the poor commercial fisherman, or the apparently struggling party/charter captains (who can fall back on abundant summer flounder, black seabass and scup stocks) that they listen to, because, well, because they are just louder.

So listen, man. If striped bass are important to you, it’s time to be loud. Really F’n loud! I’m tired of the bullshit. This pro-harvest/F the public mentality has got to go. The Draft Addendum may not be perfect, but we have let ASMFC know that we really want the most risk adverse/precautionary option. Right now that looks like Option B, but before writing, let’s see what they do with the Diodati motion.

The Draft Addendum will be available on the Commission website ( underPublic Input the week of August 11th. In the near future there will be public hearings in just about every striped bass state. I’ll be sure to let you know when and where these will happen. If you can’t make the hearing or just find those things as unpleasant as I do (although you can bet your ass I’ll be at the New York one,) written comment will be accepted until the end of September.

That’s all for now. Stand by and I will update you on the public comment situation as it develops.


After obtaining an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Loyola College in Maryland, Captain John McMurray served in the US Coast Guard for four years as a small-boat coxswain and marine-fisheries law enforcement officer. He was then recruited to become the first Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association New York. He is currently the Director of Grants Programs at the Norcross Wildlife Foundation in New York. He is the owner and primary operator of “One More Cast” Charters. John is a well known and well published outdoor writer, specializing in fisheries conservation issues. In 2006 John was awarded the Coastal Conservation Association New York Friend of Fisheries Conservation Award.

Servicing your Van Staal reel

Did you ever wondered as what kind of process your Van Staal reel undergoes when you send it in for annual maintenance? I’ve read many opinions from keyboard experts over the years and you know what they says about opinions…

So in search of  an answer I went to the Authorized Van Staal service center at White Water Outfitters in Hampton Bays, NY and spoke to their VS technician Bert about the process

Then it hit me, hey, this would be nice to put on a video so that all VS users can see what happens to their reel after they send it in for service

YouTube Preview Image


Some voices of reason….is anyone listening?

Conservation Corner-Captain Jason ColbyFrom the Fisherman Magazine, 7/31/14

To say that the bass fishing has been a disappointment so far this year would be an understatement! For the past 7 years I have been telling Mike Armstrong, Assistant Director of the Ma. DMF that there are less and less bass each year and I kept asking “why do you keep increasing commercial quotas”? I was continually subjected to things like : “you are imagining things”, “you don’t know what you are talking about”, “everyone is catching plenty of fish”,etc………

My boat was catching plenty of fish as well but that was not the point I was trying to make and they did not want to know. “Fish management” is all about MONEY and on the state level there is a lot of pressure on the “managers”  to “bring money into the state. Stripers are a bit of a cash cow for Massachusetts because most of the commercial landings go right to New York City and we (state residents) get money for that. Money is then spent (hopefully) in our states retail stores and our local economy is “stimulated”. Other commercial bass sale states see things pretty much the same way so the money comes 1st and the resource comes “somewhere after that”.

For many years that same mentality kept poachers in business as enforcement was not being pushed to take care of the issue. After all, it was just some harmless commerce. By my “rough estimates” and from what I know about poaching (I myself was a poacher for a few years in the late 80′s. I have long since been reformed), the black market “take” of striped bass is at least equal to the legal harvest quota. I believe that the management people know this but intentionally ignore it when they are pushing catch statistics to justify increasing commercial quotas which is what they have done steadily for the past two decades.

