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Captain's Focus

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) met Thursday in Alexandria, Virginia to set regulations for many coastal species. Driving back from that meeting, N.J. Governor's Appointee Tom Fote called to report that the Striped Bass Management Board had approved the various state conservation equivalency proposals, including New Jersey's which allows for both a 28-to-under-43-inch striped bass and another of 43 inches or more rather than the basic coastal reduction to just a single striper with a 28-inch minimum. That change must be accomplished through the legislative process. It will be status quo for N.J. fluke anglers, but the season will be set at the next Marine Fisheries Council meeting. New York had been pushing to go up to an 18 1/2-inch minimum in order to extend the season. Fote made an effort to have Delaware Bay made a separate zone to overcome the problem of having a mere 16 inch minimum in Delaware, but 18 inches in N.J. --- which resulted in Pa. anglers driving to the First State rather than Fortescue or Cape May in order to bag some keepers while fishing the same waters.  The disparity of N.Y. anglers having a higher minimum than those in N.J. fishing the same waters was the driving force behind the ASMFC forcing N.J. into regionalization with N.Y. and Ct. last year, but there was so little sympathy with the same inequity in Delaware Bay that Fote couldn't even get a second in his effort to create a region to the south.  Fote noted that the new summer flounder assessment showed the species is overfished and overfishing is occurring in the north. Yet, he said our region didn't overfish its fluke quota last year. Some had been concerned that the 17-inch minimum allowed for shore fishermen at Island Beach State Park would have a big impact on the quota, but only a mere 176 such fluke were checked in there last year. We're faced with a 33 percent cut in sea bass quota, and the combinations of 12 1/2-or-13-inch minimums with various bag limits and seasons will be presented to the Marine Fisheries Council for a decision. Check my weekly blog at nj.com/shore/blogs/fishing for additional details after the ASMFC meetings conclude.                    Where are all the huge blackfish coming from? The tautog is a long-lived, but very slow-growing species. Very few even reaching the mid-teens have been caught over the years. It was a big leap forward when Anthony Monica boated a world record 25-pounder on Jan. 30, 1998 off Ocean City, N.J., but that tog was pushed down the list on Jan. 2 when Kenneth Westerfeld of Queens fished aboard Fish Bound Charters out of Ocean City, Md. to boat a potential new record 35-incher of 28.8 pounds. Maybe there's something about the New Year that wakes up those ancient tog, because January seems to be the magic month. The Tackle Box in Hazlet reports Shane Burke of Holmdel fished aboard a private boat out of Wildwood last Friday and boated a 23-pound tog  -- as well  as a 17-pounder.    The Atlantic City Boat Show ends this weekend, but there are many other shows ahead. The Marine Trade Association's N.J. Boat Show will be held in the Expo Center, Edison later in the month. I'll be doing a seminar there at 6:30 p.m. , Friday, Feb. 20 on the history of N.J. sportfishing. The Shore Surf Casters Surf Day will be held on Sat., Feb. 21 from 8:30 a.m.  to 4:30 p.m. at Brookdale Community College. That event features Crazy Alberto Knie, John Skinner and other surf pros. It costs only $10, with no charge for kids under 11. For details visit shoresurfcasters.com. Many local anglers have headed south to get out of the miserable winter weather. Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst hooked up with a Jersey native while in Miami last weekend. Capt. Frank Carbone (www.hawghunterguideservice.com) used to be florist in Paterson before moving from Wayne and becoming a largemouth and peacock bass guide. Matraxia is a saltwater guy, but had a ball catching lots of bass on small shiners. I've caught peacocks in Panama, Venezuela, and Florida, and enjoy them because they fight like saltwater fish. Capt. Joe Massa, of My Three Sons at Morgan Marina hooked up Saturday on Florida's Gulf Coast with Joe Greco, formerly of Edison. Greco has long been retired in Fort Myers, and particularly enjoys fishing for sheepshead at this time of year. The spawning run is just getting started, but they boated some up to 5 pounds. The Miami Boat Show runs from Feb. 12 to 16, and if you're planning on being down there also consider the IGFA Legendary Captains and Crews Dinner at the IGFA Hall of Fame and Museum in Dania Beach on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Among those being honored with the Tommy Gifford Award are two world-famed skippers with jersey roots -- Al Anderson in Rhode Island, and Peter Wright in Australia. The $75 tickets are available from Denise Hartman at 954 924-4243. The Canyon Runner Seminar in Atlantic City was a big success, but anglers who missed it can get the same offshore information at the Feb. 28 N.Y. event in the The Huntington Hilton. Adam La Rosa says they're down to 125 tickets that cost $99. Call him at 732 892-6825.

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