08/24/13 8:00am
08/24/2013 8:00 AM

FILE PHOTO | For years, anglers turned to Newsday columnist Nick Karas for reports on the outdoors.

To the editor:

I don’t know where to start when discussing Capt. Nick Karas’ impact on fishermen like me.

I read his columns continuously throughout his career at Newsday. I missed very few. He always put me right there as if I were his shadow.

The first time we met was at Salivar’s in Montauk during an evening before a cod trip in the very early ’70s. A few years later, despite our initial conversations, I felt strangely intimidated when I called him to ask if he would accompany a large group of fourth-graders on a school boating and fishing field trip I had planned. Naturally, he followed his guest appearance with a wonderful and accurate column on our adventures at sea.

Thank you again, Nick. After that, I would see Nick regularly at the winter outdoor shows or on the Orient or Montauk docks. I was always greeted with a friendly smile and an enthusiastic hello. He frequently spoke of the refurbished center console that he now took charters from. A few years ago, he joined my dinner guests, consisting mostly of fishing addicts, as a guest speaker at a local restaurant. He did a fine job of outlining and discussing sight-casting on the flats for large and small stripers.

Nick Karas wrote so much about the outdoors, his writing credits are way too many to list. They were all terrific works.

What stands out the most to me is “The Complete Book of Striped Bass Fishing.” It is considered by many to be the bible for linesider anglers. Nick’s attention to detail is overwhelming. The book is a must-read for every bass angler, including the best of the pros.

Sadly, Nick Karas will be missed by many, including this angler.

RIP, Capt. Nick.

Capt. Jerry McGrath, Wading River

Mr. McGrath is a licensed charter boat captain and the owner of Sportfishing Adventures in Calverton. He’s a retired Shoreham-Wading River schoolteacher.

07/26/13 5:00pm
07/26/2013 5:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Jamesport Bait & Tackle owner Bill Czech holds one of the few sandworms he can offer to fishermen.

Looking forward to a day of fishing, Spiro Beletsis of East Marion visited his local bait and tackle shop to pick up a few dozen worms.

After leaving empty-handed, he moved on to two other area bait shops.

“All three of them didn’t have worms,” Mr. Beletsis said.

There has been a shortage of worms since the July 4 weekend, North Fork bait shop owner say, leaving fishermen, particularly surfcasters, without the bait they prefer.

When hooked, the slimy creature known as the sandworm gives off a juicy brew that finfish — like porgies and striped bass — cannot resist, said Glen Valentine of Regal Marine Products, a bait distributor that supplies some local shops.

“It hurts business because some people don’t how to fish with anything else,” said Bill Czech of Jamesport Bait and Tackle in Mattituck.

“I can order 14 boxes, and I get delivered three boxes” of about 125 worms each, he said. “I usually put a two dozen maximum [limit on sales per customer].”

WeGo Bait and Tackle in Southold hasn’t had sandworms in stock for over a week, said Steven, the shop’s owner. He said he sent close to 100 customers away worm-less in recent days.

Capt. Dave Brennan, owner of the Peconic Star fleet in Greenport, said the shortage has had an effect on fishing.

While he said he usually relies on other types of bait for porgy and striped bass fishing “sometimes they are very critical to put a catch together. You need worms, and that’s the time I miss them. I am not able to carry them this year,” he said.

Sandworms are harvested from the shores of Maine and distributed nationwide, Mr. Valentine said.

He said his distribution company, which works out of Huntington Station, is receiving only about 15 percent of what is demanded by area bait shops.

In Maine there are a lot of mud flats where the worms burrow into the sand. When tides go out the flats are exposed, giving more of an opportunity to gather worms, he said.

“Right now the tides are not great,” he said, adding that the hot temperatures send worms deeper in the ground.

He said summer weather and tides are only partly to blame, though, as the worms have been overharvested for years.

“It’s getting worse every year because they are over-dug,” Mr. Valentine said. “There is very little conservation in Maine.”

To get any kind of quantity, harvesters are digging them kind of small, at about 2 to 5 inches. “Years ago they were much bigger, [about 7 to 8 inches] you don’t see them that size anymore,” he said.

“The public needs to understand that it is a problem. It’s going to get worse and worse every year,” Mr. Valentine said.

Until more worms can be unearthed, there are alternatives fisherman can use as bait, shop owners said.

“You can improvise and use clam or squid,” Mr. Czech said. “But for some reason the worms work better.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

07/08/13 3:00pm
07/08/2013 3:00 PM
Striped bass on Long Island

MELANIE DROZD PHOTO | A striped bass caught recently in Peconic Bay.

A New York Senate bill to extend the striped bass season by two weeks went belly-up after it failed to make it through an Assembly committee.

The Senate bill, which was approved in May, would have allowed fishermen to harvest striped bass until Dec. 31 of each year, adding another 16 days to the season.

Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) sponsored the bill, and initially proposed to have the season extended to Jan. 15 of each year.

The bill states that extending the season “will help create jobs, boost the Long Island economy, and ensure that quotas can be reached even if affected by natural causes.”

But the bill did not make it out of the state Assembly’s environmental conservation committee, government officials said.

William Young, president of the New York Coalition for Recreational Fishing, a preservation lobby, said the striped bass stock is in decline and that extending the season would threaten the fish.

His group sent letters to assemblymen and senators, urging them to let the bill die.

“The signs are that [the bass population] is not going in the right direction,” he said. “That’s up and down the coast, not just one area.”

A status update of the striped bass stock hasn’t been completed since 2011, said Mike Waine, a coordinator with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which helps to set fishing quotas for commercial operations to protect fish populations.

The commission will complete its latest assessment later this year and release the results in the fall, Mr. Waine said.

Mr. Young said it would be unwise to change fishing regulations without knowing the latest information on the striped bass stock.

“Right now is not the time to do it, there’s a question mark,” he said. “Right now is the time to wait and see what’s coming down the road.”

But Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said the bill would have helped fishermen meet their quotas, even if stormy weather or other conditions prevented them from getting out to fish.

“[Unfilled quotas are] money that’s gone, basically out to sea,” she said.

The regulations were put in place to protect the bass when their population plummeted in the 1980s. Now the stock has been rebuilt, Ms. Brady said.

“It’d be nice if the regulations would come into the 21st century like the fishermen have,” she said.

psquire@timesreview.com

04/24/13 8:00pm
04/24/2013 8:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Ryan Bitzer fires a shot in a game last season. The varsity team’s Senior Day will cap off the May 4 fundraiser ‘Lax for a Smile.’

LACROSSE: ‘Lax for a Smile’ Boys and girls PAL teams and Riverhead’s varsity teams will be involved in a lacrosse fund-raiser, “Lax for a Smile,” on May 4 at the Pulaski Street School fields. The event will raise funds for Michael Hubbard, a boy who was critically burned about one and a half years ago. It will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The day will finish with Riverhead’s boys varsity lacrosse team playing its Senior Day game against North Babylon.

PAL FOOTBALL: Registration info The Riverhead Police Athletic League is accepting registrations for football players ages 7 through 12 and cheerleaders who are grades 2 through 6 for the 2013 season. To register by mail, go to www.townofriverheadny.gov, Local Links, Hot Links, go to Juvenile Aid Bureau, drag the side bar down to Registrations, print the necessary forms and mail to the PAL office. Forms are also located at the PAL office at 210 Howell Avenue in Riverhead. The registration deadline is tomorrow.

FISHING: Flounder season opens May 1 The recreational fishing season for summer flounder will open May 1 and remain open through Sept. 29, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced Monday. The flounder size limit is 19 inches and there is a four-fish bag limit. Anglers are reminded to register with the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry, which is required for fishing in the Marine and Coastal District. No fee is required.

New York was faced with a shorter season or increased size limits for 2013 due to federal landings data for 2012. The DEC said it worked with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in January to avoid restrictions that would have reduced the length of the season and increased the size limit which the DEC determined was unnecessary given the healthy condition of the stock. Several of the east coast states underharvested their quotas in 2012, which allowed them to catch more fish in 2013.

Through a change spearheaded by the DEC to the ASMFC Fisheries Management Plan, these states agreed to share some of their unharvested fish with New York and New Jersey in 2013. This change was approved by the ASMFC Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Board recently.

“The improvements to fluke fishing is good news for New York anglers and the saltwater fishing industry who have been shortchanged for many years by an inadequate quota relative to the size of the fishery in New York,” the DEC commissioner, Joe Martens, said in a press release. “These are the same anglers who are struggling to get back on their feet after the impacts of Hurricane Sandy. DEC will work with a subcommittee of key states and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council to find a long-term solution to the inequity New York fishermen have faced for over a decade with fluke management.”

The black sea bass fishing season will run from July 10 to Dec. 31, with a 13-inch minimum size and an eight-fish bag limit. These limits are better than previously thought since all states were originally required to take a 32-percent reduction in 2013 harvest, but an analysis of new data shows that only a 24-percent reduction is needed.

The scup (porgy) fishing season will also see an improvement for 2013 with a 10-inch minimum size, 30-fish bag limit and a season from May 1 to Dec. 31 for all anglers. Party and charter boats will have a bonus of a 45-fish bag limit from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31.

03/26/13 11:30am
03/26/2013 11:30 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO  |  A commercial fishing boat docked in Greenport.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | A commercial fishing boat docked in Greenport.

A saltwater fishing license fee that East End towns successfully fought against after it was enacted in 2009 was officially eliminated as part of the state budget, New York State Senator Ken LaValle announced Tuesday.