Much of the “reasoning” behind the limits that they set were from the “rational” that we are only going up to “traditional harvest levels”. Why didn’t any of those Menza candidates ask: “If the harvest levels of before collapsed the stock before, won’t that happen again”? DUH! “The beginning of the end” before the last stock collapse of the mid eighties was when the draggers out of North Carolina and Virginia started “working on” the bodies of fish that wintered off their coasts in January and February before they went into the estuaries to spawn in late winter. In 1981, my friend and bass fishing partner “Artie Johnson” was showing me the market reports from Fulton Fish Market and how the massive shipments of bass from Va. and NC sent the price of bass down to 10 cents a pound during the prior winters. Back in 2006 those draggers started “ramping up” once again and a few years later, here we are again. Draggers and stripers do not mix well. When they do, it is always bad for the stripers. In fact for awhile a few years back the standard practice for draggers in NC, where they were allowed to take/sell 50 bass a day was to tow through a school of bass and kill 1000 fish and then throw the 975 smallest ones overboard (dead). Then tow again for another 1000 fish to retain the remaining 25 of their daily quota! There were acres of dead bass floating all over the place down there and the practice made such a sensation on the internet that the regulations were quickly changed to curb the practice. Of course the draggers said they were doing nothing illegal and they are right. “Anything moral ?”, is another question.

Do we “need” a total moratorium now to fix things? No! However, a three to four year shutdown of the commercial harvest is surely in order as well as a 50% cut to the recreational take (one fish over  28 or 32 inches would be well served). Then, if/when commercial harvest is brought back, nets of any kind should never be allowed. Further, the “harvest” should never approach any more than 1/2 of what today’s quotas are and any form of poaching, if convicted, should bar that offender from all commercial fishing for a year.  A second conviction should bar them for life. As it is today I have heard poachers and black market dealers refer to the slap on the wrist they get as “the cost of doing business”!

Lastly, we have all heard the argument that charter boats are amongst the biggest offenders and I’m afraid that reputation is somewhat deserved. However the one fish limit should address that nicely with perhaps a one “trophy fish” per trip stipulation thrown in there to appease that user group and their customer base. It’s not a perfect world and there are no easy answers but some things are best kept simple and we need to learn from our past mistakes. Traditional harvest levels on a supposedly rebuilt stock do not work. If nothing else, lets learn from that.


Captain Jason Colby
Little Sister Charters




From Charles Witek Blog, One Angler’s Voayage

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Most of our striped bass are spawned in Chesapeake Bay, and most of those come from the waters of Maryland.  For that reason, Maryland’s striped bass young-of-the-year index has generally been the best future predictor of the future health of the stock.

Thus, folks who care about the striper’s future have been rightly concerned by the fact that the index has been coming in below average for most of the years in the past decade, with the 2012 index the lowest in more than fifty years—even lower than anything recorded during the depths of the last stock collapse.


The one bit of good news came in 2011, when a dominant year class was produced.

You would think that the folks who manage bass down in Maryland would be doing whatever they can to help those 2011s live long enough to recruit into the spawning stock, something that should happen in 2017 or so.


But if you thought that, you would have been wrong.

Maryland has a long history of killing immature bass (back before the collapse, a legal “pan rock” was just 12 inches long), and it doesn’t look like they’re planning to reform any time soon.

Right now, they’ve got the 2011s fixed dead in their sights.

It started last fall when, despite the steady decline if the spawning stock biomass, the state declared its intention to increase the harvest by 14% in 2014.  I suppose that went over well with the folks who make their money off the heads of dead fish, but folks capable of thinking about the long term—which, in this case, is anything past the current season—figured out that beating up on the only solid year class in the last decade was probably a dumb idea.

Coastal Conservation Association Maryland, which seems to represent the most rational and responsible anglers in the state, made a really solid effort to prevent such foolishness from going forward but, in the end, the chance of plucking more dollars from the heads of dead bass proved far too attractive for the state to change course.

So this year, the Maryland folks are killing more bass, even though a peer-reviewed stock assessment, that was presented to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission last October, and updated  in December, noted that

“If the current fully-recruited [fishing mortality rate] (0.200) is maintained during 2013-2017, the probability of being below the [spawning stock biomass] reference point increases to 0.86 by 2015…If the current fully-recruited [fishing mortality rate] increases to Fthreshold(0.219), and is maintained during 2013-2017, the probability of being below the [spawning stock biomass] reference point reaches 0.93 by 2015 and declines thereafter…

“…there is a probability of 0.46 that the 2012 female [spawning stock biomass] is below or equal to the [spawning stock biomass] threshold, and a probability of 0.31 that the 2012 fully-recruited fishing mortality is above or equal to the fishing mortality threshold…”

The stock assessment also made it clear that, although the stock was not yet overfished and that overfishing did not occur in the past couple of years, the target fishing mortality levels had been exceeded, and the spawning stock biomass had been below target levels since 2006.

