Maybe it's just Monday morning and I haven't had enough coffee yet, but after reading the City Room blogpost four times, I think I've got it straight. Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo annouced a lawsuit against the federal rules that govern the limits of summer flounder (fluke), arguing that since fluke occur along a long, long stretch of the eastern coast, it's unfair and pointless for the government to have more severe limits in one state (New York) than in a neighboring state (New Jersey).
Supposedely, fluke are doing better than people thought (I caught one on the shore in Rockaway yesterday, which, I'll admit, is rare) and the limits, which are meant to protect the fishery, have been succesful. So now why not ease them up a little?
What I want to know is this: Jersey's limit is up to six fish per person per day at a minimum of 18 inches per fish; New York's limit is only two fish per person per day at a minimum of 21 inches. Is it actually more beneficial to the fishery, to the well-being of our beloved fluke, to let the fish grow an extra three inches? Is New York actually doing these fluke a service? Maybe we're on the progressive end here? How did the disparity come about? If the answer is politics alone, then by all means let's strike down the 21-inch rule. But maybe there's a biological reason why the limit was set at 21, and maybe Jersey just hasn't been on board yet.
I don't know the answer, but the fluke I hooked yesterday was a measily 14 inches. After an email session earlier in the week with a friend and fellow blogger about the benefits of a good de-hooker, this fluke managed to die before I could get the hook out. I didn't waste much time, tried to use pliers to get it out, but when I went to set it back in the surf, it was limp and gone.
At this point, it was the start of another, third, deluge of rain that fell in New York yesterday. My fishing cohort had just kept a skate, after he regretted releasing the first one he had caught. Lightening bolts were hitting the horizon line over the water, and fast-moving clouds had come in.
As the first few drops fell, the skate was killed with a filet knife. The storm was coming in quickly, and reeling in my line I felt the slightest flutter and guessed a fluke, a small one was on the hook. Sure enough, there it was.
I didn't feel good about not being able to return the fish alive. It wasn't immediately clear whether it had swallowed the hook or not, and I was in ankle deep water through the lightening trying to walk this thing back to life in the surf, to no avail. I put it in the basket of my fishing-rig bike and took off. I thought about the possible fine, though we've only been checked for under-sized fish one time in seven or eight years, but the torrential rain and ridiculous lightening kept those thoughts only fleeting ones.
As the rain poured, the three of us out fishing were entirely soaked so it didn't matter much. We cut the skate's wings off in George's backyard and I fileted the fluke with ease in my parent's yard. It didn't yeild much meat, but what I got was pure, clean white flesh - even got the skin off with this sweet knife someone had given me last year.
It was fishing in its true glory. Saturated with rain, covered with sand, two fish on the line at the same time, and here was the result - the food chain in action. I had this fish, it's life ended and now I have the meat. In a bag. In the fridge.
Pollution? Not on my mind. Principle --- even though this thing was under the limit --- not an issue. There was success yesterday, pure, simple success.
I emailed the Department of Environmental Control this morning and even they didn't immediately know the rules about keeping a fish that dies on the hook.
Tonight or tomorrow I'll eat the fluke. My revised stance on pollution, on limits, and on New York waters: I can't pass up a fish. Adhere to the recommended serving amounts, that's all. Once a week, is all. After all, all that hard work, fishing in a thunderstorm, am I going to pass up a fish on the line?
I suppose true catch and releasers do it for the principle alone, laws/limits or no laws/limits. Not for anything to do with pollution. I'm back.