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Captain's Focus

The Mud Hole is a very quiet place now, with only an occasional party boat on the scene when weather conditions are good --and not even many draggers as they usually have to sail much further offshore these days to find marketable fish. Yet, as I'll be discussing at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the N.J. Boat Sale & Expo in N.J. Expo Center, Edison, it was quite a different story decades ago. Party boats from New York and New Jersey fished every day and night throughout the winter in those days while anglers filled bags with the abundant whiting and ling in the Mud Hole. Yet, they were far from alone out there. For instance, on Feb. 6, 1972, Capt. Howard Bogan left Brielle on an exploratory trip with his Jamaica only to come across a veritable city at sea just 16 miles east of Manasquan Inlet. It was the Soviet Union fishing fleet with 32 ships preparing to continue their devastation of our fisheries at a time when international law only allowed countries exclusive fishing rights within 12 miles. Those vessels were ships by any definition of the word. Among the eight classes of Soviet ships were 423-foot factory stern trawlers with a crew of 332 - and even bigger mother ships to service them. They were joined by many other similar foreign ships, most of which were from Soviet bloc countries such as East Germany, Poland and Romania. After starting to come across the Atlantic in the 1960s, the Soviets quickly practiced their pulse fishing techniques to destroy a banner year class of haddock on Georges Bank in 1965 by taking 283,000,000 pounds in their small mesh nets. They did the same to cod (Bogan said that by the mid-1970s he could count the number of cod caught in NY/NJ Bight on the fingers of one hand) before quickly reducing the herring population by 95 percent -- and went on to mackerel.The lesser value silver and red hake (whiting and ling) weren't ignored since everything was utilized in the factory operation by conversion to fish meal. The devastation wasn't only in the Mud Hole. Indeed, I caught my first giant tuna among the Soviet ships south of Montauk in September 1969  as giants followed those ships to feed on all the fish falling through holes in the huge nets when they were being raised.In 1966 the foreign fleets caught 96.2 thousand tons of whiting and 25.7 thousand tons of ling. Ironically, all this was going on while many Americans were building bomb shelters in anticipation of an atomic bomb attack from the Soviet Union. Yet, enemy ships bristling with antennas were within sight of N.Y C. and only 12 miles off our shores 24 hours a day while depleting our resources and tracking shipping activity into our most important port. Ecuador and Iceland had declared 200-mile fishery zones, but our State Department, and such key senators as Jacob Javits (NY) and Clifford Case (NJ), were more concerned with not confronting the Soviets than protecting our resources -- and the Defense Department was afraid of losing the ability to use straits in other oceans even though the three-mile territorial limit for navigation had nothing to do with fisheries jurisdiction and wasn't an issue. There was no Recreational Fishing Alliance to turn to in those days as we watched one fishery after another slipping away, So I set up a meeting with party and charter boat skippers in Feb.,1972 aboard the Palace II at Hoboken. The situation looked hopeless due to the opposition of State and Defense plus the economic and political power of the California tuna industry that was able to violate Ecuador's 200-mile limit with the backing of the federal government through the Fisherman's Protective Act. Yet, we formed the Emergency Committee to Save America's Marine Resources with the sole purpose of enacting a 200-mile fisheries jurisdiction. The outlook was terrible, but David had once beaten Goliath! After being appointed executive director of the all-volunteer committee, I went out to Long Island the next week and talked to Rep. Norman Lent (R-NY). He introduced a 200-mile limit bill, and we started rounding up cosponsors. Rallies were held in Sheepshead Bay and Atlantic City, we started getting some TV coverage -- and were on our way to educating the public about what was going on under their noses. With the support of anglers and many others concerned with protecting our resources, our letter-writing campaign to Congress achieved the Impossible Dream in just four years when President Ford signed the Magnuson Fisheries Management Bill. The 200-mile limit went into effect on March 1, 1977. Just how that was accomplished will be detailed at the Expo seminar and in next Friday's column.   The 2015 New Jersey Boat Sale & Expo runs through Sunday at the NJ Convention & Expo Center. Presented by the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey (MTA/NJ),the show features hundreds of new boats on sale by over 30 of the state's top dealers. Show hours are Friday from noon until 8 pm; Saturday 10-8; and Sunday 10-5.  Admission is $8 per person at the door; Those 16 years and younger are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.  The New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center at Raritan Center is located at 97 Sunfield Avenue in Edison.  Get details at www.JerseyBoatExpo.com. Prior to my 6:30 Friday seminar on N.J. Sportfishing History,  Tom Hansen of Grumpy's Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park at 3:30 discusses Rod, Reel, Line & Lure, the thinking man's game to improved angling success. At 5 p.m., Captain Pete Sykes, of Parker Pete's Sportfishing out of Belmar, is on along with the Bucktail Boys, talking about putting artificials into play during this summer's fluking.. On Saturday, Capt. Gene Nigro of Phantom Fishing Charters in Highlands, covers Raritan Bay Striper Trolling at 11 a.m.  Barnegat Light skipper, Capt. Brett Taylor comes on at noon with a look at Fluking For Success. Capt. Fred Gamboa of Andrea's Toy Charters out of Point Pleasant covers offshore variety at 1:30, while Capt. Adam Nowalsky of the Karen Ann II in Atlantic City handles Wreck Fishing at 3 pm. Don't miss the castnetting demo in the seminar room at 4:30 by Capt. Frank Crescitelli of Finchaser Charters out of Staten Island. He'll also discuss livelining bunkers. On Sunday there will be an 11a.m. program  on New Jersey's Large Lakes & Lunkers with Pure Fishing guide Skip Lerman, the all-time money winner of Lake Hopatcong bass tournaments. RFA founder and executive director Jim Donofrio talks about the current management plan for striped bass in New Jersey at noon. There's legislation in Trenton to change the 2015 striper regulations, and the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council will be meeting in a couple of weeks to review the state's striped bass bonus program. At 2 p.m., Capt. Scott Newhall of Time Out Charters provides tips on improving your odds of catching a doormat fluke. Surf Day will be run by the Jersey Shore Surfcasters on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Brookdale Community College in Holmdel. Crazy Alberto Knie is featured along with many local pros, and admission is only $10. For details visit jerseyshoresurfcasters.com. Though the brutal winter weather continues, the Ocean Explorer from Belmar did get out on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the wind kicked up on the way offfshore, and they weren't able to get into warmer waters further off. There were some small cod and blacks hooked, but calmer seas will be needed to determine the actual prospects. The Bradley Beach Surf Casters have scheduled their Fishing Flea Market for April 18 in the Bradley Beach Fire House, at 815 Main Street. Eight-foot tables are available for $25. For details visit bradleybeachsurfcasters@gmail.com, or call 908 309-4487.  

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