Amendment 6 to ASMFC’s striped bass management plansays that

“If the Management Board determines that the fishing mortality target is exceeded in two consecutive years and the female spawning stock biomass falls below the target in either of those years, the Management Board must adjust the striped bass management program to reduce the fishing mortality to a rate that is at or below the target within one year.“

That seems pretty clear, but not if you’re Thomas O’Connell, the marine fisheries director for the State of Maryland.  He took a look at Amendment 6, and its mandate to reduce fishing mortality, but wasn’t too impressed.

Instead of making meaningful changes to the management program in order to reduce fishing mortality to the target level, O’Connell decided that he’d rather make changes to Amendment 6, and allow harvest reductions to be phased in over three full years, instead the one year currently required.


As too often happens at ASMFC, it was a matter of elevating short-term economic gains over the need to conserve and rebuild the stock.  At the May Striped Bass Management Board meeting, O’Connell said

“I think it really comes down to a cost-benefit analysis and trying to weigh the impacts versus the likely benefits of our action today…

“I think, as I mentioned earlier, a 32 to 36 percent reduction is going to have large socio-economic impacts as well as potential ecological impacts.  I think we don’t have a stock situation that is in dire need of protection…”

Not everyone on the Management Board shared that view. Paul Deodati, the state fisheries director from Massachusetts, eloquently opposed O’Connell’s approach, correctly noting that

“We’re actually working off the tenets of Amendment 6, which are pretty clear about what this board is supposed to do.  We’re not supposed to wait until new fall down well below the levels that [Thomas O’Connell is] suggesting.  We’re supposed to take an action now.

“It is always difficult when we have to make a cut, especially when our fisheries aren’t completely falling apart; but with striped bass we took a very deliberate approach to how we were going to react to and address changes in stock condition.  This is the change that we identified many years ago as a point in time when we’ll take a serious action to reduce fishing mortality.  We’ve reached that.  In fact, in my belief we have gone well beyond the time that we allowed ourselves to take this action.

“I think that any further delays is going to hurt the credibility of the commission.  It is going to completely tarnish the integrity of the Striped Bass Management Plan, which I think we’ve worked really hard to maintain as a top-notch managed program.  I don’t think that’s our intent, but I’m afraid that would be the result of delaying action on this…“

Pat Augustine, proxy for New York’s legislative appointee, also raised the issue of ASMFC’s credibility, pointing out that

“I think at the end of the day if we just decide we’re not going to follow through on what our commitment was last year to be well on our way to recovery and implementation January of 2015 and come up with anything that is going to dilute the direction we’re going, I think we will totally lose the credibility of the public…

There is a lot of emotion out there; and to do anything other than what we committed to do, we’re going to have mud all over our face and we’re going to embarrass ourselves…“

However, Tom Fote, governor’s appointee from New Jersey and long-time opponent of ever reducing the recreational harvest of anything, regardless of the health of the stock, was quick to jump on the O’Connell bandwagon, trying to discredit Augustine with a somewhat unintelligible argument that

“The credibility is that we’re basically trying to accommodate fishermen.  New York has always wanted one fish.  When we opened the fishery when there is plenty of fish, their surf fishermen wanted one fish.  That is not the reality in New York.

“That is the reality of other states, and this is a compact of all the states that we try to accommodate our fishermen whatever they need…

“I have no problem and our credibility always stands as it is…”

Although, in the end, the facts spoke for themselves, and Deodati was clearly correct.  When ASMFC adopted Amendment 6, it made a covenant with the public to take management action when a trigger was tripped.  Should the Striped Bass Management Board ultimately approve a three-year phase-in of the reduction, it will have violated the public trust, and demonstrated that its word is not to be trusted.

