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Capt. Steve Byrne

Steve Byrne is a charter captain and fishing addict. He holds the current IGFA weakfish 30# line-class record, & guided his two sons to IGFA records of their own. "Catching stripers for 40 years, I love releasing big fish to catch them another day!"

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February 26, 2012

Getting Ready?

by Capt. Steve Byrne

I just finished reading Frank Ruczynski's blog and I have to admit, I'm a little jealous. All through January and February there were reports of stripers in the surf along the Jersey beaches, and here we are just a few days from New Jersey's striped bass opener on March 1. A few of my friends were surf fishing south Jersey this past week and they reported good action with small – but "football" fat – stripers. The schoolies are stuffed with sand eels and they are hitting plugs, tins, bucktails, and soft plastic; basically, anything you can get in front of them. The only obstacles were the large waves, which limited access to those anglers who were on the jetty, and the parking, which is limited to three hours.

Here in Staten Island, we still have a while before the bass arrive. Down at the marina yesterday, I continued with some minor repairs and maintenance that needs to be done before the boat can go back in. During a break, I walked onto the dock, and was surprised by how low the water was. Check out the photos I took with the phone -

Our marina is normally shallow during the new and full moon ebb tides, but nothing like this. The exaggerated low water is the result of persistent, strong northwest winds. They add to the current as Raritan Bay empties into the ocean, and then slow its return on the flood. It's hard to believe that wind can have such an effect on the movement of the ocean, but there's no denying the evidence. These extreme lows usually occur in the fall, and I used to take advantage by walking out to structure that is rarely exposed and picking off old lures that were snagged on them.

It's a little too cold for me to do that now.

Instead of chasing schoolies or searching for old lures, I'm getting ready for the coming season by registering with New York and New Jersey for the 2012 saltwater season. You can register with New York DEC and New Jersey DEP right online, without even leaving your house.

I might also spend some time looking into what tournaments I might be interested in entering this year. My two favorites are the FCA Manhattan Cup and the HRFA Liberty Derby both tournaments benefit organizations that do good work in the fishing community. Between that and prepping the boat, there's plenty for me to do until the bass get here – how about you?

February 20, 2012

Off Season Additions

by Capt. Steve Byrne

Sunday afternoon was the last day of the Saltwater Fishing Forum & Auction presented by the New York Sportfishing Federation at the Freeport Recreational Center. I spent the day in the Nor'east Saltwater Booth, meeting and greeting anglers, many of them members. The show featured some good deals, and I picked up 4 nice plugs for $20 – which I thought was a bargain.

Speaking of off-season fishing purchases, I bought new waders for my oldest boy and myself. We have made some trips in the surf over the years, but the overwhelming majority of our fishing has been from the boat. Before children my fishing habits were completely reversed, with a normal season consisting of two hundred plus fishing trips, only a few of which were on a boat.

Anyway, we are moving to a new home and we will be close to the water. Spending more time surfcasting makes sense, and we are both looking forward to it. For me, it's a return to my beginnings, for Steve, it's a whole new fishing adventure.

Capt. Jeff & his mate Sara, from Blackfoot Charters shared the time in the Nor'east booth with me. We had a good time swapping stories about wacky things that have happened while we were doing charters. I can't get into the details here, but most of these events involved some degree of nudity, vomiting or drunkenness. Ah yes, good times.

February 16, 2012

One Hot Topic...

by Capt. Steve Byrne

For the past week or so, one of the hottest topics on has been What's Your Take on the Striped Bass Population posted in the General Fishing Forum. If you doubt – even for a second – just how passionate we are about our stripers, read through some of the comments and you'll be quickly relieved of that notion. Whether the member expressed the belief that everything is just ducky, or that the sky is falling, there were plenty of intense emotions that came through the posts.

Some factually incorrect statements were made, and I thought we should just spend a minute getting a handle on the real numbers. I'm getting my facts from so if you want to know more, you can go there and check out the latest Fisheries Management Plan for striped bass.

For those who think everything is just great in the world of striped bass, the favorite sentence in the 2011 review is "The stock was not overfished and overfishing was not occurring in 2010..."

The sky is falling crowd, however, is quick to point to the rest of the line, "…although total striped bass population abundance declined 37 percent from 2004." Equally concerning is the 2010 recreational catch estimate, which is the lowest since 1995 and represents a 70 percent decline from the peak in 2006.

I suppose you could take the position that the peak in '06 was an aberration and is a poor yardstick by which to measure the stock going forward. After all, you can't expect a fishery to remain at its all-time high for years on end.

To me, if the declines in abundance and landings aren't enough to make you go, "Hmm," you probably aren't paying attention, or you have some other priority that comes ahead of the health of the fishery. But, that's just my opinion, and we all know what that's worth.

I'll be in the Nor'east Saltwater Booth at the Freeport Show this Sunday. If you're there, stop by and say hello. You can sign up for the giveaway from Oyster Bay Marine for members, or we can talk stripers, and you can even tell me all about how the stock is in great shape – I'm always glad to listen.

February 04, 2012

Saturday With Zeno - Dolphins Speak Whale

by Capt. Steve Byrne

Saturday morning's surf seminar with Zeno was like spending time with an old friend. He was straightforward, honest and enjoyable – which is about all you can ask for in a fishing seminar. Z was quick to acknowledge that there really are no "rules" in fishing, and that something that works well in one location might not work equally well somewhere else. He hit on a lot of little things that make the difference between fishing and catching. I'm confident that the guys who were there will hit the surf with a better idea of what they are doing – and as a result, will have a more productive fishing season in 2012.

The Fishermen's Conservation Association did a nice job putting the Zeno event together, and everyone had some breakfast, got Zeno's book The Art of Surfcasting With Lures, and there were plugs, pliers and artwork given out as door prizes.

A few of the attendees were from Jersey, and they said they are still catching stripers in Deal. Most of the fish are schoolies but some larger fish are around, including an 18-pounder that John released on Thursday. The fish are stuffed with big sand eels, and they are hitting fin-s fish and teasers in front of plugs. It seems that the "February bass" is the newest challenge for surfcasters.

On another note, dolphins have made their way into the news both here at home, and across the Atlantic in France. Strangely, more than 100 of the usually intelligent mammals got their directions mixed up and managed to beach themselves on the sands of Cape Cod.

According to reports, hundreds of volunteers are trying to save them and they have been somewhat successful. That's good news, but I have to tell you I was puzzled by their theory that the dolphins were being "pushed ashore" by low tide. I never saw an ebbing tide push anything ashore – then again, I'm no marine biologist.

But I saved the best for last – apparently there are dolphins that can speak whale. Yep, you read that right; they can remember whale dialects that they have heard in the past. Specifically, the dialect belongs to a humpback whale that has been seen around Hawaii playing a "lift and slide" game with the same species of bottlenose dolphin.

The scientists further speculate that the dolphins are talking whale in their sleep.

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