- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2004

If you believe a recent CNN.com story that cited a study by Florida State University, recreational sport anglers are the bad guys and commercial fish netters the darlings of the oceans — well, sort of, anyway.

FSU, claiming it had all manner of data from the waters surrounding the United States, said the impact of 10million American recreational (saltwater) anglers “was far more significant than previously thought.”

The Recreational Fishing Alliance, a national sportfishing advocacy group, says the study was paid for by the Pew Charitable Trust, a group that is in favor of establishing coastal “No Fishing” zones that would seriously affect sport fishing. Because of that, one might surmise the study is flawed.

The Web site story, incidentally, was accompanied by small advertisements aimed strictly at the commercial fishing market. There was a link to a “SeaViewer Camera for Commercial Fishing” that lets you see actual commercial fishing locations. Then there was a “Blue Ocean Tackle: Commercial Supply” link to an outfit that has harpoons, longline reels, rope, etc. Another link wanted to show you how you can get work on a commercial fishing vessel. Even EBay was there, saying it had 5million commercial fishing items.

To show how easily one segment of the fishing community can be made to look bad, CNN’s headline mentioned the “major impact” sport fishing has on the oceans’ fish populations. It said that sport anglers were responsible for 4percent of the U.S. take in 2002, then amended even that by saying when researchers removed commercially fished species such as pollock and menhaden that are not sought by sport fishermen, the percentage of the recreational anglers’ catch jumped to 10percent.

Wow! Imagine that. Fun fishermen might be responsible for 10percent of American saltwater fish catches. Now ask yourself who’s responsible for the remaining 90percent of catches?

In addition, even a hard-core commercial netter would have to agree that sport catch percentages are strictly guesswork. There is no way anyone can come up with accurate recreational catch numbers. Even the commercial fishermen’s catches aren’t tallied 100percent by marine officials, while recreational anglers’ catches aren’t checked even 5percent of the time. Blame the large number of recreational fishermen on that. It would be a statistical and technical nightmare to try and count every fish they hook and keep or release.

So right from the beginning, the FSU study is suspect.

FSU further stated that the recreational catch of over-fished species in the Gulf of Mexico jumped to 23percent and overall sport catches in the Gulf accounted for 63percent of landings.

Those FSU “findings” delighted Bob Jones, lobbyist for the Southeastern Fisheries Association, a group of commercial fishermen. Jones welcomed the study and said his fish netters who get clobbered by sport fishing groups have known all along they were not the only ones responsible for greatly reduced fish stocks.

Meanwhile, Karl Wickstrom, the editor of Florida Sportsman magazine, says researchers included data on species like redfish for which there is no commercial interest and also failed to include creel limits that sharply curtail how many of a certain species a sport angler may keep.

Now guess what kind of creel limits the commercial fishermen have? In most cases, none. They can keep as many as they can drag into their boats without sinking the craft. And sometimes they’re so greedy, they even do that.

Wickstrom is right when he suggests that commercial fishing is the cause of world-wide reductions in fish numbers. Anyone who’s ever watched commercial fish operations can see the primary motivator for their operations is money. The survival of dozens of fish species never enters a fish netter’s mind.

It does, however, worry sport fishermen who are more than willing to demand creel limits, even fishing closures, if they will help bring back species that are in short supply.

Note to a sika deer hunter — To the reader who sent an e-mail asking for Eastern Shore sika deer hunting guides, I accidentally deleted the e-mail, but here are two: Shore Bet Outfitters, call 877/962-4868 (wob-hunt), and Muddy Marsh Outfitters, 410/228-2770.


Surf fishing school — Tomorrow through Sunday, also Oct.21-24, Outer Banks in Nags Head, N.C. Each session is scheduled to coincide with productive fishing periods. Cost: $250. Contact: Joe Malat, 252/441-4767; [email protected]

CCA fall striper seminar — Friday, 6:30p.m., at Vienna Volunteer Fire Department. The Northern Virginia Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association will have three of the bay’s best charter captains discuss trolling, offshore fishing, light tackle and flyfishing techniques. Information: Tom Welch, 703/201-6100 or [email protected]

Trout Unlimited chapter meets — Sept.15, 7:30p.m., at Schweinhaut Senior Center, Silver Spring. This meeting of the Potomac-Patuxent chapter of Trout Unlimited is open to the public. See an underwater video by Ozzie Ozefovich on what trout see, including movement and color above and below the water surface, how they see artificial flies, and how white shirts, watches and even bright rod finishes can spook trout. Information: pptu.org or 301/652-3848.

Save a Fish, Eat A Pig Barbecue — Sept.25, 5p.m., at Vienna Volunteer Fire Department. Held by the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association. Food, door prizes, flycasting clinic, auction items. Information: Rob Allen, 703/626-2668.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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