Hopefully, that will not happen, but…

There’s no doubt that Maryland is going to work hard to make that happen, and in the end, it’s easy to understand why.

The 2011 year class won’t recruit into the coastal fishery until 2017.  Until then—perhaps not coincidentally—Maryland and the other Chesapeake fisheries will have them to themselves.  The females will migrate out of the bay for the summer, but most of the males will stick around, and the Maryland fishermen—commercial and recreational—and the Maryland charter boats will be able to pound on them pretty hard while they’re around.

Given that the 2011s are the first good year class since 2003, that 2012 was the worst ever recorded and that we don’t know when the next good spawn will be (although there’s reason to hope that 2013 might be solid), it’s hard to blame Maryland for trying to take what they can while the taking’s good.

Except…even their own anglers are cautious.  CCA Maryland adopted its “My Limit is One” campaign to try to protect some fish and mitigate the damage that the 14% harvest increase will do.

So why does Maryland want to kill so many striped bass?

As O’Connell said, for “socio-economic” reasons.

Which is the nice way of saying that it’s all about the almighty buck, and someone trying to squeeze a little more blood from the stone before casting it aside.

We always have to remember that responsible anglers such as the folks at CCA Maryland aren’t the only people fishing for bass.

Maryland’s commercial sector killed 2,524,181 pounds of stripers in 2012 (compared to the 1,445,187 pounds landed by its anglers), and it has a big charter fleet that puts dead bass high on its list of priorities, killing  46% of the entire recreational harvest.  O’Connell is trying to put a little more money in their pockets today, rather than trying to restore the stock—and so putting more money in their pockets tomorrow.

Even Maryland’s United States senators got into the act.  A letter addressed to Robert Beal, ASMFC’s Executive Director, co-signed by Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin says that the proposed reduction in striped bass harvest

“will adversely impact Maryland’s striped bass fisheries—and could affect entire Bay communities and other fishery industries as a whole—without the benefit of achieving the Commission’s desired level of protection to the spawning stock…

“The Commission is considering action due to concerns over a fishing mortality rate that exceeds the target level, and the dacade long decline in the female spawning stock.  Both of these conditions warrant some conservation action, but that action should not be so extreme as to cause undue economic hardship to coastal communities…

“We ask for the Commission’s continued support for inclusion of a multi-year approach to reducing fishing mortality to the target level…”

In other words, the good senators know that there’s a problem with the striped bass stock, and know that something needs to be done, but doesn’t want ASMFC to do anything that might—according to the best available science—be truly effective, because that might affect the short-term health of some constituents’ bank accounts.

What is worthy of note—and particularly heartening to those who support doing the right thing for the striper—is that the senators’ letter was the only letter received by ASMFC that supported the three-year phase in of harvest reductions.

All 36 of the letters included in the original meeting materials (which include a petition signed by 1,428 people), and the remaining 51 letters included in the supplemental materials, supported imposing meaningful harvest restrictions.  None supported a three-year phase in of harvest reductions, and the vast majority specifically opposed such action.

The other comments received from Maryland residents included 14 letters from individuals, who asked the Management Board to “cut the fishery…as much as you can legally” and one from a Solomons-based charter boat captain, who said that

“The people from Md DNR have done nothing about the decline of the striped bass.  I fish about 100 trips a year that the decline is Very Clear [sic] a limited number of rock fish in a small area that will be wiped out sooner than later.”

It doesn’t seem likely that the captain would appreciate the position taken by O’Connell, his state fishery director, nor with that taken by Senators Mikulski and Cardin…

All 17 letters received from anglers in Virginia, which shares Chesapeake Bay—and any special Chesapeake Bay regulations—with Maryland call for taking action in one year, not three.

