Jul 30, 2009

water quality ratings; DEC response

The New York Daily News published a chart today that illustrated a new [annual?] study done on the quality of New York's waters on area beaches. Parts of Rockaway Beach, particularly the areas where I normally fish (130s), ranked among the worst in this dull chart. We scored just two stars out of five.

What this has to do with the fish that come out of those waters might be difficult to quantify, I suspect. After all, fish born in Jamaica Bay reportedly can swim as far south as North Carolina, as far north as Maine.

In other news, the Department of Environmental Conservation got back to me with an official answer to my question what to do if the [under-sized] fish you catch dies on the hook. Can you keep it then?

It is illegal to keep an undersized fish (smaller than minimum length
for a particular species). When it comes down to it, Law Enforcement
wouldn't know the circumstances as to why a person kept an
undersized fish...ie) whether it was injured or not. Therefore it
should not be possessed and should be returned to the water.

End of transmission. That's all they say. Basically, I can be fined if I'm found keeping fish that are undersized, even if they die on the hook accidentally.

Jul 27, 2009

cuomo challenges fluke rules; my C&R stance short-lived

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.

Jul 10, 2009

on why i'm now catch and release

I am willing to now officially declare myself catch and release.

While I haven't put up a video post in a while now, over the past few months fishing in Jamaica Bay I've compiled footage that I saw as part of a post about pollution in the Bay - to be posted soon. Garbage floating by, DEP transport ships moving "sludge." My neighbor claims one on June night all his hooks came up covered with a black, oily substance. Alarming, but a mystery.

I'm officially putting up the white flag. I'll fish. I'll even give away my keepers to a nearby angler if he/she wants them. But I won't eat fish coming out of New York City waters anymore.

This week, several news stories ran on the fact that health warnings about contaminated fish were not posted at many popular fishing spots. In timely fashion, the signs - or lack of signs - were tied to the recession and the people who eat the fish and are presumably forced to do so. After all, it's free food, free protein swimming out there. Not to mention a fun hobby.

The sign issue has been rectified, or is set to be rectified. Don't worry, they didn't even cost that much.

In the past week or two, aside from the media coverage, coincidentally, I've read a decent amount of fish lit.

-"Gone Fishing," Mark Singer's great article on the Manhattan restaurant Esca in Secret Ingredients, a collection of food writing from The New Yorker.
-excerpts from Hemingway on Fishing, a collection of Papa's writing about fish and fishing

and, finally,

-the New York State Department of Health's "Chemicals in Sportfish and Game: 2009-2010 Health Advisories"

The fact that synched it for me - and still trying to hunt down exactly where I first read this: fish, no matter where they are caught in New York City waters contain the same or similar amounts of contaminants because they retain those contaminants for a period of time before they are expelled when the fish hit cleaner water. When they reach clean waters, eventually the fish lose most of their toxins. So, while they are near polluted waters, they most likely will still have the toxins from the polluted waters.

I suppose that doesn't rule out the idea that Jamaica Bay's waters might be cleaner than the Hudson River, but while the Hudson might have a tissue mill releasing thousands of gallons of waste into the water every day, Jamaica Bay has to worry about storm runoff, and seepage from an old landfill - all the while acting as a giant sponge for what washes off of the runways at JFK.

A report by Donald Malins, a researcher at the Pacific Northwest Research Foundation states that fish caught in New York Harbor had close to ten times the amount of PCBs than fish tested in Montauk, Long Island. Similarly, DDT levels in fish in NY Harbor were close to ten times the amount of the fish tested off Montauk.

The official word on striped bass in Jamaica Bay is actually better than I thought. Turns out, the official advisory is that adult males "eat no more than one meal per week of American eel, bluefish, striped bass and smaller [under 25-inch] weakfish," if you can manage to catch one of those suckers.

But, listen, I'm out. I'm officially a catch and release guy. It's just a shame that it's come to this point. Man has been living and eating out of these waters for so long and now we've done so much damage to the fish that were here before us.

Some of the most interesting things from the text of the 2009-2010 Health Advisory:

The expected:
-Women and Children are at particular risk.
-Always wash your hands after handling your three and four-ounce LEAD sinkers; and never bite those little sinkers that fix onto monofilament. They're lead, dude.
-"Do not eat any fish or game if they are found dead or dying."

The alarming:
-Over 130 bodies of water in New York State have specific warnings against eating certain types of fish
-Never, EVER, EVER!!!! eat the lobster tomalley, or hepatopancreas. Don't do it. It will do you in. Fluid from the hepatopancreas spreads to the water you cook your lobster in, too. So throw it out. Maybe put gloves on while throwing it out.
-Aside from the tomalley, contaminants accumulate in the fat of the fish, so trim your catch well!

The bizarre:

-When it comes to eating snapping turtles - first of all, be careful even going NEAR snapping turtles - um, don't eat the fat.
-Maybe think about not using lead bullets anymore.
-In case you were thinking about it, don't eat intestines.
-While dressing game, be aware of any abscesses in the lungs, ribg cage, intestines, liver or stomach. Thank you Dwight Schrute.
-OK. If you insist on taking the skull cap (antlers) of your kill, at least wear gloves. And clean the damn thing.
-"Thorough cooking will inactivate the rabies vidus, but meat from infected game should not be eaten."
-Don't handle any spinal cords, brains, or other nervous tissue. Just don't.
-Finally, if you absolutely insist on eating a wild goose or duck, skin them and remove all the fat first. And - in true "Eat This, Not That" style - Eat Wood ducks and Canada Geese, not diving ducks.

Jul 6, 2009

is it downright unfashionable to keep NY fish anymore...

An article in today's New York Daily News about anglers keeping...and consuming... fish out of New York's waters has caught my attention. While the authors write about people who survive on the fish they've caught, they don't address any causes of the pollution other than to briefly mention PCBs.

Does anyone who hasn't done the research know what PCBs are?

I'm in the process of reading a detailed report on New York's waters and plan to publish my conclusions as early as tonight.