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Fishermen Angle for Extension on Striped Bass Season

Commercial fishermen still have tags left to fill, which they say is mostly because of Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane relief efforts have been well underway throughout Long Island since Superstorm Sandy hit back in late October, but commercial fishermen in East Hampton are hoping for some hurricane relief of their own.

The baymen said the ravenous weather from the hurricane and the nor'easter that quickly followed wreaked havoc on their striped bass fishing season, which comes to a close on Saturday. Many fishermen haven't filled their state-issued tags yet, even though only four days remain in the striped bass season.

They have begun to lobby Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office and the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the regulatory authority, for an extension so that they can have a "fighting chance," Nat Miller said, to make the money the season usually brings.

On Tuesday, the East Hampton Baymen's Association lent its support to the effort and is requesting a one month extension for the commercial striped bass fishing season.

"We're not asking for a handout. We're just looking for an opportunty to do our jobs as fishermen," said Miller, a commercial fishermen who also serves as an East Hampton Town Trustee.

Bonnie Brady, the executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fisherman's Association, said in light of Sandy, the request for an extension is reasonable. "It's a regulated, limited amount caught via tags, only those fishing commercially with tags can fish them. If the tags aren't used, they cannot roll them over into the following year, so it's lost income," she said. 

Each commercial fishermen gets a set of 210 tags, which lock into the caught fish's gills, to use between July 1 and Dec. 15. Miller said with an average fish weighing 10 pounds, that represents between $7,000 and $9,000 in income — one fifth to one quarter of his annual income. "That's a lot," Miller said on Tuesday.

Miller, who fishes with a dory and a net, fishes with a group of about five and he said there's 400 to 500 tags between them still left to be filled. He personally only has 30 tags left to be filled, but some of his fellow fishermen have much more.

"The storm, with the weather, the waves, the wind and the storm surge, you can't get out there and fish," Miller said, adding that they lost 4 to 5 days before the hurricane hit and then, in some cases 2 to 3 weeks total. Also, he said the pressure change, on top of already warmer waters, causes the striped bass to migrate differently.

"Thank god for the scallop season this year," said Danny Lester, an Amagansett baymen. "Striped bass has been horrible," he said. "The weather screwed us up big time."

The nor'easter, according to Lester, caused even more damage on the beaches than the hurricane did, which made it difficult to launch his dory.

He said the wholesale price — as much as $6 per pound, he said — for striped bass has remained high throughout the fall because it's been so scarce.

Charlotte Sasso, who owns Stuart's Seafood Market in Amagansett with her husband Bruce Sasso, said she is placing calls on behalf of the fishermen. "It's a win-win for everyone. People want striped bass for their holiday table," she said.

"Fish don't know dates," Miller said.

The fishermen have long believed the season is too short, particularly as the waters get warmer and the fish migrate south later and later. Meanwhile, the recreational fishermen can catch up to two fish for 200 days of the April 1 to Dec. 10 season.

Assembylman Fred W. Thiele Jr., I-Sag Harbor, said on Tuesday afternoon that an exention is "something I would strongly support." He said he would reach out to Sen. Ken LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, and he hoped they would jointly make a request on behalf of the fishermen.

Asked how long getting an exension might take, Thiele said, "If the Governor wanted to do something they could do something pretty fast," under emergency relief from the storm. "On the flip side, I'd say, they sure close the fisheries fast on these guys. I'd hope they'd do the same on the other side." 

"Everybody is talking about Sandy relief," Sasso said. "This won't cost any money. This is an easy way to do something for the fishermen."

Leo suggested that for those who want to lend their support to the fishermen's plea to call Thiele's office at 631-537-2583 or DEC Marine Bureau Chief Jim Gilmor's office at 631-444-0430.

Will you support the fishermen's request? Tell us in the comments below.

tito December 12, 2012 at 12:28 AM
one of the best pictures on patch this year
will December 12, 2012 at 01:41 AM
yea kill more fish that are already on a decline... you can wipe out a whole school of fish in 20 minutes.. thats way more fish than my 200 day season as a rec..I wont get into bycatch an discards.. You want to make an honest living.. drop the net and pin hook.
123 December 12, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Lets see the "Red Tape" cut.
CUL8R December 12, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Like the fish swallowing hooks. Broken lines. Taking the big spawning fish. Commercial fisherman dont take the big fish and they are not caught or harmed in our net. We care about our future, not your trophy; there is 1 commercial fisherman to every thousand rec fisherman. Not to mention your bait was caught commercially and you probably caught and ate every fish, lobster and shellfish you have ever had. Recreational fishermen take 90% of NYS Striped Bass quota & 1/2 of commercial bass fisherman take their bass via hook and line. Get an education before you talk.
will December 12, 2012 at 02:48 AM
yea ok... you cant control a breeding fish from swimming into your nets.. what about the 8 pickup trucks the haul seiners filled out in napague this year? I also release most of my fish.. i wonder why you coudnt fill your tags? could it be this fish is in trouble? storm was around for 4 days.. and out east didnt nearly get it as bad.
will December 12, 2012 at 02:51 AM
im not against commercial fishing.. i do enjoy "wild" caught seafood.. There needs to be some common sense however. in 5 years there wont be any fish. there will be an article about you guys selling your dorys to make ends meet
CUL8R December 12, 2012 at 03:18 AM
They were not haul seiners. Its a gill net. The small ones swim through and the big ones bounce off, do not get gilled and swim away. Please try to understand what you are talking about. And what part of the rec fisherman taking 90 percent of the 100 percent of bass landed in nys (which are not the size limit) do you not understand? The facts say that rec fishermen are 90 percent of the bass decline problem. Common sense says to stop killing 90 percent of the breeding cow bass.
CUL8R December 12, 2012 at 03:22 AM
I am in support of the local inshore fishermen to make a living, to not harm the environment, to wisely use the fish stocks & to feed America! Give em hell boys & good luck!
n December 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Greed. The fish are not looked at as fish but as $$$$$$$$$$$
CUL8R December 12, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Its not a matter of greed - its a matter of making a living...
AMAMOM December 12, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Allow a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime. Can't imagine any better use of government resources than to allow someone to earn a living!!!
Koma December 13, 2012 at 12:48 AM
If the average commerically caught SB is 10#s and yields about $50, how about if the state pays out that amount of$ per unused tag from FEMA money.
Bill Graham December 16, 2012 at 09:45 PM
The stock is in trouble... Give Striped Bass a break...
CUL8R December 17, 2012 at 11:05 AM
Maryland's season just opened and they are having record rec and commercial landings, do you think animals with tails might have directly migrated from up north to the south because the storm changed things, give me a break and do some research before you state something
Frazer P Dougherty December 17, 2012 at 06:06 PM
The set I saw on the 15th was 'pissy' according to the guys on the net hauling truck, the day before was 21 + fish. The surfcasters reports have been pretty much 0 keepers, since the bait has been clams & stuff torn up by Sandy. We've seen a bunch of dead birds (the gillnetters?) and a few dead blue fish (the beach baitfishers?) on the beaches from Amagansett to Wainscott. Too bad the NYS sanctions on both the 'commercial' guys & the 'sport' guys are not more in agreement.

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