Maryland’s staunchest allies on the Management Board, Tom Fote of New Jersey and Rick Bellavance of Rhode Island (who said “..from the folks that I speak to in our neck of the woods, we don’t see a problem”), don’t seem to have much constituent support.  There were no comment letters from New Jersey at all, while the only comment letter from Rhode Island stated that

“THERE ARE FEWERE AND LESS [sic] LARGE BASS AND IT’S GETTING WORSE EVERY YEAR.  Traditional areas of past striped bass abundance are shells of what they used to be…Even the commercial fishermen have to travel farther and farther to target dwindling stocks of striped bass“

and supports

“…drastic action…Complete moratorium on commercial and recreational harvesting of striped bass until stocks are at 2006 levels or at a minimum of one fish at 36 inches…“

So it looks as if Maryland officials—both its fisheries director and its U.S. senators—and their allies from other states have taken a position that is not supported by the public at large, by Amendment 6 to the management plan nor by the stock assessment.

I suppose that only the folks who profit from dead striped bass stand behind them.

Yet they continue to oppose needed conservation measures.

Which just shows, once again, that so long as there is money to be made, there will always be someone trying to do the wrong thing at ASMFC.

Win a 3.5 oz Danny and 1 1/8 Stubby Needlefish, courtesy of Wally’s Lures


We haven’t had a giveaway for awhile and I am glad to feature a special one today on the blog, courtesy of Wally’s Lures. You can check out the whole line of these lures at

Two winners, one will recive a 3 1/2 ounce Wally’s Lures Danny Swimmer and a second winner will recive a Wally’s Lures 1 1/8 ounce Stubby Needlefish.

Each lure features VMC hooks, Wolverine Split Rings and Krok Swivels…

Good luck






Just a quick note about the SJ Magazine. The SJ 3Dissue APP had some technical difficulties in last 24 hours. We believe we identified the problem and are waiting for 3Dissue support to correct the issue.You can still read the magazine by going to

Its only the app that is acting up, not the magazine


Looks like the issue with the app has been resolved


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Good to be home and new video

Nice to be back to the land of milk and honey although I have to admit, walking out through customs at JFK last night and being greeted by constant honking of the cabs was maddening. Slightly easier to take than having to spend few weeks in places where deodorant is a foreign substance but still maddening. My props to crew at Lufthansa who always seem to exceed my expectations. They couldn’t pay me enough to sit on a plane for nine hours at the time. But its all good, nice to get back to “normal” things although my hands keep reaching for gear box on the floor of my truck. Better than straddling a donkey like old days I suppose.

What did I miss? Did my beloved stripers made a resurgence and now you guys are catching them on every cast? I sure hope so. Would love to be wrong on this one. Looking forward to making a cast after few weeks of inactivity but first I will need to shed these pounds that I put on in a hurry. Drinking beer for breakfast came easy, strangely enough. Too easy. Back to flavored water and treadmill.

If you never been to Europe, you really would not understand what life there is all about. The whole population sits in outdoor cafés all day and chugs down machiatto and liquors and engages in the art of people watching. But the cost, even for us Americans is kind of insane. When you consider that they on average make about one quarter of what we do, you have to scratch your head and ask, how do they survive?

And fishing?

Oh man, what have they done to once thriving fisheries. All I have seen was farm raised cookie cutter sized fish and stuff imported frozen and then sold as fresh and local. A few large shrimp scampi (or crawfish) will cost you almost a $100 a plate in restaurant and you’ll go home hungry. I watched my brother put traps and even snorkel with a spear gun and the biggest fish he came up with in three weeks was smaller then average bunker. Heck, about half the size of bunker. You look around those crystal clear waters of Adriatic and you see almost no life other then fish the size of a business card. And they get eaten every day. Nothing ever gets tossed back, ever.

I even got to sample some dog fish salad (which was by the way delicious) and brined anchovies which is a specialty of the region where I am from. The cured meats were plentiful, the fabled cheese from the island of Pag not so much but then again at $30 a pound, I can see why not. Of course, the olive oil (to me) is unlike any other olive oil I have ever tried (and I tried many). Thankfully the custom officers let us bring in few years worth of it without a question.