The state Legislature repealed the controversial license in 2011 and registration was guaranteed to be free for the next two years.

“For many in our region, fishing is a way of life,” Mr. LaValle said in a statement. “Mandating a license placed a burden on individuals and families who have fished our local waters for generations. I voted against the license law and fee when it was part of the 2009 budget and I’m happy to see the demise of what was essentially a hidden tax.”

The Senate passed a portion of the state budget Sunday, which included a provision to eliminate the saltwater license fee permanently.

The $10 license for anglers age 16 or older was originally implemented by the Department of Environmental Conservation in October 2009.

Previous Coverage: Legislature sinks saltwater fishing license

03/02/13 8:00am
03/02/2013 8:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The Miss Nancy fishing boat moves through Greenport Harbor.

Life could get just a little easier for East End commercial fishermen if a bill Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-C-Port Jefferson) ushered through the New York State Senate has the same support in the Assembly.

The bill that passed the Senate with only a single negative vote would allow commercial fishermen to aggregate their daily catch limits over a seven-day period. A fisherman could, for example, catch three times his daily quota on Monday and two times the limit on Wednesday and then stay off the water until the following Monday, thereby conserving fuel. The bill that passed the Senate would also allow individuals, each of whom had a fishing license, to go out together in the same boat with each able to take a daily or aggregate limit.

“Fuel for running a fishing boat is extremely costly,” Mr. LaValle said, noting that it “significantly cuts into the already slim profits” fishermen get.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who is shepherding the bill through the Assembly, said he and Mr. LaValle drafted the bill together in consultation with local fishermen.

While the Assembly is focused on getting a budget passed by the April 1 deadline, Mr. Thiele said as soon as that’s accomplished, the fishing bill would move ahead.

“It’s a bill that is high on my list,” Mr. Thiele said.

Assuming the Assembly gives the legislation the go-ahead, it would go to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

jlane@timesreview.com

11/29/12 8:00am
11/29/2012 8:00 AM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Charlie Manwaring of Southold Fish Market with a fresh batch of Peconic Bay scallops.

Scallop season didn’t begin with its usual bang the first Monday in November thanks to Hurricane Sandy, but fish markets and restaurant menus are stocked with the cold-weather shellfish in time for the holidays.

Before the hurricane, scientists who study bay scallops had been finding many empty shells, known as “cluckers,” in scallop grounds that had promised a bumper crop.

Then, when the hurricane hit, the state DEC pushed off opening day to Nov. 13 due to potential water contamination because of the storm’s flood tide. Many areas in the eastern Peconics were opened sooner after the DEC determined that the water was clean, and the few scallopers who ventured out found plenty of live scallops among the empty shells.

But Phillip Tocci, Riverhead’s “Clam Man” who runs a shellfish stand on the north side of Route 58, said many baymen have told him they’re having trouble selling the scallops they have, because of public concern over whether they’re safe to eat.

“The water is fine. The scallops are fine,” he said this week. “I have people asking constantly ‘Is the water all right? Are the scallops all right?’ The public is not after them like they usually are.”

Mr. Tocci added that many seafood restaurants were damaged in the storm, putting a dent in the wholesale accounts baymen rely on.

He said he hasn’t been catching his limit of 10 bushels of scallops per day, but he has been pulling in enough to meet the market demand.

Southold Fish Market owner Charlie Manwaring said Tuesday that, while there was a big scallop die-off due to unknown causes earlier this year, there are plenty of scallops still in the water.

“Certain areas were closed after the hurricane, so not everyone was in one area opening week,” he said. “They’re doing really well in certain areas. It’s just hit or miss. I think we’ll have them right through to March 31,” the official end of the season.

Mr. Manwaring said baymen are seeing “tons of bugs,” or baby scallops, which will reach harvest size next year.

He said the retail price this week is about $17 per pound, down from $19 when the season opened, although he expects the price to rise again as the supply thins out later in the season.

“Some areas just opened up, so we have a little more product,” he said.

Mr. Manwaring said baymen were lucky that many of this year’s scallops were in deep water, since they are often thrown up on shore by hurricane surges if they are in shallow water.

He said the boats belonging to the 15 to 20 baymen he buys scallops from were also safe during the storm.

“We really got lucky out here,” he said.

Recreational scalloper Ed Densieski of Riverhead missed the first few days of the season, which opened in some local waters on the day of the nor’easter that hit shortly after the hurricane.

“It was nasty,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t go opening day.”

Mr. Densieski said it appears there was a scallop die-off in Cutchogue Harbor and that by the time he got to the scalloping grounds off the Orient Causeway on Nov. 10, “a lot of it was picked through” and he didn’t find any.

“There was definitely some die-off this year, but in some spots they were huge. They were the size of marshmallows,” he said, declining to disclose where he found them.

“If you want to put the time in, you’ll get some,” he said.

byoung@timesreview.com