I attended the weakfish hearing and I reviewed all the minutes from the weakfish board. I have spoke with many avid fishermen that fished mainly for weakfish. In Cape May co. NJ we seen a dramatic drop in the weakfish in the spring of 2002. They just did not make an appearance at all. I believe I know exactly why the weakfish did not show up in the spring of 2002 and have not shown up since in any numbers in Cape May co.NJ. On valentines day 2002 six sink net boats rounded what they thought” were blue fish,unfortunately for us sportfishermen it turned out to be hundreds of thousands of pounds of eight to ten pound weakfish.
There is no doubt in my mind that the entire Cape May co.NJ weakfish population was killed on valentines day 2002. The weakfish stock was allowed to be reduced to the point that predation is now a factor! Predation was not the cause of the weakfish decline,very poor management was the cause. It should be noted that recreational fishing groups,commercial groups and letters from prominent politicians pressured the ASMFC into not significantly reducing the weakfish harvest years back. I hope they do not repeat the same mistake with flounder or with weakfish in the future.
It is imperative to the rebuilding of the weakfish stock that we use state of the art hatcheries. New Jersey saltwater fishermen have a choice to make. We either support a saltwater license that will make the saltwater hatcheries a reality in NJ or we do not support a saltwater license knowing that the weakfish may never return to your favorite spot without your help.