If you think that we are not as proactive when it comes to protecting natural resources, you would change your mind after an hour snorkeling some of the clearest waters you have even seen only to see it barren of any life. Its kind of sad but it has progressively gotten worse over the years. You have to wonder what did they looked like fifty years ago before overpopulation, over fishing and pollution.P1000578

Then again, I’d be curios to see what our local waters looked like before industrial revolution. Wish we could have a time machine to go back and take a look. Don’t you wish You Tube was around then?


Here is a new video I shot few weeks ago in early spring while learning how to operate my newest toy.

Cedar Beach, NY adjacent to Fire Island inlet NY. Home of one of the most glorious spots in the history of surf fishing, Sore Thumb. Unfortunately its been many years since the Thumb was on fire but those who know it well, keep it honest. Its features some of the fishiest water you can find anywhere when current is running



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August Large…By Bill Wetzel

August Large…By Bill Wetzel

When people ask me what the best month is to fish Montauk I just kind cringe because that is such a loaded question. I can tell you what my favorite month to fish is. It is indeed August. If you are willing to put in the time and figure out where the bait is, August can be your best shot to strike a few cows than any other month of the season. I have been fishing the Montauk suds for more than 30 years and guiding there about one half of those years. What I am about to tell is my theory based on those years. For me it is not theory, it is fact.

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I want you to think of all the spearing and snappers you see at the local docks this time of year. Now picture that same bait in the surf. That is some yummy treats for large resident stripers that have been holding in the rips in Montauk since late June. Sometime in late July or early August you will begin to see spearing in the Montauk surf.  These spearing have recently migrated from the bays. More than likely the Peconics and Napeague, although the specific migration route remains unclear to me. The first moon of August is a very important one for the migration of snappers. Water temps are usually in the low seventies, and on this moon or very shortly thereafter you will begin to see snappers in the night suds. The big resident girls that have been holding outside in the rips will come into certain areas on the north or south side, usually on specific tides to feed on the newly arrived bait. This is very condition specific and a number of factors can throw a bite completely off in August. If you want to target these big girls your job is to first find the bait, and that aint easy! There was a time that I would walk the entire south side during the day casting snapper rigs to find where the bait is. These days I just do not have the time, and I have found that usually the bait will hold in a few areas year after year. Where are these areas? That I will leave to you for a homework assignment.

Once you have found the bait you need to know when to fish it and what to throw. The only way to know when to fish it is to fish the area all night long, and note at what tide stage the fish showed up, if they showed up at all. If they did not show then you might want to change another location that is holding bait for the next night. This fishing is not easy, sometimes requires miles of walking, and the chance of getting nothing is very good.  I like throwing live eels to these fish. The water temps are high and these big fish are very lazy. Put a live eel in the appropriate water and they are going to pounce on it.  Other options are plugs that are going to have a snapper profile. Darters are a great choice, and I have had plenty of large bass on them during August months. My largest plugged bass actually came during the month of August on a bomber long A.  I never weighed her and she may have been near or over fifty pounds, but I will never know because she was released.

Getting back to the theory. Towards the end of the month you may find a sudden increase in schoolie fish. These fish will hit your plug harder and usually be lighter in color than the schoolies you had been catching during previous nights. These fish are not resident schoolies, they’re migrators that have just arrived. I have found that the large resident cows will not mix with these fish and you are better off moving to another location if you happen upon this type of bite. The big resident fish will usually begin there migration during the first moon of September or the first major storm, whatever comes first. New fish will arrive however the August fish will be gone until next August. This is a very short version of targeting large in August, and hopefully serves the purpose for the SCJ blog. .  Perhaps down the road I will put my thoughts of August to a full article for the SCJ. Happy Hunting!!

Bill Wetzel is what we like to call “The Hardest Working Guide in the Surf”. A quintessential Montauk Regular Bill works hard at teaching his clients the secrets of Montauk coves and consistently puts them on the fish. No wonder most of his customers come back for more year after year. Bill also runs a Surf Rats ball, Subscribers only forum at There he exchanges ideas with his subscribers and of course, logs each and every one of his trips for all to read. Check it out at